Healthy Living in the North

For a great full-body workout, try Nordic walking – and choose your training partners with care!

Two walkers standing with Nordic walking poles

Nordic walking targets your lower body and, because of the poles, also strengthens your arms, shoulders, and core.

Are you looking to up your walking game? I recommend immediately adding some injured marathoners to your roster of training buddies.

When selecting your injured marathoners, insist on the following two qualities (one physical, one mental):

  1. Physical: Must not be able to run; must only be able to walk
  2. Mental/emotional: Must be so frustrated by (1) that they walk extremely fast, pushing you to your limits

Note: Triathletes will also work, in a pinch.

I was recently lucky enough to acquire two such training buddies: Joanne Morgan, who’s recovering from a hip injury, and Annie Horning, who currently has knee issues.

Both qualified for the Boston and New York marathons this year. Joanne has also competed in the X-Terra World Championships, and as well as running Boston, Annie recently won her age group at the Fort Langley Marathon. Just being on the same trail with these two cardio powerhouses is truly humbling.

My lucky husband Andrew trains with them regularly and refers to them as “JoAnnie.” I call them his crew of elite personal trainers.

I recently joined Andrew and the crew for my first Nordic walking workout on the beautiful wooded biking/running trails at Otway (the Caledonia Nordic Centre) near Prince George.

Nordic walking is just like regular walking, except you use these special poles. (You could use cross-country ski poles, but they’ll probably be slightly too long. You need the special poles, which are adjustable to the perfect height for you. They also telescope down so you can easily carry them in your pack/car.)

Q: Does Nordic walking look slightly dorky?

A: Yes.

Q: Is the dorkiness factor (DF™) worth it because of the increased push you get from the poles, plus the great upper-body workout?

A: Yes.

Two Nordic walkers on an outdoor trail

Take your walking to the next level and give Nordic walking a shot along the beautiful trails in your community this summer.

In fact, SportMedBC refers to Nordic walking as “Canada’s hottest new fitness trend”:

If you like walking, you’ll love the fun and health benefits of Nordic Walking! Increasing numbers of people are enjoying this user-friendly sport that combines the aerobic and strength-building benefits of cross-country skiing with the convenience of walking. It has been popular in Scandinavia for over 20 years (maybe this is the true secret why the Swedes look and feel so good!).

I can certainly agree – with Annie, Joanne, and Andrew scorching their way up and down Otway’s steep hills, I was pushed to my limits and had a great 5k workout.

It targeted both lower body (walking, plus frequent desperate scurrying to keep up) and arms/shoulders/core (pushing with the poles). Plus, it was low impact and therefore easy on the joints.

As well as taking some of the weight off injured hips and knees (should you possess these), using the poles stretches hip flexors and calves, and helps prepare your upper body for ski season. The poles also help you balance, and for me, prevented several stumbles over roots.

If you’d like to take your walking to the next level, give Nordic walking a try. (But you’ll have to find your own injured marathoners – Joanne and Annie are taken!)

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Lessons from boot camp: No sauntering! And, you can always do one more rep

Anne and trainees

Anne (far right) and her fellow trainees.

If Kim reads this, I’m in trouble. Kim Kokesch of Synergy Core Fitness is our trainer, and I’m about to write about how much I love boot camp.

To see why this could be a bad idea, check out what happened at one of our recent training sessions:

  • Irene, fellow boot camp trainee, finishes running the UNBC courtyard stairs early. I didn’t see Irene’s face, but judging by what happened next, she must have been smiling (madness!).
  • Kim: Irene, I want you to run and find 12 light poles and touch them all. That’s what you get for being energetic. Also, you were sauntering!

We’re a group of about 15 Prince George women, mostly from Northern Health, who plan to do the 5K Spartan Sprint outdoor obstacle race at Sun Peaks this fall.

Pre-boot camp, I was into cross-country skiing, completed a couch-to-5k running program, lifted weights now and then, and thought I was in good shape for a 52-year-old.

I now realize I was a wuss. Boot camp has pushed me harder than I ever pushed myself. It’s by far the most effective training program I’ve ever done, and I feel stronger and more energetic than I did in my twenties.

I went for a 4k run last weekend, and it felt too short. When I started boot camp, I could manage three real push-ups; now, it’s 23 (but that’s nothing compared to what some of my teammates can do – I am so in awe!).

Anne exhausted.

“I now realize I was a wuss. Boot camp has pushed me harder than I ever pushed myself.”

Unexpectedly, though, what I most value from boot camp isn’t the fitness or the connections with the other women – wonderful though those are – it’s the attitude shift.

I now know that I’m capable of much more than I normally ask of myself. I hope and believe that if I ever had to (God forbid) pull someone from a burning building, I’d have a fighting chance of succeeding, and more importantly, I’d have the confidence to try.

And that’s what it’s really about: functional fitness. Not doing the Spartan Race, not fitting into smaller pants (though I really, really love that part!), but extending my healthspan. Old age is getting closer, and I want to be a tough old lady with biceps and attitude.

I used to postpone workouts if I had any little aches or pains, or if the weather looked iffy. Boot camp taught me that 20 minutes of running scares most aches away, and that I can churn out 100 tricep dips despite rain, heat, or armies of caterpillars (recall the recent Prince George caterpocalypse!). My fellow trainee, Denise, who actually swallowed a caterpillar during one session, just spat it back out and kept on running without breaking stride.

My favourite Kim-isms:

1. At Rainbow Park, where we usually have to run up that steep hill 15 times during the course of the workout:

  • Me: “Oh, I thought we were doing the small hill!”
  • Kim: “If you thought that, Anne, you’re in the wrong boot camp! Now RUN!”

2. The group has just finished a brutal, brutal one-hour running workout on the UNBC hill. We’ve ended up, exhausted, at the bottom of the hill.

  • Kim: “Great job, ladies! Now run to the top and do ten burpees.” And we did.

3. Everybody’s planking and somebody collapses.

  • Kim: “Pop it up, sunshine, you’re not done yet!”

4. I am the proud possessor of the weakest upper body in the entire group. Kim gives me two 10-pound hand weights and tells me to do shoulder raises with them.

  • Me:  “At home?”
  • Kim: “Yes, at home! And in the car, and at the mall.” (PS: It worked!)

5. (During caterpocalypse): “Remember, ladies:  friends don’t let friends leave boot camp with caterpillars smeared all over their butts!”

6. We’re doing leg taps for one minute. This only sounds easy.

  • Boot camp trainee, groaning: “I can’t believe we’re paying for this!”
  • Kim: “Suck it up, I haven’t cashed your cheque yet.”

 Five tips for boot camp success:

  1. Wear gloves – you never know when you’ll have to climb monkey bars or crawl under a picnic table. There are 41 picnic tables at West Lake, and I’ve crawled under them all (thanks, Kim!). Fingerless bike gloves or weightlifting gloves work fine for training. My teammate Jennifer, who we’re all in awe of because she completed a Spartan race in Vancouver this June, recommends full gloves for the actual race.
  2. Wear old workout clothes. You do NOT want to tear your Lululemons climbing over a fence (or crawling under that picnic table).
  3. Bring lots of water.
  4. Don’t plan a trip to Costco right after boot camp. You’ll be bright red, sweaty and adorned with grass/twigs/caterpillars. You will scare small children.
  5. And never, under any circumstances, let Kim hear you say “That was easy!” (but don’t worry, it won’t be!).
Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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He led me up the garden path – and I liked it!

Anne, trail running

Anne Scott, running on the Otway trails.

You’ve heard it before, but exercising with a friend is great – motivation, competition, and pushing your boundaries, all in one sociable package. I thought about this last night when I asked my husband if I could come on one of his runs on the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club trails at Otway, near Prince George.

The Otway trails are mostly narrow and steep, and Andrew has been running there since the snow melted. Meanwhile, I’m cautiously returning to running after hip problems. Here’s our email exchange:

Me: “Hi, dear! Can I try a trail run with you? I could run a little way and then go back and read in the truck while you finish your run. Let me know!”

Andrew: “We’ll do a light 15-minute trip to give you the lay of the land, and then you can decide if you want to continue or head back.”

A light fifteen minutes — that sounded doable! I jumped out of the truck at Otway excited about my first trail run ever.

Exactly 41 minutes later, I staggered back into the parking lot.

In the interim, Andrew led me up and down Curves, Mad Dog, Upper Levels, Dirt Bag, and other creatively named trails. We ran over roots and rocks, brushed past thistles, and panted up a steep, lonely hillside where I was sure the discovery of our bear-gnawed skulls would make headlines in a year or two.

As I ran along, I could think about only three things:

  • What my physiotherapist would say (I’m supposed to increase my time/distance by only 2-3% each run).
  • Northern Health’s position statement on Sedentary Behaviour and Physical Inactivity recommends that adults get “at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.” Was I going to get mine all in one shot?
  • How much I was loving this!

The weather was perfect, we had the trails to ourselves, and the scenery was stunning. I ran much farther and with more enjoyment than I would have if running in our suburb, and I loved the feel of the trails under my feet. At every turn there was something interesting…a patch of glorious wildflowers, a fallen log, a glimpse of the view, a scary animal noise (Mel Brooks was right about fear being the earliest form of transportation).

It was also a huge confidence-booster to find I could go farther that I’d thought, and (perhaps because of the soft running surface), I haven’t experienced any aches and pains in the aftermath!

Andrew was also a great encouragement, waiting for me when I got tired, walking with me on the steep bits, taking a picture to illustrate this post, and not complaining that I was drastically slowing him down on his favourite route. Truly a husband in a million!

I can’t wait till my next trail run – see you out there!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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15 minutes of bliss

Please do not disturb!

Please do not disturb! Anne Scott frequently takes lunchtime naps in her car to improve her mood, alertness, and productivity.

Most lunchtimes you’ll find me in my car, grabbing 15 minutes of sleep. (Actually, I hope you won’t find me: it would be weird if someone literally caught me napping.)

But that’s the only quibble I have with my time in the SnoozeMobile, also known as the Z Car. Even though I don’t nap for long enough to sleep deeply, those 15 minutes noticeably improve my mood, alertness, and productivity for the rest of the afternoon.

Many cultures around the world feature afternoon siestas, and a list of famous nappers from history includes Napoleon, Edison, Leonardo, and Winston Churchill, who said, “Nature had not intended mankind to work from 8 in the morning until midnight without the refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.” I agree!

Lack of sleep can also be bad for your health. A CBC news story reported that the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey found that many people average less than five hours of sleep a night.

“The foundations of good health are good diet, good exercise and good sleep, but two out of three doesn’t get you there,” said Dr. Anne Calhoun, a neurology professor at the University of North Carolina (reported in the same CBC article).

Dr. Sara C. Mednick, the author of a 2007 book entitled “Take a nap! Change Your Life,” said napping “helps with memory processing, alertness, and learning new skills. We live with less than our recommended eight hours, and that means so many things — decreased sex drive, decreased productivity, and fatigue-related accidents. Napping helps with all of these things” (quoted on this site). Likewise, this Health Canada publication discusses the benefits of naps for shift workers (open the PDF and search for “nap”).

And if you’re contemplating a car catnap (Ford-y winks?) in this hot weather, please remember to crack your windows and choose a shady parking spot.

What do you think about naps? Are you a napper? Post a comment and tell us!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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