Healthy Living in the North

The realist and January’s contest

Suzanne on a ski trail

Suzanne takes to the trails to accomplish her healthy goals

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward. This wonderful quote always makes me smile, but it is only in the past year that I really understand how I have applied it to my own life.

Often it is a scare that prompts folks my age to get serious about health. I didn’t want to wait for a scare, so in 2012, I took action on my own and started my journey to improving my fitness level and health. Before I could go down this road, I needed to develop some tools to assist me; not just time to wing it! I decided to seek out some expert advice. The local sports centre offered a great venue for me to build some skills. Not being one for too much indoor activity, I quickly realized I could do many things outside. Beautiful trails abound in my neighbourhood and, after some quick lessons on injury prevention and proper footwear, I hit the trails – walking, running a bit and, sometimes, dragging myself along! Before I knew it, I could run up to five kms (and still breathe). I coupled that with some simple weight training and a few other handy exercise routines and was happy with my results! It is all about being active in my view.

Then the snow fell.  Not one to be easily discouraged, I investigated the Otway Ski Trails. I rented skis at first and not long after purchased a pair. As the year came to an end, I was ready to turn over the new year with gusto; no way was I giving up on my goals! Lots of snow that winter made for great skiing and ski I did.

Once the melt arrived so did those nasty little caterpillars! No one wants to share a trail with them, but what could I do until the caterpillar cycle ended? Unfortunately, I didn’t need to worry about that. I had a fall that injured my hand and required surgery. This put a big, wet blanket on my plans! I couldn’t even stay active in the garden, let alone on a trail. I was relegated to watching my husband do yard work, which is not very exciting, despite his good looks! I had to adjust my sails and my personal expectations. I modified my eating plan, walked and enjoyed the spring and summer as best I could, all the while accepting that my injury was a temporary delay. I was surprised at how long it took a thumb and a ligament to heal properly, but I didn’t let the pessimist sneak in! Even simple food prep was a challenge during the summer months; chopping vegetables and making salads really requires a strong thumb! Yet, when fall arrived again, I reflected back on the year and, despite my exercise hiatus over the summer, I still found myself energized to get back outdoors and onto the trails – albeit carefully.

As I write this blog, I am looking out my window at the most recent snowfall, considering what wax to put on my skis for the weekend!

How many times has the optimist in you wished you could snap your fingers and suddenly be healthy? How many times has the pessimist in you told you couldn’t because you didn’t succeed in the past? Be the realist and create attainable goals! Making these changes in my life has been a great decision for me. Because I am active and eating well, so is my husband! We’ve both benefited from this journey and are looking forward to continuing to challenge ourselves to make healthy changes in 2014.

This January, Northern Health is inviting you to help northerners find their motivation with our photo caption contest. By commenting on a caption, you can be instantly entered to win a $300 gift card or one of two $50 gift cards to help with your own journey to better health. All the details are available on the contest page. We look forward to your positive, motivational and fun captions!

Suzanne Johnston

About Suzanne Johnston

With more than 25 years of leadership experience in health care and government, Suzanne is Northern Health’s vice president of clinical programs and chief nursing officer. Suzanne obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from the University of New Brunswick and completed her doctoral studies at the University of Arizona. Suzanne has a special interest in leadership development and is experienced as a facilitator in this area, and she has volunteered with United Way agencies to help build leadership capacity for non-profit boards. In her spare time, Suzanne loves to spend time outdoors with her husband and her golden retriever, Pirate. (Suzanne no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Keep fit and stay healthy with Suzanne & John!

One warm Saturday morning this past August, I was trail running with my husband John. Breathless, I stopped short in my tracks about 30 minutes into the run. No, it wasn’t a big black bear that caused me to pause – I had a revelation! John stopped next to me and looked at me with curiosity. I turned to him and said, “John, it’s Saturday morning at 8 o’clock, and we are up, out, and running on a trail in the middle of the woods in northern British Columbia. Did you ever think that (1) we would even think about doing this, (2) that we are actually doing it, and (3) that we are having fun?

John, being the agreeable guy that he is, of course, agreed! It is fun! Now we do it all the time! We love it, but more than anything, we love that we can do it!

Suzanne snowshoeing

Suzanne, along with her husband, has been taking a gradual approach to fitness and health.

But how did this happen to two mid-fifties types that never really did too much in the way of exercise other than paddle round in a kayak in the Bay of Fundy? And even more curious – WHY?

Age has a funny way of creeping up and with it, the realization that old bodies need to hold out for a while. With that in mind, John and I agreed to begin our journey process back to fitness. Kidding aside, we have always been moderately active so we knew it would be a bit of a climb back, but not the Everest journey we feared. We started with using a personal trainer – knowing that if we made the commitment to each other and to her, we would live up to it and learn to do it right. The key lesson for us was making that commitment. We started slowly and progressed to more rigorous fitness work. Even the first few jaunts up the UNBC hill in Prince George had the power to paralyze us! Soon, we were running and then it was in the middle of winter and we were really running fast just to stay warm!

We continued to challenge ourselves. We grew from depending on that personal trainer to doing this work on our own and broadening our interest to include other activities. We took on some yoga, an occasional intense boot camp, running up the cut banks, and then gradually finding our own stride together doing what works for us – all by using the skills we acquired through our learning and applying it.  Taking those first steps was hard; today, we feel strong, well and look forward to another fifty years!

Check out the video John and I shot to tell you more about it (posted above)!

[Editor’s note: Don’t forget to enter the Week 3 Challenge for your chance to win a selection of cookbooks!]

Suzanne Johnston

About Suzanne Johnston

With more than 25 years of leadership experience in health care and government, Suzanne is Northern Health’s vice president of clinical programs and chief nursing officer. Suzanne obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from the University of New Brunswick and completed her doctoral studies at the University of Arizona. Suzanne has a special interest in leadership development and is experienced as a facilitator in this area, and she has volunteered with United Way agencies to help build leadership capacity for non-profit boards. In her spare time, Suzanne loves to spend time outdoors with her husband and her golden retriever, Pirate. (Suzanne no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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