Biking

That first moment when the snow melts and the temperatures rise above zero is when I start to think about cycling to work again. I’m a fair weather cyclist – no cycling through minus 20 for me. I tried it once at minus two and realized the air is even colder when you move quickly through it.

Cycling to work is forced exercise. In the morning, it’s not hard to jump on your bike and go to work – less traffic, a cool briskness to the air, and birds chirping. When you get to work, you’re more alert and ready to face the day. On the way home, it’s your only mode of transportation so you have to cycle home.

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It also makes you a better driver. I was always the person who drove into the crosswalk to see so I could turn right. After cycling,  I stopped that as I realized what a hazard it was for cyclists and pedestrians. Because I have to watch other drivers constantly while cycling, I now watch everything while driving – sidewalks for people about to cross, cyclists that look like they’re about to go and cars that wander.

Once you have the gear you need – a good rain jacket and pants, bags for your clothes for work and a safe lock for your bike, or ideally a storage locker – biking becomes possible. After you’ve done it a few times and have the routine down, it even becomes a part of your day you look forward to.

I like planning a route that involves the road as little as possible. I’ve ridden mostly on the road but now that I live in a city with extensive bike paths, I find those enjoyable compared to the life and death stakes on the road. On the first day, give yourself lots of time to get to work. Plan out what bus you would have to take to get to and from work if something happens to your bike. Then, get on your bike, take a deep breath and enjoy.

 

Barb and J.C. Hendee – Magiere

What does one do when he or she doesn’t believe in vampires but everyone around them does? Magiere chose to become a vampire hunter in Dhampir by Barb and J.C. Hendee. With the help of her associate, half-elf half human Leesil, they travel the countryside taking money from small villages to get rid of vampires. Leesil acts as the vampire.

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It’s not often anymore that the main character of a novel starts off as an outright con artist and ultimately thief with no reason noble for it such as feeding their siblings. I suspect nowadays this novel’s beginning would have been edited to make the main characters more sympathetic. Yet somehow Magiere stuck with me even many years after reading it the first time. When I saw it as a used book, I snatched it up and re-read it.

Magiere wants to move on, start again and run a legitimate business. She’s tired of being on the road and wants a place to settle down.

Why switch? Why abandon her con-artist ways? Her practicality. She has an essential practical nature. If someone is dumb enough to believe old tales, then taking their money from them is natural, just like eventually it isn’t practical to be on the road anymore.

That adherence to practicality then makes it hard for her to accept that she is a Dhampir and that there are actually vampires when her teeth elongate and a killing rage happens within her. It is even harder for her to accept that there are vampires.

What I like though is that she doesn’t get any redemption for her past transgressions against the villagers in the first three books. I have yet to read book four or five. She lives with her past actions, guilt creeping in for her previous practises, as she gets to know the people in her town and sees the impact her actions would have had on her victims.

Humans do bad things and there’s no one there to give us redemption. We have to live with those actions.

Hiking

When I first took a trip out to the mountains with my family, after we had lived on the prairies for awhile, I was awestruck at the clear night sky, the moon that seemed just out of reach of my fingertips, and the heavy aroma of pine. My eternal restlessness subsided. I made many holidays out to the mountains after that.

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Helen Lake

I thought that when I moved to the foothills, I would go out to the mountains a lot more than I do. The reality of spending three hours in a car every weekend after working a full week squashed that.

But now that we have a child, we will have to go out so that our child can understand that there is more to life than lights, noise and concrete. That wild places are where our souls can be free, even if just for a short while.

If you choose to hike, there are many excellent resources out there including:

Nerd Fitness

Hiking for Beginners

MEC – Hiking for Beginners

As a reader, being out in the woods and reading means that no one can interrupt me. At least, this was true when I hiked alone. Now, it’s about sharing these experiences with the people in my life. As a writer, even though I am hiking with people, I have plenty of opportunity to write, even if it’s just working out problems or brainstorming in my head. Being away from the chaos of city life makes those big story problems into tiny ones.

My favourite hike is Helen Lake and if you find yourself there, please enjoy it (also, watch for bears).

Faith Hunter – Thorn St. Croix

One of the reasons I love reading is that characters often embody the ideal human. When I was younger, I thought the ideal human – fair and noble and always did the right thing – was what all people strived for. Unfortunately, it’s been a long time since I believed that but that makes reading about these characters all the more enjoyable.

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Thorn St. Croix of Faith Hunter’s  Rogue Mage series is noble, putting herself in danger to help the townspeople, even when they reject her, as noted in page 43 of Seraphs:

“Out front of the old building a throng of people milled, split into two factions…We would have to walk between the two crowds to gain entry. Well, in one way that was symbolic of what I had done to the town: Divided it utterly.”

 Looking at the world we’re currently in, where racism and exclusion reign supreme, this series and Thorn St. Croix’s struggle has never seemed more relevant when it should be much less relevant.

Could I do what she does? Help the very people who want to kill her just for who she is? I’m not sure anymore. But when I read these books, Thorn makes me want to believe that I could. She believes in doing what’s right, in protecting the people around her, because it’s what we should all do, even if we don’t. Maybe we need to see the ideal to keep striving for it.

Footwear

I’ve never focused much on footwear for working out. All I figured I ever needed were runners that had soles without holes. I have since learned that the correct shoe for the activity can mean you’re less likely to be injured. Runners for weightlifting should allow you to distribute weight uniformly so you remain steady. If you wanted to compete, you can get specific shoes for that but I just use runners since I only want to be stronger. Have a look at this post to see what I mean. 

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I have specific runners for running as they have an internal bump that counteracts my feet’s pronation (bowing inwards). A physiotherapist or a well trained shoe sales person (not likely to be at big box stores) will be able to identify what specific pronation issues you may have and direct you to the correct type of shoe. I highly recommend taking this route if it’s possible because an injury will sideline any work out intentions you may have.

This page can help you navigate footwear and decide what to buy for what activity.

 

 

Brandon Sanderson – Kaladin

People, myself included, have an ability to pretend that their decisions don’t have consequences for themselves, that the bad things that have happened to them in their lives are the results of other people’s decisions or actions against them. This willingness to give up control over their own lives to other people or institutions seems to give them an “out.” It’s not their fault. It’s the fault of other people.

The Way of Kings has been sitting on my shelf for years. Brandon Sanderson was a guest at When Words Collide 2014 and I, along with many others, received a free copy of this book. It’s sat there because the book is big and time has been short. Ironically, when time is shortest now that I have a kid, I decided to read this book and I’m glad I did, all because of Kaladin, my favourite character.

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Kaladin dreamt of being an honourable soldier when he was a child and carried those dreams right into his life as a soldier. Considered lucky or stormblessed, people followed him because they have a higher likelihood of surviving with him. Being considered lucky set up the belief that others, spirits or deities, acted on him to bring this good fortune. So when his “luck” turned, when he became a slave and then a bridgeman, he wondered why all these bad things were happening to him. Why have the gods targeted him so? On page 993, Kaladin says “The Almighty cursed the Lost Radiants for betraying mankind. What if I’m cursed too, because of what I’m doing?”

Kaladin’s journey comes to a point where he has to decide if he is a victim or the architect of where he is right now. Did the decisions he made prior result in his current situation?

His journey is so interesting to me, especially when all that he does is try to act honourably. I have always believed that people should act fairly. However, making honourable choices can have unpleasant or negative consequences. For example, by choosing to pick up a co-worker’s slack, you hide from your supervisor that co-worker’s negligence. Do you support the team and just get the work done or do you let the client down and allow that negligence to come to light? Either one has unpleasant consequences for you and your team but ultimately the choice is yours.

Our choices have consequences, no matter the intent that informed them.

 

Stretching

Stretching is always one of those tick boxes that needs to be done for every workout. Or does it? This article from The Globe and Mail provides a good, up to date summary on stretching and whether or not it is beneficial. 

I stretch. I have certain biomechanical issues (knee caps that wander and feet that bow inwards) that mean I need to take extra care in order to be able to continue working out. If a placebo effect is at work, I’m okay with that as it means I have good recovery after every workout. When I choose not to stretch, I’m sore.

When I go to physiotherapy, they give me stretches that I need to hold for 30 seconds. Now, I do all of my stretches for 30 seconds, twice each time, and that keeps my muscles from tightening up.

These are a few of the stretches I do:

Legs

Forward bend 

Wide Legged Forward Bend 

Arms

Triceps stretch 

Eagle Pose above the waist 

Back

Child pose 

Seated forward bend 

Sitting at your desk too much? Try these stretches

As you probably notice, I use quite a few yoga stretches. I’ve made the routines so hopefully I will find a way to incorporate yoga into my daily activities.