Go, Peakbaggers, Adventure, Mountaineering

Committing to “Go”

There’s something powerful and empowering about the word “go”… at least for me anyways. To “go” can be terrifying – causing hesitation – but once you’ve decided to actually “go” it can be invigorating – everything becomes real, you move past your hesitations and focus on doing what needs to be done.

One month ago Andrea and I had a big conversation about this project and our upcoming peaks and the challenges before us. We were confronted, once again, with a decision to go. Would be go to Alberta to summit Mt. Columbia this Summer? Were we ready to travel across glaciers and ski (and split-board) up and down a mountain? Did we have the skills to travel with ropes, and perform crevasse rescues if necessary?

Ultimately the response was, “No”, quickly followed with, “How do we get those skills?

We realized the ideal situation would be attending one of the Alpine Club of Canada‘s many mountaineering camps. The camps are all in mountain ranges near or in the Rockies, we would be on glaciers and mountains for a week, our bodies would be fully acclimatized to the 3,000 m (10,000 ft) elevations.

We initially hesitated and then finally went to book into a camp. With about 2 months or so before the first camp, everything was full. We put our names on the waitlist and waited. Then, two spots opened up on the Toronto Section camp opened up. This was happening!

It was a big moment when Andrea and I paid our deposit. Everything became real and official and terrifying. It was also extremely exciting and empowering. The decision had been made. From July 15-23 we would be high in the Selkirk Mountains, travelling on glaciers and summiting peaks around 3,000 m of elevation.

Things started to fall in to perspective. There was planning and preparing to do – we had a gear list to check off, technical skills to study and practice, and lots of physical training.

Since committing to go here are some of the ways I’ve prepared:

  • Attend a crevasse rescue clinic where I learned to ascend ropes and haul people using ropes
  • Read most of “Freedom Of the Hills“, “Alpine Skills Summer”, “Selkirks North. (Climbing Guide)
  • Aquire a mountain of gear including: Helmet, Alpine Pack, Belay/Rappel devices, Various carabinears, ropes and cords
  • Train 3x a week with a personal trainer focusing on single leg strength exercises, balance, and running

I’ve also had many, many moments of fear, hesitation and excitement. I find myself constantly checking in and asking, “Am I really doing this?” I am. And I’m not doing it alone.  I am going with Andrea, which helps a lot. We will also be out there with many more skilled members of the Alpine Club.

It’s one week away and I think we’re ready. We committed to go and we’re going. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards.”


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PEI, Missing Flights, and Channeling Happiness: how my attitude affects what happens in my life

I scribbled this post on the plane back from Vancouver, British Columbia to our home in Toronto, Ontario last week, Thursday, October 22nd, 2015:

This morning we woke up in a king size bed overlooking the Vancouver harbour. Speckled red and orange trees amongst coastal evergreens filled the backdrop of our wide window behind boats and in front of mountains where clouds moved them in and out of sight. How gloriously lucky I felt to be there in that moment among fluffy pillows and beside someone I truly loved. It’s almost inexplicable for I know its feeling is far greater than any sentence I could ever write.

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We got dressed to the sounds of a Canadian classic: Dumb and Dumber. I snickered at jokes about hooters — referring to owls — and Brian stared up at me with a smirk. We took hands and embarked on a quick walk to the park before heading back to Toronto. “A quick walk, breakfast, a coffee shop stop… We’ll pick up your gift at Mark’s and then drop Shannon’s gift off before heading straight to the airport. I think we’ll make it,” I said. “It’ll be tight,” was Brian’s response with slight hesitation. Looking at our plan now, it seems drastically complicated with what time we had.

Our walk was beautiful. We stepped fifty feet into the park before turning back but it was a splendid handful of moments. The bike and walking paths were packed with people whose purpose was to strictly enjoy Stanley Park at 10am on a Thursday. We knew this because there wasn’t anywhere else to go along the path but into the park. What a harmonizing thought, that this many people were set off to enjoy the trees and the waterfront. I felt envious that this could be a daily deal for residents, and that I never did this regularly when I lived here.

We spent most of our moments with one tall tree, bare in bark until two thirds up where it blossomed in green. A stump stood ten feet in front of it as the perfect pedestal for its photographical worship. We obliged.

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We jumped in a smart car and flew to Forty Ninth Parallel, one of the best coffee shops in the world according to Roast. We’ve had their stuff before but going there was supreme. Our coffees were starkly different in taste but equally delicious. A perfect cap to our full breakfast bellies and foliage-reflected eyes. Besides their coffee, there were donuts and beautiful teal coloured cups that made me weak in the knees, especially when set against the mahogany coloured hardwood that made up the cafe. A thrilling pinterest-worthy view. When we rushed out, the sun shone and, though I fretted about being late, I was happy we were here.

Two quick trips back in the smart car to pick up a thank you gift and to drop another off and we were off to the airport. I reconciled in my mind that we would make it in time and would likely not get our checked bag onto the plane. We were heading home so I wasn’t worried. In my much travelled life, showing up 45 minutes before your flight meant our luggage would get the shaft and make it onto another flight and we’d get it later. That’s fine. Zipping through town we parked the car promptly, made it to the airport shuttle pickup, and into the terminal, running like Catherine O’Hara did when she realized Kevin wasn’t on their flight to Paris. My hair is even long enough now to feel legitimately similar to her as I ran.

We didn’t make it in time. “The bag must stay with the passenger,” we were told and, thus, we’re not allowed on the flight. We were about two minutes past the 45 minute cut off for bag check, despite being told we were supposed to arrive an hour prior. My mood dropped. I don’t like when my perfectly planned timelines are thwarted by conflicting information and a policy that didn’t lend any grace to help two out of breath youngin’s onto their flight home. I felt defeated by the system and my eyes welled at the complexity of my emotions.

We opted to go on standby in hopes that we’d get onto one of the next 4 flights leaving Vancouver. I spent the next hour chronically all my airport marathon runs (yes — I’ve had handfuls) and how they’d always seemed to work out and I wondered why this one wasn’t the same. I dwelled in our mistake, to be honest, and my mood turned into a thick sludge as we waited to hear if we’d get on the next flight.

We did, we got onto the flight. “Middle seats are all we have,” said the clerk as she handed us our boarding passes. Upon entering the plane and seeing my seat, I had to chuckle and feel utterly sorry for myself, still in a thick emotional sludge at the sight of where I was to sit for the next 5 hours:

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“This is karma,” I thought to myself. “This seat is karma for my rotten mood the past hour.”

When I sat down and said bye to Brian who moved to the back of the plane, I told myself that my time to be needlessly upset was over. I wholly believe that you choose your attitude and my poor one led me to this chair. I’d had long enough to feel silly for missing something that seemed so grandure in my mind. Would I take away anything we did this morning to make that flight, now knowing that everything worked itself out? No way! I wouldn’t take away our mountain view, our park romp, our quiet breakfast, our coffee and donut date, our quick goodbye and thank you pit stops… I wouldn’t want to leave this beautiful city without one of those things, and here I was on a plane going home at no extra cost, an hour after our initial takeoff. I have a choice, I told myself. I must feel gratitude, I said. And so I did.

Two weeks ago we were on Prince Edward Island marvelling at the red roads and hilled valleys. We’d seen New Brunswick’s peak and had no idea what we were in for in Cape Breton’s Nova Scotia. We visited friends, cafes, the Hopewell Rocks, and harbours and here I was now, on the other side of the country, feeling sorry for myself for enjoying Stanley Park a little too long. As I pulled out book one of Anne of Green Gables, which I’d picked up when visiting the gable, I thought about how incredibly lucky I was to have the morning I did. To see the water, mountains, to breath the air and to stare up the trunk of a thousand year old tree. And then to think the book in my lap came from a place 6000 km away and to say that I’d just been there, well, I’m anything in the world but unlucky.

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The greatest feeling this whole day is sitting in this seat and letting the thick emotional sludge slide down and out of me. Letting it slide into the floor of the plane, through it, past the luggage and random boxes and letting it go into the windy outside world. I’m sitting here channelling my inner Anne and trying to end this post with a just verbalization of what it is like to travel across this country in all its glory. To choose to do so. To ditch my dreams of Thailand, Columbia, Romania, and Mexico for the mean time so I can see the sights I’ve dreamed about since youth. We learn about this landscape our whole lives, it’s like we’ve already seen it, but breathing in the air outside Green Gables, watching the ocean rise around the Hopewell Rocks, standing amidst an 800 year old hollow tree, or skipping along lookout in the hilled valleys of Saskatchewan (yes — hills!) is nothing compared to words on paper.

If The Peakbaggers does anything, I hope it encourages just one person to journey to these spots and to feel as grateful as I am for doing so. We can read all we want in book but setting a goal and achieving it is nothing compared to turning the next page and reading on about someone else’s adventure. I hope you can make it your own because, after all, this country is ripe for exploring.


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How To Make Difficult Decisions Easy

A few months ago I read a book by Paul Fischer called “A Kim Jong-Il Production.” It followed the story of two South Korean filmmakers and lovers who were kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il after their divorce and brought back together in North Korea for the betterment of North Korean cinema. It’s a harrowing, emotional, and often times unbelievable story but a literary adventure I highly recommend. From it, I pulled a quote that I’ve thought about when developing my own stories. This quote is from a description Fischer wrote on the term ‘seed’ used in the making of Korean cinema:

“The seed was a film’s main nucleus and ideological kernel. As a farmer selects and sews a good seed intended well to reap good fruit, so the seed of a film shall be chosen correctly and its depiction deepened on that basis to produce an excellent work.”

I look at the seed as akin to our identity; the momentous footprint we want to leave in our wake, or the ways in which our presence directly affects the world around us. What is my seed, I wonder.

Thinking about the bigger picture – my seed – helps me focus on day to day, minute to minute ideas. If I remember what my goals are, or the purpose I wish to put forward, it becomes easier for me to make those sometimes difficult decisions that cross my path in daily life. Not knowing or having any idea about what my seed is, however, makes these day to day decisions a lot more difficult.

It’s taken me years to really sort out my seed. I’ve discovered and continue to uncover passions of mine, but putting them into action is where the challenge comes in. It’s important to focus on your passion, your spark, your interest, and to take steps toward it.

In simple terms, my seed is empowerment. It is discovery, curiosity, fear, and forward motion. Is what I’m doing empowering to myself and to others and, if not, what are the steps I can take to get there? When I determine my next step, I ask myself: is this right for me and am I moving forward? I think of Brian’s post about making a 1% effort every day, and I ask myself if I’m doing so and how can I improve on this? Am I curious about something and do I attempt to rectify this curiosity? What am I scared of and how do I combat these fears? The first part of the question is the recognition and the second part is the action. These are my seeds, my main nucleus, and ideological kernel. What are yours?


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Teamwork – Going Fast vs. Going Far

You’ve probably heard the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Or, if you’re like me, you only heard of this recently (maybe even right now).

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It’s a simple yet powerful concept. One that emphasizes the importance of teamwork. Putting this in to practice is another thing. “Going together,” means making constant adjustments. It means that sometimes you’re moving at breakneck speeds – everyone is working efficiently, pushing the rest of the team in some sort of motivational infinity-loop. Other times it means that you have to slow down, re-asses and re-group. Which can be frustrating.

A few weeks ago I and the rest of The Peakbaggers decided to take this proverb to heart and create #DiscoverYour Wild. #DiscoverYourWild is a program where we invite anyone to join us every Wednesday at 7pm for a different, free outdoor adventure. We decided to invite others to join our training.

Initially it felt counter-intituitive. I asked myself, “Why bring others along?” Alone I could train how I wanted, when I wanted. In a group I would have to worry about planning, programming, and promoting the weekly adventures. Being in a group also means I’m accountable. It means that I HAVE to show-up, even when I don’t want to.

Last week I led a 12km bike-ride around some of Toronto’s scenic bike paths. Before the event I felt nervous and anxious and tired. It was hot and I was hungry and not sure if I felt like a ride. I also wanted the event to go really well and everyone to get something out of the experience. I questioned everything, “Is the course to short or long?” “Was there a better spot to meet?” etc. Once we met up a lot of those feelings disappeared.

Then, in the middle of the ride, I thought about how I really wanted a harder workout. The path was relatively flat and I wanted to either go really fast and leave everyone, or stop and do pull-ups. I joked about this with another rider and he said, “Why don’t we bike up that big hill at the end?” I rode up and let other’s know they could try and climb the hill too, or wait at the bottom. Everyone finished the 12km and then 4 of us started the climb. As I switched to my road bike’s lowest gear I started to pant heavily. The air was humid and thick and I thought about giving up. Then someone passed me and I knew I had to keep going. Four others joined in on the climb and we all high-fived at the top.

I was reminded again in that moment that having patience in a team can result in moments where you push yourself harder than you thought you could go. I rode my way home with some of the people (which was a workout in itself) and we all joked about how exhausted and tired we were and how the short bike ride turned in to so much more.

While I know at times I will still resist being around others and working in a team, I realize that going beyond my limits to unimaginable places means re-joining the group and letting each of us carry the other forward.


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How to Accomplish Impossible Goals

Do you have a goal that feels impossible? Something you want to get started but aren’t sure it’s achievable? Or maybe it is really daunting and you’re having trouble following through?

Whether it is a big, lofty goal, or something smaller, we all could use some help finding ways to stay motivated and put in the work to make those goals reality. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to tell you a personal story that I think explains the over-arching idea of “constant work” (which can be easier than it sounds) and then share one trick that has really helped me.

For me, the big, impossible goal has been having good balance. If I’m going to be honest, I would like to be able to walk across slacklines with calmness and ease, but simply standing on one foot for more than a few seconds or doing a single-leg squat would be a HUGE achievement for me. You see, when I was 7 I was diagnosed with a benign brain-tumour. The tumour was right at the part where my spine attaches to my brain – the part that controls things like motor function.

In the hospital room, after the tumor was successfully removed and I was out of a wheelchair, Doctors would watch me try to walk in a straight line across the room. I couldn’t do it. I would wobble and fall off course. It was upsetting and embarrassing. When I was out of the hospital I would practice this by walking on the edges of curbs or along the lines painted on the roads. I still do this and think about how I felt in that hospital so many years ago.

People told me, “you will always have poor balance,” or, “you’ve always been uncoordinated.” I’ve never believed that just because I’ve been one thing for most of my life doesn’t mean I can’t change. After the tumor  I couldn’t throw a baseball to a target. Then, in my 20s  I could. Despite being slow and uncoordinated, I ran cross-country in elementary school, played basketball and skateboarded. Later I played rugby in high school. Slowly things started getting better, but my balance was always terrible and still kind of is. I still will loose my balance while standing still or going down stairs. But slowly that is changing.

I’ve increased my focus on improving my balance. I now try to balance on one foot when brushing my teeth and grinding coffee. I’m slacklining and doing yoga as well. And last week I made an amazing leap forward. Standing in the kitchen, I stood on one foot and began to grind coffee without teetering. I smiled and said, “I’ve never been able to do this before…in my entire life.” I’m also able to do single-leg squats, or pistols – another thing that I’ve been working on for about 3 years.

My point is, if you keep working at something you will improve. It may be slow and the results may seem almost unnoticeable, but tiny achievements add up.

The GM for the British Cycling Team Dave Brailsford calls this the “aggregation of marginal gains.” The concept it simple, if you make a 1% improvement everyday the results will improve exponentially. He used this technique to bring Great Britain’s first Tour de France win in 2012.   James Clear, a studier and writer on “habits”, has made this great graph that highlights what just 1% a day can do:

 

In applying this thinking to my everyday life I’ve learned to stay focused and trust that the work will pay-off. Before I may have been frustrated that I wasn’t really seeing results after a week, month, or year of work. (Maybe you can relate?) Now, I tell myself, “Put in the 1%… Every. Day. Put in the 1%.” And I’m seeing it work in ways people told me were impossible.


What goals are you working on? Do you have any tips for making the impossible possible? Let us know below. Get article of motivation, workout tips, and exciting videos in your inbox every Monday – subscribe to our newsletter!

We’re meeting at Sherbourne and Bloor for our next Discover Your Wild adventure (July 22)! See you there!


What Stops Us From Getting Outside?

If I haven’t talked about this before, then I constantly think it. I sometimes feel so bogged down in the city that I feel this urge to get out and into nature. The trees and wind and stars and sky don’t judge me, bother me, poke me, or invade my privacy. They just… exist.

What’s amazing about The Peakbaggers and, now, Discover Your Wild, is that it’s given me an opportunity to get outside without any excuses. I’m motivated by the goals of both projects and always surrounded by people who sometimes feel what I do and want the same – to get out of this busy buzz of city living. One of the neatest things about Toronto is that this can happen right outside my front door.

I never saw Toronto as a city that could provide this for me until I actually moved here. I took up residence in The Beaches and ran the boardwalk every morning at 6am because it was there and it was beautiful. I never thought I’d be a runner, or want to run for that matter, but I did and I shocked myself and most my friends. That little decision to change is what has brought me here, to this point, today.

Two weekends ago we took The Peakbaggers to MEC Outdoor Nation where 135 like-minded people gathered to discuss things like motivation and barriers. Shannon Lyon of the Natural Leaders Alliance created and led an amazing activity where the group of us each took little dots and placed them in a variety of categories. She first asked, “What stops you from getting outside?” and I went up and put my three dots on three of 13 categories. Then she asked, “What isn’t a problem for you to get outside?” I basically ran to motivation, cultural connection, and friends to go with (factors that would be so different for me only a few years ago). Shannon then flipped the question. “Think of someone you know who doesn’t get outside. What, in your opinion, stops them from getting outside?”

Shannon compiled the data and found the following:

  • What stops us: money, time
  • What we think stops them: motivation, self-confidence
  • What sometimes stops us: friends to go with, skill level, time
  • What we think sometimes stops them: motivation, skill level, body type
  • What doesn’t stop us: motivation, cultural connection
  • What we think doesn’t stop them: time, friends to go with, transportation

– Results from Natural Leaders Alliance‘s motivation/barrier workshop

Our smaller barriers of motivation and self-confidence are our friends’ biggest barriers, Shannon explained. But one observation in particular validated my love for this blog, itself, and that’s Shannon’s observation that “we all sometimes get stopped by not knowing the skills.” If we want the Peakbaggers and Discover Your Wild to be a success, we want to focus on these elements – motivation, self-confidence, friends to go with and time and ability to learn the skills. This is our goal and this excites me so much. I feel all these barriers, and here is a program to combat them.

Last weekend Brian and I booked and Air BnB cabin (get $32 off your next trip here!) on the back acreage of a farm in Kawartha Lakes. One of my favourite feelings over the time I spent there was the same one I feel when I’m hanging in a park like Christie Pitts or running the boardwalk in the Beaches. It’s that of connection – to the earth and sky and air… and bugs. Oh, and the people around me! Alone or in a group, I’m never the only runner, slackliner, smiler… The only difference between this secluded farm and Christie Pitts is that you can feel the subway come and go below you if you’re lying on the south side grass of Christie Pitts park – and whole other set of emotions comes with that!

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The Peakbaggers and Discover Your Wild are yours as much as they are ours. I sound preachy but, hey, it’s working for me! We’re all climbing mountains of different sorts and, if I’ve learned anything since we’ve started, it’s that we’ll all get much farther if we go together. So, let’s go together.


What stops you from getting outside? Let us know in the comments below!

We’re heading to Trinity Bellwoods Park on Wednesday, July 15th at 7pm for a WOD in the park – that means we’re going to do a workout in the park! Bring your runners, water bottle, fury friend, or non-fury friend! Stay tuned to @ThePeakbaggers for more details.

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Why Peer Validation Feels So Good

Have you ever had an idea and asked yourself, “Is this any good?” Or maybe you’re one of those super-confident types that tells themselves, “I know this idea is good!”

If you’re like me, you’ve fallen in to both camps. And regardless of where you stand, chances are at some point self-doubt has crept up while you’ve been working on a project or are in the process of trying to complete something. It’s natural to doubt. And doubt can be good. But doubt can also hold you back or slow you down from following-through or moving forward with that amazing thing.

Two weeks ago, after posting this article about my mountaineering training plan, I invited people to come run stairs with me. No one did. While I wasn’t extremely discouraged, it did sting.

Then last weekend Andrea and I attended MEC Outdoor Nation’s Toronto retreat – a weekend where over 135 18-30 year-olds hung out and brainstormed ways to inspire others to get outside. While there people mentioned time, money, and motivation as barriers to getting out more. Thinking about my invitation for people to train with me, we came up with a plan to invite people to train with us every week. When I stood up and told the group about the plan, several others came over and said they wanted to help. We then brainstormed and decided to host a different free outdoor activity in Toronto every Wednesday at 7pm. We call it #DiscoverYourWild.

The group of us stood in front of the room and presented this idea and everyone voted us in the top 3 ideas! It felt amazing and validating and inspiring. We received some funding to help us move this idea forward, but the votes were the most rewarding part. There’s something truly gratifying about people whose opinions you value and respect saying, “We think what you’re doing is worth doing…and we want to help you succeed.”

Last week we hosted our first activity – a 5km run – and 6 people came out. Thinking about the week before, when no one joined, I was so touched when I saw people showing up that week. More importantly, I felt motivated to keep going.  I know my peers are paying attention and want me to succeed. In turn I feel accountable to them and this idea and I think that is one of the best kinds of motivation.


What’s an idea you’re working on that you’ve presented to a group of peers? Or maybe something you’re still unsure of?

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How to Stay Active When You Feel Too Busy

I’ve fallen into a vortex of “other things” (possibly termed “distractions” (I’m in denial)) that have been keeping me from training to climb a mountain. While Brian works on his mountain training regiment and Matt hits 6am CrossFit classes, I’m twirling my thumbs on a film set (my day job), stress eating and standing still. When I think about the work do be done, I panic. But what can I do, I wonder?

It’s really easy to get caught up with the tasks that pay your bills. We all have responsibility and most of us want to exceed our own expectations. In my panic I turned to the nearest railing and did ten push-ups against the wall. I felt better. Just a little bit better.

But I’ve deceived you – I haven’t totally been standing still while working but, compared to my usual routine of running, yoga, and strength training (bootcamp or crossfit) multiple times a week, it feels like I’m going nowhere. The classes I take keep me sane and centred and help me feel good. Without them I feel like I’m immobile, despite hustling around all day. On set, I make time to stretch throughout the day. I consciously correct my poor posture, a result of being too tired to think straight/stand straight. I obsessively plan which days and classes I’ll attend once this production I’m working on wraps. And then I stretch again.

“How do you do it?” I asked a colleague of mine who runs every evening, despite our 10-18 hours work days. This particular conversation started with him asking me if I ran last night, something he’s been asking since day 1 of prep. “No,” I replied, a bashful look overcoming me once again. “How do you do it? When we’re working 18 hour days, how do you find time to work and run and spend time with your family and…”

“You do it because you want to do it,” he said. “You do it because you’d rather run for an hour and get 5 hours sleep then get 6 hours sleep. Or you run for 30 minutes with your kid or partner or you find time with them and with your running. You do it because you want to.” Pursing my lips, I nodded. It’s that simple.

He told me that you have to want to do something bad enough that you actually do it. Thinking about it doesn’t cut it. Good intentions only get you so far, he said. You have to get up and go. Put your shoes on, and give yourself 15 minutes on the pavement. You’ll feel better, he said.

That night, as inspired as I was, I got home and was so tired I fell asleep after putting on my running tights.

When you exercise, your body creates endorphins that make you feel good. Really good. So good that when you don’t exercise, your body craves those good vibes and you feel awful. You feel guilty. You feel depressed. I’m feeling all of these things and I’m giving it up. I’m leaving these feelings at home.

In an effort to curb my “inactivity” while on a busy contract, here’s a few things I’ve drummed up during my mini breaks:

  • Dynamic stretches (arm and leg swings, body shakes and twists)
  • Always take the stairs
  • Walk as much as possible
  • Stand up every 30 minutes
  • Wall pushups (and when people see you doing these, invite them to join in!)
  • Calf raises (when standing, lift yourself on to your tippy toes and lower yourself down again)
  • Offering to carry things for coworkers
  • Constant hydration

Nothing beats getting outside, running through the trees, hiking up a hill, and enjoying the sunlight. I am grateful for all those moments I have in parks and pathways and in nature because, when I’m busy like this, I crave them. Distractions are a great way to motivate you to get creative with your body and abilities. I plan to take FULL advantage of summer once we’re wrapped here. But for now… I’ve got a couple wall pushups to do!

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Do you have any tips and tricks for staying active while being busy? Let us know in the comments below!

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COLD: how Cory Richards’ story about being cold motivated me to climb mountains

Short films can be powerful little beasts, transporting you to another reality for one second to, well, 19 minutes in this case. Back in March, this story came up in conversation while we were interviewing Erin Mccutcheon about her winter camping experience on Lake Winnipeg.   Erin, in passing, said, “Oh, I recommend this documentary short called Cold. It’s about climbers getting caught in an avalanche. It’s… I have no words to describe it.” Our eyes widened at the thought.

Doing my due diligence and driven by curiosity, I sought out the film and watched the trailer. It’s been over two months, and I’ve only brought myself to watch the film now.

As I sat down with the 19 minute piece I thought, “Why has it taken me so long to watch this?” As soon as I clicked play, I knew.

“Beautiful. Spectacular. Free…” narrates Cory Richards at 21, 959 feet and -46°C. Cory is one of three subjects in the short and also the cinematographer. “But it’s just so cold,” he says. “What the fuck am I doing here?”

My eyes welled.

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Cold is about the resilience, drive, and circumstance of three climbers – Cory, Simone Moro, and Denis Urubko – who attempt and succeed at climbing one of Pakistan’s 8000 meter peaks in winter. They were the first team to make it. Only 16 expeditions have attempted in the last 26 years, and these men were the first to make it.

If The Peakbaggers didn’t exist and I didn’t think about them constantly, I don’t know if my eye would have welled. I mean, I’m sure they would have but for a completely different reason. Think about being there, I thought. Because we will be. We won’t be on that mountain, no, but we’ll be on mountains and in the cold and asking ourselves what the heck we’re doing here just the same. Watching the extraordinary feat of fellow climbers, full of fear and questions of mortality and doubt, I was both inspired and astounded at once.

Will I be able to do this?

“Go gently,” Cory repeats; advice from his father before he left. The power that words have, the small moments that mean the world to you as you look at it from thousands of meters in the air… I will enjoy my coffee and my cats and that lipstick I bought last week, I thought. I will enjoy my runs through city parks and the birds I hear outside my windows. I pictured myself missing these things. Did I ever miss them… and I’m amid them.

Cold is a brilliant storytelling of experiencing some of the most difficult, testing emotions we are capable of experiencing. And all by choice. Why do we make these choices? Because we’re driven and inspired and astounded by this beautiful earth… and we want to be a part of that.

“What the fuck am I doing here?”

The answer is yes.

The most resonating part of Cold for me, as I learn more about the world, the earth, the climate, the change, the air, is when Cory sees the sun after being in darkness for days. “When the first rays hit me – graced me – not yet with warmth, but with light,” he says, “I know now that I am alive again, and a part of this world.”

How distant and disconnected you can feel from home when you are so far away from it at night in a tent as the snow and frost settle on your sleeping bag. Ishpatina in March was only around -20°C. In Cold, the temperature reaches -46°C. We’re in for a treat; nothing short of an incredibly beautiful, spectacular adventure.

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Watch the trailer for COLD here:

COLD – TRAILER from Forge Motion Pictures on Vimeo.

For a detailed account of the team’s climb, Outside Magazine published an article called “Partly Crazy With a Chance of Frostbit” available here.


Do you have a story about being COLD? Let us know in the comments below!

Also, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an update.


How I’m Dealing With My Fear of Going Outside

I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. The windows are open, the sun is streaming in, I can hear the city traffic go by and the birds chirping. I know it is a beautiful day out. “I could go for a run,” I think. “Or I could sit here, where it is safe.” I choose the latter and feel guilty until the sun goes down and it is dark.

This is the first time I’m admitting this fear… to myself and to everyone else. I don’t know when these feelings started creeping up in my life and I don’t know why. What I do know is that almost every time I think of going outside, a wave of anxiety hits me. Sometimes it is small, sometimes it is large. I hesitate and think of a variety of reasons not to go outside.

You don’t know what’s out there.”

It’s too much effort.”

It’s safer in here.”

Agoraphobia is defined as “an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives certain environments as dangerous or uncomfortable, often due to the environment’s vast openness or crowdedness” (Wikipedia). Maybe this is what I have. I’m not sure. Everyone feels anxious at certain points in their life. If you recognize that your anxiety has become more severe or has begun to impede certain actions, then it is time to speak with a doctor.

A lot of people I talk to speak about a fear of trying something new or “starting out.” It may be going to a new gym, starting a new activity, going to a new place… Because they are new, all of these possible actions bring up a variety of uncertainties. Seth Godin often talks about The Lizzard Brain or  The Resistance – the cause of most irrational human behaviour and compromise. Seth says that “the resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.” I take comfort in knowing that everyone has some form of fear to deal with; that I’m not the only one. The people who are out running races, climbing mountains, and embarking on new adventures all have their own fears too.

But how do they deal with theirs and how do I learn from them so I can deal with mine?

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In her TED Talk, Karen Thompson Walker suggests I think about what my fear means to me. She says, “Our fears focus our attention on a question that is as important in life as it is in literature: What will happen next?” This actually sounds terrifying. I mean, isn’t thinking about the all possibilities exactly the idea that is weighing me down? But it may actually be my avoidance of these fears that prevents me from breaking them down. Many sports psychologists suggest athletes embrace fear and use it as a way to fuel their adrenaline. In the book Great By Choice, Jim Collins suggests using fears to develop a plan for “what if?”

Based on this, other readings, and my own experiences, I’ve come up with a plan for embracing and confronting my fear of going outside:

  • Acknowledge my feelings without judgement. I use the mediation app Headspace to help me do this.
  • Break it down in to steps and focus on the first step. So, if I’m going running, I focus on putting on my running clothes and nothing else.
  • Put on a great, pump-up playlist… like this one.
  • Follow some blogs filled with motivational photos, like Vega’s #BestLifeProject – I suggest you pick a number, like 5 motivation photos, and then get moving right after.
  • Join a community of like-minded individuals. Matt recently wrote about joining a running crew.
  • Focus on something you love. Tara Sophia Mohr states that love and fear cannot coexist.
  • Work through the fear like a story, as Karen Thompson suggests.

Wow, I already feel better admitting this fear to myself and to you. Hopefully this posts helps motivate you in some way. I know it has motivated me. I also know that if my fears and anxiety become to overwhelming, I’ll reach out to a mental-health professional. If that is your case, help is out there. Here is a good list of helplines worldwide.


Let me know how you’re dealing with fear, watch Karen Thompson Walker’s TED Talk and Seth Godin’s speech about the Lizzard Brain below, then make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an update.