Mercury in sweatrograde

Les Mills classes never change.

Sure, they update the music, but it’s fundamentally the same experience. Don’t take that as a slight, it’s kind of the point. You know exactly what you’re in for when you arrive. A Saturday morning Body Attack class is something I hadn’t experienced for some time. Between injuring three of my favourite limbs, to getting back into drinking again, peaceful (relatively early) Saturday mornings haven’t been in abundance. However, a quiet night at home with my girlfriend cooking soup and marathoning Big Mouth was the ideal recipe for a 9:30am Body Attack.

I’ve been going to Les Mills classes since I noticed a trail of spandex clad butts walking upstairs at Auckland Les Mills aged 16. Like the pied piper, the siren song of teenaged gawking was enough to get me into the room. The class was fun enough that I kept going back for all the intended reasons: Spunky instructors cultivating a fun environment. Upbeat tracks that motivated me to keep moving. A low barrier to entry and the promise of an efficient workout within an hour.

It’s still the same moves with slight tweaks. Repeaters (standing on one leg and bringing the other knee up and down), jumping jacks, running on the spot, running with high knees, running with ankles to butt, high kicks, skaters (jumping from foot to foot, pausing on each side), tricep push ups, shuffles. It’s all the same. Just add music and an overly jazzed instructor. Sure, the order changes sometimes. Maybe there’ll be a small addition like mixing jumping jacks with squats. Really though, there haven’t been any serious shifts in the past 15 or so years I’ve been going.

Even the archetypes are the same. In every class there’ll be someone trying it for the first time. There’s always a frail elderly woman who you’re not sure actually knows there’s a class going on. She’s kind of just doing her own thing, which is amazing at her age. Maybe she lives there, who can say? There’s also another older lady (old dudes just don’t seem to show up with the same regularity) who’s been going for 30 years and knows all the moves. She’ll move into the advanced stuff before the announcer even brings it up. She’s perfectly optimised the whole moveset and has no interest in slowing down for anyone else’s sake. There’s someone for whom it’s not their first time, but they’re still having trouble with the choreo. There’s the overly enthusiastic dude (oh hey, it’s me) who adds some extra little flair into his moves, but is also a bit clumsy. A group of three girls in their early 20s who are going out for coffee after class. One of them doesn’t seem to like it as much as the others, but probably just wants an excuse to grab coffee with mates. Someone young with a dead set stare taking it all way too seriously. They never miss a rep and don’t bring water or a towel.

It’s perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. They’ve cottoned onto a successful formula and it’s all for the best. Honestly, I love being able to sweat a bunch in the morning (especially if I’ve had one or two drinks too many and I’m pushing out those toxins), then have the rest of the day to slowly meander home via coffee. Maybe even see the group of three at the cafe.

Oh Les Mills classes. Never change.

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Pain is bread, bread is life, life is pain

So long Montreal, I ate all the bread. Back to reality.

I’m ready to eat normally again. If I don’t see another restaurant for over a week I’ll be a happy chap. Sure, we’re going out for a meal with family tonight, but the company makes it worth it. I’m ready to eat nothing but cabbage, tuna and porridge until Halloween. It’s felt like a vacation in all forms. I haven’t given work a second thought, which has been a rare luxury. I can’t imagine how it’d feel to be in an office today, which either denotes a pretty dismal sense of imagination or a master class in denial. Sure, I don’t care much when I’m in the office, but right now I care several magnitudes less than that. Let it rot, for all I care. Take your stuffy morning commute, crappy office coffee and eight hours in front of double screens and burn it all. Until tomorrow at least. I’m still on holiday in my heart.

As ever, it is nice to come home. To sleep in my own bed, with my comfortable hovel of a home and fridge stocked with cabbage. With friends in arm’s reach and happening happenings every night of the week. With regular bed times, the gym a few nights per week and the easy, unimaginative appeal of routine. To enjoy Toronto in the Fall, with light coats, crunchy leaves and central heating. Fancy parties and excuses to dress up. Whatever clusterfuck the legalisation of weed will bring in two weeks, I’m here for the calamity. I think what I’m trying to say (not that I’ve thought it through) is that I’m lucky enough to live a life where “boring” is still fun. There’s enough going on that if it’s hard to find excitement, that’s on me. I’m happy where it counts and I count my hashtag blessings that’s the case.

It’s also time to return to life and all that encompasses. In 2018, social media happens to be part of it. I’ve been out exploring and having my fun while the vast majority of my friends have been suffering through the emotional morass of the Kavanaugh hearings. Society reaffirming that at large it doesn’t care about the struggles women face on an alarmingly frequent basis. That their words and hardships are only worth a fraction of a man’s own. That the horror of sexual assault experiences pale in comparison to a privileged, wealthy white dude with a blatant disregard for women’s reproductive rights maybe not getting to be installed as the highest security valve for the world’s loudest and most visible nation. The bravery and conviction of Ford standing up for her principles swept aside and disregarded. While I’ll never be able to truly empathise with what so many women must be going through, it’s still unfathomable to me that most of society just doesn’t seem to get why women don’t come forward against their accusers. Or how the deck is irrefutably stacked against them. That their anguish and resolve is so often wasted and worse, entirely dismissed. That it’s not just the most vile of acts that bring the entitlement of men to the fore, but constant tiny aggressions day in and day out. Being told to smile in public for the benefit of men. The double standards that see flagrant emotion as the domain of women, but seem to look the other way when men throw tantrums. Being told how to dress so as to appease men. Their conduct and manner rated on standards that men themselves never have to meet. Being talked over and taken for granted. Being seen as objects devoid of agency. Never being enough, but always too much. It’s a hard sell to tell women to mitigate themselves to fit into a society that doesn’t care for their needs. I have no intention of doing so.

Once again, back to reality. For better or worse.

If a guy was horny, but too baked to get it up, would he be between a stoned and a hard place?

Day four of JFL42 and I’ve entire abandoned any notion of doing reviews.

I’ve got a life outside of the festival, y’know. Even if I’m eschewing it entirely. I’m more than my ability to park in a chair and observe funnier people make funnier observations than I could. I’m also a) not getting paid to do so, b) trying to build up a portfolio or c) getting free shows out of it. Also d) literally nobody cares about them. Don’t worry, my feelings aren’t hurt. It just means I can continue in my usual vein of talking utter nonsense and not sleeping.

So here’s a thing. Weed is getting legalised in under a month and we’re not talking about it as much as we should be. That’s a pretty big fucking deal. It’s been a mainstream maligned substance for the better part of a century and suddenly it’s all gonna be kosher? Why aren’t we spending every day discussing the myriad of ways that society could change with its widespread adoption? Are prior convictions going to be overturned at all? Or will a likely overwhelmingly POC prison population be left to rot over archaic and outmoded laws? Are coppers still busting people to buff up the coffers?

Who can and can’t sell? Is it just going to be a governmental organisation like the LCBO? Or is the PC government planning on making a buttload of back pocket deals to license retailers? Will weed be available in bakeries? Bars? Cafes? Cannabis coffee/cocktails? Will weed products become more mainstream? Cosmetics like balms and lotions? Will hemp products face a resurgence? Will we be able to smoke everywhere or only in designated zones? Will smoking dope be treated as nicotine is? Will vaping be allowed indoors? Will there be weed only clubs, no alcohol allowed? What about in restaurants? Can you smoke while eating outside? What about the office? Will smoking weed be considered equivalent to alcohol? Not on company hours? Will it be looked down upon at work gatherings? Or once again be treated as alcohol is? What about medical marijuana? If you have a prescription because of anxiety or anything, will you be able to smoke up before coming back in the building to move numbers around a spreadsheet?

What industries are on the verge of emerging? Will we see an explosion of weed based journalism and editorial content? Will weed find its way into physical fitness? CBD based protein bars or smoothies? Will you be allowed to smoke then get behind the wheel? Will there be more accidents due to reduced reaction times? Will Chinese restaurants become governmentally run because of their vital importance to a stoned society? Will pizza pockets be covered by OHIP? What if you have The Munchies as a pre-existing condition?

How will social stigma impact use? Is it something that most people do/are doing already? Will legality only serve to make people talk openly about it? You’d be hard pressed to find any opinion leaders getting grilled over enjoying the occasional glass of whiskey or wine. What about a joint or edible? Will weed still be treated as the domain of unambitious layabouts? Or will assenting public figures help shift the tide of perspective?

Most importantly, will the public be educated on weed strains and their effects? The last thing we need is more businesses blowing smoke up our arses.

Love yourselfie

I’ve developed a tradition. After each Tough Mudder I’ll post some kind of shirtless vanity shot on Facebook. I don’t know if it’s a case of diminishing returns, but I don’t think so.

The first time was nerve racking. The notion of taking up space, putting myself bare (well, with pants) in front of people was really fucking tough to do. As with anything else, practice helps. A few years in it’s become incredibly empowering to have something to look back on, to soak up the sensation of feeling strong and capable in my own body. I don’t know if it’s a matter of growing old and finding it harder to give a shit, but with each passing year it’s getting easier to push away that little negative voice that comes from decades of regressive body issues. Of course it’s a push for validation, but I’ve learned enough in life to know that Tall Poppy syndrome is bullshit. It’s okay to feel proud about progress. You’re not a piece of shit for enjoying the kind of acceptance that others can provide.

With each passing year it’s also getting increasingly difficult to reach the same peaks. Getting old is definitely a thing. This year in particular was miserable. Most years I have a three month training period leading up to the event. This year, three months prior, I fractured my wrist and sprained both ankles. It was not ideal.

Two weeks after the accident I was champing at the bit to get physical again. I started adding in jogging, little by little. I’d run around the block and feel exhausted, betrayed by my own body. I worked up to a slightly longer run day by day. Eventually I got back to my regular lunchtime 5kms and I’d run 3-5 times per week. Saddled with my cast, it would accumulate sweat and a few km in I’d be carrying the weight of that on my right arm. With each stride I’d fling sweat ahead of me. It was gross as hell, but I wasn’t taking any movement for granted.

I still couldn’t really open jars or chop vegetables without pain, but I gradually worked more exercises into my repertoire. Eventually I got back to the gym and did anything I could. Everything felt like a godsend. Picture some dude with a rainbow cast doing one armed assisted pull ups. It was a pretty nutty sight. I didn’t care. I was single mindedly heading towards my goals.

This year, more than any other, was a reminder of how I physically felt for so much of my childhood. Incapable, insufficient. It brought back a lot of those unhelpful emotions and patterns. Physically and emotionally, the past few months were a ton of work. It felt like I had to relearn a heap of simple movements that I’d always taken for granted. I’d look at a couple of dishes and be overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness. I’d be on the TTC trying to stand while holding onto a pole, wracked with pain. I was far too proud to take a priority seat away from others who needed them. I felt worthless in my own body. I’d look at chopsticks and sigh.

So y’know what? I’m quite okay posting a picture showing the muscle tone I managed to build up. I’m happy to saddle myself with whatever amount of vanity that takes, with no sense of guilt. Why should anyone feel guilty about enjoying the way that they look? Isn’t it kinda fucked up that society has instilled that sense in us? It’s more than alright to like yourself, right?

So right now I feel pretty damn great. I like that.

Here I am muddering to myself

Tough Mudder this year was…

…actually, I think that says enough. Tough Mudder this year was.

It existed. There was a path to run on. They had some obstacles. It was a Tough Mudder course, in the proprietary sense of the word.

It was also a real disappointment. Look. I’m a decently optimistic bloke. I really am. I look forward to this event every year. I train like mad to throw myself at everything the course puts in my way. Every year I have a total blast getting covered in mud, slipping and sliding, crawling, climbing, swinging and jumping. Everyone helps everyone else out, and we all make a time of it. Great event.

This year it felt like they phoned it in. I’ve heard rumours that they’re looking to sell the brand and, as such, they’re trying to maximise profit margins by scaling things back. Feels accurate, even if it’s just a rumour. Which sucks, because the event has always been a master class in price scalping. We’ve known this going in, but it’s been fun enough to compensate. You’re paying at least $150 for a ticket, $20-$30 for parking and $10 for bag drop.

The obstacles this year were altogether pretty tame. King Gorilla was almost farcical. It was a zig zag through a dry, flat field. In previous years, at least it’s been up and down a hill, adding some interesting dimension. This year it felt like they got pushed for time last minute and turned the line outside of bag check into an obstacle. This year the full course involved looping around to do a second lap of the course, with some divergent paths. There were a couple of obstacles you had to redo. It was sorta lazy, like they didn’t even try. The partner carry was weirdly short and Mud Mile 2.0 felt like a mildly inconvenient puddle. Most of the obstacles felt like smaller versions of the previous ones. It was like they wanted to make them accessible for the half course, but didn’t add an extra difficulty layer for those who wanted them. Funky Monkey 2.0 was a blast last year and downgrading to the regular version this year was disappointing. The new Kong was fun, for sure, but there was nothing this year on the awe inspiring scale of King of the Swingers from a few years back. In past years they’ve had extra obstacles for returning participants, extra challenging ones. Not this year. My team and I were halfway through the course thinking “sure, it’s nice to be outside and people are very friendly, but does this all seem pretty underwhelming to anyone else?”

This was my fourth, and it seems like each year they scale down food options. First time around there were energy gels, pre-workout and real protein bars at regular intervals. If you’re burning a couple hundred calories every hour in the hot sun, this stuff is important to keep you going. It’s kinda irresponsible not to keep participants fed, not least because they’re paying $150+ per ticket. You think they could spare a protein bar, energy gel and pre-workout per participant and still be laughing all the way to the bank.

It’s not all bad. Christie Lake Conservation Area was gorgeous. Truly lovely terrain to run through. It was nice to not have the constant hills of St Louis, but it would’ve been great for the difficulty level to compensate. The electronic waivers were excellent this year. The staff were friendly and helpful. When a guy in the beer tent started getting faint, medical responded quickly and helped him out. There was still the outstanding attitude of camaraderie and an admirably low douchebag quotient, given the hordes of shirtless dudebros. It was a nice day out in the sun and I’m stoked that they’ve developed accessible opportunities for burgeoning course-goers, but it would’ve been nice to have the challenge level of previous courses. Felt like a waste of training.

Will I go again next year? Every other year the answer would’ve been a resounding yes. This time? Maybe I’ll see what Spartan Race 2019 is like instead.

When Mudder Nature calls

It’s 5am and I’ve only been up for 40 minutes. I was in bed just after 9pm. I may have had six hours sleep altogether. Without any sarcasm whatsoever, for a Tough Mudder eve, things are on track.

I’m excited, like I am every year. Like every year, this year feels different. It’s a small group this time. Three of us. Every Tough Mudder I’ve loved approaching the challenge with a different team. Everyone brings their own attitude to the course. I’ve never been saddled with anyone who hasn’t given it their all. This year is my first time running with only veteran Mudders. Both my team mates know the score. It’s great basking in the camraderie of a large team, but you’re only as fast as your slowest member. A seven person team has a ton of variance. A three person team of individuals who’ve run the course before means that we can probably jog most of it. That’s exciting to me. I’m not the breed of competitive where my finishing time really matters. That said, previous years the course has taken over four hours, because not everyone spent the preceding months training in earnest. I get it, life gets busy and for most people it’s just a fun day excursion. Personally, having put gallons of sweat into my training, it’s been a bit of a let down to spend much of the course walking. Left me feeling overtrained, y’know? This year I’m hoping for maybe under three hours, just to say I did it. It’s not just a performance thing. You get long lines at a bunch of the obstacles and that’s out of your control. Having too much of an aggressive mindset would ruin the charm of the experience for me. I mean, I’ll be garbed in a bright pink shirt and purple leggings. Okay, “bright” is an overstating it. I pulled out my go to uniform last night. It still smells like mud. I’m bathing in nostalgia already. Just, muddy nostalgia.

I’m all packed. I’ve had my first bowel movement on the day (if you’ve never run an intense physical trial you have no idea how impotant food timing and bathroom sequencing is. Seriously). The goal is to eat breakfast around three hours before reaching the starting line. Some good hearty porridge, packed with carbs, fats and protein. A cup of lemon water on the side helps settle your stomach. My team mate, literal angel that she is, has baked some paleo chocolate chip banana bread to give us some extra stodge to run on, so we’ll have that in the car on the way over. An hour before hitting the starting line I’ll have a banana. Not too much fibre, but just a little. Then 30 minutes before starting I’ll have a big ol’ double dose of pre workout. Get that caffeine flowing. Fingers crossed that leads to another bathroom break around 20 minutes pre-liftoff, so I feel energised by all the packing, but not bogged down. The mindset is, your body really needs food on the course. At the very least, you’re probably running through 300-400 calories an hour, depending on your pace. We’re likely to be there for two and a half to three hours, so that’s a hefty amount of calories burned. There will be food on the course, they usually have bananas, energy gummies, pre workout and protein bars at intervals across the race. At the same time, too much food can leave you feeling bloated, with an uneasy stomach. If you’re pulling yourself over sheer walls, having an unhappy gut makes it a lot harder.

Goddammit, I’m really bloody excited now. Perhaps that’s pre race jitters or literal jitters from the bottle of cold brew coursing through my body. A brutally sunny day today. 27 degrees. Thank fuck we have an early start time of 9.30am. It’s gonna be murder out there.

Righto, time for bowel movement number two. Get it? Number two?

Hard? Or bet? Or fast? Or strong? Or…

Well that’s a massive relief.

The interview is over. I don’t really want to talk about it (not cause it went terribly or anything) a lot. It went as well as it could’ve. The hiring manager seemed to really like me and thought I’d be a good fit for the position. When I asked her if, after meeting me, there were any particular worries she had about me in that role she said she really liked my passion and attitude, her only worry was that I might get bored after a while. I assured her that every job has its downtime and that’s why it’s a job. We parted on good terms. I told her that I understood she no doubt had a ton of other qualified applicants to talk to. The job sounds terrific and the right direction I want to be taking. If I pass muster, there’s one final interview I’d need to attend, which means I’d need to once again wear a button up shirt. A different one, no less. Life is hard sometimes, y’know.

Tough Mudder tomorrow. I’m really fucking excited. I know I’m gonna have trouble sleeping tonight, so it’s probably okay that I need to be out of the house by 6.30am. Not like I’d be catching Z’s anyway. I’m gonna rest up tonight. Some carbs with my dinner (leftover bibimbap from last night) and do a bunch of mobility work. I’ll pack everything I need for tomorrow (snacks, pre workout, big black plastic bags for muddy attire, a change of clothes/shoes, sunscreen. No doubt a million other things). Most importantly, I’ll get an early night. An early night meaning I’ll get into bed at 10pm or so, then no doubt be awake with my eyes closed until 2am. It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year.

This year has been hard beyond belief. After fracturing my wrist and spraining my ankles, training was incredibly difficult. Any progress I’d gained was pushed back to the stone age. Three months ago I had trouble eating a bowl of cereal. After a few weeks my ankles healed enough for me to jog, so I jogged with my arm in a cast. My arm amassed sweat and it sprayed out as I ran. Didn’t matter, had to get better. After the cast came off I went straight into theraputic exercises. Day in and day out I was testing my flexibility, working the small muscles in my hand. I got back to the gym and added exercises in one by one. Pull ups, bicep curls, chest press, tricep dips. It was hard, going from almost no weight and incrementally putting pounds on the bar. Tomorrow I’m going to pull myself over sheer walls. I’ll bound across the course like the Energizer Bunny on a rampage. There’ll be ring swinging and mud crawling. Tear gas and maybe real tears (gotta watch that wrist when hoisting people up). When I fractured my wrist the doctor said no. When I started doing physio they said “we’ll see how it’s healing”. After a little while that turned to “oh fuck yes you’re doing this course”. So, fuck yes. I’m doing this course. For the first time in years they’ve relocated the course from┬áMount St. Louis Moonstone to Dundas, Ontario. I’m really pumped to see what the new terrain is like. Fewer hills is my prime wish. I mean, Moonstone only really had one, but it was immense and you had to run up and down, up and down.

I’ve been waiting for this. I’ve been working for this. Tomorrow, I’m gonna push myself across that finish line.