My Love/Hate Relationship with Exercise

Okay, so it goes a little something like this: I see a workout program that I think looks fun, I order it, I get excited about its impending arrival, I buy a new workout outfit to celebrate, I receive said program in the mail, I start the program and within a matter of a few weeks…the novelty and excitement have worn off and I start slacking.  This is how I am, I fall in and out of love with exercise and it’s been this way for years.

Now, I’ve been working out for a long time.  A. Very. Long. Time.  I started exercising when I was a teenager; I would switch on the little T.V. in the rec room and bounce around to the local exercise program.  I remember the first exercise tape I got for Christmas one year – a Jane Fonda work out.  Forgive me, I was young and didn’t know any better.  From there, I progressed to more intense workouts including” the step”.  I loved it, and can proudly say that I only fell off of it a few times!  One Christmas, I asked for and received (yaaay!), an elliptical machine.  Back then, exercise was a big part of my life, I loved it; if I didn’t work out at least an hour a day, I just hadn’t done good enough.  Back then, I had a lot more time on my hands.

These days, trying to squeeze in an hour of exercise a day involves planning and juggling.  Today for instance, I woke up earlier than l think anyone in my building (5:45 a.m., sorry to my downstairs neighbor) and did 30 minutes of cardio from a new work out program I bought, and then I finished the workout, 30 minutes of strength training, when I got home from work.  The workout seems fun, and I sure was sweating – I think it’s doable.  It’s the diet plan that she “prescribes,” and insists we follow to a T in order for us to get the results she promises, that I’m worried about.  This diet is strict with a capital S.  When I was reading the diet I actually said out loud, “I’m gonna starve, I’m literally gonna starve on this.”  An example of one of the meals in the “menu”: 2 large celery stalks with natural peanut butter for lunch.  Not even the yummy peanut butter already living in my cupboard.  I love food – I love to cook it, I love to bake it and I love to eat it.  Hence my need for this program!  This is going to be a challenge.  But, I’m committed this time, I really am.  I hope.

My problem is that I just can’t seem to stick with a program or a schedule, and I’m not sure why.  I love the way I feel when I work out, I like (sort of, let’s be honest) the results I see when I work out; I have never regretted working out so why can’t I just stick with it?

I’m sure there are all sorts of psychological reasons for this, but I’m just looking for a simple reason here, not therapy.  Maybe it’s because there’s nothing calming or soothing about working out which is one of the things I love about yoga.  I always finish my yoga feeling stronger and like I’ve had a work out, but I also feel balanced and centered.  Maybe it’s boredom; doing the same 3 or 4 workouts over and over and over, it’s like Chinese water torture. Maybe it’s just because I have a problem with commitment, which is true, but that’s a whole other post!

Well, I have the next 90 days to either fall in love with this program and order the next stage, or kick it to the curb.  Day two starts tomorrow and I’m crossing my fingers because I’m getting a little tired of this on again, off again love affair.

~Trisha~

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Variety Overload

More more more. Is there a point when we reach too much? I’m talking everything here – people, cars, technical gadgets, brands, and on and on and on. In my opinion, the answer is yes, and I’ve got  firsthand experience with what it feels like to live through Variety Overload. Here’s just one example of what I’m talking about…

A few months ago, I was on what I thought would be a simple enough mission at a shall-remain-nameless department store. My goal? Brace yourself here, to buy a new toothbrush. A little background info first…I’m fairly obsessed with my teeth, and have always been a sucker for the electric toothbrush and teeth-whitening products. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never sought to have the Ross Geller sheen, just a nice, naturally looking, white smile. Needless to say, I was quite confident in my ability to pick dental care products. That day, I was shopping with my sister, and each of us had ventured off into separate aisles; my goal was to just quickly pick out a toothbrush, and then track down my sister so we could continue shopping together. Well, little did I know that about 50, 000 new brands of toothbrushes had been invented since the last time I purchased one (the previous year).

My eyes glazed over staring at the sea of toothbrushes. I started to feel antsy, my head swarming. I started thinking, “Ugh…This is going to take me forever. Trisha’s gonna get impatient waiting for me…Hurry up, you can do this, Carolyn…HURRY UP! Just pick one, and go!” I stood there, my eyes glancing along the aisle-long shelf of toothbrushes (OK, that might be exaggerating by a smidge, but it was at least half to 3/4 of the aisle). All I wanted was an electric toothbrush, one I could just plug in and recharge; heck, it didn’t even matter if it was electric, as long as the bristles moved with the push of a button (it may be a mind over matter thing here, but I feel it does a better job). Instead, I was bombarded with soft bristles, hard bristles, softish-hardish bristles, medium-soft bristles, all-in-ones, not all-in-ones, battery-power, manual, crisscross bristles, rounded bristles, tapered brush head…you see how you feel right now reading this? Multiply it by 100! I couldn’t do it. I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It. I could not pick out a toothbrush. I left the aisle defeated, toothbrush-less, feeling like I had just been visually assaulted, and eventually, located my sister. I laid it all out on the line, my feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. My sister, being the lifesaver she is, put on her brave face and led us back to that  aisle of doom with a take-no-prisoners kind of attitude; I meekly followed. On the way, I discussed with her my ordeal, and she clearly felt my pain. She whipped into that aisle like a Momma Bear on a mission, picked out the first battery operated toothbrush she laid her eyes on, and we were Outta There!

My experience attempting to buy a new toothpaste followed a similar path which leads me to my concern…when is enough, enough? Do we really need this much selection in everything/anything you can think of? Why not just a low/medium/high end version of the products? Why does there have to be a low-low/medium-low/high-low, low-medium/medium-medium (well, you get the picture) version of everything? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer other than it’s just sheer greed or just because we can.

If you’ve read my story on this blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of meditating. I’ve discovered that with meditation, I have a strong desire to limit the amount of “stuff” in my life. Perhaps that’s why I have such a meltdown when I feel like I’m being bombarded with brands, objects and selection. What have I done to attempt to overcome this? The solution for me has been to KIS (Keep It Simple – Yes, I left off the extra S. I’m not a huge fan of referring to myself as ‘stupid.’). How do I this? By finding my personal favourites of everything I need or use, and sticking to only those products and brands. That way, my eyes know exactly what they’re looking for, and I focus on finding that particular product, not looking at, or for, anything else. Another suggestion I have (but can’t really use myself because there really aren’t any in my neck of the woods), would be to frequent your local Mom and Pop shops. Although they may be a little more expensive (and perhaps, you can choose just a few products you’d like to buy there), you have the added benefit of helping out your local small businesses, probably meeting friendlier employees who value your business and will treat you like a person, and the pièce de résistance, the selection will not overwhelm you into a coma. If you have this option in your own neighbourhood, I’m jealous!

~Carolyn

The Smart Phone: The New Holy Grail?

You know, there was a time not that long ago, when saying “hi” to someone you met in say, the elevator or the laundry room, was the normal, polite thing to do.  At least that’s how I was raised,  to acknowledge people, offer a greeting and a smile.  Today, however, in order to say hello to someone, it means having to get someone’s attention away from their phone.  I don’t know what it is with people and their phones and their need to be on it all the time, but it’s rampant, like an epidemic.

Quite often, I will step onto the elevator in my building and see someone already in there completely engrossed in their text or email (or for all I know, it’s probably Word Mole or Fruit Ninja!), and they don’t even look up to see who has just walked into this tiny, enclosed space with them.  I could have a gun or a knife and they would have no idea because they don’t so much as take a glance at me.  And now they’re trapped in there with me.  I mean, I’m not someone with a gun or a knife but still, I could be, and they wouldn’t know until it’s too late.  It’s crazy.

What’s crazier still is when I do say hi to them they look up at me startled and barely utter a word; I might get a slight grunt, or if I’m lucky a timid hello, before they bow their heads in prayer to the holy BlackBerry/iPhone.  It’s as though any and all social skills that they likely acquired growing up have been lost.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against cells phones or smart phones; in fact, I have one myself and use it quite often to check emails, send/reply to texts, etc.  It’s the people who use them incessantly with zero regard for how they are behaving and treating others around them who cause me concern.  Myself, I rarely if ever use it when I’m in a group of people, such as the example above, and I never, I repeat never, make or take a call unless I’ve stepped outside and away from people.  That is just plain rude and ignorant.  No one wants to hear my conversation and frankly, I’d rather not share my conversation with a bunch of strangers.  And let’s be honest here, who calls anyone anymore, it’s all about emailing and texting.  Even my Dad, who we taught how to text, does it quite often and has become a master texter.  He can reply to a text in record time and he has a flip phone with three letters per key – I have to admit, I’m pretty impressed with his skills!  (A quick note about my Dad and phones: once he’s said what he’s needed/wanted to say, he’s done.  You can send text after text to try to get a reply out of him, which I’ve done, but nothing – he’s done.  I asked him about this and he told me he doesn’t reply because he turns his phone off when he’s finished.  The abruptness of his “last text” is similar to how he gets off the phone.  You can be in the middle of a conversation, but if he gets the urge to get off the phone, he’s gone.  He’s not rude about it he’s just, as I said, abrupt.  It cracks me up every time!)

Another scenario that shocks me every time I see it is the phone orgy.  I know you know what I’m talking about since you can’t go out anymore without seeing it.  A group of people seemingly out together for some type of social activity, say, shopping or having dinner at a restaurant, and every single person in the group is on a phone.  Whaaaat????  I see it all the time and I always point it out to whoever I’m with because it irks me that much.  I mean, why did they bother to go out together in the first place?  They clearly don’t enjoy each other’s company since they’ve all whipped out their phones and are doing who knows what or talking to who knows who.   Please, pretty please, if you’re one of these people, stop (although, if you’re reading this blog I would find it hard to believe that you would be one of these people!).

A few years ago, I was invited to a dinner party at a pretty nice restaurant.  During the dinner, I noticed the host of this shindig on her phone; I didn’t think much of it at first because even then, it was the norm for people to pull out their phones anywhere (although since she was the host, it was definitely a bit tacky).  After a while (since  she was sitting right beside me, I could hear what she was saying, something about the seating), it occurred to me that the person she was speaking to was SITTING AT THE SAME TABLE AS US!  I glanced around and sure enough, there was the other girl sitting on the other side of our table about two people down from me talking on her phone to the host.  I’m not kidding or exaggerating, this is a true story!  And in case you’re wondering, yes, it was a sign of how the evening transpired.  Awkward has been the only word that has ever come to mind when describing that night.

My one last gripe (I promise!) is when I’m talking with someone and they are constantly checking their phones.  I realize I might not be the most interesting person but come on, show a little respect and pay attention to our conversation.  I have to admit that I have done this very thing a few times in the past, but I always wound up feeling like such a jerk that I don’t do it anymore.  It’s slightly disconcerting to see someone you’re having an intense conversation with checking their phone every minute or two.  Just show a bit of respect and some manners and leave the phone alone.  Trust me, the text or email will still be there when we’re done talking and so will the person who sent it; if they’re like you, they’ll be sitting on pins and needles waiting for a reply.  And the plus side, because you don’t reply right away, it’ll make you seem so very busy and important.  Hmm, how’s that for a bonus?!

So, just to recap, when someone comes into a room and you happen to be on your cell, look up, say hi, maybe even offer up a smile; if you’re having a conversation with a friend, keep your hands off your phone, and if you’re out for dinner with friends, put your phones away and enjoy the company of the people you’re with (or just stay home and call them instead!).  Remember, manners go a long way with a lot people, let’s bring them back!!

~Trisha~

Trimming Your Screen Time – Ten Simple Ways to Watch Less TV

Okay, so the idea of not having a TV is not the ideal option for most people.  In fact, if the statistics that I’ve read are any indication, I’m pretty sure most people would rather chop off an arm and wave it around than give up the old TV.  Basically, most Americans watch 6.47 hours of TV a day (I’m assuming they are talking about both pre and post work hours here ‘cause that’s a lot of TV to be watching in a single day!).

Now I’m not going to sit here and preach about the virtues of going TV-free or even TV-lite, since up until a year or so ago, I was one of those people watching endless hours of mind-numbing television.  However, I will tell you that last summer I made the decision to give it up and I haven’t looked back.  I should point out that I do still, technically, have a television (for watching DVDs and my workout videos) – what I don’t have is cable and where I live, that’s the same thing as not having a TV.  Nary a channel can be found on my TV.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering on more than one occasion what you were doing sitting in the front of the TV instead of out and about doing something, I think I can help.  Although I basically cut out TV completely on a whim, I do realize that that particular way is just not realistic for a lot of folks.  In fact, most TV-lovers would probably prefer to simply cut back on their TV time, not cut it out altogether, which is more than doable – it’s a great idea and I promise you won’t regret it.  I have offered up some tips below that anyone wishing to expand their lives beyond a television screen can work into their day.  Try one, try some, try them all – you won’t regret it!

1) Turn on Your Stereo

Instead of turning on your television the minute you wake up in the morning or the minute you walk into the house at night, turn on your stereo. If you’re like me, you like a little noise in the background when you’re fixing dinner, cleaning up, etc.

2) Set a Time Limit

If the first tip is out of the question because you absolutely just have to have your morning television fix or your evening news jolt, then set a time limit.  Really – say to yourself that you’ll watch only enough to get the “Top Stories” and the weather.  After you’ve seen what you “need” to see, turn it off.  You’ll still be informed, but you won’t be wasting precious early morning prep time lingering in front of the television.

If you’re weaning yourself off TV (which again is perfectly fine – just because I went off TV completely, cold turkey, doesn’t mean you have to – that’s just my personality, all or nothing), set an allowable amount and stick to it.  For instance, tell yourself that you’re allowed a maximum of two hours of TV each day and that’s it.  How you use those two hours is up to you.  My one word of advice is, don’t watch TV right up until your bedtime.  You need downtime before hitting the sheets and TV doesn’t qualify – there is just too much stimulation for your brain (this goes for computers as well – log off at least 30 minutes before you plan on turning in).  Try reading or meditating instead.  I guarantee you will find you have a better sleep.  Really, I promise.

3) Move Your TV Out of Your Bedroom

Speaking of your TV and your bed, don’t watch the darn thing in bed.  In fact, if you have a TV in your bedroom, move it out of there, stat!  Your bedroom should be a peaceful, tranquil room; watching TV while in bed is anything but peaceful, admit it.

4) Eat Your Meals at a Table

What a novel idea! Eat meals at the kitchen or dining room table instead of in front of the TV.  Not only will you enjoy your food and become a more mindful eater, you might also wind up having a great conversation with your family, and what could be better than catching up with your loved ones?

5) Get Out There

Get out of the house or apartment and play!  Nothing is better than being outdoors and having fun.  That’s hard to do if you’ve melted into the sofa in front of your television.

6) Do Something You Enjoy

Find a hobby or pick up a new one!  There has to be something that you’ve wanted to do, but kept saying to yourself you didn’t have the time for – gardening, knitting, a sport.  Remember, if you’re like the average North American, you’ll have an extra 6 hours a day – think of what you’ll be able to do with all of that free time!

7) Say “Om” 

Try meditating.  There’s something about the idea of watching garbage on TV after meditating that seems almost vulgar.  You have just cleared and reset your mind, centered yourself – why would you want to introduce anything negative and/or unbalanced into your mind?  You won’t, that’s why this is on the list!

8) Volunteer

Not only will you be getting out of the house and away from your TV, but you’ll be doing something good to boot.  You’ll feel better, the people you’ll be helping will feel better – everybody will be happy.  Smile!

9) Enjoy…Silence

Enjoy the peace and quiet, and watch your days slow down! Mindlessly watching television, scheduling your days/evenings around television programs, only serves to diminish your “me time,” believe it or not. Watch what happens when you begin to lessen the time you spend in front of your television. Miraculously, you’ll have MORE time for yourself, and your days will, literally,  slow right down.

10) Do a Little Math

If none of these tips are up your alley, try this one – grab your cable bill, look at the total, multiply it by 12 and see what you come up with.  Have you done it yet?  Crazy isn’t it, how much money we spend, or have spent, to be “entertained”?  Now think of all the other things you could be doing with that money!

I hope that I’ve given you some ideas that you feel you can and will use in your daily life to, if not cut it out completely, at least trim your screen time.

~Trisha~

I Think I’m Going Vegetarian (this week anyway)

I can still remember my first attempt at becoming a vegetarian.  I was about 13 years old and it was on a day trip I was on with my family on Easter Sunday. We had stopped in at a restaurant that had a buffet and for whatever reason, I decided I wasn’t going to get any meat.  Now, I grew up in a very traditional meat and potatoes family; every dinner had meat, period.  The fact that I had done this did not go unnoticed by my parents or my sister.  I announced that I was going vegetarian, and I clearly remember the raised eyebrows and the looks of “yeah, okay, whatever you say Trisha.” That attempt lasted around six hours, until our next meal.  Not very successful, but it was the start of my lifelong journey of “going vegetarian.”

After that, it was a while before I tried the veggie route again.  The next time was due to necessity, not because I was taking up the cause; frankly, I was broke and just couldn’t afford to buy meat. Unfortunately, it also meant a few years of subsisting on side dishes.  Yep, that’s right, I managed to live for about three years on primarily sides which, if you think about it, is not a good diet to stick with. To be honest, I was just trying to survive the best way I could without asking for a hand out (yes, I was that broke!).  Mashed potatoes and gravy anyone?  How about a big bowl of rice?  No, that doesn’t do it for you? How does a bowl of macaroni and cheese sound?  No wonder I gained so much weight, every meal was a carb fest!  I didn’t admit to myself that what I was doing was unhealthy, however, I knew that I wasn’t loving the way I looked or felt.  So, as you can see, although it was meatless, it certainly wasn’t anywhere near healthy which most people assume the vegetarian diet to be.

Once I changed jobs and started making more money, I began to eat fruits and vegetables (which had been sorely lacking the previous three years) and meat – actual meals, imagine!  That, combined with exercise, helped me to lose the weight that I had gained, so much so that by the time my father saw me at Christmas, he noticed a huge difference.  In fact, his reaction was so dramatic I still do the “remember when…” about it.  He walked into my apartment, took one look at me and with his eyes like saucers said, “Wow, you lost a couple of tons!!” – I am not kidding or exaggerating.  I have a pretty thick skin so it only stung for a couple of seconds, and then I moved on because really, he was right.

Over the years, I’ve see-sawed between being a carnivore and a herbivore.  Today, I eat what I want -if it’s tofu, great, if it’s a piece of chicken or a hamburger, fine.  I have read quite a bit about vegetarianism and the drawbacks of the diet.  I have to say that if I go too long without meat, my body doesn’t function as well as it should; I’m moody and sluggish.  I know that there are people out there, die-hard vegetarians, who will say that if you have a properly balanced diet and eat exactly what you need to, you will have no problems; I have yet to come up with that balance.  Instead, I have weeks where I don’t consume meat of any kind in order to bring a bit of balance to my diet – what could possibly be wrong with eating more fruits, vegetables and beans?  I just finished up a good few weeks wherein meat did not play out in any of my meals.  I felt good, but again, I knew that if I kept it up for too long, those benefits would disappear, and that is just not okay with me.  In the meantime, I’m happy with the way things are and with being a part-time vegetarian. Isn’t that all that really matters, what we’re all looking for – to be happy?

T

Drive Carefully…

Someone loves you. While watching my favourite morning show before work one day, there was a short segment on a digital sign that one of the co-hosts had seen on his way to work. Instead of having the typical traffic play-by-play of current conditions, it had Drive carefully. Someone loves you. In this world of short attention spans and overpowering bombardment of messages, this caught the co-host’s eye, and he decided to share it on the broadcast. I have to say, it stuck out in my mind, and I later shared it with my sister on the way to work.

For some reason, I was truly touched by the message on that sign. To me, there was a much greater message than just drive carefully. Someone in charge of updating traffic conditions, took it upon him/herself to broadcast something that went beyond what was expected. That person was encouraging others to not only think of the people who loved them, but to hopefully think of the other people sharing the road with them, their safety, their loved ones. ..the proverbial “ripple effect.” How many people saw that message that day? How many people went on to share what they had seen with others around them? How many people took a step back after reading that, and thought, “Wow. That’s so true. I really need to be more careful on the road.” In a city where people drive as if they are the only ones on the road, perhaps that message planted a seed, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see it grow into a forest. The biggest changes sometimes happen with the smallest of actions. Perhaps that sign was one of those small actions.

~Carolyn

Hello world!

Hello and welcome to Simply Om! With this blog, we hope to inspire as well as share and gain knowledge of all things Zen. We have, over the past couple of years, been transforming our lives and decided to share that process with like-minded people. You can read about each of our (ongoing) journeys under Our Stories. We will also be sharing some of our favourite things including our favourite books, favourite recipes, favourite blogs, etc.

We invite you to take a gander through our baby and leave a thought, story and/or add your two cents to our favourites collection.

Enjoy!

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