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How to take care of yourself when running in hot weather

Running in hot weather can cause heat-related illnesses, zap your energy and diminish your performance if you are not properly aware of the dos and don’ts before heading out.  The consequences of being ill-prepared for the heat could lead to permanent brain damage or even death due to severe heat stroke and dehydration.

In 2002, while living in South Korea, I suffered from heat exhaustion after running 10km in the heat. I was quite ill and needed medical attention. From that bad experience I learned to hydrate enough before working out, not push myself like I did in the race, and not to race that same day for another 200 metres. I also learned that I don’t run well in the hot weather. My runs are done early in the morning or in the evening.

To keep you safe in hotter than normal conditions, here are my top five running tips that have helped me and are good reminders.

  1. Know the best time to run: Everyone has different levels of tolerance for running in hot and humid conditions. If your run is negatively affected by the heat, try to avoid running in the hottest part of the day, which is from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. If there isn’t an option, try to choose routes in the trails where shade will keep you cool.
  2. Clothing: Wear sweat-absorbing fabrics to help keep you dry and comfortable. Try to avoid moisture-absorbing fabrics like cotton in anything from socks to shorts to t-shirts.  The lighter the garment, the better off you will be. Wear sunglasses and running caps to protect your eyes from the sun year-round.  Your cap will also help shield you from the sun’s ultraviolet rays while preventing your scalp from getting burned. It comes in handy on rainy days too if you’re not a fan of the water beating down in your eyes.
  3. Sunblock: To protect your skin from sun damage and to prevent skin cancer, apply sunscreen before your run.  A very pleasant benefit to protecting your exposed skin is it slows down the natural aging process.  Wear the right SPF according to the pigmentation of your skin.
  4. Hydration: Drink plenty of fluids. Drink at least two to three liters of water a day. Runners need to drink at least two cups of water two hours prior to running and another cup thirty minutes before.  Invest in a water bottle to carry with you or plan your route where you know of multiple sources of water.  Anytime you feel the heat, take a few sips of water as needed.
  5. Slow the pace when running or cross training in the heat. Pool running is a great alternative to running. It can be done with or without a flotation vest and can mimic the running motion in deep water.  Another option is the treadmill, the advantage being if you need to stop early you’ll still be back where you started.  Many gyms provide fans and water fountains. If you feel more tired from the heat than normal, it’s best that you stop and try again later.

After your run, drink plenty of water or a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes. Don’t forget to eat some cooling foods as well, such as watermelon or cantaloupe.

Remember to listen to your body as this is your guide to stay within the boundaries of not overdoing it. Being a good listener could save your life.

www.runwithit.ca

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Dobbelsteyn

What always astounds me about women I’ve chatted with who have become CEO’s and presidents of notable companies or of ones they founded, is that they all have a sincerity and generosity towards others while also being driven, focused and intelligent. Dr. Jennifer Dobbelsteyn, President of Dobbelsteyn Consulting Group International Inc. is no exception to this.

Jennifer has worked in the healthcare industry as both a nurse and in management but saw there was a gap in the system. Staff, who assist and care for ill patients that are often in devastating condition, often lack support themselves.  She decided to begin her consulting company as a way to improve “healthcare work environments for staff, thereby, improving the caring environment for patients,” after completing her PhD and MBA.

Jennifer shared with me about the importance of the work done by her consulting company:

“This work is timely and extremely important currently because of the changing demographics. The population is aging in Canada at an unprecedented rate, making long-term care the healthcare environment of the today and tomorrow… I work collaboratively with organizations to resolve the problem, involving front-line staff which allows organizational leadership to target their resources strategically.”

Through her firm, Jennifer aims to effect a positive change within organizations by providing necessary education sessions, valuing all staff and encouraging team work. Healthcare workers take on a lot of stress and a safe and supportive environment is key to motivating workers to be at their best for patients.

Despite achieving great success with her business, there are still changes that Jennifer feels are necessary to be made in Canada’s healthcare system. She sees a need for improvement and for a focus of provincial governments to be on working environments in healthcare, including “preventing violence, insuring occupational health and safety, promoting professionalism, managing workload, and stabilizing staffing.”

“I guess I thought that someone needs to do more about these problems facing the healthcare system. My next thought was that the someone can be me and my company,” she added.

Jennifer also sees a need to be a support to women in her workplace by inspiring them to speak up and fostering confidence in the environment. She motivates women in her field to strive for success, persevere and accomplish goals that make a difference.

One woman in history that certainly made a difference is Mother Teresa. Jennifer shares that if she could go back and meet one woman, it would be her, because of the inspirational and amazing work she devoted her life to.

As to what superpower Jennifer wishes she had, the realist shares how everyone has a superpower innately within them.

“We all have a superpower. We just need to discover what that is and use it to make a difference in our own small way,” she said, then added that she would love to have the power to make a workplace that is safe and perfect for all, despite this likely putting her out of work!

She is not a dreamer, but a doer and Jennifer is about getting things done that have positive and long term effects on society, while motivating others to do the same.

 For more about Jennifer and her consultation firm, visit www.dobbelsteyngroup.ca

Clear vision, stay in the game

Improving body and mind through working out takes dedication and time. It takes commitment to get your self in gear, speaking rhetorically and literally.  The running boom has spawned a multi-billion dollar shoe industry, whose experts will help you achieve your goals in comfort.  Our feet are taken care of but what about our eyes?  This is what Alcon DAILIES TOTAL1® contact lenses can do for your vision.  Having your eyes feeling  uncomfortable during a workout will steal your focus and drain your energy.  With high quality contacts lenses you can concentrate on the task at hand. Conversely, your focus at work or school will diminish if your eyes become dry from wearing contacts longer than normal, with no solution in sight (pun intended).
From a sunset walk along the beach, to having coffee with friends, to getting away for the weekend, there is much in life we take for granted.  You end up foregoing it all if you are battling a constant irritation of your eyes.  You may learn to cope, however, without regular eye exams which detect the onset of disease, as well as making you aware of the best eye care available, your eye health could be at risk.
There is a solution for the every-day contact wearer.  ALCON®DAILIES® are daily disposable lenses offering sharper vision.  They are the world’s first water gradient contact lens, meaning they’re designed to offer more comfort and breathability for longer.  They provide more than three hours of additional comfortable wear time per day, compared to their regular lenses.
Taking control of your vision will improve your confidence in everything you do. You will never have to quit a long run because a lens had become uncomfortable.  Athletes will apply the latest information on supplements, diet and training methods to give themselves an edge.   It’s just as important to get proper vision care, which could be a difference maker.
Are your eyes ‘performance ready’? It’s never too late to have an eye exam. It is Vision Health month in May, which is a national campaign to bring awareness to Canadians to get regular eye check ups.  According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, (CNIB) seventy-five per cent of vision loss can be prevented or treated.  Preventive measures and early detection of eye disease significantly lowers your risk of vision loss. Keep your eyes healthy by getting a regular eye exam, eating healthy and exercising. You can protect your eyes from ultra violet damage by wearing sun glasses at work or at play.
Learn about some eye conditions such as presbyopia, which is a common eye condition that often occurs around age 40 due to a gradual loss of the eye’s ability to focus on close objects, affecting nearly 1.7 billion people worldwide – a number expected to increase to 2.1 billion in the next five years.
 Alcon Multifocal lenses can treat presbyopia. There will be no squinting to read the menu or blurred vision while looking at your fitness gadget.  Accepting less than perfect vision is no longer necessary with the advanced eye care that is available.
Seeing the world up close and personal is now possible. Please visit your eye care practitioner for further information.
Twitter: @christineruns

Tips to combat those blues

Just because the weather is getting nicer doesn’t always mean a better mood and that mental health will improve.  If you are finding it rather difficult to get out of bed in the morning, let alone accomplish day to day tasks, you might have depression. And although there are several remedies to help you with your depression, there are slight changes and routines that can also assist.

Proper water intake is key to feeling better and many neglect to drink the appropriate daily amount.. Want to lose weight? Drink water. Suffer from acne? Drink water. Mad at bae? Drown him, just kidding.  In fact, it seems that not drinking enough water is the root of all problems. It can actually lead to a lot of mental and physical issues. For one thing, a lack of water intake can cause brain fog. This can prevent you from thinking clearly, not to mention leave you in a less than content mood. Of course, lack of water intake can result in dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration don’t always have to be thirst. Fatigue, headaches, and even excess body heat are all signs that you need to up your water intake. It’s not always coffee that you need to wake you up. Put down the mug and pick up a bottle of water instead. Your mind and body will thank you.

Symptoms of depression do not pertain solely to being in a bad mood. Your physical health can be a red flag too. If you find taking a nap is always on your mind, not to mention you’re struggling to break free from your sluggish and lethargic state, check your vitamin levels! Vitamin B, C, and D  and depression are very closely linked to one another. Living in Canada, almost everyone lacks Vitamin D, also known as ‘the sunshine vitamin’ which can leave you feeling gloomy with a lack of energy. Be sure to also check your Iron, Magnesium, B12, and Vitamin C levels as well. Not only can these vitamins and minerals help with depression, they are also essential for maintaining your overall health. Either get your intake through supplements or incorporate meals that are rich in nutrients into your diet. That poutine may taste good while you’re eating it, but it’s doing more harm than good in the long run.

It’s easy to slip into a state of withdrawal when you’re suffering from depression. All you want to do is crawl into a corner of your bedroom and watch Netflix all day. However, being a couch potato is highly counterproductive to improving your mental health. Although it makes sense to let yourself grieve and feel your emotions, it is more important to find ways to break free from the cycle. So, do yourself a favour and hop on a fitness cycle! Getting active in small ways such as taking a walk around the block or trying out something more daring like rock climbing, can be a huge step towards bettering your depression. It’s no secret that exercising releases endorphins, helping you feel good. It can encourage you to try something new, engage in more social interactions, and just have a change of pace from your everyday routine.

Ah, social media. The biggest blessing and curse the internet has to offer. Social media has become an integral part of all our lives. It helps us keep connected with Jennifer all the way in Australia while keeping us informed on Trump’s day to day shenanigans. However, it can also contribute to negativity in our lives. Unfortunately, being active on social media can lead us to compare our lives with others, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and depressed. You can be sitting at home, trying to get active and eat healthier while your classmates from high-school are posting photos of their engagement or new house. Getting caught up in other people’s lives is not only irrelevant, its detrimental to your physical and mental health. Unfollow the accounts that leave you feeling empty and start following accounts that encourage positivism and boast motivation. Better yet, put down your phone and focus on your own life

Say no. No one will be offended if you do. And if they are — good riddance. Whether it’s in your professional or personal life, politely refusing to do things can help you feel in control of the life you fear you’re losing grasp of. Unfortunately, a lot of negative feelings arise when you put yourself before others. However, changing this habit will help with your self confidence. You may just not want to go out for dinner with your friends one night and it’s next to impossible when your boss has already put so much on your plate. It’s okay. Listen to yourself. If you feel like you can’t take it anymore, step away. Thank yourself later.

Be sure to visit your doctor if your depression persists for a prolonged period of time or if you feel your symptoms worsening.

 

Workout motivation: do, don’t ditch

So, the calendar has an intense workout or long run scheduled but the little devil on the shoulder is making a convincing case to do otherwise. That dilemma is a classic one – even for those fit-as-a-fiddle women who seem to have all their sh*it together. No one is without flaw when it comes to maintaining the perfect workout schedule.  All have dips in motivation, and have bailed on a yoga or gym session without good reason. I know l have days where it takes all I’ve got to not succumb to pressing play to another episode of Easy. For those days when the motivation is lacking, the below list will provide an extra dose of encouragement. Here’s what happens when I actually get in that workout:

Enjoy the rest of the day with feelings of confidence… not guilt.

When the to-do list calls for an intense spin class or sweat-inducing morning of barre, it can be easy to use the I-don’t-feel-like-it excuse and reschedule for tomorrow. Remember that this workout was scheduled by yours truly for a reason. Bite the bullet and… Just. Get. It. Done. I know that guilty feeling that lingers when cancelling a workout. Actually doing it means enjoying feelings of confidence instead.

Feeling sluggish? Look forward to a second wind right afterwards.

Oddly enough, it’s during those evenings when the energy levels feel low and those gym plans feel far-fetched that I end up with a second wind afterwards. Sitting at a desk all day can bring on extra lazy feelings by dinner time but remember that to spur the body into action is to give it a wake up; a much needed one. Enjoy that post-workout energy boost.

Know you’re more likely to be alert while working.

Those morning workout people will often say that setting the alarm for early a.m. hours means arriving to the office alert, happy and ready to go. If mornings at the office are often a slog, perhaps saying yes to even gentle exercise in the morning is a way to combat that and become more productive.

Fit people often have more energy in general.

Have that friend who somehow conquers her runs, yoga practice and dance classes during the week and STILL ends up rock climbing and playing ultimate frisbee on the weekends? Well she’s not actually some super-human freak of nature. Energy breeds energy. To stay on top of the workouts is to kiss lethargy goodbye. Go to the gym during the week and on the weekends, active plans won’t seem so lofty.

Accumulated workouts are an investment in future well-being.

The present-moment version of a person may not want to drop and do those sets of planks but guess what? The future self is the one who most benefits. Getting sweaty today means looking more trim and toned tomorrow. The biggest benefit of all though is creating a healthier, stronger mind and body.

It’s one of the easiest ways to get a mood upgrade.

If these tips have yet to inspire a new, revamped fitness routine, know that today’s workout is probably the quickest route to a better mood. Even a half hour on the treadmill is likely to turn a deflated mood around.

 

Getting race ready

No matter how well my training is going, there is still a seed of doubt about whether I’ll be able to do a personal best on that day. This is normal behavior I am told from my running friends, and it is basically for me to learn how to cope with the pre-run jitters.

The key is to think about all the hard training I have done, and how good I will feel crossing the line. A positive mindset and being prepared before race day will never let me down to perform well.

Here are my top 5 racing tips before I lace up my shoes:

1. Clothing/shoes

What helps settle my pre-race jitters is the night before I figure out what to wear. I dress for the weather conditions and wear moist wicking fabrics to keep me dry and comfortable. I also choose the shoes that are best for the distance I am doing. In addition, I bring an extra change of clothes, socks and comfortable shoes to change into afterwards.

Before lining up to the start I double knot my shoe laces to trip in the race which has almost happened once.

Two other items I bring are Vaseline and Bandaids.

To keep me warm before the start I wear a top that I don’t want and can discard  it when the gun goes off. 

2. Nutrition/Hydrate – The night before, I eat light- for example plain tomato sauce with pasta- I avoid anything too spicy and creamy sauces that will upset my stomach. Lunch is my last big meal before any race day. The morning of, I usually have oatmeal with brown sugar and fruit with milk. That is all I need before the run.

If it is a half marathon or a longer distance I will bring an energy bar and have it halfway through the race. Avoid eating too close to race start as this could lead to problems during the race.  Also, I also keep hydrated leading up to the race. Most big races have water and/or energy drink on the course.

3. Rest – I make sure to have a good  sleep the night before. The previous day to the race, I stay off my feet and relax to music.

4. Stretching- I stretch after my warm-up before the run and after the race. I also do a cool down afterwards. I stretch all of my muscle groups, including calves, quads, hamstrings, groins, I-T bands, arms, upper and lower back.

5. Start slow, finish strong works for me. I start slow and then I make up the time later.  While running I keep my shoulders low and relaxed and pump my arms, especially on the hill sections. Suggestion: have a realistic goal.  Write on a wrist band the times you are hoping to achieve at 5 kms, 10 kms, 15 kms and 20 kms. 

 I try to run my own race and don’t compare myself to others. This will keep me focused, relaxed – the end result I will be running smoothly.

 

Healthy eating tips to complement your workout

As a runner, following a proper program and eating healthy is the perfect recipe for optimum performance and life long running. When I started training for my first 10k, little did I know how important what and how much I was eating could hurt my training.

At the time, I wasn’t making good food choices or eating well balanced meals. I would also skip breakfast or not make the time to eat. This was a huge mistake as I was often depleted after a workout. I also felt low in energy before the workout. The end result my running had suffered and this unmotivated to run.

Taking some time off not from running, I instead looked carefully at my diet. I realized running 5 days per week my body needed more nourishment. Skipping breakfast wasn’t working and eating creamy sauces the night before a long training run had given me an upset stomach.

If I wanted to continue training and see the finish line I needed to change my eating habits.

After doing some research into how to properly fuel my body and seeking advice from a dietitian I began to change my eating habits.

Here are my top 5 healthy eating tips 101 that I still use today:

1. Eat breakfast on a regular basis

Having breakfast fuels my body. I have a lot more energy before the run. Here is what I have on a regular basis – oatmeal with a bit of milk, brown sugar and some fruit. Give yourself a couple of hours before running.

I enjoy having one cup of coffee before heading out the door. I would have though a glass of water to keep hydrated.

2. Make the time to eat – your body will love you

Sometimes it is hard to make the time to eat. If you don’t have the time, bring a snack with you. Snack bar or granola bar and a piece of fruit to get through the workout or afterwards depending how much time you can digest it.

3. Follow a proper meal plan – eat carbs, protein and unsaturated fats. Carbs like a bagel gives me a lot of energy and having pasta, plain sauce with no creamy sauce the night before a big run.

4. Avoid foods that will upset your stomach. If you are not sure try it before the race. I love yogurt but discovered having some before a run upsets my stomach.

5. Keep hydrated. Bring a water bottle with you and drink sips of water throughout the day. Suggested to drink at least 2 liters a day or 8 glasses of water a day.

After a hard effort in a race, my stomach cannot handle food. What I have is a sports drink instead which has electrolytes.

Listening to your body is the key to knowing what foods work for you. See a registered dietitian for advice or more information about following healthy eating for your training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get rid of that pesky spring cold with 6 home remedies

Spring is officially here! This means warm sunny days are more frequent, and at my own home we all pulled out our spring coats. But, then, snow came once again to throw us back into a second winter. And —oh no—the prickles started! The onset of a cold is here! My throat now burns and feels tight, swallowing is harder, a headache weighs in, and all I can think is ‘where is my bed?’.

‘Tis the season for spring colds and flu! When traditional medicine like cold and flu pharmaceuticals don’t seem to do the trick here are a few remedies to help you and your family through this period, like they do mine:

Rest

No, it is not medicine, but it is the first thing we should do and yet, I am exceedingly bad at it. I tend to go on and on until I fall apart. But resting goes a long way, especially when you start hearing the warning signs that your body is about to enter a fight against a pesky virus. Sleep can do wonders and allows your body the time it needs to gather its strengths and repair itself. So first off, hit the pillow, if you can.

Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) and Oil of Oregano

When my throat is itchy one of the first things I do is a mouth wash, several times a day, with either of these products, and it works! But make sure you actually rinse your throat and not just the interior of your mouth. Both of these natural extracts are not only powerful disinfectant but also antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial. Only a few drops mixed in less than a quarter cup of water will suffice. Just rinse and spit out!

Hydration and citrus water

Though I constantly drink water, when sick it is easy to forget to hydrate. Yet water helps flush out the body’s toxins and sometimes even helps get rid of headaches. But what is even better than water is drinking citrus water and I cannot recommend it enough. Lemons and limes boost the immune system, are a great source of vitamin C and are antiviral and antibacterial. Simply add half a freshly squeezed lime or lemon to 750 ml of water.

 Ginger/Garlic/Lemon/Honey

If the above fails and I am getting sicker, then it is time to pull out the big guns: garlic and ginger. Yes, raw garlic is hard to swallow down. Granted, I might have terrible breath, but, at this point can I still smell? Raw garlic may taste a bit pungent but it is a very effective remedy. It is a super food that is a natural antiseptic, antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal. It is also a food that can prevent a whole slew of other ailments, amongst which  are cancer, Alzheimer and dementia. So go ahead, have some garlic!

In the recipe below, raw ginger is also added. Ginger not only helps with nausea but also clears the microcirculatory channels. In other words, it helps with soar throat and blocked sinuses.

 Recipe:  

In a container add the juice of two lemons, 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic and a knob of fresh ginger. Use a hand mixer to obtain a smooth texture. Add a touch of honey so as to dimer the sour taste and help sooth the throat. This can be taken as is in small doses, or added to hot water and drunk as a tea.

Mustard Plaster or ‘Mouche de Moutarde

When we were young and in bed, feeling miserable, my father would make us one of these and put it on our chest to provide some much- needed heat. To this day, he still makes this mustard plaster when he is sick. This recipe uses mustard, a rubefacient, which means it stimulates blood flow and will therefore clear the congested airways while providing heat to the chest. However, use with caution as it does get hot and can even burn the skin!

Recipe:

-Mix 2 tbsp. of powdered mustard with 2tsp. of flour or corn starch

-Add water to the mix in order to make a paste

-Deposit the paste on an old piece of cloth to be thrown out afterwards and wrap it up in the cloth so that the skin does not come in direct contact with it.

-Put the cloth on the upper chest

-Leave on for 5 to 30 minutes

WARNING: check every 5 minutes so that the skin is not burning!

Chicken Broth + Love

Should I be visiting my family while sick, my mother will then supply me with her wonderful homemade chicken broth which I sip as I am usually watching some Netflix. I highly recommend homemade chicken broth, if at all possible, as it is a means to warm you up, hydrate, and provide some vitamins. What ever you do, make sure you get yourself some much needed loving, whether it be from a partner, a family member, a friend or a pet, a cuddle always helps!

Keep those sniffles away, but if that is not a possibility follow these tips and you’ll be back to your amazing self in no time.

Cross training tips to enhance running performance

When I first started running, adding any cross training into my workouts wasn’t important …..so I thought until the day I tore my hamstring. It was a day to remember as I was in pain but also upset because I couldn’t run…not even walk properly. My world came crashing down and I didn’t know how I could live without running. It was caused from overtraining and having a poor core. Despite the fact I was in good shape, little did I know  incorporating some cross training would  have made me a stronger and healthier runner.

My visit to my physio suggested I pool run for six weeks. Six weeks seemed an eternity at the time, but I did what I was told.  I didn’t enjoy it at first but knew it was the only activity to keep my fitness. I pool ran three times a week, and once a week,  I would be in the pool for about two hours. This would be considered my long run, mimicking as close as possible if I were running.

During that time I learned about the benefits of cross training and I found water running had given my legs a break as it is low impact. It also added variety to my workouts. I learned to love pool running and still do at times.

Fast forwad, these days I still cross train, but I go to the gym and work on my core strength.  I am injury free ever since and my running has improved.

What I benefitted the most from cross training is that I learned about a new activity such as pool running, pilates and core exercises..

Whether you are new or a seasoned runner it is never too late to add cross training into your workouts. Whether you are injured or not cross training has many benefits.  It will improve your running and keep you in the game.  Visit a personal trainer to get you on the right program.

For more tips from Christine about achieving the perfect running form and how tos regarding avoiding and alleviating seasonal allergies, click the links.

Twitter: @christineruns

YouTube – runwithit

Why your physical wellness is the best investment you can make

It was after harnessing as much courage as I could, that I recently found myself halfway up a mountain on a trail above Medellin, Colombia alone, muddy and incredibly sweaty. The trail, being on a mountain route, was steep and quite challenging at times, yet I was in my element: being outdoors and active has always been my thing. It was just after pausing to take in the landscape that the first drops of rain started to fall. Though I had the energy to keep climbing, I know Colombia doesn’t half-ass its storms. I turned back towards the farmer’s house below. Within minutes, it was deluging with the vibrant orange trails quickly turning to streams. I arrived at the bottom completely soaked with mud marks on my legs and tired muscles.

Moving from Toronto to Colombia has been an interesting personal experiment to say the least (and this is just the beginning). In making a transition like this, I’ve put myself in a situation where I no longer have a large social circle and comforts like my house, my routine, my directional awareness of my surroundings and even my ability to communicate are all gone. When I look at the elements that made up my day-to-day life a mere four weeks ago, there’s only one thing left: my fitness. During this transitional period, I’m glad for that.

I’ve been an active person for my entire life. In the early nineties when I was pint-sized but high energy, I danced, swam and pedaled my pink bike around and around the block. I spent my weekends playing tag and following the current of the stream by my house to see where it led. Soon after, I found my love for distance running and that never waned. I ended up in the fitness and health writing game.

It feels like by spending my youth as an active kid, I unknowingly set myself up to become a more self-sufficient adult. These days, I’m not only thankful that I’ve made myself into a physically active person but I also feel that this is the best investment I could have made. What’s more, is that I think putting time and energy into fitness is one of the smartest things any woman can do.

I spent the past few years writing about health and exercise. Through this work, one of the biggest things I wanted others to recognize is that the benefits of maintaining a decent fitness level go so far beyond looking trim and toned. While the workouts at first may seem to be means towards achieving a certain type of beauty, I don’t think that should be the point. Someone who makes athleticism part of her lifestyle is building a body that’s strong enough to take her on adventures no matter where she chooses to end up. Those activities could range from kayaking to hiking to climbing – you name it. Being fit enough to explore the surroundings through movement, I think, is one of the best things people can do for themselves. Sure, doing those planks and yoga poses may serve an initial purpose but once those ambitions have been realized, I think it’s about being fit enough to jump into physical activity purely for the enjoyment of it. For example, now that I’m spending much of my days on my own, I’m glad that I can hike tough terrain or spend an afternoon running without feeling exhausted. If I was starting from square one during this period, I’m not sure what I’d do.

This sort of a lifestyle is a big contributor to confidence, too. Believe me, moving to a different continent is a great way to test this trait. I may be nervous to venture out into the city (what if I get lost… again?) or talk to a stranger (what if my pronunciation is off… again?) but when it comes to moving my body, I know I’ve got this. With hiking, running or yoga, I know I’m well able to carry myself through – no matter where I am. That’s a confidence booster – one I’m glad for.

Everyone gets their fair share of curveballs to deal with. Keeping up with the workouts, I feel, is probably the best way to be proactive for those crappy days. To run or cycle or commit to those Tuesday night sessions is to contribute to overall wellness. When my body is stronger and fitter, I’m generally happier. When I’ve had a horrible day, I’m able to hit the roads for a tempo run and blow off steam and suddenly, the problem seems to have shrunk itself. Trust me, the workout has the power to benefit overall wellbeing. What woman wouldn’t want that in her life?

By the time I arrived home from my mountain hike in the rain, I was severely uncomfortable. First of all, my shoes were like a pair of waterlogged boats squishing with every step. Secondly, my white tank top was now see-through which, paired with my mud-stained shorts, didn’t make for a good look. The next day, my upper legs, not used to descending down a steep mountain were so sore I could hardly tackle a set of stairs. Still, it was one of the best days I’ve had in Colombia so far. Physical activity is a big part of who I am and I’ll continue to rely on that as I navigate this country. I’ve already planned my next hike here: a route along the spine of a mountain just outside the city.