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Keep fit and travel fit

It’s easy to let your resolve to stay fit fall by the wayside when you’re on vacation or travelling. If you don’t have access to a gym you might say to yourself, “Why bother?” But it’s not all that hard to at the very least maintain your level of fitness with only a couple of pieces of portable equipment, even in a small space. I’d like to share with you what I do while travelling. (And as a matter of fact, I’m writing this from India, where I’m spending four weeks.)

First, I pack a skipping rope and resistance band. Both of these pieces are light and can be stuffed into just about any part of my bag. They add versatility to the workouts I create, allowing me to include many exercises that are not limited to ones using my own body weight.

Second, I choose six to eight exercises. To give a few examples: planks, crunches, squats, leg lifts, biceps curls, shoulder presses, rows and push-ups are among my favourites. I move quickly between exercises and after each cycle I do one to three minutes of skipping to get my heart rate up (or if there are stairs or steps nearby, I’ll run up and down them as an option).

Third, I challenge myself to be as precise and controlled as possible. This really cranks up the intensity in a big way. I always go slowly and if I’m not fatigued by the end of the set, I’ll hold a position and focus on contracting my muscles until I am.

I’ve used these strategies to work out in spaces barely sizeable enough to swing a skipping rope. My workouts while travelling are short (20 to 25 minutes typically) but effective. I try to do something like what I’ve described two to three times per week, as well as walk a lot. I look at it as a period of time when I don’t have to work out like a maniac, I just have to maintain. After all, I’m on vacation.

Adventures in blogging – Does this make sense?

With the blog site in place, the fun part of blogging had begun. What a wondrous opportunity for a writer to compose, present and collect feedback, in real time. Not yet convinced blogging was the right method of exploring my writing voice, I dove in anyway. Producing content was tougher than anticipated. Finessing the words was pure joy. When rules began interrupting the creative flow, the experience became something else entirely.

I expected the odd creative block and therefore mitigated the risk by collecting an abundance of material for one to two posts weekly. My challenge was sticking to the rules for ‘successful bloggers’ gathered through internet research and referencing social media stars. After navigating the plethora of advice, I narrowed it down to 10 key points.

10 Content Rules for Successful Bloggers

1. Specialize in one topic per blog. A clear vision of content attracts a more targeted and loyal audience.

2. Catchy titles. Have yours be the enthralling headline that drives someone to click and read.

3. Consistent post frequency. Some amount of consistency is best to keep new followers, whether posts are daily, weekly or biweekly.

4. Avoid venting. Use your power for good. Very few people can garner a faithful following of their complaints.

5. Subtitles, bullets and pictures. Organization and succinct thought presentation make for easy reading, especially for those who scan first before reading.

6. Promote comments and feedback. Creating a conversation with your followers generates three benefits: valuable feedback on content, follower retention, and new followers wanting to weigh in.

7. Make it easy to share. Provide easy ability to ‘share’ and ‘promote’ within social media sites.

8. Subscribe capability. Keep RSS feeds and email notifications ‘opt in’ prominent on the page.

9. Under 1000 words. The ‘sweet spot’ for most blog readers is between 600 – 1000 words.

10. Credibility. Display relevant credentials, awards and accreditations so readers have confidence in your content.

 

Broken Rules:

The internet offers an overwhelming amount of information about social media. I have handled the abundance of advice the same way I manage parenting tips. I read through material that interested me, and decided what made sense before drawing my own conclusions.

Without creating a number of separate blogs, I could not follow rule number one and stick with one topic. Since my blog goal was to find my writing voice, I needed the ability to explore a number of avenues that were incompatible and would attract different audiences. While the blog name “JustMomSensations” suggests impressions from a Mom, it could not be a well-targeted Mom-blog alone. It also needed to include short stories, snippets of manuscripts in development, business ideas, and favourite works of other writers. I broke blog rule number one and I moved on with a chaotic collection of topics.

Rules Followed:

With the exception of rule number one, the rules were easier to follow. My posts have not been as consistent as planned but it is balancing out over time. Since my first entry in September of 2012, I have averaged 1.5 posts weekly. I’ve managed to save my venting for journals and my husband, along with the occasional leak of steam on my personal Facebook page. The remaining rules guided me to structure the site and enable gadgets, all with the purpose of maximizing promotional opportunities to gain followers.

Results:

The inconsistency of post numbers reflects my chaotic approach to topics. The most popular post is a short story called “Picture in a Wallet” – a cautionary tale about unsuccessful child abduction. Short stories top the leader board in posts and shares, providing the feedback I was looking for.

I had fewer than 100 viewers when the blog first launched. I shared posts on my personal Facebook, and emailed family and friends. To increase my audience I needed to engage my existing marketing skills, and learn new ones with social media. Social media became my late night companion for weeks. Within a month my viewers topped 500, then 800, with consistent growth from there.

At first glance, social media appears to be free. One can use most tools without spending a dollar. The real and significant cost is human resource time to create an authentic presence in each of the tools. Each site had its own nuances, tricks and etiquette rules.

My education in going social continued as I learned how to use tools to push and pull viewers to my blog. ‘Build it and they will come’ is nice dream. Commitment and persistence is the reality of gaining blog viewers.

 

Next column: The Push and Pull of Blog Promotion

RELATIONSHIPS: Reconnecting with your childhood crush

How much changes after 35 years — and how much stays the same?

I never forgot my childhood crush.  Over the years through dead-end relationships and dating disasters, I would go back to that comforting place in grade four and wonder about the cute boy who captured my attention and still held a special place in my memory.

The fantasy of reconnecting years later often presented itself in my mind. What was he doing now? Would he remember me?

Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure that we wouldn’t pass each other on the street and feel a twinge of familiarity but just keep walking.  After all, grade four kids are only nine years old. How much connecting could we really do at that age, I thought.

But suddenly, there was a chance encounter at Tim Horton’s with my grade four teacher. There she was, timeless and preserved as if it were still 1977. As I said hello, the memories came flooding back to me and I immediately went home to fish out the class photo that was carefully protected behind a plastic sheet in an ancient photo album. My crush was as cute as ever, as he stood posing with the group.  It was perfect for a Facebook post.

Although we weren’t children of technology, many of us born in the late 60s have adopted the habit of sitting behind a computer or phone to connect with our past. Many of my classmates from elementary school who were on my friend list flooded the photo with comments. Then suddenly, there he was. On someone else’s friend list.

I sent the friend request. Would he remember? Butterflies in my stomach. I attached a little note to ask.

The response was immediate. Are you kidding, he said. Of course I remember you! I always thought about you over the years.

It turned out that he lived in New York City and pictures indicated a lovely family of his own.  He was doing well.

We exchanged the usual promises to meet up one day for a coffee. But we were hundreds of miles apart and we hadn’t talked for 35 years. They were nice thoughts and I filed them away.

One year later, a trip to New York City presented itself. So I contacted my grade four crush. The coffee meeting was possible.  Was he up for it?

Yes indeed. An exchange of cell phone numbers and a promise to touch base was made. Truthfully, I still wasn’t sure it would happen.  But from my hotel room in New York, I sent the text, proposing a time. A response suggested a place – Times Square.  It was confirmed.

I walked through the busy streets of New York City on a cool spring day and suddenly, in the middle of Times Square, there he was – my grade four crush. We stood there for a minute among the hustle of the city and looked at each other and smiled.

Over Starbucks, we talked as if three decades hadn’t passed by. We reminisced about our grade four teacher and classmates, and we discussed his move to another school all too suddenly. He cried, he confessed. He was sad that he would not see me again.

I stared. You did? I asked.

He continued to reveal details of our friendship –details that I didn’t remember. We used to lay stomach down on the carpet side by side and read stories to one another, he recalled. He used to tell his mom about me.

I tried to recall those memories but my own told me that he was the cutest boy in the class and I had a crush on him, as did many of the other girls. 35 years later, I learn that I was the one he was most fond of.  More importantly, I find out that nine year olds can make connections that last a lifetime.

We chatted for the afternoon and he walked me to a street that would take me to my hotel again. We promised to keep in touch and parted ways.

That was over a year ago and we continue to connect on Facebook.  His emails make me smile and he checks up to see how I’m doing from time to time, with offers to talk when life throws a curve ball.

I’m happy that he’s found a love that keeps his heart full. He’s no longer my crush, but a bond that began in elementary school, lasted through decades of distance and came back, familiar and comforting as if we had shared stories on that carpet, in the second floor of that old school building, just a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

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RELATIONSHIPS: The double standard of talking about the future

When men reveal their secrets, I listen carefully. After all, it isn’t everyday that they’re willing to break the code and allow a woman into their mind. So when I found out about the double standard that may actually be responsible for sending men packing early in relationships, I knew it had to be shared.

I found out this tidbit on a first date of all places. We were talking about relationships over dinner. Ok, the fact that we were on a date and talking about past relationships is bad form, I know. But that’s how it usually goes when they fall into the friend category right away.

He’d asked me about my last relationship. The good girl in me said, avoid the topic. The realistic girl said, he’s the friendship guy so it’s ok to get his opinion. Since my breakup was still raw, I was all too eager to spill the details.

The future was responsible for the breakup, I confessed. Apparently I’d talked about the future too much and it put pressure on my former beau. Mr. Friend asked for details so I complied.

It was early on in the relationship, I’d explained. The stage where infatuation was at its peak and new couples, drinking from the same cup of amour, fantasized about being together forever. Could this be it? Could the long, search finally be over?

So when my past boyfriend talked about kids and homes together and trips we could take, I figured it was ok to jump in and reciprocate. Besides, a girlfriend told me, if he wasn’t serious about you, he wouldn’t talk this way! Men don’t say these things so early on unless they were serious. Uh huh. Words of wisdom from a woman’s point of view? Take heed ladies, this is not the case.

But as soon as I joined in the future talk, I saw the eyes widen. I saw the fear rise and I watched my beau turn and duck into the cave. His reason? I was rushing things. It was too much pressure.

I stood there, stunned, running over the conversations in my head. Didn’t he ask me on the second date if I wanted kids? What about the nice houses that he wanted us to look at? And the colours for the rooms…what was that all about?

I poured out my confusion to Mr. Friend and saw his eyes widen and palms rise as he shook them, jazz style, singing, “No no…NEVER talk about the future! Never mention the future to a guy who you just started dating!!”

But, I stammered. I was following his lead! It doesn’t matter, Mr. Friend said. You just don’t do it. Men live for the moment and they say what they feel at the time.

Ohhh, so it’s  a double standard?

Yes, Mr. Friend confessed. It was and it will always be that way. Accept it.

I shared this interesting revelation with my girlfriend. When men talked about the future, they didn’t really mean it. They were living in the moment. Ah ha! The secret revealed!

Weeks after I’d found out the secret, I had a chance to test this theory. The former beau poked his head out of the cave and looked around.  He wanted to live in the moment he said. Uh huh. I agreed. No talk of the future. Ok, I admitted that maybe I did talk about the future and it wouldn’t happen again.

But as time went on, and euphoria set in, the future talk resurfaced. I listened, I smiled and I nodded. I made no plans. I did not reciprocate and I did not build on it. I smiled and I lived in the moment.

My girlfriend, amazed at the theory, tried the tactic with her new boyfriend. When he talked of living together, she smiled and nodded. She said it changed her whole way of thinking because no longer was she that woman who jumped too far ahead in a relationship when men lived in the moment.

No, it’s not fair. In fact, it’s downright annoying! But at the end of the day I realize that it’s not about fair. It’s about understanding the difference between men and women so we can walk though this uneven playing field with grace.

So the next time you have a date with a man and he starts talking paint colours for the bedroom, smile, nod, and change the topic. Never bring it up again until the day you actually move in together. Only then will he be ready to paint together.

 

 

LOVE & TECH: Is Tinder the death of romance in the technological age?

With the rise of instant dating smartphone apps like Tinder is true romance really just one tap and swipe away?

Today’s young professionals have a rabid appetite for social fulfillment. The enticing and fast-paced social applications for today’s cellphones allow people to satisfy their social urges more rapidly than ever, producing a cult-like atmosphere of social media worshipers. As this industry grows, social media developers are continually finding more creative ways to indulge people’s fixation with social efficiency.

The rise of the social-media empire has even conquered the world of dating. Today’s singles have quickly caught on to the benefits of using social media for their Romantic pursuits. These applications offer people a quick, nonchalant way to pursue someone within a relaxed virtual environment. Consequently, social media is enabling society to court others technologically – but to what extent is technology tarnishing the natural dating process?

We are currently experiencing a battle between efficiency and romance. Alas, we have the rise of Tinder, the savior to quench society’ thirst for unabashedly shallow, yet quick routes toward courtship. It epitomizes the death of organic dating. Through this program, one can browse through dozens of local singles, separating desirable candidates from the undesirables. If two individuals are mutually attracted to each other, they are able to converse.  Essentially, this program permits the mass accumulation of potential dates via iPhone; it is a pathetic excuse for romance!

We have essentially become a romantically deactivated society. We are experiencing an epidemic where at least 2 out of 3 people you know have likely been courted via text as opposed to meeting organically through friends or a tasteful piano bar. Tinder is mercilessly plunging our society at hyper-speed into a new era of dating where romantic contenders have been diminished to a cold selection process on a mobile screen. Dating has officially become stale, flat and virtually effortless as technology creates these fast-paced dating platforms.

Nevertheless, this unapologetically superficial, hyper-speed dating style is appropriate for the needs of today’s busy young professionals. Tinder’s efficiency makes it the ideal contemporary dating tool. It is a convenient, yet non-threatening way to pursue others. People are able to protect their egos through this low-risk courtship style.  Therefore, people can feel more emotionally safe because their pursuits appear unintentional and casual; it is easier to toss a message into a virtual vacuum than to create a face-to-face opening line. However, this care-free approach to courtship has soured the vulnerability and beauty of the traditional high-risk dating process. I am not implying that people re-enter a world of classic chivalry with codified ways of offering greetings or lofty proclamations of eternal commitment (society’s dating habits are far too removed from these hyper-romanticized ideals).  But this does not mean today’s 20 and 30 somethings have to live in a romantic wasteland! People should try abandoning their technologically protected realms—their phones screens— and genuinely interact with each other. When courtship is accompanied with anxiety and fear of rejection, the thrill of dating is preserved in its most raw form.  There is a heated sense of risk and sensuality associated with face-to-face courtship .Thus, people need to set aside their feelings of machoism and embrace real romance once again.

As the rise of these speedy dating alternatives continues, the integrity of intimate, face-to-face courtships are relentlessly dying. Social media applications such as Tinder are decaying the spirit of traditional organic courtship. But with the growing starvation for quicker, more compelling ways to socialize through media, technology will continue to address society’s growing demands. Yet, I find it difficult to imagine the next big dating application when society has already seemed to reach he peak of romantic lethargy.

 

 

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Girl Crush: Mindy Kaling

I’ll admit it: I was late getting into The Office. I had seen an episode here and there, and knew I had a giant crush on John Krasinski, but until two weeks ago never sat down and watched the series as a whole.

I’m here to tell you that I watched eight seasons in two weeks and I’m not sure if I’m happy with that statistic yet or not. What I am happy about is how The Office introduced me to my new favourite lady: Mindy Kaling.

On The Office, Kaling plays Kelly Kapoor, the lovable office chatterbox, but she also holds the title of producer, writer and she made her directorial debut in season 6 with the episode “Body Language.” Now Kaling is the creator of the show The Mindy Project, which she also stars in, writes for and produces. The Mindy Project is a fun show that takes place in an Ob/Gyn clinic, and is the perfect show to fix your post-Office withdrawal. (This is coming from someone who is almost done with The Office and quickly needs to find her next television obsession.)

As if Mindy Kaling doesn’t already seem like the busiest woman in show business, she wrote a book called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) which I finished in just over a day and then promptly lent out to all my friends. Kaling covers a wide variety of topics including chest hair, one night stands, punching your best friend in the nose, and her own funeral wish list.

Kaling’s book left me in hysterics; it felt like I was reading the diary of my best friend. Her cheek-in-tongue humour perfectly captures the tone you would use while out for lunch with your girlfriends, and her brutally honest tales of Hollywood fame are refreshing.

The reason why I love Kaling is because she has worked hard her entire life to get to where she needs to be. When she couldn’t find roles that suited her, she wrote her own. She produced her own work until someone noticed her, and then she became the only female on the writing staff at The Office. She works 16+ hours a day. She is not afraid to be completely herself and show herself at her most unfiltered and unflattering.

Mindy Kaling is warm, personable, talented and very, very funny.

And once I finish making her a friendship bracelet, she will officially be my best friend.

Follow Andrea on Twitter @andreeahluscu.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Living by the 80/20 rule

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that so much of life these days is about “more “: do more, live more, work more, be even more than what everyone expects. One hundred percent is not quite enough.

I have seen this, too, in how some people approach their diet, or in how they think they need to be approaching changes toward a healthier lifestyle. There is merit in being able to embrace a lifestyle concept entirely and live by it with full force but it is a rare individual who can go cold turkey from old habits. It can be quite stressful to do a complete overhaul; rebound binges may occur and guilt becomes yet another emotional hurdle to overcome. It can also be socially restrictive, preventing someone from being able to enjoy an evening out at a restaurant or at a friend’s house for dinner.

I like to support the 80/20 rule of living, especially when it comes to diet. The idea is that most of the time (this can be anywhere from 80% to 95% for a given period of time), I eat very nutrient-dense, clean food such as organic produce, cold-water fish that is simply prepared, and creative vegan meals. For a meat-eater this may also include organically-raised chicken or grass-fed beef. I stay hydrated with filtered water or herbal teas—my current favourite is Tulsi/Holy Basil. I can honestly say that I really enjoy eating this way and I certainly feel better for it. Over years of steady transition from what is the Standard (North) American Diet, my palate has adapted so that these foods are what I crave most.

The other 5-20% of the time, I am able to enjoy some of life’s indulgences. Here’s my confession:  the neighbourhood bakery makes really delicious, sinful brownies so I treat myself to one every month or so. I relish times spent with friends over some wine and a meal that they have lovingly prepared. There are also those nights, usually once a week, when neither my husband nor I are in the mood to prepare a meal so a local restaurant serves up a nice break from cooking.

The catch of course is being honest with yourself about on which side of the dividing line your choices lie. Is your 80/20 more of a 60/40 right now? That’s okay. As long as you know what your goals are and what your true starting point is, you can get to 80/20 by making small, steady changes over time. Then you CAN have your small piece of cake and eat it too.

 

 

 

 

Is the Happy Hotdog Man the perfect this-makes-me-gag gift?

When you give someone a gift, it’s important to remember that they will look for the meaning behind it. I think making associations is a good thing to do, and a good way to get ideas for the perfect gift.  For example, a blender is a great gift for someone who loves to make smoothies, an iPod is perfect for someone who loves music, and a gift basket full of body lotion is a great way to tell someone that you forgot about their birthday until four hours ago.

You know the feeling: you give the person their gift, they give you yours and suddenly you realize that gag gift from late night TV isn’t as funny as you thought it was. Maybe they got you something deeply personal or romantic, and you got them some “hilarious” infomercial product, like The Happy Hot Dog Man.

Is everyone familiar with The Happy Hot Dog Man? If not, I’ve included the video below for your viewing pleasure. The Happy Hot Dog Man solves one particular problem: how can we get kids to eat more hot dogs? Go ahead, treat yourself.

Isn’t that amazing?  I thought I already owned a Happy Hot Dog Man, but in my house we call it a knife.

I’ve also never been to a party where “bringing ordinary hot dogs to life” has been an activity.  The little girl was just gushing about how you can cut them like girls and boys and decorate them, and I know you were thinking the same thing as me: she really needs to get some better toys.

Gift giving is like an art form on its own, and it is a very tricky one to master. Go for the thoughtful, creative gifts over the late night infomercials, no matter how tempting they are after the fourth glass of wine. Am I right? Anybody? Whatever.

 

10 ways to stay fit and active in the fall

No matter where you live in Canada the fall is a picturesque season with the multi-coloured leaves that cover our trails and pathways. As you walk or run you hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, however, ‘tis the season for cooler temperatures and less daylight hours. It is the time to wear your sweater for that walk in the trails, or to dress warm to do your favourite activity. The cool crisp air in the early morning is so invigorating – you feel so alive, but there may be times you may feel less energy or motivated to working out and getting that vitamin D.

To get a jumpstart into your autumn workout routine – here are the top 10 ways to staying active.

1. Raking leaves

Raking leaves can be a good workout and the bonus is that your yard work gets done too. It helps build upper-body strength, as well as core strength or strength in your back and stomach according to Barbara Ainsworth, an exercise epidemiologist at San DiegoStateUniversity. Before you start raking, dress in layers, and water bottle with you. Perhaps wear a hat to keep your head warm or if it rains. There are many other outdoor chores such as cleaning your windows.

2. Hiking

Hiking  is a good way to keeping fit and exploring some beautiful trails right in your own back yard. Spend the day with family or friends and make sure to bring some snacks and water with you. If you are beginner, start with an easy terrain. Bring a map or know your route and figure out how long the hike will be. Dress warmly or bring an extra change of clothes. Wear hiking or trail running shoes to avoid slipping or falling.

 3. Outdoor yoga

Try yoga outdoors and enjoy the beautiful scenery around you. Bring a mat or blanket and dress for the weather conditions. It is recommended to dress in layers. Bring some music with you and water.

 4. Washing the car

Consider washing your car once a week. This will help keep you in shape and plus you will a clean car. All you need is a pail, wash cloth and soap. Don’t forget to wash the tires — it can be the most difficult part, but you will work those muscles. Waxing your car afterwards can be a good workout too!

5. Golf

Golfing can be a good workout. Consider walking the course instead of using the cart. Autumn can be a good time to practice your golf game as well as invest in some gear. Dress in layers and keep hydrated on the course.

6. Running

Trail running in the fall is more enjoyable because of the cooler temperatures and the beautiful scenery. It is recommended to wear trail running shoes, dress in layers and bring water with you. If you are new to trail running start with an easy trail until your fitness improves. Know the route so you will not get lost. Watch your footing to avoid tripping over roots.

 7. Picking fruit

Fruit picking can be a great outdoor activity because it is low-impact and is a great family outing. Look in your community calendar for some great places to do some fruit picking or go to the pumpkin patch. Dress for the weather!

8. Walk the dog

It’s a win situation for you and Rex to getting in a good workout. Dogs are good walking companions and also your dog provides safety. If you are a new dog owner start your dog with shorter walks. Walk your dog everyday and try different routes.

9. Biking

Biking or mountain biking can be a great workout and a good cross trainer. Dress for the weather, wear a helmet. Know your route and safety procedures. Bring water with you.

10. Circuit train

Circuit training in the park can be a good cross trainer for the runner who doesn’t go to the gym and to get that total overall fitness. Find a park that has circuit training. Start easy if you have never done it before. Start with a 5min warm-up. Do two sets of 10-12 repetitions of all moves with little rest.

 

 

 

 

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CONTEST: Win a Christopher Kon bag from the Saddle Bag!

Want to get your hands on the hottest selling bag this season?  Well, Women’s Post and The Saddle Bag are giving you the chance to win this Christopher Kon leather beauty. Plus, as an added bonus, all contest entrants will receive a 15% discount coupon to use towards their purchase of a new handbag at The Saddle Bag (valid until November 30, 2013 and excludes LeSportsac). Support Canadian entrepreneurs and enter today!Contest Rules & Regulations:
Contestants must reside in Canada (excluding Quebec) to be eligible to win
Contestants must be 18 or older
Contestants are eligible to enter 1x daily (further entries will not be counted)
Contest closes on Monday, October 14th, at 5 p.m.

 

This contest is now closed, thanks for entering!