Locked Up

Let me start by saying I wanted to write this blog ages ago. We’ve been quarantined due to a world pandemic now for 5 weeks, and just now am I mustering up the emotional and physical energy to craft this. Real talk, the first few weeks were mentally the hardest days of my life. I’ve been through things with my health, but damn, being trapped inside with so much uncertainty was way harder on me than even battling illness. I’m an extrovert. I thrive on face to face social interaction. I love going to restaurants. Events. Social gatherings. Even just the mundane routine of driving to work daily and being in that physical space makes me happy. So having my world pulled out from under me was a shock unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

But here we are. A month in. I went through my stages of grief, and emerged on the other side of it all. Stage 5 – acceptance. Acceptance of my new normal; this life that I never signed up to, of being a stay at home mom who also works from home. Of watching my two very well adjusted kids become emotionally unstable, at each other’s throats, and just generally prone to upset and non-compliance. I’ve realized that this is not a short term thing, and just this past week, I made a schedule for what I believe my next three months in captivity will look like, and guess what? I’m happy now. I have some semblance of normal again, and being back at work has helped tremendously. Yes I’ve had to navigate difficult waters with elearning, but I’m here, I’m present, and I’m making the best of it.

So without further ado (haha j/k, I talk too much), here are my coping mechanisms for you. PSA: Coping mechanisms or not, you’re allowed to feel ALL the emotions during this. I’m tired of the “sad shamers” who tell you that you’re not entitled to grieve because people are enduring much worse right now. You can be grateful for being home and being safe, but you can also be sad. Mourn the loss of your canceled events. Mourn the loss of your social life as you knew it. Mourn whatever f*cking loss you need to mourn for and don’t let anybody tell you not to.

Okay. I’ll get off my soap box now and tell you what I’ve been up to and how it’s helped.

  1. Getting outdoors. Guys, I really hate going outside. I used to joke that if it was less than 20 degrees out, I wouldn’t step foot outside except going car door to door. BUT, life has changed so much this year, that I’ve basically had no other option. First I spent many days through the winter picketing 3-4 hours at a time, and well, that was frigid and no fun. Now, in quarantine, getting our steps in outdoors has been a game changer for everyone’s mental health. I even bought these weighted Bala Bangles to make my walks more challenging. It’s crazy how 1 lb on each ankle can make a HUGE difference. I’m obsessed, and I look forward to walking outside daily with the kids because of them.

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2.  Going for the occasional drive. We do it maybe once a week, and it’s been great to feel some normalcy. We listen to music, we chat, and it almost feels like regular life, minus having a destination.

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3. Daily workouts. This has probably been the biggest game changer for me and my mental health during this time. I LOVE the gym. Like really really really really love it. I adore taking group classes because of the loud music, the energy, and the sense of community. I like high intensity classes like spin, Body Pump, etc., and the sweatier I am at the end of that hour, the better. BUT, this was taking a toll on my body. I was perpetually in pain from doing high intensity activity 3 days a week, and suffering muscle pain and strain every damn day. At home workouts have completely altered this. Now I exercise 5-6 days a week, and sometimes only 20-30 minutes at a time. I do some lower intensity workouts like yoga and Pilates with Melissa Wood Health (I’m BEYOND obsessed and will continue to pay the monthly fee for her workouts when normalcy resumes and my gym re-opens), as well as LesMills barre classes. I still do Body Pump once a week, but with lighter free weights instead of the heavy barbell, and I do cardio like Body Attack and Body Combat, but I don’t run or cycle, which are the culprits of a lot of my muscle strain. And guess what? My body feels AMAZING. Not only am I pain-free, but I’m also getting way more fit, and my anxiety and stress is drastically reduced after these workouts. Can I get an amen?!

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4. Keeping up with the kids’ school work. Keeping them busy is a challenge, and I’m so happy that school has resumed, albeit virtually, if only because it gives us all something to do. Both my kids LOVE learning and school, so reading daily with my daughter and completing her math work has been great for all of us. I thrive on productivity, and this feels productive to us.

reading with Liv

5. And lastly, healthy eating. We are eating GOOD during this quarantine. I’ve had many amazing meal/food deliveries, including this beautiful wild caught salmon filet from Papa Earth, a high quality meat delivery service. Eating at home daily (with the exception of once a week takeout on Saturday nights) has allowed me to really fuel my body with the proper nutrients that it needs to stay strong during this, and also to be able to track what ingredients are going into my meals, and control my portions. I don’t weigh myself, but if I did, I’d guess I’ve probably lost a pound or two through this, because I eat way “cleaner” at home than I do out. I don’t think I’m eating less, per se, I just think I’m making better choices.

salmon dinner

Recent Tings

Happy 2020 my babes! Everyone I know has been all over their social media screaming from the rooftops, “NEW DECADE, NEW ME,” but I’ve just been over here doing the same ish, different year. I’m not sure I grasp this “new decade” mania. Like I get it’s the Roaring 20s, or something like that, and we’re supposed to have evolved into genetically modified superhuman zombies, but I don’t feel any different. Do you?

Anyway, this Christmas break was actually the bomb.com for me. We usually go to Mexico during this time, but I was so tired of going when 1. It had barely snowed yet and we didn’t “earn” the tropical weather, and 2. My kids were perpetually fevered up with some virus or infection. So we decided to go over March break this year, and by then, I can assure you that we will have earned it weather-wise. This Christmas break was unseasonably warm, thankyouglobalwarming, and the kids were perfectly healthy for all two weeks. Hallefreakinglujah!

We went to Niagara Falls for two nights with some friends, and hit up a local waterpark for one of those two days. The chlorine and offensive bathing attire stung my eyes, and we couldn’t get outta there fast enough. But we had a great time regardless, because tbh, it was just nice to get away as a family. The kids also went to a sports camp for 3 days, which was perfect for me to have some quiet downtime to myself. Normally I’d be running around town trying to shoot content and “influence,” but my word for 2020 is “tranquility” (of body *and* mind), and I’m making peace with saying no to things and not overextending myself to the point of exhaustion. I actually rested so much over these two weeks and feel mentally and physically rejuvenated af. I also was able to read an entire novel in 24 hours, which is unheard of for me, and hit the gym 3-4 mornings a week for each week. I’m going to miss my AM exercise like crazy when I go back to work next week. Le sigh.

Other than that, here are a few photos of restaurant and hotel collabs I’ve done over the last month. I’ve definitely still been eating good, despite not attending many group media tastings anymore (if I go, I go solo), and I’m very fortunate for the opportunities that have presented themselves. I think 2020 will still be a great year of growth for me and this little blog, and I’m excited to see what awaits!

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Combating the November SADs

Is it just me or is November officially the month of exhaustion, stress, burnout, depression, and all things awful and shitty? Despite feeling like I’m staying afloat in all aspects of my life, personally and professionally, I have to say that the perpetual night of Daylight Savings, early morning wakings, freezing cold weather and labor-intensive days at work have definitely gotten to me to some extent. So today I decided to compile for you some tips to help you cope with this extremely long winter that has already begun in Toronto.

  1. Maintain your workouts. Getting out of bed when it’s cold and snowy is definitely a special kind of hell, but you won’t regret it. No one ever regrets getting to their workout. The hardest part is getting there, but the endorphins at the end will be well worth it. They’ll help center you and make navigating this gloomy time of year a bit easier.
  2. Invest in adaptogenic herbs like Reishi and Ashwagandha. I’ve addressed these before in my podcast and on Instagram, but both are super helpful in combating stress and anxiety. Reishi, a wonderful little magic mushroom (not one of the fun kind though, sorry), also helps increase your immune system, which is perfect for this time of year when the kids are little living and breathing incubators of illness. You can purchase the Reishi I use here. It’s pricey, but it works.
  3. Get outside, even just for a few minutes. This is the tip I have the hardest time with, because ew, outdoors, but honestly…it works. Particularly if it’s sunny outside. Just a couple minutes of sunshine and/or fresh air does wonders for your mental health and clarity. For the last few weeks on my lunch, I’ve been taking a little walk in my school parking lot, followed by a break in my car. Will this be sustainable when it’s blizzarding and -10 degrees? Probably not. But I really ought to try to, because I come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day.
  4. Meditate. It’s good for helping shift your attitude and perspective, and ensures improved sleep. I admit I probably only do it 4-5 times a week, as opposed to daily like I want to, but I find a huge difference in my mental state after I do a quick 10 minute practice on my Calm app.
  5. Increase your vitamin D intake with a supplement and invest in a Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp. I personally haven’t done either of these things, but they were tips I received from colleagues, and might try this winter. I’d be curious to hear if anyone has found the light therapy to be helpful.
  6. Visit a salt cave. This week I had the pleasure of doing an hour meditation at Hoame, which is at 430 Adelaide St. W. in Toronto, and it was seriously the most phenomenal experience. Salt caves replicate the same benefits as being in the ocean, including improved immunity, stress reduction, and various other internal and external healing properties. I don’t think one visit is enough though, and would recommend a few throughout the winter to fully reap the benefits. All I know is I left totally rejuvenated, way more centered, and all the muscle pain and tension I had been experiencing that day, melted away. I also slept like the wee baby Jesus that night. 11/10, highly recommend.

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Salty.

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If you’re looking for me this winter, this is where I’ll be. K, bye.

Thankful.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving friends! I know I haven’t blogged in forever, but the reason for this is threefold:

  1. I’ve been bogged down with planning and marking at school.
  2. I’ve been focusing on our podcast (episode 2 about food and nutrition as self-care is now available on the podcast app! Just search “Self-care with Lauren and Blair” to listen!)
  3. Aaaaand I just haven’t been inspired to write, unfortunately, and I didn’t want to blog for the sake of blogging.

But here we are, and damnit, I’ll try to write something relatively coherent and engaging for all of y’all, because I know my 5 loyal followers want it.

What am I thankful for this year? Like, a lot. It’s been a really good time both personally and professionally, and I need to make a list because I love lists and lists are awesome.

1. My health. Always first and foremost. How lucky am I that my body is healthy enough to allow me to do high impact exercise 3 days a week? To run around with my children? To get out of bed every day and live a productive life? I will never ever take this for granted. When I sit on that spin bike, I thank gd for my health multiple times. I also thank gd I’m not pregnant, because being in that body really freaking sucks, but that’s a whole other blog post.

2. My family. I mean, duh. I’m eternally grateful that my children are happy and healthy and not the spawn of Satan. I also feel so blessed to have a wonderful husband, the best parents, and the cutest of sisters eva.

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Apple picking when it’s still hot out is fun too. (TB to a few weeks ago…)

3. My friends. I tightened my inner circle A LOT this year and it’s been very liberating. I have the world’s most patient friends, because for the last four months, my conversations, meals, and life in general have revolved around Instagram. They don’t get to eat until I’ve photographed (or rather, they’ve photographed because I’m a shitty photographer) their meals, and my conversations with them are a steady stream of follows and unfollows, podcast plans, and asking which picture to post. I’m sorry guys. I really truly suck. You’re all amazing for tolerating me.

4. Impromptu weekend trips to NYC. The fact the most incredible city in the world is just a one hour flight away is nothing short of amazing! I don’t want to live there, but every few months I just feel the pull of the city and gravitate towards it. It’s an addiction, I suppose, but the energy, food, nightlife, and shopping are beyond magnetic.

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5. My job. I have the best students this semester. We have the most interesting class discussions, and they’re all so engaged and participatory. It’s rare to get a group where the majority of the students have strong opinions, so this is pretty much English teacher heaven for me! Also, in case people think teenagers are rude and disrespectful, I want to tell you that every morning, my students come into my class and greet me with a “hello” or a “good morning.” When they leave the class, they say “have a good day miss,” or “bye!” They’re such mensches! I really appreciate their warmth and kindness, because it keeps me in a good mood and sets a really positive tone for the day.

6. Refined carbohydrates and gluten. Pizza. Donuts. Tacos.

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This maple bacon donut from Dipped Donuts in Kensington Market is pretty much the epitome of fall in Canada, amirite? I think I am most grateful for this donut. Like, I love my family and stuff, but…donuts win.

Summer Workout Regimen and Beauty Staples

Hellllooooo! A lot of you have been asking me what my workouts have been looking like this summer, so I thought I’d share. Many of you would be surprised to know I only exercise three days a week, maximum four. Maybe my Instagram is slightly misleading, but I personally need rest days in between workouts, and have never been able to do the daily exercise thang. Plus, sometimes I like having nice hair. I feel like if I exercised daily, I’d be a perpetual mop head, and that’s just not a good look. Clean hair trumps everything.

Monday mornings I do Body Pump. Pump is a Les Mills full body workout, using weights and a barbell to work and isolate each large muscle group. Each track corresponds to a different muscle group, and if you don’t leave shaking, you’ve done something wrong. I love being able to take a Monday morning class because it sets the tone for the week, and encourages me to make better choices.

Tuesday mornings I do a barre class. Last summer I was running, but my old lady knees don’t permit this as often anymore. I’m just not willing to sacrifice my joints and injure myself. I love running, but I fare better with low impact exercise that doesn’t wear on my body as much. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m loving barre. It targets all the small muscle groups I never activate, and it forces me to work on my core, which I despise. Who knows, maybe at the end of this summer, I’ll have amazing, toned abs (no I won’t).

Thursday mornings I take a spin class. Obviously. I could never not incorporate spin into my week. I’d go through crazy withdrawal. I need those cardio-induced endorphins, and I need to be in that electric atmosphere.

So that’s all. Just three workouts per week that I feel maximize my productivity and leave me feeling mentally stable and energized. I love not having to exercise on the weekend and leaving it free to be present with the kids.

I also wanted to share my summer beauty staples with you, because I made a little trip to Sephora the other day.

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This is Too Faced’s Sun Bunny bronzer ($38). I have quite the tan going this summer from being outdoors a lot (which is rare for me because I usually go from hella pale to red real quick and rarely in between), and this bronzer really accentuates my facial tan. I also have to apologize to my best friend here, because I know she’s going to yell at me for tanning. LB, please know I’ve been wearing sunscreen lately and I haven’t been sitting out (ok I have), so please don’t yell at me. Aaaaanyway, bronzer is always > blush in my books, so get this one because it’s the perfect shade.

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This is Urban Decay’s All Nighter makeup setting spray (travel size is $19). We all know I’ve dubbed this summer the summer of “midlife crisis,” and I’ve been partying a bit (a lot), so I need something to lock in my makeup so I don’t look like a hideous troll by 11 pm. And this shit works. Once you’ve put on your face for the night, spray it in an X motion (close your eyes, because this dummy didn’t and umm yeah it stings), and once it dries, you’ll have makeup perfection until last call.

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And then the next day, you’ll need this little baby here. This is First Aid Beauty’s detox eye roller ($32), and if I could, I’d slather this all over myself to detox after a rough night. But alas, it’s just for eyes. I love all things First Aid Beauty (shout out to my former student Jason for hooking me up with the moisturizer), because the entire line is super hypoallergenic and I am the most delicate flower in all the land. This eye roller helps depuff and make me look slightly less of a hot mess than I usually do. Key words, slightly less. I still look forever exhausted and zombie-like, but hey…I try.

Day Drinkin’ and Gym Etiquette

(Separate topics. I could see how one would read that title and think I’m day drinking and then hitting up the gym.)

Hi friends! Tomorrow I leave for NYC for four days, so I wanted to just check in with a few tidbits from my week before I go.

This week has been busy, but glorious. The kids are off to camp/daycare, and I’ve been feverishly trying to get in months of neglected chores, indulgences, and missed opportunities of day drinking on patios.

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Playing catch up quite nicely.

I reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen in YEARS, which wasn’t okay, and I’m so happy we got to bask in the sun and each other’s company. Also, I’ve been hitting the gym like a fiend, trying to get in as many workouts as possible before I travel, because I probably won’t be exercising much beyond walking in New York. I tried barre for the first time (now offered at my GoodLife for free [!!!], since many people have been asking), and have been walking crooked for days. It was SO challenging! I think likely because my typical workouts focus on major muscle groups (spin, running, Pump), and barre engages smaller muscles that I don’t typically use. Also, holy ab work. My core is shit. Summer goal: strengthen core!

So regarding gym etiquette, there was an incident yesterday that left a sour taste in my mouth and I need to rant about it. I was using the leg adductor machine (or abductor, truth be told I don’t know which is which, but I know they both work inner and outer thighs), and a woman approached me. It was clear she was itching to use the machine. In broken English, she says to me “What you do is no good. Here, I show you.” Like whaaaaaaaat? Excuse me, but if you wanted to work in with me, that’s fine, but don’t tell me I’m using the machine incorrectly and try to teach me! I was so offended! As it is, I’m not overly receptive to instructors correcting my form (big pride and ego over here folks), but even less receptive to some random older lady telling me I’m doing it wrong. Umm, I’ve been working out since I was 18, for half my life and I’m not interested. So I firmly told her that I was okay and knew what I was doing and she skulked away. I did, however, watch her go use the machine after I vacated and couldn’t help but giggle as I watched her use it for her glutes as she stood on it in some bizarre splits type position. You do you, boo.

Okay so last thing. I recently posted to my Instagram asking if anyone used the Calm app and invested in the $77 yearly membership. I’ve been using the trial and I LOVE it. The woman’s voice is amazing, and I love the sounds and visuals. They really help me relax and get into meditation, which is something I struggle with. My mind still wanders terribly,  but I’ve made a bit of progress. Anyway, a former colleague informed me that all teachers are entitled to a free membership! Mind. Blown. Here’s the link to anyone who might want it:

Calm for Schools

I’m still waiting for my confirmation code/to hear back, but I’m eagerly anticipating having the app for free! If you benefit from it too, I hope you enjoy! #sharingiscaring

Focus On: Les Mills RPM™

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I get asked a lot of questions about the spin class I go to, so I thought I’d share a little bit about it in today’s blog. I took my first Lesmills RPM class exactly 10 years ago, in 2008. At first I found it incredibly intimidating, and I had to stop periodically to catch my breath, but it’s the kind of exercise that if you persist with it, it becomes easier over time.

An RPM class is typically about 50 minutes. Track 1 is a warm up track where you’ll do a few short, light races seated in the bike to gently raise your heart-rate. Track 2 is a pace track, where you do a bunch of seated race work to really ramp up your heart-rate. At this point you’ll be itching to get out of the saddle, and track 3 allows you to do just that. You’ll do some seated *and* standing climbs, and use the resistance knob to challenge yourself and make the bike heavy. Track 4 is a race track, where you’ll once again be seated on the bike doing a series of very fast races. Track 5 consists of very challenging interval training, where you’ll be at peak cardio intensity, both in and out of the saddle. Track 6 is another race track, and track 7 is a hill track, mostly out of the saddle. Tracks 8 and 9 are cool down and stretching. This may all sound daunting, but I can assure you the 45-50 minutes FLY by. Instructors recommend that you only do about half the class when you take it for the first time, but most newbies stay the entire time and live to tell the tale.

Sample tracklist:

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(Photo Source)

RPM differs from some of the more freestyle spin classes out there, in that it’s extremely prescribed and the moves are choreographed to a setlist that can’t be altered. The new releases get progressively more challenging, but the music is infectious, as is the atmosphere in the studio. For me personally, there are several reasons why it’s an incredible workout:

  1. Less knee strain than other forms of cardio, like running and the StairMaster. My joints are in rough shape because I’m old af, and I can’t run much anymore. Spin is a more gentle alternative.
  2. The aforementioned infectious music and atmosphere. I’ve really never felt anything like it. The endorphin rush is addictive, and I’m actually able to practice mindfulness during this time, because I’m totally present, feeling the sensations in my body, hearing the sounds blaring from the speakers, etc. I leave feeling calm, centered, and blissful.
  3. The calorie burn. I often wear my Polar heart-rate monitor in class, which is a chest strap and very accurate, and I tend to burn between 400 and 450 calories in 45-50 minutes. This is more than any other form of cardio I do.
  4. The singing, hooting, and hollering. I’m here for all. of. it.

Tips and modifications:

  1. If you think RPM is something you can see yourself doing often, I 100% recommend investing in cycling shoes. I got mine for about $100, and I could never go back to putting regular running shoes in the top part of the pedals. The cycling shoes give you a sense of security, as you’re clipped in, and they really intensify the workout. You have to engage your quads more to pedal, and the resistance feels more difficult. Some people also like to invest in padded shorts because sometimes the bike seat feels a little..err..chafe-y, but they’re not necessary imo.
  2. If you have a bad back, raise the handle bars to match the height of your seat. Back strain from spin is no bueno.
  3. You control your workout. If you’re feeling strong, ramp up the resistance. If you just want to get a feel for the class, leave the resistance light. Pace your speedwork. Sometimes I go a little too hard in the warmup, and my heart-rate accelerates too quickly, so I burn out fast. Always go at a pace that’s comfortable for you.

Aaaaaand if you’ve made it all the way to this point in my post, 1. kudos for reading a novel, and also 2. I should probably mention I’m not a trained professional…yet. So please use caution if you do attempt to take a class, or better yet, wait until I’m accredited and employed and take mine!

New Blog, Who Dis?

Welcome friends! Thanks for stopping by! My name is Lauren, and I’m a 30 something year old high school English teacher, mom, exercise, and food enthusiast. I’ve had various blogs in the past, mostly about my journey into motherhood, but I never felt they fully reflected who I was beyond being a parent. Recently, my grade 12 students asked me what type of writing I’m passionate about. “Poetry?” Definitely not. “Creative writing? Short stories?” Nope. So I told them I used to have a blog and miss writing one, and they encouraged me to rekindle the flame. “I’d read it,” one 18 year old boy mused. Now, I don’t know why that would be the case, because I don’t really think he’s my target audience, but a bunch of other students chimed in, and here we are. The Athleisure Teacher. What can you expect from this blog? Probably some self depricating humour sprinkled with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Maybe some posts about things I eat, because I really like to eat (but not cook). You’re going to hear about my workouts, but I promise you I won’t talk about my “gains.” I’ll probably want to chronicle my upcoming endeavor to become a spin instructor. I promise I won’t try to sell you something. This is not my side hustle; just a hobby. I might talk about my kids a little. The two that I have at home (a girl, almost 6 years old, and a boy, almost 3), but also the 90 I teach every semester, because they have a pretty big impact on my life too. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading!

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