Twelve photos for 2011

Like most of us these days, I have hundreds of photos uploaded to my computer and they are completely unorganized. I’ve been meaning to print them or make more Shutterfly albums but such projects always get pushed down the priority list! In the meantime the files keep piling up.

So I decided to give myself a little end of year challenge, to choose just one favourite photo from each month of the past year. The challenge was also to do this rather quickly and not waste too time choosing, the other drawback of the digital photo age – too many good ones to choose from! Well, maybe not THAT many, I’m not a very good photographer and not so good at remembering to bring the camera and take any pics. Like most proud parents, the majority of my photo taking involves my kids. Since I put a lot of action/race pics in my race reports, I tried to choose other pics that highlighted each month for me. Anyway, here they are and the reason why I chose each one….

January. Zoe discovered ballet and loved taking her first ballet class, many hours were spent twirling and practicing at home too!

February. Ever since my kids have come along we’ve gone back to Courtenay and Mt Washington to my parents at least once per winter,  where the xc skiing up the mountain is as fantastic as the mountain bike riding down below. This past winter Zoe enjoyed getting in some skiing and snowshoeing too! 

March. Since 2008 I’ve been lucky enough to be a member of the LUNA Pro team and every March is the real Christmas for me – team camp and photos, with new bikes and gear for the season. Here is one of my favourite team photos from that week with the Golden Gate bridge in the background.

April. Grand-mama comes out from Montreal for at least a fortnight’s visit every 4-6 months. Lots of happy play times for the kids, as she usually comes out when we are super busy and need the extra help!

May. This was my first experience at the wonderful Wildflower triathlon. I love the photo because it epitomizes  my fun but challenging balance between racing and kids as I’m putting on my wetsuit with less than 20 minutes until go time!

June. Fond memories of a family vacation that didn’t involve a race – very rare these days! It was out to my husband’s neck of the woods – Montreal. J-F is relaxing as much as is possible between black fly attacks in the Quebec countryside at his aunt and uncle’s house in beautiful St-Anne-des-Lacs

July. A fun month at home highlighted by a visit from Uncle Geoff and a day at the Calgary Stampede during which Zoe enjoyed several amusement rides with her uncle.

August. On my must do every year list – a summer trip out to our family cabin on Hornby Island on the west coast. Fun to enjoy sunning on the warm sandstone rocks and watch Nico play in the same tidal pool my brother and I also enjoyed at his age!

September. Zoe turned four and was enjoying hamming it up to the camera and goofing off with her brother on a perfect fall day. She is wearing the very cool eclectic clothing sent to her from her Aunt Keri.

October. There was no one cuter than my one year old chicken clucking around amongst the trick or treaters on Halloween!

November. Nothing much usually happens in November but this year I extended the race season with an extra long race and this photo sums up how good it felt to finish the added endurance race challenge!

December. December with house moving craziness. My parents came out to help and celebrate an early Christmas with the kids. This is one of my favourite pictures of them with the kids!

Implementing Core Intentions

Well, if there is one thing you learn after childbirth, when you get exercising again, it is how much you use all those small core muscles to stabilize everything! After both kids were born, when I first started running again it felt like I was running with a jelly belly! It took at least six months each time until I felt everything was holding together solidly again when running, especially during speed work! And if you’re not strong from the core, it can lead to a bodily chain reaction of nagging pains or injuries in other areas. I came back quicker than ever after having my son and suffered some achilles problems for a bit as a consequence of a weakened core.

Every season, I have intentions of doing more core work as it is the foundation to having proper technique, strength, power and stamina in any sport. I realized this importance while mountain biking in the early months after having Nico as well, my back was often sore as it was doing all the work to stabilize me on the bike!

While I had a good start to regular core work as I began my winter training recently, as I write this I have fallen off the core wagon again! Unless I count all the box lifting I’ve done while moving houses the past week – and that’s my time excuse too, ha! My goal is to do regular core work 2-3 times per week for a minimum of 15 minutes. It doesn’t sound like much and as important as I recognize it to be, when the business of life and training sets in, and when I’m healthy and taking being injury-free for granted, core work is unfortunately the first thing to get dropped from my schedule. Oh, did I say schedule? Part of getting it done would be to put it in my schedule to start with! I’ve always liked the ring of “implementation intentions” an academic term related to the research of effective goal setting that means going beyond having the goal (or intention) to do something and planning the steps for how you will implement it – to consider where you will do it, how you will do it, when you will do it, with whom you will do it etc.

For now, I will focus on the how. Here are some of my favourite ways to work on core strength with enough variety to keep it interesting from week to week…

1. Swiss Ball Exercises. Coach (brother) Geoff put me on this program when I first started mountain biking. I do 10-20 repetitions of sit ups, right and left side sit ups (is this the right term?), back extensions, hamstring curls, and ball roll ups (from plank position with hands on the floor bring your knees up into your chest with the ball under the top of your feet) continuously rotating through each exercise for 10-15 minutes. Or build up to 45 minutes for a real trunk stamina challenge!

2. P90X. I’ve never been a huge fan of exercise DVD’s but my dad got into P90X and introduced it to me in the summer. The guy (Tony) is motivating and not annoying to listen to. Every exercise has a countdown timer too. My two favourites are Ab Ripper X, a solid and tough 15 minute core routine or if you have more time, the core synergistics workout is a good one that involves more dynamic and functional work with light weights and bands.

3. The Timer Mix. I set my watch to beep every minute and just rotate through any core exercises I can think for 10-15 minutes or more. Using a combination of ab work, planks, push-ups, side leg lifts, arm and leg work with resistance bands, the time goes by amazingly fast.

4. Yoga. In the past I’ve attended instructed classes, but since kids any “luxury time” to do yoga is usually with a DVD at home. On of my favourites is Baron Baptiste’s beginner Yoga workout. Unlike many yoga workouts that take well over an hour, this one takes 40 minutes and includes all the essential poses with a good core workout to finish it off. I love yoga for all the other things you can work on at the same time as well such as relaxation, breathing, mindfulness, and flexibility

5. Pilates. Not one of my faves because I’ve yet to try it but I must add it to the list as I’ve heard this is a great workout for core strength!

What are the best gifts for a young athlete?

Mom, is this day Christmas yet? Mom, can you add Applejack (or the name of another My Little Pony – how many are there anyway?!) to my list for Santa? Mom, does Santa know we’ll be in Montreal for Christmas so he will bring the presents to the right place? Zoe is only 4 but I’ve realized the time has come as parents to seriously go to battle on the war on toys!

I was in Toys R Us the other day and was completely overwhelmed by the number and selection of Christmas present possibilities. With our goal to keep the present number down this year for the kids, I made a few select purchases and got out of there before anything else could entice me to buy it! Once you have kids, it is easy to want to indulge them with things you didn’t have growing up, with things that remind you of your childhood, or because you want them to have it all and have every opportunity there is out there….but can wanting to, and subsequently acting on the desire to give them everything be a bad thing or have potential negative consequences?

How much to give to a young athlete is also a conversation I had with a friend while snowshoeing the other day. Can too many “gifts” or “support” in the form of training and competition opportunities and equipment etc ever backfire for the young developing athlete? Many parents face these dilemmas…here are my two cents worth from personal experience and my background in the science of motivation….

1. Go easy on the external motivators! Contrary to popular belief, rewarding athletes for performance will undermine their intrinsic motivation, motives of fun, satisfaction, and doing activities simply for the pleasure of doing them! I had a friend who told me that while growing up her mom bought her gifts every time she had a good race result. She admitted that it wasn’t the best thing and that she never really enjoyed her sport. The only reason she continued it through college was due to a scholarship. The nature of competitive sports is already full of plenty of extrinsic motivators, awards, medals, prize money, glory, recognition, or making a team. The best “carrots” parents can give their children is encouragement to follow their interests.

2. Avoid gifts that may increase guilt-related motivation. I worked with one athlete who stated he felt he needed to perform because he had all the best and most expensive equipment bought for him by his parents. There is a time and place to worry about having the best equipment such as when athletes reach the level of earning some sponsorship, or are at the very top level where physical abilities are much tighter. Giving athletes equipment and opportunities too early, such as before they’ve learned the value of hard work, persistence, and commitment to goals, can undermine motivation, and lead to the false belief that the best equipment, coach, training camp, team etc can buy performance.  Lance was right about one thing – “It’s not about the bike!”

3. Be the best parent, not another coach! Although with good intentions, I’ve witnessed many parents being overly involved and anxious with their children’s athletic involvement and performances. Aggressive screaming from the sidelines, overanalysing and breaking down a child’s performance in front of them, or always asking “Did you win?!” are not the productive ways to encourage healthy involvement in sport. If a parent consciously or even subconsciously treats a child differently depending on performance and results, the message will be clear – I have to perform for your approval and love. Instead, showing interest with open-ended questions that focus on the process – “How did it go?”, “What went well today?”, or “What did you enjoy most/least about your experience today?” are more supportive without judgment.

4. Gifts of exposure, choice, and responsibility. There are so many sports and activities a young child can be involved in these days, and often we hear talk of over scheduling children to the point of lacking any time for good old-fashioned free play. While every family has to figure out that balance – giving children the choice to try different activities is a great start. Great athletes develop from the perfect blend of nurture, parents showing and providing opportunities to experience various sports, and nature, the child developing an interest to pursue something. Motivation and interest continue to flourish when a child feels autonomous in what they are doing. In other words, participating in something that is their own choice. At certain ages, children can choose the activities they enjoy and/or they can choose the level of commitment. In relation to point number two, at an older age they can also learn responsibility and ownership by saving money to help pay for various expenses in their sport. For example, one mom I know had a teenage son who wanted a really expensive mountain bike. She made him the deal that if he saved for half of the amount, she would pay the other half.

5. Your personal time and genuine interest. As an adult looking back at my childhood involvement in soccer, running, basketball, and volleyball, I think the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was their genuine interest in what I was doing. They took the time to understand every sport and understood the meaning of a bad or a good workout/competition result. They also spent time as spectators, chaperoning and participating alongside us – I have fond memories of weekend family runs and cross-country ski days up the mountain.

Zoe's first bike on her 1st birthday, which she preferred to drop and run away from! Nico is showing more interest in it!!