Why am I crying? (or, RIP, Gord Downie)

I never grew up with The Tragically Hip. I didn't know much about them, really.

I do recall some drunken headbanging to Blow At High Dough and New Orleans Is Sinking when I was in university, but it wasn't until I was in my thirties and met my husband D. - a devout fan of The Hip, that I got fully introduced to Gord Downie and the band.


The first time I saw The Tragically Hip perform was at an outdoor concert in Stratford, Ontario, and truth be told, I wasn't that impressed. Gord Downie was absolutely wild on stage, wiping his brow with a white handkerchief and flailing it about with great drama. It was freezing and my hands were shaking so hard that the beer in my plastic cup kept sloshing over the edge. D. was pretty tanked. That night I heard some guys in front of us speaking French with an Acadian accent, right in the middle of very English Ontario. They were from a village called Rogersville about 45 minutes from where I grew up. We figured out that we had friends in common. It made me forget all about the cold.

A month later I saw Downie again at a fund raising concert for the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper organization, this time solo with his guitar. The concert was held at the Sydenham United Church in Kingston, Ontario, on a crisp fall night. When he started singing his voice filled the space unlike anything I'd ever heard. It turned me around, I was smitten. That was also the night I met my in-laws for the first time, we joined them for dinner before the concert. I was nervous, freshly divorced and wondering how D.'s mom would react to him hooking up with an older divorcée.

"Eleven years ago - almost exactly - Gord and Mark collaborated with dancer Andrea Nann and poet Tanis Rideout to present the “Heart of a Lake” Tour. With song, movement, and spoken word, they went into the heart of Lake Ontario’s most polluted communities. The shows were intimate and touching. They inspired communities to dream big and to imagine better futures for themselves. They were life-changing evenings for all of us. Gord gave us that."
~ Krystyn Tully, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper blog

There's also the time we splurged on a Montreal getaway to see The Tragically Hip perform at the Metropolis. We were so close to the stage that we could see the beads of sweat stream down Gord Downie's forehead. That was awesome.

There was at least one more time at Ottawa's Bluesfest with Bro-in-Law and Sis-in-Law. We got all decked out, I wore thick black eyeliner. That was the first time Sis-in-Law took a bus and experienced the festival crowds. She was glowing. She was beautiful.

Last year D. and I saw Gord Downie perform The Secret Path at the National Arts Centre. It is one of the most intense and moving performances I've ever seen or experienced. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

And of course there's our wedding day. Our wedding reception was held in our home. The living room was transformed into a dance hall by pushing the furniture against the walls and draping red Christmas lights over the mantel. Tunes were queued up on an iPod hooked to speakers. I was busting a move and caught D. as he passed through, "Come dance!", I yelled above the music. He stopped and said that only one song would get him on the dance floor, and he pulled up Bobcaygeon by The Hip. It was the soundtrack to our first summer together as we stargazed up north. I melted. We danced. D.'s family - also devout Hip fans - sang along, serenading us from the sidelines. Out of our entire wedding day I think this is the moment that stands out the most.

 This is us, dancing to Bobcaygeon. Photo by Kirsten Michelle.

This is us, dancing to Bobcaygeon. Photo by Kirsten Michelle.

Last August, during The Hip's final concert, D. and I danced to Bobcaygeon in our living room again as they performed it for the last time at the K-Rock Centre in Kingston, broadcast live on national television.


This past year and half I've watched Gord Downie radiate Love, but most of all I think he radiated Truth. There is a collective mourning happening across the country right now and though I'm sure the reasons for grieving are diverse, maybe the sadness is so prevalent because losing Truth hurts. Especially one as celebrated and unapologetic as Gord Downie's.

Maybe that's why I'm crying tonight.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that Gord Downie showed us how to live and he showed us how to die. May we grieve, and then may we rise up to live and die in our own Truth. I still don't know much about Gord Downie, but I bet he'd dig that.

May you rest in peace, Mr. Downie. Thank you, and may you rest in peace.

An Experiment in Movement (or, OMG I Have Biceps!)

Preamble: Desires, motives and struggles related to physical activity and appearance are diverse and personal. I choose to share my journey here because selfishly, it helps me process it. I also share it to perhaps prompt reflection on what your own journey might look like. As always with my writings, I encourage you to consider what resonates with you and leave the rest.


The past few years were rough when it came to movement and exercise. Dealing with anxiety, vertigo and panic attacks, it was a challenge to even walk around the block.

This year, with anxiety and vertigo finally at bay, I felt called back to adventure and the outdoors. I also felt called to pay attention to my body. It felt weak and hesitant and I wanted to change that.

I want to change that.

In September I started a journey into fitness and active living by exploring a regular practice of movement and exercise. Yesterday marked the end of Week 6. I felt it was time to take stock and share some of that journey here.

For your reading pleasure and entertainment, I explore my motives, goals, solution, successes and challenges encountered so far.


Motive: feel solid and confident

I want to feel strong when I open a heavy door for someone instead of struggling to keep it open long enough for them to walk through. I want to walk up three flights of stairs without feeling winded. I want to feel nimble and agile instead of stiff and sluggish.

I want to feel less hesitant at trying physical activities like long hikes or bike rides, less afraid that my body won't be able to handle it.

I want to take care of my body as I grow older, set myself up for a better chance at enjoying life later.

I'm in it for strength and confidence.

This is my “why.”

Goals: a sustainable practice, strength and stamina

I have two goals:

1. Integrate movement into my life in a way that is sustainable and practical. It must nestle into my lifestyle and schedule without feeling complicated or overwhelming.

2. Build muscle strength and stamina.

These are my “whats.”

Solution: Home-based workouts, focused weight training and accountability

To meet my goals I knew that:

  • my best bet would be to find workouts that I can stream online. Having to leave the house is a MAJOR deterrent and not sustainable for me. I've tried it before, it just. doesn't. work.
  • I wanted to include workouts that offered weight training. Although walking and hiking are good exercise, I want to target muscle groups too. Strength, solid, YES.
  • I would need a bit of help through either a fitness coach or accountability group, preferably online.

The first thing I did was join an accountability group led by coach Carmen Torbus. I'd been stalking her business page on Facebook for a while and felt she could help me (she's wonderful, by the way!).

Through Carmen, I chose the Beachbody On Demand (BOD) workout streaming service. BOD is a subscription-based service, once I pay for the year I can stream any workout video they offer from the comfort of my own home. Because it's account based I can stream workouts while I'm on the road if I feel like it. They offer other fitness-related resources that I may or may not tap into later, like meal plans and workout calendars.

<begin confession>

I'll be honest, I sometimes cringe at the name "Beachbody" because it implies that only a specific type of body is fit for the beach. All bodies are fit for the beach.

I'd also be a hypocrite if I said I wasn't looking forward to sporting my bikini with defined abs and a chiseled back/shoulder combo.

One of my many inner dichotomies...

<end confession>

I'm sure there are plenty of free workout videos out there and I could have easily chosen to do them too. What led me to BOD is my joining Carmen, who just happens to be a BOD coach. BOD also happens to meet my needs right now.

I set a specific weekly goal: three BOD workouts plus one walk or hike of at least 30 minutes.

This is my "how."

What's working well (so far)

The following six things are working particularly well at keeping me on track.

1. Being part of an accountability group

Carmen and my fellow group members have been a key factor in my meeting my weekly goals. Seeing others work hard and meet their goals motivates me to do the same. Witnessing their struggles lets me know that I'm not alone in mine. As a group we create health not only for ourselves individually, but for the collective.

 Me, feeling pretty satisfied after my first workout in over 10 years.

Me, feeling pretty satisfied after my first workout in over 10 years.

2. Choosing an online streaming subscription

Oh. Em. Gee. Working out at home is the best! No driving, no locker rooms, no waiting for sweaty gym equipment that hasn't been wiped off... Seriously, removing the deterrent of having to leave the house or stop somewhere at the end of a work day makes a world of difference for this introvert. All I have to do is get into my gear and cart my laptop downstairs.

3. Choosing a consistent time to work out

I work out after work, before dinner. If I wasn't working out I'd be Facebooking. It's an OK trade, I can Facebook later.

4. Treating myself to workout gear

At the risk of sounding vain, a few weeks into my experiment I bought a new pair of leggings and two crop tanks that make me feel fit and sexy. I also splurged for a three-pack of colourful workout socks. Sometimes it's the little things.

NOTE: Working out in my old active wear was in no way a showstopper, I simply felt like a little update.

5. Sticking to my original goals

Some people in my group work out every day. Some follow a nutrition plan in addition to their exercise program. Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough, but then I remember that before September I was hardly doing anything.

Knowing my "why" (sustainable integration of movement + increase in strength & stamina) keeps me focused and grounded. Three workouts plus one walk or hike is plenty for now.

Pushing myself to the point of feeling overwhelmed is not a good way to build a sustainable practice, there will be plenty of time to add more later if I feel compelled to do so.

6. Visually logging my workouts

My subscription to BOD comes with an app in which I log workouts, stats and interact with my fellow accountability group members. I check in on a daily basis.

I also log my workouts on good old-fashioned paper thanks to a new planner with a handy dandy habit tracking sheet at the beginning of each month. At the end of each day I've worked out I get to put a check mark in a little box. This visual and manual approach has been effective for me so far. Bonus: I can track any habit, not just my workouts.

 I split the BOD workouts and hikes &amp; walks into two separate lines, tracking them separately. In case you're curious, that top line is tracking how many times I floss my teeth - also a part of maintaining physical health!

I split the BOD workouts and hikes & walks into two separate lines, tracking them separately. In case you're curious, that top line is tracking how many times I floss my teeth - also a part of maintaining physical health!

Challenges (so far)

I've not faced too many challenges so far, but there are a few things worth mentioning.

1. Seasonal transition

We are transitioning from summer to fall here and I'm not gonna lie, it's throwing my system out of whack. I crave sleep and carbs on a regular basis, neither of which are conducive to working out or eating sensibly (bagels, ciabatta buns, baguettes, I blame YOU!). Also:

in·er·tia iˈnərSHə/ noun noun: inertia
1. a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged. "the bureaucratic inertia of government" synonyms: inactivity, inaction, inertness; More unchanged state, stationary condition, stasis "by the nature of its own inertia, the coal industry has remained an unshakable constant"
2. Physics a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

Mitigation strategy: The change of seasons is well beyond my control, but I can choose to circumvent Costco's bakery section - or at least try - and tap into the support offered through my accountability group to help me move through the inertia that creeps up as days get shorter and darker.

2. An increase in appetite

I suspect that it's natural for my body to want more "fuel" now that it's working harder so I shouldn't be surprised that I feel hungry more often than I did when movement was minimal. The challenge here isn't necessarily in the increase in appetite, but in choosing the right food to fill me up.

It's far too easy to grab a slice of bread and slather it with butter (see challenge #1) or load my plate with a second helping of pasta (again, see challenge #1) when veggies, fruit or a lean protein might be better.

Mitigation strategy: Avoid Costco's bakery section, avoid buying potato chips and load up on vegetables, fruit, lean protein and healthy fats. Pay attention to portion sizes. Be aware of what I'm eating and cut myself some slack, life's too short to cut out potato chips completely.


What spurred this experiment was a desire to feel solid physically and so far, it seems to be working. Each week I stretch - literally and metaphorically, I observe, I adapt. I set myself up for success where I can.

I do not know how it will unfold in the long run, but for today, I continue. One workout at a time.


Your turn

When it comes to your physical health, how would you like to feel? What would that look like?

In spirit of discovery,