Beginning the End

After my last first day in the undergrad… it’s safe to say my brain is mush already.  

To end off my summer, I really made a point of relaxing and just doing the things I wanted to. This gave me a total of 5 days of summer. The last few days of my summer job were spent doing next to nothing due to sketchy weather. Then J and I took off for a few days out to the country, and then to my cousin’s hobby ranch (if you can call thousands of acres of farm and pasture land a hobby farm) up in Horod, MB with Mom and Gord, and the rest of the Rance crew for some off the grid relaxation and family time. The scenery in the area of the province is like a slightly less condensed and tropical north NZ.. so pretty perfect. Over this time my immune system also relaxed and I got a cold, of course. The only way to bring in the school year! 
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The first two days of school have already completely exhausted my mental capacity. Between KSA promotions and organisation, a tough roster of classes, football 24/7, and catching up with familiar faces… it’s been a non-stop week so far. The last two days I’ve had to take an hour or so to just turn off my phone and stop the bombardment of texts, emails, and to-do lists. This, I think, is going to be a regular strategy.. at least until my head clicks back into super student mode (hopefully soon.). 

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Some of the Kin/Watsa execs a O-week!

Usually I’m much more enthusiastic about the first couple weeks of school. Whether it’s the fact that I’m very ready for this to be the last go-around, or like all the other final year AT students am feeling the burden of field and clinic hours crushing my soul.. there isn’t as much crisp new school supplies excitement floating around right now. I have become the jaded AT student, who begrudgingly dedicates majority of any free time to practical hours and somehow manages to study and work paying jobs in between commitments. It’s a interesting place to be, and I’m glad I have a few other students in the same situation as me to battle through this semester with. One thing I did miss was ranting about AT student sorrows and stresses to fellow AT students. 

I’m also looking forward to getting back into the routine. Once I settle back into the grind, I usually find a decent balance in my schedule. Or at least accept it. Acceptance is the key to not mentally imploding. 

If I could tell first year me what I would be handling in my 4th year.. First year me might have permanently stayed in NZ. However.. looking back at all my hard work and stress, the pattern would suggest that I can handle this one last crazy semester.. and once I get through it, I just have another semester left until I’m degreed. The CATA certification stress doesn’t start until after that. So we’re not even going to start talking about that for a few months yet. 

Stay tuned for more brain fried rants as the semester continues! 

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Having it all- but is there time for the cake too? The amateur diaries.

About 58 hours of my week are spent working at a combination of different sources of income, and volunteer positions (MORfit, Real-Estate photography, Teaching Assistant, Tutoring, Rider Mechanics, and Football (and other miscellaneous medical coverage)).

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10-15 hours are spent riding one to two horses- 4-5 nights a week. At least 2 of these hours spent in focused work with M&C. Add another few hours/week chatting with Megg or Lauren as the sunsets at the barn. 5 hours on top of that (at least) are spent throughout the week doing other training (running, weights, balance and stability, pre-hab and rehab). So, in total I spend approx. 20hrs a week in training of some sort.

6 hours are spent in class. A few extra hours here and there spent on KSA business. Countless hours stuck in traffic, or driving to and fro.

The remaining time is dedicated to cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning (haha just kidding), falling asleep on my boyfriend’s shoulder, extra reading, stressing about not having time to do clinical hours, and whatever else I do that I forgot to put in here.. sleeping maybe?

I’ve found myself caught between a rock and a hard place lately in that I am doing it all, but am constantly feeling like I’m neglecting at least one part of my life. Usually it’s my sport that gets set aside. Or my sleep and sanity. In all reality, I’m doing a half decent job of making everything work in somewhat coordination. I haven’t had any major meltdowns caused by scheduling.. yet, and I’m keeping everything moving to my personal standards.

This past weekend at the CATA conference while listening to many intelligent and dynamic AT’s/Researcher’s discuss hugely interesting topics- I realised that I really do want to be part of that league one day. Many of the presentations inspired thoughts about how I could take those ideas and apply them to my own ideas around Rider Mechanics and related topics. (PS– Check out this article by a client of mine!!!)

A prof who was also attending made a comment about how it would be cool to get some student’s working on projects that could be presented at next years conference in Halifax spurring at least an hour of day dreaming on the research I want to do in the rider biomechanics and fitness areas. Day dreams that really wouldn’t be occurring if I wasn’t still working so hard as an athlete in the sport.

I often feel like I am living a double life. As an AT, I work to enhance an athlete’s performance- or return them to pursuing their athletic goals. Much of my time is spent assessing, rehabbing, researching, studying, observing, and tweaking someone else’s body in order to best help them prevent, recover, or enhance. As an athlete myself, I also rely on many a health care professional to help me do all of what I help others do too. I train myself, and I have a team consisting of an athletic therapist, a chiropractor (who is also a certified AT), a sport psych consultant, and numerous other resources (profs, fellow students, coworkers) who help me be the best I can be as an athlete. Both lives are full time jobs.

An amateur is someone who “engages in a pursuit on an unpaid basis”. In order to do what I do as an athlete, I am working many an hour to try and make ends meet. Luckily enough, I’ve found income sources that also work with my career goals. Unfortunately, this means that it’s not always easy to take time off of one thing to focus on another. For instance, the next two weeks I’m having to sacrifice training time in order to pick up extra tutoring clients to pay the bills– this with a competition in a couple weeks may not be the most logical choice. However, if I’m going to afford to train and compete? This is my only choice. The pay off being that I make a few extra coins while practicing skills that will come in handy for my upcoming final year in this degree, and future vocation.

The flip side to this occurs too. When many other AT students are picking up extra internship hours or covering events on weekends- all which count towards our final certification- or working at other jobs..I am often living my athlete life and competing or training. Spending the money I work so hard during the week to make.

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Would I change any of this? Most definitely not. I have jobs that I love, and I’m progressing in my sport.

At this point in my riding I’ve taken to a “quality vs quantity” approach. When I do train, I train like I mean it. I put quality rides into my horse- focusing on good habits for both of us, and reinforcing the years of training I’ve already put into us both. I know that even if I only make it out to train a few times a week that my horse and I will still be ready to work hard with M&C, because I’ve strategised our training and done everything I can to keep us in peak condition. I know that when I go to a competition- I will be ready.

I read a reposted article this week describing how aspiring riders must ride as much as they humanly can, and can’t put too much effort into other things if they ever want to be good at riding. It hit a bit of a nerve. I agree that a huge amount of time and dedication must be present for one to become good at their chosen thing- but, I also think it is quite unfair to say those who don’t throw all their focus into one thing aren’t dedicated or destined to be great.

During my time at LC Horse Farms in NZ, the head rider made a comment to me that has stuck with me all this time. After noting a few of my bad habits in the saddle- he concluded that I was “too Manitoban to ever make it in the sport of riding”. He justified that by saying I wasn’t focused enough to ever break bad habits, and any rider with bad habits could never be any good. This was coming from a rider who, based on my education of biomechanics and experience in the sport, had quite a few of his own bad habits. This same rider had also confessed to me that he “wished that he had done a greater variety of sports as a young athlete, instead of just riding” because he agreed that having a well-rounded approach was the way to go.

Coming from a training and coaching perspective, I would never recommend to a young athlete to do only one sport all the time. What makes a good athlete is a well-rounded movement base. This is not to say those who did specialise early aren’t going to be good either. However, I know from experience and current research that building many different neural patterns early on in life will enhance performance once one does specialise. This is true even for such a specific sport like riding. Motor coordination, balance, body awareness, stability, and reactivity all come into play just as much in this sport as they do in others- however, they are rarely focused on as much as they should be with young or new riders (or with older experienced riders…).

I’m an amateur rider not because I don’t want to achieve the highest levels in the sport- but because I don’t necessarily want the lifestyle of a professional rider (I’ve had tastes of it, and it’s just not for me), and I have a career outside (but combining) with the sport. Does this mean I’m not a dedicated athlete? No. Any amateur athlete in any sport is worthy of huge credit for worth ethic and dedication. Not only are they striving to better their performance day in and day out, they are working hard in a variety of other areas as well (whether to pay for their sport, because of other interests, or all of the above). They are well-rounded, persevering individuals who generally won’t take no for an answer when it comes to their goals.

Yes, we complain about it. Yes, we have days where getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing in the world. Our bodies hurt, our brains are fried. We don’t always get the results we want as quick as we want, and we can’t always afford new equipment or all the competitions. As a student, athlete, and full-time (ish) worker- I know I can speak for many others in the same boat as me- it is a brutal lifestyle sometimes. It’s so easy to question why we do this to ourselves.

So… why do we? 

The moment when you click into a skill you’ve been working on for what seems like forever.

The moment your coach says “that was perfect!” over and over again in one training session.

Those ideas that bring your career into your sport in a way you never imagined. The inspiration that follows.

The feeling of setting a goal and seeing it get accomplished, step by step.

The realisation that you are living the dreams people once told you were unrealistic. 

All the burn out, debt, stress, and time becomes 100% worth it. The good days outnumber the bad, and looking back- there is always a good story to tell.

Next time you see your local amateur, in anything, give them a hug. They likely need one.

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Triaging my own schedule.. Am I doing it right?

The past few weeks in a nutshell:

Answer student questions in first responder class, work with kids at horse connection, work the desk at MORfit, go to evening classes, ride, triage football kids, answer football parent’s questions on why their kid is concussed or how they broke their wrist (among other things), answer football coach’s questions as to which kids I actually told not to practice (2/6 actually sitting out…), ride, answer anatomy student’s questions, apply ice to football kids, ride, work the desk at MORfit, read religious papers for my online humanity, design workouts while in business class, teach those workouts to my class, schedule meetings for KSA, chat with enthusiastic faculty members on their ideas for KSA, try to track down a key for my KSA office (with no luck…), write panicked reading reports on readings I half did, try to remember to write things down in my schedule, more football, more desk work, chart, chart, chart, research injuries I’ve never seen before but am dealing with, apply ice, prescribe rest, attempt to get tensor bandages back from athletes, refer, explain to parents why I’m referring..again. Ride. Jump. Run. Get myself back into a lifting routine. Sleep? Eat?

I ran into a fellow AT student the other day, when I was ignoring the pressing need to finish a paper- and instead shopping. As I asked how her spring was going, I found myself looking into a mirror.. “I’m.. it’s.. overwhelming..”. Between football, work, spring courses, and our own personal athletics… Things get interesting for most AT students in the summer. I’m forever fighting back the guilt over not being able to fit in extra clinical shifts to bump my hours so far this summer- but honestly the thought of adding one more thing to my already overdone schedule is impossible.

As the main Trainer with Murdock this year, I’m on my own at practices (the ones that don’t interfere with evening classes..). What this means is that I’m learning how much I know, how much I don’t, and how much I am limited in practice. My team is amazing for making me feel absolutely loved and an integral part of the team. The coaches have told me more than once that they would fold without me and Nikki there. Any request I have is met, the best example was when I asked the coaches to ask one of the kids to carry my table out to practices for me.. the response was the coach walking into the dressing room and yelling “Hey guys- if this table isn’t brought out to the field today by one of you, the entire team is running quadruple what we usually run.. Got it? Good.” and then calmly walking back to me and stating “Someone will get it done for you!” before heading to the field. That’s a moment to warm any AT’s heart.

I’ve really noticed the difference in my abilities now compared to last fall. It was pretty common for me to spend every drive home after practices or games in full sob mode as a result of being horribly overwhelmed. And that was during a season of next to no injuries… This year, I have yet to be phased.. and on average I have a line up of players waiting to see me. The most eventful things I’ve dealt with so far has been a growth plate fracture to the radius, a couple solid concussions, a broken pinky, and numerous bumps and bruises.

As much as I’m loving every second of this- I’m also seeing how the clinical side of AT suites me much better. On field my job is to treat to the best of my ability, and make the decision on whether the kid is going back into play or not. If not, referring onto further medical attention or telling them to rest and apply ice. In clinic I get to figure out what’s causing the problem, and what’s the best way to fix it.. and then actually help fix it. Much more satisfying. Field is exciting, and challenging- but it doesn’t vary much. This is why I’m doing my best to read up on the injuries I see on the field, so when I get those kids in a clinic someday- I have a good idea of how to best help them rehab.

So that’s football. What about my athletics?

Well those have been going pretty awesome. I’m still running 5ks with no problems, and getting closer to my regular speed. The last couple weeks I’ve started back into lifting- as my back has begun acting up again, and the best remedy for that has proven to be barbell dead-lifts and squats.Also, I like to practice what I preach.

IMG_6362Riding has been spectacular. The last couple lessons I’ve had have been flawless, and so much progression has been obvious to me and M&C. After our last lesson I received a “you did not too bad today…. and by not too back I mean really good!” from M. If you know M, you know that means something. Our first competition is coming up in 3 weeks, where I will be competing in the jumper ring. Height divisions have yet to be decided. Will has been jumping phenomenal, and I’m excited to see what this season holds for us. 

As overwhelmed as I am a lot of the time.. its very neat to see the little pieces of my life clicking into place gradually. The business I’ve began working on has showed continuous progression in a short amount of time, and all my years of patience and hard work in my sport is showing some exciting results. Both these things combined are bringing exciting opportunities to me, and catching the attention of some local supporters (more on this soon).

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This week brings much of the same, with football most evenings, work, midterms (to write, and to mark…), papers to write, social events to attend, and training to do on myself and on my horse. This weekend brings the National CATA (Athletic Therapists Assoc.) conference, which I am very excited to be attending- even though it disrupts my usual Saturday routine of replenishing my sleep bank.  Spring courses are almost half done- and I am perpetually behind (curse you online courses!). With the weather improving I will be starting my other summer job soon, hopefully after my teaching assistant work is nearing end- and show season will soon be in full swing for me.

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Acceleration

Heeey there.

Been a while. I know. My bad. Forgive me? Okay.

The past two weeks have kind of been scheduling insanity. I know this, because I found myself using the phrase “I have scheduled relaxation time” today. Does that even make sense? If I’m not in class, I’m working. If I’m not working, I’m studying. If I’m not studying, I’m researching/working on training ideas for my class, eating, or sleeping. My “scheduled” chill time is the new tradition of “wine and dine” nights with Emily, and Wednesday evenings (except for this week, where I was studying and in work meetings most of the night), and I try to take most of Fridays off (try being the key phrase…).

Okay. So what’s my scheduled filled with lately? Well, MORfit has a number of new clients, and so does Claude. Which makes my shifts pretty hectic right now, trying to balance desk/admin work and clinic work. I’m gaining a tonne of experience! My class has been a great success so far, and I’ve had some great feedback after the first few weeks. Even some interest in bringing my program out to different areas of the province, turning it more into monthly clinics rather then weekly classes in that case- doing focused presentations on topics like rider biomechanics, injury prevention, and fitness for the rider alongside a training session.

My course load this year is pretty heavy, and definitely not getting lighter. So far, though, I’ve been able to manage my time pretty efficiently- finding time to study everything I feel I need to. Somehow.

Horse Connection is still in transition mode, and as they’ve began to advertise some of their horses- my workload for them has increased again as I deal with potential buyers and show horses. The past two weeks I’ve somehow fit in 30hr work weeks (b/t all four jobs), a full course load.. and squeaked in time to be in the gym myself, eat, and sleep. How? A lot of making phone calls, sending emails, and doing admin work on bus rides, and in between classes- studying before/after meetings and eating somewhere in between all that.

It’s safe to say that I’ve been somewhat run off my feet the last little while.. however, I am kind of loving all of it. Even if I have to schedule down time. I’m really seeing all that I’ve learned this year being applied in real life. Updating my resume recently, I’ve almost doubled my experiences in the past 4 months just through the opportunities I’ve had through school and work. The feedback and growth I’ve seen in the training program I designed after just two weeks has been way more then I expected, and very encouraging. Through all the absolute insanity, and the hiccups here and there, I’m getting the opportunities to challenge myself in new ways all the time.

This weekend will be some of my busiest few days yet, with work (various jobs) anywhere from 8-12hrs each day, teaching, showing horses, a friend’s birthday, visiting someone close to me in the hospital, hopefully studying, and hopefully working on some writing projects and applications. It’s for sure going to be another couple of hectic days.

Time is sure flying, so that must mean I’m having fun!

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Making a suppressed rider happy

I’m realizing it’s not actually that long since I wrote last. And that this is going to be my second post today. And third this week. Awhaaa?

I guess I’ll keep it short then! Thursday I got to ride my old friend Sonny at Horse Connection, and our intention that morning was “Patience”. Definitely something he needs to develop a little more of.

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“Look at me, I’m so perfect!”

Lucky for him I match his stubborness play for play. The most significant exercise we did that morning, after putting him through his regular paces, was just standing still and “being” for about 15 minutes. Oh boy. 5 minutes in and he was thinking I should consider calling it home time. Oh brother, 10 minutes we were digging to China. Annnd then the mind games went in my favour and we stood still and relaxed for another 5 minutes. Then he got to leave the ring. I know. I’m such a slave driver.

After spending my night off Thursday accomplishing nothing productive (except for going to the gym for the first time in what feels like years), I was on strict orders from Emily to a) not take back my shift at work and b) NO SCHOOL WORK. So I wandered around with her for the evening. Friday, my busy day, went by quickly and before I knew it I was hopping around under the lights trying to keep warm, assessing concussions, and watching my underdog team win their semi-final game. We didn’t get off the field until 11:30, which meant I didn’t get to get until close to 3:30AM (coaching staff was very insistent the trainers join the “debriefing” at Tavern). This lead to a relatively unproductive Saturday. However, the weather was just too perfect to be stuck inside writing about the physiological and psychological effects of massage on a rowing athlete. I got some of my own physiological and psychological benefits by riding both my horses and heading out across the fields with Mom for the afternoon.

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Willard surprised me in a couple ways. For one, I was able to get his girth on without too much struggle (he is a little chubby..), and secondly, he hasn’t been touched since the end of August– so getting on him I was slightly apprehensive and ready for psycho-horse to emerge- but he was decently sane the entire time! He seemed equally as happy to be out and about with me as I was with him.

Felix! He is really starting to grow into himself (seriously, take a look at those pictures!). I haven’t been on him since Carman Fair in July, but mom has been riding him throughout the fall and I am so excited about everything to do with him! He’s developing a little bit more attitude, but for the most part, he is SO willing. His jog just floats, and his lope is gorgeous to sit. I wish it was spring so I could be on both my boys more often!

Sunday I got a little more horse time, this time playing the role of coach.

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Week to week, it’s so great to see these two improving and gaining confidence in themselves and each other. The past couple weeks have come complete with a few new challenges and speed bumps for them- all part of the growing process. I’m so happy to see the right instincts there and developing. It’s honestly one of the highlights of my week, every week, to work with these two.

The remainder of my weekend was spent working and finishing up my first (unfortunately not last) paper of the year. 12 pages down, god knows how many more to go! That’s my week in a nutshell. Things I’m looking forward to in the next week? Playing in the Investor Group Stadium (by playing, I mean hanging out by the 50-yard line and dealing with injuries)!

I’ve been managing my time like a pro lately, and really hope I can keep up with that over the next few weeks. Now, to work on sleeping!

Water into wine, and vice versa

I had to put vice versa up there, because some people will argue to the grave that a glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away. Right, mom?

I’ve found myself the past few days in a very motivated state- which I am taking full advantage of. Midterms are over, and although I am very satisfied with some of the results- others I was a little disappointed in. However, after a few days (a week) of being kind of down about it, I’ve found myself now using it as a little extra push to focus some time (haha, whatta concept) on prepping for finals. Already? They’re a month away! No, but seriously… they’re ONLY a month away.. Yeah, I know. When you have approximately 8 final exams, practical and writtens combined to total approx 50% of your courses- I’m feeling like getting a jump start on that is a good idea.

This week my schedule has been running pretty tight, as usual, but also much more focused- as per the above paragraph. The past three days have been running quite smoothly- but I know the latter part of the week is going to get a little bit more hectic (as it usually does). I’m actually quite glad, as much as I love my evening shifts at the gym, that I booked both nights off this week. This morning I got to campus bright and early (7:45AM, haven’t been there that early since first year…) to practice with my football supervisor, Nikki, as she preps for her national certification. Again, so glad I have the opportunity to study with a grad of the program! I ended up just staying on campus all day and doing more studying, because, hey- gotta take it as it comes right?Tonight, instead of working, I attended an awesome presentation by Dr. Peter Jensen, a sport psychologist, which was super interesting on both the athlete, coach, AT, and student point of view. On Thursday, which I had already booked off in advance on the chance that I had football, I so far have no plans as our semi-final game is now on Friday night. I haven’t quite decided what I’ll do yet with that extra time. Perhaps start the next 10 page paper I have due. Perhaps see some friends I haven’t seen in a while. Who knows!

What I do know, is that Friday is the day I have ended up being triple booked all over the map. Before I found out our game was on Friday, I was planning on attending another guest lecturer at school, this time the topic being “too much sitting”, then heading to the a AT student association function, and then seeing some friends. While I still think I”ll be able to attend the lecture, everything else got kiboshed by football- another late game (8:30 PM), which means by the time I get out of the cold around 11:30 PM, I’ll be way to wiped to do much else except warm up and try to sleep. While I was really looking forward to the other things I had originally planned for Friday, I’m equally as happy to spend the time at football with the team. The experience I’ve gained there so far has been so worth it, I wouldn’t want to cut my season short! Even if it means freezing for a few hours.

Right now I’m very glad that my schedule is full of so many wonderful things. If you remember my post a couple weeks ago, the one where I was a little bit over the whole school thing (written during midterms), and really just wanted to be riding. And as much as I do really miss riding, the things that have filled my schedule lately (running KSA, research, classes, so much studying, work, football) are have begun to seem like less of a chore (ask me again during finals), and more like something that’s getting me to a higher place.

One thing that has been helping me motivate myself a little more (besides midterms roughing me up a little) is exactly what I was missing a few weeks ago. Riding. I haven’t forgotten about the goals I have there, and while before I was getting frustrated about having to put them on hold each time I head back into a school year- I’ve started getting a bit more proactive about it. I’m really working at finding a balance between all my different goals and pursuits in both aspects of my life, and I’ve started working on some very rough drafts of a functional training class for riders. I hope to keep putting some work into that in between reading my massive text books. Coaching on the weekends has really been a great excursion too for me. This past week my student and her horse started showing some awesome progression in many of the things we’ve been working on, and I love getting the feedback from her as she rediscovers herself as a rider and bonds with her horse. I’m glad I have little opportunities between extra projects at school, coaching, and Horse Connection to give me a break from everything else.

Those goals I wrote about at the beginning of the school year are being achieved, day by day. I’m 100% sure this attitude will flip on me again soon, and I’ll being dragging my ass around campus not wanting to do anything. Which is why I’m taking full advantage of it now. Turning that water into wine.. or the “whine” into water? Because water is the healthier option there.

Speaking of healthy, that’s another goal I’ve been working hard on. After gaining 6lbs in one meal (I was serious when I said I loved Thanksgiving the most), I’ve been putting some serious effort into eating right. Gluten and most grains are out, dairy is occasional, and consistent eating throughout the day is for sure in. I know the reason I’ve been able to keep up with myself on not a tonne of sleep is because I’ve been eating right.

Speaking of sleep, I should really get at that for tonight. Tomorrow is another early morning and a long day. Until next time!

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Holla at me, I could totes make the team…

Find that rhythm

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” -Nick Caraway, The Great Gatsby.

That variety of life. Do you ever look around at what you fill your life with and wonder how you’re lucky enough to be where you are? I do. Sometimes I have to pause and breathe- taking in everything that surrounds me. As you will have picked up by now if you read my posts even on a semi-regular basis, my days could use a few extra hours in them majority of the time. I’m surrounded by amazing people who inspire me, support me, and keep me on this planet. Sometimes all the different shoes I fill can cloud my focus. I can get lost in it all, forget to slow down and take that breath.

This weekend thankfully I had a few different opportunities to do just that. With my first show of the season coming up next weekend, as well as a midterm, I am so glad this weekend turned out the way it did. Whether it was sitting on the floor of the gym or in an Olive Garden over Sangria (technically not supposed to have alcohol yet- but seriously, a little Sangria never hurt anyone), or anything else in between- I got the chance to just slow everything down for a little while.

A phrase often used by C in our lessons is “find that rhythm and stick to it”. Put into a riding context, finding your rhythm or pace is imperative to getting around a course, or doing anything really. You definitely notice when you aren’t on it. I’ve had rides where I can’t find that rhythm if my life depended on it. But when you find it, things happen for you. You see distances, you make lines, that single oxer on the diagonal is amazing. I’ve been translating that to my daily life lately. Sticking to “that rhythm” is how I make my schedules aline. My different lives, and the goals that go along within each of them, instead of colliding and crashing into each other- they work around one another and often even compliment each other.

Sometimes, like the past week, I fall off that rhythm and get a little lost in everything. There was less “enchantment” to life and more just flat out exhausting. It’s like getting into a combination at an awkward distance and then getting stuck in the middle because you lose your momentum. It’s not a good feel. Re-organization, a deep breath, and “riding positive” (man, m&c are full of philosophical quotes) are what is needed to get through that combo successfully. That’s exactly what I’ve been able to do the past few days.

Something about this upcoming show in Brandon is a little bit nerve wracking for me (besides it being the first show of the year). I have a lot going on right now. It’s really not surprising my focus isn’t always where it needs to be. Between two.. three jobs, completely reworking my eating habits (which is still amazing, btw), spring courses, and training myself and my horse for competition… things can get jumbled sometimes. Some of the weird feeling about next weekend is probably because it’s the first show in a long time that I’m going into with no chronic injuries to speak of. Those ongoing issues almost became a comfort zone for me, even though they were far from comfortable. When something is with you for that long, it becomes a habit and part of who you are. While I’m very excited that I have been able to move past that pain, it’s a little weird not having it still. And of course, there is the fear that it will come back. I don’t write about this often because its a scary thing for me sometimes, and I have struggled with it and worked on it for a long time. However, it’s also something that I’ve gotten through, learned from, and improved from. I’m in the best shape of my life, and never been more able to handle whatever life throws at me. I’ve always said that life begins when you step out of your comfort zone. This is just another piece of that comfort zone I’m stepping away from, onto better things.

The other new thing for me is heading over to jumper land. It’s not exactly new, I’ve been there before. But it feels different this time. Maybe because I’m more prepared than I’ve ever been. And it’s one step closer to some big goals of mine. Things are starting to happen for me, hard work is paying off. It’s exciting, and it’s terrifying. Finding that rhythm with my horse isn’t as elusive as it used to be- and I have much more confidence in myself as a rider to know that even if things don’t go perfect- I can fix them. I can get out of that combination. A little leg, positivity, and a lot of determination is all it takes.

Up until this weekend I was having a hard time visualizing myself riding around a course and something not going wrong. My focus just wasn’t there yet. Then, this morning, while hacking Willard as a rain storm pelted the tin roof above us, things started to clear up for me. All I could hear was the rain, all I could feel was the rhythm of my horse underneath me. No conscious thoughts, other than knowing that this is my rhythm. This is where I need to be right now. Things clicked back into place somewhere in those moments. I’m back on a rhythm. Thank all the things. Not being on a “rhythm” is frankly exhausting, and a lot more work than it should be.

Had enough philosophical musings? Okay. Well here is a quick update on Week 4 of my diet! It’s been good! I had a few days where I wasn’t feeling amazing, but I think that was because I overdid it on the fibre side of things- which can cause some GIT discomfort. I’ve been feeling much better the past few days and more back to my normal. I made some amazing meals over the past week, as well as some cookies. I’m interested to find out how this new eating style holds up over a weekend of competition. I’m really, really hoping that it goes well and I have just as much energy as I have had while eating this way and that carries over to my riding. That would be amazing! It will definitely take planning. But that is something I am getting very good at.

This upcoming weekend will be a good trial run on many fronts. I am hoping for good results in all aspects, but it’s one of those things you just have to take as it comes. No sense worrying about it until something happens worth worrying about. Although at this point I’m wondering if we should do some anti-rain dances. That might be something to think about.

As usual, here are some photos of my delicious food creations (and one just for fun selfie)!

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Hummus, anyone?

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Breakfast “pasta”

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COOKIES! I love cookies!

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Look at how much my hair is growing!!!

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Lessons, Habits, Progress

Decided to take a study break to write a post. And now I have writers block. THANKS BRAIN.

We’re in the home stretch. Only two exams left this week- after a quite successful run of five.  Found out today that I got a 94% on the psychology paper I wrote on the power dynamics Eric Lamaze used to influence the series of events surrounding the disqualification of Tiffany Foster from the olympics and FEI’s hypersensitivity protocol. I also got a B on my A&P lab exam, and a B+ on my P&C practical. Both those written exams felt very good as well, so hoping for good results there.

Besides studying like crazy, I’ve been working as much as I can, as well as riding and working out. So basically the past month all aspects of my life have been colliding into one big happy fun time. There were a couple weeks in there where I managed to pick up around 4-5 shifts in the week, as well as got out to the barn 5 times (as well as other forms of exercise), and wrote 1-2 exams. There is a reason “time-management skills”  has it’s own section on my resume. I’m getting used to living out of my car and using gas stations for wardrobe changes. Between driving across the city for work and play, and out to the country for training, I don’t have a lot of time to spend at Ainslie St. The time that used to be taken up by classes is quickly being replaced by five billion other things. Speaking of which I should really figure out when my spring class starts.

As of today I’ve had three lessons with M&C, and they have all brought significant improvements (for both me and Willard). The first lesson was really fun. We focused on grid work, and it was clear the Willard missed jumping over things. I felt great in the tack, confident and focused. The second lesson was a bit different. I was less focused to begin with, but that quickly changed as the lesson progressed. In the beginning I was sluggish in the saddle, my back hurt and my knee was not enjoying much of anything. Then I realized how much I was falling into old bad habits (hip angle too closed, shoulders forward, leg back). Then I thought about all that work I put into that biomechanics project I did my first term, and between that and Charlene manually adjusting my position in the saddle, I quickly fixed my own biomechanics and had quite a productive lesson after that. Just took me a while to wake up that time apparently. But it was an enlightening lesson for me in many ways, one of those ways seeing how my education- all those technical things about the human body I’ve been studying all year- are truly helping me to progress as a rider. It’s helping me change my perspective on things like those pesky old bad habits I’ve been trying to banish for so long. I stumbled across a quote the other day that fits this situation.. “When bad habits are hard to break, try bending them”. A lot of it is about perception.

That lesson showed me that I am well on my way to gaining new perspective, and that maybe those habits won’t always hinder me- but instead help me to progress further.

Oh, and the horse was good too.

My lesson today was much more focused (from my view anyway). Since Willard is still pretty enthusiastic about the whole jumping idea (sound effects included). We did quite a bit of transition work, before and after jumps. While is is very keen to jump, he is listening much better than even a few weeks ago. Where he used to grab the bit and launch himself at jumps, he was waiting with me for deeper distances and actually rounding himself over the jumps (of course followed by a squeal and a buck after because apparently it feels really good to jump oxers lately). Today there was only some of that, moreso after the jumps opposed to before. Charlene thinks that one more week and this “spring freshness” should be out of his system. Can’t blame him really, jumping IS pretty fun.

The biggest difference I’m noticing in my riding so far this season is that I am also better at waiting in the tack. Previously I had a tendancy to see a distance, and wait for it, but let myself fall forward in anticipation- which would throw the horse off, and lead to a chip or a extra stride before the jump. Whether it be my common sense progressing, my improved over all fitness, or M&C’s strategies working (probably all three), it brings a lot more confidence into my ride. For both horse and rider.

So that’s riding covered. The only other sort of interesting news I have that is fitness related is that I’ve finally started making ground with my pesky quad injury. After a few months arguing with it (especially during running), with the help of my ATs awesome/horribly painfully effective thumbs and elbows, as well as well planned rehab exercises, it has progressed from quitting at 1 mile, then to 2 miles, and now last week we were up to 3 miles before it started feeling like WWIII was taking place in my left leg and glutes. That day I also did a 5 miler maintaining a 10:30min/mile pace! Personal best for this kid! My training has kind of shifted from being in the gym 5 days a week to being in the barn 5 days a week mixed with more running and more body weight/pilates style exercises. I’ve found that for now, with my schedule and what is most effective for my lifestyle at the moment, this is the program that works right now. I still try and do a heavy lifting day 1-2 times a week, because it really is effective for me as a rider. I’m really looking forward to this summer to expand my training more with new ideas that come up!

Between everything else, the mission to solve my GI problems is continuing. The naturopath I consulted in March originally suspected parasite, while the Gastroenterologist recently suggested it definitely was not a parasite, and although I don’t have too many of the symptoms, Crohn’s might be the case and would like to proceed with a colonoscopy to confirm, which I said I would consider after all the other tests came back. I did stool and saliva testing for the Naturopath, and more blood tests for the Gastroenterologist. The GI guy was correct on the parasites, as I saw the naturopath today and got my test results back. The tests also showed some inflammation in my small intestines, but that could correlate with the high levels of yeast, bacterial growth, and gluten build-up also present. So while I wait the next 2 months for my Gastroenterologist to get blood test results, the naturopath has put me on 3 different herbal supplements to rid my gut of the bad bacteria, yeast, and gluten- as well as recommended I try out a restricted diet. Restricted being the understatement of the year.

Long story short (seriously though, I got a 100-page reference package), I am to avoid all gluten, dairy, and sugar- limit my fruit intake and bump up my veggie intake. I’m not sure how my Starbuck’s addiction feels about this. However, while I initially panicked because, lets face it, that is a lot of things I can’t eat, I then realized that my diet lately has been shifting that direction anyway. It will definitely take a little more time and effort on my part to make the complete shift, but I have been looking at the “paleo” way of life for a while, and this restricted diet is not too far off that line of thinking. The past month or so, I have been feeling really good, and during that past month I’ve been eating less starchy/processed stuff. So maybe, hopefully, the naturopath is onto something with this. Either way, it’s a new adventure.. or maybe challenge is a better word! I hope to make time to record some of how it goes on here, so if you’re interested make sure you stay tuned!

I finish exams Wednesday, where I will get approximately a 12hr break before I start full-time at the Manitoba Major Soccer League as their program coordinator for the summer. It’s sure to be a crazy summer (per usual), while I keep around 10 hrs a week in shifts at the gym, plus full time at MMSL, riding, showing, spring courses, and everything else in between. Bring it on!