Just like that. That’s a wrap. Back to being a teacher again, and it’s been tough sneaking away to take the time for this final reflection. Kind of perfect I should get around to it on Thanksgiving weekend. Over the summer I think the question I was most asked was “are you dreading going back to work?” I’m sure I gave some brash responses as I began to grow tired of being asked. I guess if I thought of teaching as only a job, it would make sense that I would dread going back to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love teaching, and for me, the last year wasn’t about escaping from being a teacher or teaching, or about doing “nothing”. Rather it was about giving me a break from many of the mindless business of school that in the last 5 years in particular seemed to be increasing at an incredulous rate. It was a year for me to practice working with more awareness again, and there was lots of work, it’s just that it was able to be 100% self-directed. Having been back to teaching again for a month I can say that year was the best medicine. The mindless business tasks are still there, but the way I respond to them is much healthier. I can already feel how that has improved my mental state, and interactions with my students. There’s also been more acceptance around the fact that teachers are not given enough time in the work day to complete all of the work that needs to be done. That’s never going to change, and giving up all of my personal time at home to continue working in hopes of reaching that place called “caught up” was not going to happen, and was robbing me of my health and quality relationships. No more.
So… from my last post, I was heading into the summer holidays. I also had to go back into school at the end of June for the mandatory end of year/beginning of new year meeting (which I had completely forgotten about and brought a quick sense of reality back to “summer vacation”). The end of the school year also brought forth the joyous event of grade 8 graduation. Despite being off, I had to go back to watch this year’s graduation ceremony. This was the graduating class of a very special group of students I taught in the 4th grade. They embraced Awesome town like no other class I had taught at that school. I still have the bracelet that my student from that class made for me 4 years ago and wore it to the ceremony (see picture below). It also reminded me it was the 17th grade 8 graduation I have attended (pic below shows my first grade 8 grad in 2001 on top, and this year below). A reminder to me that heading back to school in September was going to be an exciting new beginning.
I guess it wouldn’t be the year of kettle without mentioning any. After sustaining a knee injury that seriously aggravated my osteoarthritis to a degree I had never before experienced….I basically dropped all expectations and goals and just focused on how to move pain free. Every single ounce of my training energy is consumed with physical therapy, and kettlebell sport when my knee allows. I was eventually able to build up to being able to ride my bike….and wow. That made a profound difference on my mental state. I felt a sense of freedom of movement and ability to travel on my own power, while also feeling the ability to work hard and breathe hard. I eventually got into a groove, and before I knew it I was hitting prs that in a much stronger/healthier state I couldn’t achieve, and here still feeling broken, I could see how the consistency of my daily routine was making me more efficient and silently stronger little by little. Most proud of hitting over 200 reps in 16kg snatch which I have wanted for a little while now. Based on the conditions of this set I know there is more in the tank, but super excited and chuffed to do this after the difficulties of the past 6 months, which aren’t yet behind me. Snatch is feeling much more equal to my jerk, and at present irritates my knee less.
Of course I had been hoping to have a summer full of kettlebell sport competitions, and was worried about the hole I would feel if I did not fill that time with some fun adventures. I decided to look for opportunities which were restorative and would compliment my rehab, but also help me challenge my weaknesses. The Mindful Movement workshop with Paluna, Sara-Clare and my gymnastics coach Kirsty was the perfect ticket – and in Toronto! It was a brilliant summer day where I was able to put some mileage on my bicycle, improve and practice my mindfulness training, spiced up my mobility routine particularly shoulders and core with some amazing new movements and corrected technique on old ones, and ended off with some handstand play and inversion fun. All with some awesome peeps I know through kettlebell sport 🙂 Spending time with family and friends was definitely a theme for the summer and was great for keeping my mind off competing, and distraction from the pain in my knees. Community events like the Strength
Box Challenge for Cops and Kids (raised over $3000 for that community organization), and the East York Canada Day parade were highlight events this summer. This event was organized by my amazing friend Greg Carver. I love the community he has created and what he gives back to East York. Next year I hope to be healthy enough to participate. This summer I loved starting every morning outside, taking Stella to either the splash pad, Cherry beach, or long walks in Taylor Creek park. The weather was amazing this summer, and being able to host workouts at the House of Cyn was super fun for me to share in training with friends. I also took advantage of my final time off to visit Carl at work. Not gonna lie, the sci-fi nerd in me was super giddy to check out some of The Expanse set.
In August I attended a workshop hosted by the Yoga Detour, bringing The Foot Collective to Toronto. It was enlightening for me and really helped me gain perspective about what’s happening with my knees, and how I can prevent, and hopefully reverse some of the damage that’s been done. I have a prescribed set of exercises I now do daily to help restore my feet, in addition to wearing toe spacers daily as I try to build up my time wearing them. So far a couple of months into this routine and I can feel changes started to occur in my ankles, knees and hips.
Unfortunately there have been a couple of times I have overdone my therapy trying to progress faster than my body will allow. My knee quickly responds with intense pain and inflammation on a scale that can prevent me from walking. My body is trying to teach me patience and it definitely has my undivided attention! I have to keep reminding myself that it took my over 40 years for my feet/ankles/hips to get to the state they are in now, so naturally it will take more than a couple of months to undo the patterns that created the issues I’ve been having. I am in it for the long haul and will patiently work away as long as it takes, so that the next 40 years I will be able to maximize my physical autonomy. I’ve combined this work with the expertise of strength coach, Kyle Evan Gentle of Primal Performance. Kyle has been brilliant and has helped me begin to restore my non-existent glute activation, and dramatically improve overall core stability. We’re currently working on my knee mobility. This guy is one of those born healer types, who knows human movement! I’m so grateful to have his expertise close by to have my movement patterns monitored so that I’m moving correctly and efficiently. Training on my own, I like to make a practice of checking in with peeps who know more than me and can give me feedback I trust.
This last quarter of the year of kettle has also been heavily shaped by the books I have read. My reading has definitely dwindled from the pace I was setting when I had more time, but it is still something that is important to me. Being back at work, I have made the compromise of listening to audio books for pleasure, and then the majority of text based reading I do is peer reviewed professional literature for work (in the summer months I will switch). Audio books have been a lifesaver and something I have begun doing on my walks with Stella. That’s almost 60-90 min/day of reading I wasn’t doing before. This summer (and early fall) my readings have centred around information I thought would help during the rehab process with my knees. I’d have to say that Grit, The Champions Mind, and Deep
Work had the most profound impact. Deep work was inspiring to me because as I was getting ready to head back to work I was really worried about how I was going to keep on top of the routines I established on my sabbatical that I have decided are like medicine and something I need to complete every day. These include things such as breathing/meditation, measuring biometrics (blood pressure, hrv), stoic readings, self-talk and physical rehab exercises. Deep Work planted the idea of planning every minute of my day. This probably sounds crazy and I won’t even go into the rationale of it- instead I encourage you to read the book. It forced me to put some confines on my work day. If a university professor who also actively does research (and write books) can do it- surely as an elementary educator I can. My plan is to be at work every morning by 7:30am, and start my “shutting down” routine at 4:00pm, and by 5:30pm absolutely nothing to do with school work is allowed. I then thought about what I wanted to include in my evening routine – which includes kettlebell sport training 2 nights of the work week, and my restorative/rehab exercises the other 3 evenings. Throw dinner time in there and something I quickly noticed was that nowhere in all of the things I wanted to prioritize for myself and my free time did I include social media. Cal Newport (author of Deep Work) isn’t shy about making his dislike of social media known, which I find fascinating given that he is a computer engineer. His arguments are solid and really made me reflect on how I will use social media, and inspired me to make my own set of rules going forward.
On the playful side, I am optimistically hopeful that I will get to compete in Toronto in a few weeks and try my first biathlon doing double 12kg jerks, and snatch. Training for this has been super sketchy because of my knee so it’s probably 50:50. Taking it literally one day at a time with training but I have the best kettlebell sport coach in the world, and a kickass rehab team behind me so I will keep chipping away at my rehab and training and take whatever my body gives me. If not Toronto, I may try for Michigan in November. I miss the platform and that celebration of another training cycle with friends. With my legs being unpredictable I have picked up handstand training again with my gymnastics coach Kirsty Grosart. She has the most amazing online program that she’s even renovated since the last time I took it, and I love the next level features she’s added. Handstand training is very similar to kettlebell sport in terms of the patience needed and attention to detail and dedication to learning technique and efficiency. It’s also great for my overhead stability and position and will have me working lots on my shoulder mobility. I’ll be honest that my patience wains with handstands and when my motivation drops, so does my consistency. My work with coach Kyle has actually heightened my interest in handstands again because of what he has helped me achieved with glute awareness and core stability. It’s changed how I connect those dots upside down. It’s also been 5 years now working with Kirsty and each year I practice a little bit more, and become a little bit more confident. I’m feeling pumped about this training cycle – feeling grateful for physical skills I can still work on, as well as Kirsty secretly motivating me with a side bet (saving for another post).
Wow….I have really rambled. Apologies to anyone still reading this. Something I have learned being back at work is that taking the time to reflect at the end of the day has been my number one challenge. My goal is to spend 5-10min in my bullet journal each night reflecting on how well I did to follow my routines for that day, and make a plan of attack for the next day. This blog post was me taking a couple of hours to reflect over the last 4 months. Thanks for coming along for the read.