Climbing Cathedral Rock in Sedona

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This past December, I had the chance to return to Sedona to visit my family. A must-do for me was to finish what I started; the Cathedral Rock hike that I gave up on for the last 0.5 miles or so due to how steep it was and my mild fear of heights. This time, I had my husband there for emotional support and guidance.

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Instead of starting the hike at the Red Rock Crossing, we decided to park and start at the Cathedral Rock trail head off of Back’O Beyond Road. Starting at this point is good as it shortens the time and if the river is high, you don’t need to cross and get your feet wet.  We reached the perimeter that would take us to the final part of the trail within 15 minutes or so. I saw where I gave up last time and we moved beyond it. In all honesty, that one very short spot with limited foot and hand holds is the worse part and while there are steep parts the rest of the way, that one spot is the most difficult and so I urge you to press on, especially when you know how easy it is to slide on your butt for the way down. Yup, I wear out my cheap pants during these hikes due to the vertigo I experience on the way down and I only had to slide down at 2 spots during this hike. When you are sliding down, there aren’t spots where you feel like you will fall off the cliff like other hikes in Sedona if you miss your footing. While Bell Rock is an easier hike, I found it more difficult to come down from there.

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Along the way, there are many vortexes to visit and stop by if you want, but we came for the views so we pressed on. We started the hike around 09:30 due to how cold it was and we were rewarded with a stunning view at the top and it wasn’t crowded at all which was great. Since it was not crowded, we had the view to ourselves and it was very peaceful. As we made our way back down to the car around 10:30, the trail was starting to get a lot busier. While there might be better times of the day to complete this hike and to get the best view possible, we were happy with when we went. Overall, this was a great hike to get a workout, challenger your technique with trickier terrain, and to get to experience a scenic view and landscape.

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To me, Cathedral Rock is a must-do hike in Sedona and I hope to get to do do it again! Please note that you can pay for parking there or use your park pass.

Recipe: Spicy Mexican Pork and Black Bean Soup

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Year round, one of my favourite meals is chili; its healthy, easy to make, cheap, and can last for many meals. We do not eat as much chili in the summer though since it is heavier but we do crave the flavours.  Thankfully, my mom me this recipe and it has been a winner as a chili substitute; while the recipe categorizes it as a soup, it does have “stew” characteristics as well.

Recipe: Spicy Mexican Pork and Black Bean Soup

Adapted from the Canadian Living Recipe “Mexican Pork and Black Bean Soup

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Total time 30 minutes
  • Portion size 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 450 g pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut in 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes  ** You can also use pork loin chops and grill them if you want. 
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) chili powder
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) ancho chili powder/or chipotle
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 4 tsp (18 mL) olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 sweet yellow pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) tomato paste
  • 1 can (796 mL) whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sodium-reduced chicken broth ** I added an extra cup to make it “soupier”
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 1 cup (250 mL) canned black beans, drained and rinsed ** I used the whole can or 2 cups of cooked dried beans (less salt and cheaper if you use organic dried beans)
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded or chopped iceberg lettuce **I used shredded green cabbage instead; crunchier and more healthy. 
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) light sour cream; I crumbled 1 tbsp of cotija cheese over each bowl instead
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced ** I used half an avocado, so each bowl got 1/4 of avocado.
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
  • Optional: Hot sauce; to add more spice, we added hot sauce to it.

Preparation

Season pork with 1/2 tsp of the chili powder and the salt.

In Dutch oven or large heavy pot, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat; sauté pork until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove to plate. Set aside.

In same Dutch oven, heat remaining oil over medium heat; cook onion, yellow pepper and garlic, stirring occasionally, until onion is slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and remaining chili powder; cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, broth, pepper and 1/2 cup water; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until yellow pepper is tender-crisp, abou 5 minutes. Stir in beans and pork; cook until heated through, about 1 minute.

Spoon into bowls; top with lettuce, sour cream, radishes, avocado and cilantro.

Hiking: Garibaldi Lake Near Whistler British Columbia

The lake

The lake

We had such a great summer of hiking this year; it was nice to make the most of the nature in British Columbia; my husband and I endeavoured to complete one hike per weekend. it was nice for me to take my workouts outside of the gym with him; this made it hard to get back into the routine and workout indoors when the cooler and rainy weather started to set in.

Switchback on the trail

Switchback on the trail

The Garibaldi Lake hike is a long one; it is 18-19 kilometres return, depending which trail you take. The first 6 kilometres are so are a series of alternating switch backs and at times, it can seem never ending as the scenery is so-so but you know the payoff will be huge when you ge o the lake. We kept a steady pace and passed every other hiker we encountered due to our fitness level. Eventually, you reach a fork in the trail; you can either go straight to the lake or take a minor detour through the Taylor Meadows. We decided to go through Taylor Meadows to see if there were any flowers in the meadow and to catch a glimpse of Black Tusk. We were there the second weekend of September and unfortunately, the meadow did not have flowers but we did catch a great view of Black Tusk and made a pit stop at the well maintained outhouse long the way.

Scenery along the way

Scenery along the way

As you keep making your way along the path, the fatigue can set in but the excitement of seeing the azure blue waters of the lake make it dissipate. Most of us have seen pictures of the iconic lake set by a glacier but you cannot truly grasp it’s beauty unless you actually see it first hand. When you do see it, it takes your breath away!  We were able to find a comfy log to sit on to admire the landscape, take a break, have a snack, and to dip our tired feet in the cooling waters. The water was cool but it was actually quite nice and I regretted not bringing  swim suit. Maybe next time!

There are birds that seem to live there and when you hold your arm out, they come and perch. My friend did the hike some 15 years ago and they were there too.

There are birds that seem to live there and when you hold your arm out, they come and perch. My friend did the hike some 15 years ago and they were there too.

We stayed about 45 minutes before starting the 9 km trek back to the car. The views and colors were so surreal; the water was like a blue I had never seen, the beautiful fuchsia wildflowers, and the black rocks. Next time, I will bring a swimsuit though to go for a quick swim as the water was so refreshing.

Route markers along the way

Route markers along the way

As we made our way down, we thought the switchbacks would be easy going downhill, but we were wrong; it was even more difficult! At least with stairs, you are not constantly feeling like you are stepping on the breaks. We decided to run most of it to get it over with due to the pain and fatigue that were setting in. There were times when we hit a wall and we felt like we couldn’t finish but we kept on going, and passed everyone on the way down to run to the finish line (one lady passed us but we passed her later on!).

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View of Black Tusk from Taylor Meadows

Due to how busy it was, we actually had to walk an extra kilometre uphill to the trail and then downhill back to the car. By the time we reached the car, we could barely take our shoes off and our legs were quivering. The return trip took us about 4.5 hours which is pretty quick since most people plan for 6 hours. Based on my heart rate monitor, I burned 1,200 calories, my max heart rate reached 168 and the average was about 140 due to the downhill part.

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More views of the lake and glacier

More views of the lake and glacier

We then drove to Whistler and made a stop at the Whistler Brewing Company to have a beer and talk about our awesome trek! The next day, my legs were stiff but swimming in the hotel’s outdoor pool, sitting in the hot tub and the eucalyptus steam room definitely helped. I also highly recommend you stop at CreekBread Company in Whistler for an awesome pizza; we had the Mopsy’s Kahlua Pork!

The Mopsy's Kahlua Pork Pizza from CreekBread Company in Whistler. They also have a sister restaurant in Paia Maui called Flatbread Company.

The Mopsy’s Kahlua Pork Pizza from CreekBread Company in Whistler. They also have a sister restaurant in Paia Maui called Flatbread Company.

Would I recommend this hike? Absolutely! I would also do it again in a heartbeat due to how beautiful it was and revisiting the experience retrospectively. It is pretty difficult and if you are not used to strenuous activity, you may struggle. We also saw some people carrying someone down the trail on a stretcher and they were struggling with that. So be aware of how remote and difficult this hike is and prepare accordingly; pack enough water and snacks, wear appropriate footwear, start early enough to get enough daylight, and let someone know where you are going. My body and mind are conditioned to keep pushing and not stop since it makes it more difficult to continue, but it is okay to take your time and take breaks.

I am so happy I got to share this experience with my husband as it is a big accomplishment for us. Also, the lake is a glacier and with climate change, who knows how long it will be around for, right? So get out there and see it before it melts or disappears.

For more information and guidance, check out these links:

1) Provides an overview, instructions, and map of the trail: http://www.vancouvertrails.com/trails/garibaldi-lake/

2) Yelp Reviews of the Hike: http://www.yelp.ca/biz/garibaldi-provincial-park-squamish

3) Blog Post about the Hike: http://livinginvancouver.wordpress.com/2008/01/12/spectacular-garibaldi-lake/

Hiking: Sea to Summit Trail in Squamish

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It was by chance that we hiked the Sea to Summit trail in the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in Squamish British Columbia. We had planned to climb up the Chief peak but decided to branch off at the fork and try something new.
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Of all the hikes we have done, this one was by far our favourite due to all the great things you get to experience. The hike is about 9.8 kilometers to the summit where you can continue to hike or purchase a download ticket ($10CAD) take the gondola back to the base.
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The trail itself is challenging; people with fear of heights or who have low level of fitness may struggle with all the uneven steps, ascents using ropes,  switchbacks near ledges, and overall steepness. It is very accessible to most though if you pace yourself and take a mind over matter approach.
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You quickly reach the the 1/4 mark after battling it through the steepest part of the trail at the start; it then levels off and goes into ups and downs until you arrive at the upper Shannon Falls. Seeing Shannon falls and the little streams at this part of the hike is very gratifying and relaxing; have a seat, enjoy a snack, stretch or just splash water in your face before proceeding to the next lookout which is  about 15 minutes away. The first time we dis the hike, it took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to get there as the trail was busier and we were slower but our 2nd time we were there in 55 minutes.
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At the 2nd lookout, you get a good view of Howe Sound. A little bit after this peak you reach the halfway marker  and see the summit in the background; you still have a long steep way to go. The good thing is, the trail levels out on a logging road with a slight incline for a little ways. You can choose to veer left for a more direct bit steeper ascension of wrinkle rock or a less steep but longer route comprised of switch backs on a logging road. We chose the steeper more direct route each time. It stays flat for awhile and you get to see some nice scenery, and then it gets steep fast. Using ropes, you climb Wrinkle Rock; it is actually easy enough, except if you have aggressive people behind you who don’t give you enough space. The first time, some jack ass yanked on the rope and it sent me off balance and made it impossible for me to walk over the rope at the end. The last part of the hike is a series of steep and steady switchbacks that lead you to the summit. I can’t help but run the last little bit for drama.
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At the top, you are greeted by a beautiful view of Howe Sound and the mountains behind. There is also a suspension bridge to walk across. The best part of the summit lodge, after the view of course, is the water filling station for refills and the bathroom.
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At this point, I was hungry but couldn’t really eat anything other than an apple, and that was a little heavy for me. By the time we reached the car, I was able to eat more.  Take this into consideration as you prepare your provisions. We just packed the usuals: bear bell, band aids, water, snacks, camera, etc.
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As you hop on the gondola to get down, you feel the enormity and transcendence of the experience; you see how far and steep you climbed. We did this hike 2 Sunday’s in a row and I cannot wait to do it again next summer.

Kimchi: How to Make it and Eat It

2 week old kimchi pairs well with some Fort George 3-way IPA

2 week old kimchi pairs well with some Fort George 3-way IPA

This post is about making kimchi. Why waste time and mess up your kitchen making it when you can buy it?

  • Quality and Taste Control: Well, you get to control the ingredients first and foremost, which allows you to make kimchi that suits your taste preferences and dietary preferences; we like our kimchi spicy and free of MSG and sodium benzoate. Kimchi is good for you, but commercially prepared varieties can be less healthy due to the ingredients (high sodium, preservatives, and MSG).
  • It’s Fun and Easy: It’s also fun and not as difficult as you think; invite your friends over and make kimchi! I took a class at Whole Foods which helped a lot and gave me confidence to keep making kimchi. I won’t lie; I have been scared to get sick from home fermented kimchi, kraut, and kombucha, but so far that has not happened.

Lessons Learned:

I have made about 4 batches now, and each one gets better due to learning about what worked and what didn’t. A crucial component is how the vegetables are chopped; this will affect the taste and how the kimchi absorbs the flavors during the fermentation phase. While some recipes recommend cubing daikon and carrots, it’s better to cut them into matchsticks for traditional kimchi. I use my faithful mandoline-styled vegetable grater, procured in Vietnam for this task.

There are 3 stages in the kimchi process: brining, seasoning, and fermenting. Compared to making pickles or sauerkraut, kimchi is easy, quick, and doesn’t require a lot of equipment. All you need is a a bit of time (about 1 hour of active prep time), a big bowl, a few jars, the ingredients used in the recipe (see below), and a bit of space.

The chopped veggies with the seasoning paste

The chopped veggies with the seasoning paste

The kimchi as it begins to ferment

The kimchi as it begins to ferment

The recipe

The recipe

A great resource is Lauryn Chun’s “Kimchi Cookbook” as it goes into detail about the process, has different types of kimchi for you try, and ideas on how to incorporate kimchi into your cooking.

On its own, or with a beer, kimchi is a great food to add to your diet for the taste and health benefits.

Review: Longail Kitchen – New Westminster, British Columbia

Longtail Kitchen; outside view

Longtail Kitchen; outside view

Longtail Kitchen is located in the River Market, in New Westminster.  It is a restaurant opened by Angus An, Vancouver’s renowned Thai chef.  After a bad experience at MaeNam, we decided to give him another chance and check out Longtail Kitchen.

The space is small and casual but has some nice touches to it; the small market showcasing Thai products, the light fixtures, the chalkboard menu, and rustic tables definitely suit the restaurants style and reminded me of Som Tam Nua 5 in Bangkok.  We also found the location of the kitchen added a “Thai street food” atmosphere, as you could see the cooks using the mortar and pestle for papaya salad, and frying things in the wok.

Menu at Longtail Kitchen

Menu at Longtail Kitchen

We decided to try the papaya salad and hot and sour coconut soup with clams.  The papaya salad was $6 and freshly made to order; it had a great balance of flavours and textures, and just the right amount of spice for us.  The soup was $8 and had 4 clams in it, lots of “angel mushrooms”, and aromatics; it was served warm and just the right temperature. For the price, an extra 2 clams would have been more appropriate but this is Vancouver so it is to be expected.  The food came out well presented, in beautiful dishes but they use disposable cutlery which seems out of place and should be reserved only for take-out orders. Overall, we are very pleased with the food and concept and the restaurant, as the Thai restaurants in Vancouver tend to be generic fast-food or fancy; this was right in the middle.

Clam Soup

Som tam

Som tam

My major complaint though, was how messy and dirty the restaurant was.  As the kitchen was slammed, they were not clearing the busing station and wiping tables down; at one point, they ran out of dishes and had to put everything in to go containers.   The floor was also pretty sticky and had pieces of food on it.  I did approach the staff and expressed my concerns, and they apologized and started to work on it immediately. Overall, they were understaffed for the amount of orders they were receiving and so it is understandable.

We definitely enjoyed the food and experience at Longtail better than MaeNam.  At MaeNam, our soup was served cold and flavourless, the fish was burned and sticky, and the portions were very small for the price. Please note, I am a very harsh critic when it comes to Thai food (read my post entitled “What’s Good Thai Food?“).

Review: Kobob Burger, Vancouver – British Columbia

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Outside of Kobob Burger at 1019 Main Street

Kobob Burger is a new Korean fast-food restaurant by Main Street and National Street. They specialize in rice burgers and other Korean dishes.

Inside Kobob Burger

Inside Kobob Burger

We decided to share the spicy pork burger ($6.50) with kimchi (extra $0.50). The filling is in between rice patties and made to eat with a fork; if you are thinking that Kobob is like Mos Burger with a crispy rice bun, it is the opposite. In addition to spicy pork and kimchi, there is also lettuce, sweet corn, and marinated veggies. The rice is soft and has furikake in it.

The flavour bomb being assembled

The flavour bomb being assembled

Overall, everything is well balanced; the flavours and textures come together for a flavor bomb!

Getting ready to dig on

Getting ready to dig on

There is only space for 6 people to eat there so we grabbed ours and walked over to False Creek to eat outside. It is definitely a must-do in Vancouver.

Food with a view

Food with a view

Bus Bar, Chiang Mai Thailand

 

Outside of Bus Bar

Outside of Bus Bar


We love to travel and part of the fun for us is researching all of the places we want to eat/drink at, or walk to.  After so much wasted time, disappointments, and failures, we have come to depend on our self-published travel guides and maps to structure our exploring locally, nationally, and internationally. As I sit here, on a rainy and gloomy night, I am fondly remembering how we stumbled upon Bus Bar in Chiang Mai, and all the fun we had there this past November.

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View of the seating area from the roof

Shortly after arriving in Chiang Mai and checking in to Le Meridien, we did what we usually do, head out for a walk to a grocery store to pick up some essentials.  As we made our way towards the river in Chiang Mai, we spotted a big red bus, parked in a small lot by the river, with signs advertising Chang Beer and Johnny Walker, and the sign Bus Bar.  This had to be a bar?  As we walked by a little later, our suspicions were confirmed as people were setting out tables and chairs. After dinner, we decided to head back to Bus Bar to see what was going on.  As we arrived, we were greeted with a lovely scene; an art show to benefit the Typhoon Haiyan, people lighting and releasing lanterns, and 2 Thai men playing acoustic guitar and singing (They sang “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men”.  We immediately ordered a few beers and grabbed a table, lit by candlelight.  There are tons of bars on Thailand, but Bus Bar was very unique in its casual, calm and low-key setting.  It seems like a place people go to escape the other bars with loud music and flashing lights to enjoy an outdoor setting and good company.    Sitting there with J., looking at the stars, listening to music, and talking, all the stress and sadness melted away, and was replaced with a general sense of well-being and connection to things beyond our immediate reality and community.  It made the world seem smaller and reminded me once again that we are not that unique and you can find and experience most things anywhere in the world.

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Lantern/candle on the table

We returned every night we were in Chiang Mai, and it became our “night cap”.  While the live music was not available each night, we did get a kick out of the 90’s hits and love song soundtrack that played every night.  Eventually, we got brave enough to climb to the top of the bus but didn’t stay long since it got very hot up there due t the kitchen in the bus below.  We were also relieved that we did not witness the abominable swamp man, who caused quite a stir when he jumped into the river in a drunken mess and proceeded to accuse people of stealing his cellphone, as detailed on Market of Eden Blog.

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Sitting on the roof

Often, people ask us: “Why do you travel to all these place? What do you do there?”.  Well, this is what we do!  We just walk around, enjoy the surroundings and scenery, and culture, and check out places that offer good food and good beer. Through our routine of planning and mapping things out, we stumbled across an awesome place not on our map.  That tends to happen a lot during our travels and I am as thankful for those moments as I am for the “planned and scheduled ones”.  I don’t feel guilt about seeking out the best before a trip and neglecting the usual tourist activities because we find surprises and special moments along the way when we least expect them.

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Location of Bus Bar

Teaching Les Mills RPM: My Experience and Tips

On December 24, 2006, my mom dragged me to GoodLife Fitness to get a membership. She had enjoyed her experience and wanted to help me get into shape. I was about 45 pounds heavier then, suffering from depression, and generally did not feel well.  Over the next year, I progressed to lose weight, increased my energy level, and overcame depression.  Not only was there great equipment, but the Les Mills brand of classes made fitness fun and I made like-minded and health oriented friends along the way.  My favourite program though was always RPM.  This indoor cycling program had such great music and instructors, and gave me such great results both in weight loss and enhanced fitness level, that it became central to my routine.

“RPM™ is the indoor cycling workout where you ride to the rhythm of powerful music. Take on the terrain with your inspiring team coach who leads the pack through hills, flats, mountain peaks, time trials, and interval training. Discover your athlete within – sweat and burn to reach your endorphin high. Like all the LES MILLS™ programs, a new RPM™ class is released every three months with new music and choreography.”

Duration Avg. Calorie Burn Exercise Type
45
MINS
675
CALORIES
MODERATE TO HIGH
INTENSITY INDOOR
CYCLING

Source: http://w3.lesmills.com/global/en/classes/rpm/about-rpm/.

This YouTube video gives you a good idea about what a class might be like and the coaching style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPbrouaEYqE.

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Studying before getting on the bike

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Practicing on the bike

In 2008, my favourite instructor asked me if I had ever thought about teaching the program, and the answer was yes, I had but it didn’t seem like something that I would be capable of.  With his help and mentorship, I started building up my cycle fitness and studying general fitness instruction.  I was so nervous about my audition but they saw potential in me and off I went for training.  The training is grueling; it’s 2 days and you end up riding most of the day.  After training, you go back home and start team teaching with other instructors to prepare to film and submit a video to be Les Mills certified.  I have always been nervous and public speaking terrified me, so team teaching was fun but very difficult.  The warm-up is just a warm-up but sometimes I found my heart rate accelerating way beyond what it should be, and this happened throughout the class.  After 1.5 months of team teaching, I submitted my video, passed, and starting teaching shortly after.

So many members have helped me along the way and I dedicate a lot of my time to make each class memorable, fun, challenging, and rewarding for them.  While there is a stigma about instructors shouting and being really aggressive, this has not been my experience in any RPM class I  have taken or taught.  As an instructor who is also pushing myself through the workout while teaching, I believe it is important to earn the trust of their participants, and to mentor them to push themselves and go beyond their perceived limits by coaching them to face their fears and giving them options based on their fitness level.  I also try to help the participants to gauge their progress based on how they are performing now, vs when they started, i.e how long can you sprint? how long does it take you to recover?

Being a fitness instructor is a big responsibility and you definitely have to lead by example, so it keeps me honest and dedicated to my health goals. For each class I teach, it takes me about 2 hours of prep, so practicing the choreography, learning and creating coaching cues, and riding to the playlist to figure out where members will need help and may feel disengaged.

This past fall, I celebrated my 5th year as a Les Mills RPM Instructor, and I still feel challenged by the program.  New releases, so classes are released each quarter and they offer new music and choreography to keep participants challenged and motivated,  With each release, I learn something new and try to share that with members.

Here are some tips to help you make the most of your Les Mills RPM class:

1)  Not sure if your club offers it? In Canada, only GoodLife Fitness Clubs has the program.  A full list of clubs with Les Mills RPM, and the other programs is available here.
2)  Is there a song you really like?  After or before class, talk to the instructor and request it. If they have the music, most instructors will gladly oblige.  I have releases all the way from 15 and love to mix it up or create themed mixes for my participation.  Lately I have been riding to songs to balance out the focus of the effort to push my participants through different challenges, ie long climbs with shorter but more intense sprints. Track lists from all releases are available here: http://www.totallylesmills.com/site/RPM.
3)  Do you feel like pain or discomfort?  Talk to the instructor and get some help with the bike setup and technique instruction before or after the class.
4)  ALWAYS have a light snack at least 1 hour before class! An apple works great!
5)  Bring a friend!  Choosing to do something daunting with a friend can be a good way to ease into it.  Also, if you are new, let the instructor know so they can keep an eye on you through the class and give you tips discretely.
6)  Have fun and let loose!  If you knew me outside the studio, you would know that singing along to Katy Perry music is not my thing, but it’s all in the name of a fun workout and to bring a smile to your face.
7)  Introduce yourself and don’t be scared to connect with other members. We can all “woohoo” and high five each other for motivation and support.

Often participants will come up to me and ask if RPM will make their legs bulk up and be less feminine.  My experience has been that no, this is not the case.  It will tone and strengthen your legs but to get very bulky, you have to be really working towards that.

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One of the greatest and more rewarding things I have done in my life is to become certified to teach Les Mills RPM.  I encourage everyone to try or a class and to eventually consider becoming an instructor.

InFlight Entertainment: Passport to Culture

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A vast and diverse inflight entertainment library is like a well curated library, museum, or wine cellar; it can offer you experiences out of the norm.  As a frequent flyer who doesn’t particularly enjoy being enclosed in a cabin for numerous hours, inflight entertainment makes the trip enjoyable and in some cases leads to the discovery of films I may never have seen otherwise.

I still remember how profound it was to watch “Never Let Me Go” on a Singapore Airlines flight between Singapore and Taipei. I sat there, on the flight beside my boyfriend, who held my hand and paused the movie at the same time, and wiped my tears as they fell.  We were travelling for 3 months together at that time and it is our most cherished experience.

I got a glimpse of life, culture, and the scenery in Istanbul Turkey.  On a Turkish Airlines flight from Singapore to Turkey, I stayed up to watch “Izstambul” a film about a middle aged woman who leaves Hungary after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. She makes her journey to Istanbul where she meets a man and acquaints herself with the cultural norms in Turkey.

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Screen on the Turkish Airlines A330-300

I have to really commend Air Canada though; their enRoute inflight entertainment surpasses all of the airlines I have flown on.  In addition to the usual popular films and sitcoms, they have specilaty collections of short films through their film festival program and showcase many films from festivals around the world.  I have had the chance to watch Quebecois films and sitcoms to acquaint myself with my French Canadian cultural roots, in addition to other great Canadian films.  From “One Week“, which has the main character ride a motorcycle across Canada instead of staying home to battle cancer, to Sarah Polley’s “My Life Without Me” about a mother who comes to term with cancer and has an affair, to “C.R.A.Z.Y” a film about a catholic boy who grew up in a traditional Quebecois home and his struggles with coming out.  Last year, I was super excited to watch “The World Before Her“, an acclaimed documentary that follows the divergent path of two young women from very backgrounds in India.  As I settled in to watch it, the inflight entertainment system broke down. Unfortunately, on my next flight it was not available.

Finding this film became my mission for the next little while, and while Netflix, Hulu, and rental places did not have it, thankfully it was available at the Vancouver Public Library.  Due to the demand, it has taken me 1 year to get the copy!  Yes, I could have purchased it but I can’t commit financially t purchase each film I want to see that’s not available on Netflix, Hulu or to rent.

All of this to say, I am truly thankful for the art I have gotten to experience on flights.  It is become harder and harder to access things that are not necessarily mainstream, and I hope people keep producing interesting and unique films.  That is not to say that it was not fun to cuddle up in my Smartium seat, sip champagne and watch Twilight on the Asiana flight from Los Angeles to Seoul though.  ;)

Travel is a journey and having and watching films or reading on the flight encapsulates the experience for me. In the absence of inflight entertainment, I have read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and ”The Fountainhead”, which were also experiences in their own.  I really cannot imagine finding the time and effort to read such long and heavy reads in any other circumstance.

When tickets are roughly the same price, I will always opt for the airline that is known to have the best inflight entertainment library.  Sure, I could load movies on my tablet and watch them, but what’s the fun in that?  It’s like turning on the radio and listening to the songs someone chose for you; it’s kinda magical.

Of all the airlines I have flown, Air Canada, Turkish Airlines, and Singapore Airlines are definitely the best.  Inflight entertainment should not be underestimated because a well-branded airline can become a cultural ambassador through their inflight service.