Sunday, August 28, 2011

To Perform or Create, that is the Question???

I have noticed that a number of the gyms here teach using standardized choreography from Les Mills. I have tried a few of the classes and overall I think they are very well timed and organized but there seems to be something missing. With further thought and analysis I have realized I miss the authenticity of the interaction with the instructor. Part of why I love taking a fitness class is for 1-hour you get to experience what fitness and health means to the instructor at the front of the room. You feel their passion, their creativity, their intensity, their joie de vivre.
In these standardized classes instructors are performers and no longer creators. I have been given some of the cd's so that I can learn to teach some of these classes and it is so strange how everything is timed so exactly, the precise phrasing, the lack of options for different levels of participants and that you teach the same class for 3-months before you receive the new choreography. I understand the value of consistency and continuity in classes offered in a fitness centre but at what price??? When speaking with the club owners they have chosen to offer these classes because they see such a difference in the quality of freestyle classes but there has to be a better way. Friends, readers, fitness participants....what do you think of these classes? For those who aren't sure if they have taken them they are the classes offered at Goodlife; RPM, Body Pump, Body Attack, Body Balance etc.
On Friday I taught my first Bodyshape class for my group of 45-years + students. I had butterflies in my stomach which is strange as I have been teaching fitness for almost 10-years. Nick told me once that nerves mean that you care and it's when we stop getting butterflies that we need to worry. He's so smart :) I was nervous partly because in my experience I have found that as we get older we can become stuck in our ways and resistant to deviations from our norms and habits. I find myself sticking to what is comfortable but I've really been trying to push that envelope because we only really grow when we go outside our comfort zones. This group definitely proved me wrong. They were open, excited, enthusiastic and welcoming. I really enjoyed myself and a number of the participants gave me wonderful feedback. One gentlemen, I use the term loosely, who was wearing a speedo and sheer white singlet not so much. He said that he would not be coming back because I don't speak Dutch and he doesn't believe I will be able to learn the language. I was happy when another women in the class told him off :) At first I was disheartened and then I restructured my thinking and it lit a fire under my butt. That night Nick and I watched the count from sesame street to learn to count in Dutch. We laughed while we practiced and I'll show that old guy, you wait and see!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

If you lead, they will follow

I have diligently been preparing for teaching fitness in the fall and have been attending a variety of classes to get a better idea of expectations. I will be teaching a workout mix, spin, bodybalance (combo yoga/pilates) , bodyshape (strength training for age 50+), pilates and yoga. I have observed some pretty outrageous things in the classes I've taken. Don't get me wrong there have been some really great moments as well but the pulsing, oh the pulsing...and the leg lifts :( I have been doing the strangest moves in these classes, contorting my body, bending and turning and lifting and pushing and standing on my head... It begs the question, Will people do whatever you tell them to? I was watching Dr Phil...that's right Dr Phil in the middle of the judgement, and he had on a Psychologist who does research in human behaviour specifically looking at the influence of a perceived authority figure, mob mentality, and bullying. The Psychologist spoke about the riots in England and the holocaust as examples of genuinely good people doing horrific things due to the power of persuasion. He even conducted an experiment where he had a regular "joe" dress in a uniform and pretend to be guarding someone who broke the law. He asked a passer by to hold a tazzer while he went to use the phone. He instructed them to taze the person with 40 thousand volts, enough to kill, if they moved. Seven out of ten people actually tazzed the person when they moved...INSANE! They didn't know what crime the person had committed and did not ask any questions. The power of a uniform and perceived authority was really surprising to me. This doesn't mean that as a fitness instructor I will have participants tazzing one another in class but I think with this perceived power or leader role comes great responsibility. People are trusting you with their bodies and it is important that you provide the best instruction possible. Fitness classes should be safe, effective and balanced. Stop it with the 50 reps of bicep curls and leg lifts already and the pulsing, oh the pulsing :(
Speaking of mob part of the welcome week (INKOM) for the University students UM sport prepares a flash dance mob. It's a random surprise event in the middle of the city square that brings awareness to the UM sport program. In order for everyone in the deparment to prepare the fitness instructors create a teaching video. So I volunteered to be part of the video. Check it out! I warn you we made the dance and the video in less then an hour but it was a neat idea and I had a blast :) This is definitely something I would like to do at Mac

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Do I really need that???

When Nick and I decided to sell our home and move to the Netherlands the task of packing and down sizing was mostly left to me as Nick had to leave to start his contract a month prior to my departure. I never considered myself to be a material girl but I definitely recognize that I have an appreciation for some of the finer things. My girls know what I'm talking about ;) Did I mention have at least 12 pairs of designer jeans? Growing up, we didn't have extra money for designer clothes or fancy things and when I was in University I was proud of how frugal I could be living on my student budget. In fact I remember my dad saying "You are tighter with your money then bark on a tree", that's not a bad thing is it? When I got my full time job I really started to accumulate things because I could finally afford some of the things I had always wanted.
When I went through my closet and downsized my LARGE wardrobe for my year away it was liberating, difficult but liberating. Giving away all my worldly possessions was cleansing to my soul, scary but cleansing. The tv, my furniture, my car... symbols of achievement and success??? Isn't it strange how we attach ourselves to the things we have and how self worth can so easily be linked to the purchase of a home, a car, a designer purse.
Today Nick and I took the train to Roermond to visit the Designer Outlet Malls. There were beautiful shops filled with beautiful things and I found myself picking things up not because I needed them but because they were such a "good deal". I am happy to say I came home empty handed because I really thought about what I need versus what I want. Nick and I want to see as many things as we can while we are here and spending on material things will limit what we can spend on travel. We did talk about going back because I will need a warmer winter jacket but I'm happy that I didn't make any spur of the moment purchases. This sounds like a moment of enlightenment to me!!! Tomorrow we are headed to immigration to get my BSN number that will allow me to start work. Fingers crossed it goes smoothly. I'm excited to start teaching and working :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's only Natuur Winkel

Since arriving in the Netherlands I have been enjoying the local cuisine. I have to say that the open air weekly market is perfect, the bakery beside us makes amazing spelt bread and crackers, the dairy is amazing (especially kwark), the coffee is the best I've ever had but the vegetarian options leave much to be desired. At our local grocery there are limited beans, no tofu, a very limited grains section (rice and couscous) and no quinoa. These are the staples in this vegetarians diet and I am missing them. Relying on dairy for my protein leaves me feeling less then amazing. They seem to add ham to everything which is very frustrating when you just want some soup! I have been dropping in on the health food stores that are in the city centre but they seem mostly to be like the Nutrition Hut or Popeyes in know, the not so healthy health food stores. I am starting to get desperate and sent a message to my long time friend Katie Weststrate, a fabulous Naturopath, in Toronto to see if she had any recommendations Katie had been to Amsterdam and quickly provided me with the name of a natural food store here in the Netherlands, Natuur Winkel. Nick and I looked it up and there is one about 15-minutes from our house. We decided to check it out on one of our walks. It was closed but I peered in the window and observed the extensive grains section :) If Katie hadn't given me the name I would have never found it. The roads here make very little sense to this Canadian girl who is accustomed to blocks in the shape of rectangles/ squares. Everything here winds around the river and given that Maastricht was built in the time of the Romans it is definitely not built for easy access. There are tons of nooks and crannies to explore. I'm headed there today and will report back on my findings.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Everything is coming up Harris!

I know it's silly but after two weeks in Maastricht I was beginning to question if I was ever going to be gainfully employed. The purpose of this year is not to work but I love what I do and I have been missing it. We average 60,000 thoughts a day and 75% are negative! I have been working on breaking down and restructuring negative self talk and enforcing what I want with mantras. I swear they work! I learned this in my yoga training and I really believe that your words and thoughts are key to you creating the life you want. I took the Myers-Briggs assessment and I am a ENTJ and the characteristics, areas for growth and strengths listed are so true. If you haven't tried it you should. It's pretty neat. One of the defining characteristics of ENTJ is being excessively critical of oneself and at times struggle with self doubt. I deal with these things frequently but have found positive self talk and thoughtful analysis of my self talk to be very helpful. Isn't it crazy how quickly you can start to question yourself and your abilities. Just when self doubt starts to creep in yesterday everything started to come up Harris! The mantras are working. I signed my contract at UM sport to teach 6-classes per week but I get the feeling that once I prove myself there will be other opportunities. In fact they have asked if I am willing to put some Continuing Education together for the staff :) I gave acupuncture and a massage to one of the fitness instructors and she has asked to become a regular patient. I had an interview last night at a studio called Zenden and have been hired to teach a yoga class followed by a pilates class on Monday evenings and this morning the Osteopathy clinic that I have been in touch with invited me in for a meeting on Sept 2nd. I would love this opportunity! To treat a day or two a week or even to volunteer. All together I have committed to 8 hours of teaching per week and if I can get 8-hours of volunteer/ employment at the Osteopathy Clinic I think that will be enough. I will need the rest of my time to prepare for my 3rd year exams. I've heard that they are grueling but I am working hard and using my mantras and am sure success is on the horizon. I'm heading out for a yoga class now and am really excited for tonight. Nick comes home :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

I love how they say dumbells like Arnold...dooombulls

At 12pm today I had a meeting at the University to fill out some final paperwork for my visa and to sign my contract to teach 6 fitness/ spin classes in the fall. I'm not able to work until my visa comes through so I hope things move along quickly. I'm so accustomed to having full days that I feel a little lost without them. I do feel much more relaxed then I have in a long time and the simple life can be really great at times. I went to UM Sport, the University gym, to do a demo class for the spin program coordinator today. His name is Ruud and he is a really authentic person. I was going to say nice but that is so generic and I'm trying to be more thoughtful these days. The style of teaching is quite different then what I am used to but he gave me some really constructive feedback. I think I am going to have to work on my non-verbal cueing as a number of my participants will speak english as a second, third or not at all language. They are very much about music to the point that it feels like a choreographed dance class. Not my usual teaching style but I can do it and still honour who I am. I just need to be creative ;)
I also attended a class called Workout Mix, that I am slotted to teach for the fall. The instructor who was teaching is also the person who manages all the scheduling, training etc for fitness instructors. She had great musicality and personality in front of the group and you could tell she loves to teach the dance style classes. When we got to the strength section of the class we proceeded to train the chest and back in a standing position with dumbells, they say dumbells like Arnold Schwarzenegger (awesome), in our hands pressing forward and rowing back STANDING. Ouch! This is not for the chest and back.... I need to help these people. A very motivating thing for me was the numbers. There were 23 people in the class. In the summer! Apparently there can be up to 80 people in a class in the fall. Did I mention we teach in a gymnasium?? It's mirrors...but I like that...the constant visual feedback can be grueling even for the most confident and body proud women.
When I spoke with her after class she expressed how open they are to me teaching in my own style which I am very excited about. I will give her some feedback when I see her tomorrow. It is different being on this side of the management table. I think it's important to be here again :) I really hope that people like my classes! I think this will give me an opportunity to really improve as an instructor and to bring something to the other instructors here as well.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Visit to the Country

To prepare for Nick's upcoming research he is spending a week at a University research barn in Ede-Wageningen a quaint little dutch village about 2.5-hours away. The research involves Nick and his lab mates taking care of three cows; Apple, Betty and Lucky. They are infusing the cows and taking blood draws and will be using Betty's milk and Apple's meat, poor Apple :(, for nutritional studies. Lucky is the control so she truly is, lucky! Nick invited me to take the train and come for a visit. I was very excited to see another place and Ede-Wageningen did not let me down. What a beautiful place! Perfectly spaced trees line the road to the farm. They have to be at least 100 years old. They were huge. Nick's dutch lab mate Bart told us that all the trees in the Netherlands have been planted for a purpose; either by the farmers for farming purposes, the engineers for the water ways/ dikes or the citizens for pleasure. He may be pulling our legs. He has a sense of humor like Nick, very satirical and very dry. So when I arrived by train, my first solo train ride :) They took me straight to the barns. A number of the houses and barns here have straw roofs. They call them thatched roofs and I promise to put up a picture when Nick gets home with the camera. A number of homes and barns in this village have them. Bart says that they still do them today. They are very expensive and are done for historical preservation. Very cool!
Nick thought we would be able to go and spend the evening together but science was calling and he needed to be there. I didn't mind at all. I like being on a farm and the visit was about being able to spend time together. I got to help out, pet the cows and sweep their feed. We did eventually get to leave and grab a late dinner. Of all places we ended up at a place called Le Steak. We thought it would have a lot of choices for a vegetarian :) Everything was closing and there weren't many options in this small town. When we stepped inside it was full of Hollywood memorabilia. It was dimly lit and packed with people, a good sign. We enjoyed one of the best meals I've ever had. Home made pumpernickel bread, fresh mozzarella cheese and tomato, was awesome! The next morning we went for a great run and found a beautiful track in the woods of all places, they call these sportparks. We had some breakfast and wandered around town. I bought some new running shoes and a toy for the cats. We looked for Wild Turkey but the closest thing we found was Jim Beam and the scottish version Wild Grouse. I caught my train in the afternoon and I'm back in Maastricht. Three sleeps until Nick gets back.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Weekend Starts on Thursday :)

Through the week all the shops open around 10am and close by 5pm. The market has extended hours through the week but EVERYTHING is closed on Sunday. The one later day for the shops is Thursday and here the weekend seems to begin on Thursday nights. I went out for a walk through the city centre last night to check things out and the open air cafes were packed. The streets and the shops were filled with people. It is at this moment that I realize how densely populated our city is. The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It was a beautiful night so I was happy to jumble my way through the crowd.
As I people watch I realize that Italy and Paris have nothing on Maastricht. The fashion here is to die for. Prada, Max Mara, Dior, Marc Jacobs... the list goes on. Steps from my door is a prime shopping mecca and poor me without a source of income :( Well, I can definitely appreciate it on the backs of these fabulous european women. Coco Chanel said it best " A successful women must be two things, classy and fabulous". These women are definitely fabulous. The signature shopping look seems to be a pair of designer loafers or heels, well tailored pants, a fabulous belt, a blazer and a scarf...oh the scarves! All women here don't leave home without them. They have them in every colour and pattern. I have been eyeing this gorgeous silk scarf for weeks but at 175 euros it is way out of my price range. It has beautiful shades of blues and silvers and a paisley pattern. In this situation LOVE is not too strong a word. A girl can dream!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scooters, Bikes and Pedestrians, oh my!

Yesterday was a rainy and grey day here in Maastricht. I had some running around to do in the morning. Groceries, pharmacy and I sent out some resumes. In the afternoons I have been going to the University to meet Nick for lunch and to study in the library. After studying yesterday until about 3pm I decided to head home. It was drizzling but it didn't look like it was going to let up any time soon so I thought I would just tough it out. In Maastricht, cyclists have their own roads complete with stop lights and signage. I'm not really clear on the rules of the roads yet but the cyclists seem to always have the right of way. I made my way across campus and was stopped at a light waiting to cross to get to the path that runs along the river Maas and leads me home. There was a large group of cyclists on the other side of the street chatting away and waiting for the light to turn. My eye was drawn to a cyclist who didn't appear to be with the rest of the group and seemed to be growing impatient with the light and the chatting in the group beside him. He turned in an attempt to take another route and in slow motion I saw an oncoming scooter strike the front tire of the cyclist. Now when you hear scooter you probably think of a slow moving childs toy or at least that is what I thought until I got here. These scooters can really move! They are more like motor bikes. The girl who was driving the scooter flew from the seat and skidded head first along the road way. I rushed to the scene to offer any assistance I could. She was out of it and pretty scraped up and didn't speak english very well but came around by the time the ambulance arrived. The cyclist went unscathed and seemed to be more concerned about the condition of his bike then the girl. It shook me and I felt ill the rest of the night. No one here wears helmets and the roads for the bikes are riddled with pedestrians, people on scooters and cyclists who aren't paying attention. The roads don't seem to be patrolled too heavily by polite (police). I will be extra cautious while riding my bike after witnessing this.
Nick left this morning to infuse a cow with isotope for his study and will be gone for the week so I will be flying solo.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Gelato you!

Last Sunday I discovered Gelato. This was a magical moment on my Dutch adventures. Yes, I know it's Italian. I have had a version of it in Canada but that couldn't hold a candle to this. It is ice cream on steroids! It has all the creamy deliciousness of ice cream but without the fake/ preservative taste. They put real fruit in it! There is an authentic Gelato bar just steps from my door and after the first tasting it has been calling, shouting, screaming my name! In fact my husband loves me so much that he was willing to trudge through the rain on Saturday night to get me my fix. Mmmmm G-E-L-A-T-O.... anything this tasty must be bad for me so after another Gelato run last night...that's third in a week I have decided it is for special occasions only! Nick is so sweet trying to justify my excessive consumption of Gelato. Nothing says I love you like Gelato :)
This morning I got up and made my usual walk to the market to get our food for the next few days. I picked up some fresh fruit and some beautiful flowers, yellow fuji mums. Fresh flowers are very affordable here, only 2 euros, as they are the largest export of the Netherlands. Everyone seems to pick up flowers with their regular groceries and it is a common site to see someone riding their bike holding on to their groceries in one hand and a bundle of flowers in the other. They are machines on their bikes. I have also seen mothers riding their bikes with groceries and two children strapped on. Tomorrow I am going to make a visit to a very popular bookstore. The picture I've posted is of the inside. It's called Selexyz and it's Maastricht's version of Chapters. Like Gelato being ice cream on steroids, this is Chapters on steroids.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Welcome to the World!

A beautiful baby girl came in to the world yesterday. Welcome to this wonderful world Rilyn Clarke! Congratulations April and John. We now have the first of the Core Phase 2 running around. Lookout world!
Today on my long run it felt like I was experiencing the world for the first time myself. I'm not sure if others have experienced this on a run but everything just felt right in me and in the world. My senses seemed heightened. The air was fresh, clean and crisp and my stride felt long and swift. Nick joined me on my run because things are closed in the Netherlands on Sundays including the gyms. We ran through the city (more like a village) and up the St Pietersburg hill....more like a mountain :( The stretch up the hill is long and winding but when you reach the top the lookout over the city and the countryside is breath taking. The gingerbread rooftops, stone buildings and churches look straight out of the 1700's. At the top there is a dog park where we see a wide variety of dogs; greyhounds, french bull dogs, sheep dogs and many more. I always point out the cutest ones and Nick always nods in agreement. We scoot into a trail that shoots off from the road. The trail is soft, dry and well groomed and meanders through the dutch countryside. It brings me back to the cross country running days of high school. Nick and I make it back to the apartment 45-minutes later smiling and perspiring. I love the runners high! I've registered for the Amsterdam half marathon in October and look forward to exploring the Netherlands one kilometer at a time.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Well I'm what???

Well, they say home is where the heart is and mine is in Maastricht, Netherlands.
2011 has been the craziest year of my life and it's only half over. Let me set the scene with a quick/ not so quick run down of the events of 2011; working full time as the health and fitness coordinator at a Canadian University, Massage Therapist by night, teacher on the weekend, student of Osteopathy once a month - for the next 5-years, daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, boyfriend is offered a post doc in the Netherlands - boyfriend asks me to marry him - say thank you and then yes! Sell my house in 28-hours, Get married - May 28th - Best Day of my Life, turn the BIG 30! take a one year leave of absence from my great job, pack 3 bags of clothes - get onto a plane with my two cats and move across the world to Maastricht, Netherlands to join my husband of one month. Wow, that was intense! Now what??? I've been living my life at a speed of 500 mph and I just slowed down to 0 mph. I feel excited, scared, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, rested, lazy...I was moving so fast I didn't really have time to feel and now that I've had a moment to sit they are hitting me like a ton of bricks. I have decided that during my year away from the crazy life that I have created I am going to discover who I really am, what life is about and what it is I want out of this life...a short order I know. I will call this year of adventure, 365-days of self-discovery - A Canadian Girl in Maastricht. Some days will be eventful, profound, enlightening (I hope) and some days not so much. I do promise one thing. The blog will never be boring - because "only boring people get bored" Elizabeth Taylor, and I am definitely not one of those.