Thursday, February 23, 2012

Switzerland...again :)

I just arrived in Switzerland for my course on the Upper Extremity and Lymphatics. Another fun filled 5-days in Herstenstein. I got up at 3:30am this morning to make the shuttle to the airport and after walking for 3-days in Paris I'm really feeling all this traveling. I am beat! Not complaining and nothing a good nights sleep can't fix but I was passing out hard on the train. I was lucky I got to spend most of the day on Wednesday at home getting things in order so I could leave again so I got some much needed quality time with my furry babies. I am missing them already. I usually don't start to miss them until I've been here for 3-days but I guess I didn't get caught up on my kitty time after Paris.
Did I mention I miss Nick too???? I do!
Laura was amazing and took care of them for us while we were in Paris. They love their Auntie Laura. She was even so kind as to do a photo shoot and here are a few of the spectacular shots that she got. Pumpkin looks like she just finished dinner and is tidying up. Maggie has the cleanest face she has ever had in her entire life...what's your secret Laura??? Also note the animal doll Nick got for them at the grocery store. When I introduced it to them they were deathly afraid and after one evening with Nick it is now their favorite toy. Gizmo looks like she is screaming "I want my mother" or maybe that's just what I need to believe. Thanks for taking great care of the babies Laura!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

J'Adore Paris!

Nick and I just got back from three fantastic days in Paris. I know that Paris sounds a little cliche but it was anything but. It was beautiful, it was historic, it was clean, it was cultured, it was WONDERFUL!
It was an easy 2-hour train ride to Paris and we arrived at the Gare Nord at 10am. We caught a taxi and zipped through the streets of Paris. Some of my french came flooding back, not much but enough :) Our hotel was called the Hotel Elysees Mermoz, and it is a boutique hotel just off the Champs Elysees. Our check in was not until 2pm so we dropped off our bags and headed out to check out our surroundings. As soon as we stepped out to the Champs Elysees we saw the Eiffel Tower. Yeah!!!! We're really here. We grabbed some Starbucks, I know we were in Paris but we don't have Starbucks in the Netherlands and it's one of my favourites. I love my skinny half sweet vanilla latte :)
We decided to do a really nice dinner our first night and to enjoy some of the cafes and more relaxed spots for the rest of our meals. We ate at a really nice little restaurant that we passed on our way back to the hotel. We popped in and made a reservation. We had tuna steak, vegetables and fresh bread. The server recommended a delicious bordeaux and it was perfect. That night we hit the pit early and I bribed Nick into another full day of walking with a foot rub. Yes, he is spoiled! We had perfect weather a sunny 6 degrees for our entire trip. It was so sunny Nick had to buy cheap shades because he had forgotten to pack his. I think they looked good but he thought he looked funny.
If I can make any suggestions to improve a tourists experience it is to get yourself a copy of Lonely Planet. My friend Laura let us borrow hers and it was wonderful to read about the history, culture, and must see attractions. We walked the Champs Elysees, toured the Arc De Triomphe, the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, and the Muse dela Defense. We stopped for lunch and then headed back to the hotel to freshen up. Later that day we walked to the square where they used the guillotine to publicly behead people. It is now a peace square. I wanted to wait until the evening to go to the Eiffel Tower but I
couldn't wait. It was breathtaking! From a distance it was neat to see but up close it blew me away. It is beautiful! I am a proud Canadian but the Eiffel Tower kicks the CN towers butt...if it had one :)
On day two we got up early and had a fantastic breakfast, we went for a run on our tired feet and then headed to the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre. People were out sunning themselves in the gardens and again I was blown away by the Louvre. It was spectacular! After touring the outside we headed on to Notre Dame. We crossed over the love lock bridge and past streets with artists, old books and collectibles. This was a spot that left me a little underwhelmed. The architecture was beautiful but I found it sad how they have commercialized the building. Selling collectables at the door just seemed wrong. I guess that to stay alive even the church feels they need to conform. We had dinner at a cute cafe; yummy soup, salad and fresh bread. Nick and I stopped at a bakery and Igot an amazing french pastry. Delicious!!!! That evening we went to the Lafyette Gallery to check out the shopping. We saw Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, and Christian Louboutin. Amazing!!!
On day three we went back to the Eiffel Tower and checked out the Military Academy where Napolean went to school, the Mars Park and the modern peace installation. On the way back we stopped for photos at the Canadian Embassy :)
We saw so many more things then I can mention in my blog but I have to say Paris is now my favourite. I highly recommend a visit. I know I say this every time we go somewhere new but I really mean it this time :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Foundation of Happiness is Health

Since my presentation at UM Sport on Feb 5th, a number of other projects have come up. Sometimes a foot in the door is all you need to get the ball rolling! I am currently organizing a health promotion event for the month of April for all employees of Maastricht University. The photo I put up is the employee health committees logo.
When I worked as a corporate health and fitness consultant for Trifit when I first graduated from University I had the chance to develop a number of these types of health promotion programs and when I was hired at McMaster I joined the Healthy Workplace Group so that I could continue to share the importance of healthy living with the community.
I am really excited about this opportunity. It gives me the chance to marry many of my passions and interests. I get to be creative, meet new people and inspire others to become more physically active. I have also been invited to facilitate some physical activity events for international students. What can I say, when it rains, it pours! This weekend Nick and I will celebrate our first Carnaval and then we are headed to Paris Sunday to Tuesday. Paris is a city that I have always wanted to see and I'm excited to share my first visit with Nick. There is so much to be happy about :)
The title of my blog today "The Foundation of Happiness is Health" comes from my recent self reflections on happiness. According to an article posted by Lululemon, we can start to control happiness by coming back to its three measured components: pleasure, meaning and participation in life. When I first arrived here I felt a little lost and there were some days that my emotions got the better of me. I was missing my family, my community and my sense of belonging. I feel like I have settled in and am hitting my stride largely because of my connection and passion for health. My regular participation in a variety physical activities and having fitness classes to teach gave me a sense of connection. I felt better about myself because I was doing something positive for my health and I was getting to know my community through exploring running trails and trying different activities offered in Maastricht. Teaching classes gave me a schedule and allowed me to connect with others by sharing knowledge and my love of exercise. Teaching fitness gave me purpose and meaning. I had a place to be and people who relied one me. I have participated in local races, connected with the University staff and students as well as the Maastricht community because of my teaching. Health really has been the foundation of my happiness here. My advice is to firstly, find pleasure in everything – big and small. Whether it be running and enjoying the scenery in a new place or learning to count in Dutch in a fitness class. There is always something to be excited about. Secondly, search for understanding and discover meaning and purpose. There is a reason you are where you are and a purpose for every opportunity that presents itself. Thirdly, commit to and participate in your life. Don't count down the minutes, make the minutes count. Seek out opportunities and embrace new relationships. In the end, what you get out of an experience is up to you. Embrace it and enjoy it :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Alana Harris - International Health and Fitness Presenter

Today I fulfilled a lifelong dream! International presenter...check that one off the bucket list :)
Over the years I have come to love sharing my passion for sharing health and fitness related information with others. I love teaching and I love talking about exercise and health so when UM Sport asked me if I would prepare two continuing education workshops for the staff I jumped at the opportunity. Today I taught a workshop on "Running Mechanics - Developing Your Coaching Eye" and a "Mind, Body, Spirit" workshop. I really enjoyed doing the research and thinking about the topics creatively. The Running Mechanics workshop was well received and the group seemed to really appreciate the information that I shared. I did a brief presentation of related theory; the gait cycle, 7 zones to focus your trainers eye, 10 characteristics of efficient running form and I took them through skills and drills to develop efficient running mechanics.
I really enjoyed putting together the Mind, Body, Spirit workshop and thinking outside the box. I had the opportunity to reflect on my own beliefs and values around Sport and Exercise. I changed the title to empower the MIND, train the BODY, awaken the SPIRIT and my approach was that it is a message and not a mode. I think a lot of people get caught up in thinking about Yoga when they hear the topic Mind, Body, Spirit. I think the focus should be on connecting the Mind, Body, Spirit through positive motivational cues, affirmations, visualization, imagery and self love in your classes and coaching. We did an exercise to connect the breath with movement, an introduction to meditation and a biofeedback exercise. I wasn't sure how people would respond but I received a lot of positive feedback. It was a wonderful day and I felt honored to be given the opportunity. Thank you UM Sport!