Feedback is not just for Hi-Fi Systems

Wanna tell me what you think? Email me at and I may just devote an entire entry to your comment.

Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Heaven on Wheels

Heads up sweet sisters- I will state the obvious. I am indeed in love with my bike. This has been a great love for some time but I feel it needs to be restated here and now.

The burst of emotion comes from the fact that last week I had a bike fit that changed my life (god bless you dear Matt) and now, riding my bike feels like sitting on a couch.
I should say that for the previous month or so I was not so happy with my dear Bella. Yes, every bike should have a name- and mine is Bella…. If you fell this is nutty- please hold your tongue. Silence is golden and shine on immediately.

But Bella and I worked out our issues as I spent almost 3 hours at a physiotherapist/bike fitter 10 days ago. Now Bella is perfection.

My love for Bella also stems from the fact that as I write this- I am watching the final stages of the ultimate bike race…. The Tour de France.

Yes, my girlfriends, I have spent the last 21 days watching men with 1% body fat ride through France and England for glory and greatness and the pursuit of a yellow jersey. The Tour de France ended on Sunday and there I was in my living room watching the “boys on the bikes” ride around Paris on the last leg of the race. Sweat streamed down their faces as tears flowed across mine.

Yes, I was crying. I should say that watching certain sporting events of an International scale makes me get a little “wellie”. I am dry eyed during any commercial football, hockey or baseball match. Put me in front of any Olympic event and I lose my emotional shit, so to speak. Yes, I am fine at the world series but I am reduced to sobs at Olympic curling. It makes no sense.

So there I was sobbing with joy as the boys from Astana Cycling drank champagne on their bikes going 45km/h riding into Paris on the last leg of the 3000 km stage race.

And it dawned on me that in those moments I identified with these men on wheels. You see I too am a cyclist. No, I can not hit speeds of 50km/h while riding up the side of a mountain and yes I would pass any drug test you gave me- but somehow- these boys on the bikes and I were one in those moments as my television tuned to the Australian broadcast of the Tour and my heart tuned to the spinning of the wheels.

I should say that I’ve been watching the Tour for about the last 4 years now. At first I was in it for “The Bike Porn”. I saw the Tour de France as a giant high speed shopping experience where I could check out the latest bikes, outfits and accessories and see how everything looked. I really did not know any of the key players, nor did I understand the rules of the game, so to speak. I was a “commercial observer”; looking at bikes, their paint jobs and seeing which cycling kit was indeed the most stylish.

But about 3 years ago, I learned about the history of this grand bike race. I learned that there is a point system within the race and that there are indeed “mini races” within the race itself. There are prizes for best young rider, best climber and most aggressive rider. I learned that the Tour has a rich history that goes beyond a set of fabulous gears and a good paint job. I learned about the role of each member of a cycling team- the sprinters, the climbers and the “work horses”.

And then, I fell in love with the Tour.

And so for the last 3 weeks I’ve spent most evenings watching the previous day’s race (thank you PVR). I would come home from my own day on my bicycle and turn on the Tour, make dinner, do paperwork, laundry, dishes…. All with the whir of the wheels and the Australian commentator’s voice in the background. 

It was quit meditative, relaxing if you will.

Here I was a girl in Canada cheering for a bunch of International men in Europe
And then it hit me- cycling really is a sport that ignites a primordial connection in us all.

As anyone knows- cycling has seen its fair share of controversy. The sport has been tainted with doping scandals that have questioned the legitimacy of the riders’ abilities.

I have mixed feelings about all of it. Yes, doping IS cheating. But as a scientist- I know full well that even with the best drugs on board riding through the French Alps at 50 km/h is no small feat. Make no mistake- I’m not a fan of doping but I don’t think it cancels out all of the hard work and training that goes in to making a world class rider.

I do believe despite the controversy in cycling that there is a purity of the sport. A bike brings out the best in all of us.

The health benefits of cycling are pretty impressive. As someone who commutes to work every day- the ride indeed takes less time than the drive. A recent study out of Stanford University took almost 100 sedentary insomniacs and asked them to ride a bicycle for 20-30 minutes every other day. The result was that their time to fall asleep was reduced by half and their time asleep increased by an hour. This could be because riding outside exposes you to sunlight- which may prime your circadian rhythms further.

Let’s not ignore the fact that exercise of any kind improves memory, cardiovascular fitness and reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

King’s College London compared over 2,400 identical twins and found those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years ‘biologically younger’ even after discounting other influences, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking.

And then there is that primordial connection that riding a bike brings.

A bike was our first real gift. As a kid all you wanted for your birthday or for Christmas was a bike. The person who bought you your first bike was one of the most important people in your lives. And once you had your bike- it was your first real sense of freedom.

You pain stakingly learned to ride a bike under the watchful guidance of someone who loved you. Learning to ride a bike takes patience an perseverance; two skills that would serve you well for the rest of your life.

Your bike was your ticket to the world beyond your neighbourhood. Your bike was your first real item that you owned. You locked your bike up at night to protect YOUR property. Your bike belonged to you. My sweaters were once my sisters- my baseball glove was once hers as well.

But my perfect pink Schwinn with the banana seat and handle bar streamers was MINE. ALL MINE. Every bike I have owned since must measure up to that frame of reference.

And when I learned to ride her without the training wheels and without my father’s supervising eye- I knew I had arrived.

And so here I sit many years later with 3 (yes, I have a cycling abuse problem) bicycles parked safely downstairs in our bike room. Back from a ride and a visit to my youth, to my sense of freedom- to my happy place.

I am watching the boys on the bikes make their last laps through the cobblestone streets of Paris and a part of me knows that they too feel the connection to the little boy with training wheels and that first sense of freedom.

And as the tears stream down my face I am reminded that some of the best things in the life- health and otherwise can happen on the seat of a bike.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Good Clothes Open All Doors

Happy Tuesday dear sisters. As I write this blog I am sitting in my latest new outfit. Yes, my sisters- may I say that I have made a rather fabulous fashion purchase.

No this was not a perfect pair of strappy sandals and no I did not invest in a new summer fabulous of any kind. Instead I  found my self in my ultimate new power suit….. my new wetsuit.

Oh sweet sisters- have you been in a wetsuit? If not… allow me to talk you through this fashion experience.

A wetsuit is basically a suit made of neoprene coated in rubber. It’s basically a body condom lined in scuba material. On the good side? It is the ultimate set of spanx. A wetsuit sucks “everything in” in all the right places. My wetsuit makes me feel like a superhero. In my wetsuit- I AM Wonderwoman. In my wetsuit I am a size 6 supermodel and I piss awesome.

This is of coarse all possible ONCE I am IN my wetsuit. Getting into my wetsuit is indeed the down side of it all.

Have you ever tried on a wetsuit? In short… it’s a bitch to get on. You know that scene where you are putting on a pair of control top pantyhose that are easily a size too small? You struggle and you suck it in and you bounce around on one leg and before you know it- you manage to put all of your wiggly bits into the right place.

Let me paint the scene. There I am in my fabulous new bathing suit that I will wear to my triathlon as I hold my wetsuit in front of me. It is a black rubber full length suit with just the right amount  of blue accents on the arms and legs. My wetsuit is beautiful black and laying there it looks like it might be the promise of perfection for my race this weekend.

And then I try and put this rubber suit on. And that is where the beauty ends.

Putting on my wetsuit is indeed a work out in itself. I stick my feet intro the rubber holes that are the legs of this suit. I then spend the next 5 minutes wrestling with this rubber suit as it fight its way onto my thighs. I feel as though I am wrestling a very large animal wrapped in rubber bungee cords. And the large rubber animal is my lower torso. I am sweating now. I muster a grunt- more for effect than anything. After much effort I have managed to put this rubber suit over my hips and thighs. And now I pull the suit up over my chest and torso and slide my arms into it.

By this time my body temperature is easily three degrees higher. I am now sweating but I am zipped in. I turn to look at my reflection in the mirror and yes…. Despite the sweat over my face and the fact that I look like I’ve just ran a few kilometers- I am in this suit and I am ready for my magical moment.

This morning I engaged in this very ritual at the beach at Kitsilano. My goal was to swim 2km in Kits pool in my wetsuit and then to take a turn in the ocean.

My plan was to get my “ocean legs” wet- to play in the ocean until I was really and truly comfortable there. You see my girlfriends- I have a 2km ocean swim ahead of me on Sunday and I am…well… a bit unsettled by the idea of an ocean swim.

 It’s the whole idea of putting your face in the water and seeing nothing but green. IN a pool you can see the bottom. In the ocean the view looks like pea soup. It can be a bit unsettling. If I am truly being honest- the first time I did it.... it scared the shit out of me.

It's like staring into space and having an existential crisis all at the same time. I think it's about feeling alone in the world.... that primordial sense of isolation that human beings find so alienating. Yes, I am being philosophical. To bring it down a notch? It feels like you are 6 years old and afraid of the dark. Instead "the dark" is the ocean and you are by yourself in it. You put your face in and can't see a thing. If you do see something it might be a shark..... okay, I'm being dramatic and a chicken shit. But hey, go with it.

And so I needed to rid myself of this irrational fear. My plan was to put a song in my head and may face in the water and not come up until the fear had washed away.

There I was on a beautiful day off frolicking in the Pacific in my new wetsuit. I put my underwater MP3 on and listened to Vampire Weekend as I pretended I was one part Wonderwoman- one part mermaid. Thirty minutes later- it worked. There I was jumping and swimming and diving up and under to some fabulous tunes on a fabulous day in a fabulous new wetsuit. And I was anything but afraid.

Swimming in a wetsuit is indeed an interesting experience. There you are encased in rubber and I must say that breathing is a bit more laboured than in a regular bathing suit. It feels a bit “compressed” if you will.  This, however, gets better with experience. Ten minutes into my wetsuit swim and I was much better at the breathing/rubber combination.

With all of these adjustments, one must ask a sister- why even put on the wetsuit?

Turns out- there is an advantage to swimming in a rubber suit when swimming in the ocean.

Firstly there is the warmth factor.

When a swimmer is submerged in water- the water flows into the suit settling between the rubber and the body. The swimmers own body temperature will warm the water and therefore warm the swimmer. As you swim- the body warms up and warms the water further. Again this warms the body further. And so a wetsuit is the perfect way to keep you warm when you are in the Pacific Ocean in the pursuit of a dream.

Then there is the concept that a wetsuit improves your buoyancy and therefore improves you speed. Think of it like a boat driving on the water. The more you are able to stay on the surface- the faster it will be.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 1991, wetsuits indeed improve performance in both short and long distance swims. The study looked at 16 elite athletes swimming both in and out of wetsuits at 400m and 1500m distances.

While wearing a wetsuits the swimmers were able to reduce their speeds by 14 seconds on average for the 400metres and 35 seconds for the 1500 metres.

The interesting thing was that the effect was most pronounced for the thinner swimmers. The theory was that heavier swimmers were already more buoyant and had an added advantage.

And so this Sunday, my girlfriends I will frolic in the Pacific and swim for glory in my fabulous rubber suit. I will be warm thanks to the mechanic of it all and I may even pee shamelessly in the suit if I want to. Who knows if my time will be better with the suit than without…. As with most things, my girlfriends- I’m in it for the fashion statement more than anything else. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In Case of Emergency

Last week I took my dogs to the vet. Yes, I am ONE OF THOSE people. I will not defend my love for my furry monsters; only to say that yes, I know they are dogs and no I would not give them chemo if they were diagnosed with cancer. I love my puppies. They are fuzzy and cute but I am well aware that they are DOGS.

That being said, I somehow find it completely acceptable to spend 45 dollars to have their nails clipped. In my defense, sweet sisters… my older dog Lola has black nails. Have you ever cut a dog’s nails that are black? This poses a problem because the anatomy of a dog’s nail is such that there is what is called a “quick” that is essentially a tube of flesh that run inside the nail that houses the blood vessels and nerves. If you cut the nail too short you will cut the quick.

If your dog has white nails- the quick is easy to see. Black nails? It’s totally a guessing game. In fact I would argue that of all the advancements we’ve made in science and technology today- you’d think there would be some way to cut a black dog’s nails without fear and the threat of a massacre. Cutting a black dog’s nails is still pretty much a crapshoot. If indeed you cut the quick of an adorable black long hair Chihuahua who only wants to lick your face and you are indeed a monster.

And so, I leave this to my vet’s technician. I pay 45 dollars for a professional to take one for the team and my dog Lola, still loves me shamelessly. As for the technician? Lola fucking hates her. 

But I digress. There I was in the vet’s office when I saw the most unusual advertisement. There are THUNDER JACKETS for dogs. In general many animals are petrified of thunder. We’ve all heard the stories of dogs hiding under meds and owners during thunderstorms. My dogs are completely oblivious. I don’t know why but I do know that most dogs are petrified of thunder.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 2001 a survey of 69 cases of “Thunderstorm Phobia” shows that it is indeed most prevalent in herding dogs (41 of the 69 cases). More than 25% exhibited features before one year of age. Methods to control such phobia include giving the dogs a mild sedative or wrapping them in a tight fitting jacket, blanket or shirt.

And thus the THUNDERJACKET was born. Apparently this jacket makes the dog feel safe. And don’t we all just want to feel safe?

It turns out you can buy said jacket online (or at my vet’s office) and sure enough the dog gets the fashion equivalent of an Ativan.

I left the office thinking about this concept as I made my way home with freshly manicured pups in tow.

A piece of clothing that you put on and sure enough…. It provides you with a sense of safety.

We all have said fashion items in some for or another, don’t we? Sure there is the obvious:

Safety goggles
Sun Glasses
Bike Helmets
Rain boots
Winter Boots

There’s the obvious protective gear out here for any occasion.

But what about the items we wear to protect the most important parts of our beings?

Bill Cunningham the famous fashion photographer once said,


Too true MR. Cunningham, too true.

I got home from my vets office and gave Lola and Ruby a treat for their effort. (Yes, I reward my dogs with food- I am a terrible parent. But rest assured I reward myself with shoes)

I went upstairs to my closet and looked around. There hanging were numerous “Thunder jackets” of my own; pieces of clothing, outfits I had bought over the years with no real occasion to wear them other than that in a pinch- they made me feel safe.

Just last week I bought a ball gown on sale (80% off sweet sisters- it practically bought me) that is perfection. It is a serious ball gown- silk taffeta with muticoloured bats on it. I have absolutely nowhere to wear this thing. But I brought it home, put it on and immediately started doing my paperwork in it.

Three weeks ago after a grueling workday, I cycled home, changed out of my bike gear and put on a cocktail dress to do laundry.

I watch the Oscars every year in full evening attire. I wash a bad day away not with a glass of wine but by putting on a perfect pair of strappy sandals. Right now I am wearing Charlotte Olympia’s Lobster shoes and my pajamas.

These are my metaphorical THUNDER JACKETS…. My armour against the world, my fashionable port in a world full of storms.

Isn’t that what a girl needs sometimes? Some sort of place in her every day life where she feels safe? When we were kids it was a safety blanket…. Now it’s Manolo Blahnik?

I suspect this sounds ridiculous to some but indeed these iconic pieces in my closet soothe the soul. Each has a story and a purpose. Some are art and just pretty to look at- others remind of the place and the time and the feeling that I had when I wore them.

Perhaps I’m shallow, perhaps I’m superficial or maybe I’m a fashion prophet. Maybe I am on to something? Maybe like those herding dogs a percentage of us need a “Thunder jacket” of some kind to get us through the day.

Judge as you will my sisters…. But before you do, might I suggest you get yourself just one perfect ball gown- one perfect piece of clothing with no rhyme or reason. Something pretty and impractical- frivolous but fabulous. Maybe you already have? Buy it or get it out of storage and put it on after a perfectly shitty day….

And go do the laundry.

Fashion is indeed the armour we wear against the world my sisters…. And it’s often a war out there. So thunder jacket or not, you had best, dress accordingly.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Canadian Virtue?

As I write this- Today is Canada day. As your read this it will not be Canada day. No sweet sisters- I could not get my shit together in time to post on a Tuesday, despite the fact that it was a 4-day weekend. Yes, I am training for a dreaded Half Iron Man and yes I am using this as an excuse to shirk certain responsibilities.

The importance of a CANADA DAY post rests in the point that Canadians indeed posses certain iconic traits that I must discuss here.


Canadians are a patient people. We are a country that waits our turn. Walk down a street in any major city in Canada during rush hour and you will see people lining up at bus stops. There they are- a row of orderly Canadians waiting their turn to board the bus. 

I am a very proud Canuck. I love my country fiercely. Like any great relationship I am easy to point out its flaws as a nation and easy to forgive some of them. As someone who loves here country I relish in the fact that I bear a good deal of Canadian traits.

I apologize profusely. I am sorry for most of my existence. I voice my apologies easily and often. Last week I bumped into our living room furniture and found myself asking for forgiveness from an ottoman.

I am polite. Please and Thank you are a part of my everyday vernacular. Canadians are known for their polite way of going about their day. We are especially polite in a foreign country…. Our mothers would be furious with any other behaviour.

Not only do I pride myself on spelling COLOUR,  BEHAVIOUR and HONOUR, I love the metric system and easily can convert celicius to Fahrenheit without a calculator.

And although my religion is not Hockey, I am a fan of socialized medicine. When the maple leaf hits the flag, this is my country though and through. Saints or sinners, Good or bad, I’ll stand on guard – not blindly but with an ever cautious questioning eye in the true spirit of a country born of polite conflict.

Yes, I am Canadian though and through. Born on the prairies, I’ve lived east (if you consider Ontario really east) and west.

But, I am not a patient woman. This is not a new revelation but I have noticed lately with 40 long passed that I’m willing to admit certain things about myself with more pride than shame.

This dawns on me as I write this- the day after Canada day. Just this morning I stood in line behind a woman who took 4 minutes to order her coffee. Yes she was a tourist fresh off a cruise ship but who has the time to wait 240 seconds for someone to decide between a “grande latte” and a “regular cappuccino”. Isn’t the difference just FOAM?

I shared this helpful information with her only to realize that my input was not speeding the process along but indeed impairing her ability to make a decision.

“Is the coffee good here?” she asked.

Ever the Canadian my polite side kicked in.

“My favourite”, (notice the spelling?) I said.

“What should I get?” she asked eyes, like a baby deer, pleading with me for some certainty? Her accent was British of some sort- and I felt compelled given our Commonwealth and all to help her out…

“Get a grande latte and be done with it. Tomorrow you can try the cappuccino.”

And there you have it. She ordered the latte and the day moved on. I should tell you that I was pleased with my act of coffee compassion. But I was not. When it comes to Java, I lack patience. I believe that my coffee place should have one line up reserved especially for me. I am this way with driving a car as well. This is perhaps why I do not own a car.

Until the city installs a new road just for me to drive on… I’m holding out on the whole automobile purchase. Perhaps this is why I ride my bike? Indeed I see the bike lane as my OWN?

Patience has never been my virtue. As a child I ate dessert first, as an adult I open birthday gifts in July and I was born in February.

Ironically in my work I am a very patient woman. But at home…. There is no delaying the 8 year old in my brain who wants it all right now.

According to Susan Cain, author of QUIET, I am less patient because I am an extrovert (shocker).

Patience can be taught. The art of slow contemplation of tasks and ideas can be innate or a learned skill.

There is a class at Harvard University, which teaches this very principle. The answer lies in teaching methods that stress patience, critical thinking, and a delayed response based on deep and meaningful contemplation.

Jennifer Roberts a humanities professor at Harvard teaches her students to contemplate and shift the pace and tempo of learning to wards work that requires you to slow down in order to pick up the knowledge.

In medicine and study I am patient. In life I am not. Could it be that there is a concept called situational patience? Could it be that in matters of the head I am slow and contemplative but when it comes to daily tasks, the world best move the hell out of the way so as to allow me to GET ‘ER DONE?

Who knows?

I am happy to resolve the issue by saying I have situational patience. This does not make me less of a patriot. I still apologize the furniture and am polite to a fault even when it means my coffee must wait.

But as for waiting in line at a bus stop? Screw it… I’d rather take my bike.