The world’s most sophisticated garage gym

One of the first things JF and I noticed when we got to Elmvale was that there was no fitness centre. Not that we’re gym bunnies or anything. We’re more like couch bunnies – the soft and fat kind that die when they get released from captivity – but part of the goal in moving to Simcoe County was to live a healthier lifestyle.

I’ve written about the Elmvale 15: a squishy layer acquired over fall 2013, inconveniently located where I do up my pants. When my Elmvalian colleague told me about Swift Fitness, a gym on a country road frequented by locals, I promptly signed up for Monday interval classes.

When I pulled into the driveway on day one, tugging at my too small Lululemon pants, I did my best to contain my dismay at its location: a garage. An enormous and new garage with shiny windows next to a big beautiful home in the woods – but a car park is a car park. Or so I thought.

After walking in, my opinion shifted instantly. That garage is fancy and full of new equipment: exercise balls, weights, punching bags of all sizes, yoga mats, benches, a water cooler, those scary elastic band things, and tons of other bits and bobs I don’t know how to use. Plus it has a decent sound system and cool rubber floor.

By the time I was huffing through my first set of burpees, I was officially impressed. There are only ever a dozen people in the garage at a time, so there’s nowhere to hide. Instructors tell you when you’re not squatting deep enough, lifting high enough, or punching strong enough. Plus I’m surrounded by neighbours – so I’ve got to exercise with gusto or feel shame every time I shop at Elmvale Foodland.

And this is what I do after class. Sit on the couch and watch Star Trek in my exercise clothes.

And this is what I do after class. Sit on the couch and watch Star Trek in my exercise clothes.

Since starting classes, I haven’t dropped any of the 15. But my pants are starting to fit better and I feel better – which everyone keeps telling me is more important. Plus I have totally opened my mind to the potential of garages.

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Bog love

JF is enjoying summer solstice (i.e. drinking beer) in the beautiful Yukon this weekend and I’m sappy enough to admit I miss him terribly. So I thought I’d devote some cyberspace to a place we both love: Tiny Marsh.

We’ve been together nine years and marsh-goers for about six. It’s our favourite place for phone-free, brains-off time together. When we lived in Toronto, we’d often stop there to catch our breaths before wading into cottage-country traffic. These days, we visit it every two weeks or so.

Us at the marsh in 2009

Us at the marsh in 2009

Why do we love this patch of bog so much? Lots of reasons:

  1. Groomed trails
  2. No entry fee
  3. Minutes from home
  4. Fresh air – except in spring, when it reeks of hydrogen sulfide
  5. Many birds live there, some rare
  6. It’s beautiful

Though items one to four are handy, five and six are essential to any JF and Mik-friendly space.

You see, JF is a birder.  Not a birdwatcher, a birder. Because apparently, there’s a difference. For years, he’s trudged through forest, field and swamp to hear or see as wide a variety of species as he can – like a real-life Ash from Pokémon.

Personally, I think the whole thing is sweet and nerdy, just like him.  There are only two challenges with his hobby:

  • He doesn’t like to hike where he can’t add new birds to his annual “gotta see or hear ‘em all” list.
  • I find crouching over spotting scopes, peering through binoculars, and flipping through Sibley’s about as exciting as scrubbing my baseboards

Much as I aspire to JF’s level of nerddom, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m more like these two: 

Which is why the marsh’s prettiness is important. It’s filled with lovely things for me to admire and take photos of. There are shady woods, sunny fields and big wide vistas. We’re still finding new nooks and crannies.

Through the years, we’ve shared our love of Tiny Marsh with friends and family. Here are a few photos of people who have explored it with me.

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When JF gets back, I think I’ll request a boggy picnic. In the meantime, I might take a sentimental stroll down the dikes by myself.

Busy nothings

Life in sleepy Elmvale is ticking along quietly. The garden is now only 80% weeds. Slowly, slowly we are making progress on house projects. Barbecued broccoli is my new favourite food. And there are orange popsicles in the freezer.

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The beautiful thing about summertime is that there isn’t anything big and exciting to report. Instead, life is a series of non-events. Here are some recent ones:

Toby turned 100,000 kilometres

Can you believe my little Honda Fit, Tobias, has aged 40,000kms since I got him? I hardly know where the time and distance have gone. JF gifted him to me about this time last year, and my life has been infinitely more mobile since.

Tobias' widgets the other day.

Tobias’ widgets the other day.

I exercised a few times

Confession: my January health revolution never happened. Instead, I gained a remarkable 10 pounds over the winter. So, I’ve given up on self-guided fitness regimes, joined shame-inducing Zumba classes at No Borders Fitness, and started briskly walking with colleagues at lunch. I also do weekly lifts, squats and planks at Swift Fitness, the most sophisticated garage gym I’ve ever seen. And I hate burpees.

My choir put on a show

Le Choeur de la Clé, the francophone community choir I belong to, put on a love-themed concert late May. It was great fun. I even performed in a trio with my lovely cousin Nicole and dear old friend Joël.

My view, every Tuesday night during choir practice

My view, every Tuesday night during choir practice

JF and I went garage sale-ing

As you all know, there is nothing I love more than old or dead people’s cheap stuff — except maybe barbecued broccoli. Toronto garage sales are expensive and infrequent. Their Elmvale counterparts are far more fun and plentiful. Plus they often come with ¢25 cookies baked by little old ladies. My favourite find was the scarred wooden duck/target I purchased for a steep $2. I called him Ferdinand, and he lives on my front porch.

In the words of Fanny Price (movie edition), “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

 

The Elmvale 15

Over the last two weeks I’ve ingested a Toblerone, two bags of Kernels popcorn, three bags of chips, several handfuls of jujubes and at least three cups of red and green m&ms.

My pants don’t fit me, my belly jollily jiggles like Santa’s, and worst of all, I feel like a (vaguely) human-shaped lump of butter. I’m calling the weight I’ve gained the Elmvale 15.

These days, I blame holiday baking. I must have eaten a solid dozen cookies yesterday. And today I had two chocolate-covered, tree-shaped sugar cookies for breakfast.

Evil Christmas cookies.

Evil Christmas cookies.

Other malefactors include: wine, the Elmvale bakery’s boston cream doughnuts, the cafeteria at work, my enabler partner JF, and Tobias.

Who knew my little blue Honda would keep me off my feet so constantly? The other day I drove from our house to the post office – just over 200 meters. Brutal.

I guess there was an advantage to the TTC’s suckiness after all; it forced me to get off my ass and walk.

Which brings me to the real culprit: slothfulness. Remember when I pledged to exercise regularly in July? Well, the closest I came to a fitness routine was the occasional leisurely stroll through Tiny Marsh, back when Simcoe County wasn’t coated in ice.

I often say I don’t have time, but the truth is that JF and I have somehow managed to watch two full seasons of the original Star Trek since October. Imagine how healthy I would be if I had spent those 50 or so hours running, lifting weights and eating kale – I’d look like 80s Cindy Crawford!

All of this to say I’ve become the dreaded Flabby Lefaive. And after my usual mulled-wine-and-sugar-induced January hangover, I’m going to do something about it. For real. Starting with a cleanse.

I would, after all, like to live long and prosper.

Exercising Judgment

Long, long ago (about a month), my friend Michelle and I were going to morning gym classes twice a week. I would wake up at 5:30 a.m., be out the door by 5:50 a.m. and squeak into Body Pump for 6:30 a.m. — where Michelle, bless her, had already set up my weights and yoga mat.

After sweating, squatting, jumping, lifting and crunching for about an hour, I always felt fist-pumpingly triumphant. And towards the end of my gym career, I was looking trimmer and sleeping better.

 

Well, my GoodLife membership expired on June 20, and my body knows it. Just call me Jiggly Lefaive. So far the most strenuous exercise I’ve done since then is raise my remote control arm to change the channel. I’ve also undertaken such strenuous activities as walking to bakeries and lifting food to my mouth.

I’ve never exactly been a paragon of good health. I enjoy BBQ-flavoured chips, cookies and red wine. And even though I should be eating gluten free, most of my meals consist of something carby with cheese on top.

But here’s the thing. That’s not how I plan to live the rest of my life. A big part of what attracts us to country living is that we can stop at a neighbour’s place to buy fresh eggs and whatever veggies are in season. That and the non-availability of our two current dietary mainstays: C’est Bon Chinese Restaurant and Bhanjara Indian food.

We also love that there are dozens of reasons to be active outside. Simcoe County offers long trails for biking and amazing beaches for swimming. Wherever our house is, we’ll have access to two marshes, a Provincial Park and several forests.

JF and I like to go to Tiny Marsh, just north of Elmvale

JF and I like to use the trails at Tiny Marsh, north of Elmvale

So now that I am settled into my room at mom’s (five days and counting!) it’s time to get my shit together. My budget doesn’t want me to spend $50 monthly on a gym membership, so I’m going to do my best to use what Simcoe County has to offer to feel healthy again. Or my name will quickly devolve from Jiggly Lefaive to Flabby Lefaive.