Seize the Summer

“Does it ever seem like summers are getting shorter?

Like time is moving faster?”

I said this to my friend Cam as we waited for the Dream in High Park to start in 2004. We had a picnic and some wine and liked to get into the deep stuff. He was a fellow actor but also a sciency sort, and he told me about ‘ratio theory’.
The idea, he explained, is that time is experienced as a percentage of our total existence.  
So for a four year old,  a year represents 25% of his existence. For a 50 year old, a year is only 2% of her life, making it relatively insignificant.
I’ve thought about that theory a lot since that picnic. When it seems like my kids are morphing before my eyes, when I’m still not used to writing 2016 on cheques and the year is half over. Thinking about that picnic also reminds me that we really don’t know how many summers we have left. My lovely friend Cam died in an accident when he was only thirty years old.

So here I am at the starting line of summer… that sweet moment we Canadians wait for during the months of grumbling and scraping our cars in the dark. And I’m thinking,
“Summer 2016, I’m gonna grab you by the balls.”
Because life is short. Because summer is sweet.

Here’s how to do it:

The key is to not wake up in September and realize you forgot to do the things that are important to you. The hard part is identifying those in advance. I tackle it with Persons, Places, and Things:


You know those people that you love being with but you realize you haven’t seen them since that Christmas party? If part of your perfect summer involves reconnecting with certain people, then take action now to make sure it happens. You might be surprised to find out that your next mutually available Saturday is in August.
And then look closer to home and think about your family. Here are some of my essential family experiences for the summer:
  • One big old family reunion. Parents, grandparents, cousins, a casserole that involves cheez whiz. Let’s do this.


  • At least one romantic summer night in the city date with my husband. Bikes. Sundress. Patio (check out this list of Toronto’s most romantic patios)



  • At least one lazy afternoon in the park with my kids per week. Sitting in the sun with my bare feet in the sandbox, watching all sorts of projects and kid drama unfold. Unfortunately, I have the kind of life where I have to schedule this. But it’s happening.


What are your essential summer destinations? I need:
  • A visit to Toronto Island. My husband finds those quad bikes embarrassing but the kids and I outnumber him.

quad bike

  • A visit to a farm to go berry picking. Every year I say ‘let’s go berry picking!’ and my husband informs me we are already into apple season. That’s how in tune with nature I am. Here’s a great list of what is in season in Ontario and here’s where to get it. Advance warning: Strawberries are over in July. OVER.


  • A trip. Sure, a Euro rail pass would be great, but I’m talking about even a road trip to Port Dover, Ontario (which, by the way, has a surprisingly delightful 1950’s seaside kitch vibe). Here’s a link to some other awesome options.  (Did you know there is an Apple Pie trail? Doesn’t that strike you as an EMERGENCY?)

apple pie

  • To just be outside.  This seems obvious but we are creatures of habit. What routines can you move outside? Your lunch at work? Your workout (cough cough Bootcamps) Meetings? Your commute? Dinner? Watching the entire third season of Orange is the New Black on your laptop in the front porch after the kids go to sleep?
This is actually a picture of my sister, Shannon Duncan, doing her SEO job in the forest using a car battery and a homemade stepper for exercise. I'll just let that sit for a bit.
This is actually a picture of my sister, Shannon Duncan, doing her SEO job in the forest using a car battery and a homemade stepper for exercise. I’ll just let that sit for a bit.


Another theory of why time seems to speed up as we get older is that we measure time in memorable events. (I talk about this in my blog trying to convince you to sign up for a race) Whereas childhood is marked by many ‘firsts’ and memorable experiences, adult life tends to be more routine and a lack of memorable events causes the time to smooth out and condense.
So what things can you do this summer to create memories?


  • Throw a party. I actually hate hosting parties like most people hate exercising but I’m always glad when I do it. My favourite low-key party is bringing pizza and sangria to the park and inviting a bunch of families for a 5-7pm type thing. Easy, cheap and no clean up. Perfect for a June school night.
  • Run a race. Or tackle a section of the Bruce Trail each weekend. Or join a Bootcamp and commit to going every day. Do the Ride for Heart. Learn how to salsa. Make Summer 2015 the year you accomplished something and made yourself proud.


Most importantly, in all this summer planning, schedule unscheduled time.
There is another theory that time speeds up as we age due to stress.
The feeling that we don’t have enough time to get things done can be reinterpreted by our brains as time passing too quickly. So whether you tick off everything on your perfect summer list or not, take the time to breathe and savour every minute of the summer you have. Like this one. 🙂

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Five reasons you should sign up for that race…that have nothing to do with running.

Here we go. Another article by a personal trainer, waving the pom poms and saying you should just sign up for that race! It will be so. much. FUN!


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“Your idea and my idea of fun are different”, you might be thinking. You might also be thinking:

  • Exercising is my ‘me time’. Crowds not invited.
  • I don’t want to be held to a specific time and date. What if I seriously don’t feel like it that day?
  • I’m not really competitive. Exercising is its own reward and I don’t really care how I place in comparison to others.
  • Except that it would be a bummer to totally suck in comparison to others.

But here’s the deal; you really should sign up for that race… for reasons that have nothing to do with running.

1. It will create an anchor memory for your summer.

If you participate in an event, I think we can probably agree that you will be more ‘present’ than on any other regular Saturday. The unfamiliar surroundings, the heightened emotions, the spandex-clad strangers….it’s just like traveling in Europe.

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I make the analogy because the reason we remember our travels so vividly is because we spend that time AWAKE.  I’m sure I won’t be the first person to tell you that when we are present and paying attention to the moment we are happier. But did you know that being present in an uncomfortable situation (say, for example, huffing through your first 5K)  makes you happier even than fantasizing about something pleasant?

And when we are present and paying attention, we start to create memories. It’s the reason you might remember your 10th birthday party more than any other day of being 10.  Now, if summer isn’t about creating happiness and memories, what is?

2.  You will start to measure your fitness in performance, not pounds.

Most of us start exericsing to lose weight and it can be so satisfying when zippers start co-operating and everyone is complimenting you and the scale is getting downright flirty. You might recognize yourself in this moment:


However, the body is going to adapt and the weight loss will – and should – slow down and eventually level off.  So now what? You could just keep busting it for weight maintenance or you could start a new challenge. What else are you interested in improving? Your stamina? Your speed? Your adherence to a set training schedule? How would your experience of being ‘fit’ change if you stopped measuring pounds and instead started measuring push-ups and participation medals?

3. You reinforce your identity as an athlete and create accountability

Let me tell you something. I am a personal trainer of over 14 years. I’ve even won medals that weren’t for participating.  And yet if someone were to ask me if I consider myself an ATHLETE, I would immediately revert to being a sedentary,  artsy teen who would have rather died than be caught in the act of physical exertion.

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However, every day that I say I’m going to work out and then I actually DO IT, I am reinforcing my new identity as someone who is active and athletic. When I sign myself up for an event, I am declaring that identity publicly, which further reinforces it,  and creates social accountability (no small force).

thumbs up

4. You’ll suck less than you think. In any case, you’ll definitely suck less than you do now.

Straight up: The race day is going to come or go whether you do the race or not. But if you do the race, you will definitely be closer to your peak physical condition. Why? Because of your big, beautiful ego!  When you have moments where you lie in bed thinking, “I don’t want to go to bootcamp this morning…I didn’t sleep well… I’m still sore from last time…” and then you’ll think: “Crap. I signed up for that  *&%!! race! I’ve got to get up and go train or I won’t be ready.” And then you’ll get up.

Thank you, ego.

You’re welcome, ass.

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5.The beer you will have afterwards will taste so good. 

Even if you don’t achieve some superstar time, you will drink that beer like a champion because you are proud that you committed to do this thing. And it wasn’t always convenient, or fun, and you had to put yourself out there a bit, but goldang it, you are the kind of person who does what she says she will do.

And then a year later, Facebook will dig up the anniversary of this picture:

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and it will cause a lot of your friends to swear they would NEVER do a race like that,  but you’ll smile and tell them that it’s actually…alot of fun.