Yoga, Peanut Butter and a Fitness Epidemic
It took little more than a week of living in Vancouver for me to realize that something wasn’t as it should be. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I could sense I was on the verge of an epiphany. By the end of my first month, I’d officially uncovered the secret. All the fit and healthy people in the world are living in Vancouver. Until February 2011 I was convinced that Hollyoaks was the pretty-person capital of the world, but it turns out I should have been looking 4500 miles west. The troubled yet skinny adolescents of Chester were nothing compared to the blonde, toned yoga fiends I was suddenly seeing everywhere in Vancouver, and yoga really is the key word here.
Vancouver is obsessed with yoga. Yoga in a studio, yoga at the gym, yoga on the beach, yoga up a mountain. For someone whose only experience with yoga was 60 minutes of uncomfortable, stressful, one-time fitness class hell, it took some time to get my head around what I, along with two million other Vancouverites, now embrace as the Cult of Lululemon. For those of you on the ‘wrong’ side of the Atlantic, Lululemon Athletica (www.lululemon.com) is more than a Vancouver-based clothing company specializing in high-end yoga apparel. It’s a lifestyle. A philosophy, if you will. Its mission was to “create components for people to live long, healthy, and fun lives”, and this extends from a strong manifesto and seven core values to free yoga classes and collaborations with local artists. The inescapable and at times supernatural influence of Lululemon has turned it into the clothing equivalent of peanut butter: 98% of Canadians consider a 2 tbsp serving a daily source of protein that they couldn’t live without, while 2% are allergic to the mere smell of it and point blank refuse to engage.
With all the hype surrounding the brand it’s easy to forget about the actual clothes; that is, until you try them on. Granted, a pair of the infamous Groove Pants will set you back $90 + tax, but they may just be the best fitting pair of pants you’ll ever wear. Ever. Despite a brief stint at a chain yoga studio in Kitsilano last year, my relationship with yoga is limited to watching perfectly defined yet freakishly flexible limbs demonstrate unpronounceable poses through the window of the yoga studio in my gym. That doesn’t matter to me, as I would never dream of wearing my own pair of Groove Pants to work out. I mean really; I spent $90 + tax on those beauties, and I’m not tainting them with a single drop of sweat. Ever.
Luckily for me, yoga isn’t the only activity contributing to Vancouver’s beauty phenomenon. The city is perfectly situated for its residents to enjoy the best of both summer and winter activities. The recurring cliche is that it’s common for Vancouverites to ski in the morning and sail in the afternoon, and the only correction I would make to this sentiment is to include snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing and ice-skating in the morning, and running, hiking, paddle-boarding and power-kiting in the afternoon. And that’s on a slow day. With a plethora of mountains, beaches and parks to choose from, it’s no surprise that 70% of Vancouver residents consider themselves active or moderately active. Take into account the fact that Vancouver’s grocery stores and restaurants are filled with super foods, raw foods, vegan options and unidentifiable green juices, and it’s easy to see why the city is breeding an unstoppable force of fit, healthy and downright gorgeous looking people. There really is something in the water, and it sure isn’t full-fat soda.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my discovery of the health and fitness powers of Vancouver occurred quite some time ago, so why write about it now? Although it’s been almost a year since I purchased my first item of Lululemon clothing (which coincidentally was the first day I ran around Stanley Park seawall) in April 2011, it’s taken until March 2012 for me to jump on the fitness bandwagon and set some goals of my own. I’ve been going to the gym 5-6 times a week and shopping at Whole Foods for a good 8 months now, but I recently made the decision to up my game and join the big leagues after developing a strange addiction to running outside of the treadmill. Not only am I running in the annual 10km Sun Run for the second time on April 15th, but I set my sights a little higher and signed myself up to a half-marathon at the end of June. The 21.097494 km route is exactly 11.097494 km more than I’ve ever raced before and I have 12 weeks and 3 days to train. Gulp.
So why after 1 year and 2 months in Vancouver, 11 months of owning Lululemon clothing and 8 months after joining the gym did I suddenly decide to step my fitness up a level? The answer comes in the form of a petite burst of blonde energy more commonly known as Stacey. Stacey is my friend and co-worker, and to call her an inspiration would be a little like comparing peanut butter to marmite. Inspiration doesn’t even begin to cover it. Stacey’s limitless energy and rock solid discipline make her a competetive running powerhouse, and her infectious passion for holistic, healthy living is demonstrated in a lifestyle philosophy that, in my opinion, rivals Lulu itself. All it took was 40 minutes on a ferry to the Sunshine Coast for me to start questioning my daily diet and physical activity, and one Kashi granola bar later I was officially a victim of The Stacey Effect. In a city where health and fitness is a sweeping epidemic, Stacey was nothing less than my own personal tipping point.
I’m a strong believer that motivation runs much deeper than one individual encouraging another to do something. The only person who can really make me do something is myself, but the skill (or the luck, depending how you look at it) is knowing just how to tap into the values and beliefs that trigger the desired effect. I’m somewhat known for my spontaneous decisions and impulsive phases (hair extensions, playing the violin, buying CDJ decks…) but running 40-50km a week for the next three months is a little longer term than I’m used to. I’m totally psyched (and more than a little intrigued) to see how this particular fad turns out, and thanks to The Stacey Effect I know I’m in good hands.