Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Mental health, Nature, The Fourth Trimester, Trail running

A Nature Based Meditation You Can Do While Walking With a Stroller! This Will Help with New Mom Anxiety.

I do something called nature coaching where I use the natural world to help clients shift their mindset, physiological and psychological state.  It’s fun and I never know what lesson nature will offer that day, so it is a practice I enter with curiosity and excitement. I’ve developed many of the techniques while out walking with my baby on each maternity leave, and I wanted to share one that has stuck with me. I find it very helpful when I experience the anxiety of the fourth trimester when my body is on high alert for everything(!)

This is a very calming and grounding mindful practice, and short nature-based meditation that you can do while walking that uses your senses instead of your breath.

This is perfect for the days when you are out with the baby in a stroller (and hopefully said baby is sleeping!)  I also find this an effective technique when breath-based meditation is not available to me (I suffer from chest pain when I take deep breaths, as a result of an auto-immune disease called ankylosing spondylitis which causes interesting flare ups in unexpected places haha.)

This practice has the same benefits as breathing-based meditations and walking-based meditations, but it includes a sensory component (since you are out in beautiful nature.)  The sensory component I actually adapted from some training that Navy SEALS do (!)

I explain in this youtube video!  Enjoy, and try it out on your next stroller walk!

Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Nature, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, Trail running

Advice for Trail Runners. The Diary of a New Trail Runner and Life Coach.

Trail running is amazing because it puts us into flow state, from which our greatest insights and ideas come. I love to coach in nature (I guess you could say I do “nature coaching” or “nature life coaching”) and for me, trail runs are like a ridiculous download from the deepest recesses of my mind.

Today I offer you a wonderful tool on how to leave your past in the past, and start moving towards your future mindfully.

Xo Carina

Breast Reduction, Physical Wellness, Trail running, weight loss, Working Mom

Learning to Dress my Body After Breast Reduction and Finding a Fashion Sense after Three Babies.


Breast reduction, weight loss and fashion… All in one post.  Wow.  Coffee is kicking in today and it’s not even 9am!

So one of the things I bought for surgery last week was a black button up shirt dress (my FAV wardrobe staple and it was really just an excuse to buy another one haha.)

For 15 years I’ve been wearing long black button-up shirts.  They look awesome on busty and curvy women, especially if you are tall.

So last night was 7 days post breast reduction surgery. After drinking smoothies and not having an appetite all week, I was absolutely voracious yesterday.  My husband and I decided it would be a nice opportunity to go out and grab dinner (and get me out in the world after my week of being ensconced in the house.)

Putting my black button up shirt dress was a trip and I am beginning to realize there are a lot of psychological shifts with a breast reduction surgery.   Up to today (day 7) I had been wrapped up in how freaking awesome I felt, how small my boobs were and all the potential I have to workout and run in comfort now.  I feel that with week two, I’m settling into some of the psychological adjustments of a new body (I am also walking around in a body that is 50lb lighter than last summer, and am only 20 lb away from my goal weight.)

Last night was when the magnitude of body change hit me on a deeper level.

The exact same shirt, my go-to for feeling sexy and put together for the last 15 years,  is a completely, completely different look.  It actually went from bangin’ body flattering, show-off-the-curves shirt, to a loose drapey shirt tucking in at a very weird place in a way that no longer flattered me.


The two images at the top of this picture are exactly how, for 15 years, this black button-up shirt fit me.  The bottom two images represent how it fits now.  Totally different right? Tbh it didn’t feel right as a long tunic.  I realized that the days of long button up shirts have shifted and I will be (gasp) tucking into my pants.  I am so used to using the top part to hang down over the abdomen.  I think I am used to covering up my body in general.

One of the things I am really looking forward to doing in the fall is getting some help understanding this different body and how to dress it because *I love* style and fashion.  Winners is my happy place lol.

My plan is to work with Espy experience here in Calgary to get some basics and understanding of what to choose to highlight this new shape, and also define my style.

One of the things I am coming to appreciate is the combination of defining your unique style with the functional needs that you have as a mum with 3 kids.  As much as I want to go back to my pre-kids style, I need a “version” of that, that allows for me to chase, pick up and go out and play with them.

One of the things I was struggling with, before surgery, was dressing in some “grownup” clothes again.  I was excited to get into them, but then I’d get frustrated because they weren’t allowing me to spontaneously go out for walks or adventures with the kids.  So I’d come home, change out of the clothes and go back into my Lululemon crops, tank and runners.

I need to find a nice place between fashion for work life (I like classic British equestrian style, I have an entire Pinterest Board dedicated to it lol ) and function for family life (being a very active mumma.)

So here I am, in my housecoat with a coffee, realizing that one of the Great Maternity Leave Projects coming up is…. FASHION.  Who knew?!  I never thought I’d blog on clothes and style in Calgary.  The closest I ever got to the fashion world was an offer from Ford Models to go to New York when I was in high school around 2000, I believe at the time they were starting their plus-sized division.  The fashion world at the time seemed so scary and cut-throat at the time, and the scouting agent was so honest about it, and what it would be like, that I was like, mmmm I’ll go do university instead, sounds way safer and admittedly, kinder.

Funnily enough, as I near the end of my weight loss and body transformation journey I was thinking “shit, I don’t have any Great Maternity Leave Projects in the pipeline” and thinking I need to do some brain storming . Well, the next project just came and landed in my hands. Which goes to show you that sometimes, you just need to trust and let the universe bring you things.

It also means I need to start saving up a bit of money to dive into this endeavor.

My plan is to work with the amazing stylists at Espy Calgary who are all fashion stylists.  I’ve always steered away from the fashion world – it intimidates me to no end – but going into Espy a few weeks ago to find jeans for my 6’9 husband, I found that it really isn’t!  It’s not about trying to fit into a style or keep up with fashion. It’s more about gaining clarity about what you like and what flatters your body.  Yes, there’s an industry of defining and setting trends, and high fashion where it’s about art + creativity + pushing the boundary. I think that’s what I associated with fashion.  But there’s also an industry for the rest of us mere mortals and 36-year-old moms who just want to get out of their lulu crops some of the time, haha!

I write this post with gratitude though. I observed the last 5 years of body changes in utter astonishment. It gave me an appreciation for what the female body can do.  Have you ever thought about how many lbs of change, expansion and shrinking your body has gone through in pregnancy? You’ve even grown entirely new organs (the placenta.) And these changes are not just in body fat – your skin has expanded, hell,  even your internal organs have cumulatively moved SEVERAL FEET in your pregnancies.   Wow.  Just wow.  I can’t feel bad or regret wearing leggings + tunics for the last 5 years.  It’s what I needed to do as I did the more important work of human building. 🙂

IMG_6043 IMG_5957.PNG

Please let me know in the comments if this is something you’d like me to share!

Shall we call this the “dressing a body after babies” journey?  Or perhaps “dressing a body with no babies or boobies” – hmm.

Instagram will be a fun place to share the journey with you as well, so if you haven’t followed The Great Maternity Leave yet on Instagram, head on over.  Admittedly my writing is 1000% better than my photos, but as always, my goal is authenticity, sharing a life coach perspective, and (hopefully) inspiring all of you to continue expanding and elevating your life, even in early motherhood.

The early years of motherhood and mat leave are a perfect time to undergo deep personal growth and expansion in your life.  With the arrival of a baby, you are cracked wide open, the deepest parts of you are exposed.  You find yourself reflecting and taking all of those beliefs and values, deciding which still serve you, and which no longer do.  You find yourself changing, as well.  Building new beliefs and values, and perhaps even new identities.  And a new wardrobe, apparently!

I get excited about new motherhood.  It is a time for immense growth, learning, and reflection.  It forces you into a growth mindset, and in that first year you are so brave and courageous.  Please don’t deny yourself that acknowledgment.

You are thrown into completely new situations and experiences with a new baby.

EVERY day you, my friend, learn something new, face something new and work through fears.  One day you are you-tubing how the hell to wrap a baby in a Moby wrap (and practicing with a real life, sqwawking human which you can’t make mistakes on) and the next day you’re learning about brain development and taking a crash course in developmental psychology.  By the way, there is an amazing FREE online course called Brain Story, where you learn about your baby and child’s brain’s story and what they are going through.  Highly recommend this resource. 

That is NOT something that everyone can say they do. Some people live in safety, security, and stability. They are happy with the knowledge they have and most definitely feel no need to change. They don’t want to acquire more knowledge or test their limits.  They are in a fixed mindset.  We all know plenty of people like this.  It’s not wrong, or bad, it’s just one of many ways to live.

You? you’re most certainly not in that place if you are here on this blog today.

We’ve chosen an extraordinary adventure, and it is definitely none of those things, but it’s WORTH IT. The rewards are incredible when you work through the challenges.

It is exactly why I went from no kids to three in five years.  It’s all so worth it.

While the shell is cracked, why not think about your beliefs, your values, the life you want for you + your family.  Why not undergo the process of taking all of those and elevating your life? 🙂




Crafts, Essays, Etsy, Happiness, Life Hacks, Nature and Forest Play, Physical Wellness, The Projects, Trail running, weight loss

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: The 70% Secret in Goal Setting + Running

Copy of Copy of saturdaymarch 23, 20194_00 pm (5)

Goal setting and achievement is an area I thrive in.  It’s my jam.  I study the most successful people and apply their perspectives and mindsets.  It’s what I do in my career.  I help clients – especially athletes – with their goal setting.

You can get to a goal via a “tough” mindset but what I’ve observed over 3000 hours of coaching, is that it burns people out and drains willpower.

My focus with the high achiever types often isn’t getting things done, it comes down to longevity and sustainability for them and helping them reconnect with their “why.”

I know lots of high achiever types who use intense pressure, self criticism, and high expectations.  It works in the short run, but has longer term consequences. In high performance athletes, for example, I see a loss of life balance, strange injuries and illnesses come up, highs and lows in their performance, and other segments of their life fall out of balance.  There’s negative ripple effects all over the place.

I was fascinated, and started self-experimenting with goal setting approaches..

I write about all sorts of things on the GML with all sorts of approaches, including the one below, because I want you to be exposed to lots of ideas and different types of thinking. Some will work for you.  Some won’t. Here’s a fascinating alternative approach to goal setting and running.

** Slack off***

No human being hits 100% of their goals in all areas of their lives.  It’s not possible.  It would be a different world if everyone could achieve their goals.

Whenever I coach and work with my clients, my high achievers often have the most difficulty.  They get to their goals, but struggle with longevity, generating energy and willpower.  They’re quite tough on themselves. Shooting for 100% and expecting 100% the whole way.  Their mind is blown when I tell them they can get the same results with a 70% mindset.

I like 70%.  It’s a really nice number.


But there’s such negative connotations with 70%.  In University my students are hard on themselves with a 70%.  It’s a B- or C+ in some classes.  It’s never good enough.  Everyone’s always going for the A+.  It’s always all or nothing with goal setting. To move into the 70% place is not all or nothing, it is good enough, but a fascinating thing happens, 70% seems to launch them into the stratosphere. 70% is about accumulating wins what makes it very easy to put the extra 30% in.

think about your own mindset around 70% in anything.   What were you taught to think about 70%?  For example, what was your family’s response if you bought home a 70% on something?  You got that score on some kind of assessment?

What would happen if you backed off from 100% to 70% in something you are working toward, and got away from your all-or-nothing mindset?

I tried this out with my running.  And guess what?

You experience a powerful shift in your drive.  You stop relying on willpower (not good,) and start using the power of memory and gratitude to drive your motivation because you have the time and space (since you’re only going at 70%) to engage in gratitude based practices.

I set a rather ridiculous goal for myself on 1st mat leave. Rather than run a 10k I decided to jump out of a helicopter and run 21k down a mountain.  That still makes me laugh.  That was the old all-or-nothing mindset.

I started training, knowing I had 12 weeks to do it.  I, motivated Carina, struggled like you wouldn’t believe those first few weeks.  My willpower started strong and drizzled away.  I started getting injuries, and was getting way too stressed out about the impending run.  I used all of the magical motivators I know of.


I was doing all of these amazing trail runs at my best effort with a rather ruthless mindset and coming back drained, sore, and unmotivated to go out for the next long run.

One day I was running down in our provincial park.  As I came through a thick forest, smacking branches out of the way, I stopped with my hear in my throat.  A HUGE creature stood up and looked right at me.

A FULL SIZED MOOSE.  Terrified, I ran as fast as I could in the other direction.  The feeling was mutual.  She ran away just as scared of me.

That very same run, a few minutes after my adrenals had recovered, I saw a gorgeous bald eagle soar overhead and land in a nearby tree.  I paused my GPS tracker and looked around.  I was running along this beautiful trail, rimmed with copses of birch trees, and my feet were cushioned by soft mossy ground.  It was spectacular.  The rest of that run was an easy, ambling adventure through Canadian forest.  I got the distance done but in a very slow time that wouldn’ t have met my standards at the start of the run.  I was too busy stopping and taking photos and simply enjoying the beauty of nature.  The funny thing is, at the end of that 12k run, I felt the best I have ever felt after a run. I felt profound grattitude, and a craving for more of whatever it was that just happened. 

The moment it all clicked.

The same day I did the same. I went in with an idea of my distance, but threw my time goals out of the window.  I decided to just see what I felt ilke doing.  You know what?  It gave me time to stop, absorb the moment I was in, and enjoy it.  It took my run from pain and suffering to immense enjoyment and immersion in nature. For the first time I was not stumbling on rocks because I was there, with the trail.  Instead of just running on it. I was out of my 100% perfectionist mindset inside of my head, listening to the GPS and relying on willpower.

Relying on the energy of the natural environment around me and enjoyment of the experience was a game changer.  The rest of those 12 weeks, I went into each run with this new mindset, this new perspective, and embraced the 70%.







And so, on September 21st, 2014 when I jumped out of a helicopter, onto the shores of a mountain lake, to run 21k DOWN a mountain, through the Canadian Rocky Mountain wilderness I was so ready for it.   I ripped through that run in a great time for someone who only trained at 70% and loved every moment of it.

With a 70% approach, I tapped into a deeper motivator than willpower. I was tapped into  the majesty of nature, the creation of memories.  The experience itself.  Being in the present moment.  The reason why people (including me) fall in love with trail running in the first place.  I almost lost it there, focusing on tech and time and benchmarks, but I found it one afternoon almost crashing into a moose!