To Blog or Not to Blog?

To blog or not to blog? That is the question. My answer? An enthusiastic YES! Blog well, blog often my friends.

Living a healthy lifestyle is a personal choice and for organizations encouraging prospects, clients, readers or users to adopt healthy habits, blogging puts a human “face”  to their brand. No one wants to listen to corporate speak when it comes to our everyday lifestyle choices. We want to hear from a real person, so we can relate to their advice on a personal level. How can companies meet this need? Blogging!

Here’s why blogs are beneficial: Blog Cloud

Share Expertise. Blogs shouldn’t always be about you and your brand, but rather a platform to position yourself and the organization you represent as an expert in your field. Become a valuable resource of information by reporting trends, posting articles and expressing your opinion. Essentially, blogs are an effective vehicle to give readers the best of the information available.

Build Trust. People can be skeptical of information they find on the internet. A blog with consistent, truthful and helpful content allows you to build trust between your brand and target audience. Here are some tips: clean design, correct spelling and grammar, warm, high quality photo of author, detailed content updated regularly and a community presence (interactivity between you and readers).

Grow Organically. It’s simple – active blogging drives more traffic to your site. When people find informative and useful content, they are more likely to engage with your brand and come back for more. Post regularly and you will notice an overall increase in site traffic. The more valuable content you have on your blog, the more likely you are going to have something that a reader wants.

For example: Let’s say you are a company that focuses on all things running (clinics, footwear, apparel, etc.) and I am someone who wants to run a marathon and needs exercises to do to assist in my goal.  I may do a search for “exercises for marathon runners” and if your blog pops up, it lends to your credibility. The next week, I search “eating before running” and again you show up. I may decide to stop by your store or spend more time checking out your website. At the very least, you are becoming my resource on running. 

What do you think? To blog or not to blog?

Best Health Magazine: Thumbs up!

Looking for a great resource for health tips, exercise ideas and delicious recipes? Look no further than Best Health Magazine! This Canadian publication has it all and that’s their Best Health Magazineselling point. It’s geared toward women (sorry guys!) and is a one stop shop for everything you need to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. They even have a section on maintaining healthy finances, authored by  local Vancouverite Katie Dunsworth.

Some highlights from this month’s issue:

Holiday Gift Guide (so thorough, so good)

Ten Ways to Get Happier

The Fab Four (awesome at home workout)

Pad Thai Chicken Recipe (yum!)

Consider picking up their latest issue or ask for a subscription for Christmas (1 year, 8 issues, only $16.97).  That’s how I got hooked last year – thanks hubby!

More of an online reader? Check out their website or Facebook Fan Page. I especially enjoy the Best Health Facebook Page. Content is posted 2-3 times per day and provides fresh information that’s not featured in their current issue. They’ve developed a solid community of close to 31,000 fans and user engagement is strong. Each post has a visual attached, averages 16 “likes” and anywhere from 2 to 25 comments. Best Health Facebook PageAs a social media marketer, it’s a level of interaction I admire! They use great tactics to keep their audience involved in the page by posting fill in the blank statements and interesting questions. One area in which they could improve upon is their responsiveness to comments. Why not join the conservation? They’ve established a great community and I wish Best Health would comment or at least say thank you once in awhile to users for engaging with the page.

Overall, their Facebook presence is light, fun and relevant to their target audience – people like us! What do you think? Have I convinced you to “like” Best Health Magazine?

MEC – My Equipment Choice

Mountain Equipment Co-OpI am a true west coast cliche and I don’t care who knows it! Where do I but my outdoor gear? Mountain Equipment Co-Op or MEC as most Vancouverites affectionately call it. They have an incredible range of gear at reasonable prices, they’re Canadian and they have great customer service. I swear I am not a paid rep, but this store is the trifecta of  awesomeness for outdoor enthusiasts. Check out the bottom of this post for my favourite product.

MEC is tops when it comes to merchandise, but how effective is the company in communicating to consumers? I decided to evaluate their presence on social media to answer the question. I visited How Sociable, a website that provides free How Sociabledata for companies on social media activity and online engagement. MEC received a score of 2.1/10. Not great, but I think the issue is more with the tracking of the site than their actual presence. How Sociable measures YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ and Foursquare – for free. However, MEC’s main media platforms are Facebook and Twitter. How Sociable seems like a good service, but you have to pay to gather truly valuable information on a company.

How does MEC stack up in the eyes of consumers? Let’s do some qualitative analysis. Below are 10 conversations illustrating the public’s sentiment toward the company. Here is my rating system:

+1 = Positive sentiment

0 = Neutral sentiment

-1 = Negative sentiment

“I like this place.  The staff are knowledgeable.  I bought a $225 Black Diamond bag and I have no regrets.  This is a co-operative, not a for profit company, so if you pay $225 for a bag, you know that it’s worth $225.” Rating +1

“I’ve been an MEC member for several years it’s still one of my favourite places to shop and get great quality products for fair prices. Best part is the co-op membership is still only $5!! With a wide selection of an array of products MEC is always one of my go-to places. Not to mention the staff are ALWAYS very helpful and knowledgeable.” Rating +1

“The best place in town for all of your outdoors gadgets and supplies. The only knock I have against them is with their online store stock information.  I chose a certain bike lock and bike computer, their website said the store had stock.  However upon arriving 30 minutes later, both items were not available. 5 stars once they fix their crappy website.” Rating 0

“I love shopping at MEC, the staff are helpful and knowledgeable and the prices of all the MEC brand gear is affordable. Plus it’s a Canadian company!” Rating +1

“The best part of this store is the quality.  I’ve never had to replace something I’ve bought from here unless I’ve lost it.  I have duffel bags and  backpacks from MEC that after 10 years still look like new. I’m always amazed when I go in and I can find that odd-ball thing I need because I didn’t even think the product existed. Their prices are fair and their staff is always knowledgeable and friendly.” Rating +1

“There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said before in other reviews: MEC is THE place to buy sports gear – especially winter gear. The only area that’s not 100% good is their bike shop: their prices are completely out of touch with reality (hence the four stars). Aside from that, you really can’t go wrong.” Rating 0

“Great co-op. Pricing and service is excellent.” Rating +1

“If you want a canoe, compass or climbing rope, this place is the bomb. If looking for a sporty winter coat, I would suggest shopping around.  The place across the street had a lot more variety in terms of coat types/styles.  MEC has some nice gear, but not a huge variety.  There’s a decent selection, but mostly within a certain style of coats (same price, different colors).  And I felt that their own branded lines were kinda pricey.” Rating 0

“What’s not to love? MASSIVE store, prime location, knowledgeable staff, everything you could possibly need for the outdoors, great prices, great warranty, unparallelled quality and a most impressive selection in store. Two words: Yes. Please.” Rating +1

“Great selection and a regular stop for me.  Only problem I have ever run into is that you need to be careful with clothing sizes.  Depending on what you try on sizing can be all over the map.” Rating 0

Overall Rating 6/10

This score may not seem high, but an important point to note is that there were no negative comments regarding the MEC. That is rare for a retail outlet and deserves kudos.

Trail Running Shoe

La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Running Shoe.

Bottom Line: Good value, great prices, wide variety, stop in and see for yourself!

My favourite product: This trail running shoe is one that I keep buying over an over again and it’s available at MEC. Light, durable on rough terrain and comfortable on pavement – and very reasonable price point ($105). Buy the shoes, pick a trail from my Top 10 list and get outside!

You Really Are What You Eat!

Healthy living is a balance between fitness and nutrition, so this week I am focussing my blog on nutrition.

“You are what you eat.”

We’ve all heard the expression, but is it true?  I recently read an article in US News stating that indeed, we really are what we eat. So what does this mean for everyday living? Limit processed foods (they are often high in salt, sugar and fat) and focus on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low and nonfat dairy, legumes, lean meats, and fish.

Need some tips? Watch the video for a few ideas on how to eat healthy – everyday!

Want more detail? Here is a typical day in the eating life of laurajane:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with a dollop of homemade applesauce, almonds (or walnuts) and cinnamon.

Morning Snack: Greek yogurt (tons of protein!) with blueberries and chia seeds.

Lunch: Two slices of spelt toast each with mashed avocado, tuna, tomato and pepper and a banana for dessert.

Afternoon Snack: 1-2 cups of raw veggies (colourful!) with hummus.

Dinner: Chicken fajitas with sauteed veggies, light cheddar cheese and salsa and 2 squares of dark chocolate for dessert.

Evening Snack: Rice cake with almond butter and honey or a small bowl of cottage cheese and fruit.

One last essential: water! I drink ~3 litres of water a day. It keeps me hydrated, feeling full and it’s great for your skin.

Do you have any healthy eating secrets? Please share!

Top 10 Places to Get Fit Around Vancouver

As west-coasters, we experience significant precipitation during the winter months, but that is no excuse to hibernate your healthy habits!  Feeling the effects of SAD? Trying to shake off the red wine from last night? Get some rain gear, grab a friend and get outside. Bottom line: We live in a temperate rainforest – deal with it.

Here are my top 10 picks for outdoor activities in and around Vancouver:

Easy = relatively flat and family friendly

Moderate = light hills and/or rugged terrain

Challenging = steep hills, steps and/or rugged terrain

  1. Pacific Spirit Park: Nestled on the UBC peninsula, Pacific Spirit Park or the Endowmentlands as I refer to it, is an expansive mecca of trails with something for
    Pacific Spirit Park

    Pacific Spirit Park

    everyone. Many paths are easy and great for the whole family while others are challenging with steps and long hills for those of you looking for a run that doubles as a workout. Dog friendly.

  2. Baden Powell Trail: North Vancouver’s premiere trail system, the Baden Powell has easy, moderate and challenging terrain. Enjoy a short walk with the kids or take on the 12km Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon path for an amazing, but difficult run. Dog friendly.
  3. British Columbia Mountain Club Trail (BCMC): The link will take you to information on the Grind because the BCMC is a secret gem among outdoor enthusiasts. The trail runs parallel to the Grind and provides a rugged, challenging hike for those who are in relatively good shape. Take your time, avoid the crowds and stairs and do the BCMC instead of the Grind. I have one request: Don’t tell too many people about it, we want to keep it a secret!
  4. Everett Crowley Park: Perfect for those looking for a light, outdoor walk. The trails are easy, but the Park still provides that West Coast “rainforest” feel. Ideal if you’re just starting a fitness routine, pushing a stroller or bringing mum and grandma along. Dog friendly.
  5. The Chief (Squamish): Not as hard as the Grind and the hike gives you the
    Howe Sound

    I took this shot at the top of the Chief. Reg and I cycled from North Vancouver, hiked the Chief and cycled back. It was crazy. We had just started dating and I think I was trying to impress him.

    biggest bang for your buck (view-wise). The first peak of the Chief is a moderate hike with challenging parts, but you can do it – trust me! The view of Howe Sound is breathtaking and well worth the physical challenge you may experience. A couple of words of advice; bring a snack because you’ll want to hang out at the top and be prepared to descend. There is no gondola, so give your joints and quads a fair warning.

  6. Hollyburn Trail: This is a moderate hiking trail at Cypress Mountain which is great in the summer, but even better in the winter. Bundle up, strap on some snowshoes and enjoy the fresh mountain air while trying something new. There is a tasty bonus at the end; hot chocolate. Yum! Dog friendly.
  7. Golden Ears Hiking Trail: Another great trail system just outside the city. Golden Ears is good for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. I have taken on a challenging hike to a secluded camp ground and also brought my dog and pregnant belly for an easy, but still enjoyable walk. Dog friendly.
  8. Urban Beach Walk/Run: More of a water person? Take this easy walk by starting at

    Jericho Beach

    Kits Beach, where you can pause to people watch the pretty folk. Then, keep heading west and after about 1 km of road walking, you’re back on the beach at Jericho. Jericho Beach seems to go on forever, but actually merges with Locarno Beach and eventually ends at the Spanish Banks. Spanish Banks is where the long, steep hill up to UBC begins. At this point, unless you are keen on a challenge, turn back. Dog friendly.

  9. Dog Mountain: Moderate trail on Seymour Mountain. I love this one when I’m looking for a fun outdoor activity that will get my heart rate up, but still allow me to carry on a nice conversation with my fitness companion. The view at the top is amazing and bring some nuts to get a whiskey jack feeding out of the palm of your hand. Truly be one with nature! Dog friendly.
  10. Alta Lake Trail (Whistler): I will admit that I have retired from skiing. I was once an enthusiast, but last year I decided to focus more on my other winter loves; running and snowshoeing. For those of you who enjoy Whistler, but don’t ski/snowboard, sorry, you still must get outside and rosy those cheeks! The Alta Lake Trail is perfect for an easy walk, moderate hike or challenging snowshoe. Walking distance from the Village, I highly recommend you experience this beautiful trail at any time of year. Dog friendly.

Let’s grow the list! What is your favourite outdoor spot to get fit?

Hot, Wet, Dirty, Hard – I Digg It

Are we old enough for this?

Are we old enough for this?

In April, I found out I was six weeks pregnant. Unexpected, but very exciting. As I basked in the nauseating euphoria of my first trimester, I couldn’t help but feel a wee bit of disappointment. Spring had sprung, meaning training season as a Pacific Northwester had begun. However, this year, as I carefully incubated my offspring, I realized that my “training” would consist of leisurely laps in the pool, slow rides in the hood and gentle walks through the forest. Absent from my life would be intense swims, quad-killing hill rides, sweat-inducing stair climbs and oh so extreme trail runs.  For someone like me, the change in lifestyle was bittersweet.

About a month ago, I came across an amazing blog by a woman named Susan who subscribes to my mantra; Life.In Balance.Sort Of. So, so true!

I scrolled through her posts laughing at her dry humour and feeling inspired by her obviously determined approach to life. She’s a working professional, mom of two and an athlete (though she would probably never describe herself as one – she is). Three attributes I have an immense amount of respect for. As I’m chuckling and scrolling, I come across the title: Hot, Wet, Dirty, Hard. Did that get my attention? Um, yes. Four adjectives that, when strung together, are very intriguing. I read the post. I Digged the post.

Olympic Triathlon, 2011

Here’s why: She was describing her recent experience completing a gruelling race. During the race, she was hot, she was wet, she got dirty and it was hard. Wow, did I love living through her words! I could relate to the mixed bag of racing indignities and once again laughed and felt totally inspired. I won’t being be competing in any triathlons this year. My body has a much more important project in the works, but reading blogs like Susan’s, help me stay in the game.

Pregnancy is not an excuse for lethargy. Maintaining a healthy level of fitness has numerous pre and post-natal benefits (see 33 Reasons to Exercise Now), and at seven and a half months pregnant, I still enjoy being outdoors and getting my heart rate up. I do miss the physical intensity of training for a race, but reading about it will definitely do – for now.

My question to you is: With the rainy season upon us, what inspires you to still get out, get wet and get dirty?

Who is laura jane?

laura janeHow to describe my social media personality? To be most effective, I thought I would break out some poetic prose to properly articulate the persona that is laura jane.

ight-hearted

ltruistic

nabashedly honest

ealistic

musing…I hope!

oyful 

a nother a?

erdy

nergetic

I hope to communicate through my blog with a down to earth, relatable voice. Our lifestyle choices are personal and I believe taking a more personable approach to writing will help my readers feel more comfortable listening, engaging and sharing in this online community.

I enjoy the social media campaign of the publication Fit Pregnancy. The tone is light and informative, and as a member of their audience, I feel comfortable and motivated to share my thoughts with their online community. They post content that can only be found through their social media channels, they post frequently and they offer contests and giveaways exclusive to their fans and followers. They have successfully built a strong social media presence by coming across as fun, knowledgeable and appreciative of their following. I hope to send the same message to my readers!

What three adjectives would you use to describe yourself?