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How to keep fit living way up north

Written by: QMI Agency
 

May. 30, 2014

School teacher Hailey Taylor doesn't let the cold stop her from keeping fit while living in Canada's unforgiving north. (Supplied)


The cold weather sucks. Healthy food is difficult to find. And the isolation — compounded by the wintertime darkness — can be absolutely mind-numbing and lethargy-inducing. But school teacher Hailey Taylor doesn’t let any of that stop her from keeping fit while living in Canada’s unforgiving north. Although it hasn’t been easy.

“In the north, there’s not many opportunities to be very active here, especially in the small communities,” she admits in a phone interview from Whale Cove, Nunavut, a hamlet located on the western shore of Hudson Bay, about 70 km south of Rankin Inlet.

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Taylor, 24, has been teaching at Inuglak School in Whale Cove for the past two years. The school has a gym, of course. But forget about weights, treadmills or elliptical machines. And you certainly won’t find any health clubs in the community of close to 400 people.

“When it’s warm out, you can go for a run,” Taylor notes.

But since the native of Belleville, Ont., goes home for a two-month summer break, that only leaves her about a month when she can “go for runs comfortably” in Whale Cove, she adds. The mercury has been known to dip to nearly -50C — not counting the wind chill — on the most frigid winter days.

“In the fall months, it’s cold but we also can’t really go outside because the polar bears come really close into Whale Cove,” Taylor explains. “So you really can’t go out on the land unless you have a rifle because the polar bears are a big threat.”

It’s a lifestyle that can take a toll on your fitness level. Taylor found that out last summer, when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro following her first year in Whale Cove. “It was challenging,” she recalls. “I made it to the summit and everything, but I didn’t feel like I was as fit as I could’ve been.”

Playing after-school sports once or twice a week and participating in phys. ed. classes with her students just wasn’t doing it for her.

 

She also acknowledges that she doesn’t quite possess the motivation to follow her own fitness regimen. So earlier this year, Taylor turned to Focus T25 — an at-home DVD fitness program from Beachbody, producers of many of the most popular fitness DVD titles on the market, including the P90X series and Insanity.

Focus T25’s intense 25-minute cardio and strength training workouts — which Taylor does in her living room — have helped her drop several pounds while boosting her energy levels.

“It’s been awesome just because my schedule is so crazy,” she says. “I’m going on a mountaineering course this summer in Alberta and I’ve been trying to get more fit so I don’t feel as winded when I’m doing it.”

More recently, she has also been working up a sweat with Beachbody’s Insanity program, commonly referred to as the toughest at-home workout on DVD. Taylor and her boyfriend Alex Makin, also a teacher in Whale Cove and a soccer coach, plan to use the Focus T25 program in the school gym to help bolster their student soccer team’s endurance.

The ultimate hope is that Taylor’s fitness resolve will rub off on the rest of the northern community — from the many kids whose dietary go-to is pop and candy, to the countless sedentary adults who smoke and drink while subsisting on an unhealthy diet.

“You can get drawn down from everything — the darkness and work and feeling isolated — so working out sends off those positive endorphins,” says Taylor, a fit 130 pounds at five-foot-six. “It is very important to stay active and this is one way to do it.”

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