Have you ever heard of Olga Kotelko? I think about Olga a lot. Olga passed away last summer at the age of 95 from a brain hemorrhage but until that moment she was considered one of the world’s greatest athletes.  She held world records for her age category in every track and field event she attempted. My favourite thing about Olga is that she didn’t start training until she was 77.

So badass

So badass

But she spent a lifetime doing something more important than training: moving. Olga was born on a Saskatchewan farm in  1919 to Ukrainian immigrant parents. She and her 10 brothers and sisters were expected to walk five miles to school and then return home to milk cows, stack hay and weed the garden. Olga started teaching in that one room schoolhouse in 1941, and for the three decades of her career she was on her feet during lessons and engaging the children in active play during breaks. It was only after retirement that she decided to look into playing sports, eventually following a coach’s recommendation to try track and field. The rest is sports history – and an inspiration to anyone who thinks they are too old to try something.

too old

Some of you are reading Olga’s story and thinking; that’s great…if you grow up in rural Saskatchewan a century ago. And I get it. Most people reading this blog don’t spend their days bringing in the sheaves.   In a few short generations we have ‘progressed’ to the point where all the chores our ancestors took for granted are now done by machines. We don’t have to carry a basket to several local shops for groceries – we can drive to a big box, park close to the entrance and use a cart to wheel them around. We have leaf blowers and washing machines and vacuum cleaners and Starfrit Solutions:


I’m not gonna peel my own potatoes like a sucker


We are so clever that we have engineered an existence where we sit and conserve our energy for an average of 9 hours a day. If you’ve ever watched the movie Wall-E, you might have shuddered at  dystopian future where the human race is on a never ending cruise, entirely relieved of physical demands (and consequently the ability to move at all.)


I don’t have to tell you that our cleverness has lead to disastrous health consequences – and serious pancake bum.

But what’s a modern gal to do when the work that needs to get done is on my laptop? Olga’s society and circumstances mandated a lot of movement all day every day.  Ours prompt the average person to sit for 50-70% of their waking hours. But gosh darn it, if we as a society are clever enough to invent the electric ice cream cone rotator, then we can figure this out.


Here’s how to use all that clever modern technology to help you get moving like Olga.

1.Start tracking:

If you want to change anything ( your weight, your nutrition, your pull ups), the first thing you need to do is start keeping track so you have the data by which to measure your progress. In this case, you can use the accelerometer on your smart phone, a Jawbone, Nike Fuelband or – my favourite-  a FitBit (if you’ve got a Fitbit you can pimp it up with our awesome Fitbit bracelets). I want you to aim for BARE MINIMUM of 10,000 steps a day. If consider yourself active, up that to 15,000.

2. Set a timer:

Awareness is one of many apps that will give you a gentle nudge when it’s time to take a break from your computer and get moving. Another option is Break Time. Studies show you can counteract many of the detrimental effects of long term sitting by moving for 5 mins every hour so set that thing to go off every 55 mins and hit the staircase like it’s your job for 5 mins.

3. Get mobile:

It’s not called a mobile phone for nothing, friends. You can actually move while you are having that phone meeting. Or you know all those MP3s you download for long car trips? You can actually go for a walk while you listen. How would it affect your health if you shifted your Netflix time to a new podcast and went for a walk in the park while you got your entertainment fix?  People were freaking about ‘Serial‘…aren’t you curious?

4. Consider a desk that lets you move or at least stand:

You don’t need to spend any money on a standing desk. I have seen people put their laptop on a milk crate or a pile of books on top of their regular desk. I personally use a ‘cocktail’ table and it works well for my height. If you google ‘standing desk hacks’ you will see a million solutions that you can probably cobble together RIGHT NOW. When you are setting yours up, you will ideally want it to end up with these ergonomics:

standing desk ergo


Standing is great but moving is better. My sister Shannon is a champ at integrating movement into her life. She first added a mini stepper to her home made standing desk and then upgraded to a cheap treadmill.

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 Shannon doing her SEO job in a forest using her stepper and a car battery. Take that, early twentieth century rural Saskatchewan childhood.


Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 10.05.58 AM

A more winter-friendly alternative


So now I have to go walk around the block now – because somewhere out there my sister is out-Olgaing me as I type this.  And there’s no way I’m going to let her beat me at the triple jump when when we are in our nineties 😉



Do you find Olga inspiring? Do you find it hard to integrate movement into your life? Is Serial really all it’s cracked up to be? Leave a comment below and don’t forget to share this with anyone you’d like to shot put with when you are ninety-six!