December is that time of year which for most, is all about family, friends, holidays and good times. The duality of this, however, is the preceding stress and anxiety related to first having to wrap things up at work (no pun intended), getting through a seemingly never-ending to do list and maintaining some sort of training schedule. As a result, so many reach what should be a relaxing time of year, stressed, exhausted, operating on a very short fuse and inevitably harbouring a compromised immune system.
Here are 5 tips to navigate this challenging period in the spirit in which it was intended to be experienced:
If you have not already done so, create a detailed to-do list and get started on it sooner than later – with so many commitments at this time of year it is just too easy to forget something, take on too much, run out of time and have to put your training on the back-burner. Better to start early and do a few things each day over a longer period of time than be frantically trying to get everything done at the last minute.
Prioritize, delegate and if necessary say no. Even with the best of intentions, there are just 24 hours in day so be realistic with what you expect of yourself (and others). Take into account increased traffic, longer line-ups at stores, slower service, poor weather – all of which can derail the most strategic planning and timing. Prioritize around not only what needs immediate attention but what specifically needs to be done by you. Get comfortable with delegating and also being able to say “no”. Spreading yourself too thin will ultimately serve no one.
Manage stress levels by keeping perspective on the big picture – “tis the season to be jolly”, not cranky, moody and demanding. How do you do this? Firstly, let go of your need for everything to be perfect! Perfection rarely breeds happiness, especially if it is at the expense of a run or workout. Secondly, ask yourself the following: Will this apparent dilemma really matter later today, in a few days, or in a month? What is the absolute worst thing that could happen? Then put an appropriate amount of “anguish” or attention to it. If by tomorrow this is not going to be of any significance, then neither is the stress you may be experiencing in the moment. So……. breathe, regroup and do the best you can given the circumstances.
Stay well-nourished and hydrated. There will be tempting treats at every turn over the next few weeks. This does not mean that you need to constantly indulge, especially if your training schedule has tapered over this period. Rather focus on the joy of connecting with people and take the emphasis away from food. Save your indulgences for a few special meals and treats, enjoy them and forgo the guilt. This is a sure way to stay on track so you head into 2014 in good shape. Also, make sure you stay well hydrated and continue to drink plenty of water. This will not only keep your energy levels up but will also help curb your appetite.
Maintain your training routine. Notice I said routine not program. You may need modify or shorten your runs due to time constraints but at the very least still get out and do something. Less is better than none! And it is definitely easier to maintain a routine than to start or restart one. Exercise, as we know, is also the ultimate stress reliever and mood enhancer so don’t short change yourself out of these much needed benefits.
When all is said and done, focus on what really matters – quality time with family and friends, appreciating what you have and creating wonderful memories. Laugh, love and be happy.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy and successful 2014.
Okay, so you’ve completed step one and created your list of reasons why you run. This list may seem trivial but it can really be quite powerful. It will give you motivations to pull from to create your personalized mental performance plan. When you really break it down to the bare bones, what every successful athlete, businesswoman or entrepreneur does is plan, execute and evaluate. Having a plan gives you control over things that you never thought you could have control over. For example, the physiological response when one is excited or nervous is the same (thanks for always reminding me of this, Kara). When a plan is in place, all of the sudden your nerves become your friend instead of your enemy. All of the sudden you are getting the best of your nerves instead of your nerves getting the best of you.
To get in the zone and become friends with your nerves, you need a pre-performance plan. In this case “performance” can be anything, a business meeting, your usual run, a race, or your long run. Have a way to get yourself into the zone. A pre-performance plan allows you to prepare your thinking so you can slip into your zone. Before your next run, try the following:
Mental Imagery: Go through a great day that you had, whether it was running or not and write it down in your training log. Then try to see that day from your perspective and feel the associated feelings.
Set a goal for your run and write it down in your training log.
Remind yourself of a reason why you run and write it down in your training log.
Eventually, your mental imagery will become stronger and more vivid and your goals and motivations will become more deeply rooted. Your training log is now beginning to come along nicely, next we will cover what to record in your log after a run. Happy running!
Got a sports psychology question for Jennifer? Email us!
About Jennifer Perrault
Jennifer is a former gymnast turned sprinter turned middle distance runner. She recently completed a Master’s in Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa where she studied sport psychology. She holds a Bachelor Degree in psychology from the University of Western Ontario where she was captain of the Track and Field team. She continued her running career with the Gee Gees and is the 2012 Canadian Interuniversity Sport Champion in the 1000m. She is passionate about bringing athletes to a new level of performance through mental skills training. Jennifer believes that enhancing mental performance is about sharpening these mental skills to help athletes constantly challenge themselves to be better.
Running and marriage can go together like, well… a horse and carriage. And at this year’s Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas Marathon, I got to combine the love of my life with, well… another love of my life.
The week before the race, I was reading through the race details online and I stumbled upon an intriguing headline: “Run Thru Wedding Ceremony.” There would be a wedding ceremony at race start and I laughed at the possibility of participating with my wife through the renewal of our vows. On a whim, I proposed the idea to my wife and (thankfully) she said “Yes!”
We were ridiculously giddy at the whole idea of it. We were going to get hitched in Vegas. In a week. At a marathon. Here’s how it went.
The day before the race, all the wedding participants attended a briefing session to walkthrough the wedding logistics. 75 couples were either renewing their vows or getting married for the first time. First-timers were required to obtain their marriage license beforehand so that the paperwork could be done prior to the race ceremony – this was going to be the real deal.
Originally conceived as a public relations stunt, race organizers figured that a race wedding would be a clever way to get two registrants at a time. One year, a participating couple brought over 300 participants from their running club to witness their vows. The wedding ceremony has become a runaway success and race organizers do make every effort to make the event a respectful and memorable one.
Members of our wedding party
The Loudest Cheer
On race day, all of the couples gathered together in a designated area in front of the start line where the ceremony would take place 15 minutes prior to race start. At the beginning of the ceremony, a bouquet of pink helium balloons was released in memoriam of the previous run thru wedding coordinator who had recently passed away due to breast cancer. As the balloons rose, however, they got caught in a palm tree and an uneasy gasp echoed amongst the crowd. Magically, some wind whisked in and loosened the balloons from the grip of the palm leaves and a loud cheer ushered the balloons into the sky.
A bouquet of pink balloons released in memoriam
The officiating pastor lead us through a brief but thoughtful exhortation – you could tell that she really meant her words of encouragement. We repeated a simple set of vows and my wife and I exchanged a pair of sparkly lit rings that we carefully selected at the expo (hey, we had a week, ok?). And that was it! We were happily re-married again and it was time for us to go to our designated race corrals and run through the sparkling glow of the Las Vegas strip at night.
To Do It Right, Dress It Up
Being a part of run thru wedding ceremony was a lot of fun, but to get even more out of it, it’s best to dress the part. We saw a number of couples who were in bride and groom gear or had custom printed shirts to celebrate the occasion. So if you really want to have a great wedding Vegas-marathoning style, dress the part and you’ll have the biggest wedding party of your life. Here are some of our favourite pics of wedding day couples who were celebrating both their love of running and of each other.
Mark Sutcliffe reflects on running with elite athletes
As seen in the November 2013 issue of iRun; photos by Sandra Laurin
It’s often said that one of the great things about running is that ordinary athletes participate in the same races as Olympians, world-record holders and other elites. You’ll probably never play in the same hockey game as Sidney Crosby or enter the same golf tournament as Tiger Woods, but you can run the same marathon as Wilson Kipsang, as some 400 Canadian runners did when he recently set the new world record in Berlin.
Running the same course on the same day as the world’s best has some appeal for me, but I’ve never been very focused on the elite athletes in the races I’ve entered. For one thing, you usually don’t get to see much of them. In my first marathon, I was a little past the halfway point, starting a 20-kilometre out-and-back along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa when I heard the finish-line announcer across the water welcoming the leaders. I was travelling the same route as the winner, but we were running two completely different races.
For me, it’s sharing the journey, and not the course, with world-class runners that is inspiring. When I talk to an elite athlete, I’m often amazed by how much of their approach and experience is similar to mine or that of any other runner.
Just a few days after both she and Lanni Marchant broke Silvia Ruegger’s marathon record for Canadian women, I chatted with Krista DuChene. She ran her first marathon in roughly the same time as my personal best; today, she would finish roughly an hour ahead of me, enough time to go to her hotel, shower, grab a snack and return to watch me cross the line.
But even though I couldn’t keep up with her for longer than half a kilometre, I can relate to Krista’s story. She juggles training along with work and family commitments, just like so many of us. She sometimes gets up in the wee hours of the morning because it’s the only time of the day when she can run.
If you’re training for a marathon, you might not run quite as hard or as often as an elite athlete, but your training programs will look somewhat similar. If you’re a recreational hockey player, you don’t practice several times a week like an NHL star.
And as I and so many other runners try to hit a qualifying time so someday we can go to Boston for the first time, Krista is trying to meet the time standard so she can compete in her first Olympics. She’s now thinking ahead to the cycle of marathons during the qualifying period to give herself as many opportunities to run as possible. She’s looking at course profiles, local weather and other factors at several marathons to give herself the best chance of succeeding. I’ve been going through exactly the same process.
Even for elite runners, finding the right marathon isn’t just about the course and the weather; it’s also about fitting it in around the rest of your life. Olympic marathoner Eric Gillis and his wife are expecting their second child so that’s a factor in his plans for another fast marathon. You can’t run your best if you’re getting up every night to change a diaper.
As Krista says, when the margin of error is small, you need almost everything to fall into place perfectly for you to meet your goal. Since there are many factors beyond your control, you try to influence as many of them as you can. That’s true whether you finish a marathon in two and-a-half hours or in five.
Like me and thousands of other runners, Krista and Eric are simply trying to run the best race they can on one specific day. We travel at different speeds. But we are all on the same journey.
“iRun for mental closest cleaning” – Jenny Kaser, Ottawa
In the November 2013 issue, you met the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority’s workplace lunch-time run club – now check out all of the details, from their Special Speaker Series, to how they accommodate different paces, to their fundraising endeavours on their blog, Workplace Run Club!
We caught up with club-founder and blogger Jenny Kaser for a quick Q&A.
Kaser was invited to speak at Ottawa Health Day in October. She was also recognized with an award for being an innovator in healthy living.
iRun: Do you eat before or after the run? Jenny Kaser: After. I have a tricky stomach so I have oatmeal at7:30 and then only drink water until after my run
iRun: Brown-bag or buy? JK: Always brown bag! Healthier, cheaper!
iRun: What’s your favourite run-day lunch? JK: Yogurt, banana, small container of oatmeal from breakfast, left over chicken/bok choy stir fry (my partner is an amazing cook, a competitive cyclist and Asian so I get goooood meals).
iRun: Post-run clean-up: on-site shower? Baby wipes? or…? JK: We are so spoiled here—we have showers on-site. The first year I ran, our workplace did not have showers and it was summer when I started. I learned how to use a towel, a washcloth, soap, a bowl and lots of baby powder (but not sure that’s good for you).
iRun: Funniest thing overheard on the run? JK: HA! Great question! This is from years back when I ran with Karen Meades, the gal who got me started. I only knew her as the Director of Finance, a very professional woman. I didn’t know she was very down-to-earth with a great sense of humour. She surprised me by saying, “I always picture myself crossing the finish line looking like this (she did this wonderful, confident, upright long stride), but I’ve seen videos of myself and in actual fact, I look like this (she hunched over, tongue lolling out, panting, with a pathetic shuffling gait).” Karen does races like Atacama Crossing and MDS so really, it’s no wonder!
Winter came early this year in Golden, BC. The nordic trails opened on November 8, with 15 km of groomed trail. This is two weeks earlier than they’ve ever been able to open before.
Early winter is great news for me as I was struggling with an aging body throughout the fall. I can’t really say that I was injured because I didn’t actually hurt any one thing. It was just like all of my muscles – especially in my lower body – were really tight. I knew that I needed to stretch to improve the situation (or, even better, get a massage) but I was so tight that I felt like stretching didn’t get me anywhere! Needless to say, I was a little frustrated.
I was doing all I could to expedite the return to full running – I shortened my projected runs, did some walking, tried mixing in some other exercise – like rollerskiing and cycling, but nothing seemed to be working. I was like a caged tiger!
For some inexplicable, to me, reason, the arrival of snow has made a huge difference. I went skiing for my first time on November 8 and that created a huge turnaround in my health. I’ve been able to run pain-free since. I think it might be the softer motions (softer even than rollerskiing) that brought my health to a better place. It may also have been using my entire body of muscles to propel myself in a relaxed fashion that helped things along.
This just reminded me how important the change of seasons is. No matter how much of a shock the first few days of -15C are, they are here for a reason and your body needs the seasonal fluctuations to recover, heal, regenerate and come back stronger.
I will curtail my running for the next few months – aiming for 30 minute runs, 3-4 days a week – and mix in a lot more cross country skiing for fitness (1+ hours, 5 days a week). I am sure my body will be happy to return to some epic running come spring!
Born in Nova Scotia and emigrating to British Columbia via Ontario and Alberta, Magi has been running the entire way. Primarily defined as a cross country ski racer, Magi has competed nationally and internationally in that sport. The highlight of her career was competing in the World University Games and the World Cup races in Canada in 2007. Cross country skiers rely heavily on running for cross training and Magi has become an accomplished trail and mountain runner, representing Canada at the World Mountain Running Championships in 2005 and the winning numerous national championships medals.
Today Magi runs for fun… and it’s a lot of fun! Epic mountain runs, city cruises with friends, and more keep her happy and occupied outside of work and school.
If you’ve ever run a long distance with a friend, you’ve probably had the experience of either sharing more with, or hearing more about that person than you ever would have over coffee. I read an article that gave a very interesting explanation for this behaviour, and I really wish I had saved it, because of course, now I can’t find it. But the jist was this: according to this article, some of the endorphins that are released during running can lower your inhibitions in a way that shares some similarities with alcohol, meaning the runner feels less self-conscious about sharing. I can certainly believe this, having opened up on some runs in ways I never would have otherwise; I am grateful that there’s a sort of unspoken rule relating to what’s said on the run staying on the road.
It would seem that this phenomenon is not necessarily limited to friends, either. I recently saw a short documentary film from the UK called “The Runners,” where the film crew approached people running and asked them questions, and they talked about all sorts of things like marriage, sex, parenting, and deeply-held fundamental beliefs. Personally, I am sure that if someone stuck a camera in my face and asked me these questions on the way out of the grocery store, I would have reacted the way the first runner did. But in the middle of a long run? I am not sure.
Here’s the video – quick language advisory for a couple of F-bombs – it’s worth a watch for both the sharing aspect, and also just some beautiful footage of runners running.
What do you think? Have you ever shared more detail on your beliefs and/or personal life on a run than you would have otherwise? If so, why do you think that is? How do you think you’d react if you were approached by a film crew on the run?
You just know that a race experience is going to be different when you see Elvis peeing in the desert at race start. As the sun was setting, we could feel the energy level rising in anticipation of running through one of the brightest places on earth – the famous Las Vegas strip at night. If you’ve ever imagined that running through the Vegas lights would be an eye-popping experience you would be exactly right and the half-marathon race is one you should put on your bucket list.
Perfectly Tiny Corrals
In 2011, the Las Vegas Marathon switched to become a nighttime run and the allure of running the strip at night increased the race size to 44,000 participants. Logistical issues compromised the quality of the race with complaints of course congestion, runners falling ill from aid station fluids, and difficulty exiting the finish area. I’m happy to report that I did not encounter any of these issues and that I was truly able to focus on just how great this race experience was.
One of the logistical touches I appreciated from the get go was the small size of the start corrals. There were 27 corrals for over 23,000 half- and full-marathoners where each corral would be released in 2-minute intervals which would help to ensure that runners would have enough room to run at their desired pace.
There Were Lasers
The buzz at the start area was contagious. We saw bride and groom outfits as well as lots of runners adorned with sparkly lights and glow items. And then there was the King – we saw Elvis many a times over and it was particularly amusing seeing one of him forgoing the portapotty lines to quickly relieve himself in the desert. As the night sky darkened, the DJ music amped up and laser lights coloured the start area into our very own start corral nightclub. The race start announcer provided an enthusiastic countdown for each wave and we were off.
Running by the Airport Strip
The first portion of the race is running south past the airport strip. The full moon provided the perfect backdrop for us to admire planes taking off and landing as if in honour of our run. The turnaround point to head back north featured a DJ station and more laser lights for us to enjoy. As we headed north, runners had the opportunity to snap a quick photo with the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign as a memento of their experience.
A Dazzling Perspective
If you’ve ever driven through the strip, you know how frustratingly slow it can be. Sitting at an intersection, you often question if the traffic lights actually change as you sit and sit and sit. Walking through the strip on a weekend evening can feel barely better than sitting as you weave through crowds and climb up and down overpasses. Running through the closed streets of the strip at night, however, is like getting your own VIP light show and it is simply dazzling. I could hear myself thinking, “Wow! This is awesome!” over and over again until kilometer after kilometer passed without me knowing it.
This Bucket is Half-Full
This race featured a full marathon, half marathon and a new “Half-of-the-Half” distance of 6.5 miles / 10.46 kilometers. The Half-of-the-Half distance was an untimed race but it was a chance to run through the closed streets of the strip albeit it was held more in the late afternoon daylight given its earlier race start.
The real gem of this race, however, is the half-marathon distance. The race course for the half is virtually exclusively on the strip and tours you through its brightest parts with a minor disappointment being that the Fremont Street lightshow experience is only on the full-marathon course. The added distance for the full distance, however, is accomplished via running through downtown Las Vegas area residential streets and from the accounts I’ve seen from other runners, it appears that the extended course for the full is quite dark and does not offer much by way of crowd support. So if you’re going to run this race, I’d recommend that you stay on the strip and get this half-marathon on your bucket list.
A Glowing Medal and a Fountain Show Finish
As we headed towards the finish, there were some great tongue and cheek inspired words on the ground to motivate us to finish strong. We were excited to receive our medals as they supported a great casino chip design and have an added cool factor in that they glow in the dark.
After the usual scarfing down of post-race bagels, bananas and chocolate milk, we headed to gear pick up area which was in front of the Bellagio hotel fountain. We treated ourselves to a few of the amazing water fountain show sequences hosted by the hotel which was a fitting end to a delightful race experience.