November 26th, 2014
BOSU balls were invented in 1999 by David Weck as a safer alternative to the traditional exercise ball.
BOSU (which stands for BOth Sides Up) balls can be used for a wide variety of exercises and can be found in most gyms and recreation centres.
The ball’s two sides – one round and soft, the other hard and flat, can both be used depending on the user’s goals.
The BOSU ball is much easier to stand on than a full exercise ball (as anyone who has tried cant attest to), but still offers enough of a challenge to stimulate the core muscles, which are used for balance.
The BOSU ball can be used for squats, push-ups, planks, the list goes on.
Next week, find different exercise variation that can easily be done with a BOSU ball to improve balance, core strength, and challenge the body in different ways.
Week 1. Squats
By now you probably know that we love squats. Squats engage quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and core muscles. This compound exercise is effective, time efficient, and extremely useful for runners of all levels.
To do a BOSU ball squat, put the ball on the ground with the flat side facing up. You can do this on either side – the video shows the exercise performed the other way, both will offer a slightly different challenge.
Pro-tip: Place the ball near a wall or in a squat rack your first few times performing this exercise, so you can use the wall to balance!
Place your feet on the ball so that your weight is centred. Focus on engaging your core muscles – that’s where your balancing power will come from.
Now squat! Putting your arms straight in front of you will help ensure you’re performing the movement properly. Your back should be straight and strong, and the movement should look like you are about to sit in a low chair. It’s important that your knees don’t go over your toes.
Squat down as low as possible while maintaining proper form, making sure to go at least 90°.
Perform the squats without weights when getting started, even if you do squats with weight normall. Start with three sets of 10 reps and work up (slowly) from there.
Squats are a great exercise, it’s best to focus on form rather that doing as many as you can.
November 24th, 2014
Winter running is not for the feint of heart, but as with most things running, we don’t do things because they’re easy, we do them because we choose to. But we all have those moments when our early morning alarm goes off and we open our eyes and it’s still pitch black, it’s cold, and our bed is oh so warm. So we need to do what we need to do and that is to cleverly trick our minds and trick out our gear to conquer the weather.
Trick #1: Think in layers instead of degrees
Checking the weather forecast can often send a chill down our spines and psyche us out from heading outside. But we need to remind ourselves that for every degree of cold that “there’s a layer for that.” Contrary to the heat of summer where we cannot shed any more layers beyond our skin, we always have the option to layer up to take on the cold.
Trick #2: No nudity
The wintry wind is no time to be showy and that means covering up every last bit of exposed skin. Hats, balaclavas, and at times, even ski goggles are necessary to cover up from the chill. And yes, you’ll be known as “that crazy runner” but it’ll make for one heck of a badass runfie.
Trick #3: Invest in covering your tips
If your ears, hands, and toes are nice and warm, you’ll be a lot more cheerful on your run. Multiple hats and headbands of varying thickness help you to have the right amount of warmth on any given day. Thin gloves, thicker gloves, and mitts are all necessary options to keep your hands warm. As for socks, stay away from cotton that becomes cold when damp and stick to synthetics or merino wool to keep your feet dry and warm.
Trick #4: Winterize your shoes
Running shoes are often designed to be breathable which is great in most instances. However, during the coldest of winter days, consider duct taping your toebox to give your shoes a quick weather resistant layer to help keep your feet warmer.
Trick #5: Misery loves social media
One of the best ways to stay motivated to head out on those dark and dreary cold days is to see others who are crazy enough to run despite the weather. Following runners on Twitter and Instagram as they share their workouts on the worst of days makes me want to go out for a run because if they can do it, so can I. And as you share your run on those bleary days, you’ll be inspiring others to do the same.
Trick #6: Preheat your oven
You are your very own best natural heat source so do like a good oven does and preheat yourself before you workout. While you’re indoors and fully clothed, do some dynamic stretches and a bit of a warm up routine so that you’re heading out with a little heat on you already.
Trick #7: Run the shoveled way
As you encounter snowfall and run your regular routes, you will soon notice which pathways are more consistently shoveled than others. City-managed sidewalks, shopping mall areas and business pathways are often good bets to be shoveled and salted earlier and more frequently than residential streets.
Trick #8: Stay a little loopy
On bad weather days, you need to plan your route such that you’re never too far from getting back to a safe return point. Instead of taking a long route, consider making multiple smaller loops so that you’re never too far from where you need to get back to in case something happens.
Trick #9: Sign your butt up
We all run for different reasons, but one of the best motivators is to commit yourself to a spring goal race and tell everyone about it. What’s even better is if you connect yourself with other participants via social media so that you can encourage each other through the same training cycle.
Trick #10: The final trick
The last trick is an easy one – just remember this: winter training turns into spring PBs.
May you outrun winter well,
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Follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewchak
November 24th, 2014
In June, we started the Couch to Marathon program, in which a group of non-runners would train for a year in pursuit of the marathon. The oldest member of our group is named Peter Symons and he’s 63 and has all manners of heart problems and, recently, has been training with a hernia. Today, he’s going into surgery, and again Wednesday. Thinking of my friend, all he’s taught me and how he trains, is an inspiration. Here’s 74 reasons why Peter’s my hero, hopefully at least one of them inspires you out the door.
74. The guy doesn’t have to run. He’s successful, happily married, well-adjusted. He runs because he likes it. It gives him a challenge. A jolt. It’s fun.
73. That said, he’s still a competitive bastard. It’s laughs on group emails. It’s serious business during speed work.
72. And he never misses a class. Want to run the marathon? Run!
71. Although he’ll probably skip this week. I’m no doctor, but after two hernia operations, it’s probably best to avoid four sets of five vertical hills?
70. He always comes prepared. You don’t need a million gadgets for running. You need six. Peter always has them. He puts himself in the position to succeed.
69. And with that comes information. He knows his 5K time, his 10K, and he’s playing with kilometer splits. The deeper you get into your training, the more likely you are to improve.
68. But you can’t live and die by your stop watch. Downtown Toronto, the GPS watch doesn’t work half the time. So be it. Peter still gets out there and runs.
67. And when he does listen to music, he’ll listen to almost anything.
66. Even classical.
65. Even jazz.
64. Here’s a quote from The Man: “I’m doing something I never thought I could do and I’m doing it reasonably well (even if I do say so myself).”
63. And here’s another thing about Peter. He was one of the original members of EachCoach, our running community at the National Post. And he signed up for my clinic, too. He tries new things. In his 60s! Sometimes I feel like it’s been a decade since I even tried a new dish of Chinese food.
62. And he always offers space in his car for the class to drop off our bags. Not a big deal, but when it’s raining and we’re doing hills, it’s nice.
61. And here’s a doozy. After our 5K, my mom couldn’t walk. It’s a long story but she was in rough shape and we were still hoofing it out to our bus stop. Peter came to our rescue. And he did it with his wife, and without guilt.
60. My mom still asks about them to this day.
59. But she hasn’t signed up for another 5K. Oh well.
58. Peter can’t hear that well, but he’s a great guy to talk to. So sometimes on our runs, when something’s bothering me, I’ll have to scream out the interpersonal details of my life. Sorry everyone.
57. But Peter, thanks for that. How is it that someone who can’t hear is the world’s best listener? Something to think about on my next long run.
56. One more Peter quote: “As I sit here, my legs hurt and in a non-masachistic way, I like that…”
55. And one more: “I’m surprised as to how much I like being able to say, “I’m a runner”. Not many people my age get to say that…”
54. Did I mention the guy’s been training with a hernia? How many times have you cancelled a run due to a cold?
53. Toughness isn’t measured by how much you can bench press.
52. It’s heart. You need heart to race.
51. And if you have a race, and it doesn’t go according to plan, get back out there. Part of the game is disappointment. That’s why it’s fun, you never know. Peter gets bummed sometimes with his race times.
50. After his 5K, he wrote: “I just never got it together today, I was late getting to the start and wound up stressed on the start line because I was later than I wanted to be.”
49. He went on: “I never got into a rhythm, so I was slower than I wanted to be, but it was a great lesson. It’s the first time I’ve really come to grips with how much this running thing is not just physical, it’s large part mental.”
48. And: “When we did the long run a week ago, I could have run forever, (well okay maybe not forever) but we were going at a good clip for 9 + Kilometres and there was no stress, I wasn’t tired, I was just in a groove!”
47: Finally: “Anyway, all great experience and I just want you to know how much I appreciate your training, its truly great.”
46: I almost cut out that last bit, but he said it, and it’s another good point. If there’s something you like, your clinic leader, your run buddy, whatever, tell them. It will inspire them to do a better job.
45. And don’t quit. This winter, it will probably get cold. Do not quit.
44. Wear layers. Peter is out there with a hernia and a toque. No excuses.
43. He’s also engaged. After our runs, he’ll do things like email the group the vertical information of our course. The more into account you take your training, the better you’ll do.
42. This also works with nutrition. Write down what you eat and you’ll eat better and less.
41. Pay attention to details.
40. But don’t let it take over your life. I don’t want to make Peter sound like a saint. More than once he’s come to class after having a beer and a cheeseburger for lunch. Good for him.
39. If you enjoy life, you’ll enjoy running, too.
38. And carry a light when it’s dark. Peter got his from a hardware store for $3.99. Common sense goes a long way.
37. All the way to the marathon? We’ll see…
36. But Peter says he isn’t losing sleep over this goal. He’s enjoying every step of the process, which is essential: because running is a process.
35. Allow me a cliche: “It’s the journey, not just the finish line.” Maybe that’s cheesy. But it’s true.
34. You need to find a way to enjoy your training. If not, it’s going to be very hard to stick with it, especially in the cold.
33. In the wintertime, it really helps to run with a group.
32. Hey, if you’re in Toronto, join mine!
31. And people outside the GTA, we hear you and we’re working on getting groups started in Ottawa,Vancouver and Calgary. Stay tuned!
30. But even if you can’t find a group, enter a race. This is the best way to stay motivated through the endless cold.
29. Races are like tests that force you to do your homework, which is the training.
28. Stop reading this list and sign up for something!
27. Here’s a great February event in Montreal.
26. And one in Edmonton.
25. And here’s one in Saint John.
24. Running events are happening all the time and are all over. They’re fun!
23. This is what Peter wrote about an event he took on last February: “I’ve signed up for the Move your Paws for the Polar Bear Cause run. Its on Feb 22nd, it’s only 3K (so, if necessary, I can crawl on my hands and knees) but it’s enough to motivate AND it’s only $30 of which $20 goes to the Polar Bear (well, perhaps not personally but you know what I mean). It’s not chip timed but does give out cute polar bear finisher’s medals…”
22. Have fun with these things!
21. Here’s a picture of Peter with his family
20. Reid Coolsaet once told me that of the Olympic marathon runners, the average PB of the men’s group came on their eighth try. They ran eight marathons before they got it right!
19. That means: if you only ran it once, you wouldn’t know what your potential is.
18. Stay with it this winter, people. It gets better. Running is like learning a foreign language. At first, it’s impossible. Then suddenly, it clicks.
17. Hang in.
16. Now back to Peter, who just gave a report from the hospital: “All is well except it feels a little like I’ve been kicked in the….. well, you get the picture…”
15. Sometimes an athlete’s greatest strength is their sense of humour. Keep yours’ as you train.
14. And save some kick for the last section of all your runs. My friend JP doesn’t do speed work, he just runs the ends of his training runs at race pace. I like that.
13. We have a hill at the end of our course by Black Toe. He moans and groans, but Peter runs up it every time.
12. And here I also have to mention my friend Emily. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen her sprint the last bit up to the store.
11. The whole group is really amazing and each one of them teaches me things every week.
10. Find your inspiration.
9. And stick with it, and keep fighting, and keep running, because someday, and this will happen to everyone, we won’t be able to run. So celebrate the now.
8. And watch this amazing video. Still feel too tired to run?
7. Be the person you want to be and let running help spread your wings. That way it becomes more than a sport.
6. Because it’s awesome, and it’s cheap, and it’s fun.
5. Peter says: “What have I learned? That I can keep going, that usually the desire to take a walk break isn’t really physical but more mental. You just have to talk yourself into keeping going, and it works. I’ve also learned that there is a tomorrow and if today’s run isn’t going well, tomorrow’s probably will.”
4. And: “I feel more like I belong to the greater running community than I did when I was just running on my own. I think ultimately, it’s given me more confidence. Mike Anderson said that when we as a group first went to his store, we all kind of stood around being shy, now we walk in like we own the place, and that’s the feeling.”
3. And that’s the feeling we can all have.
2. No excises this winter. Get out there, celebrate, run!
1. Get well soon, Peter. And come back to us. For everything, thanks.
November 19th, 2014
If you want to get a runner fired up, start talking about stretching. It’s taboo, controversial and confusing.
The science of stretching is subjective.
Authorities, experts, advocates, guru’s all have an opinion. Some of those opinions are based on studies or real life results.
I have been lead down the dark road debating stretching.
For years, I put no validity into stretching. I had every excuse and reason why I didn’t need to stretch. I was young, injury free, decent speed, quick to recover, you name it. I didn’t see the value in giving extra time into something I thought I didn’t need.
Fast forward a few short years (read: aging), few sore spots, longer recovery, some aches and pains that were not something I could run through and the realization that my body required care was evident.
When it comes down to it, there is enough undisputed unsubjective proof that stretching is necessary. It will optimize our performance, head off injury, increase our range of motion. But the stretching debate will really blaze into a firestorm over dynamic stretching vs static stretching.
Dynamic stretching (in motion not standing still) loosens up those legs muscles. This type of stretching includes leg swings, walking lunges, high leg kicks even jumping jacks, not a workout before your training run. You don’t want to fatigue the muscles, just wake them up and prepare them for the road ahead.
On the other hand, static stretching is usually done post run. Your standing quad, calf, hamstring stretch. Static stretches allow your muscles to relax and signify that the big work for the day is over.
The trainer in me would be remiss if I didn’t add in that extending your stretching beyond your muscles pre and post run will help your performance not to mention joint function. Torso, back, arms, groin all require some attention. Strength training is also a key component to being a strong runner and having the longevity. You need to have strength in your muscles to help you perform. Cross training will improve your overall conditioning as a runner, I promise!!
Everyone’s body functions differently, which means that one stretching program won’t suit every runner. Instead, you need to find a routine that works for you and I encourage you to try new stretches before and after your next run. With proper, consistent stretching, it is much easier to stave off an injury and let’s face it, that’s much more enjoyable that rehab.
About Carrie Burrows
Carrie turned her life from around from being obese to being fit. She studied Kinesiology at York University after she began a journey from being 225 pounds as a teenager and decided that she would dedicate her life to helping others realize the benefits of being fit and healthy. She is the CFO (Chief Fitness Officer) of Health and Fitness Systems Inc. where she has helped turn the lives of hundreds of women and men around through fitness, nutrition and training programs she designs. Carrie runs and designs several boot camp-style fitness programs along with corporate fitness/wellness programs, and still finds time to take on personal training clients while raising her three children to be fit and healthy. She is an avid mid-distance runner who loves to book “racecations” while still chasing a faster minute mile. Carrie knows firsthand the two worlds of being unhealthy and fit and believes that, “Anyone with a goal, dedication and support can become who they want to be.”
Visit her website and follow Carrie on Twitter and Instagram!
Questions about training? Email Carrie!
November 4th, 2014
Elite athlete Mary Keitany of Kenya crossed the finish and claimed gold at the Ottawa 10K last May.
Recently announced as the venue for the 2015 Canadian 10K Championships, the Ottawa 10K, one of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend’s signature events has achieved the gold label standard from the International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF). As the highest standard awarded by the international governing body of running, races awarded the Gold label have met a strict criteria including the caliber of elite runners, scope of media coverage and logistical execution of the event.
As the first road race in Canada to achieve this standard, the Ottawa 10K becomes one of only four 10K races worldwide to be awarded this prestigious status. What does this mean for the Ottawa Race Weekend? According to John Halverson, president of Run Ottawa and race director of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, achieving the gold standard, “puts Ottawa on the map as a destination for amateur and elite runners looking for a world-class running experience.” With the 30th running of the Ottawa 10K happening May 23, 2015, as part of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, organizers are looking ahead, aiming to take the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon from its current Silver label to Gold label status.
Find out more about what the IAAF’s labelling system means for Canadian runners in our recent interview with John Halverson.
November 4th, 2014
Back in 2007 the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) implemented a labelling system for road races held around the globe. In order to achieve a gold, silver or bronze label, events, including marathons, must meet certain requirements to achieve premier status.
While only two Canadian marathons have ever achieved a silver ranking—the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon— organizers for both are hoping to claim a gold ranking soon. What does this gold label really mean? iRun spoke with John Halvorsen, race director of the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, for
his take on achieving
the gold label and why
it’s not only important
to the events but also to the sport of running in Canada.
iRun: What does the gold ranking signify?
John Halvorsen: It’s the ranking of the event for athletes—including elite runners—and spectators which confirms that within the IAAF, the races are meeting the criteria of a sanctioned event. The recognition that your event has met the requirements is an official part of the sport, which is important to many people.
iRun: How are the standards applied to each ranking?
JH: As you go up from bronze to silver to gold, the standards to qualify become more difficult to meet, such as the quality of competing runners, a diversity of runners from different countries. There are some differences of opinion in that the labeling system should not be universally applied across the board because some criteria are more difficult to meet in certain parts of the world, specifically related to television coverage.
iRun: What has been the benefit for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon?
JH: Attracting athletes of a certain (elite) caliber. We’ve developed and achieved a level of competition from
a results perspective. Having runners see the caliber of athletes and what they’ve achieved says that it’s a well- organized, well-supported event and they want to come run it. Being on the IAAF website continues to keep us on the radar of agents and runners.
iRun: How does the labelling system affect elite runners versus everyday athletes?
JH: From an elite runner’s perspective,
it’s the degree of acknowledgment that they’re competing in an event that’s at a very high standard internationally. For non-elite athletes,
I’d say the effect is very little because most people aren’t aware of the standards. Achieving the gold label is a way of educating people. I think gold would cause people to ask, “what does it mean?” and more people would be talking about the sport.
iRun: Where do you hope to see the IAAF labelling system moving?
JH: Leverage the program to promote the sport in each market, which means you apply the requirements in each area a little differently: Asia versus North America versus Europe, because the markets are different from each other. The sport of running
is not as prominent in certain areas, and that causes one to think “How can we make the sport more prominent?” and “How can we leverage what we have to the labelling standards that exist?” I think they’ve moved in this direction, and I hope they continue to because I believe that is what’s best for the sport.
iRun: Why would
the gold label be important for the sport in Canada?
JH: I believe the purpose is to enhance the sport in the community. Labelling events that are the best in the country is the
best way to declare that they’re world-class events in the sport of running.
For more information on the IAAF labelling requirements check out iaaf.org.
November 4th, 2014
That was the margin. The gap. The shortfall.
This past spring, I had run a Boston qualifying marathon time. This 40-45 year old male body needed a 3h15m or better time to gain eligibility to apply. I was able to squeak out a 3h1405s and I was overwhelmed with relief at meeting a far-reaching goal.
However, when it came to applying for Boston this fall, there were more than enough runners who also wanted to realize the same goal. When registration closed, the Boston Athletic Association announced that runners needed to beat the standard by 1m2s to gain entry. I was out by 7 seconds.
And now it was the fall and time for my next big race – the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM). I was still reeling from getting rejected by Boston and I didn’t know if I had enough motivation to push through the pain of a marathon with the fear that I might get rejected again.
The thought of pushing through a marathon is one that intimidates me. Ask me to race a half marathon or less and I’ll gladly do it because it’s a distance that I do regularly in training. I am fearless in finishing and am only concerned with how fast I can go. But take me up over 30K and you’ll find that my confidence is lacking because I’m wary as to how my legs will respond. Longer runs for me are just plain long. Sure, I slog them out like everyone else does. But I pitter-patter, I drag my feet, and I take breaks. I make these longer runs feel even longer.
The truth about my pace band
Race day arrived and the forecast called for 2°C temperatures with a bit of wind but thankfully, no rain. Although it would be chilly at the start, it was “no excuses” weather as far as I was concerned. After stalking what other runners were wearing, I decided on a tech t-shirt, thin gloves, and shorts would keep me warm and fast.
Today would be a day to chase down a new marathon personal best. Based on my recent Canada Army Run Half Marathon time (1h31m03s) and my spotty long runs, I figured I had a shot at a 3h11m or 3h12m time. My coach, Kevin from Marathon Dynamics, had a different idea – he believed I could shoot for a 3h09m.
Oh. My. Crap.
3 OH 9.
To be honest, my coach believed in me more than I did. I was terrified. I was scared of going too fast for my cramp-riddled legs to finish. But I was also hopeful. Hopeful of running a sub 3h10m as that would significantly increasing my chances of getting into Boston. So when my coach sent me that 3h09m pace band, I simply printed it out and strapped it to my wrist.
Ready for battle
As I settled into the start corral, it was reassuring to see a few familiar faces. It was great to see Mike, Kenny and Pat at the start and wish them all luck. Seeing other runners in the start corral is like seeing an army of soldiers heading into battle. We are all geared up, ready to release the tapered beast within us and wage war against a distance to run a better version of ourselves. We were ready to go, and with the blast of a horn, we did.
The plan for the first 10K was to run at a 4:33/km pace. I would hold back a bit in the beginning to save my legs for the latter part of the race. Thankfully, most runners had seeded themselves well in the corrals as I did not need to dodge anyone to hit my target pace.
As we headed past our first turn, the synchronized cheering and acrobatics of the University of Toronto Cheerleading Team welcomed us to Bloor Street. Turning back down on Bathurst, I was delighted and proud to see crowds of Torontonians cheering us on. Bathurst was a little downhill so I let my legs pick up the pace but kept my effort the same. I received a great shout out from Heather from Tribe Fitness who is always out to cheer.
We started heading west along the Lakeshore and it was great to see my teammate, Anu, cheering me on – it’s always such a boost to see a friendly face along the course who you know is cheering for you. As we continued along west, we started to see the race leaders running back east past us. It’s inspiring to see our Canadian elite runners, Eric, Lanni and Rob be a part of those lead packs. Before I knew it, the first 10K was done and I was feeling great.
First 10K: 45:18, 4:31/km pace.
We continued west along Lakeshore Blvd until the turnaround point just past 12K where we then proceeded to double back eastward. One of the things that I’ve come to appreciate about courses with out and back sections is that they are an inspiring opportunity to cheer on your friends running at different paces. It’s incredible how we can pick out familiar faces amongst thousands of runners just to give them a cheer or a high-five.
Through this stretch of the course, I appreciated the running shout outs from Karyn and “let’s take a #runfie” Petja. One of my favourite memories of this part of the race is getting cheered by one of my Marathon Dynamics coaches, Kristin. In my interactions with Kristin, I’ve always known her to be a calm, quieter individual, but today she was completely different. She was cheering, she was yelling, she was hollering. She boldly proclaimed that I was looking good, and it fortified my resolve to keep running that way and I needed it for what was coming next.
Coming upon the 20K mark is the cruelest part of the course: the half- and full-marathon split. There are two arches with the one on the left turning up towards Bay Street and the finish while the one on the right equates to 22K more of ashphalt and a world of hurt before the end. Without wanting to give it too much thought, I went right and still felt great heading towards the halfway mark.
10K-21.1K: 42:29, 4:27/km pace.
I crossed the half-marathon point about 28s ahead of pace but I was pleased to be more or less on track. One of the revisions to the course this year is that the out-and-back loop along the Bayview extension is earlier on in the race. Although there isn’t much access for spectators along this part of the course, the energy level was more than made up for by runners cheering each other on. I was inspired to see Mike, Alan, Prasheel and Kenny coming back ahead of me and their speed made me want to keep it up.
21.1K-30K: 39:47; 4:28/km pace.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I crossed the 30K mark at 2h14m32s which is a new personal best for me. As I reflect upon this race, the best part about this portion was that I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that I was in my about-to-cramp-up-and-die phase of the marathon. I made like Forrest Gump and just kept running and running and running and the splits just kept coming.
A big part of my preoccupation was trading cheers with other runners like Kino, Kerri, Mark, Jack and Christa. The kilometers flew by and I was still smiling from ear to ear near the 39K mark when I saw the outstretched hands and heard the shouts from my boys and my wife. And then I saw two very familiar faces but they were ones that I have never seen on a course before: my parents. My mom was yelling and my 80-year old dad was jumping up and down shouting “Go-go-go!” which gave me more fuel than any gel could ever provide.
I was flying high and heading into the 40K mark, cramp-free, and now only slightly behind my 3h09m pace band. So you’ll understand why I was caught off guard by what happened next.
30K-40K: 45:01; 4:30/km pace.
There is an arch at the 40K mark and it is a beautiful sight. It is essentially a beacon declaring, “the end is near.” Everything about the day was perfect thus far: an ideal chilly temperature, lively crowd support, and the energizing cheers of running friends and family. But at 40K, my legs had a different idea – the cramps started to fire.
I only get leg cramps during marathons. My legs feel like they are under siege by an arsenal of flaming darts. My toes begin to clench and it’s like I am running with clubbed feet. My stride begins to hobble as every turnover feels like an exaggeration.
Based on my 40K time, I knew that if I could maintain a 5:00/km pace or faster that I could just hit my sub 3h10m dream goal. I wanted to push as hard as I could but I was afraid. I was afraid of my legs completely seizing up and being forced to a crawl. I was afraid of wasting what was a perfect race thus far. I was afraid that I would never get another chance to qualify like this again.
But somehow, by the grace of God, my legs kept on going faster than what I was feeling. My smile was replaced with a full-on finish face where I wore all of the agony within me. As I saw the red banners of the finish, I was like a raging bull charging towards a target. I crossed the finished, stopped my watch and stared down.
Oh. My. Crap.
I was in disbelief. But before I could process anything I saw one of the best things any runner could ask for at a finish – a friendly face. It was Lisa from iRun. I was so happy to share in this moment with her because Lisa has been the main driver behind my blogging and writing role at iRun. She has believed in me and is the one who lets me ramble on and share all of my crazy running escapades with all of you. I gave her a long sweaty hug wanting to cherish the accomplishment with a dear running friend.
Having been a runner for the past three and a half years, I’ve come to appreciate just how emotional the marathon distance is. It is a distance that has the capability to break you and bring you to incredible lows. It is also a distance where the spirit within you can come alive and experience the immeasurable joy at pushing through what was once impossible. It is for this reason that I run.
Here’s an interesting tidbit for you:
I ran the first half in 1h34m45s and the second half in 1h34m52s.
The difference? 7 seconds.
October 28th, 2014
Physical training is only part of the success equation. For athletes, seeing is believing, and that means visualizing positive outcomes.
By Joanne Richard
The mind rules; experts recognize that it can be your greatest ally, or your worst enemy,
and negative thinking can stand in the way
of your personal best and sabotage your performance. “Visualizing and seeing yourself be successful is such an important aspect of individual people having great run performances,” says Barrie Shepley, co- owner of personalbest.ca. “But while most runners are out on the track, trails and treadmills four to five times a week trying to make their body faster, very few even spend five minutes a day preparing their most important organ—their mind—to go faster.”
According to Shepley, a former Olympic coach, mindset is the biggest difference between athletes who have great runs one weekend and average runs a few weeks later. “The old adage if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right, is so important when it comes to the power of the mind and achieving successful athletic performances.”
HAVE A STRONG RACE PLAN
Mental performance consultant Alayne Hing agrees that believing it can be key to achieving it. “We take care of our bodies with nutrition, hydration, physical and even tactical training, but oftentimes we don’t prepare our minds. Anxiety, unexpected challenges, and not having a race plan can overwhelm a runner and result in a poor race outcome.”
Controlling our thoughts is as important as controlling our physical movements.
“A strong race plan, complete with many possible scenarios— blisters, poor weather, falling behind, number of competitors, cramps, chafing, course layout, unexpected hills, etc.— can prepare you to deal with these challenges effectively, without panic, and move on smoothly without having them impact your overall race,” says Hing, who is with the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary and also runs Elite Edge, a performance company.
WORK IT INTO YOUR DAILY TRAINING
Professional athlete Lionel Sanders employs visualization in his daily training. “The mind is the most underrated aspect of training. A great deal of my training is mind training. I think
it is the most important aspect to athletic success.”
The 26-year-old Hamilton triathlete says that without a positive mindset, the race can be lost before you even start, especially if intimidated by competitors. “This is where I put visualization to use. Before I go into a race, I will have already won the race many times in my own head. That way, when I get there, I feel that all I need to do
is what I have already done hundreds of times in practice.” Sanders visualizes success throughout every run, swim and biking practice. He trains 28-35 hours per week on average, which includes running about 150K, swimming 25K and biking 450K for
a total of 625K over his training week.
Visualizing the finish line helped Sanders come up with the fastest run split in the Half Ironman Triathlon in Syracuse
on June 21 by nearly
10 minutes over past champions. “He ran 1:09 for his 21K split off the bike—after 90K of biking and 2K of swimming. Most people, fresh from running a half marathon, go about 1 hour and
30 minutes to 1 hour and 50 minutes. So 1:09 off the bike is ridiculously fast,” says Shepley, who trains Sanders physically and mentally, and has coached hundreds
of people to national championship titles, as well as Pan American Games and World Championship medals.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE DARK PLACE
For Sanders, thinking strong means finishing strong. When negative thoughts creep in, he replaces them with positive thoughts, such as, “yes, you can do this, just relax. In a race situation, I know these negative thoughts are sure to come, so before the race I like to think of a mantra that I will tell myself to stay as strong as possible.”
Failing to acknowledge that “the dark place” is sure to come, says Sanders, is a key mistake racers make. “If you are pushing your limits, you will most certainly encounter negative states of mind, as your body does not like to transcend its current limitations. Knowing this, you need to have a meaningful mantra in place to regain composure over yourself in the moment.” It has to be meaningful, stresses Sanders, otherwise it will be easily tossed aside when “the dark place” overcomes runners
with negative thoughts. Meaningful mantras allow athletes to push through barriers into places, both mental and physical, that they have never been before.
Throughout the day and before bed, Sanders visualizes as many different scenarios as he possibly can, along with the outcome that he would like to manifest in real life. “I try and add as much colour to the visualization as possible—for example, I try and see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the smells. Over time, I have been able to see myself in a particular scenario to such an extent that it gives me shivers down my spine.”
According to Hing, mental training is
not something that is perfected overnight, but runners can increase performance dramatically with the right mental training and practice. “Since you can’t run all day, every day, why not get the reps in with your mind? Research shows that thoughts and images produce the same mental instructions as actions. “Essentially, we want to get in many reps of successful, vivid, first- person imagery to build and wear in the neural pathways of our brain so that during competition, our bodies are more likely to recreate what we have visualized,” adds Hing, whose company, elite-edge.ca helps both individuals and teams succeed
in their performance domain, whether they are amateur, Olympic or professional athletes.
Shepley adds that confidence in races comes from doing things in workouts that reflect what you want
to do in a race. “People often think that mental skills are only important during a race, but the reality is mental skills are critical in workouts to help you to take your fitness and experience to a new level during training so you can just repeat it during a big event.”
October 28th, 2014
The Smart Runner Workshop has been empowering runners
with the knowledge they need to run smarter, faster and with less risk of injury for a few years. Founded by chiropractic sports specialist Dr. Dale Macdonald (who also co-founded the Stampede Road Race in 2009 with Jeremy Deere, co-founder and managing partner of Strides Running Store Inc. in Calgary), the workshop is based on peer-reviewed research from the global running community.
We had a long chat with Dr. Macdonald on the seven deadly sins of distance running, gathering together a Coles Notes version for you. Although some of this information may be old news to veteran runners, it still serves as a healthy reminder that positive acts of self-discipline can help runners of all abilities
and experience to keep fire and brimstone at bay.
DEADLY SIN #1: POOR FOOTWEAR
“Doctor, my knees and joints hurt from running.”
“Well, how old are your shoes?”
“I don’t know, two or three years old…?”
It’s easy to lose track of the days and Ks we log in our running shoes. But when things start to feel a bit off, look to them for the first line of offence. Changing your shoe could clear up your aches and pains almost immediately.
TOP TIP: “Most runners can get the most out of a comfortable neutral shoe,” says Dr. Macdonald. “And remember— you get what you pay for.” Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on a shoe from a specialty running store—your best bet for quality footwear and advice.
DEADLY SIN # 2: POOR FORM
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: working on your strength and flexibility is key to good running form. “Most running form issues are caused by inadequate strength,” says Dr. Macdonald. “Many of us sit at
a desk all day, causing our muscles to become stiff and lazy—which can lead to neurogenic reciprocal inhibition.” We had to google that one. It turns out “reciprocal inhibition” describes two opposing muscle groups working together to produce an effect, such as your stride. A muscle imbalance can inhibit this process. For example, tightness
of the hip flexors can inhibit the glutes, resulting in soreness and subsequently injury.
TOP TIP: Seek professional help with identifying weaknesses. Tight muscles need to be loosened before inhibited muscles can be strengthened.
our bodies can go into damage control mode, remodelling tissue in a less-than-ideal
way by artificially reinforcing muscle with scar tissue.
DEADLY SIN #3: IGNORING PAIN
“Imagine an empty coffee mug,” explains Dr. Macdonald. “This represents a body devoid of repetitive strain. Then we begin to run too hard for too long without rest. Our body does not have enough time for true tissue repair and so it begins to create compensations. Unbeknownst to us these compensations start to fill the proverbial coffee mug.“Eventually the coffee mug spills over and the onset of symptoms begin,” continues Dr. Macdonald. “Runners are often surprised that the pain comes out of nowhere but in reality it’s been building up for quite some time.”
TOP TIP: “To drain the coffee mug you need to remove compensations—simply taking time off is not enough. Only treatment drains the coffee cup,” says Dr. Macdonald. “You’ll be back to running faster and with less risk of relapse.”
DEADLY SIN #4: EXCESSIVE DURATION
“There is a cost-versus-benefit to running,” Dr. Macdonald says. “Recent studies show that after three hours or more of running, the rate of muscle damage increases by 8 per
cent and your organs start to suffer.” Microscopic tears and bleeding can occur in your muscle fibres and cells as
a result of long periods of training. Research shows that degradation of muscle proteins is at its peak 24 hours after
a hard workout. If we don’t allow enough recovery time, our bodies can go into damage control mode, remodelling tissue in a less-than-ideal
way by artificially reinforcing muscle with scar tissue.
TOP TIP: Allow your body to recover properly. According to research, muscle protein re-synthesis peaks at 36 to 46 hours after a workout, at which time healthy tissue
is at its best. Don’t put excessive strain on the tissue before then.
DEADLY SIN #5: INADEQUATE ‘WORK-HARDENING’
Although weight-bearing exercises, such as running, can help to maintain or even increase bone density, research has shown that bone density in symptomatic runners with active shin pain is 12 per cent lower than in pain- free runners.
Wolff’s law, developed by German anatomist and surgeon Julius Wolff in the nineteenth century, states that bone in a healthy person will adapt to the loads under which it is placed.
In other words, if load increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist the rate of loading.
However, ramping up too quickly doesn’t allow your body to adapt. By building up duration and distance progressively, you can maintain healthy bone density while avoiding soft tissue and bone-related injuries such as stress fractures.
TOP TIP: “Follow the 10 per cent rule,” Dr. Macdonald says. “Increase your distance or time by 10 per cent each week for three weeks, then hold at week four to minimize risk.” Repeat.
DEADLY SIN #6: INADEQUATE REST
Chronic fatigue, poor sleep patterns, and tossing and turning at night could all be signs of overtraining, suggests a recent study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Increased fatigue associated with longer and harder workouts is normal, but you should be aware of changes in sleep patterns
and a decrease in performance during workouts.
Also, knowing and monitoring your resting heart rate is a best practice when it comes to recovery. If in the morning following a long run you have a higher resting heart rate than usual, your body could still be recovering and you should adjust your workout schedule to prevent over- training or injury.
TOP TIP: “Simply, run
when you feel good,” says Macdonald. Many runners start off tired but are reenergized after a short time on the run, so Dr. Macdonald recommends heading out for a 10-minute test. “If you still feel sluggish after 10 minutes, turn around and head home. There’s always tomorrow.”
DEADLY SIN #7: POOR NUTRITION
It’s a truism among runners that a great diet cannot make an average runner elite, but a poor diet can make an elite runner average.Carbo-loading is key to maximal performance, yet many of us are still doing it wrong.Dr. Macdonald recommends the following guidelines for optimal pre-race consumption.
24 to 36 hours pre-race: exercise vigorously to bottom out your carbohydrate load
(for example, 5K speed work for a marathoner). A “glycogen window” exists for one to four hours after this workout. It is imperative that you consume adequate carbohydrates as soon as possible afterwards; use seven to 10 grams per kilogram as a guide. The rate of repletion is enhanced by the degree of depletion. Also, re-evaluate the “buffet belt,” as Macdonald jokingly calls the multiple-bottle fuel belt. Research shows we generally have enough energy storage for over an hour and half of running without needing to refuel. Over-consumption on the run is just
as detrimental as poor pre-race nutrition—your performance can be affected by unnecessary weight gain over time caused by over-fuelling. On long runs, your system allows for sympathetic preference to skin and muscles, turning your stomach off and limiting digestion of the fuel being consumed.
TOP TIP: Test out your nutrition needs during your training runs. Simply start
at a zero-to-low rate of consumption and build up, monitoring your performance throughout the process. Also worth noting: A 2010 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that simply sloshing (they call it “mouth rinsing”) a 6.4 per cent carbohydrate solution for 30 seconds followed by spitting it back out is virtually as good as ingesting it.
Dr. Dale Macdonald is a post-doctoral sport specialist in private practice in Calgary, Alberta. He is the director of Elite Sport Performance; a multidisciplinary sport injury practice in Calgary. Through smartrunner.ca,
Dr. Macdonald hosts an annual running workshop where he and his team of experts share the latest peer- reviewed research from the global running community with avid runners from across the country. Dr. Macdonald is a competitive 5 and 10km racer. He also races mountain bikes and go-karts!
October 27th, 2014
Even though I haven’t been training this season, I had a goal in mind. It was something I had been thinking about for a long time, and just never got around to it. As I was doing all of that not-training I thought, why not now? So I built up my mileage and it picked a date: the Saturday after my birthday. A goal-run for my birthday is nothing new – what can I say? It’s how I party.
So on Saturday, I laced up and headed out on my little self-designed adventure: to run the Elora-Cataract Trail from my home in Fergus, ON, to Holtom’s Bakery in Erin. The distance is roughly 36K of trail – which, in my mind, worked out well considering it was my 36th birthday. Keep in mind that distance doesn’t include from my house to the trail, or from the trail to the bakery at the other end – which becomes important later.
Grand River at Belwood Lake
My husband, Steve, offered to meet me at a familiar place where the trail crossed the road – what would be about 20-kilometres in for me – just to make sure I was okay had enough fluid and gels to get there, and of course, he would pick me up at the other end.
I was in no rush, so I took my camera along, and set out at around 7:00 am.
For the next four hours, it would just be me, meandering through the countryside, putting one foot in front of the other.
And I have to say, that is kind of mind-blowing to me. Not so much the physical endurance part – I mean, yeah, it’s a long way, but all of you know from experience that you build up for that. You know every kilometre you put in, every blister, chafe-mark, and achy morning – there is no mystery; you know exactly how you got there.
But the mental part still impresses me. Four hours is a long time to be alone with your thoughts. There is plenty of time to get to know yourself – every crazy idea, dream and notion; all of the dark spaces, fears and doubts. There’s no way to quantify that stuff – it just is.
Interestingly enough, as I was trucking along on Saturday, I didn’t spend a lot of time in the dark spaces. I am guessing that it’s because there was no pressure. There was no giant clock over the finish, no time that I had arbitrarily set for myself to work towards. Nope, I ran all that way just for fun.
And it really was a lot of fun! I had only ever run the first 16 to 18 kilometres of that route before, so at least half of it was brand new – but the great part was, since it’s all rail trail, I didn’t even have to think about where I was going or worry that I’d get lost. I just ran. I made a point of looking around rather than zoning out, since I had no idea when I’d be out there again. I took pictures of the river, the leaves, fields, geese, whatever.
I remember the exact moment that it stopped being fun: when I hit 36.01 kilometres and stopped my watch and started to walk. Because it hurt. A lot. In retrospect, I am not as immune to the numbers as I make it sound, because if I had been smart, I would have kept running and not walked until I was only about 500m or so from the bakery – but 37.5 kilometres for my 36th birthday just seemed crazy. So it took me 20 minutes to hobble roughly 2,000 metres, all the while hoping Steve would read my mind and meet me with the car to drive the final stretch to the bakery.
But really, I am glad he didn’t, because now I can honestly say that I have gone from my front door to Holtom’s bakery entirely under my own power, using nothing but my own two feet.
And that’s kinda cool.
Medal: Fund Run4Bling. Because medal.