Running Tunes Thursday

New Feature perhaps?!


Alternate title for this particular post would be: 

Why Build me Up Buttercup is one of the best songs to run to.

It is a little wordy though…so perhaps we will continue with this as a weekly feature…

I know I’m always on the look out (or in this case, ear out) for new tunes that can motivate and keep my feet going.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Foundations song from the 60’s, Build me Up Buttercup, check out the video below.

So why is it such a good song to run to?

  1. It’s fun.  You can’t deny this catchy tune is one to make you smile.
  2. It has an echo….echo…echo….By this I mean that they say part of the words and the back ground singers repeat it.  SO…why is this a good thing?  Well, first if you don’t know all the words, you can chose to sing the echo.  If you happen to have a running partner with you, you can split it up and one can take the lead while the other sings the echo.  This would also work in a group run situation too.
  3. Build Me Up Buttercup…It is a motivator in the lyrics alone!
  4. You can keep this one going over and over and over and over and over …you get what I mean.  The song fades so there really isn’t a hard stop here.  Put on repeat and keep it going!


We would love to hear some of your fave running/hiking/walking/workout/biking tunes to feature on our Running Tunes Thursday!




A Geek’s Guide to Running

The world of a runner is strange to some. We have weird and wonderful quirks that we seem to grow proportionally to how many years we run.

I have been a runner for 28 years. So that tells you just how long the list of quirks are for me.

Recently, I was asked to run a ‘Learn to Run’ clinic. The program is to take 8 weeks and end up with the ‘students’ to go from newbie to be able to run/walk 5 kilometres. I decided to use a run/walk combo as to lessen the occurrence of injuries. Although I don’t use this method myself when running, I still adhere to taking the walk breaks when you need them; I just don’t time them.  Bottom line; if you need a walk break, take one.  There is a danger is taking too long of a walk break or too slow of a break so just make sure you get the feet moving again quickly.

I wanted to put together a few things I have come to realize over the years. Call them tips or rules or 12 useless ideas about running, but the reality is that most of us will just be recreational runners. We are not looking for any record setting PB’s here. We are looking for a way to stay healthy and enjoy an activity that can bring thousands of people together or where you can enjoy your solitude.


Here are my 12 guidelines for the running geek in you:

  1. Just run. I know that sounds so simple, but that is all there is to it. If you feel like running 1 kilometre or 10 or 20, you are still a runner.
  2. A 10 minute mile is the same distance as a 5 minute mile. Ok, I stole that one but I believe it. It isn’t the time (ok sometimes it is, but most of the time it isn’t) that is important. The distance. The distance. The distance.
  3. Watch The Barkley Marathons at least once in your life. I am not even going to go into why, just do it and you’ll figure out why when you watch. Then you’ll probably want to watch it again.
  4. Shoes matter. They do. Sorry but you cannot go cheap here. You can cheap out on all the fancy running gear like fancy jackets, pants and fuel belts, but you can’t cheap out on your shoes. Your joints will thank you 10 years from now.
  5. Yes, you can run in the winter. Sure, there are days that are not conducive to speed, and there may be days that it is not a good idea because of icy conditions, but the cold is not a reason to not get out. Layer up and get outside. Your mind and body will thank you immediately following that run.
  6. Trails are amazing. If you can get into the trails, give them a try. The soft cushion of the trails are great for your joints and not to mention the rolling hills are great for conditioning. Just realize that you will definitely be slower when running in the trails if you are timing yourself.
  7. Take pictures. Ok this may sound weird but I have been able to get some great photos (on my phone) during a run. The sunset. The lake. A flower. Seriously stop and not only smell the roses, but take photos of them too.
  8. If you are out for a run and someone is running towards you who is also out for a run, a simple wave, peace sign, or nod is imperative. If they don’t reciprocate, that’s on them.
  9. Sign up for a race. I know this may seem daunting, especially if you are a beginner, but the experience is worth it. Maybe start by just going to watch a race. Check out the diversity of people that are running. You will be amazed just standing at a finish line of a 10km (or marathon) and see people that are Just Like You. Most people are NOT elite athletes. It is amazing to watch them too but you will never be more inspired than when you watch the mid to back of the pack finishers.
  10. You are not a jogger.  Please don’t let anyone tell you that.  If you are running, you’re a runner.  I honestly have no idea what a jogger is so please don’t use that language with me.
  11. Get a running buddy.  Yes, there are times when the solitude of running is exactly what I need, but my running partner (shout out to Rayanne!) and I have been running for probably 12-15 years and I can honestly say she has kept me going all these years.  We have ran, talked, laughed and raced together.  The friendship of a running partner is unique in that you truly see each other at your best and worst. I am very lucky to have one of the best around.  And NO, you can’t have her.
  12. Finally, the most important thing to remember is if you do a race, never, ever wear the race shirt the day of the race. You earn the shirt once you have completed the race. You can wear a shirt from a previous race, if you finished it. But not until the race is done, the race shirt stays in the kit.

After 28 years of running many kilometres, I may find my legs are moving a little slower these days, the joints hurt a little more when I get up, but the mind still wants to get out and run.  As long as the body is willing to join in, I will be logging the miles.

Get out…and stay out!!

I mean that in the nicest way 🙂 

The rain has finally (fingers crossed) subsided here in southern Ontario and although some trails are still closed because Lake Ontario is bursting at its seems, the sun is shining again and we are itching to get out!

Val is on the move hiking by the river close to her house everyday and enjoying the sun and the wildlife that is making new homes for the summer there.  I am finally mobile after 3 months of rehab for a ligament injury (insert whining here), but I have to say on a side note, that Physiotherapy works.  Seriously.  Abide by the therapist and you can’t go wrong!  Anyhooo…I won’t labour on about that…it is FINALLY time to get out into the trails!

I don’t know who is more excited…me or my dog!

Something I learned from nursing this injury and making my way back into the trails in a sort of running/walking/hiking way, is just how much I missed being outside.  I rehabbed a lot in the gym, for which I was grateful to have use of, but wow did I ever miss outside.

The trails are awesome for exercise as well as state of mind.  The ground is naturally cushioning.  The trees provide some shade if the day is hot or even rainy.  The rolling hills of the trails get the heart rate pumped up to give you a great cardio workout.

We tend to make things very complicated with our fitness.  We need the gadgets and the gizmos to feel like we are doing something worth while.  The simplicity of getting out into the woods and hiking can not only get your heart pumping but also fill it with the joy of being out surrounded by nature.  Our minds can slow down and take in all of the beauty that is around us.  The results are incredible.

So here’s the challenge.  No matter where you live, check out some outdoor space for your next ‘workout’.  Don’t worry about the watch or the fitbit!  Just put the shoes on and go and enjoy what surrounds you. It could be woods, trails, beach, or boardwalks.  You won’t be sorry.



YouTube Thursday! Barkely Marathons

Four more days until Around the Bay 2017!!!!

Well…I wish I could say I’m ready to go.  But I’m not.  Not because of lack of training or motivation, but because of an unusual injury that has reared its ugly head over the last week and a half.

A couple of Thursdays ago it was quite cold here (actually it is cold again today but that is how it goes in Ontario this time of year), so I wanted to get a really good 8km in and maybe do a little speed work or intervals.  I decided to head over to my gym and use the treadmill.  Now, I am not a fan of the treadmill, but see its necessity especially in our climate and conditions.

I ran a really great 8km with some intervals training mixed in and felt quite good, both physically and mentally.

The next day, there was a little tweek on the  outside of my right knee.  I ignored it.  I rested the Friday and ran 8 km on Saturday.  After my run on Saturday, it was a little sore but still, not that bad. Sunday was long run day and we set out for 18km.  I finished but was definitely in some pain by the end…actually about 5-6km in but again, I ignored it.

After a slathering of Voltaren and some Advil and some stretching, I thought a couple days rest would give it the time it needed to get back to normal.

I didn’t run all week.  In fact, I hobbled along like I remember my 85 year old Grandma hobbling along before she broke her hip.

We were poised to run again on the weekend and I did all I could to ice it, stretch it, Advil it, and Voltarenize it (I think I just made up a new word…trademark that) but made it 4km into an 11 km run and had to walk (more like an Igor shuffle) the other 7km while apologizing to my running partner and super friend Rayanne.


It is easy to start to feel sorry for yourself at this point.

I’ve Trained for 3 months!!! Through the winter!!!

The reality is though that I have ran for 20 something years…and (knock wood) I have only had one injury set back, ironically while running the Around the Bay Race one year.  So in the grand scheme of things, I really can’t complain, although the timing of this injury is not the best.

This week was met with more rest, and Googling the issue and talking with friends who are in the sports medicine business.  Kind of looks like an IT band issue or Popliteus injury; to which there are no quick fixes.  With 4 more days…it isn’t looking good.


So I tape my leg, take my anti-inflammatories, stretch, Epson salts bath, take my Magnesium and Turmeric supplements and ice my wound and hope for the best for Sunday.

I will do one more thing though…and that is to watch the all time best documentary about running…The Barkley Marathons.

Now I know I’ve highlighted this doc before but if you haven’t seen it, even if you’re not a runner, you can’t help but get sucked into the stories.  I’ve included the trailer for this awesome doc as part of our YouTube Thursday!!


Well send some positive vibes my way!  I will definitely keep you all posted on whether my knee decided to take me the 30km Around the Bay.  I will be cautious though in my decision as I really don’t want to do more damage that may stop me from enjoying running through the trails this summer.



“Allll by myself….don’t wanna bee…”

Too much?

My super awesome running partner, Rayanne, had to work this past weekend.  But the Bay Race doesn’t wait for any man…or woman in this case.  The training must go on!

So off I went to brave the 21 km on my own. running is a sport for loners, of which I will admit to being one.  I ran for many years alone and with the exception of our weekend runs and one through the week, I really don’t mind running alone.  We adopted a Golden Retriever last year and she is a pretty good running partner as well and also gives me reason to take a break whenever a stick needs to be picked up.

BUT This was 21 km!!! 

I haven’t done this distance alone for a very long time and like I said in my last Bay Race update, I have been actually looking forward to the long runs with Rayanne.  We usually chat about family, movies, and inevitably the conversation turns to food (usually nearing the end of our run when we are both out of fuel)

Our Bay Race training has been going well and we’ve been trying out new energy chews that I highlighted last post too.

So looking ahead on the weather, I noticed that Saturday looked to be the better of the two days to head out on my own.  I packed up my water bottle, a fresh pack of Skratch Raspberry chews and cued up my Spotify on my phone and plugged in the earbuds.

The weather could not have co-operated any better.  As weird of a weather day it ended up to be with shifting from sunny and warm to hail to snow to wind in the afternoon, the morning was beautiful.  The sun came up and the temperature started to rise.

It wasn’t long before I stripped a layer off as I made my way down to the Waterfront trail here in Hamilton.

Tunes are everything!

Seriously.  When you’re running alone…I don’t know how anyone runs alone without tunes.  I’m so used to conversing with someone else I was afraid if I didn’t have music I would start talking to myself.  As it was I know there were a few songs from the Hamilton, The Musical soundtrack I was listening to that I am sure I was singing to out loud.

I am not throwing away my shot…I am not throwing away my shot….


I listened to Hamilton for about 15 km and then switched over to Alicia Keys newest album, Here.  Every time I listen to it, I love it more.

I decided to pause for water and energy chews every 5km. This chopping up of the run made things go by quite nicely.  I did, however, eat an entire pack of energy chews on my own.  Needless to say I had a lot of energy.


The sidewalks were beautifully clear and the sun stayed out just long enough for me to finish the 21 km and grab a coffee…alone…

This weekend is another LSD…not that kind of LSD…Long Slow Distance…27 km…

All I can say is thank goodness I’ve got my right hand man (woman) back!!!  (see Hamilton The Musical for that ref…:)

Bay Race Training – 20km in the snow

The title says it all…

Well just a short update on our Around the Bay race training.

This weekend was a 20km run. The forecast looked pretty good so when the snow started to fly on Friday, it caused some concern.

We both wanted to run on Saturday morning and there is something to be said for having someone counting on you to be there…you just don’t want to be the one to ‘call it’.

The temperature was decent, especially the last half of the run, as the sun peeked through the clouds to warm us up even more that we were.

The first half of our out and back run was met with slick, snow covered sidewalks.  The footing was a little treacherous and seemed to wear on the legs a bit.  The second half, when the sun showed itself, was a lot easier as the snow melted on the sidewalks allowing us to speed up a little on the way back, despite having fatigue.

The long run is all about the mileage.  It is easy to get a little disheartened if you look at your watch and realize how long you’ve been out there, but one thing to remember is that the long run is just for the purpose of building the endurance.  The shorter, tempo runs will be the runs that benefit your time on race day.

This week we have to do three runs before the weekend.  We have to run 7km, 12km and 7km this week and a 23 km on the weekend.  The forecast looks good so we hope it won’t be too cold!

I took a picture of Valley Inn Road, the bottom half of the 1 km hill that is placed at the 26km mark of the race.


Bay Race Training

One month down!!!

The month January moved along very quickly and the weather cooperated for the most part here in Ontario, Canada.  Training for the Around the Bay 30km Road Race again and I was quickly reminded of why I took a break for a few years.

You have to train through the winter!

The race is at the end of March and there is just no getting around the winter running.  There is no amount of treadmill running that can prepare you for this race.

Now…I have used the treadmill for the days I only have to run 5km.  The shear boredom of treadmill running is enough to limit me.  I have a theory as well that the treadmill, although I find good for speed work, is harder on my joints that the road.  I tend to pound my feet harder when I run on it and ‘feel’ it the next day.


So we have completed the first month of training using a great schedule I found online.  The training so far, is basically 3 runs through the week and a long one on the weekend.

For January, we ran two 5km runs and one 10km during the week, with one of the 5km runs a little faster.  The long run would come on the Saturday or Sunday, depending on our schedules.  We have built up to 18km, which we have done twice so far.

One of the best years I had running this race was when I trained on the hardest part of the course.  Living about 5 minute drive from the course is really at my advantage here, so for that I am thankful.  For the 18km runs and the next long runs that will be coming up, we decided to drive over to Dundurn Castle, which is right on the course, and park there to run the hardest part of the course.  This part comes at about 5 km from the end of the race.  This part is also home to Valley Inn Road.  Valley Inn Road aka The Hill, is probably about 1 km in length and all up hill.  The last two years, the road has been under construction and has not been included in the race but it is all done and ready for race day!

The pictures are from before construction but it basically looks the same.  They certainly didn’t shave any incline from it!

The hardest part of the Around the Bay is the last 10 km.  The route is hilly, rolly, and long.  This part of the race is mainly on North Shore Blvd and it culminates at Valley Inn Road. By training the long runs and running out and backs along North Shore, we end up running the worst part of the race twice.  I know this seems almost masochistic but it really does help on race day.  The crazy part is that we run down Valley Inn Road and it is just as steep going up the other way.  We then have to run back up to get to our car!  I question my sanity on many occasions.

During the race, once you’ve run 27km and come to the top of Valley Inn Road, you will be greated by The Grim Reaper.  Seriously. There has been a few times I wanted to join him at that point.

So far the training is going well. With the exception of 5 days of flu there have been  no injuries to speak of and the joints are feeling pretty good.  I am trying to include a lot of Yoga as well to keep the muscles stetched out.  We have been using some really good fuel gummies that seem to help with the energy levels.  They are called Skratch energy gels.  They are made from real fruit purees and contain no gelatin.  Great tasting and don’t leave a weird taste in your mouth.



This weekend we will add on and make it an even 20km for our long run.  The weather looks pretty decent and the roads are still pretty clear for footing.

I have to admit that I am actually looking forward to the long run this weekend.

If you’re looking for a challenging winter race, and are in the area, give the Bay Race a try!



Around the Bay 2017

Let the training begin!

Call it temporary insanity, but something possessed me to register for the Around the Bay race here in Hamilton.  I’ve done it in the past – 9 times in fact- but there is a reason why it has been a few years since running this 30km road race.  It sucks.

The Around the Bay race, which by the way is OLDER than the Boston marathon, making it the oldest road race in North America, is run in my home town of Hamilton, Ontario.  We are very proud of this race here in Hamilton.  The race attracts world class elite athletes and has grown in numbers every year.  In fact, if you haven’t registered by the end of January, you probably aren’t getting a spot.  A few years ago they started a relay option so that those who don’t necessarily want to run all 30 km, do run it  as a team of 2 or 3 and still feel that they have been part of the excitement.  The Bay and Back 5km is also available for those who enjoy the fast paced blast of a 5km run, or those who are just starting their running or walking routine and want to get involved in a road race.

The Bay race (if you want to sound like a local), isn’t pretty.  Not that my city isn’t pretty, but the race itself isn’t.  The race starts not far from the finish at our minor hockey arena, The First Ontario Centre (formerly Copps Coliseum).  From the start, the route has changed over the years and over the 9 times I have run it, I have done a few variations of the first 10 km.  This year, the route takes us down James Street North, which is the art centre of our city, so that should be a nice bit.  Then we make our way to Burlington Street. Not much can be said about this part.  The first year or two I ran this race, this stretch went down Burlington Street, which houses the industry that our city got its nick name of ‘Steeltown’ from.  So, luckily, it is in the first 10km of the race and hopefully we are feeling good enough to blast through this part fairly quickly.  We make our way over to Beach Boulevard, which by name gives you the location of where we are running, right along the shores of Lake Ontario.  This street that runs along the beach is lined with beautiful older homes that were once summer houses and cottages.  The resurgence of this area has been a wonderful addition to our city.  Crossing the lower bridge, we make our way into the City of Burlington and over to North Shore Boulevard, which is technically a section of the town of Aldershot, although the border line is melted with Burlington.  This is where things get a little crazy.  The first 15 km of this race is fairly flat.  The second half, not so much.  North Shore Boulevard is nothing but rolling hills, through which is thankfully a really nice neighbourhood, so your mind may be distracted by the beautiful homes and park land of this area.  The rolling hills, especially in this section which ranges from 18km mark to the 26km mark is brutal; at least it is for me.  Placed in the section of the race where your body is beginning to tire, you have to dig deep to find your way up the hills, only to get you to Valley Inn Road.


My history running the Bay race has always included the Hill at Valley Inn Road. The last couple of years, it has been under construction so the lucky people running it the last few times have been diverted around it.   According to the 2017 route map, it is included again. So should I be happy about that?  I sort of am.  It may not feel like the Bay race without it to me.  The Hill at Valley Inn Road is likened to Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon. Placed at the 26km mark, it is placed strategically to bring you to the Hamilton Cemetery not far from the top.  There at the cemetery entrance is the Grim Reaper, waving you in as you contemplate your fate and whether you can do the last 4 km.  The last 4km are weirdly enough, the most fun.  As you make your way down York Boulevard towards First Ontario Centre, the crown support is huge.  You can see the entrance to the arena where you cross the finish line inside, and it feels like forever that it takes to get there, but once you get inside and hear your name called over the loud speaker, you realize you have completed one of the hardest 30km anywhere.  map-30k-1

What Makes it Hard?

I’ve put together a short list of why this race is tough.  I know it isn’t a full marathon, and I have never ran a full marathon before, but if I had a dime for all the times I have heard from those who have ran The Bay and a marathon who have said it is just as hard, if not harder than a full marathon, I would be rich.

  1. Training in the winter.  The race is at the end of March, so do the math.
  2. Race is at the end of March.  In Ontario. In Canada.  You could potentially run through a blizzard.  No joke.  I have ran in conditions ranging from 25C and sunny to -20C and wind chills.  I have ran in driving rain for 3 hours. I have ran in very temperate and sunny conditions.  So you just never know.
  3. The wind could be your demise.  Seeing as you run a really good portion of this race along the shores of Lake Ontario, you just never know how the wind will play a factor.  You just hope for stillness.
  4. Hills.  I have gone over this point but it is so true.  Rolling ups and downs the last third of the race is one that you have to train for.
  5. The Hill.  No explanation necessary. It is big. It is steep.  It is at 26km mark.

So what did I just do that for?

I am seriously questioning my sanity after registering.  BUT…there is just something about the Bay race.  Yes, the training sucks.  Yes, the race day can be brutal.  But there is no feeling quite like crossing the line (in hopefully sub 3 hours) and getting your medal.  There really isn’t. I know I am preaching to the converted for some of you.  Heck, there are some who have done ultras that will be reading this and saying ’30km? I just did that last weekend.’ I totally admire you and maybe one day I will join in the fun of an ultra, but for now I have 12 weeks of training ahead of me.

Day 1 of Around the Bay Training begins with an 8km along the Waterfront Trail.



Run for the Toad-Race Report

The 15th Annual Run for the Toad was held on October 1 in Paris, Ontario.  All week we kept our eyes on the weather and no matter how many times we checked, it didn’t change!  Rain was in the forecast for the entire morning. The temperature looked pretty good but we were going to get wet.  Well, as much as I wanted a nice cool, sunny day, I was ready to run and get wet and muddy if need be.

Well, Mother Nature was pretty forgiving after all.  The day was misty, cloudy and maybe a few drops of rain but for the most part, we escaped any down pours and the trails were superb.

There is something about this race that just keeps people coming back.  The great atmosphere and organizers are second to none.  The food after the race is awesome and we are never disappointed.

The Tent city they set up was ready for any rain that may fall and it housed vendors, free coffee and donuts or cookies as well as the race kit pick up area.  As we walked through the vendors we noticed the merch tent for The Toad.  Rayanne has a nice jacket she got on her first of the 6 times she has done the course but I have yet to purchase anything…until this year.  We gravitated to a shirt that we knew was going to be coming home with both of us and raced back to the car to get our bank cards as they were quickly running out.  Maybe it was that warm up run to shop that helped our race!

Rayanne and I have ran The Toad in many different conditions ranging from sunny and warm to cold and pouring rain.  We have slipped through the muddy trails and felt the scorching hot sun in the meadow. We mentally prepared ourselves for the rain but were relieved that the day turned out as ‘nice’ as it did.

Rayanne and I have our pre race picture tradition. We have yet to post a post-race pic…lol


The race begins with ‘Opening Ceremonies’.  Race organizers make sure to thank the people at Pinehurst Conservation Area for their work at preserving the trails and then introduce any elite athletes that are there competing that day.  Both the US and Canadian national anthems are played by a live military band.  The first to line up are the kids.  There is a one mile Toad Junior run for the little ones.  They even receive a medal for their efforts.  Really great to see this run grow as people are getting their kids into the joys of trail running.

Next to line up are the 50km and the relay runners.  Some of these 50km runners will finish before we finish 25km …let that sink in.  They can run twice as far faster than we do.  It is truly unbelievable when you see them pass you like you’re standing still even though you may feel like you are running at a blistering speed!

Race time for the 25km runners (and walkers too).  The cannon (yep, I said cannon) signifies the start and we are off.  The runners tend to bunch up here but it won’t be long before things spread out.  They have installed new wood stairs to a portion of an up hill on the trail which I have to admit was really nice to go up.  I am sure it is not just for aesthetic reasons, but also for erosion control.  Either way, thumbs up on those.  Rayanne and I are used to talking throughout our runs.  It is amusing though to look back afterward at the conversation over the course of 25 km.  We talk about movies, music, kids, family and of course running and runners.  We are never without admiration for some of the older runners that blow by us with ease.  Inevitably we say, “Ok, I want to be like that”. As we discussed movies, the topic of Vietnam war movies came up. Things really go on a tangent sometimes so let’s just say trying to think of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ took up about 8 km.

Over the course of the race, which is a 12.5km double loop, the volunteers are well placed and water or Gatorade stops every 3 km.  Second loop also includes candies, cookies, and fruit at the water stops too.  That cookies came in handy for sure.

We weren’t really sure how our time was going to be. We knew we were running at a pretty steady pace.  We both felt really good throughout and didn’t have any pressing problems while we made our way around the second loop.  The chip timing now is great because it is linked to your email and you can get your results immediately after finishing.

We finished in 2:59 and were super happy with it.  I am forever a mid pack runner and totally fine with that.  To anyone who hasn’t run a trail race before, and believe me, this one is very hilly, to equate your road times to trails just doesn’t work.  We learned that long ago.

All in all very happy with the results:

First 12.5 loop – 1:27

Second 12.5 loop – 2:59  That means only 5 min difference between first and second loop!

Overall finish:  312/578

Female: 146/321

Age group: 34/91

Our training this year was consistent and strong.  We mixed road and trail well and made sure those long runs were logged.  Really can’t say enough good things about this race and if you have never done it, I would recommend giving it a go.

So that leads us to the next question.  We felt good about this race.  We feel good after the race and without any issues for either one of us.  So…what’s next?  Maybe Around the Bay number 10 for me in March.  I may need to watch the Barkelys again to get the motivation.


Modifying is not Cheating

Modifying is not Cheating.  That’s what I tell my Yoga students, but why is it so hard to believe when it comes to my own fitness goals?

As a Yoga teacher, we learn how to show students modify poses.  Modifications may be used for so many reasons. Pregnancy mods are extremely important even if the Mom is a long time Yogi as some movements, especially in the later part of the pregnancy are just impossible to do and could be harmful to the baby.  Past or recent injury could also be reason to modify.  Some mods are absolutely necessary when it comes to further injury prevention as well as the aid in the healing process.  Sometimes mods are used just because your body doesn’t move that way, or at least doesn’t like moving that way.  Countless times I have shown modifications in classes only to have someone say after “I still can’t do the pose the right way, I have to modify”  To which my answer is, “You were doing it the right way. For you.”

In Yoga, as in any type of fitness activity, there is a fine line between discomfort and harm.  Yoga’s purpose, at least the way I practice, is to find flexibility, strength, breath, and calmness.  The flexibility of the muscles may not always be where you want it to be.  Some days may even differ from others.  To stretch out the muscle groups should not be met with searing pain or create a feeling of complete discomfort.  Strengthening is built over time too, yet we beat ourselves up if we can’t do what others are doing in the class with out altering the pose or using props.  The breath should always be present in a pose.  To lose the breath is to lose the pose.  Using the inhalations to settle into the pose and the exhalations to extend or grow in the pose is something that also takes time to coordinate and learn.  Finally, calmness or serenity, what ever you want to call it, I think this may be the most difficult for people.  I have been told after a class that the hardest part is Savasana.  Your mind wanders back to the place you just came from, or it goes back to work or to the list of things you need to do.  Be kind to yourself with Savasana.  Even if you can be present for just a few moments at a time, that is your modification for that pose.  Over time, just like any pose, the modifications will become an aid to get you to the place your body and mind need to be in that pose.  Over time, some poses may evolve into less modifications, others may stay put where they are for a while.

Fitness activities like running, biking, hiking, and the popular cross fit workouts, all can be modified to help get you to the place you can enjoy the activity without compromising your body and possibly doing harm.  There are many runners who do a walk/run combination in order to be more gentle on their joints and muscles.  In fact, that type of modification has become extremely popular even during race time.

Presently, Val and I are involved in a 30 day burpee challenge.  I had a bad experience with cross fit type movements previously but had felt really good over the last year.  The problem lies with my sacrum/hip area.  I know it is probably from way too many years of pounding the pavement and wracking up the kilometres.  The first week seemed to go ok with the burpee challenge, until we had to do over 30.  The next day, my hips and sacrum were not happy with me.  I was fine as long as I stayed up right but sitting was brutal.  Val gave me some mods for the burpee challenge and at first I was hesitant.  Honestly, I wanted to just give up instead.  I would rather have not done it at all if I had to modify.  Yeh, I know.  Sounds a little crazy to me too.  I tried the mods and found one that worked well for me.  I still feel like I am getting what I need to out of the burpee but safely for my hips.  Two weeks later and a few restorative Yoga classes and I am back to normal.  I am still running and burpeeing(?) but with the mods in place.

The fact is, sometimes we just have to do the modifications.  It doesn’t mean you are cheating.  Sometimes your body isn’t willing to go places your mind wants to push you to go.  Modifications help us listen to the body instead of telling the body what to do.



Winter Running-Do I have to?

It is no mystery what we are in store for here in Ontario as far as the upcoming change in weather.  It has started already.  We were all in shorts and t-shirts last week enjoying the last tidbit of a warm fall, but this week the mercury has plummeted and we are frantically looking for matching mitts that we shoved into the closet last spring.  For those of us who enjoy outdoor fitness like running, hiking or biking, searching for the right gear to get us through a cold winter can be challenging as well.

There was a time when I used the Around the Bay race as motivation to get me through a course of winter training.  The 30 km road race is held at the end of March so winter training is a must.  In fact, most of the time it is very much still winter when running on race day.  After 9 Bay races, I have to say the glamour has worn off for me.  I still love to go down and feel the electricity of the race day and I watch and cheer as we watch thousands of people of all shapes, sizes and ages cross over that finish line. For a brief moment in time, when I am watching, I yearn to be in their spot, but that passes because I know what they did to get there.

Running through the winter can not only be challenging because of the cold but also because of the ice covered sidewalks and roads that may inhibit our footing.  There were a few close calls I can remember where I have saved myself for tumbling onto the frozen ground.

The last couple of years I have changed things up in my running routine, which I think is something we should all do every few years.  Instead of focusing on the spring long race, I decided that the fall race was more fitting as to when I wanted to spend as much time as possible outside anyhow.  By running a fall race, the training can be done through the summer and early fall, which is my favourite time of year for running anyhow.  Shorts, t-shirts, shoes and I’m off.  The last few winters I have chosen to bring the majority of my training inside, to the gym.  I still get out on the weekends to run with my running partner, mostly for the social aspect of it and it gives us time to catch up.  Through the week, I take it to the gym and come spring, I haven’t lost much as far as fitness level goes.  In fact, I would argue that I am more stretched out, and also stronger from incorporating weights into my routine.

I find that running on a treadmill can be quite boring, most people do, but if you play around with it, the time goes by fast and you can get a good work out in too.  I don’t usually run for any more than 40 minutes as I find I stomp too hard on a treadmill and my joints don’t like it after a while, plus the boredom sets in after that long anyhow.  I like to play the interval game while on the treadmill.  I found a great workout a long time ago and still do it to this day.

  1. Run 1/4 mile slow…or a fast walk even
  2. Run 1/4 mile at regular pace (nothing too crazy but enough that you feel challenged)  This will be different for everyone.
  3. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  4. Run 1/2 mile at regular pace.
  5. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  6. Run 3/4 mile at regular pace.
  7. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  8. Run full mile at regular pace.
  9. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  10. Run 3/4 mile at regular pace.
  11. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  12. Run 1/2 mile at regular pace.
  13. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile
  14. Run 1/4 mile at regular pace.
  15. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.

So basically, you are building up to a mile then coming back down.  You can play around with your speed as well to give yourself an extra challenge if you want to make it more like speed work.

I also love the elliptical trainer.  I find it much easier on my joints and they can recover quicker from a workout on it.  I usually do anywhere from 40-60 minutes on it and I chose a pre-programmed interval training.  The intervals aren’t so much on speed but on incline.  You’ll get a great workout on this and your body will thank you for the fact that it isn’t high impact either.

Finally, one other thing I like to mix in every couple of weeks is a Spin class.  What I like about the Spin class is that it is very much your own even though you are in a group setting.  I am not much for group fitness, except for Yoga, but that too is very individual.  By changing the tension on your bike, you can determine how difficult your ride will be that day.  The music is usually pumping and I find I love this type of workout in the mornings as it really gets you going for the day.

I still enjoy getting outside on a sunny, cold, crisp day for a run down to the lake and along the waterfront, but the gym really extends my fitness for me over the winter.  I think it keeps me sane over the dark, cold months too!  Stay tuned for some gym tips for working out with weights as well.  You don’t have to be scared of them!

We will also be bringing you some other winter activities that will keep you fit but also get you outside to enjoy the winter.  When you can get out and enjoy this change in season, it just makes it a little easier to make it through until spring!

In the mean time, if you have some good weather where you are, hope you are getting out to enjoy yourself and explore the world around you!

My Moving Meditation


My Moving Meditation.

Seeking happiness can be a life long quest.  Seeking happiness can be a quest that some may never conquer.  To find happiness is an obscure and intangible idea.  Some may find happiness in their job. Some find happiness in family.  Some find happiness in travel.  I contemplated some of the things that help me calm my inner storm and there are many; but there is one that has been there for many years and has never let me down.

I peak out the window to make a guess on the temperature.  It looks warm enough to wear shorts and t-shirt today.  The sun is bright as it shines in the window.  The cat finds the rays and quickly calls the spot his for the day.  It is early summer and the grass is finally green after a long winter.  I check the trees to see if the leaves and branches are moving and the stillness tells me there is no sign of wind.  A smile comes to my face without even realizing it.

My shoes go on, my ear buds go in, and I cue my play list.  The trails are calling and I am answering them with a resounding ‘Yes.’  

The cadence of the music gives my feet their rhythm.  I make my way into the trails.  The century old maples and oaks loom overhead to create my own outdoor room. I am welcomed.  

The mud puddles from yesterday’s rain speckle the gravel trail.  I don’t avoid them on purpose as the spray up the back of my legs is worn with honour.  My mind is flowing free now and anything that was bogging me down has now been lifted up and sweated out. The hills test my legs and lungs and the valleys free me.  Beams of sunlight cut through the branches casting shadows along the way.  The once rushing creek is now a babbling brook whose gurgling is nature’s mantra.  Running is my moving meditation.

Trail running exposes you to the wilderness in your back yard.  The families of deer that cross your path as they look for dinner are never something you get tired of seeing.  The chipmunks and squirrels scurry by.  An eagle isn’t always in sight but when it is, you have to stop to look, as it never stops being amazing.  

Running is one of those subjects that you either receive a really positive response to or a really negative response.  I understand how some would not get the same enjoyment out of running as I would.  It isn’t easy.  I think one has to be somewhat masochistic in order to find the kind of enjoyment I do from it.  There is this perverse joy in torturing yourself, sweating, and pushing your limits that not many other things can give you.  

Running does and has taken me from deep, dark places where I didn’t think I would emerge from and it pulls me out and back into the light.  Running was a companion when I had never felt so alone.  Running has been my source of creativity and inspiration.  It has helped me make life decisions.  It has made me feel alive even when I thought I was going to die.  

There are many things in life that bring me happiness; most of my happiness comes from my amazing family I have.  I have good health and a job (not my most favourite part of my life but hey, I am employed).  Running gives me the clarity to see what truly makes me happy. Seeking happiness can be this simple.  Seeking happiness should be this simple; especially in our stormy, complicated world.