A picture midway through my first run in London.

A picture midway through my first run in London. That’s Tower Bridge in the background.

Running in London is different. For starters, pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. Ever. Aside from the fact that I am continually looking the wrong way at every intersection, cars will rarely yield to you. Step out in front of a moving car, you will probably be hit. Every intersection presents a scary, potential death trap. Adding further complication is the fact that all the roads are curly so I’m continually lost. For someone with a generally poor sense of direction, this is a tough city to navigate. That handy grid system that most North American cities seem to have does not apply here. GPS is my friend.

Despite the obstacles, I have managed a few pleasurable runs so far. On Sunday, we decided we’d run south to Tower Bridge and circle back along London Bridge. It sounded good. We could take in some touristy sites while getting a bit of exercise at the same time. Turns out, this wasn’t an original weekend idea. Running on these bridges on a Sunday afternoon was more akin to agility training with all the people strolling along. While it afforded lots of picturesque photo ops, it was definitely hard to get a consistent pace going. Regardless, still a nice 6.5K run to start my running adventures here in London.

On Monday night, I joined the Adidas 26rs, the run club that runs daily from the London Marathon Store. I discovered this group a few weeks ago and was thrilled to find out that they have a nightly run from the store. Only 4 other runners joined for the weekly 5K. The run leader blamed the “winter” weather for deterring people. I find it comical that no matter where you are, winter deters people from outdoor activity even if a blustery winter night here in London is still 5C. Sorry Toronto.

Coincidentally, the route planned for Monday’s run was very similar to my bridge run except the reversed direction. I was pleased to see that the crowds we encountered Sunday afternoon were greatly diminished on a Monday night.

With a nice slow pace, I was really able to appreciate my surroundings. The bridges looked so beautiful at night, and it was nice to be able to appreciate the atmosphere since I had a group to follow. It was also good motivation to keep up with the group. Stay with the group, or be lost forever in London. With a nice, comfortable pace, I was able to chat with the run leader and grill him on the best places to run in London. He was a wealth of information recommending various parks and trails around the city. I’m excited to explore some less populated areas for running.

I’m thankful there’s a thriving running community in this city, and there’s a seemingly endless number of races to run. This is a very good thing, because the other awesome thing about London is the abundant places to eat and drink. This reputation about the food in London being bad is really, really, wrong. I need to run to compensate for all the increased eating and drinking. Thankfully, there’s a lot of opportunities to do that.

In other news, I made a logo for Thoughts and Pavement.  I think I will put it on a tshirt and wear it to races. #ShamelessSelfPromotion

thoughts and pavement-logo - pink

Seriously, how good does  this look?

Seriously, how good does this look? Grilled salmon with lentil tabbouleh…with white wine and water out of my Runners World water bottle, of course!

I’m not very good at cooking. I have a few things I make reasonably well but I’m not very adventurous in the kitchen. I do love eating so making a concerted effort to learn to cook is really in my best interest, especially because microwavable meals are becoming pretty uninspiring.

For Christmas, my lovely sister-in-law gave me The Runner’s World Cookbook. This cookbook has 150 awesome recipes perfectly designed for runners –whether you’re looking to fuel-up, slim down or recover, it has tons of delicious and reasonably easy recipes. Inspired by a free night with no agenda, I decided I would give something a try. My first pick: grilled salmon with lentil tabbouleh.

This recipe uses green lentils which are carb, protein and fiber rich – the perfect base for a delicious piece of grilled salmon loaded with inflammation reducing omega-3 fatty acids. These kinds of details are included alongside every recipe so you can pick the perfect dish whether you’re training for a marathon or looking to refuel after a run.

Aside from the fact that my tiny flat smells like fish, the recipe was a HUGE success. Not only was It easy to make, it was totally delicious and only took about 25 minutes from start to finish.

I’m honestly so pleased with myself. I’m not a big take-a-picture-of-my-food kind of girl, but I had to document this feast. I seriously don’t think anyone would believe me if I didn’t. It looks exactly like the picture in the cookbook! I feel like I could serve this to people. Like at a dinner party. It was that good.

This recipe was listed under the “Recovery” category which would be great if I actually went for a run today. I’m being wimpy in my new city. I know London is full of great places to run, but running alone in a strange city is a bit scary to me. BUT the good news is that I may have found a running group near my new place. I stumbled upon The London Marathon store yesterday and they have run groups every night of the week! Hooray!

So perhaps I will join them tomorrow for their Monday night 5K and come home and enjoy the leftovers of this grilled salmon and tabbouleh feast!

Runners World Cookbook

Last Toronto run

Last Toronto run

Life is complicated. It becomes exceedingly more complicated when you decide to move to another country.

Back in November, I announced I was moving to London, England in the New Year. 2+ months later, I am now FINALLY on my way. We were under the stunningly stupid assumption that the Government would operate quickly, especially over the holidays, and as a result, it took many more weeks than anticipated to get my visa.  Eight actually. But who’s counting?

During this time, I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. My house was packed up and empty. My husband had already left for London. The holidays were over and I was ready to start my new life in London. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the necessary paperwork.

This was definitely not the triumphant start to 2015 that I had envisioned.

No matter where I was, I kind of felt out of place. I had already said bye to all my friends so seeing them again was like that awkward moment where you say bye to someone and then get into the same elevator. I felt out of place at the office because I wasn’t supposed to be there anymore, and I felt out of place at my house because it no longer felt like home.  The only place I felt somewhat normal was when I was running.

Whenever I was feeling particularly low, I forced myself to go for a run, banking on the runner’s high to help pull me through my slump.

It always worked.

This experiment destroyed any doubt I had about the positive effects of running on mental health. Typically, people who report feeling a runner’s high say they feel totally relaxed, happy, energetic and satisfied with themselves. And honestly, it’s not total BS. After a run, I felt happier. Level headed and optimistic.

Running releases serotonin which is a natural mood lifter. It helps with things like depression, stress and lethargy – all of which I had in high doses over the last eight weeks. Running is a great way to naturally lift your spirits and alleviate some negative energy associated with feelings of sadness. In fact, some research shows that running may actually remodel the brain, making it calmer and more stress-resistant!

Science aside, the bottom line for me – and I suspect many runners out there – is that running makes me feel better. That alone is a pretty good reason to always keep running.

I’m looking forward to many more mood-lifting runs on the other side of the pond.

So true. So very true. #GymConfessions via Women's Health Magazine

So true. So very true. #GymConfessions via Women’s Health Magazine

Being competitive gets a bad reputation. But sometimes, a little healthy competition is a good thing.

Take this week for example. There’s been a lot of treadmill running, despite the fact that I just warned you to stay away from the treadmill in January. Usually, I put on some music, read the news headlines and space out. Usually, I don’t pay any attention to anyone around me. I find it therapeutic.

But lately, the gym has been packed. And there’s always a runner on either side of me no matter what time I’m at the gym. I try not to see what speeds the people next to me are running, but I can’t help myself. This week, there was a guy on one side and a girl on the other side of me absolutely sprinting. Not only were they eclipsing my pace in a massive way, it was like they weren’t even trying! Apparently, this was a casual jaunt. They weren’t even sweating or open-mouth breathing. What. The. Hell?!

I tried not to care. I tried to stick to my run. I reminded myself, “You have nothing to prove. You ran a marathon, remember?” But I couldn’t get over it. Next to these two, I basically looked like I was walking.

Not to be outdone, I increased the pace. Nowhere near these two sprinters, but a pace that looked a little more respectable in between two seemingly elite athletes.

At the end of 7K, I was exhausted. Absolutely depleted. Covered in sweat. Basically wheezing. Totally and utterly beat.

Was this good? I think so. These two super humans forced me to try harder. As a result, I burned more calories and had a better workout than if I stuck to my original plan.

This was one of the reasons I always enjoyed running with the Nike Run Clubs in Toronto. Most of the runners were better than me so it motivated me to try harder. It’s good to have that competitive drive that pushes you outside your comfort zone. That’s how you get better. Sure, I could loaf along on the treadmill every day, but it wouldn’t make me a better runner.

As long as your competitive drive doesn’t spiral into aggression or jealousy, it can be a good thing. Studies consistently show that healthy competition can provide motivation to work hard and achieve goals – in life, in business and in fitness.

So if you’re on the treadmill next to me, the answer is yes, we ARE racing.

Happy trails.

ecard

january gym membersJanuary is a tough time for regular gym goers. Since losing weight or getting fit tends to top many people’s lists of New Year’s resolutions, it can mean your usual workout spot is overrun with newbies.  Your usual classes are crowded or full, there’s no parking, no lockers, long lines for equipment and no available showers. It can be easy to get disgruntled with these so-called resolutioners.

For those loyal gym-goers like myself, here’s how to not lose your mind this month.

Go at off-peak times. I’ve been saying this for years, but the morning classes are never as busy as the lunchtime or after-work ones. Getting your butt out of bed on a cold, dark January morning is nearly as hard as the gym class, but so valuable for your mental health. Just do it.

Shower and change at home. If it’s possible, arrive and leave wearing your gym clothes and shower at home. That way, you don’t have to battle the change room madness and can get ready in the comfort of your own home.

Skip the treadmill. This will be the only time you hear me say this, but skip the treadmill in January. This is the most popular machine by far for new gym-goers. It’s not intimidating and anyone can use it so it tends to be a popular choice. As a result, they are always in use. Try a less popular class, or a new piece of equipment. Better yet, bundle up and go for a run outdoors.

Avoid Monday and Tuesday. Due to the general guilt felt by a weekend of junk food, Monday and Tuesday tend to be the busiest days at the gym. Schedule your workouts on different days.  For example, if you can, try working out Wednesday, Friday and Sunday instead.

Remember you were new once too. Cut new members some slack. The gym can be intimidating. It won’t take long for the serious ones to find their groove, and for the others, well, they’ll be gone by February.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! The start of a new year is a good time to reflect on the past. For me, it’s hard to compare 2014 to 2013. 2013 was a massive year of running accomplishments: several PBs, my first international race, and of course, my first full marathon. 2014 was a little more relaxed. Five races total and a lot of casual, fun running in between. No PBs, but there was my first ever relay and that one time I came in 4th place at a race!

Today, I pulled all my stats from Nike+ to see what sort of running year I’ve had. Here’s how 2014 went down:

  • 89 total runs with an average distance of 7.1K
  • 34,786 calories burned (Note: I probably consumed that much over the holidays alone!)
  • 632.4 total kilometers (compared to 1,008.3K in 2013!)
  • A total running time of 64:09:48
  • An overall average pace of 6:05/kilometre
  • 42% of my runs were in the evening, 37% in the morning, 21% in the afternoon

2015 will be a much different year for running. Soon, I will be moving to London, England and I’m excited to sign up for several interesting races in a new country. My overall goal is to run for general fitness and enjoyment and do one seriously badass event before the end of the year – something like the Tough Mudder in London or the Seven Hills of Edinburgh, a 14 mile race with 2,200 feet of ascent and descent. To be determined…

What are your running goals for 2015?

Running and eatingRunning is a great way to compensate for all the overeating that inevitably takes place over the holidays.  Before festive gatherings, I like to go for a run as a way to a) work up a good appetite and b) not feel as bad about eating 10,000 calories worth of treats and savoury snacks.

On Saturday, I went on a great run in preparation for an annual friend’s Christmas party that I greatly look forward to. Not only because it is attended by all of my most favourite people, but because there is always a mountain of treats and I wanted to be at peak appetite to take full advantage of the festive spread.

I haven’t run much since the Scotiabank Half Marathon. A 5K here, a 6K there. Mostly slow, short runs. I set out to run 5 or 6K but ended up running over 10! At 5K, I was feeling amazing. Endorphins pumping, music blaring, I felt like I absolutely had to keep going. I got to 7K and thought, well, I might as well run 10! I got to 10, and honestly, the only reason I stopped was because I had to go home and get ready for the party. I truly felt like I could run 10 more kilometers.

Runs like that happen randomly and when they do, you absolutely must take advantage. It’s moments like that that reminds me why I fell in love with running in the first place.

My mind was totally in the zone. I was focused and happy and feeling excellent. The downside, however, was that my body was not on the same wavelength. As soon as I stopped I could tell my hips and glutes were tight. I stretched and figured I might be a bit stiff. That was the understatement of 2014.

As I gloriously stuffed my face with cookies, cheese, candied salmon, popcorn, lasagna, garlic bread, etc, etc, etc, I could tell my body was tired. My feet hurt and standing for long periods was painful. I kept taking a break from the food table to rest my weary legs.  My hips hurt. My butt hurt. No position was all that comfortable.

The next day, I was crippled. Going from seated to mobile was a real struggle. I walked like Frankenstein wincing with every transition. I felt worse than after my half marathon in October. I may have even felt worse than after my full marathon in 2013!

I spent some time with a foam roller last night with little relief and today, I’m still feeling that so-called piriformis pain (aka butt pain).

Was it worth it? Yeah. I regret nothing. I think you enjoy food so much more when you actually work up an appetite. But I learned my lesson. Just because I once ran 21 or 42 kilometers does NOT mean I can double my average distance in one run. In fact, most training plans teach runners to work up to 10K from 5K over an eight week period. Oopsie.

Wherever you are, whatever you celebrate, I hope you have a great holiday – full of great runs and delicious food. And if you’re like me, I hope you also put a foam roller on your wishlist.