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.

These are not my legs, or legs of anyone I know. But if I had a festive race on the horizon, I would wear these.

These are not my legs, or legs of anyone I know. But if I had a festive race on the horizon, I would wear these.

I had planned to write a blog post about my last race of 2014… until I realized it already happened. In October.

Due to the general madness that is my life, I kept procrastinating, cancelling or bailing on signing up for winter races, and now it’s December 11, and the 2014 racing season is done. There was the Tannenbaum 10K in 2012 and the Holly Jolly Fun Run in 2013. And this year… nothing.

I didn’t really realize on October 19 that the Scotiabank Half Marathon would be my final race of 2014. I wonder if I would have treated it a little differently if I had recognized that fact.

Admittedly, I’m finding it hard to run at all right now. I have a general lack of motivation and even when I do manage to get out there, it’s awful. Hard, slow. Disappointing. (Insert that’s-what-she-said-joke here). For now, I’m finding motivation in gym classes focused on cardio or strength.

I’m hoping that a change of scenery will help inspire me again.

What was/is your last race of 2014?

Christmas gifts for runners

What’s on your holiday wishlist?

Before you call me on it, I’m going to admit that I’m totally writing this post for SEO purposes. And also as a subtle hint for any of those people in my life seeking a festive present for me this year.

As an avid runner, I read all sorts of running websites and magazines and throughout the year, I accumulate a pretty extensive wish list. When it comes to the holidays, I’m probably pretty easy to buy for. Here’s a list of some of my favourite running-themed gift ideas.

Shirts from ilovetorun.org

This site has a pretty cool selection of running-themed shirts, hoodies and accessories. I’m a particular fan of the Run Hard, Drink Wine tank. I’m thrilled to see that my love of wine and running is not so unusual afterall. Apparently there are enough fans of these total opposites to create a shirt. There’s also a related Run Hard, Eat Cupcakes tank. A fine gift for a runner who doesn’t take the sport too seriously.

The Bibfolio

Over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of race bibs. Some people throw them out, but many runners collect them. Rather than store them in a box or desk drawer somewhere, Goneforarun.com has created this cool Bibfolio to store all your race bibs. Like a photo album, it has vinyl insert sheets, perfectly sized for race bibs. I’m a particular fan of the engraved bamboo bibfiolo. You can even personalize your bibfolio with your name, special phrase or race stats.

The quintessential Christmas themed running shirt

This beautiful shirt from Ink n’ Burn is the only holiday themed running shirt I can find. In fact, I actually received it as a gift two years ago, and I was so thrilled with it, I wrote an entire blog post about it. For any runner that loves a so-bad-it’s-good Christmas sweater, this is the perfect gift. Also, check out the rest of their site. They have some pretty rad looking running gear. In addition to my Christmas shirt, I also have two tanks from Ink n’ Burn and every time I wear them, I get lots of compliments. Fact: wearing cool running gear makes you run faster.

The Runner’s World 2015 Calendar

It’s tradition. You absolutely must get a new calendar as a Christmas present. What better calendar for the runner in your life than the Runner’s World 2015 calendar? Available in desk or wall variety, this lovely calendar is full of beautiful and inspiring landscapes. In addition to the great photography, the calendar also features tips on training, nutrition and injury prevention. The perfect gift for a whole year of running motivation.

Gift cards to The Running Room or Nike store

Say what you want about gift cards, but I think they are awesome. Typically shunned from consideration due to the (completely false) assumption they are impersonal and thoughtless, I think gift cards offer a perfect solution for the hard-to-buy-for runner in your life. Every runner likes new gear. And runners can be picky about style, fit and brand. Not sure what they love? Get a gift card. Great gift, no stress. Bingo.

Rundies by Oiselle

We all know Christmas is a time to get new socks and underwear. Why not marry practicality and holiday mirth with a fabulous set of running themed undies?  Uncomfortable underwear sucks. Especially when you’re running. Oiselle offers this awesome set of 7 underwear, each with a running inspired print.

What’s on your wishlist? Are you hoping to find any running-inspired gifts under the tree this year?

running in london

As of January, my husband and I are relocating to London, England! Despite the fact that we have 400 things to do to wrap up life in Toronto and set up life in London, I can’t help but start searching for interesting running routes or cool races to run in our new city. I’ve run pretty much every major race in every available distance in Toronto. 5K, 10K, 21.1K, 30K, 42.2K. I’ve even run a relay and a random 11K race in Prince Edward County earlier this year. It’s not say I wouldn’t do these races again, but the idea of having a whole new race agenda in another country is pretty badass.

Clearly, we aren’t moving to England so I can run. (Though that would be pretty awesome!) My husband got a great job there, and my company graciously offered to transfer me to our London office. I’m so thankful and excited that we can both go on this cool journey together.

I hope that my Toronto/Canadian followers will continue to read this blog, despite the changing focus to European races. I’ve only ever run one – The British 10K – and it was a terrific jaunt through all the most historic parts of London. Perhaps I’ll sign up again this year!

I found this website called The Runner’s Guide to London and was literally filled with glee. The Shakespeare Run?! As an English major and runner, this kind of makes me want to get up and dance. This website also has routes already planned for you with a map, total distance, terrain and info. My excitement level is off the charts.

We have a long list of things on our to-do list before we get to London, and I need to focus on the important stuff (like getting a visa). However, I can’t seem to stop myself from reviewing and planning a racing agenda. I also need to figure out important things like the closest running route to our new flat and whether I can transfer my Runner’s World subscription to the UK version or not. Clearly, my priorities are somewhat off.

I’m looking forward to sharing my running adventures in London with you. If you’ve ever run a great race there, leave me a comment. I’m open to all suggestions.

Cheerio! (or whatever they say in London)