Movement is Medicine: Reflections on a 40 Day Run Streak

I headed into the final 15 day stretch of my October Run Streak Challenge feeling hopeful that my running habit would be solidified, & that it would become something that I could carry forward once the month ended. I am confident in saying that I have been successful on both accounts!

I hit the gym for days 17 & 18 with few problems, but faced a challenge on day 19. Having spent my evening helping with set-up for a grad fundraiser, & partaking in several delicious slices of the pizza we had ordered for the kids , I had to suffer through an extremely full mile at 9:30 at night. Days 20-26, went by without any significant hiccups, but day 27 brought another scheduling nightmare. I spent the day in Wainwright at a PD session, came home to change, rushed off to a special dinner meet holocaust survivor  Eva Olsson (you can read about the amazing experience here), went directly from dinner to Eva’s evening presentation & then returned to the school to make sub-plans, as I was registered for another PD conference the next day! Whew! After all of that, I was emotionally & physically  exhausted. I literally had not had a spare minute, but I made it to the gym at 10:00 p.m. & got ‘er done. I spent day 28 at a conference in Edmonton, then met up my Mom & brother, who came back to Vermilion for a visit. They drove along beside me as I took advantage of the beautiful weather for a night run. On day 29 we returned to the city, & I spent some time shopping with my Mom. Knowing I wouldn’t make it back home until after midnight, we measured out the distance in the Toys R’ Us parking lot, & I jogged 8 loops around the make-shift track in my mukluks. Having supportive people around really makes a huge difference because they help to hold you accountable to your goals, even in less than conventional circumstances! Days 30 & 31 were uneventful in comparison, & I enjoyed Halloween night, soaking in my sense of accomplishment for having completed my goal.

However, my feelings were obvious: I wasn’t quite ready to give up on my streak that easily. After all, I’d already ran for 31 days straight. Couldn’t I do a few more? So, I did. My streak officially came to an end on Day 40. While I was sad to see it go, I also felt an enormous sense of relief.

  • The streak taught me that excuses about lack of time & energy are just that: excuses. They aren’t valid. If you decide you want to pursue a goal badly enough, if you care about something deeply enough, if you are invested in something passionately enough, you can (& you WILL) find the time to make it happen.
  • The streak taught me that running is natural. A body in motion, stays in motion. Our bodies are meant to move. They are meant to carry us. They are meant to be strong. Running consistently feels so good because it’s what our bodies were built to do. It also helped me to maintain my weight without being constantly worried about the effects of indulging in snacks & sweets.
  • The streak taught me that movement is medicine. Running is a cathartic exercise. There is both immediate & lasting relief in the steady regularity of steps, & in the rhythm of heartbeats. I began to crave my uninterrupted tine to run each day because it was dedicated to ME. My wellbeing & my body were put first for those few minutes, & I would put on a podcast, & lose myself in the act of running, untangling the knots in the fabric of my life that had accumulated throughout the day. I almost always finished a run feeling better than when I started.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What does one do after running for 40 days straight? Well, I have a weight-loss goals to meet before the New Year, & I still have three races to complete to meet my goal of 16 races in 2016. The last six weeks of 2016 will see me continue to run consistently, I promise.

 

 

 

Continue Reading

October Run Streak: Mid-point Update

Well, winter has come early to Alberta, & it has struck with characteristic intensity.  It’s hard to believe that Halloween is still two weeks away, & I’m trying my hardest not to start thinking about Christmas. But every time I look out the window & see the snow, my mind turns to baking & decorating & warm fireplaces & . . . almost anything but running! When I started this run streak at the beginning of October, there was snow at my Mom & Dad’s, but not here, & I was able to enjoy one lovely night run wearing capris. Part of why I wanted to start the streak was to motivate myself to get out into the Provincial Park & enjoy the gorgeous fall colours. While those plans have been thwarted, I have finally been making use of my gym membership again (silver lining!) &, pausing to reflect on day 16, I am pleased with the streak so far. While I haven’t completed any runs of significant length, the obligation to continue the streak has helped me to rid myself of excuses & just get it done. 

day1

day2

day3

day4

day5

day6

day7

day8

day9

day10

day11

day12

day13

day14

day15

day16

Last winter, while I was having a really difficult time adjusting to life in a new place, with a new job, & missing my friends & family terribly, going to the gym for a run to train for my second half marathon was such a welcome escape. Its nice to be back in a place that brought me so much comfort, & to settle into that routine again. With 15 days remaining of this October Run Streak Challenge, I hope that my running habit is really solidified, & is something that carries forward.

Stay tuned!

Continue Reading

October: 31 Day Run Streak

This month, I’m taking on a different type of running challenge. I have 3 races left to complete my goal of #16racesin2016 (the race re-caps for races 7-13 are coming, I promise), & I need a kick-in-the-behind to get back to running more than just on race day.

The objective: To solidify a running habit, & get moving. I read Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes book Open Heart, Open Mind in January, & have been following her on social media every since. She regularly posts using the hashtag #movementismedicine, & that idea has really resonated with me. So, here’s to a movement filled October!

The rules: (they’re simple!)

  1. Each run must be a minimum of 1 mile in distance or 15 minutes in duration.
  2. Run every single day in October.

They don’t gave to be pretty, & they don’t have to be fast. They just have to be completed & logged. I’ll be spamming my instagram feed with daily updates, (& shelooksforadventure with occasional ones), so head on over & follow along with my progress.

“This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.”
― Charles Duhig

Continue Reading

Race #6: Brian Harms Memorial

This is the second year that I’ve ran in the Brian Harms, a memorial event that takes place every Mothers Day in Grande Prairie.

Last year I did the 8 k & had a miserable time. I’d ran my first half marathon in early April, & felt like I was becoming a runner (yay!) . . . except then I stopped running. Why do I do that to myself? I ran once between the half & the 8 k & on race day, a giant hill in Muskosippi Park almost did me in. I finished, but it wasn’t an event I felt very good about.

This year, I had a better plan. I signed up for the 5 k & was in much better running shape. Unfortunately, the starting location of the race was moved from the South Bear Creek Pavilion to behind the Eastlink Centre, which is basically a sad grassy area off a parking lot with a view of backyard fences. South Bear Creek, on the other hand, had beautiful trees & trails & bathrooms! I can’t be the only runner who gets the nervous pees. While we ended up on a similar route to last year, I really hope it gets changed back. It was also so cold & windy that the DJ that was supposed to play music never showed up! The whole thing was pretty disorganized due to the weather . . . the speeches & instructions were given inside the Eastlink (which we had no way of knowing) & then we all headed outside.

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-9-24-49-pm

I stalled until the very last minute with taking off my sweater, & tossed it to my Mom as the race began. Just like last year, my Mom got up early on Mothers Day to come & cheer me on at the Brian Harms. She must have been freezing standing around for over half an hour, but stuck it out like a champ. After years of watching my hockey, volleyball, & basketball games, it’s nice to know that I haven’t lost my biggest fan.

I ran pretty well, & even enjoyed myself once we turned into the park where the trees provided some protection from the wind. I stopped to walk once, up a large hill near the end, then tried to finish as strong as possible. The wind was blowing completely against me the last kilometre or so, & it even started to rain. There were a couple of little girls who were struggling to make any headway against the wind, & I was honestly scared it might blow them away. I tried to give them some encouragement, but the poor kids looked so dejected. Considering the circumstances, I was happy with my time & very happy to be heading into a warm vehicle.

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-9-39-28-pm

Unfortunately, I just missed placing #3 in my age category & receiving a medal. It was some consolation that the fastest time in the whole event was recorded by a girl in the 20-29 year old female group. For the past several years she has ran for the college, & was placed in a special elite category. Last year she graduated, so is no longer sponsored, & can run with the rest of us. Darn! I’m so close to receiving a placement medal for top three. For now, I’m trusting the process & my progress. One of these times I’m going to get it.

brianharms

There’s two really great parts about running the Brian Harms: I get to spend time with my Mom on Mothers Day & I know there’s a brunch reservation with hot coffee & waffles waiting for us afterwards!

Continue Reading

Race #5: Suck it up Buttercup 10 k

This race came on the last weekend of Spring Break, after my return from Vancouver Island. I stuck to my training schedule for a sub-60 minute 10 k pretty consistently, & even got up early one morning on vacation to run in the hotel’s gym.

On race day, we arrived at Rundle Park in Edmonton, & I faced the conundrum that most runners do on a windy day: do I run in shorts & a T-shirt a freeze at the start line, or run in pants & a windbreaker & be uncomfortably sweaty a few kilometres in? About 5 minutes in, I know that I’d  made the right decision to ditch my heavier clothes, but that was the least of my problems . . .
startinglineThe Suck it Up Buttercup 10 k presented  a huge mental challenge for me. My training had went well, but almost as soon as I started running I was absolutely miserable. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was completely out of shape. I felt that I should just give up & walk since my watch wasn’t working & I couldn’t possibly pace myself to complete the race in under my goal time of 60 minutes without the data from my watch. My self talk was so negative I honestly wanted to cry. The trails at Rundle Park were hilly & the cement was uneven. On that day, running felt like complete torture.

Running is such a weird sport. Some days it sucks, & it hurts, & you hate it with every fibre of your being. On other days, it energizes you, makes you feel alive, & lets you feel like you could conquer the world.

Deep, deep down, in my heart & in my head, I think I knew that quitting wasn’t really an option.

You can keep going & your legs might hurt for a week or you can quit & your mind will hurt for a lifetime.

-Mark Allen

I am not a quitter. I have never been someone to bow out when things get tough, & I never will be. I didn’t let the negative self-talk win. I kept going. I ran 5 k, then stopped for a short walking break. By this point, I’d realized that my watch wasn’t really broken at all, & that I’d finished the first half in about 30 minutes. I was on pace to meet my goal!

The second half I was in a much better place mentally. Physically, I was really pushing myself, & was really hurting. I used to run a 5 k in about 33 minutes. Could I really do a 10 k in under 60? A few years ago, I thought that I was shooting really high when I wrote down my goal of completing an entire 10 k without stopping, but a few months ago I ran an entire half marathon without stopping. I can do hard things. I have completed challenges that seem really difficult. I could do this too . . .

smilesaftersuckitupbuttercup

& I did! I crossed the finish line at 58: 40 & placed #3 in my age category (although this changed later, on the results site, I still take that placement as a major win! It shows  my huge progress).

Every race is an adventure, & every race has a lesson. I think Oprah sums this one up nicely:

Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.

-Oprah Winfrey

Continue Reading

Running Reads: The Best of Adharanand Finn

If you know me at all, you know I drive A LOT. Last summer I moved 700 kilometres away from where I grew up, & I make it a priority to visit friends & family at home regularly.

If you know me at all, you also know that when I’m training for a half marathon, I run A LOT. Usually I hit the gym after work at least 4 days a week to stick to my training schedule.

Cue my discovery of audiobooks (I also listen to a ton of podcasts, but those are a subject in themselves!). I’ve had a subscription to audible for a while now, where I pay a flat fee & get any audiobook of my choosing each month. They do wonders to help fill the long hours of driving & really help me to control my mind when I’m running; if my mind is busy & entertained, it’s not so worried about trying to convince my body that it should stop.

23616.books.origjpg

Recently, I stumbled onto a title by Adharanand Finn called The Way of the the Runner: A Journey into the Obsessive World of Japanese Running, which I voraciously devoured. In the book, Finn chronicles his families six-month adventure in Japan, where he goes to seek the secrets of Japanese long-distance running, especially the secrets of the extremely popular sport of ekiden (long-distance relay) running. What makes this story so fascinating is that Finn himself is an avid runner, & is always game to place himself into the story, making local connections & even running with the professional athletes whenever he has the chance. I also really enjoyed how the author goes beyond running, describing the challenges his daughters face as they attend a Japanese school & the families amusing miscalculations as they muddle, at first, their way through each day in a completely foreign society. One part travelogue, one part inspirational sports narrative, this story is woven together honestly & skillfully, & is the best of everything I enjoy about first-person writing. After reading (errr, I mean listening), I’m determined to visit Japan in the future & would love to take part in a recreational ekiden.

runningwiththekenyans

When I realized Adharanand Finn had wrote another book before The Way of the Runner, I downloaded it right away. In Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, he relates his incredible journey, again with his wife & three young children in tow, to Kenya, where he explores what it is the really makes the Kenyans SO darn fast. If you’re looking for a magic formula, you won’t find it, but the real magic in this book is Finn’s story of training for a marathon in Lewa with a group of Kenyans, & his experience getting to know them & immersing himself in the Kenyan running culture. Again, with his wonderful sense of humour, Finn shares what the trip is like for his family. I have a feeling that this book will give me a much greater appreciation for the long-distance athletes in this summer’s upcoming Olympic Games.

If you love running, travelling, & reading, then I can’t recommend these books enough. Give them a read, or a listen, & let me know what you think!

 

 

Continue Reading

Race #4: Pi Run

My fourth race for #16racesin2016 was Epic Races‘ Pi Run. The organizers host an event in Michigan, but also encourage virtual participants from all over the world to run 3.14 miles on or near March 14, which is Pi Day!

I did my run the week before Pi Day & it was my best 5 k time to date. I had motivating music pumping through my earphones at the gym, & a real sense of adrenaline. It felt amazing to go all out, pushing myself & working incredibly hard. You know those days where your legs, heart, & mind are all working together? This was one of those rare days. The feeling of accomplishment when I was able to look at a time just over 28:00 was incredible. (Okay, it was 3.12 miles. But pretty close!)

28run

 

Things got even better a couple of weeks later when I picked up my mail. I was expecting a race medal to show up, but was really confused when I opened the package & found some crumbs. It turns out the awesome people at Epic Races had mailed me a legit personal-sized cherry pie! I also received a wonderfully soft T-shirt that has become one of my favourites, a finisher’s medal, & a happy, “Congratulations!” message.

congratspi

Any race that means I receive a pie in the mail, all the way from the US, is a winner in my books. I enjoyed the pie as a celebration of being 25% of the way to my goal.

PiLogo

I think this one might have to become a yearly tradition! If you’re interested, the 2017 event is already posted on Epic Races’ website. I give this race a gold medal for the swag, & fun theme.

Continue Reading

Race #3: Molly Weasley Ugly Jumper Run

I discovered Hogwarts Running Club on instagram last fall & was really excited by what I found. They are a charitable organization that organizes virtual races with various Harry Potter themes. An “owl” is sent to your address with a race medal, you print off a race bib using your own printer, & whenever you have time, you can complete the event, then enjoy your new race bling.(Who doesn’t love race bling?!) Trying to fit 16 races into an already busy schedule is daunting, so I love the idea of a virtual race that is flexible in terms of dates.

uglyjumperrun

When you register for an event with Hogwarts Running Club, you can select a house to run for, which is a fun extra perk. I decided to go all in, & took a pretty in-depth online quiz to find out which house the sorting hat would have put me in, had I ever received one of those elusive Hogwarts Letters. I was sorted into Ravenclaw & registered for the Molly Weasley Ugly Jumper Run benefitting One Warm Coat, an organization with the mission to provide anyone in need with a warm coat, free of charge.

On February 15 I got my butt out of bed & to the gym to complete this event; my first ever virtual race! At first, I felt a little silly wearing the race bib on the treadmill all alone on a quiet morning. One thing I really enjoy about entering races is the atmosphere & adrenaline that come from running surrounded by other people, but it was stress-free & fun to do a race on my own & I actually really enjoyed it.

mollyweasleymedal

A few weeks later, this fabulous medal arrived in my mailbox, courtesy of an “owl” from the running club. This organization is extremely well-organized & exists for a good cause. I will definitely be signing up for another one of their running events in the near future.

Continue Reading

Race #2: Hypothermic Half Marathon

I was happy (& surprised!) when I managed to talk my new teacher-friend Kaitlyn into signing up for the Hypothermic Half Marathon in Edmonton on February 7th. I needed a training plan (& accountability buddy) to get my butt in gear, & it definitely worked! Besides a few weeks over Christmas, I stuck to my 12 week plan pretty consistently. I followed the same plan for my first half marathon last year, and have found that it works well for me. It calls for a 3:1, walk:run ratio, but I followed a 2:2 ratio for most training sessions. Combined with teaching aquafit twice a week, & experimenting with kettle bells & free weights, I was in great shape by the time February rolled around.

A few days before the race, I received the best surprise in the mail from Darla; a running necklace with my birthstone! I wore it for good luck on race day.

runningnecklace

Kaitlyn & I headed to Edmonton on February 6th and picked up our race kits & some last minute purchases at the Running Room. Next, we made a stop at Chapters, then had a delicious dinner at Chianti’s on Whyte Ave. (One of the best parts about running a half marathon is the excuse to carb load the night before!) We called it an early night & tried to get some sleep, since we’d signed up for the Early Bird Run at 8:00 a.m..

We both slept pretty fitfully, but woke up in good spirits. After a quick hotel breakfast we headed to Highlands Golf Club where the announcer let everyone know that this race would be the warmest Hypothermic Half on record. (Woohoo!)  Kaitlyn intended to run the entire race at a faster pace then my 2:2 plan, so I started just behind her. While the weather was beautiful as the sun came out, the roads were pretty icy in spots. I managed to keep pace with Kaitlyn for the first 3 miles, then intended to take a quick walk break . . . but I just kept running. The route required two laps of the course, and by the second lap I could still see her ahead of me, but was falling a bit behind. I concentrated on enjoying the moment, and willing my legs to get me up the big hill one more time. The last three miles were (and always are) a test of will. At that point, I refused to stop for a walk break and relied on some gummies to keep me going. Some spectators with funny signs were a welcome distraction when my legs went numb with about 1.5 miles to go. I was watching my Timex running watch and could tell I wasn’t going to beat my time of 2:18:38 from last April, but willed myself to keep moving and to stay positive. I could still meet a different goal; I could actually run the entire 13.1 miles! I figured that I could run for just 5 more minutes. Just. Five. More. Minutes. Then it would all be over.

I dug down deep and sprinted the last couple hundred metres, leaving everything I had left in the tank out on the course. I came across the finish line & finally received by Yeti Medal before collapsing (literally) onto Brian, who had made the two hour drive to surprise me at the finish (He really is the best). Kaitlyn came across a few seconds later, & we high-fived, tried to shake out our legs, & took some celebratory pictures. It was a perfect finish to 3 months of hard work.

posthypohalf

It was a terrible cruelty that the clubhouse was at the bottom of a set of steep stairs; thank goodness for handrails! We made it down to enjoy our post-race brunch & soak up the endorphins.

My official finish time was 2:20:51 & I was finisher 72/125 participants in our heat. But most importantly, I RAN AN ENTIRE HALF MARATHON! My bucket list goal of running an entire 10 k race is now checked off. I did over double that! Far too often, we underestimate ourselves.

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”                                     -Thomas Alva Edison

Race #2 of #16racesin2016 was a success.

Continue Reading

Race #1: Lloydminster Transplant Trot

Late last year, I decided to take the plunge and commit to completing 16 races in 2016. I need goals to make me (literally) keep putting one foot in front of the other & nothing feels as good as completing something that’s slightly crazy!

My first race of 2016 was the Lloydminster Transplant Trot. Considering it was mid-January in Alberta, I was happy to see a race that was nearby & inside. I’d never done an indoor race before, so I was a bit nervous about the new experience, but decided it’d be a good training opportunity for the upcoming Hypothermic Half Marathon in Edmonton if nothing else.

The event was well-organized & a first for Lloydminster, so it featured several speakers and an emotional victory lap for those directly affected by transplantation. I was most impressed by the fact that 8 people’s lives can be saved by just 1 organ donor! Soon after the race, I let my family know that if something ever were to happen, that I’d like to be a donor. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to have it put onto my license until I renew it next year, but learning about something so powerful was a wonderful start to my year of races.

The actual run started off well, as the runners left about 10 minutes before the walkers, which included many families with kids. I had confidence in my 2:2 system of half-marathon training, but decided that 5 k really wasn’t very far, & that I may as well run the whole thing. My pace was good, except I did get slightly overheated. After the walkers started, it got a bit frustrating. Despite the volunteers constant reminders to stay on the right so the runners could safely pass, I found myself spending a ton of time dodging people who were talking & walking in the left lane.

As usual, Brian was the best and was nice enough to count my laps, protect my race goodies, & supply high-fives. Although this wasn’t a chipped event, I figured I finished in about 30 minutes, which would be a new Personal Best!

transplanttrotselfie

This is definitley an event I would enter again, especially because it raises awareness & funds for a truly great cause. For more information on becoming an organ donor visit the Canadian Transplant Society Website. The steps differ by province, but the most important thing is to let your family know your wishes!

 

P.S. You can follow along with my year of races on Instagram using the hashtag #16racesin2016.

Continue Reading