Popping my Marathon Cherry

It’s now been three weeks since I ran the Chicago marathon and added “marathon finisher” to my list of running accomplishments. I have four black toenails, my sunburn is gone and I can walk again with ease. I’m not going to sit here and talk about how easy running a marathon can be if you just put your mind to it because that would be lying. Rather, I wanted to give an honest reflection of what this race was like for me, running this race with a terrible cold and a bum knee, equal parts magical and miserable.

When thinking about running a marathon, I urge you to really think about it. If you’re hungry for it, really hungry for it, getting to that start line (and hopefully the finish!) is possible but you have to be prepared for more work than you probably imagined. Half-assing a marathon is honestly just not really an option. I KNEW this would be hard as running has never come easily to me, I just didn’t realize how hard it truly would be. In the past I have been able to train for a half marathon running 2, maybe 3 days week, but this was a whole other beast, and what a beast it was.

I have been wanting to run a full marathon for a few years now, and even though I was dealing with a lot of pain while running on and off over the last year, I was finally hungry enough to put in the work to get there. In the spring, my running was going well, but still, something wasn’t quite working right. A year prior, I had felt strong, confident and was getting quicker, but this year, no matter how much I ran and how hard I worked, running only seemed to be getting more difficult. At the end of June, I finally sought treatment for the pain I had been feeling in my hip and glutes and started working with the amazing Brittany Moran at the Runner’s Academy. Britt was an essential part of my training this summer and helped me work on my gait, the (literal) pain I kept getting in my butt and hip and then my eventual knee pain. She was a lifesaver and I wouldn’t have made it through this without her! However, I can’t help but kick myself that I didn’t seek help sooner- like a year ago, as soon as I had felt pain. I can’t help but wonder if I had actually been treating my pain when it actually began I may be telling a different story about my first marathon.

With Britt’s help, I started to feel better as the summer and my training progressed. I was finally feeling stronger again, was starting to feel a bit faster, and was getting more and more excited about running a full! With increased mileage came more time spent running and less time for other activities- including strength training, something that has always been a part of my life, but I was feeling pretty good. At the beginning of August, it all started to come together. I had two back-to-back weekends of really, really great long runs. They honestly were the first amazing, “easy” and comfortable runs of the training cycle. I hadn’t had a long run like this in OVER a year and had really been struggling with anything over 14k up until this point. I think I ran 26k one week and 28k the next and I felt like I could have kept going on both of those days. Unfortunately, they were also the only and the last great runs of my entire training cycle. My 30k long run the week after was the toughest run and slowest I had ever done…and when I went to do 32k the week after, I could only make it to 27k at which point my husband literally forced me to stop because I was in so much pain from my knee, which had come out of nowhere. I couldn’t bend my left knee if my life depended on it.

The rest of my training was rocky. I wanted to rest and recover but also wanted to get the miles in. I eased back a little bit, trying to heal whatever was going on. But…I’m also incredibly stubborn. My knee wasn’t bothering me that much on short runs, anything under 15k seemed okay, and I had some really great track workouts and easy shorter runs, so I trekked on…

I made it to my peak week where I attempted a 33km run. Looking back, I’m not actually sure how I made it through this because as much as I tried to deny it to myself and to others, it was incredibly painful. I stopped and walked more times than I’d like to admit, and each time I stopped to walk my knee seized and I couldn’t bend it. At one point I lay on the grass on the side of Cherry Street for a good 5 minutes trying to stretch and make my knee work and shutting out the thoughts of “maybe you shouldn’t do this”. It took me over 4 hours and I was dead by the end. And yet, as hard as it was, getting to 33km somehow gave me the confidence to get to that start line.

It was finally time to taper, which also really didn’t go as planned, and the next week I only made it to 14k out of the 25 I had planned when I decided to stop, fearing I would hurt myself more. That week, I still had some great shorter runs, but on my last long run I only made it 5k before the pain was too much. I couldn’t even run a 6:30/km pace and as my group ran ahead of me and I cried alone on MGT I allowed myself to think, for the first time, that maybe I shouldn’t even try to run Chicago if I was in this much pain. I cried pretty much all day and had a full-blown pity party, thinking things like “I’ve wasted 4 months of my life for nothing” (dramatic, I know…)

When I thought about everything I had given to this training cycle, I couldn’t bear the thought of not even trying. I had given up weekends sleeping in, nights out, patio beers, hours of my time each week to meal planning and prep. Not to mention, I had paid the hefty entry fee, booked an air bnb and finally found that motivation I needed to run a marathon. NOT running just didn’t seem like an option. Hubs was also injured and actually hadn’t even run for about three weeks at this point, but he also (stupidly) was like “ya, may as well give it a shot!” As that last week went on, I became delusional with optimism. The mind is incredibly powerful and this positive thinking is truly what made me not only attempt the marathon but get to the finish.

For whatever reason, I thought giving myself a lot of rest that last week would somehow be a miracle cure and I could get out there and run a marathon in 5 hours. I really, really held on to this, which in retrospect, I think may have even been a bit ambitious for my first marathon even if I hadn’t even been in pain given that I’m not really a fast runner. And yet I knew that I had to let go of any goals I had set for myself- mainly the goal that most first-timers have- to beat Oprah. My ONLY goal now was to finish and enjoy the experience. I was going to run a marathon damnit, and I was going to do it with a smile on my face.

Around this time, work was becoming increasingly stressful. I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t feeling great mentally and then about 5 days out from Chicago, the perfect storm for disaster began brewing. As luck would have it, I was taken out by a nasty cold. I did everything in my power to fight it; garlic and lemon shots, oregano oil, etc. BUT I didn’t do the thing I really needed the most…sleep.

AND YET, I still made it to Chicago, a smile on my face, ready to run a marathon. I toed the start line on October 8th feeling giddy with joy- I was finally going to become a marathoner! And….I did. But not without feeling like I had been to war and back. It’s true what they say…nothing can really prepare you for what the first marathon is really going to be like.

I LOVE Chicago, and even though all I wanted to do when we got there was explore, I knew better and was still feeling rough from my cold. We went to the expo and the buzz was so exciting. After that we made our way back to our air bnb (with a stop at whole foods, duh) and had our usual pre-long run dinner, did some light stretching and rolling and headed to bed around 9:00pm.

In the morning, we woke up at about 4:00am, ate our usual pre-run breakfast we had practiced all summer, got dressed, wrote our mantras on ourselves and made our way to the start. It was a gorgeous morning but it was also apparent that it was going to get HOT as the afternoon approached. Before I knew it, the first corrals were off and I was warming up.

When I started, I felt great. I wasn’t in any pain, I was relaxed, I was happy, I was enjoying the crowd and taking it all in. I was running slow AF, but figured if I could continue on this way I would finish in just over 5 hours. In my head it all made sense. I had done all the training, done all the prep, taken a week off to heal my knee and I had a plan. The crowd was unreal, the weather was still nice and the route was never boring. I had some pretty awful stitches (NO idea why) during that first 10k as we made our way through Lincoln Park but managed to get through them without any breaks. Around 15k it started to get really warm, but I was still feeling okay. At about 18k I started to feel stiff but knew I could continue on like this as long as my knee pain didn’t appear. Of course, it did. I made it to the halfway mark in what would be my slowest half marathon time ever and continued to push until I truly couldn’t anymore. I knew once I walked it was probably game over but the pain simply became too much to run. For the first time, I slowed to a walk and tried stretching and doing some A skips and hip hikes but nothing seemed to help. I don’t know why I thought this wouldn’t happen. I was really taking my mental game seriously and thought I could push through anything if I just stayed positive, but even with the right mind set, it was now apparent that no thinking could will away my pain.

For the first time in the race I allowed myself a moment of sadness but that was it, a moment. I hobbled along in a zombie like motion and pulled out my phone. I had approximately 25 messages from friends and family who were tracking me and wishing me good luck. It really inspired me to not give up and enjoy the rest of the race, even if it was at a walk. Now….I don’t know if this is obvious or not, but walking like 11-12 miles, well, that’s A LOT of walking. I now have so much respect for people who power walk marathons or run at a pace that gets them to the finish in 6+ hours because that is an insane amount of time on your feet pushing to meet a time goal. HOLY, I did not know what I was in for.

For the next 2-3 miles I was able to do slow walk/run intervals, but eventually every time I tried to attempt my sad little run, I had pain like knives. Walking it was, though you can’t even really call it walking. It was more of a power shuffle, with one leg not bending, kind of dragging behind. It actually started to feel normal after a while and I would almost forget about it until people would come up and ask me if I was okay, I even had a few medics ask me if I needed help. Around this time a few super kind people were coming up to me and chatting. I met a woman who told me all about how much her periformis was hurting her but she was determined to finish. I met a man who was running the same pace that I shuffled and we stuck together for about 2 miles. He was running his 10th consecutive Chicago Marathon and was planning to retire from running after. He said he was too old to run anymore and I told him all about Ed Whitlock to which he said maybe he has a few more marathons in him after all. I also met a woman who was just NOT having it. She was doing a combo power walk/run but would not stop complaining. I tried so hard to bring up her spirits and say how amazing it was that she was already so far but every word that came out of her mouth was a complaint. Eventually I gave up knowing that if I stuck with her it would bring me down and I wouldn’t finish and took off to get ahead.

I’ll be honest, at this point, I was really struggling to not engage with the thought of not finishing. I was beginning to realize how inefficient my shuffle really was and how long it was really taking. I started calculating in my head and I had to keep it up if I wanted to finish under the 6:30 cut off and be an official finisher. While I was not really out of breath and didn’t have a very high heartrate, the heat was getting to me. My strange gait was giving me blisters in places I had never felt, my hips and lower back hurt in a way I had never felt and my lips and face were feeling so sunburned. I won’t lie, it was really, really uncomfortable.

As I made my way back up Michigan Avenue in that final stretch I really had to dig in to that mental grit and also feed off of those around me. The runners were not as dense anymore, and yet there were still SO many spectators cheering us on like we were the front of the pack. The volunteers were so enthusiastic, pouring water all over us, encouraging us to continue and they never stopped smiling. I had people run by me and pat me on the back with encouragement and I had strangers cheering “Toronto! You got this!” (I was wearing my NRC Toronto singlet).

I also started to pay attention to the runners around me. I saw two friends encouraging each other every step of the way. I saw a daughter pulling her mom along, a dad helping his son, a whole family running together (they had shirts that said “Mom”, “Dad”, “Son” and “Daughter) and what must have been someone’s entire extended family cheering from the sidelines. I actually cried when their family member reached them because they were cheering so hard and she stopped to hug every single one of them. THIS, all of this, was what this race had really started to be about to me. No longer was it about chasing down some tough personal goal. It only became about how running has the power to take people places they never thought, but realizing that even though it’s an individual sport, it’s nearly impossible to do these things alone.

I thought about all the people at home I had trained with all summer. The runners who joined me on additional loops after our long runs, the NRC coaches and pacers who encouraged me, my colleagues who always asked about my training and my friends who stopped making fun of me when they were met with another “I’m sorry I can’t, I have to run….” These thoughts carried me to the end. When I saw the “one mile to go sign” I cried again. I attempted to run, I wish I had a video of what that looked like haha. I was in so much pain but it didn’t matter. I remember I was worried about tripping over the time mat at the finish because I couldn’t pick up my left leg. I gave it my all, and then I crossed the finish line! I did it, I finished a marathon! I couldn’t believe it. So many people around me were crying but all I could think about was taking my shoes off. I had a pint of beer thrown in my hand, food, ice packs, and all I wanted to do was sit down, which I did the second I got my bag from bag check. Watching the rest of the runners come and get their bags was pretty hilarious, knowing that I had looked the same, walking at a snails pace with a blank stare on my face like “what did I just put myself through”. Shortly after, my husband (he also finished!) found me and we very very very slowly made our way to get food and head back to where we were staying.

I was lucky to meet up with some old camp friends that night even though the only thing I wanted to do was sleep. I had never ever felt so exhausted and sore in my life. I was so sore it made me restless and I couldn’t sleep. Getting out of bed the next morning may have been more difficult then the race itself, no joke! The day after, we had a bit of time to explore and we ended up walking a lot which actually helped a lot, even though we were basically moving in slow motion the entire day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you get the chance, definitely run Chicago! Even though it was not the race I had planned when I signed up, I still wouldn’t change the experience for the world. Truly a great race for a first-timer like me, especially a struggling one!

So, three weeks later as I reflect on all of this and it all feels like a bit of a dream what did I learn from running my first marathon?

  1. Mental strength goes a long way. I would not have finished this race if I didn’t have a good attitude. 100% not a doubt in my mind that if I had given into negative thoughts I would have a big fat DNF next to my name right now.
  2. It really is all about the journey and training. A race is ONE day. A marathon training cycle is 4-5 months. The real accomplishment, regardless of the outcome of a race is making it through a training cycle. It took me a while to see this. but I have become a better person and runner because of everything I experienced this summer. I never thought I’d be bouncing out of bed on Saturday mornings to go run 20k+ runs FOR FUN and running up to 70Km a week. Sometimes I still can’t believe I have become that person. I mean, not all that long ago my only goal when running was making it to the next light post.
  3. If you’re in pain, don’t ignore it. Duh. Get help right away. Rest right away. Don’t continue running like all is fine for a few months and THEN get help. Tackle it before it becomes a real issue.
  4. There is power in letting go of all expectations. As a type A person this is really difficult for me. Once I decided that it wouldn’t be a failure if I had to walk to finish I reminded myself that sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, and that’s okay. There is power in accepting and learning that not meeting an expectation isn’t a failure. Sometimes you just have to take in the experience for what it is. I’m so happy I was able to do this and just be with it and not beat myself up over it.
  5. Stretching, strength and gait work are what can really make you a better runner. Do not neglect these areas.
  6. Stress is a killer. Sleep, proper diet and having the tools to not let stress control you can have a profound impact on your physical health and performance!
  7. You have to respect the distance. Running a great half marathon in no way prepares you for running a full marathon. It’s really not as simple as 21.1km + 21.1km = 42.2km.
  8. Back of the pack runners- you are all my HEROES. I am incredibly hard on myself and I also happen to run with a group of incredibly talented and speedy runners. I have been a back of the packer at NRC for almost 3 years, and I’m okay with this. While I sometimes have a hard time taking myself seriously as a runner because of this, Chicago reminded me that there are so many other people out there who run at my pace and plenty who run slower than I do. To all you sexy pace runners out there,  I commend you so much. I was lucky to spend a lot of time with these people in Chicago, and they are my true inspiration- why, you make ask? Because they continue on and push through hours and hours of work. Like 6+ hours of straight running. I mean…come on. It’s amazing that I saw so many running for that long and doing it with a smile. No doubt that we have to celebrate the athletes at the front for their incredible efforts, but these people, these are the ones we need to remember to celebrate. Running for 6+ hours is no joke and the amount of effort, hard work and determination put in by those who it will never feel natural or easy to was something I was lucky to witness and is something I will never ever forget.

So what’s next for me?

  1. Rest and recovery. I’ve pretty much made it out of the rest part of this, but it’s nice to take a mental rest and refresh. It’s nice to move when I want to and not when I have to because of my training plan. I’ve done a bit of cycling, yoga and gone on one small run without pain (yay!). Baby steps. I’m super determined to continue to work on building the muscles and do the rehab that I need to keep myself from getting injured again before I start to increase my mileage and begin to build again in the winter.
  2. Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (MCBT): This goes back to the stress point above. I let stress impact me more than I sometimes realize. I need to do a better job when it comes to preventative mental health and mental fitness. As a friend once said “I do all of this great preventative stuff for my physical health so why wouldn’t I do it for my mental health?” Pretty amped to start this program now that I have a bit more time.
  3. I want to chase down a half marathon goal in the late spring that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Breaking two hours has always felt impossible to me but if I can run/shuffle a marathon, I’m willing to put it all out there now and chase this goal too.
  4. And then…another marathon…duh. People keep asking me if I’m done running now. Say what?!? Running is such a big part of who I have become. No, I’m not done running. And stupidly (or not) this whole thing has made me even hungrier to do it again and do it right. Hubs and I have talked about running the New York Marathon next year or maybe Berlin. I honestly am already itching to get to it and can’t wait to actually RUN a whole marathon next time around.

Finisher!

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Breakfast. Pie.

Yup. You read that right- breakfast pie.

The merits of pie as a breakfast food has long been a topic of conversation in my nearest and dearest friendship circle. All of us have agreed for years now that pie is definitely a legitimate breakfast food. I mean, think about it for a minute. Toast and jam is pretty much pie. Poptarts and toaster struddles, while a questionable choice for the first meal of the day, are technically considered a breakfast food. So, how come the rest of the world has never seemed to catch on to our obsession (legitimacy) of eating pie for breakfast? Come on, it really makes sense.

Maybe we have all just convinced ourselves that pie was a good breakfast food because it made us feel better about the fact that we ate dessert for breakfast on multiple ocassions (don’t pretend you haven’t done it too).

Now, I am happy to let my friends carry on and eat pie for breakfast. I really am. BUT, I also happen to be somewhat of a sugar policewoman when it comes to my own diet. And, we can’t really argue that eating a whole bunch of sugar first thing in the morning is probably not the best idea. Plus, I’m pretty sure that pie crust isn’t really much of…well, anything that is beneficial to our bodies. So while I don’t condone or question the merits of eating pie for breakfast (I mean, have you seen what is marketed out there as breakfast food…see above mentioned poptarts and the ingredients for my point) I have been thinking for a while now that I could probably come up with a way to make a pie for breakfast that is much more nutritious. Enter, breakfast pie. I’ll say it again. BREAKFAST. PIE.

Summer is so obviously my favourite season here in Southwestern Ontario. It’s sunny, it’s warm, cottage country is lively and fresh locally grown produce is abundant. Oh baby, there is nothing like eating fresh Ontario strawberries in July. Last week hubs and I headed north of the city to pick some strawberries, and besides coming home with a fairly bad sunburn (how come I never learn?) we had a very successful day and ended up with like…4L of strawberries or something ridiculous like that. Immediately, I started thinking about what could be done with all of them. The possibilities are endless really, but with one of my pie-eating-for-breakfast friends’ birthdays coming up I realized now would be the perfect time to try and make a healthy breakfast pie.

After washing and cutting (and eating) up our forage, I got to work. The result, if I do say so, was a success. In fact, I only have a picture of one piece of pie because it was gobbled up at said friend’s cottage before I remembered I didn’t photograph it at all.

I’m not kidding when I say this pie is healthy. The crust is full of protein and hearty oats. The filling is packed with strawberry goodness and chia. AND the whole thing only has a total of 5 tablespoons of maple syrup so it’s low in sugar and refined sugar free. OH, and it’s gluten free. OH, and it’s vegan. And did I mention it is pie that is acceptable to eat for breakfast?

I also heard from a little bird that it tastes really good with some whipped cream (which could be swaped for some whipped up coconut cream to keep it healthy).

This pie is based off of a crust recipe from My New Roots and the filling is adapted from this raspberry chia seed jam from Oh She Glows, so while I would like to take credit for this pie fully, as always, Sarah and Angela were recipe creator geniuses behind the elements of this pie.

With that, here it is. Breakfast. Pie.

 

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

For the filling:

  • 4 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp.  water
  • 3 tbsp. chia seeds

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F
  2. Place oats and almonds in a food processors or dry container of a high-speed blender and process until it is the texture of a corse flour
  3. In a bowl, mix oats and almonds with sea salt, coconut oil and maple syrup. The mixture should be thick but should stick together.
  4. Spread crust ingredients into a pie plate. Place the mixture in the middle and press down and outwards until it is evenly distributed.
  5. Poke the crust with a fork and then bake for about 12-14 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven to cool
  7. While crust is baking, combine all filling ingredients into a saucepan.
  8. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat to medium-low.
  9. Allow the filling to simmer for about 15 minutes.
  10. Stir the filling frequently as the strawberries break down. The mixture should begin to thicken.
  11. Place filling in fridge overnight which will help to thicken.
  12. When ready to serve, pour filling into crust and enjoy. Could be warmed up but is amazing cool as well.

 

 

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On Happiness and being Selfish

The photo below is what one looks like when it’s only Tuesday but it feels like Friday and you’ve had the craziest few weeks and you try and leave the office before 6:00pm and you go to the bathroom down the hall and then come back and then realize that your badge isn’t working to let you in to your office and all of your stuff is there and you feel like crying but instead you find a random phone and call security and you wait 5 minutes and they finally show up to then tell you that their badge doesn’t work either and they’ll be right back and you wait another 10 minutes and then they come back with a master key only the master key doesn’t work so they tell you they’ll be back in a bit again, so you wait and then they return and tell you that they are doing a security upgrade on the 12th floor and for some reason out of all the badge scanners in the building the badge scanner to your office on the 15th floor is connected to all the scanners on the 12th floor so they have to call some people and halt the upgrade the technicians are working on so they disappear again and then return and someone on their cell phone opens the door and then you finally get in to your office and get your stuff and it’s almost 7:00pm and you head outside to walk home and realize it’s POURING ice cold freezing rain and you don’t have a hood, an umbrella or even a hat, so you just step out in the rain and put your music on and start walking home and burst out in explosive laughter in the middle of Front Street in downtown Toronto and you look like a crazy person but you don’t even care because for some reason you’re ridiculously happy and all the crap that happened is just funny and not really that important and at the end of the day you have a choice to make light of it all and enjoy these random moments instead of taking the easy route and deciding to be miserable and cold and tired.
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My older brother has always had a way with words. He is able to perfectly express even the deepest and most intense emotions by just writing them down in a way that I am not able. Without a doubt, he always nails it. It wasn’t long ago that he said to someone in our family, “happiness is something that you seek out with a vengeance, not something that is given” and I keep returning to those words again and again when I feel like giving in to a rough day and feeling sorry for myself.

I recently found myself in a huge rut where I was truly unhappy for quite some time. I woke up dreading the day, and then would spend the entire day looking forward to going to bed that night. When bed time came around, I would then panic as I tried to fall asleep as I knew I would soon have to wake up and face a new day, going through it all again.

Before I go on and bore you with the details of the rut I was in, I will start this off by saying that I don’t think being selfish is something to aspire to or necessary take pride in. However, being selfish is something that we all have to and SHOULD do at certain points in our lives. I’m not talking take-the-last seat-on-the-bus-when-there-is-a-pregnant-woman-waiting-for-a-seat-because-your-feet-hurt selfish, but more along the lines of look-out-for-you-in situations-where-the-outcome-impacts-your-well-being selfish.

During my little rut and depressive state, I decided I had to make some sort of change and I found myself in a position where I had to make a very difficult decision. I agonized over it, and I mean agonized, lost-sleep-didn’t-eat-had-near panic attacks-drove-my-husband-crazy agonized. After seeking advice from my closest confidants (best friends, family, my pets, the barista in the coffee shop down the street, etc.) they all helped me see that it was pretty obvious I had already made up my mind.

It took me a while to admit that I wanted the outcome that I did. I needed others to say it for me, to justify it, to validate that I was doing the right thing. It was so hard for me to admit what I wanted because making the decision I did was purely, pretty selfish. The only person my chosen outcome would benefit, was me,  even if that meant leaving others a little less-than-impressed, scrambling and over-loaded.

I don’t like to villainize the word selfish because sometimes in situations like this, I think being selfish is exactly what we need. Even though I like to consider myself confident, assertive and not afraid to go after what I want, as a female in our society I also always unfortunately am always worried about being “nice” and not letting others down. Of course no one wants to let people down, and being nice is certainly a desirable trait. But for the purpose of this post, and for others who may be going through something similar, I will say one thing: f**k being nice and just be selfish.

I realized that my agonizing came from the fact that I was so worried about what other people would think, how they would react and how it would make me look instead of the actual decision itself. When I took that out of the equation, it was a no-brainer. Why was I worrying so much about how other people felt when I knew that the decision I wanted to make would make me so happy?

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So, I did it. I took that leap of faith and went after what I wanted. It was really scary, but not any scarier than feeling stuck and miserable every day. And you know what? People weren’t as upset about it as I thought they would be, in fact, most people understood. Making that change was worth it, it felt good and it was empowering to truly just look out for me. Now, from the other side of it all, I remind myself constantly that I chose happiness and I will continue to choose it, even on the days where it feels out of reach, because I can, and because I have the power to choose it over and over again.

Admitting you’re unhappy can be scary but it is something only you can do. Once you admit it, you are that much closer to being happy. To actually realize that you have the power to take the steps and action that lead to happiness is even scarier.  But the true, shake-in-your-boots fear comes when you actually take that action. When you face the fear and take a leap of faith. Trust that faith you have in your decision. The view from the other side is worth it. Just like you are the only one who can admit that you are unhappy, you are also the only one who can decide to be happy and take the steps to get there. No one else can do that for you. Happiness isn’t given, or even something the universe owes to you, so be selfish and seek it out with a vengeance. 

 

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Natural Pain Management

I am one of those people who loves a good wallow. When I feel low, I am the type to hide out and binge watch Netflix (and usually binge eat things I shouldn’t). This is particularly true when I am in physical pain. While I used to pop advil like they were candy at the first sign of any pain, this isn’t my style so much these days. However, I do often reach for one when I am really having a hard time even though they cause total chaos in my stomach. In my quest to lead a more natural and holistic life, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Dr. Jason Marr, a naturopath and expert health and wellness speaker. At the time, I was dealing with a lot of hip and other joint pain as I was still trying to push through my marathon training. One of the supplements that Dr. Marr mentions, Genuine Health’s FAST Pain Relief, has really done wonders for my hip pain and I can’t recommend it enough. While I did receive a sample, this is by no means a sponsored post and I genuinely stand behind the product or I wouldn’t mention it here.

I think there are so many natural products and supplements out there that can help us with pain management and prevention, but the information can get overwhelming. I think that is why it’s often so much easier to reach for something conventional over the self, even when we know there are potential scary side effects involved. I was very excited about this interview as it provided me with so much helpful information that helped make sense of it all. I also learned the word nutraceutical which I just think is a really great word. Can’t wait to drop that one in a conversation. But seriously, did anyone else know about this word? How did I never know it before? So, without further ado, read on if you’d also appreciate some information about natural pain relief:

 

  1. We are so quick to reach for pain killers when we are sore from a workout or have a headache. What are some more natural options to dealing with this? How can we prevent pain before it happens or mitigate it through our diet and supplementation?

Over 4.5 million Canadians suffer from the pain of arthritis, and millions are diagnosed with other pain syndromes.  Everyone experiences some level of pain on a regular basis, whether acute or chronic. With questionable efficacy of natural health products for pain, and negative side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs, the need for safe, natural, effective treatments that work quickly, with sustained results, is glaring.

Glucosamine is a standard that sufferers of arthritis and other pain syndromes often self-medicate with. Natural eggshell membrane is a naturally occurring source of glucosamine, with the added advantage of also being a source of hyaluronic acid and other substances associated with joint health.  This more natural nutraceutical supplement is taking the world by storm for the management of pain syndromes, and in particular, for arthritis, when it comes to reasonably evidence-informed natural medicines.

Physical medicines, such as hydrotherapy – The application of hot and cold therapy to the body using water as the vehicle, and cold laser (low intensity laser therapy) are mainstays of my practice for the management of pain.

Other nutraceutical supplements that may have a role to play in pain management and anti-inflammation include those from herbs, such as curcumin, white willow bark and boswellia, nutrients like the specific omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oils, and vitamins and minerals that may be deficient in the body, such as magnesium, calcium, antioxidants and the B-vitamins.

  1. Why do you think that FAST products are a better choice over a conventional pain killer?

Natural eggshell membrane products are currently the most effective natural health products for chronic joint pain by far.  They produce results quickly and sustainably, are well-supported by scientific literature, are easy to use and safe, and are inexpensive.  This is an essential component to a natural health approach to joint pain in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory diet, essential fatty acids from fish oils and other anti-inflammatory means.

  1. How do natural remedies for joint pain fare over time and can they prevent further pain?

Most pharmaceutical pain management tools come with high risk of side-effects and dangers when used regularly for extended periods of time. NSAID drugs (such as Aspirin, ibuprofen) come with an increased risk of bleeding and peptic ulcer disease, for example, and acetaminophen depletes the body of antioxidants, stressing the liver’s ability to perform adequately.

Natural remedies can be as effective as pharmaceutical medications for the management of pain when used appropriately and in the proper doses.  While natural remedies are not always safe for everyone, and you should consult your experienced healthcare practitioner prior to using them, they often exhibit fewer side-effects and less serious interactions, particularly for long-term use.

  1. What is the single most powerful food when it comes to natural healing and prevention for pain?

Water.  Without proper hydration, every cell, tissue and organ in your body suffers, and struggles to produce or use energy appropriately.  Especially for runners, adequate hydration, proper rest and recovery, and optimal fuelling with an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet (ie. More vegetables than everything else) must come before anything else.

  1. As a runner, what small diet change can I make to make sure my joints as muscles suffer as little as possible?

Drink more water.  Eat more vegetables to obtain a more anti-inflammatory diet.  One way to achieve this is by adding a scoop of a superfoods greens powder like any of Genuine Health’s Greens+ powders to your daily morning regimen, in a smoothie or just with water.

If you want to add supplements to your plan, at the top of your list of options should be products like natural eggshell membrane (ie. Genuine Health’s FAST Pain Relief product line), and pharmaceutical-grade fish oils.  To get the most out of fish oils, ensure you’re delivering a minimum of 2000mg of combined EPA and DHA each day to your body.

From a lifestyle perspective, get adequate rest and ensure at least 1 day of complete rest per week.


Dr. Jason Marr is a Naturopathic Doctor, an Expert Health & Wellness Speaker, and Director of Evoke Integrative Medicine Ltd. (www.evokemedicine.com) in downtown Vancouver, BC.  He arms urban professionals with evidence-based, integrative, real-world tools to maximize productivity, creativity and learning agility, while overcoming fatigue, stress, anxiety and burnout.

 

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You can’t pour from an empty cup

Right now I am supposed to be sitting in my cramped Kia Rio driving from Chicago to Toronto after having run the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Instead, I am sitting at the kitchen island in my Toronto condo after shoving my face with a Thanksgiving feast writing this.

This is now the second year in a row that I haven’t reached my goal of running a full marathon and to say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Social media is currently agonizing, taunting me and reminding me where I should have been this weekend, but here I am sitting Toronto, having run a total of zero kms this weekend. While last year I didn’t make it to the marathon because I admittedly wasn’t training enough, this year my decision not to run was based off of agonizing hip pain that made even walking feel impossible after any long run. Despite the slow start to my training, I was SO determined to run this year and once the hip problems really set in I tried to ignore it and really really thought I could push through it and find that inner grit and mental strength that every marathoner talks about. I just wanted to get there and finish, even if it meant crossing the line in over 5 hours. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that my hip was so sore I couldn’t sleep after a long run, and then it started happening after shorter runs too, and then it was starting to hurt just from walking down the street. I was stretching, rolling, doing yoga and trying anything to self-rehabilitate.  Eventually, I decided to suck up my pride, look after myself and defer my entry until next year.

While the pain this year was certainly out of my hands, I do keep asking myself if trying harder earlier on would have got me there. While the pain was there all summer long, I also started noticing something else in those early summer days. My head was not in the game. I don’t know if this was from the pain or from something else. I just didn’t want to run. This wasn’t normal exercise procrastination this was a straight up I-hate-running-and-don’t-want-to-run feeling. Training was becoming a chore, and something I absolutely dreaded. If I missed a run, I ended up stressed, angry at myself, and totally let-down. I don’t know if these thoughts were a result of the pain or if the thoughts were making the pain feel worse than it actually was. While all of this was going on work was getting crazy and I still hadn’t settled into my commute and my new routine at my still-new job. A true perfectionist, it took me a long time to admit that my pain and my negative thought loops would keep me from running a decent race, or even finish the race, not the way I wanted to make my debut at this distance. After much reflection and a run where every single step hurt, I decided to defer to next year. I cried and cried and cried when I hit the defer button online. I couldn’t believe I had let myself down again. But then something happened- I felt relief. I suddenly didn’t feel as stressed.

I quickly came to the realization that the very same thing that inspired me to START running was now the cause of one of the main reasons I had to completely stop running for a bit; stress, and the perfectionism in my head I constantly try so hard to quiet. At first, I felt shameful about this. It was hard for me to tell people that I was having hip problems and that I also honestly just didn’t want to run. Being a runner, after all, had become such a large part of my identity and social life. But slowly, after a few weeks of coming home from work and literally doing nothing, I came to terms with it. My body and my mind had been trying to tell me something important, I just needed to stop and listen. I really tried to focus on myself and not on what everyone else would think of me dropping out of the marathon. I normally wouldn’t advocate for this kind of lifestyle but honesty, I was very lazy for a few weeks, I ate what I wanted and drank what I wanted and it felt great. I’m not saying that this is the best way to take care of your mental health, but I think in this situation I just felt so relieved and relaxed and let go of the impossible standards I so often set for myself. Learning that this is okay was a huge lesson for me. Of course, being the active person that I am, my body started telling me it was time to move again. Instead of lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement, I listened to my still sore body and focused on walking more, getting off the subway a stop early, taking breaks in the day to do some stairs, carving time in my schedule to get to a yoga class. Mainly, I didn’t stress about fitting tons of activity it. I did it when I felt like it and if I skipped a day, that was okay too. I tried some new fun recipes, I enjoyed lazy Saturday morning coffee walks with my husband and my dog, I made social plans after work with my non-running friends. I like to think this was just as healing for my mind as it was for my hip. I truly believe that we can’t be well physically if we aren’t taking care of our mental health first.

As I prowled social media this weekend and watched my favourite blogger cross the finish line in Chicago, I started finding what I had been missing again. My hip is feeling a lot better, I’ve achieved a bit more (of that impossible thing called) balance in my life, but most importantly my mind is ready. My motivation is there again, and it’s REALLY there.

Getting back into it last week with my fav running pals

 

Am I going to jump back into running 5 days/week? Absolutely not. But I am going to slowly get back into it, keeping up with my yoga and other strength classes, doing some proper physio with a professional and taking care of my head again. Hopefully I will start to rev-up the training again mid-December in preparation for some Spring races, but if my head isn’t there, I won’t force it. So much about being healthy is about finding what works and keeping it as enjoyable as possible. Of course, I want that to be running. But I want it to be running for me, for my goals, for my mental health, for my well-being, not for my perfectionism, my worries about what others will think or because I think I have to run a marathon to call myself a runner.

Thanks to all who have listened to me agonize over this and still loved me anyway, marathon finisher or not. You know who you are!

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Run a marathon they said, it’ll be fun they said…

Attachment-1

With only 45 days until the Chicago marathon I thought it was about time to provide everyone with a bit of a training update!

I don’t know about any of you out there but Toronto has been BURNING UP (or at least it was when I started writing this last week), a negative factor that has kept me from training as hard as I’d like to. I will be totally open about this, but I am currently not putting in the weekly mileage I should be at this point as I prepare for the Chicago Marathon. It really is a week-by-week struggle right now. Some weeks I am ALL IN (like this one), and others (like last week) I am barely scratching the surface in my training. Not only is the heat a factor but the time it takes is really deterring me from my training as well. I know, I know, I have to make it a priority. The problem is, I have made other things a priority as well and am struggling to prioritize my running in all of this. I find this especially difficult because I have so many planned weekends away. I really find that getting in a Saturday morning long run with my club is the key to staying on track and setting myself up for success. With being away, it’s so hard to fit in a long run, and especially challenging mentally to get myself to do it solo.

Back in May, I was feeling on top of the world  regarding my running. But then things kind of got derailed. I was having knee and hip pain and started taking it easy. I was job hunting and feeling down about unemployment and also got caught up in a bunch of side work and freelance projects. Basically, I lost steam and was struggling to find it again. I barely ran at all during the month of June. I luckily found and started a new job at the beginning of July but it also threw me off. Getting back to the 9-5 grind plus a 50 minute commute has quite simply been exhausting. Because of this, I was really struggling to get up early on weekends for my long runs for a while, throw in cottage weekends and summer plans and everything was all out of whack and off track. When I miss a weekend long run it is so difficult to try and make a long run happen on a weekday after sitting in a chair from 9-5. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. Even when I have the best of intentions all day long, by the time the work day is over I just cannot.

In general, I am finding sitting all day difficult, I forgot what an energy suck it truly is. Since I literally help people feel more energized at work and stay healthy, I really need to do a better job with practicing what I preach and get up more during the day for a little walk or stretch. I’m going to start putting reminders in my outlook calendar to make sure this happens and will post an update about it later- hopefully I can stick with it and notice a difference. I am also working in an office with no natural sunlight which is also a challenge mentally and really takes a toll on my energy levels as well.

And now, here I am. I am STILL struggling to stay on track but at least I can say I finally am getting some of my drive back and making it more of a priority. Is it possible to run a marathon after only 8 weeks of REAL training? (Please say yes!)

So how do I feel mentally with 7 weeks to go?

Motivated. At least sometimes haha. My head and heart is mostly in the right place. I am ready to conquer it although I admit it is still a little daunting and I thought I’d be more prepared at this point (does everyone feel this way before their first full?) I am also a bit stressed. Training for a marathon takes A LOT OF TIME and I have accepted I basically have to give up other plans and a “life” outside of running for the next 7 weeks. It’s really tough to prioritize this in the summer when there is so much going on- endless invites for after work drinks, weekends away at cottages and camping, weddings, gatherings, bachelorette parties, etc. After this week, I absolutely have to focus more and stop saying yes to these other things or find a way to schedule my runs around the things I can’t miss with zero excuses. Luckily, I have the local chapter of NRC to help keep me on track.

T-minus 66 days until the Chicago Marathon. It may not be obvious from this photo but I am in near panic mode. Getting back on track (pun intended) and finding my groove again sexy pace style. Slow and steady wins the race right? (Well maybe not wins but I'm thinking a super sexy pace marathon is a personal win). Shout out to @vividsole for pushing me to the point of near death but keeping me going somehow during last nights speed session! 📸: @ak.tivated . . . . . . . #NRC #niketoronto #nrctoronto #bankofamericachicagomarathon #tracktuesday #chicagomarathon #nrcchicago #chasing26point6 #chasing42km #marathontraining #whyWeSweat #4run6 #werunTO #runTO #teamsexypace #nikerunning #betterforit #torontorunning #nikewomen #getouthere

A photo posted by Ali Williams-Brun 🇨🇦 (@aliwillibrun) on

How is my body feeling?

Getting there. It’s hot and I’m still adjusting for that and playing with fueling on long runs. It took 3 hours to do 24km a few weeks ago but I’m trying to not get caught up on the time and just get the kms in. Walk breaks and water breaks are necessary in this heat and I’m trying to listen to my body. My hip is still bothering me on and off. I find the more I run the better it actually feels. However, I am really amazed at how different my legs feel after a 20km+ run. They are so restless and keep me awake after a long run. I don’t remember this happening when I was training distances under 21km. I DO know I felt this way after I actually ran my first half marathon but I don’t remember it in training. My feet are getting some interesting blisters too, nothing too uncomfortable though. Also I find I am SO HUNGRY for like 3 days after a long run and need to make more of an effort to bring healthy filling snacks to work every day. I also need to (somehow) carve time in my weekly schedule for strength training and yoga. I have been doing more yoga recently and find it immensely helpful. I also feel like I’m actually GAINING weight by focusing on running only which is something I need to figure out and hopefully gets better as I focus more on healthy snacking and get some more weight lifting in (summer beers are also probably not helping).

What I’m really into right now:

Endurance tap energy gel.  This stuff is as Canadian as it gets.  I know I am not alone in my struggle to find an energy gel that doesn’t lead to an upset stomach. I discovered it at a recent MEC race and purchased a bunch shortly after. Normally I run with huma gels and banana brownies, with minimal discomfort but I still always get some of those nasty pangs in my stomach shortly after getting a huma down. Also, the gloopy texture of the other gels out there is just so gross.  These gels on the other hand taste amazing as they are just pure maple syrup, ginger, and sea salt. They go down so easily too and are not difficult to consume in their packaging (but be careful, since they are more watery than a traditional gel, they spill easily, as I obviously learned the hard way). The best part? NO stomach discomfort. Finally a natural gel I can get behind! Wooo! Even better, they are local so I feel a bit better about myself every time I buy some knowing I am supporting some (almost) neighbours! Buy them online from their site (linked above), at BlackToe in Toronto or MEC online.

What am I doing to stay motivated?

Recently it’s been Kelly Roberts who blogs over at Run, Selfie, Repeat. I know it sounds silly that a blog written by a person I haven’t met is my biggest source of inspiration but it’s true. Kelly is seriously my spirit animal. Maybe kindred spirit sounds better? Soul sister? Who cares. I am channeling Kelly. She is BRINGING it as she is challenging herself to BQ for the first time and when I read her posts it’s like I am reading posts from a more seasoned version of myself. Kelly also struggles with how tough running can be and makes me feel better as her posts about not looking like a natural runner or having to explain her pace really ring true for me. I feel those feelings girl. Yet she is killing it and getting out there and trying her damned hardest, and bonus, she really makes me laugh along the way. Her blog is super motivational and always brings it back to why we run, not to look better, not to be the best, but to better ourselves and appreciate the lessons in the struggle and the satisfaction of making it to the finish line. She also motivated me to join the #SportsBraSquad and run without a shirt for the first time in forever which was SO empowering. I’m going to post about that later but in the meantime, read her post about it here.

Well everyone, that’s all I have for now! Hopefully my next training update will sound like this: “I’M KILLING IT! I’M GOING TO RUN THIS MARATHON SO FAST”. In the meantime, I will continue to drink maple syrup and hope for a miracle.

Happy trails!

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Living in Lyme “hell”

Almost 3 years ago now, Zach and I worked one last summer at our beloved Summer Camp. That summer was supposed to be the best yet; we were both on senior staff, all of our closest friends would be there and as soon as camp was over we would be taking the California road trip of our dreams. Halfway through the summer, right around the time of our anniversary, Zach became ill. His symptoms were very much meningitis-like, but when he went to the camp doctor he was told if he was vaccinated then it wasn’t meningitis and probably just the flu. He was sent on his way with some tylenol for the extreme back and neck pain (he worked in climbing so he “could have pulled something”) and orders to rest. After over a week of this I vividly remember we were sitting in my car and I was looking up his symptoms online. One thing kept coming up: Lyme Disease. It made sense. Zach worked in a wooded area, we were in North-East Pennsylvania, and he spent his days outside. After quite a few warmer winters, the deer population was out of control (I had never seen so many deer before!) so vector borne viruses like Lyme, were at an all time high. I kept reading words like “epidemic” yet no one even thought to test Zach for Lyme. He did not think it was Lyme because he never had a rash or found a tick on his body. If you read up on Lyme, the literature almost makes it seem that you have to present the classic bullseye rash if you have Lyme. This went on for two months, and it was really scary to see such a fit and active young man literally just start to melt away. Zach is not a big guy to begin with, but all of his clothes started falling off of him, he was constantly tired, battling stomach issues and dizziness and he was also impossible to be around. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt knowing that something was going on but I also seriously considered leaving him because it was so bad and he kept brushing off how awful he felt. When we were in California, he almost fainted 3 minutes into a hike- this is a guy who can get up any random day and run 20+ km with no complaints. It just wasn’t right.

When Zach returned home, he went to another doctor. He was prescribed beta blockers (a bandaid solution) for his irregular heart beat. It was only after he insisted (or I insisted while on the phone with him) that they test him for Lyme.

Not surprisingly, all of the tests came back positive.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and this post is really all about that, to make you aware of what Lyme can look like. Lyme carrying ticks have been confirmed in Toronto (not surprising considering how many cases have been reported by our neighbours directly to the south and our warm winter) so it is inevitable that if you spend time outdoors, you will come in contact with ticks.

Today, Zach is here to tell his story about his experience with the disease. Please read on and share.


Facial Palsy- one of the many symptoms

Facial Palsy- one of the many symptoms

So this is a story about Lyme disease. This is a story about the often misdiagnosed tick-borne disease that’s quietly causing disarray in the medical community. I’m not going to speak in absolute medical terms here (I’m not a doctor); I’d rather speak about this from a personal side. So here we go.

Late summer 2013 – I had just finished working my last of 3 summers at Island Lake, where I met my amazing wife Ali. This summer at camp was unlike any of the other 2 summers though. It will always be remembered, for me, as one of the worst summers of my life, and now how I wanted my last summer to go. However, camp wasn’t ruined for me because of the usual reasons – a relationship gone wrong or an insufferable boss. That honour belongs to Lyme disease. I’ll remember the sequence of events forever, like they happened just the day before. It started with back pain and progressed through various other types of symptoms until I literally hated everything and everyone in my life. Hate is a strong word, but the irritability associated with Lyme disease is the real deal. For example, on our post-camp vacation in California, Ali stepped on a wasp, barefoot while walking along the beach. In a Lyme-induced rage, I told her off and made sure she kn ew that she was inconveniencing me by being a human that feels pain. Lyme-me was a truly dickish guy. So this leads me to the bulk of the story.

What exactly was I feeling? There’s no good answer here for what I was feeling throughout this whole experience. With Lyme disease, it really seems like the Universe throws the kitchen sink at you. I mentioned back pain (which made me double over) and I wish that was the worst of it. They say that Lyme starts off like meningitis and then it’s everybody’s guess, what’s next. Well, that’s true. I had:

•Fevers

•Irritability/hatred towards everything

•Diabetes-like bladder control

•Hot flashes and dizzy spells that ended with me blacking out at really inopportune times

•Night sweats

•Facial palsy

•Heart palpitations caused by fluid and swelling around my heart

•Constant light-headedness

•No appetite (and resulting weight loss)

•Depression

•Insomnia

•Nausea

•Fatigue

•Slight alcohol intolerance

•Etc. Etc. Etc., the list goes on

But forget about the symptoms. They’re scary as a whole and all, but the scariest thing about Lyme is that there are no standard symptoms. This disease is f*****g scary; absolutely scary. And it breeds a sense of hopelessness in most of its prisoners. My treatment was gruelling (I’m not trying to compare this to chemotherapy, etc.), with a 3 week oral antibiotic regimen followed by a 3 week IV antibiotic regimen with twice-a-day infusions, after my EKG and echo revealed worsening heart irregularities. To this day, I assume that treatment completely worked, and mostly, I do live a normal life. It wasn’t an easy recovery process and it did take some time to feel normal again. However, I notice tiny things that are different about this “new” normal life – I’m more generally fatigued, I struggle with my alcohol tolerance, my digestion has never quite been the same and every so often I feel my heart pumping abnormally.

But in classic Lyme fashion, that was the treatment specific to me. Even the treatment is completely different depending on the individual and how early it’s caught. I caught mine early on, at the beginning of the second stage (Lyme has 3 stages) thanks to Ali’s persistence (she knew this was Lyme from day one somehow), even though I didn’t have the “bullseye rash”, which actually only appears in about 25% of reported cases.

So I somehow caught this mysterious disease, which has mysterious symptoms and doesn’t have a standardized treatment. Fun right? Ali and I struggled through this process. She was understandably worried, which led to all of our long distance phone calls being hijacked by conversation about the best Lyme-literate doctors in Chicago and the most recent research. It was so hard to go through all of this and not be in the same place. There was so much that was unknown and neither of us had any sort of answer as to what was going to happen. It just seemed like it was one piece of bad news after another and everyone was dancing in circles not sure how to proceed. I’m so thankful to have Ali in my life, and I’m especially lucky to have had her throughout that whole process. Who knows how long it could have gone on had she not insisted that it was Lyme.  It was also unbelievably difficult to go through this while battling with insurance companies (something that is still going on to this day- Canadians, never take your health care for granted).

Once I started working with an infectious disease doctor things got a lot easier. Finally someone had some answers and was able to help me through the healing process. I was grateful for my doctors who helped get me better, but I know that a lot of people often feel failed by the medical community when it comes to Lyme. This is definitely a problem in Canada, where there are not as many confirmed cases and the health care system lacks knowledge.

Nearly November and starting to feel better

Nearly November and starting to feel better

Since there is so much unknown about Lyme, it seems that Doctors don’t really test for it unless you say “test me for Lyme disease”. The biggest thing that I want everyone to take from this is to always remember to be an advocate for yourself and your own health. There are thousands and thousands of cases that are not diagnosed every single year due to the ambiguous symptoms. This can go on for years and only gets worse over time. The number of reported cases is shockingly high but it is estimated that the actual number of cases is probably double those reported.

Doctors are amazing people, but it is so important to speak up and trust your gut, not just taking what someone else tells you for the truth. If you have meningitis or even mono like symptoms that will not go away, please talk to your doctor about Lyme. Tests can also come back as false negatives with Lyme as well, and there isn’t a gold standard for testing. There are a lot of unknown and scary factors surrounding Lyme.

Remember, most people won’t present a bullseye rash, this is something that a lot of doctors don’t always seem to know. This may be especially true in a place like Toronto where a lot of cases have not popped up yet. If you spend time outdoors and have been in a grassy or wooded area, check yourself for ticks, this is what a tick looks like. Have your partner check you for ticks. Double check even. If you find one, this is how you remove it. Take it to your doctor. Wear long pants if you are out hiking, or clothes that are light in colour so you can see a tick. Check your pets for ticks too. Also remember that sometimes they are incredibly small, the size of a grain of sand, a pin point or a poppy seed. If you have a lot of dark hair like I do, you may never find a tick. This is why it is so important to always listen to your body.

For more information please visit these sites:

Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

 

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Reflections on “Slow” Running

I was a little hesitant to write this post. Not because I am embarrassed by my speed (or lack thereof) but more so because I don’t want anyone out there to feel like they are not a great runner based on their speed.  Also, I hate using the word slow (I really tried hard to find a better word for the title) and even more than that, I hate using the word to describe my own running pace, using it as a justification as to why I can’t run with someone or even worse, using it to dismiss and diminish an accomplishment.  What does slow mean anyway? Slow compared to what? Everyone is slow compared to someone else. But, everyone is also fast compared to someone else. More importantly, the majority of us are fast compared to when we started. I’m going to throw the word away. My speed shouldn’t come with negative connotations and it certainly shouldn’t define who I am as a runner. I’m taking back the negativity that I have put on myself for being “slow” and hope that in doing so, I can inspire others to do the same.

As a “slow” runner, I often have had a hard time even calling myself a runner at all. When people tell me they are impressed with what I do I often downplay it saying “ya, but I’m really slow”. The first time I ran a 5k in under 30mins and the first time I ran 10k in under an hour were significant events that I immediately brushed off once I realized how easy that is for some people.

I just want to clarify something; slow does not equal easy. Slow also does not equal unfit. I promise you, when I am out there running 5:45-6:00 minute kilometres, I am giving it my all. I know that I can say the same for many others, especially those who may not be able to pace alongside me.

I also don’t like the word “jog”. Once, when talking to a non-runner about a race they said to me “how long does it take you to run a half marathon?” and when I said “probably about 2 hours, 15 minutes” they responding by saying “oh, so you don’t really run then, you jog”. It took everything in me to not bluntly say “no you jerk, I run, and I run all out, that is just my pace”. (They admitted they had never run further than 5k so I cut them some slack.)

Last weekend when I finished the Sporting Like 10k race in 56:52, it was a huge personal best. I didn’t hit a single km over a 5:45 pace. Running doesn’t come easy for me. Or at least, there was a time not too long ago when it didn’t. I wasn’t one of those people who could just tie up my shoes and get out there for an after work 5k run. It took me some time to run 5k continuously. There was a time when I didn’t think I could ever run more than 5km and the thought of doubling that distance made my head spin. When I finished my first 10k run I honestly could not believe it, (see below) and I think it took me about 1 hour, 20 minutes. I also wasn’t sure if I could take another step or run 10k ever again. The first time I ran the Sporting Life 10k race a few weeks later, I remember thinking I just wanted to run a 6:45 pace. I was very happy when I finished in 1:06 because at the time, it was faster than I ever thought I could be. It made me feel like anything was possible, even at that speed. However, I couldn’t even imagine doubling THAT distance. But somehow I did, and over the last two years I have run 4 half-marathons. I honestly would have laughed in your face if you told me 3 years ago I would run that far and that I’d be training for a marathon in 2016. Yet, here I am. This is what I’m keeping in mind as I start my training for Chicago

First time I ran 10km!

First time I ran 10km!

I was inspired to write this post after reading this article a few weeks ago. It really spoke to me and made me realize that my negative self-talk about my running was only hurting my potential. It was time to reframe how I felt about my speed.

“From a pure performance perspective, thinking negatively can inhibit you from achieving your potential. While thinking you’re slow may seem harmless, every time you preface a statement with the phrase, “I know I am slow, but …” you condition your mind to believe that you can never be fast.

Countless research studies in sports psychology have proven the power of positive thinking and self-talk. Athletes who go into a workout or race with positive thoughts perform significantly better and more consistently than those who approach workouts and races with a negative attitude.

Reframing your belief in yourself starts before a workout or race. If you’re negative and lack self-confidence throughout your training, no amount of pre-race self-talk and mental preparation is going to undo weeks or months of self-deprecation. Positive thinking starts with how you frame every aspect of your running.”

This post is for all you runners out there who have ever felt left behind, who have ever been afraid to run with a group, or who have ever felt less proud of finishing a race based on your time. Perhaps, this is also a little pep talk to my internal self consciousness about my own speed.

You are not slow. You are running. You are doing something amazing for your body and your mind. You are not less of a runner because you can’t keep up with others. In fact, I’d argue that you are MORE of a runner because it takes all that much more determination to go on once everyone has left you in their dust. You will never be an elite runner, you may never run a Boston qualifier. But it doesn’t matter. Each and every time you get out there on the pavement you are winning. You are pushing yourself to be better, pushing yourself to keep going, tapping into your inner grit when everyone around you makes it look so easy.

When you start running with a friend who isn’t a runner and they quickly become faster than you, don’t be jealous, celebrate their success and the fact that they are teaching themselves that same perseverance that you have. When you run a race and the crowd is all gone by the time you finish, don’t be discouraged, be proud that you kept going for that much longer than everyone else.

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When the amazing runners in your club get shout outs for amazing PBs and running cool races, don’t feel ignored or invisible. Know that this keeps you humble and you don’t need the attention to know you have accomplished something amazing. There is always going to be someone who is faster than they are, much like there will always be those who are faster than you. Remind yourself that there will also always be someone who is not as fast as you. Encourage them, run with them, help them understand that they are still crushing it. When you talk about your running, don’t downplay it. Own it. Shout it to the world. You are a runner, you are a 10k finisher, a half marathon finisher, a marathon finisher and no one can take that away from you.

Perhaps one of the greatest things about this sport is that it has become accessible to everyone. You no longer have to be at the top. Besides the elites, we are all in for our own good and to compete against who we were yesterday. We aren’t going to the olympics and we aren’t winning National titles or breaking records. Even the elites face the same fears and challenges that the rest of us do and that makes us all in this together.

My greatest joy is convincing new runners that they too can run a race they once thought was not possible. It’s not about how fast you go, but about learning how to push yourself to do things you thought you weren’t capable of. It’s about the feeling of crossing the finish line, or simply getting up one day and having an amazing run with your crew, running buddy, or just by yourself with your thoughts.

I recently spoke with a pacer about how being a “slow” runner means we actually have to have more endurance- while some can run a half marathon in an hour and a half, we have to pound the pavement and keep going for over two hours. 

But let’s stop calling ourselves slow. We aren’t. We are fast. We are faster than we were last year. We are faster than we were last month. We ran a faster race than we did a few weeks ago. We are faster than when we started. We are fast.

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Get out there and be proud of your 30 minute or even 40 minute 5k, you’re still doing better than everyone else on the couch!

You are a runner, and you’re an amazing runner too.

 

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Saying yes to every opportunity

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I tend to be a pretty positive person but as anyone else who has been on the job hunt knows, it can be hard to keep your head up while searching for the next opportunity, particularly if you work in a pretty small field like I do. If one thing is true, job hunting isn’t as simple as just sending off resumes and cover letters and waiting to hear back (although that is how I got my last job, so I’m just going to assume that was my one lucky chance and it probably won’t happen again).

In recent weeks, I have really been striving to just get myself out of the house and meet people, regardless of whether or not it will help my job search. I think the hardest thing for me about being at home is that I don’t get to talk to adults all day (just the cat) and as an extrovert who gets my energy from other people, this isn’t easy. Hence, getting out of the house and meeting people. Besides, you never know what can come your way just by getting out there and having an open mind.

A few weeks back I signed up for a lunch n’ learn at BrainStation, which is an amazing learning space here in Toronto offering workshops, courses and other great offerings (like yoga! And bonus, there is a great coffee shop attached to it!) The lunch n’ learn was with the experiential marketing specialist from Vega, Kelsey Reidl. I signed up because I love Vega and their products, and for 10 bucks how could I say no to a delicious lunch and the chance to sit in a room with potentially a bunch of other wellness folk? I was happy to learn that Kelsey and I have a lot in common- we are both actively involved in the fitness community here in Toronto, love connecting with people and enjoy a good cup of coffee!

As Kelsey told the story of her journey and what steps and opportunities led her to her role with Vega I found myself deeply inspired and feeling a little more hopeful about my own current job hunt. But before I ramble on about it, I am overjoyed to share that Kelsey is here herself today to talk about her journey in her own words- how saying yes and taking chances can not only lead you to your dream job but impact your life in so many ways. Read on and prepare to be inspired- whether you are job hunting or not! (also, I’m glad that I’ve been succeeding at #4!)


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I am so excited to be guest posting on Happy Fit and Free today! Like Ali, I’m a local fitness and health enthusiast currently living in Toronto. When I moved to Toronto I had no idea what the journey I was about to embark on would look like, but with constant curiosity and a positive attitude I made sure that each day included some sort of adventure. What’s more is that on this path, I truly have found myself to be at a place in my life and in my journey that I truly feel happy, have communities in fitness, and am creating more and more freedom to live my life to the fullest each day!

Today, and for the past few years, I’ve been hanging out in what I’ll call my ‘yes phase’. This phase of my life was really ignited when I moved to Toronto and knew next to nobody, and was not familiar with my surroundings.

What I’m chatting about is not just applicable to those of you in new places though. By turning on your ‘yes phase’ you are embracing a chapter of your life that can bring about great shifts and welcomed changes to your routine. Perhaps you are that someone who is ready for more, whatever that may be, and can find inspiration to look for it through some of tips.

As I reflect on what got me to where I am today as a marketing specialist, nutritionist, and lifestyle coach, it was simply about saying ‘yes’ to the right opportunities and really believing that the more that I put myself out there, the more opportunity could (and would!) come my way.

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I’m going to elaborate more specifically on action items that I took to launch me towards more success in all areas of my life;

Other people will believe in you, before you believe in yourself

When people ask me to speak at an event or to help them with their nutrition, I still have a moment of wondering why in the world I would be the right person. There’s an element of self-doubt or fear that many of us are challenged with on a daily basis that we need to get over!

When people ask me to speak at an event or to help them with their nutrition, I still have a moment of wondering why in the world I would be the right person. There’s an element of self-doubt or fear that many of us are challenged with on a daily basis that we need to get over!

Others will often believe in you and take a leap on your skills before you even solidify that you’re great at them, but I speak from experience when I say it doesn’t matter!

In these moments of being challenged with an opportunity or the moments of being believed in to take a leap, you MUST say yes and do it whether the confidence is there or not. That can be practiced and worked on after you commit with a ‘yes’. All that it takes for others to believe strongly in you is for you to exude your unique confidence and skill set with grace

Join a new community

If you’re stuck in your longtime friend bubble, it’s time to push along and expand your network! Opportunities present themselves when you join new communities and establish relationships with key people.

As I mentioned, coming to a new city with very few friends and family was daunting to me. I had this hunger to connect with like-minded people though, so I decided to pursue some new communities that would help me meet others. For me that included joining and working at a small gym, attending evening classes at a local tech school, asking to join various online communities (i.e. a women’s networking group on FB), and even developing relationships through social platforms like Instagram.
Community is such an important piece of our lives that we often neglect as young and independent people. But remember that it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a community to propel you to the top…

Share your story

Are you an introvert or extrovert? Maybe you’re a combo, but regardless of what your personality type is I want you to spend an afternoon crafting your story or your elevator pitch.
I used to hang around an amazing lady who was well connected in the health industry. When she would introduce me to any of her friends, she would go beyond just ‘Kelsey this is Jane, Jane this is Kelsey’. She went deeper and always gave a quick bio on each person she was connecting.
It would be something like ‘Kelsey this is Jane, my former roommate who runs the blog The Fitness Connection and adopted that cute rescue dog I showed you a picture of. And Jane, Kelsey is my colleague at work and we were the ones who created the video on how to execute a great social media campaign’. See the difference?
First, I think it’s important to start introducing our friends with more than a name. Give them context and bring them to life so that conversation flows immediately after an introduction.
Second, and the point to the above story, is that we should start thinking about our own elevator pitch for introductions. If you’re stumped, think of what you’d want your friends to say about you or what qualities you aspire to have. Practice this 30 second pitch and live it out, every day. Remember that you are your own brand, and have an opportunity to sell yourself at every interaction. These interactions are what create opportunity.

Get out more

Still unsure of how you’re going to create more opportunity for yourself? Here’s the most difficult piece… You need to get out of your house more.
You can have the most crafted elevator pitch and be a member of the most influential community, but if you never physically show up you’re missing opportunity.

For example, when I pulled myself off the couch last week to attend a run club I ended up getting a wonderful introduction from a friend saying ‘Kelsey is a great sport nutritionist’. Not only did this run club allow me to join a new community, it allowed me to then share my story and background as a sport nutritionist with someone new, and therefore give people the opportunity to learn about my services and believe in me enough to hire me.

All of the pieces came together in that moment. And this is why it’s important to say yes to opportunity (the right ones anyway) and infuse a bit more hustle into your day if you’re looking to create connection.

I’ll leave you with a quote… “Most of what exists in the universe—our actions and all other forces, resources and ideas have little value and yields few result. On the other hand, a few things work fantastically well and have tremendous impact.” In other words this quote is the concept that 80% of our results come from 20% our efforts… so my advice to you is to start making more efforts.

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Kelsey’s Bio

Kelsey Reidl is a holistic nutritionist, fitness instructor, and business mentor for driven women who are ready to embrace a more natural life through clean nutrition + daily self-care. As a multi-passionate entrepreneur she keeps busy educating on essential oils + whole food nutrition, sweating at studios around the city, snapping photos of food, and checking out all of the amazing coffee shops around town. Follow her on instagram and twitter: @kelseyreidl

 

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A Healthy Mother’s Day

Often times any sort of Holiday or celebration can side track our healthy lifestyle goals. Of course, a Holiday is definitely a good reason to indulge a little bit, but that doesn’t mean going all out. With mother’s day coming up this weekend, I know a lot of people (myself included) like to head out for a huge meal, or spoil mum with a feast of chocolate and cake (and wine!) at home. This year, I tried to keep it a little healthier as we planned what we were going to do. By no means was this my way of saying to my lovely mum that she needs to be healthier, but more so, she is just very much like me; health-conscious and tries hard to stay on track. I thought I would share it all with you here and perhaps inspire you to plan activities that are a little healthier but still centred around our superheroes, our Mums!

Take a trip to a Flower Market! On Saturday mum and I will be heading to the Blossom and Bloom Flower market here in Toronto at Union station. This will be a nice way to get in a bit of movement (walking there and back, and around the market), get outside, and allows us to spend some quality time together with nature, a proven way to reduce stress. Sure, mani pedis are fun, but that involves sitting down and inhaling nasty chemicals.

Photo from blossomandbloom.com

Photo from blossomandbloomshow.com

Brunch at Home: Instead of heading out to a restaurant where we will be likely to indulge in less-than healthy brunch food, I will be hosting a home made brunch right here for mum and grandma! On the menu; lemon ricotta coconut flour pancakes, egg and veggies frittata, fresh fruit salad and grapefruit juice (maybe with some champagne in it hehe). Making a brunch at home is a guaranteed way to have a healthier day, you know exactly what is going into everything you make and have more control over portion size as well.

Photo from healthyrecipeblog.com

Photo from healthyrecipeblog.com

Treats: instead of spoiling mum with tons of chocolate (she would kill me), I’m going to make these delicious looking vanilla macaroons made with genuine health fermented vegan protein + powder. These treats are loaded with healthy fats and protein and are sure to satisfy. I love this protein powder because mum, like me, often has a hard time digesting whey and soy. This powder is made from all veggie protein (no soy!) and fermented so you won’t be left feeling bloated after consuming. All the leftovers for mum obviously. I’ll also cut up and serve some of their amazing protein bars – these things are seriously delicious and taste like Candy. They also make a great alternative gift to chocolate for this health conscious mums out there 😉 Though, if you do want to spoil mum with chocolate I always recommend ChocoSol, of course!

Photo from meghantelpner.com

Photo from meghantelpner.com

Another great way to spoil mum without all the junk is buying her a gift that she can use instead of eat. I’ve had my eyes on these Rosefield watches and I think a lot of mums out there would love one!

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What are you doing to spoil your mum this Sunday?

P.S. Since I’m a foster mum to two puppies, do I get spoiled too? 😉

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