Archives for July 2015

Making Room for Balance

Cheers to the Weekend

Cheers to the Weekend

This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time up at my friends cottage on Georgian Bay with 3 absolutely wonderful like-minded women. The weekend unfolded in the perfect way that only a summer weekend in Ontario cottage country can unfold. Time was measured by the sun in the sky and not by deadlines and meetings. Meals and naps were perfectly unscheduled and all was accompanied with a generous side of laughter, great conversation and of course wine. Life was lived in the moment and all activities focused around fun and relaxation (even cleaning the dishes).

This weekend left me feeling the most mentally refreshed I have in months. To live even two days without a schedule and plans of anything beyond what to make for dinner or what bottle of wine to open next, was a much needed step back from the pace of my current lifestyle.

It was the kind of weekend that has stuck with me even as I write this on Tuesday morning before work. We spent hours on the paddle boat, we slept in, we drank our coffee (slowly) on the veranda. We sat in comfortable silence.

We also indulged. Induldging at the cottage is pretty much something that goes without saying. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that at times I struggle with my relationship with food and allowing for indulgence. For me, indulgence is rarely accompanied without feelings of guilt. A textbook Type “A” I love control and we all know how easy it is to lose sight of control when faced with delicious unhealthy food and bottomless wine.

I vowed to approach this weekend with the right frame of mind. I find if I vow to let go of any guilt before I know I’m going to be indulging, I’m healthier all around- not only with my food choices but with the mental parts of it. I will say this now and I will say it again, it’s all about balance. We live in a world where messages about what to eat are constantly flying at us from ALL directions. It’s important to remember that some indulgence is good for the soul and doesn’t always need to be a complete junk food binge. A lot of blogs I read out there focus on eating one way and one way only and I have fallen down that trap of trying to adhere to strict rules, but this is life! Life doesn’t always have room for rigid rules and diets, and I think that this only perpetuates the relationship between guilt and food. Plus, we can’t forget that food is meant to be enjoyed. It plays such an integral role in regulating our bodies and that certainly doesn’t exclude our moods. Sure, a major binge on junk won’t improve your mood if you’re down and it certainly won’t leave you with a happy tummy, but some treats with friends during a weekend away or a croissant on a Friday is good for the soul. Also, what is a cottage weekend without a piña colada?

Letting go of the guilt made all the difference in my weekend. I didn’t feel the need to overindulge because eating the less unhealthy things I did was a conscious choice I made for myself- not something I tried to deny myself.

Besides vowing to let go of the guilt and allowing myself some treats, there are a few other important things I took with me from this weekend:

-The great feelings and positivity that come with taking more time in the morning. This really allows me to start the day out in the best possible way. I aim to get to work anywhere from 7:30-8:30am so taking loads of extra time in the morning is not always realistic but it’s the little changes that count here. I move downtown next week and could not be more excited yet I am truly going to miss where I live now- the balcony at the front of the house looks out on the lake and it is absolute bliss in the morning. For the past 2 days I have taken a few minutes to sit outside with my coffee and just take it in. Not the same as the hour I spent drinking my cottage cottage, but those few minutes are an instant stress reliever!

-Listening to music for the purpose of listening to music is a powerful thing. At some point this weekend we got the speakers out and turned the music on. It was then that it hit me that it has been so long since I have really taken the time to listen to music. Sure, I listen when I run, or sometimes I put background music on when I try and focus at work but it’s been a while since I’ve blasted some music and just sat there and taken it in. Music has the power to instantly lift my mood and I will be  intentionally listen a lot more from now on.

-Ice Cream has the power to cure the Sundays. Even when the Sundays include a 3 hour drive that normally takes just over an hour. See below for proof that ice cream = happiness.

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Bliss

A simple tip to keep from overindulging: have healthy snacks around and plan healthy meals. By all means, eat the cottage candy, but making sure there are also healthy snacks around will help you fill up on the good stuff- leaving you satisfied with only small amounts of the not-so-healthy stuff. This will also save you from a belly ache. For us, our Saturday afternoon pig out consisted of the Oh She Glows life affirming nacho dip (I always add a jalapeño for an extra kick), veggies, cheese and hummus (with a side of jujubes). For dinner we made homemade burgers and kept the toppings as healthy as possible (avocado, tomatoes, hummus). These menu items led to fewer marshmallows later on – but don’t get me wrong I still ate plenty!

Beer + Running = unbeatable combination

If you’re like me, you may struggle to be active on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong, I usually do a lot of walking, exploring, visiting friends or just running errands but I really struggle to intentionally workout for the purpose of working out. I find that especially in the summer, I don’t exactly want to schedule a workout on the weekend when I’d much rather be sitting on a patio with a delicious beer.

What if I told you in this wonderful city of ours there is a way you can schedule in some exercise AND drink some great beer? Would you be more inclined to be active on the weekend? I know that the idea certainly sounds great to me!

Over the last few months, RunTOBeer (get it? TO as in T.O. as in Toronto and also as in “we are literally running to beer”) started liking pretty much any post of mine on social media that mentioned running. I honestly didn’t pay much attention until I recently actually clicked on their profile. I definitely was sorry that I hadn’t clicked on it sooner!

The premise of RunTOBeer is to combine the social aspects of running with the great craft beer scene we have in this city. SIGN ME UP. The group is organized by Toronto runners Dan Grant and Tej Sandhu.

On Canada Day, I laced up my sneakers after two weeks off post Nike 15k (I’ve also been battling a terrible cold) and joined the group for a 5k run to the Evergreen Brickworks, the host site of the Brewer’s Backyard. The group was fun, encouraging, and it was great to meet some like-minded people who obviously weren’t there to impress and were just looking for a fun way to be active. We all had the same end goal in mind – delicious beer! I will say, this was not an easy 5k for me but the thought of beer definitely kept me going!

While I was definitely near the end of the pack, there were still plenty of runners behind me, proof that this group is great for runners of all levels. I even noticed they had a call for pacers for this particular event – I missed the message but it’s something I’d definitely love to do in the future as this is an area I’d love to gain some experience in.

While this particular event was scheduled for a Holiday, RunTOBeer normally meets every second Sunday of the month. The group offers 3 different distances to cover all ability levels, 3k, 5k and 10k. I wonder if they have toyed with the idea of doing anything longer at all as I usually try and dedicate Sundays to my long runs. This is extra important for me this year as I tackle training for my first full marathon (kill me). Regardless, I can’t wait to run with the group again, even if it means tacking on a few extra kms beforehand or doing a long run on a Saturday and switching it up with a short steady run on a Sunday. Keeping the runs to every other week is probably best for my nutritional goals as well (why is beer so delicious?)

The best part? The runs start at a reasonable hour for a weekend. For me personally, if I miss an early Saturday or Sunday morning run with some of the other groups I run with, chances are I probably won’t get a run in at all. I am NOT a morning person, and waking up before 8:00am on a weekend for the purpose of running doesn’t always go over so well. (Since I drafted this, I see they have posted their next event which has an 11:30am start time).

Thanks for an awesome event RunTOBeer, it was the perfect way to celebrate Canada day in this beautiful city, I look forward to running with you again soon!

Check out their Facebook Page for all the details you need, I hope to see some of you out there next time!

 

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Oh Canada! (Thanks to Bill from the Night Terrors run crew for this photo)

Nike Women’s 15K Toronto #betterforit

Over the past year and a half I’ve had the honour of being a part of a growing community. This is a community of superwomen. This is a community of strength and determination. This is a community also known as Nike Toronto. You may remember one of my firsts posts about NTC Toronto. You may also remember my skepticism about these free classes that seemed too good to be true. I’m here to tell you they really aren’t and over the last 21 months I’ve had the honour of seeing a movement (and movement in general) in this city explode. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you that I’ve had the opportunity to train with incredible trainers, run with world class athletes, and even receive some cool Nike swag all without spending a cent. Well my friends, I am here to tell you it’s true and that you can also do it. I’ll get into that more later but first I wanted to talk about something big that happened a few weekends ago. For the first time in Nike history, Toronto was lucky to host a Nike race in our beautiful city. On June 14, Nike Toronto hosted the Nike Womens 15k race on the beautiful Toronto Islands. You may have heard about the Nike races in San Francisco and D.C. (Tiffany necklaces being handed out by firemen anyone?) and this year Nike decided to take their road races International! The thing that always peaked my interest about these races was the killer marketing leading up to the event. What I loved about it was not a focus on running a personal best race, but instead the power that comes from a community of women working together to reach a goal.

After a long winter where I kind of let my fitness slip away (sound familiar?) from me I was looking for something to get me back into racing shape. I had participated in NTC classes and heard through the Nike network about Nike Run Club Toronto. Nike has run clubs in a lot of major cities all over the world- and much like NTC, you can sign up for free! I signed up for my first NRC event back at the beginning of April (or maybe it was the end of March) and was more than a little bit intimidated. During my first run, we were taken to an indoor track to do speed training – not something I had put much thought or energy into previously. Much to my surprise, I found that while there were certainly some intimidating runners, the pacers were very welcoming and friendly and there were quite a few other people who ran at my pace (phew!). I was really impressed at how much everyone else cheered everyone on, it definitely made it that much easier (not like it was at all easy) when there was constant encouragement. My favourite part, while I was running with the “slow” group, no one once ever used the word slow. We were called the sexy pace group.

As the weeks went on, I participated in weekly speed training and other runs with NRC. I started to notice a marked difference in my speed. The groups slowly got bigger and bigger and bigger which was amazing to see. One of the toughest days was attempting a modified version of the Oregon Speed Workout. It was one of the hottest days of the season yet and it was INTENSE, but more than ever, everyone came together to support each other and make sure everyone finished. While it was one of the toughest, I think it was by far one of the best workouts I’ve ever done in my life- and I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have done it alone.

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Oregon Speed Workout

Race weekend rolled around and Nike pulled out all the stops! There were NTC classes being taught on a floating studio (a floating studio!!) on the harbor and an amazing Nike Women village was set up. There was so much hype and I had the chance to meet so many amazing women who had travelled from all over the world and workout with different Nike master trainers. It was so incredible to see so many like-minded people come together and encourage each other for the purpose of fitness. The day before the race, I participated in a 3km shake-out run. As we ran the last little bit and entered the Nike village, there were tons of cheering and such a strong sense of camaraderie. While I ran a half marathon last fall, when I started training for the 15k, I honestly wasn’t sure if I could run that far by the time June rolled around. Yet on that Saturday morning as we ran into the Nike Women’s village, I felt like I could do anything.

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Hanging out in the Nike Village post shake-out run

Sunday June 14 rolled around after a restless night of no sleep. I departed for the island at 7:00am with my best friend and running pal and an old friend from University who travelled all the way from Alberta to run with us. We waiting anxiously for things to get started and unfortunately, it started to pour. It was not a pleasant start to the day. Luckily, the rain stopped just as our wave was about to start. Already soaked, I figured that whatever happened, happened.

The race course was fantastic (though a little muddy). I’ve always loved the Islands so to run the total distance of all 3 Islands in one go was pretty unique. The coolest part was that we ran a good 2-3km on the RUNWAY of Billy Bishop Airport. It was amazing to enter the runway and see a sea of peach shirts stretch out across the airport with planes taking off and landing closely by. There are some amazing views of the skyline from the island but the view from the runway was probably the best I’ve ever seen and not something that many get to experience! The course wound back on to Centre Island which is where I started to struggle. One thing I love about bigger, high-profile events like these is the amount of spectators they attract. Running through the crowds on Centre Island really kept me going when I really wanted to stop.

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This wall was in the Nike Village and was then moved to the course. Pretty neat to see my own words of inspiration on route and everyone else’s encouraging words.

Shortly after, we ran by a gospel choir singing outside of a tiny church which was pretty neat! We then made our way to my favourite part of the Island- Ward’s island. If you’ve never been there – it’s worth taking a trip! It is so neat to see the houses and the small community that lives on the island year round! Again, I was really struggling here, but there were quite a few small children watching the runners go by handing out free high fives, so adorable and all the motivation I needed! I really hope that kids like that take something from watching such a big race and are inspired to get out there and run as they grow. The last stretch of the race went along the north part of Ward’s island; A boardwalk with awesome lake views. This part of the race was TOUGH but the signs that Nike had plastered along the way were a great source of inspiration. I was in some serious pain at this point when I noticed a sign that said something along the lines of “If your mind is screaming at you to stop, scream back louder” and I actually did try and roar out loud- not much came out though. Near the end, my favourite cheer squad was waiting to push people to the finish line. The Parkdale road runners always seem like such a fun and great group of people. NO ONE cheers like they do. I really wish I lived further west so it was easier to come run with your crew! I see them at pretty much every race and they always help me get through that last bit.

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So close to the end and struggling!

All in all, it wasn’t my greatest race timing wise. I was lacking energy and my calves were giving me a lot of trouble. I felt pretty down at the end because I really wanted to do better. In retrospect, there were a few things I wish I had done differently. I really wish I would have removed my negative attitude and just focused on running and finishing such an amazing race. I wish I had taken time to soak up the experience. I didn’t stop and take any pictures on the runway and I’m kicking myself for that because it was so cool! I think that I often forget (in running and life) to remind myself to stop and smell the flowers and really enjoy the moment. However, it truly was an incredible weekend and I can’t change it now!

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Wish this picture truly captured what it was like to run on a runway!

The most amazing thing was not finishing the race, or running on the airport runway or participating in classes on a floating barge. The most amazing part was being part of such a big movement and community. It was watching my friend who has never raced before finish a 15k race after only a few months of training. It was about talking to a new runner on speed night who had never run anything beyond 3k and didn’t think they could finish the workout (they always did). It was about going on training runs and seeing people run 1km further  they had before- or 2 or 3. It was about running with the sexy pace week after week and talking to the amazing women I met- most of whom were either new to running, or just like me. It was seeing these women stick with it and push themselves, turning the words “I can’t” into “I did”. We may not have been an overly loud or impressive group, but we did it and we are certainly #betterforit

For more information on all the amazing free events you can sign up for, head on over to the Nike Toronto page.

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An important reminder of what it really is all about

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3 happy finishers

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Fin.