The mind/body connection – and how I have to work on mine!

On Wednesday I came down with a nasty stomach bug.  Like many things in my life, I realized in hindsight that the signs were there that it was coming – I was just completely inept at interpreting them.  It turns out I’m also very terrible at reading hunger cues.  Here is how my lead-up to sickness transpired:

Saturday and Sunday – I ran fairly hard both days (9 mile fartlek workout on Sat and 13 mile long run on Sun) and felt great.

Monday – I felt very tired and attributed it to recovering from my double-intensity efforts on the weekend.  I didn’t run in the morning and may have been a little more irritable than usual throughout the day (in hindsight).

Tuesday – I ran 7 miles extremely slowly as I still felt inexplicably exhausted.  Throughout the day I continued to feel tired with strange sensations in my tummy.  I naturally interpreted this to mean I had low blood sugar and needed food.  All day.  This is what I ate on Tuesday while desperately trying to self-medicate for my strange feelings (of hunger – I thought):

  • a large bowl of cereal with a banana (my normal breakfast)
  • 6 cups of coffee (really just one mug at home and then a travel mug, but if you’re measuring by the coffee pot it says 6 cups)
  • an orange, carrots, and celery at work as a snack
  • 1/3 of a container of almonds at work because they were in my desk and I thought “how am I still hungry at 10 a.m.? oh well, at least these are here…”
  • chocolate frozen yogourt and a tray of sushi for lunch
  • a (large) handful of chocolate covered blueberries from my work neighbour’s desk in the afternoon (because I still had that weird feeling and needed to fix it)
  • 3 or 4 (I wasn’t paying attention) pieces of pizza for dinner (including my kids’ crusts – I cannot understand why they don’t like pizza crust).  I honestly still believed I was feeling tired and cranky because of lack of food.

That may seem like a lot to eat, especially for non-runners.  For me, I never really track what I eat and just eat according to how I feel.  When I read magazines outlining “diets of the stars” I sometimes wonder if I would survive half a day on their menu plans.  But looking at this, I do recognize that it seems like a lot.

I went to bed at around 9:45 p.m.  that evening to get ready for my last workout before the Sporting Life 10K on Sunday.

Wednesday – I woke up at 4:50 a.m.  Basically you’re numb and zombie-like at that time regardless of how you will eventually end up feeling, so I put on my running clothes and headed out the door to meet my running group.  I met my workout buddies half a mile into my warm-up and immediately told them I’d amended the workout (you can do that when you’re the coach).  The one mile at 10K pace was now at tempo effort, and the 800’s at 5K pace were now at 10K pace.  The 400’s which I had earlier said should be “quick” I changed to “go as you feel”.  Considering how I was feeling, that made perfect sense.  As usual my sister didn’t listen to me and went at the faster, earlier prescribed paces.  Hunh.  How did she feel so good when it seemed so hard to me?

Then I got home and realized all was not right.  I did not feel like my coffee.  In fact I didn’t feel like ingesting anything, including water despite my dry mouth.  My stomach was turning and churning and my workout fatigue became overall intense body fatigue.  I had a presentation that day which I had to get through, but spent the rest of the day curled in my bed.  On that day I ate ZERO.  I tried gum to help my dry mouth but even that made me nauseous.  Definitely not the best recovery recipe for a workout (albeit a soft one).

Thursday (today) – I did not set my alarm to run.  I went through my day normally, but still felt off with my tummy and energy levels.  Taking the stairs left me gasping for air and my legs burning. (nothing like that sensation to play psychological mind tricks on you regarding your state of fitness).  I ate very little but I plan to feel better tomorrow.  I will set my alarm for a short jog.  I’m hoping to feel ok in time for the race on Sunday.

Obviously I was in a good state of denial leading up to my sickness.  Next up … tricking myself into believing it will have no negative effects on my 10K.  The last thing I need is a little niggly excuse working its way into my brain in the last few miles of racing pain.  As I say … Suck It Up, Buttercup!  Hope those are words I will live by on Sunday…

Running and traveling – the perfect combination

One of the greatest things about running (and to me there are so many great things, so this is big) is how it is the perfect compliment to traveling.  Not only does your running experience benefit by having new routes, sites, smells and temperatures, but your travel experience benefits by seeing places and things you otherwise wouldn’t.  I always feel less like a tourist and a little more a part of a place when I run there.

Last weekend my husband and I went to Miami for the weekend without kids.  We were going for a paddle board race which he had entered, but of course we both expected to do quite a bit of running.

Day 1: We landed on Friday afternoon.  We were coming from Toronto where temperatures had been hovering around zero degrees or just above for way too long.  We landed smack in the middle of thirty degree hot humidity.  It felt sooooo good.  Especially in our air conditioned hotel.

Cool, classy lobby of The Cadet hotel

The first thing we decided to do to get a good feel for the place was to go for a run.  We also wanted to take advantage of the freedom of having all the time in the world without kid duties, so we immediately agreed on an hour and a half run.  And we did an out-and-back.  Probably not the best decision when you’re running in a 30 degree variance from what your body is used to.  By the end we had slowed down quite a bit and were feeling quite limp, hot and dehydrated.  Luckily we had the ocean to jump into at the end, and we did get to see parts of Miami we would definitely not otherwise have seen.

Also this happened to my fingers:

(For some reason they puffed into little sausages.  My hands have about a five degree window in which they are comfortable running – somewhere between 12 and 17 degrees.  If the weather strays too far outside this window they will either go numb or puff up.  I should really look into my circulation issues at some point.)

Of course when you travel it’s good to really get into the local scene.  We tried our best by sampling the local cuisine and drinks.

Post long run beer

Day 2: The main reason for our trip (apart from adult time and free running time) was the Kommona paddle board race.  Luckily I was lent a board by the very kind c4 rep who we’d met the night before so I had a chance to jump in the race as well.  I had a great time, came second in my class (out of two) and second last overall.  What a great sport.

At the finish line of the 5 mile Kommona paddle race

Next up was our second run of the trip, but first we had to recover from our morning paddle and wait out the main heat of the day.  This is how we accomplished that:

Relaxing pre-run #2 in South Beach

Later that afternoon we went out for run #2 of the trip.  This time we went the other direction to explore a different area.  It was still hot but we were a little more cautious with our pace and our ambitions.  We’d decided on one hour for this one.  About 25 minutes in it started to rain.  It was actually quite enjoyable as the rain made us feel a tad cooler.  It still seemed like warm rain though.  It got interesting when the rain got harder and harder and seemed to turn into a flash flood.  Sidewalks completely disappeared and we were up to our knees in water at some points.  This wasn’t at all bad as we now had the entire boardwalk to ourselves where before we had been dodging crowds of people.  We finished run #2 soaking and happy, and the storm passed as quickly as it had come.  What a great way to experience it.

Day 3: This was our final day on vacation.  We didn’t have a lot of time before our mid-morning flight, so I set my alarm to run early.  My husband opted to sleep in and get his run in back home.  I couldn’t forgo the warm running opportunity after having complained about the cold for about six months straight.  I decided to do a fartlek workout in order keep myself occupied since I didn’t have my running buddy.  At 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning the streets were deserted and the look and feel of them gave the sense that we’d missed a wild night of partying.  As I ran, the city started to come to life with the early morning cleaners and by the end, some fellow runners.

On my way home I sat on the plane  satisfied knowing that I’d gotten three enjoyable and memorable days of running because of my vacation, and an amazing travel vacation experience because of my running.

Running With Kids

There are a few different angles the title to this post could take.  The first one (and one which I’ve addressed a few times in my posts) is “how on earth do you get out for your runs and train for races when you have kids??”  A big topic with no one simple solution.

But in this one I’m talking about how to get your kids running too.

I’m a firm believer that (like adults) kids need to run (or do other exercise) regularly in order to be healthy.  In truth, I think kids intuitively know this too.  They are inclined to run.  It’s natural for them and it makes them feel good.  However, it’s not as simple as it may sound to just “let them run”.  What does this mean, really?  If kids are not in a specific time and place where running is encouraged then they are generally being told for most of their days “Don’t Run!” Don’t run in the school, don’t run away from us in the playground, don’t run in the house, don’t run in most public spaces where adults are, etc…

Of course the easiest solution for allowing or getting your kids to run is to sign them up for programs which they enjoy which include running.  For example, soccer, basketball, tennis, sports play, etc… There are a host of these types of programs for pre-school and school aged children and they work wonderfully in incorporating fun into running.

There are also some kids who just love challenges and if you say something like “I bet you can’t run around the playground 3 times” they’ll be off before you’ve finished the sentence.

My son H doesn’t take to either of the above scenarios.  Not a team sports guy and not a “pleaser” by nature. (I swear he does have his redeeming qualities!)

So how does running fit into H’s life?  Basically it has to occur on his terms.  This is tricky for a busy, scheduled, time-conscious, task oriented parent, but I know this is one area where I have to be patient.  So if I pick him up from school in a rush to get us home and get dinner on and H is running in the playground having fun in his own game, I try to let it play out for as long as I can.

Today was another good example.  We were at the park where I had planned to watch my kids in the playground while catching up with my sisters.

Here is where I envisioned spending my morning:

But that was MY idea.  (Silly me – why would I think my plan would be followed?)  Instead, H took off on an “adventure” through the woods.  I followed as well as I could along with his cousin.  This “run” took us through muddy trails, up slippery slopes, down ravines and through brambly trees.  My footwear was not appropriate and I wasn’t really in the mood for a mucky adventure.  But I could see the exhilaration on his face and I recognized that it would be hypocritical of me to tell him not to run on his terms when that’s pretty much all I ask for in life!

In the end, we had a fun adventure, and the kids got a lot more exercise than I had planned.  This was the post-run walk back to the car:

The afternoon consisted of a hot bath and indoor play time.  They are so much calmer once their bodies have had the exercise they crave and everyone ends up happier.

Check out this article on other tips by me on running with kids by The Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Playing at Running

One of the things I like about tapering is the letting go of my strict regime of miles and intensity – where every run is planned out and has a distinct purpose, and where there is definitely no running in between formal “run sessions”.  I actually remember a time in my “olden days” of training when I could do miles of hard intervals, but couldn’t run for a bus without hobbling as I needed 15 minutes of specific warming-up to get my tired, achy body going (I was in the best shape of my life – ha!)

With two weeks to go until my marathon, I’ve taken all mileage pressure off and will do one mini-interval workout and a small tempo or two before race day.  I know that less is more at this point.  Which leads me to what I can actually do with my running fitness when I’m not exhausted from running!

On the weekend I decided to run around the indoor track and do various drills and strides just to shake things up while my son played soccer on the infield.  Soccer was a bust for him (a bit shy) so I suggested he run with me which he LOVED and so did I!  I don’t even know how many laps we did because I wasn’t counting – we were just having fun.

Other ways I “play” at running:

  • leave my watch at home and disregard pace and distance
  • make a running date with a new (or pregnant!) runner purely for the conversation and let them dictate pace and distance
  • “run” with my kids.  This could turn into anything, really, but if I’m wearing running shoes and tell myself it’s my “run” I’m way less likely to feel begrudged by having to look up from my magazine and move my butt off the park bench when I’m called into action

In university we used to play at running in other ways.  One of the most famous was the Beer Mile .  Chug a beer, run a lap (400 m) x 4.  I became quite good and somehow still own the women’s world record.  And NO, that’s not how I play now.  I’m retired from that.  At least until I have to re-set a winning record – it’s been safe for over 15 years.

There was also an event called “the naked run”.  Nothing more to comment on about that and sorry – no pictures.

Bottom line: after all the time you’ve put into training, it’s good to enjoy your fitness and find ways to have fun with it other than just proving yourself in a race.  And if you just can’t quell your competitive instincts, fine – win on the dance floor.  We’ve all been there!

Have fun 🙂

Running and Pregnancy

This post is timely for me.  NO!  I’m not pregnant.  But my younger sister and two of my good running friends are.  Very.  My sister is due in a week (Yay! can’t wait) and my friends are both due end of March/early April (also very excited).  And since they are all runners, I thought I’d check in to see how they’ve been making the transition from breezy, gazelle-like runs to increasingly awkward and sometimes humiliating waddles (I know – I’ve been there).

Although I’ve run through two pregnancies, I somehow don’t remember many details (protection mechanism?) so I am profiling these experiences.  One thing I do remember though is that there was very little literature out there on how much or how hard to run.  I sort of went by feel, but erred on the side of caution.  I now think I probably could have pushed it a bit more, especially after seeing Paula Radcliffe’s example!

She ran 14 miles a day and at five months replaced her second daily run with a cross-training session.  Ok, a bit (!) extreme.

Here is a good article on running and pregnancy Running and Pregnancy by Alex Hutchinson. 

Synopsis: running up to 90% max heart rate is fine.  Above that, of the pregnant women who went to their max, 1/3 had some fetal reaction (slower heart rate and blood flow) for a short period of time, but no long-lasting effects.

So basically girls, run as much and as hard as you feel is comfortable.  I assure you, over 90% of your heart rate will NOT feel comfortable, so you’re safe.  (If you’re a Norwegian Olympic cross-country skier, maybe tone it down a bit for the next few months).

So here are our Real Life Subjects to give us some insight into their experiences: (PS: how cute are those bellies??)

Lizzy B at 33 weeks – first pregnancy

Airlie at 37 weeks – first pregnancy

Suzy G at 34 weeks – third pregnancy, fourth kid!  (this is not her actual stroller, but how I picture her running)

Airlie                                                                                                                     

I’ve been running fairly regularly throughout my pregnancy with no troubles or injuries thus far. Of course, I’ve slowed down A LOT and I don’t go nearly the distance.  I’m now 37 weeks and I might have a c-section at 39 weeks.  I’m hoping to “run” (and I just that term very loosely) up to the end.  My question is, what is the recommended or average recovery time post c-section if all goes well?  (RW: six weeks) And do you think recovery will be faster/easier since I’m in fairly good shape, or does that not make a difference? (RW: definitely helps recovery to be in good shape – see Suzy G below)

This is me at 37 weeks heading out for a “wee jog” (above).  My husband says that I’m not a normal human and that neither are my sisters because we’re all runners that do crazy things like get up at 4:30 in the morning to do intervals in -15 degrees, and go for runs at 37 weeks at -15 with a very sore rib from the baby pushing its head against it.  I think I’m normal, but apparently my “measuring rod” is skewed.  Oh well, it’s been keeping me sane.  I’m also still going to the gym and lifting weights (albeit, very light weights, but weights nonetheless).  Up until about 34/35 weeks I had the energy to run probably five times a week and do weights maybe two to three times a week.  These last few weeks have been more difficult though, maybe because the baby flipped around and is now in the wrong position.  I’m now down to about two to three runs a week at best, though I’m trying to supplement with Spin classes.

Apparently working out is really good for the baby’s heart, so I’m hoping that my husband will come to his senses and see that I’m doing all this selflessly for the health of our baby, and that I’m not crazy, just a very dedicated mum 🙂

Lizzy B

RW: What is your running/racing background?

LB: I ran competitively in high school and then at U of T. During that time, my pbs were 2:16 (800m), 4:34 (1500m), and 9:53 (3000m). I was a part of U of T’s CIS championship women’s X-C team in 2002. While I was in grad school, I tried my hand at some longer distances and ran a 1:23 half marathon and 3:04 marathon. Since then I’ve struggled with various injuries and mostly run to keep in shape.

RW: how much running were you doing before you got pregnant?

LB: I was running about four times a week, usually five to seven miles at a time. Because of injuries, I was cross training a lot – swimming, rock climbing, and doing a “boot camp” class three times a week.

RW:  How did your running change once you realized you were pregnant?  Did you decide to keep running throughout? Why or why not?

LB: I ran up until I was 33 weeks along. I really wanted to stay in shape while pregnant, for my own sanity, for the health of my baby, and to make recovery after birth easier, ideally. I decided to stop because I was just getting too uncomfortable – the pressure on my bladder was bad throughout, but was getting worse – and because I was feeling a little off-balance and was worried about falling. I switched to the elliptical and walking, and continued with my boot camp classes.

RW: Did you have any questions on running and pregnancy which you felt you couldn’t find enough good information to answer?

LB: At times I wondered if all the pressure I felt on my bladder was causing any damage. I asked my midwives and they seemed to think it was fine, but advised me to stop if I felt uncomfortable. But “uncomfortable” was sort of relative…most of my pregnancy, running was a bit uncomfortable, but I felt good enough afterwards that I could put up with the discomfort. I found a fair amount of information online, though.

RW: How have you found running through pregnancy and how has it change throughout the trimesters?

LB: In my first trimester, I was lucky to avoid morning sickness for the most part, other than a bit of nausea here and there. I was really fatigued, but I mostly managed to continue running without noticing a huge difference in how I felt. By the beginning of the second trimester, I was already feeling the pressure on my bladder. I slowed down, too, both because I was feeling a bit more winded and because I just wanted to take it easy. (I stopped trying to keep up with my husband on runs!) During the third trimester, I started having some shin splints, probably due to the added weight. Despite all these complaints, I had some days where I felt pretty good, and knowing that I was staying active was empowering.

RW: Any big surprises or has running throughout basically played out as you’d expected?

LB: I thought I’d feel uncomfortable from the added weight, but I didn’t really expect some of the other aches and pains.

RW: Any good insights to others who may go through the same experience?

LB: Having friends who I knew had run through their pregnancies helped to normalize it for me – a lot of my non-running friends thought it was crazy or dangerous, so it was good to have the perspective from those who had been there. I think the cliché “listen to your body” really does apply. I wasn’t always the best at doing this, but in general, I set my expectations pretty low. Having battled injuries for so many of the past few years already, it wasn’t too hard to do! I wore a maternity belt (the Gabrialla belt) starting in the second trimester. I think it helped with round ligament pain a bit, but I can’t say for sure…

RW: Any other anecdotes/experiences you want to share?

LB: I have to admit to taking some pleasure in passing people while running with a big belly! I can’t say it happened that often, but when it did, it gave me a little boost. I guess the competitive spirit lives on! Soon I’ll be entering my toddler in road races…

Suzy G
RW: what is your running/racing background?

SG: Half-marathon PB: 1:23.23; Most recent 5K in 2008 was 18:45 on the track; Highlight of my running career: Being part of the winning CIS women’s X-C team at University of Toronto in 2002.

RW: how much running were you doing before you got pregnant?

SG: Before I got pregnant in 2009 I was running six days a week with coach Steve Boyd: a mix of workouts and long runs. Memorable workouts include 2×20 min (hard) tempo runs and intense 1 km intervals on trails.

RW: how did your running change once you realized you were pregnant? Did you decide to keep running throughout? Why or why not?

SG: I kept running while I was pregnant in 2009 for about two months (some indoor track workouts, some fairly easy group runs). At my first ultrasound I was told I was having twins and couldn’t find much information about running in a multiple pregnancy. I decided to back off until I could see the specialist but there was a long (two month) wait. I found that at three months I was getting big already and my pelvic floor was quite uncomfortable even with upbeat walking! I continued to walk briskly for about an hour a day (which actually raised my heart rate to levels I could only get to by running pre-pregnancy). My specialist ended up being an “exercise in multiples” expert and he said I could run to my heart’s content but by that time I found it was just too uncomfortable. I got back into it after the twins were born in 2009 thanks to a double running stroller that all my best running girlfriends purchased for me. I had hoped to continue this into my second pregnancy but unfortunately my first trimester coincided with an appendectomy that cost a month and half in recovery time. It was very difficult getting back into running after that recovery while being three months pregnant. Kingston streets are not safe for pregnant runners in the winter, so I joined a gym and did run through the second trimester on a treadmill but not at any significant pace. For me, that’s frustrating. I took a break until baby #3 was about six months old and then started running about 5K a day with a neighbourhood group. That dissolved almost immediately when I became pregnant with #4 in 2012 because this time around I find I was bigger earlier, more tired generally (could be the three kids at home, or my new business that opened just before pregnancy) and that my body feels “stretched out”. I couldn’t keep up with the group any more so I gave up. In December (five months pregnant) I missed running so much that I joined a gym and have been giving the elliptical a try about two to three times a week, but it’s not easy working full-time and making time for my three kids AND fitting in a workout. I’ve been paying the gym to store my shoes since February 1st which I’m not happy about. This is more due to running my business than a lack of desire to run.

RW: Did you have any questions on running and pregnancy which you felt you couldn’t find enough good information to answer?

SG: See above! If I’d read a reliable source that said it was ok to run in a twin pregnancy I might have, but I was quite nervous and really needed to hear it from a specialist who was talking about my pregnancy specifically.

RW: How have you found running through pregnancy and how has it change throughout the trimesters?

SG: I haven’t found it possible for me personally to run through pregnancy since that first experience except for the first two to three months.

RW: Any big surprises or has running throughout basically played out as you’d expected?

SG: I didn’t think it would be such a challenge re: the soreness. Most of my friends have not had this experience. I’m surprised how hard it was to get back into it after baby #3: I trained for an ran a 5K race in just over 20 minutes and it felt like I’d just run sub 18. I’m a running addict and I’m surprised how easily I’ve put it off. I’m not surprised how much I miss it.

RW: Any good insights to others who may go through the same experience?

SG: As long as there’s no medical reason not to, stay active! Taking the breaks during pregnancy really killed my running because it’s really hard to re-start once you stop. Keep reading a good, motivating blog and contribute: even writing about this makes me ache to go to the gym!

RW: Any other anecdotes/experiences you want to share?

SG: Post pregnancy running can be equally challenging, especially during those days where you’re breastfeeding eight times a day! It’s a lot easier if you go into it as a fit pregnant woman, trust me. Despite the C-section recovery it was easier to get back into running after the twins because I’d stayed fit. I’m committed to running again after #4 but I’m not looking forward to the uphill climb after all this time off.

Thanks Ladies!

That’s all for now.  Bottom line: if you’re pregnant – keep running if you can.  Soon enough you’ll find yourself running after someone else and you’ll be drawing on all of your refined speed and endurance training to keep up!

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

The other morning as I was in my usual frantic “zone” of getting myself ready for work and my two kids fed, dressed and out the door for school, my five-year-old asked me very matter-of-factly: “Mummy – do you think this is what you look like when you’re asking us not to bug you?”  And he pointed to a picture in his latest favourite book:

Big self-confidence boost to start my day.  I think I may have actually put on makeup (a rare occurrence) right after that.

It also made me wonder how else I might appear at different times.

I’m pretty sure this is what my sister and I look like to each other when we meet for our weekly 5 a.m. speed workouts.

(sometimes our eyes aren’t even that wide open)

This is our first interval.

This is our last.

Quite a transformation takes place in 45 minutes.

This is us after the workout.

And this is us all day from having done intervals at 5 a.m.

That is all.  In future, when asking my children “not to bug me” (I’m not sure I really said that, but that’s what he heard so judge away) I will take a deep breath and channel this.

Peace out.

Long Run!

Ok, as per my last post, I realized I needed to get a few of these in, so I got out the door early on Saturday morning to see what ground I could cover in 2 hours (before a 9 a.m. ballet class for Thing 2).  It was colder than I’d thought when I shot out the door at 6:30.  I definitely under-dressed my hands as my dollar-store gloves didn’t cut it and I had to pull my jacket sleeves over my hands as best I could for most of the run.  Regardless, I tried to run what I thought was my regular pace, but I felt sort of numb for the entire second half and had a warped sense of how fast or slow I was going.  I had planned on doing my last 3 or 4 miles on the treadmill at my gym which is about a mile (or more like a K) from my house.  All I was thinking for the last few miles was “just get to the gym to warm up”.  My hands and feet were numb and my face was frozen.   Once at the gym I did 3 miles on the treadmill and didn’t event take off my tights or long sleeve shirt as I tried to warm up!  I made it back in the door with JUST enough time to shower and turn it around to get to the ballet class.  My running time:

Definitely a PB for the past few years in terms of time on my feet.   I g-mapped my route and discovered that with my 3 mile treadmill run I totaled 18 miles.  That’s an average of 7:03 min/miles.  Not bad, I guess.  That exact run would give me a 2:11 time at Around The Bay.  I want 2:00 (or preferably 1:59).  Work to do, but I guess I’m putting it in.  I have to think that a few more degrees would have netted me a few more minutes – no??

What did I do after my monster run?  My day entailed the said ballet class, a kid’s dentist appointment, a birthday party, grocery shopping, baking banana bread, a few loads of laundry, dinner prep, feeding and clean-up, kids’ bath and putting them to bed.  You BET I deserved my glass of wine tonight.

It was gone before I thought to document it.  Here’s my banana bread though.  It has chocolate chips in it 🙂

I enjoy long runs generally, but I enjoy them more when I’m not freezing and when I can kind of lie down for a bit afterwards.  Anyway, it felt good and I’m going to try for a 20 miler before the marathon.  Yikes!  Come ON weather…!!!!