Finding joy and gratitude

Hi Everyone!


Huge congrats to everyone who ran Around The Bay – whether as race or a training run. That is a serious distance on a serious course with some serious wind! Shout out to Laura, Chris, Sean, Andrew, Zoë, Amy, Bob, Jordan, Patrick, Nir, Julia, Gillian who all put themselves out there! Way to go crew.


I ran the 5K. At the start line I was chatting with a friend and fellow coach. I was trying to figure out approx times so I would know where I should be relative to him. Because I did not want to look at my watch – I just wanted to race. I told him, “because you know – I’m 46.” And he said, “well, this is what I am thinking but you never know because you know – I’m 56.” We’re both slowing down. And as I ran I reflected on that and how lucky we were that we could still run hard and fast (relatively). I felt gratitude towards my body because it didn’t hurt and was doing what I was asking it. I didn’t look at my watch and I didn’t really care (too much) about my time. I was just taking nothing for granted and feeling grateful to be there, with others, doing what I love.


I was listening to a podcast with Karen Walrond – author of The Lightmaker’s Manifesto (which I haven’t read but is on my list!) Walrond addresses the dichotomy of seeking out and feeling joy and pleasure while also holding space for the suffering and injustices going on around us. She says it is even more important to fill yourself up with joy if you want to be able to stay open to seeing the injustices in the world and trying to make a difference. For many of us, that joy is running. And races are the peak experience of this expression. We are so so lucky, and I think that remembering that, whether it’s cold, windy, hilly, hard – is the most important thing. Doing a hard run or a race is not frivolous, but nor is it a big, stressful, important event that matters to anyone else. It is for you. So find a way to fill yourself up and find joy and gratitude in it. I only have to look at the number of our team who did not make it to the start line to remember not to take any of it for granted. And I will do my best to help you all get to your next starting line healthy and filled with joy and gratitude!


Tomorrow, we’re back to hills! If you ran ATB, you can come out and jog, but no hills. If you raced it, take at least a week off/easy. If you did it as a training run, your next hard effort will be this weekend. You’re still recovering, and adding another stress too close to that will put a cap on the recovery benefits you get from the effort! We’re getting close to key races for many of you and this is where you have to work smarter than harder. You’re fit – let’s get you to the start line!


Pottery Road as:

  1. Straight up hill for the first one.
  2. Easy halfway, fast second half (stairs/construction) for the second one
  3. Fast first half, easy second half for the third one
  4. Repeat this sequence 2-3 times
  5. 3 min rec – then 5 min tempo (it’s not cheating if you do this downhill towards Dundas 😉 )


I’ll aim to be there around 6:10/6:15 – happy to pick anyone up en-route!






Self Care

Hi Everyone!


Happy Spring! Yes, we’re finally officially here. Ahhh…. we deserve these ice-free, sunlit days. Enjoy!


Big congrats

to those who raced the Achilles 5K yesterday! I think we had 3 out of 3 PB’s: Andrew McKay (PB and 1st in age group!), Aryn (PB!) and Alexander Ferron (Annick’s son – – PB!) Way to go all! PB’s for the first race in a loooong time, and early in the season! Wohoo!


I’ve been thinking about the often over-used term Self-Care and what it really means. I think what comes to mind when we think about self-care is pampering ourselves with spas and sleep-ins and good food and easy entertainment. That might be what we need at certain times, but there is a lot more, and frankly a fair bit of work that goes into really taking care of ourselves.


Taking care of yourself means that YOU are the adult looking after you. You have to pull yourself together. It means doing your strength work. It means turning off your phone and focusing on the deep reading you want to learn about. It means cooking healthy meals. It means getting off the couch and getting together with a friend even when you have inertia, because you know the interaction is good for you. It means taking the time to make the appointment to figure out why you have pain. It means going to the dentist. It means cleaning your space. And yes, sometimes it does mean sleeping in. Self-care is hard work. But the meaning is in the term: YOU are the only one who can do it.


So go take good care of yourselves. I often have a phrase run through my head that my housemate in university used to say to me: “DEAL Robinson!” (I was just learning how to be the adult in my life back then – and I’m still not perfect, but I’m trying!)


Workout for this week: we’ll give hills a skip until next week bc many ppl are racing or doing a big hilly ATB effort this weekend. So Lakeshore – 6:05 for drills, 6:15 GO time:


1 mile tempo (or ATB race pace), 2 min rest, 3 sets of 600 (1:30 rest), 400 (1:15 rest), 200 (2 min bw sets) – starting at 5K pace and getting faster. There should be enough rest built in that you can hit some faster paces without straining too much. This is about getting your legs turning over and feeling good running faster paces.


If not racing this weekend, option of doing a 4th set.


That is all – see you in the am!





Going Sideways

Hi Everyone!


Hope those of you who are able to take it are enjoying March Break. Whether you’re taking some time off work and taking a more relaxed approach to your running/training schedule this week or not, it’s always good to plan these in somewhere along the line. I know many of us love our work/training/busy lives, but as with all things – recharging is key!


That brings me to what I’ve been thinking about. When I write schedules for athletes I very rarely write out more than 6-8 weeks in advance. That is because I KNOW it is very unlikely for someone to follow a plan longer than that without something interfering. Whether it’s work schedules, injury set-backs, kids’ plans, more fatigue than we’d anticipated due to how we’re absorbing things… In fact I’ve never seen a plan written out for 12 weeks be followed without some dips or side-steps. I just want you all to know this is completely normal and expected. You have not failed in your training or need to give up and throw it all out and start again. So you have a new obstacle. And I know many of you are in this boat. So … what do you do about it? These are the times we’re really growing and learning as humans and athletes. What learning experience is there if everything goes perfectly? But when things go sideways … now we’re talking. Now we have the chance to face uncertainty, unscripted paths, self-doubt … this is the good stuff! This is what develops our character. Most people showing up at start lines are not exactly where they want to be with training. If you can show up with an attitude of “doing what you can with what you have” with a sense of excitement and feel positively challenged to see what that is, even knowing it won’t be ‘perfect’, then you’re learning something.


One last thing: I can see many of you training so hard and being hard on your bodies. Please remember to love and respect them! If something is sore or injured or asking for some rest, please do not ignore that. Our bodies are incredible and are on our side. We’re making them strong through training, but just a reminder not to fight them but work with them.


On to tomorrow’s workout!


I am away, so feel free to meet up at the usual time or make your own plans if going later. Just please coordinate so no one shows up looking for people and no one’s there.


  1. 6-8 x (600, 45 sec rest, 200) 2 mins bw sets. The key here is that the total volume will be run faster than last week where they were straight 800’s. Your body will get used to that mechanical load, so we can gradually push our 800 times down. 600’s close to the same pace as you ran your 800’s, and 200’s faster. (Note: if doing these on Lakeshore you will have to find a 200m mark from the East side as well. So you can run 600-200-jog back to the 200 mark, 600 heading east and then a 200 going west, then jog back to the start) Sorry if that’s confusing!
  2. If doing this fartlek: 6-8 x 3 min Hard, 45 sec rest, 30 seconds FAST – 2 min bw sets


That is all – see you all next week!







Training Principles 101

Hi Everyone!


Well, we got our first taste of Spring on Sunday. More days like that ahead! Yes, we’re in for some roller coasters of weather, but … it’s coming! And speaking of the weekend, many of you did some really big training runs as we’re in the thick of training for upcoming Spring marathons. Way to go. Take these big runs seriously. Treat yourselves well afterwards (eat, sleep, relax). It’s only “training” if you recover from them. Otherwise it’s just breakdown.


Special shout-out to Madalyn and Steph who ran virtual half marathons and both got PB’s!!! 1:33:28 for Madalyn who also PB’d through 10K, and 1:34:09 for Steph! Way to go you two and to everyone else who put solid work in this weekend! (And thank-you to Culture Athletics for putting on the ICEE Half Marathon to help support local efforts)


What I’ve been thinking about lately is our obsessive need to compare ourselves (not our fault – we’re wired as humans to do this) but how this can be detrimental to our training process. I’m talking about both comparing ourselves to our past selves, and comparing ourselves to others. We are in an interesting time with social media where we can see exactly what elite athletes and others are doing as training. And it’s easy to take the logical leap that if you could just do what they are doing, you would be as fast as them. But this is not how it works.


Training is a process of providing a dose (the workout), experiencing a physical response (breakdown), and then benefitting from an adaptation (building back stronger for the next time). That is all. There is no formula that says “if you run this, you will run this”. Nobody knows that for sure. What we do know is that to get a bit better than where you are now, you need to provide a dose that is large enough to stimulate a response, but not so great that your body is thrown into chaos and doesn’t know how to adapt. If I see on Strava that an elite runner ran a certain workout at a certain pace, I might be tempted to go out and try to replicate that so I can get to her level. But what I’m forgetting is that that runner is doing that particular workout because she is at a level of fitness that requires that dose in order to stimulate a response. If I don’t need as large a dose because of where I currently am, then doing her workout is a prescription for breakdown for me. I will have a stimulus, and some sort of response, but I won’t adapt. It is too large a leap. Our physical processes don’t leap over chasms. They build step by step.


Elite marathoners are now experimenting with a training system by Renato Canova called the “Special Block”. This is an extremely intense day where they run a tempo, followed by intervals (up to 20K worth) in the morning and then repeat the entire sequence again in the afternoon. They do this because these athletes are already running a huge amount of mileage and great loads of intensity. They have built up to this with years and years of 2-a-day runs. They now REQUIRE this amount of work in order to provide a stimulus outside their standard so that they can improve. If any of us tried to replicate that we would end up broken and gutted and would probably not run well again for weeks if not months. One person’s perfect dose could be another person’s poison. Be thankful if you don’t need that much!!!


So let’s be smart. Doing more because other people are doesn’t make you tougher. It means you are not doing what’s right for you. Even trying to replicate what you did 2 years ago when you were in peak fitness after months of training leading up to a race might not be what’s right for you right now. I’m not saying you won’t surpass that, but honour where you are in that step by step process. Just take the next step from where you are.


On to tomorrow’s workout!


Remember when we did 800’s on that windy icy day and I said we’d repeat it in a number of weeks to check in? That is now. Here is the workout:


  1. 6-8 x 800 w 1:30 rest. Let’s aim for 10K pace.
  2. If 800’s at 10K pace are something you’re working up to, I suggest 6-8 x 600 w 1:30 @ 10K pace. That is a great dose and you don’t have to do what other people are doing. As a newer swimmer I am respecting this process. I am happy to do 150m of other peoples’ 200m intervals in workouts. Because that’s where I am and it’s the right challenge for me!


That is all – see you in the am! (6:05 for drills, 6:15 go time)







Is self-improvement selfish?

Hi Everyone!


Happy March! March sure sounds warmer than February. We’ll get there…


What I’ve been thinking about this week was prompted by a podcast I listened to: “Is self-improvement too selfish?” It resonated with me because a lot of what I’m involved in is in helping people to improve in areas they’ve chosen. Not to mention the time and energy I put towards my own personal goals! We are drawn towards these endeavours because they make us feel good. About ourselves mostly. So, is there any greater value to all of the time and energy we put towards ourselves?


After mulling it over, I think the main answer is Yes. But with an asterisk. There is the overused analogy of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help others. I think that holds true with things like “self-improvement”. It is hard to reach out to others and care about our communities and put real emotional effort and energy into changing injustices we see in the world if we are ourselves unstable and hanging from a cliff. For many of us, the energy we put into running (and swimming, and cycling, and other…) helps us to feel righted and grounded and able to be our best selves so that we can turn our “self-improvement” into “helping others”. Whether that means giving us confidence so we can show up at work with more to contribute, giving us emotional breathing space so we can come back and have more to give to our emotionally needy loved ones (anyone else here dealing with teens??), or just making us feel happy and optimistic – which is the best precursor for getting off your butt and trying to tackle any seemingly insurmountable crisis.


I think the big key here is to continually zoom out and keep your goals and your processes in check. We can start along a path that has all the best purposes and ideals, and at some point we can lose sight of the fact that the end goal isn’t for us to achieve personal glory and be put on a pedestal. It is for us to show up better for those around us. And if your training starts holding you back from that or taking away from how you show up for your community and loved ones, you may want to take a little step back and re-evaluate your goals and processes. It doesn’t mean you’re “failing” in achieving your athletic goals. It means you’re “succeeding” in life.


So, is self-improvement too selfish? It can be we if let it be. But I do think that if you invest in yourself you have more to invest in others. There is a wisdom of self-knowledge and kindness of spirit I seem to recognize often in runners and endurance athletes. And I do think the world would be a better place if there were more runners. So I like to think I’m trying to make the world a better place – one runner at a time.


On to tomorrow’s workout!


Pottery Road baby! Here’s the drill:


  • 6-9 of them. First three easy up, fast down. Then switch to hard up, easy down. (Boston ppl this is a great one for you)
  • People racing this spring: take 3-4 mins at the top, then finish with 8 min tempo (can be on your way home if that works).


I will aim to be there around 6:05-ish. Just start when you get there and we’ll see you on the hill!