Grit vs Quit

Hi Everyone! 


Congrats to Jeff Smith who ran the Robbie Burns 8K in a time of 31:13 for 4th in his age group! Throwing in a mid-season race is a great way to get some extra fitness in, as well as a good benchmark for where you are in your training. If anyone is not running Around the Bay 30K and doesn’t have London, Boston or Toronto marathons on the sched, let me recommend the Around the Bay 5K! You can run it, and then cheer the rest of us 30K-ers on during your ‘cool-down’. It is not a “Test Race” it is a “Gain Fitness” race. Nothing does it like a race for a little V02max bump. 


Last week, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced her retirement. She was the youngest Prime Minister in modern history, and her progressive approach to leading her country was successful and inspired many people in what leadership could look like. In resigning, she was honest and genuine about her reasons. Her reason was that she “didn’t have enough in the tank” to do the role justice. I loved this message. She wasn’t going to white knuckle her way through continuing on at the expense of her other goals (her family and I’m sure many other things), until she was a spent husk of a human, just because that was the (mostly male) culture surrounding her role. She wasn’t in it for the glory or for the love of power. She was confident in how to make the best choice for her to be successful in life, and she made that choice. 


Annie Duke is a professional World Champion poker player – one of the best in the world and one of the only women who regularly beats the professional men. One of her top strategies is knowing when to quit. She’s written a book about the subject. Professional poker requires nerve, smarts, and perseverance, yes. But it also requires knowing when to quit IN ORDER TO WIN. This takes a huge amount of inner confidence and not worrying what other people think. I mention her gender because this is particularly hard for a woman playing in a “man’s game” where she is being judged on multiple levels.


I’m bringing up these two scenarios because I can see this type of behaviour play out in athletes a lot. Some people white knuckle their way through a workout or program because they have learned how to be tough and in some way fear judgement – from themselves or others – if they back off. Others know when pulling back will actually get them ahead. It’s not an age thing – I see some younger athletes who just have that inner sense of confidence mixed with self-compassion which allows them to say “this isn’t going to move me towards my goals today”. They can tell their coach when they need to pull back. They have a clear view of their goals, and know what will move them towards vs away from them. They don’t blindly “grit it out” for the sake of it or because everyone else is. I find it interesting, this pull between Grit and Quit (two great books by very smart and cool women). I don’t think they are in juxtaposition with each other. I think we all need a bit of both in order to reach our goals. I think what is hard is being able to do both and swing back and forth. Knowing when to be gritty and when to be quitty. The strongest leaders and most successful and self-fulfilled people can do both. It definitely takes confidence and self-belief. It’s something we can all work towards. 


On to tomorrow’s workout! We’re back to hills but we’re going to do SHORT RIVERDALE hills.  Let’s meet at the top of the hill at 6:10.


Most ppl in the middle of a build right now have a pretty heavy week. Let’s keep this one short and peppy – this will complement the tempos and long hilly runs we’re doing. It’s always a good idea to bring a little pep back into tired endurance legs at some point mid-program.  


2-3 sets of:  

3 x Riverdale Hill – fast up, easy down – 2 min rest – 3 min tempo (1:30 out, 1:30 back). 


This is designed to be a snappier, harder on your muscles than your lungs and mind workout. Reinvigorating our turnover and power. We shall see… 


See you in the a.m.! 






Resistance and Acceptance

Hi All!


Hope everyone enjoyed the sunshine this past weekend – it was glorious! Looks like it won’t be out again here in Toronto for a while. Don’t forget to take your vitamin D!


We were also hit this weekend with one of our first blasts of really cold temps. I think Saturday was – 11C with the windchill making it feel like -18C. These are pretty normal mid-winter conditions for us. But what I found interesting was my (and some of my running mates’) initial reaction to it. It was resistance. There was a feeling of “I don’t like this – I want it to be different”. And I thought – that’s an interesting thought to have near the end of January. Usually by this point in the year we have moved on to “acceptance”. But it’s always that first introduction to something which makes it harder because we haven’t just accepted it – we’re somehow trying to fight it. By the 4th or 5th run in the low negative temps, it just is what it is. We stop giving too much thought to it and that just makes it so much easier.


I went for my first long run (what I would consider a long long run) in a while the other week. I hadn’t run that distance in a while, and my brain was not used to it. In fact, I felt I was resisting it for the first 18 kilometers. That is a long warm-up. But finally, at about that point, I think my brain finally went into “acceptance” mode. Ok. We’re doing this. And it suddenly felt so much easier and more enjoyable.


The same phenomenon often happens to me and others before a race or big workout. Do you ever feel heavy and tired in a warm-up? I almost always do. Most of us know there is no correlation between how you feel in a warm-up and how you feel in a race. In fact, some of my more seasoned running friends swear that the worse you feel, the better you’ll race, and that feeling great in a warmup is a bad sign. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but what I do believe is that your brain is aware of a big effort that is to come, and is somehow putting on the breaks and trying to resist it. As soon as the race or workout starts however, acceptance sets in and you feel supercharged and energetic again (until of course you don’t).


My takeaways from all this is that starting is always the hardest part because there is so much mental resistance. Once you move from resistance to acceptance, it all just flows so much more smoothly. I’m sure this applies to many areas of life as well. What is the old Buddhist saying.. “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”. I’m no Buddhist expert, but I believe this is saying that the experience will happen – it’s whether we are able to accept it or whether we fight it the whole way which determines whether we’ll suffer through it, or just experience it. Sometimes it takes our brains a while to catch up to where we want them to be (like 18K!) but the goal is to get them to stop kicking and screaming and just enjoy the ride – even when it’s cold, intense or uncomfortable. Accept, and go.


Onto tomorrow’s workout – back to Lakeshore and Leslie! 6:05 drills, 6:15 go time.


Let’s do cut-downs. For ppl training for longer events, we’ll do some bigger volume again. I like these because they force us not to go toooo fast and the cut-down format allows us to accumulate more work at an effective pace (if you want to nerd out on the science of this check out this article by Alex Hutchinson: Why Ladders are the Best Interval Workouts)


1.5 miles (three lengths), 1 mile (two lengths), 1200, 800, 600, 400. Rests are 2 mins, 1:45, 1:30, 1:30, 1:15


If you’re not training for a big race, are a newer runner without big mileage under your belt or training for 5K’s -10K’s, start with 1 mile (leave out the first 1.5 miles).


If doing this by time: 8 min – 6 min – 4 min – 3 min – 2 min -1 min with the same rests as above.


That is all – see you in the am!





Building Momentum

Hi Gang!


This week marks getting back into the regular swing of things. If you’re looking for an early season race to kick things off, the Robbie Burns 10K is back. A bit earlier this year – Jan 22nd. If racing more was on your list of goals this year, here’s a great way to start. They are offering a $10 discount with the code ROBBIESBACK”.


Most ppl are rolling with goals for the spring. I know I still owe some plans and I am on that over today and tomorrow! (any specific immediate q’s please check in with me). What I’ve been thinking about is Momentum. Man, is that ever a thing, eh? When you have it, things just flow so much more easily. When you don’t, you wonder how you ever did the things you’ve done before. Obviously, starting from holiday mode (which we all needed, so let’s not beat ourselves up), we do not have a lot of forward momentum. Getting going and finding the rhythm that works might feel a bit harder at the moment. That’s ok. It’s normal. Starting the boulder moving is the hardest part. Here are a few things to consider during this phase:


  • Don’t wait to feel motivated. Motivation often follows action. Trust that it will come and your mental energy will catch up to match your physical action. Then you can start relying on your “desire” to get out there. But first, you have to start.
  • Start slowly. It is way easier to form habits of easier tasks (drinking a glass of water in the morning) than harder tasks (running 15K every day). All you’re asking yourself to do for now is to just show up. Just start. If you start the workout and it’s going poorly and you hate it – stop. You can. If you start a run and it’s a 20 minute run – that’s great. Just start.
  • Finish on a high note. This is “habit formation 101” – we tend to recall how we finished something vs the hardest part of the thing. They did an experiment with two groups of cyclists and gave them the exact same workload, but one group finished with the hardest part, and the other finished with some easy cycling and chatting. Then they had them rate the difficulty of the workout. Those who finished with easy social cycling rated it as easier and more pleasurable. I think this is why the social chatting and cool-downs from our workouts are key. If you’re solo, make sure you finish every hard effort with some sort of reward – 20 minutes to read with a coffee, a bath and a book, your favourite smoothie … whatever will attach a positive memory to the experience.
  • Be flexible and allow for nuance. Nothing kills a sense of joy and motivation like a forced, rigid schedule. Some of the most successful athletes are the ones who understand what they are supposed to do from their plan, and then figure out how to make it fit their life. They don’t contort themselves into pretzels to fit it all in “perfectly”. If they’re skiing with family on weekends or have a busy work week or are experiencing some pain – they are ok with mixing things around and making it work for them.


Those are my tips for now – I’m there with you all in this. And one thing we can’t change but man it would help – a little sunshine for even 5-10 minutes at one point this month! We’re not asking for a lot.


Ok, on to tomorrow’s workout! Back to Lakeshore and Leslie. 6:05 drills, 6:15 GO.


  1. 1 mile tempo. 2 min rest. 10 x 400 w 1 min rest. 3 min rest. 1 mile tempo (this last tempo only for those with spring marathons or ATB and only if feeling good).
  2. People just getting into things or coming back from illness/injury: 1 mile tempo, 6-8 x 400 w 1 min rest.
  3. If going by time: 6 min tempo, 10 x 90 sec Hard, 1 min Easy, 6 min tempo.
  4. If on the fence, just come out and start. 1 mile tempo is a good place to start.


That is all – see you in the am!





Gradual Growth

Hi Everyone!

Happy New Year!!!! I’ve seen many of your goals coming in, and I’m really not just saying this – I smile so wide when I read them. I just love seeing the energy and enthusiasm and passion come through. I also see a lot of self-reflection in them, which I love, and this is what I wanted to chat about.

Obviously the New Year is the biggest of Fresh Starts that we tend to experience. Although, it’s definitely not the only one. We can channel the Fresh Start Effect on birthdays, changes of season, beginnings of the month…  January is a large collective one though, and the energy is big.

One thing I’ve been thinking is important when we look ahead to set goals, it to first look back and reflect on everything we’ve accomplished this past year. A year is a long time. It’s easy to quickly forget all that we’ve done and accomplished. If you keep a log, take a look through the past year – you’ll probably feel a little sense of awe at all that you’ve done. Or swipe through the photos on your phone starting from last January. Sometimes it’s amazing all the experiences we pack into a year. So take a second, and look back and be happy for what you’ve done.

Now, in looking forward, don’t reinvent yourself. Add to who you already are. You’re not “starting from scratch” as much as it sometimes feels that way. You’re bringing every win, every failure, every injury healed back stronger, every tough workout and race, all the conversations you’ve had, relationships you’ve built, books you’ve read – along with you. These are now all part of you going forward. Like a tree, we’ve added a ring of experience. And that will always be there as we add more and more rings. When trees experience tough conditions, like drought or disease or big temperature variance, the stress is reflected in the size of the rings those years. But those are still fundamental parts of the tree, and bigger, stronger rings can grow around it the next year.

The other funny thing about trees is that they grow so imperceptibly. Looking at them, they appear completely static. One day looks exactly the same as the last. But over the course of a few years the change is astounding. I had a little twig on my front lawn 7 years ago, and now it’s a beautiful big tree which dazzles us with shapes and colours over three stories of our house. I think for lasting changes within ourselves we should look to a tree’s timeline. If you think you’ll be noticing a big difference in a week or a month, you might be starting out of the gates a bit quick. Don’t worry – you’re growing. Another ring will be added this year. Just make sure you’re pointed in the direction you want to go and take it one little day at a time.


Tomorrow we’re back to hills!!!


For those of us training for Around The Bay or Boston – we need these. For those training for flat courses – it will still help!

Let’s start to layer in some running off the hills again. If coming to Pottery:

3-4 x full hill, 2 min rest, 5 min tempo. Repeat.

If meeting in the beach or elsewhere, same idea. 3-4 x 400m hill, 2 min rest, 5 min tempo. Repeat.

I’ll aim to be there around 6:10/6:15. Start when you get there and hope to see you on the hill!






Hi Everyone!


This will be a short one. Hope you’re all having a recharging holiday – whatever that means for you.


That’s what I’ve been thinking about – how do I recharge? For me, it doesn’t really matter where I am. I can bring a mindset with me wherever I go. It’s the feeling of calm focus which eludes us when we’re running around trying to swat balls out of the air that are coming at us unpredictably. For me, recharging doesn’t mean not working – I love what I do. It means more time to read books which inspire my coaching and might help me consider new approaches or philosophies. It means time to reflect on the athletes I coach, and consider what might help them succeed in what they are trying to do. Recharging for me does not mean taking a physical break. In fact it’s the opposite. It’s an open schedule with lots of self-directed movement – whether that’s a x-country ski, nice long run, or even a swim. I find sometimes when I’m not on a schedule I even gain fitness because I enjoy it so much and I’m not “squeezing” anything in. Recharging might be seeing and hanging out with friends and family, or it might mean more time alone. I need a mix of both for sure. And recharging definitely means more sleep.


It doesn’t matter whether you’re home or somewhere else. If you can get outside and get your heart beating and breathe deep lungfuls of air, if you can sit and read and think without running around frantically, if you can hang out with people who fill you up, and if you can get a bit more sleep, you are probably recharging. So when the balls start flying again, you’ll be ready for them.


For this week, here is a fartlek-type workout to do whenever it works for you:


Sets of 3-2-1 min On with 1 min Off, 2 mins easy jog between sets. Just throw it into a run whenever you head out. 3 sets is a great number – 5 sets is the max.


That is all – Happy Holidays everyone!!!





Gratitude and Growth

Hi Everyone!


Hey, guess what? Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year – the Winter Solstice. Pretty soon we will start noticing days getting longer and a little more sunlight hitting our eyes. And some people even love the dark! It brings about changes of energy which sometimes we need in our lives. More sleep and fewer activities can have a regenerating place. We are on our way back to more light and less quiet indoor time, so let’s accept where we are for now. Meanwhile, keep wearing your lights and taking your Vitamin D. Those are the two best counter measures to the dark that I know.


What I really wanted to mention today is how grateful I am for this crew. Thank-you all so much for the super generous gift. Wow. As I mentioned to those of you who were there when you presented it, I think I get too much credit for this group because I’ve just been lucky that inspiring, hardworking, generous people have invited other people of the same nature. I truly believe that the biggest benefit of being part of this crew is the connection with everyone else. So thank you for being those people!


Also, thank-you all for trusting me and following me on this journey. Last year I decided to go “all in” with coaching, and I am truly loving it. Everyone is such an interesting and unique puzzle or story, and I love figuring it out and being part of it with you. I recently took a personality quiz as part of an Athletics Canada coaching program, and after a bazillion questions, my main personality type was revealed as “Growth Seeker”. I feel that captures me well, and again, I am grateful for all of you guinea pigs who willingly take on the new things I’ve learned about or want to try! I will never say “I have all the answers”. But I will always say “Let’s try this…”. And I’m always happy to be challenged, questioned or used as a sounding board. We all only want each others’ success, and it’s so much more fun and rewarding to go for it together. So here’s to another year seeking growth and learning together!


Tomorrow – last workout before I’m on holiday for a couple of weeks. (I’ll send you guys options when I’m away): Lakeshore and Leslie – 6:05 drills, 6:15 GO time!


2 sets of 2 x 400 medium fast-ish (8K/10K-ish pace) – 400 cruise (tempo-ish). 1 set will be 1 mile. 1:30 between sets

            Jog down to 200m

            2-4 x 200 fast/200 cruise


If doing this by time:  2 x (2 x 1:30 fast/1:30 medium) – 1:30 between sets

                                    4 min easy jog

                                    2-4 x 30 sec fast/30 sec cruise


This workout gets our speed wheels turning without straining for too long, while also keeping it moving to touch on a threshold stimulus. Just touching on a bit of everything to maintain access without too much strain for now. (I also have a feeling this workout will creep up on us)


See you in the am!!!








Going with the Flow

Hi Everyone!


Well, the cold is back. We knew it would come back eventually. Remember to bundle up accordingly! My weapon of choice this winter is going to be wool socks. Numb feet can make for a miserable run.


What I’ve been thinking of recently is accepting the moment we’re in. When we get to January and the New Year, we will all experience the “Fresh Start Effect”. This refers to the psychological effect of having landmarks which can make us feel like a new person and allow us reimagine ourselves. It happens to baseball players when they change leagues (documented by Michael Lewis), it occurs on birthdays and during any landmark dates – and particularly for our culture, January 1st. There is an energy that comes with this effect, and a renewing of goals and values. Who do we want to be? What do we want to do? How will we get there? It’s exciting and motivating. And in all likelihood we will all experience this to a degree and benefit from its effects in a few weeks.


But we are not there yet. We’re still in December. And there seems to be a lot of non-running related energy which is being demanded of us right now. I’m feeling that! And what I was thinking was, it’s ok to be in the moment now. Goals are by definition forward looking. They are living in the future. That is fine, and has a place, but always striving for a goal inherently pulls you out of living in the moment you’re in. We know that is coming. So for now, and the rest of December, it’s ok and maybe even for the best to pay more attention to the present. I find that when I’m locked into a goal I can become selfish in my priorities. December is a good time to devote your energy to others, not put your training needs first, and accept and honour the fatigue and forced rest that comes from non-training things that fill up other buckets. There are currents of energy which happen naturally at various times. Instead of fighting them, we are best off if we can flow with them. If you’re being pulled in many directions right now and have a To-Do list a mile long, that’s pretty normal for this time of year. Instead of fighting it to exhaustion and forcing your usual mileage and workouts and strength, just relax and let the current take you where it does. We know it will release us and change direction in January – as it always does. So it’s ok to wait for that moment before you start paddling and using that energy to your advantage. And isn’t that the basic principle of all endurance sports? Conserve as much energy as you can until you can use it when it will count most. It makes sense!


On to tomorrow’s workout – we’re back to Pottery Road Hills!


Nothing fancy here. Let’s just get some steady hills in so those muscles remember how to do it. Pick a number that works for you and steady up, easy down.


I’ll aim to be there around 6:20-ish, but just start whenever you get there.


Beach ppl coordinate w Tanis.


Thanks all – see some of you in the am!