Archive for the ‘Fitness Challenges’ Category

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Walk and Get Fit

October 14, 2009

For months, I have faithfully worn my pedometer every day, no matter where I’m going. When I went to Texas in August, however, I didn’t bother bringing along my pedometer. Upon my return home, I didn’t feel any great urge to put it back on. For the past month or two, it has been sitting quietly in a drawer in my desk. We’re both okay with that. We just needed some space. These things happen in the best of relationships.

But now I think I’ll be bringing it out once again, and that is to celebrate a new Walk Around the World in 31 Days challenge conducted by Fitness Magazine! Although it is an American challenge and thus one needs to have an American zip code to enter, I still enjoy wearing a pedometer on a daily basis to track my steps, and I think my pedometer and I are ready to be reacquainted. I really love the notion of the Walk Around the World challenge, especially because one of my ultimate life goals is to literally walk around the world (anyone want to sponsor me to do that? That would be the best experience ever).

Health experts advise us to accumulate about 10,000 steps over the course of the day, but I choose to think of that as the absolute minimum. I prefer thinking of 12,000 steps as my usual base, with about 15,000 as my goal. This is actually pretty easy to do. If I walk to and from work in the morning, and to and from class in the afternoon, that’s about 21,000 steps right there, not including other “lifestyle” steps. If you use your legs for transportation instead of a car, you will have no problem at all with achieving the 10,000 (or 12,000, or 15,000…)-step goal.

I have found that if I go for just a 45 minute walk during the day, I can easily manage 12,000 steps in total (once the steps of walking around the house etc are all included). Depending on how active your everyday lifestyle is- going up and down stairs, moving around at work, or if you live in a house rather than an apartment- you might need to only go for a 30 minute walk or perhaps need to walk for closer to an hour to meet the 12,000 step daily goal. Remember, that 30 minutes can be broken down into 10 minute increments. It’s easy to squeeze in a couple of ten-minute walks throughout the day!

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One of the main reasons I stopped wearing a pedometer is because I’ve been riding my bike so much more frequently than going out for walks. The equivalent of about 7,000 steps of walking only matches up to a couple thousand “steps” if you’re on the bike. It’s the same distance, but you’re going so fast that the pedometer doesn’t realize you’re on a bike instead of on your two feet (much as I love the little gadget, it’s not always the brightest tool). Personally I get a little disheartened when I expect the number to be about 5,000 steps more than it shows.

Walking is one of the best exercises you can possibly do. Among other things, walking lowers blood pressure, reduces body fat, improves mood, helps to prevent osteoporosis, and increases flexibility. Walking is also perfect for strengthening and toning up the whole body. If you have difficulty with performing squats, lunges, or any kind of core exercise, start a good walking program and in a couple weeks try out those body weight exercises once more. You’ll be amazed at the difference that walking can do to improve your technique and endurance.

Walking is an enjoyable activity that anyone and everyone can do! How will you incorporate walking into your day today?

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Winter Cycling

October 12, 2009

Giveaway Winner

And the winner of Mimi Spencer’s 101 Things to Do Before You Diet is… Maggie! Her tip: take some “me time”! Always needed. It’s great to just get away for a little bit each day, even if it’s only 5 minutes. We can all benefit from a little extra time to ourselves to recollect our thoughts.

Winter Cycling

We got our first snowfall of the year on Friday afternoon. It looks as though it’s here to stay- yesterday morning the snow melted quite a bit, but then it began snowing again in the late afternoon. So much for autumn! In the spirit of exercising no matter the weather, on Saturday morning I set out for my first ever experience with winter cycling.

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Just imagine this… with a coat down to my knees, boots reaching up my calves, a scarf covering the lower half of my face, and ski gloves to keep my hands warm. Envision piles of snow around and that’s what Harriette and I looked like over the weekend.

My beautiful bicycle Harriette is useful for winter cycling because of her large cruiser-style tires. I learned this when I hit a couple bumpy ice patches on the road. Ever faithful, she managed to keep me balanced and we only slid once! There was something very invigorating about cycling on the slippery snow. I always assumed that bicycling in the winter would be colder than walking, but if you’re bundled up properly, it’s actually quite warm.

When I first started boot camp, I fell completely in love with it. With the Run a Race this Summer Challenge, I began to really enjoy running immensely. I think that there are a couple of key factors here, and that is the novelty of starting something new, and overcoming the difficulties that are associated with them. When I got on my bike on Saturday, I felt the same way that I did when I started those other challenging exercise regimes. The wind was nasty, the roads were brutal, and winter has altogether arrived far too early for my liking- but something about the extremeness of the sport is very attractive.

(Give me a week and no doubt I’ll be changing my tune).

I have a lot of friends who are seasoned winter cyclists. Seeing them out there in all kinds of conditions is intriguing. The reason why I’m particularly interested in it now is because my work/university schedules are not very accommodating if I walk to and from each of them. If I work in the morning (50 minute walk or 15 minute bike ride), I have to take the bus back to my place so I can make it to school on time for my afternoon classes (the university is about a 15 minute walk from my apartment). I’d rather spend my time exercising for transportation than sitting on a bus, so it makes sense to ride my bike- especially because it takes the same amount of time to bike or to go by bus to my work! Therefore, winter cycling really does seem like the most appealing option.

I know virtually nothing about winter cycling or if there’s any special way to treat your bike. I’m a little concerned because Harriette’s seat and handlebars are leather; will they crack in the cold?

There are a couple websites with useful winter riding tips, but I’d love to hear from any of you! Has anyone tried winter cycling? Is it something you’d ever be interested in? Do you have any pointers to help out a beginner?

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Westwood took this photo when she and I went on an epic snow frolicking adventure on Friday.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Comments and Questions about the Challenge(s)

September 14, 2009

Yesterday, on Day 13 of the Vegan Challenge, I ate:

– Vanilla Spice Pancakes with 1 tbsp peanut butter. I adapted FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s recipe for Golden Spice Pancakes by subbing vanilla Almond Breeze for the orange juice, eliminating the raisins/orange zest/orange peel, upping the amount of cinnamon, adding in bananas, and subbing buckwheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour. They were tasty, but next time I will add vanilla extract to enhance that flavour.

– 2 apples

– A few mushrooms with hummus, 1 oven-roasted cob of corn sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, and some of the filling of this curry recipe (I used a sweet potato instead of regular- very tasty)

– 1 slice gingerbread with 3 strawberries and 1/4 banana (leftover from breakfast) with peanut butter

– 2 beanballs (from the Spaghetti and Beanballs recipe in The Veganomicon) and a quinoa/bean/veggie lettuce wrap

– Post-soccer game (it was the finals; we came in second place for our league!) wind-up snack-age: a couple orange slices and 1 barbecued cob of corn. Between oven-roasting and barbecuing the corn cobs, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do boiled again.

I was making food in advance because I doubt I’ll have much time to cook as the week continues, so now I have plenty of granola, curry in pastry, and spaghetti with beanballs/marinara sauce to last me for days!

Comments and Questions about the Challenge(s)

There are a couple comments I wanted to address in a proper post rather than in the comments section, so here we go:

1. Hanlie said, For such a small girl, you sure eat a lot! Your food looks delicious!

Aw thank you! It is delicious!

By this time I’m sure you have all noticed that I am by no means starving. I estimate that since starting to eat vegan, I’m eating about 1,800 calories a day. I really enjoy cooking. I really enjoy eating. There are many vegan foods, such as nuts, which are fairly high in fat. And as I’ve made obvious by my daily record of my eating habits, I have a total obsession with almond/peanut butter!

I think it’s rather funny how people will go on a vegan diet specifically to lose weight. I don’t expect my weight will change at all by the end of the month. There are so many vegan options to choose from which have plenty of nutrients in them. I’m taking advantage of all those options and making sure I don’t go hungry.

2. Mia said, It sounds like you are having fun; it doesn’t seem like a challenge at all. I think the hard part is when you are unaware that a product has non-vegan ingredients in it. That’s why – homemade/scratch is best.

I love this comment because it made me realize that going vegan, for me, at least, hasn’t been too much of a challenge so far. Of course, we’re only 14 days in; it could start to get a little crazy around here soon! But I have no desire to eat meat or meat products. Even seeing other people eating their steak doesn’t get to me. Like Mia said, it’s finding products that don’t have non-vegan ingredients in them that is the tricky part. The gingerbread recipe called for cocoa powder, but my brand of cocoa powder says “May contain milk ingredients” on it, so I subbed extra cinnamon for the cocoa (worked like a charm, by the way).

3. Gina asked, Vegan wine?? What makes wine non-vegan?

Beer and wine and other alcohols don’t exactly contain animal ingredients, but some of them use animal products during the filtration and clarification process. The common animal products include egg whites, casein, gelatin, and isinglass. I’m not sure if it’s possible to make white wine without egg whites- but if it is, then finding a vegan white wine is very rare because most of them use egg whites. The interesting part about using animal products when making alcohol is that it isn’t necessary for most kinds of alcohol (besides the aforementioned white wine). Plant-based products work just as well. The minerals bentonite and kaolin are usually used when animal ingredients are not.

This is also where the situation gets a bit tricky. It depends, I suppose, to what “degree” of vegan you are as to if this matters. As noted on Vegan Bits, “language is organic; definitions change”. The final product of alcohol doesn’t contain the ingredients because all of the above animal products are used in the fining process: that means that they get left behind when the wine is actually bottled.

Because I’m only doing this challenge for a month, and because one of the main reasons for this challenge is to understand how many products contain animal ingredients and whether it is necessary for them to contain animal ingredients, I want to be as strict as possible. That is why I am not drinking alcohol that has contacted animal ingredients. That’s also why I’m avoiding food products which say “may contain milk ingredients”. Barnivore and Vegan Wine Guide both list a number of vegan brands.

…and just for the record, no, I do not believe that any kind of alcohol is “healthy”. I also don’t condone drinking. But most of us drink some amount anyways. Keep it in moderation, etc. etc.

4. A general question I’ve received from many people is, Are you having any cravings?

No, I am not. I don’t miss meat. It’s a minor annoyance that I can’t use products such as the brand of cocoa powder in my pantry, or that I have to be extra careful at restaurants. What I have noticed, however, is that my taste for sweet foods is very high right now. Hence all of the dried fruit/almond butter/baked goods I’ve been consuming. I’m not sure if this is just a normal thing- because I do love my sweets!- or if this is my body’s reaction to a lack of animal products.

The only time I actually felt like I was missing out was this past weekend at the Farmer’s Market- the bison burgers and perogis made with cheese looked and smelled delicious!

5. Another question I’ve received a few times is regarding my Run A Race This Summer challenge that I completed a couple months ago: Are you still running and do you still enjoy it now that the challenge is over?

Yes! Yes, I am still running and yes, I do still enjoy it. But there are a few catches to that. I’m not running very often (I’ve only ran twice in the last couple weeks), and I have no desire to run indoors at the gym. Right now I’m really enjoying running with other people. I don’t expect that I will be doing very much more running on my own, but now that I have a few different running buddies I can round any of them up when I feel the urge to run.

6. Whatever happened to the Burpee Challenge?

Okay, so no one’s actually asked me about it. And I could get away with not talking about this challenge, but I’m not going to do that. What happened to this challenge is that I got up to Day 90 and then said “screw it, I hate burpees, I don’t want to do this anymore” and stopped. I had ten days left. On the one hand, the Burpee Challenge was a fail. On the other hand, I learned something from it: to successfully complete any kind of challenge, we have to have the right motivation and reasons for doing it. If your heart isn’t in it or you don’t really enjoy it, then find a challenge you do enjoy! The Burpee Challenge wasn’t for me.

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Award-winning chocolate chip cookies, learning how to use a typewriter, and ANOTHER race!

July 27, 2009

My weekend with my grandparents in their beautiful little beach town in Ontario was wonderful. The last few days, for me, have looked something like this:

– got lost while using a GPS. Well, we didn’t exactly get lost, but the GPS wanted us to take the scenic route to Port Elgin, gravel back roads and all. I liked the nice little adventure, but it was a good reminder that technology doesn’t always know best. Sometimes reading a map is your best bet.

– went for two runs (20 minutes and 45 minutes)* and a few long, much-needed after-dinner walks.

– ate 3 pieces of angel food cake, 14 (or was it 15? I lost count) chocolate chip cookies, 4 blueberry muffins, 7 biscuits spread with butter, and 2 (3?) blueberry/cherry tarts in addition to bowlfuls upon bowlfuls of fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. And steak. And roast chicken. And cold pork sandwiches. And mashed potatoes. And piles of raw vegetables. It was an eat-a-thon of the best sort. And my grandma’s chocolate chip cookies won an award 5o years ago! Obviously, we had to indulge in a few more cookies after hearing that news and seeing her first-place ribbon.

Devin eats a cookie:

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Sagan eats a cookie (surrounded by desserts. Yum):

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– finished reading The Angel’s Game. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is an excellent author and the book is brilliant (his writing is beautiful, and I’m not just saying that because he hails from Barcelona a.k.a. the city that holds my heart), but it’s a very disturbing story all the same.

– enjoyed a couple old movies, The Third Man (which has been a favourite of mine for a long time) and Monsignor Quixote (the book of which I’ve read but had never seen the film version. The movie made me just as teary-eyed as the book did. One of the best stories ever written. Graham Greene, you complete me).

– wandered and drove alongside the shore in between bouts of rain.

– engaged in many a political/philosophical/rhetorical conversation with my grandparents.

– assisted my grandma with cooking delicious food.

I loved the visit. My cookbook collection has expanded from the couple that my grandma has given me- her entire basement seems to be lined with cookbooks; it’s a foodie’s dream. A writer’s dream was also had: my grandpa pulled out his old typewriter and taught me how to use it.

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I adored typing on it. I will definitely be investing in one of those in the near future. Something like that would be so much fun for writing my novel!

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And we spent much of our holiday laughing together:

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* The main reason for those runs was because one race this summer was apparently not enough! Almost immediately after we had finished the first race, my friend Richard (the one that I ran the 6k with) suggested we sign up for a 9k race that is scheduled for August 8th. For some reason I happily agreed to it. I’m excited! It will be very challenging, I’m sure. The 6k that I ran was actually closer to 6.5k because of the trail that we were on, and I think that my usual runs are close to 8k, so I should be able to run 9k without too much difficulty. But it definitely will not be easy! And that’s the point of a good challenge.

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Race Challenge: Success

July 20, 2009

One year ago I ran because of depression. Because I was hurting.

This year I ran because I wanted to challenge my mind and body. Because I discovered that sometimes, I really love running.

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Pre-race

On Saturday I completed my Run A Race This Summer Challenge: a 6.5k trail run.

Time: 34:23

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Post-race

I placed 45th out of 101 runners, 9th out of 36 in my age category. My friend Richard placed 28th overall! It was invigorating and fun and hard. Running on a muddy, hilly trail is so much different than running on flat city pavement.

Yesterday I decided to begin the two hundred squats challenge as a celebration of having completed my Run A Race challenge. I did the initial test to see how many squats I can perform consecutively with good form (using a mirror and everything to ensure I wasn’t getting sloppy), and I did 210. Beginning and completing a challenge in one day has to be some kind of record for me! All in all, it was a pretty good weekend for fitness.

You. Can. Run.

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Life Lessons: Running Challenge comes to a close

July 17, 2009

Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the FitNutz powdered peanut butter giveaway is… Charlotte! Email me your mailing address and I’ll get your FitNutz sent straight to you. We’re all interested in this PB popcorn that you spoke of so you know that now we’ll all be expecting you to test it out and tell us how it is 😉

Run A Race This Summer Challenge

The challenge is still on for those of you who want to participate but haven’t yet taken part in a race. As of tomorrow morning, I will have completed this challenge! I’m incredibly excited to run my first ever race (we’re not counting elementary school. I used to run track “way back in the day” but my memories of running those races are hazy at best). I’m especially excited because a few days ago one of my best friends offered to run the race with me, so it will be fun to have someone else there to celebrate this achievement.

I didn’t exactly follow a training schedule (even though there are many fit bloggers out there that seem to be involved in the Couch 2 5k and it sounds like a really great program), but instead ran a couple times each week for about two months now, 30-45 minutes at a time. I can keep up a very steady pace that entire time so I know that my endurance has increased considerably.

A couple weeks ago Caroline and I went for a run. I set the pace because she’s a marathon runner and has far more experience with running and races than I do. But by the end of our run, she said that the pace that we had gone at was the same pace that she usually runs at! That was a real compliment. It’s good to know that I might be faster than I thought I was.

She also told me that she usually runs on the road rather than the sidewalk because the surface is gentler on the joints. I hadn’t thought about that before, but now that I’ve started running on the road I’ve realized that there really is a difference. The ground almost feels springier. It’s such a simple thing but it really delighted me to learn that about running. Starting a new activity can be intimidating because you don’t know anything about it or have any idea what you’re getting yourself into… but that’s also what makes it interesting and so much fun! That might be why I want to try many different kinds of activities.

From this challenge, I have discovered that running in the rain is invigorating. That doing an extra loop around the block can put a smile on your face for the rest of the day. That you can move fast and become powerful in brief spurts of sprinting. That arriving home out of breath and with a slight stitch in your side is the blissful feeling of accomplishment. That walking is still my favorite activity, but running is no longer my enemy. That I sometimes kind of sort of might enjoy running.

What have you learned from this fitness challenge?

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Life Lessons: The motivation to run begins with a smile

June 22, 2009

How is the Run A Race This Summer Challenge going for all of you challengers out there? Yesterday was the Manitoba Marathon. Many people that I know were running in the half marathon, the same race that I was planning on running with my father dear a year ago. He is now in Cambodia and I am now training for a little 5km race, so the times they do certainly change!

Right now I’m going out for runs a couple times a week. I can now run for just over 3 miles straight (about 5km), which takes me a little bit over half an hour. The route that I take is a very pretty one and I think that I will start working on improving my speed now that I can go that distance. I still haven’t decided which race I will run this summer or when I will run it, so I’d better start looking into that in the near future. Just remember- when you’re out there running, make sure you stay hydrated!

Something that running has taught me is how supportive everyone within the running community is. This is perhaps one of the biggest differences between running and walking. People walking down the street don’t often share the same sense of having a connection. I walk down the same streets every day on my way to work, and some of the people that I pass on a daily basis do not smile or make any sign of recognition. Their eyes just move right pass, not wanting to make eye contact with another person. In this way, I rather like the privacy of walking, but at the same time it’s too bad that most walkers don’t seem at all inclined to greet others.

The running community is much different. When crossing paths with other runners, we’ll smile and greet each other, sometimes even make a comment on the weather within that incredibly short time period. On days when I plan to go running in the morning, and I wake up and I’m not much in the mood to go out for a run, when I think about the people that I know I’ll be seeing I’m encouraged to get out there. My motivation to run right now isn’t because I want to conquer my old demon of running, and it isn’t because I want to do really well in a race, and it’s not even because I want to get a lot stronger. It’s for the smiles and the connection that is made with others when I’m out on the road running that I want to get out there.

Starting my day with smiling at strangers and having them smile at me perks up my mood for the entire day. They aren’t even strangers: for the briefest of moments when we pass each other on the street, we’re friends. I like to see them there and to know that I’m not running alone. There’s a silent, underlying mutual acknowledgment made between all runners: “Oh, hello! You’re out here too? It’s good to see you having fun and doing something good for your body! I’m sure I’ll see you again, and if I don’t- the next person you pass? That’s me, too.”

What do you like about running? What keeps you motivated to run? If you’re having difficulties with the motivational aspect, Fitness Magazine recently emailed me requesting that I let you know about their Love Your Summer Workout: 10 Motivation Tips, so check it out for extra ideas.

Edited to add that at Living Rhetorically in the Real World, I have a motivational post about how you can turn your life around with just one small change. Be sure to check it out!

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Difficulties with these Challenges

June 5, 2009

In response to my previous post about the Run A Race This Summer Challenge, I got a lot of questions about variations of running or the time frame and so on. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss the adaptability of my health challenges (or any challenges, for that matter).

I gripe a lot about how I dislike running, but I’m enjoying it right now! However, challenges are not always enjoyable. Sometimes they just seem difficult and frustrating. With the Burpee Challenge that I’m doing, there’s been a few times when I had to take a couple days break from it. The idea of doing 40+ burpees can be daunting, and it just builds up from here! In these situations, I think it’s really important that we do not give up. It’s okay to take a break. And if your body or mind aren’t ready for it (like I was not ready to run a race a year ago), then it’s okay to set the challenge aside until a later date.  If something does come up and we need to set the challenge aside, sometimes the best way to deal with it is to alter the challenge slightly: such as running a 5k race rather than a half marathon.

If you find yourself putting aside a challenge that you’ve already started, ask yourself why you’re putting it aside. It could be a physical injury, or that you pushed yourself too hard too fast, or it could be that you aren’t mentally prepared for it, or you don’t enjoy it or care enough to put the effort in.

And that’s the reason why I like to create many different challenges. There’s something for everyone and they all last a short enough period of time that they are doable. There’s been many times when I have attempted a challenge and been defeated by it because my body or mind were not in the right place, so it was necessary to tweak the challenge or rethink it so that it was something I could realistically accomplish. This is also something that is really important to consider when you’re beginning a challenge: is it right for you? Are you ready for it? Taking a little bit of extra time to prepare for the challenge, or adjusting the challenge goals to individualize it to something that works for you, is absolutely fine! In fact, it’s better than fine; it’s a good thing to do. It is much better to tailor a challenge to suit your needs and desires than to half-heartedly attempt a challenge that is pre-designed which you aren’t really all that into.

One challenge that I put aside months ago is the Twenty Pull-ups Challenge (or, in my case, chin-ups. Adaptability!). I put it aside because although I was faring quite well with the challenge itself, my only real opportunity to do it was outside in a playground, and the play structure I was using to perform the chin-ups was too slippery with ice to be able to continue. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I will be starting it again soon (although I may wait until the Burpee Challenge is complete- we’ll see). On Wednesday I checked out my capabilities by attempting a few chin-ups and I managed to successfully complete two, so that’s a start. It’s back to the beginning, but that’s okay. The only way we can complete our challenges is if we work slowly and steadily and keep at it.

Accustom the challenges however you see fit. The Run A Race This Summer Challenge can be just about anything you want it to be; my loose guidelines are that it’s a race which involves something vaguely resembling running (so that includes walking, cycling etc), within the next few months- the idea being that we’re training during the summer. Have fun with it! Challenges are meant to be challenging, yes, but we’re not necessarily doing them for the end result. We’re doing them because they’re enjoyable and they’re doing something wonderful for our bodies and minds.

Have you had troubles with challenges (that I have proposed in the past or others that you have set for yourself)? How did you deal with the problems?

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The Run-A-Race-This-Summer Challenge

June 3, 2009

Ouch ouch ouch. My body is sore.

I have been treating my body to a variety of activities that it isn’t accustomed to. On Friday morning, a mere six hours after I arrived home from Cambodia, I was pumped full of energy and incredibly antsy from having done nothing except sit on airplanes the day before. So I went out for a two and a half mile run to relieve some of that energy and it felt fantastic.

A bunch of my friends have cooked up a soccer rec league team, so I have joined and we played a game on Sunday night (and won, too!). Between that and a few long walks on Saturday and Sunday, and then another 2 mile run on Monday morning, my body is definitely feeling it. I knew well enough that running on Monday morning after playing soccer the night before probably wasn’t the best idea, but when I feel the urge to run I really like to take advantage of that feeling. I never know when it’s going to crop up again. By the time I’d walked the 50 minutes to work shortly after my run, I could tell that my muscles were very excited about the new exercise that I’ve incorporated into my current lifestyle. They display excitement by being very sore.

I was still sore yesterday evening when I attended an outdoor yoga class, so some of the poses were tricky but it was invigorating at the same time. And it made my muscles feel good to be stretched like that; I think it really helped them.

I’m almost halfway through the One Hundred Day Burpee Challenge. I forgot how difficult it is to perform burpees when it’s sore even just to walk! But it’s that “good sore” feeling and I love it. I love that my body is being challenged right now.

And that brings me to…

The Run a Race this Summer Challenge!

I mentioned previously that I want to defeat my arch-nemesis (aka running) once and for all by participating in a race, and I know that there are a lot of people out there who really enjoy running. Some of you also happen to be training for a race! So I propose this challenge to anyone and everyone: summer is just beginning, and the weather is nice enough (hopefully) to be outside, which means that there is a very good chance that there are races to be found all over whatever city you’re living in, so let’s put on the running shoes and sign up for a race and start training.

This challenge really is just that simple. We’ve got about three months of summer and during that time I challenge us all to train and run a race! It can be any kind of race you like. A short sprint, a relay race, a 5k, a marathon; any kind of race that includes something vaguely resembling running. It’s a good excuse to get into shape and appreciate the strength building in our muscles.

I think that it would also be really great if we can take this challenge outdoors. Sometimes the gym appears to be the only option you have, if you live in an industrial area or if the weather is truly awful. But I’m going to really push that if you are joining in on this challenge, it would be great for your mental health if you enjoy the great outdoors while you’re training.

A year ago when I first began training for the half marathon (and failed in participating in one), I often ran on a treadmill indoors. Partly that was because I was taking the easy way out: setting the treadmill at a specific speed for a predetermined amount of time ensures that I will reach my goal for that day. Running outdoors is more of a challenge (for me, at least) because you really have to push yourself to keep running and not to start walking. Also, if you’re running in your neighbourhood, it takes some mental effort to stop yourself from taking short cuts and deciding not to run an extra loop around the block.

Running outdoors is also fantastic for relaxation purposes. With trees all around or people moving about their daily activities, it gives us something to look at and contemplate while we’re pounding on the pavement/grass. There is so much to see. We miss out on that if we are stuck indoors, staring at the person in front of us and moving mechanically.

Will you be running a race this summer? Are you exercising outdoors these days? Join in the fun of a new challenge with me!

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A (Recurring) Brief and Torrid Love Affair with Running

May 22, 2009

We all have them. An exercise we just love to hate (or hate to love). The one that makes us feel like we’re going to die, to use Jillian Michaels’ expression. But we do it anyway because it’s good for us, or because every so often we really do kind of like it. Mine, as I have both griped about and glorified many times before, is running.

It’s been nearly a year since I was training to run the half marathon. I stopped training when I realized that I didn’t enjoy running, had only been using it as a way to deal with depression, and I had ultimately lost interest. Once every couple months I’ll feel the urge to run (no longer linked to depression, no worries there!), so I’ll get out there and let out my energy, and that’s that for another couple months. It holds me over until I decide again that I do enjoy running, which lasts a few days before the dreading of it begins once more. And the cycle continues.

For some people it’s walking. Or lifting weights. Or burpees, or core work. Our bodies never respond in the same way, as evidenced upon my arrival in Cambodia. My father dear, for example, can’t stand the heat of this place, and I bask in it. We would have done much better this past winter had our positions been reversed- he in the freezing cold of Winnipeg, and I in the steaming heat of Phnom Penh. I don’t think we’ll ever quite understand how the other can survive in our respective preferred climates.

And so it is that while some people can run every day and continue to feel motivated and exhilarated by it, my body isn’t quite so keen on it (for the majority of the time). And yet: last week, somehow I was on the treadmill running my little heart out three times. The thought even crossed my mind to start training again for a race, thinking to myself that if I can run on an incline for 30 minutes in a hot gym (I’m skeptical about this so-called air conditioning… once the treadmills going if anything it feels like the heats turned on!), after not having been out running in a couple months, then surely I can build myself up to be able to run an hour and a half no problem. Or 2 hours! Wouldn’t that be my ultimate challenge, because I have such an on-off relationship with the sport?

…the next day, I walked on that inclined treadmill instead of running. The dream dissipated. My triumphant runners high, my brief love affair, abruptly ended, as usual.

But I see now that it’s no good to continue avoiding running. If I don’t find a race to run, this is one form of exercise that is going to continue to pester me. I’ll learn to love it, I’ll accept that I dislike it, or I’ll come out the other side with a total indifference to it, but the only way I’m going to sot out my feelings about running is to step up to the challenge.

Last year I was perhaps a little too ambitious. Running a half marathon comes across as tedious and daunting to this walker-lover. I think that a simple, short 5 or 10 k race would be the perfect wee hurdle to leap over and add to my merry list of challenges. Upon deciding this, yesterday I went for another run. I managed 4.5 km in half an hour on an incline, so I know that if I can do that much in this oppressive heat I can run a 5k race back in Winnipeg no problem.

So I’m on the look-out for a 5 or 10 k race near my home in Winnipeg. I don’t know what will happen after that, but a 5-10 k race will be found and conquered, at least to begin with.

What’s the one exercise that makes you scream blue murder each time you do it? Is there a sport that you both love and hate? Or one which you have some history with that you need to deal with to stop the ghosts from haunting you? Any pointers from the runners out there would be much appreciated (and if you hear of a good short race taking place in Winnipeg any time soon, you’ll let me know, won’t you?).