Vacation Running- How To Do It?

I thought I would take a quick timeout from this hectic, crazy week to write a short note about vacation running. I leave for a holiday Wednesday, and want to make sure I don’t get too far behind in my training. I’d hate to throw away the progress I’ve made.

I’ve always found running on vacation to be a bit difficult. Not leisure running that is, but actually trying to stick to a training schedule. Everything from the heat to busy schedules… it seems like I can always find a million excuses. After a month-long holiday over Easter I’ve come up with a couple tips for anyone who decided to tackle vacation running.

  1. Plan ahead– there is nothing worse than getting lost in a city you aren’t familiar with. Check out a site like Map Quest to figure out a route.
  2. Find a Park. A lot of major cities have big beautiful parks throughout them. If you’re worried about getting lost try running laps or sprints in a park instead! Added bonus is that it’s a shady route on a hot summer day!
  3. Rise and Shine! Waking up early and getting the run over with means you beat the heat during summer months. You also get your run out of the way and have the rest of the day to sight see or do whatever activities you planned.
  4. Stop counting. Don’t worry about clocking miles or sticking to your plan exactly. Getting out for a run at all is better than nothing. Don’t forget you are on vacation!
  5. Enter a race. Check out local races during your holiday. Races give you an added motivation and racing in a new country could be a whole new experience.
  6. Ask for advice! Ask your hotel or hostel for popular running routes in the area. Chances are they’ll be able to steer you in the direction of some really memorable routes. 

Running on vacation doesn’t have to be a hassle. Ultimately remember you are on holiday, don’t stress about it! Getting out there at all is better than nothing. Enjoy yourself, I know I plan on it. 

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It’s Time to Practice What I Preach

I have the utmost respect for those runners who never seem to let anything derail their training. As much as I’d like to think otherwise, one thing  always leads to another and before I know it, life has gotten in the way of my running. Sometimes it’s craziness at school or work, sometimes it’s sheer laziness, and this time it started with an injury. Regardless of the initial reason, it always snowballs into something more and it always comes down to excuses.

After coming off my injury in January I failed to take my own advice. Instead of easing back into shorter distances after a month of not running, I ambitiously (albeit– foolishly) tried to jump right back into my long distances and previous pace. Not learning my lesson after each run and continuously feeling frustrated and discouraged slowly led me back to the vicious cycle I found myself in last summer.

For the remainder of the semester I’ve been “running”. One or two runs a week max, and it wasn’t uncommon to skip a week all together. Even though I still had every intention to run my marathon in the fall, I certainly wasn’t acting like it. Then today I looked at my calendar and realized the Toronto Scotiabank Marathon is in exactly 5 months. With this realization I got a little bit excited. I also had a moment of sheer panic that I’d never get myself running forty-two kilometers in time. But mostly it gave me a resurgence of motivation, the feeling of wanting to get out and run that I’ve been lacking as of late.

As I sat here contemplating the months to come I decided that if I have any intention of completing that race, I better finally practice what I preach and go back to basics. Since I’m feeling like I’m starting to run all over again these days, I thought I could share some pointers for first starting off (or in my case, getting back into it).

  1. Take it easy– don’t rush into it. Take your time and build up your distance as you build your endurance. By starting off small and gradually increasing each week, you’d be surprised how quickly you see big results.
  2. Run with a friend­– when you first start running (or really don’t feel like running) nothing beats running with a partner. Not only can you entertain each other to pass the time, you also end up motivating each other. For the super competitive type, it’s also an added incentive to run faster, longer, harder.
  3. Mix it up– keep your running interesting by alternating where you’re running, the type of terrain or even if you’re inside or outside. This keeps things interesting and helps you to avoid falling into the mindless routine that people often get bored of.
  4. Cross train– by adding alternative cardio activities like biking (I love spinning) or swimming, you mix up your work out while increasing your endurance. It also acts as active recovery, which makes it easier on your body when you do run.
  5. Try a race! As far as I’m concerned, nothing beats the feeling of completing a race that you’ve working hard for. It doesn’t have to be some crazy distance, but signing up for any race motivates you that much harder to keep training and the events themselves are always a ton of fun.
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“Any Pain, No Brain”

December and January have flown by. Heading back to Canada for the holidays, then returning to Leeds for exams and a quick ski vacation, has left me wondering where the time went. After a long hiatus from running and even longer from blogging it’s time to get back into some sort of routine. I injured by foot over the break. I had a recurring bout of plantar fasciitis, which is a persistent pain on the bottom of the heal and the inside of the foot. It started the week I got home and most likely had to do with the great distances I was running in preparation for my 10 mile race. I let it rest until Race Day, but sure enough the pain came back mid-race. I was proud of myself for completing the final 7 km, but in hindsight I should have stopped running. Afterwards, I decided not to try my luck and to fully let it heal before trying to get back into running. It’s now been about a month and I’m easing myself back into it. So far, so good.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much running in over the holidays. I was, however, left with much to write about regarding injuries. Running injuries can be from trauma or overuse. Traumatic injuries are sudden, and include breaks, sprains, torn ligaments. They require immediate professional treatment if the pain or swelling does not subside within 30-40 minutes. Overuse injuries, on the other hand, are much more common and develop over a long period of time from repeated stress and impact. Achilles Tendonities, Runners Knee, Plantar Fasciitis and stress fractures are all common overuse injuries. The founder of the Running Room, John Stanton has a book called “Running” with a great chapter on injuries that highlights the causes, symptoms and treatments for each of these. Worth checking out if you have more questions or want more information!

I thought I’d focus more on common causes of injury– when you’re ok to run through pain, and when it’s best to sit one out.

Common Causes:

  • Too much too soon—make sure you increase your mileage gradually
  • Worn out or improper shoes
  • Skipping “rest” days or running too hard on “easy” days
  • forcing a run when you’re tired or not feeling well
  • Too much speed or hill training

Again, John Stanton’s running guide (I picked mine up in Indigo for $25) has a great checklist for running through an injury. But here are a few points from the chapter:

  • Gage the pain, don’t run if there is swelling or bruising, if the pain is intense and getting worse through the run, OR if you have to alter your form in order to run
  • If the pain starts at the beginning but then disappears– continue to run but focus on stretching more in your next warm up and start off slower next time. You could even consider running later in the day once your body is naturally warmed up
  • If pain starts part way through your run– continue as long as the pain does not begin to worsen. Also try and stop running before the onset of the pain if it is something that happens frequently.
  • If the pain starts after a run—cut distance in half until you fix the problem, make sure you ice after a run even before the pain begins

It’s also really important to remember (and this is something I usually have a very hard time doing) that you have to ease back into it wen starting out after an injury. John Stanton recommends starting at 50% of your usual training volume and increasing 10% a week if its going well. One key point he makes, which I’ll have to keep in mind is “don’t race until you’re ready”.

As I mentioned, the chapter on injuries is very helpful for anyone looking to learn about an injury or injury treatment/prevention in more detail. Personally I have three rules I live by when it comes to running injuries:

  1. Strength training and stretching are crucial
  2. Ice is your BEST friend
  3. Listen to your body—if you’re tired or not feeling up to a run, don’t force it. Similarly, if you are in pain, STOP running or SKIP your run that day. You only have one body and running takes its toll on it.

I wish you all happy and healthy running! If any one has any questions at all I’d be happy to try to answer them or find someone who can!

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Crunch Time Dilemma– Write My Essay or Go For a Run?

Another semester has flown by which means only one thing– it’s crunch time again. It’s the same every year, deadlines all of a sudden appear out of nowhere and it’s a mad scramble to get everything done before you finally get to relax on christmas break. For myself, crunch time is usually accompanied by huge amounts of stress, grungy lazy clothing and somehow always managing to talk my way out of exercising and eating healthy. It’s too easy to justify the junk food or spending that extra hour “working on your essay” when really I spend half that time on Facebook or food gawker. School work is obviously the priority, but I manage to use it as a convenient excuse. I’ve already noticed it happening this week. My one day rest day has turned into 3 days of skipping runs and eating christmas candy.

With the boxing day 10 mile race coming up in a matter of weeks, I’ve decided this has to stop or I’ll never be ready to run 16km. At the same time, I really don’t have time to justify running for a huge chunk of time or spending two hours in the gym when I could be at the library hammering away at my assignments. I’ve been thinking about ways that I can fit my workouts into my crutch time schedule.
here’s what I came up with..
  1.  wake up earlier– as much as I hate dragging myself out of bed, getting up just an hour earlier means I can at least fit in a short work out and not risk skipping it later in the day
  2. keep them short– studies have shown that breaking your workout into two short halves gives you the same benefits. If you don’t have that hour to run in the afternoon do 30 minutes when you wake up and 30 minutes later in the day instead of your usual hour.
  3. intervals are your best friend– if you only have a limited time to work out, make it a hard workout. Intervals make you exert more energy so more calories are burned. Plus, they are great for speed work. Try Tabata Training for a killer interval workout!
  4. Fit in 20 minutes before bed– on days when I haven’t gotten in a good work out I like to do floor or core work before bed. I’ll try and do as much as I can in that time, that way I don’t feel as quite as guilty.
  5. Make workouts your reward– set an amount of work to complete before you get to run or head to the gym. If you know you’ll be disappointed if you skip it it can serve as motivation to get through your work.

Those are just a couple of ideas for fitting workouts into busy exam time schedules. Ultimately, it comes down to organisation and time allocation. Two things I’ve been working on this year and I can honestly say I’ve made some progress towards. I’m going to do my best to stick to my own advice over the next 10 days, but for the next few hours my essay is demanding some attention.

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Maybe I’m Just Not a Morning Person?

Since I started running, I’ve found that the time of day that I run has a significant impact on my performance level. For whatever reason, the later it is, the better I run. I run harder, faster, longer while using the same or less energy. For a while I thought it was psychological– that I was just rationalizing a mediocre morning run. However, after years of trying to become a morning runner, I decided I certainly was not making it up.   Running in the morning was (and continues to be) exhausting. I could blame it on not being a morning person, but after only a few kilometers I feel drained and always want to give up. No, I normally do give up and at least shorten my run. After a few weeks of disappointing morning runs I would inevitably switch back to my usual evening routine. Eventually I would decide all over again that morning runs are better and thus the cycle continued.

Once again I’m having the realization that morning runs would be more practical. So this time I decided to do some research and figure out why the time of day has such a huge impact for me. I thought maybe it was just my routine, something my body was used to doing virtually everyday for the last 4 years. Turns out I was wrong. Studies have actually confirmed that people exercise better later in the day. A study by the Long Island Jewish Medical Centre in NY even found that lung function was 6% higher in late afternoon than the rest of the day. The research shows that we perform exercise better when our bodies are at their highest temperatures– in the late afternoon and evening. So, it wasn’t all in my head. That’s a good thing, right?

I guess I have my explanation for why I run so much better in the evening. So the obvious question is, how do I teach my body to run in the morning? Before I jump to that I should mention why am I so caught up with becoming a morning runner. I see morning runs as benefiting my training in a number of ways. Not only is it more convenient, but exercising in the morning also helps you sleep better. Unfortunately for me all half and full marathons (and apparently short races in England) are also raced in the morning. So training in the morning helps to settle you into a race day routine. These are the obvious benefits are have been perpetuating my cycles of failed attempts at morning runs for years, but none of these have ever been quite convincing enough to completely change my routine.

Maybe what I just read tonight about morning runs can finally give me the push I need to make the switch. Apparently, they actually help maintain your motivation to run. Studies have shown that people who follow morning workout regimes are more consistent then those who work out during other times of day. I think as far as my training is concerned adding a few morning runs can’t possibly hurt me. It’s going to be more challenging, that’s a given. But at the very least, battling those early morning runs should do wonders for my mental strength and self discipline– two areas within which there is plenty of room for improvement. Who knows, maybe in a few months I’ll be able to call myself a morning runner.

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More Pictures from the Dash…

last 100m stretch

9km Mark

approaching the finish



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Leeds Abbey Dash 2012– one race closer to my goal


before the race!


trying to get to our starting spot


we did it!

After what felt like months of waiting, the Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash 10km race day finally arrived. All week long I had crossed my fingers for nice weather. I hadn’t run a race in so long and have never run such a challenging route that I guess I figured miserable weather certainly wouldn’t have benefited me. Much to my surprise (and relief) I woke up this morning to a bright, sunny (yes– sun in grey gloomy England) day. As I jogged to meet everyone at the start line I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous. I’m not sure why. I’ve run races before, longer races than 10km too. I think maybe it was because the last few races I ran I didn’t really train properly for. I kind of half-assed it (which not surprisingly never led to a successful race). This time I knew I had been working hard for it, so not doing as well would have been a bigger disappointment. By the time I reached the city centre and saw all the other runners headed towards the start the nerves had vanished and been replaced with excitement.

I was surprised when I realized that we were starting in waves based on our expected times. I had only ever done that in a half-marathon. I didn’t realize it was also done for shorter races. It felt like an hour between the time the gun went off and when we (the “sub 55 minutes”) finally reached the start line. I have to say overall I’m happy with the run. Somehow I managed to not notice the kilometre markers until 4km and up until then I was growing increasingly frustrated with British road races and how they could possibly not use markers. Apparently I was just in my own little world and they did in fact have all 1 through 10. I reached 4km and was certain I was only at about 2, which means I should have picked up my pace much sooner. Oh, well. Not the end of the world. What I was really surprised with is that they didn’t have the countdown markers in the final stretch…500m to go… 300m to go…100m– you get the point. I was trying so hard to hold off sprinting so that I didn’t tire myself out, that before I knew it I could see the finish line. I love to sprint the end of a race. I love to finish it feeling breathless. If you ask me, English road races need those signs.

I ended up finishing the race at about 53 and a half minutes. At first I was pretty disappointed with that time. My personal best for a 10km was just under 52 and I’ve been running enough that I thought I should be able to do better. I was convinced I’d run it in under 50 minutes for sure. But then I realized that it’s like comparing apples to oranges. The 10kms I ran at home were far easier then the one today. I’m certain I would have come in under 50 minutes on the relatively flat route that makes up the Mississauga Marathon 10km. I guess we’ll find out when I’m home in a few weeks. One thing I did realize today is that even though I do push myself and run hard… I think I could go harder. Sure, I was tired by the end of the race, but about 10 minutes after I finished I felt like I could have continued working out. What does that tell me? It tells me that next time I can push myself further, harder, faster. I’ve also decided that even though I’ll be working my way back up to a half and then full marathon, I think I want to race 10kms throughout the year. After all, I now have a British personal best I intend to beat. In the meantime it’s time to focus on race number 2 in this year building up to my marathon– The Boxing Day 10 Miler in Hamilton, Ontario. But this time my brothers are entering too, which means the pressure is on and I better step up my game or never hear the end of it.

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Back in the Swing of Things


I finally got around to opening the mail that had piled on my kitchen table throughout the week (yes, some things never change) and came across my race kit for the Leeds Abbey Dash 10km. I opened it up to find my running number and timing chip. They also sent a copy of the race route– silly me for thinking that “one of the fastest, flattest races in the country” would actually be on FLAT terrain. I seem to keep forgetting exactly what country I’m in. This race will undoubtably be the most challenging 10km I have ever run. Then again, the Leeds Abbey Dash is the first in a series of races I plan on running this year to prepare for my marathon, so I may as well make things interesting.

Seeing my number reminded me how exciting the days leading up to a race can be– something I seem to have forgotten. I’m excited to get out there on Sunday and race again. For a while after running my first half marathon I didn’t want to sign up for another 10km. It’s as though I thought of it as a step backwards. If I can run 21 km why would i only sign up for 10, am I right? I thought so then. Now I’ve realised my running hiatus was the step backwards, and a couple short races are exactly what I need to get back into the swing of things. I’m hoping for a new 10km personal best sunday (hills and all), but regardless at least I am racing again.

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To Eat or Not to Eat?


Deciding whether and what to eat before a run is something I struggled with constantly when I began running. Through trial and error, I finally figured out what works for me! Personally, I have found that if I’m running less than 10 km and a relatively flat route, I don’t need to fuel up pre-run (apart from just breakfast or lunch). For those longer runs (or running in hilly Northern England), however, I have without a doubt noticed a huge difference between days that I fuel up and days that I don’t.

I guess the question then becomes ‘what should I eat before my run?’ As I said, through trial and error over the last few years I’ve figured out what works and what certainly does not. Learning through my own mistakes, here are a few things to avoid when choosing your perfect pre-run snack:

  1. Don’t eat too close to your run– you’ll end up with a wicked cramp and more often then not I would have to walk if off. I think a safe rule is don’t eat within 30 mins of your run, but eating an hour before is even better.
  2. Don’t eat anything with too much fibre. Frequent runners– you’ll understand why. For anyone else, trust me, it makes for a less than enjoyable run and you should avoid finding out first hand at all costs!
  3.  Avoid too much caffeine. University has turned me into a coffee lover and addict, but I have found (especially during exam time) that running with too much caffeine in your system is a recipe for disaster. I’ve experienced everything from stomach pain to headaches. Limit your caffeine intake right before you run, especially if you’re doing a high intensity run or a race. When I have had a lot of caffeine I find that drinking a few glasses of water helps.

So we’ve covered the basics on what not to eat. Here are a couple of my favourite pre-run snacks.

  1. bananas– I feel like I run 10x harder when I fuel up with bananas
  2. veggies and hummus– its super easy to prepare
  3. apples dipped in peanut butter (missing this one since I can’t find Skippy Crunchy in stores here!)
  4. half of a bagel with peanut butter
  5. a handful of almonds and half an apple or banana
  6. CLIF BAR– my personal favourite when I’m in a rush, but I’ve yet to find an alternative I’m happy with here in England
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Challenge Accepted

In the last few months I’ve noticed something happening to my running. Maybe it was my hectic summer work schedule, maybe it was the sticky humid Toronto summer weather and maybe (and more likely) this is just me making excuses. I love to run, and I call myself a runner, but for whatever reason last spring and summer I allowed myself to fall out of my running routine. I’m not sure how I let it get so bad- like I said, I love to run. I love the feeling in your lungs in the the last 100m sprint of a long run. I love the energy it leaves you with the rest of the day. My running hiatus (I was still running weekly but that is certainly not frequent) left me tired, grumpy and frankly out of shape. That’s why I used my recent move to Leeds, UK as a fresh start to get back into the swing of things. The first couple weeks were pretty tough, all the hills here coupled with my lack of training made for some very difficult and discouraging runs.

Lucky for me, I also do some of my best thinking while I’m running, using runs as a way to clear my head and weight alternatives for decisions. I was running on sunny day at the end of September when I passed a marathon road closures sign. That’s what got me thinking. When I first began running back in my undergrad I challenged myself to frequent races as motivation to keep running further and faster. It was a successful tactic both for my first ever 10km race and half marathon. I hadn’t signed up for a race since last spring… possibly a factor in my decline in running. I started looking at races in West Yorkshire and throughout the UK. Sure there were plenty of 10ks or half marathons, but that didn’t feel challenging enough. I decided that after spending the last 3 years talking about how badly I wanted to try to run a marathon, it was time I put my money where my mouth is and give it a go.

I’ve given myself a whole year to train simply because lazy I got with my running. I’m going to run a number of races throughout the year, starting with a 10km here in Leeds in mid November. So far my plan has been a success. I’m getting back into my routine and am back up to 10km runs even with all the hills in this city (I can’t even begin to express how much I miss the flat, flat GTA). I’m looking forward to the feeling of running a race again, and slowly but surely I’ll be marathon ready.

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