Category Archives: Running

The First Runs of the Season

I have always admired those runners who are able to look out the window at the most adverse weather conditions and still be able to pick out the perfect layers of clothing, lace up their shoes and go for a run with a smile on their face. They are my heroes!

I will admit that I tried it for a couple of winters, and when properly dressed for it, it wasn’t too bad. In fact, on a sunny, crisp winter day, a nice run can definitely raise the spirits after long stretches of grey winter skies.

But when Mother Nature delivers long stretches of snowy day after snowy day, and it has been weeks since I have even seen a sidewalk, it is all too easy for my discipline to be hiding on the couch under a pillow and blankie, thumb stuck on the remote, leaving a trail of sodium-reduced potato chip crumbs wherever it goes.

However, when March rolls around, it is no exaggeration to say that I can’t wait to get out of the house. The excitement and desire to return to the running trails builds with each passing day.

But when it comes to those first runs of the season, I have learned that managing one’s expectations is incredibly important.

After being away from it for several months, I tend to over-romanticize the running experience, accentuating the positive, musing about beautiful spring runs on flat, bare sidewalks, the fresh spring air, the sun shining, and the birds cheering me on. Continue reading

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My Weirdest Injury from Running

RunningIf you ask any weekend warrior, I am pretty certain that most will have a story or two about an injury sustained while practicing their favourite sport. I am proud to say that I am no different.

In my journey as a runner, I have been no stranger to shin splints, knee issues, “IT Band” irritation, plantar fasciitis, lost toe nails and bleeding nipples. I sometimes ask myself why I do it, but the answer is clear. Aside from the occasional occupational hazards of the sport, when I am in top running form, I feel so much better and I enjoy the multiple benefits associated with it.

But the oddest running injury I have encountered to date has to be when I injured my eye.

How did I do that? It wasn’t easy.

Picture it… Ottawa, July 2015… a beautiful summer day, as I was coming home from work and the running trails were yelling “André, it’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you come out for a run?” My body responded, “Yes, indeed! Could it be a more perfect day? The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the temperature is perfect for running, the humidity is low and an ever-so gentle breeze will keep me cool. Absolutely. I’d be a fool not to.” You can’t bottle that kind of enthusiasm!

Faster than a Broadway actor in a one-man-show, I changed from my work clothes to my running clothes, filled the cat’s bowl with her favourite dinner, laced up my shoes, picked my perfect musical playlist and went for my neighbourhood run.

When the weather is flawless and mind, body and soul are in perfect alignment, a run can be a beautiful thing. It was phenomenal! Continue reading

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Where Have All The Exercise Shows Gone?

20MW AlbumNot that long ago exercise shows were a staple of daytime TV. At any time of the day (sometimes evenings too), there always seemed to be an exercise show of some kind on one of the channels… and this was long before having 200 to 300 channels to choose from.

I admit that I was a disciple of those shows. It seemed that my VCR or my DVD recorder was always set to record some exercise show that matched my fitness goals at the time. To me, it was important to maintain a healthy shape, because I did not want a repeat performance of my “husky years”.

Among my favourites were “The Body Electric” (PBS), “Caribbean Workout” (The Sports Network), “Rendez-Vous Reebok” (Réseau des sports) and of course the classic that ran in syndication for many years, “The 20 Minute Workout”. I also enjoyed “Kiana’a Flex Appeal” and “Bodyshaping”, ESPN programs that aired on Canada’s TSN, which coached me in how to use gym equipment safely.

More recently, my local community TV channel has been airing a series I love called “Yoga for Runners”, an outstanding program that inspired my stretching routines before, during and after my training for my first half-marathon. I still do those stretches today.

Throughout my years of TV exercise shows, I have learned about muscle groups, exercise physiology, and proper nutrition while in training. I also learned to listen to my body and how to perform exercises correctly. The educational component of TV exercise shows cannot be denied.

TV exercise shows were always great tool, in my opinion, for juggling a busy professional life too. It was just me, the instructor(s), a few basic pieces of exercise equipment (free weights, mat, bands, step), in my living room, on my schedule.

Once I started learning the routines and actually feeling the positive effects through confidence, better quality sleep, better muscle tone and a higher metabolic rate, I would become very loyal, very quickly to the program that got me there. Also, the more fun the show and the instructors were, the longer I stuck with the program. Continue reading

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Am I a Hoarder If I Still Have a Trophy From 1979?

TrophiesAs I mentally prepare for this year’s round of spring cleaning, I already dread opening that same box I open every year: the box of trophies and awards. Every year I am stumped with the same questions: keep them, toss them, donate them or repurpose them?

… And then they go back into the box as I defer the decision to the next year, and the next one, and the next one.

What makes the decision so difficult is that behind every trophy is a great deal of hard work, dedication, discipline, and blood, sweat and tears on my part. Of course the latter are just metaphorically speaking; Grade 8 in suburbia was far from “The Hunger Games”.

At the same time, behind every trophy is a judge or a panel of judges, who took time out of their busy schedules to consider my work and to so generously bestow this symbol of recognition.

To me, the trophy represents an act of extreme kindness and generosity, which still humbles me today, still elicits a great deal of gratitude and frankly, “guilts” me into hanging on to this symbol.

And then I consider the possibility that there may be a colleague who worked harder than I did, yet did not receive recognition for their accomplishment. They could possibly be thinking that I am an ungrateful brat for even considering tossing a trophy I received …37 years ago.

But the big question is this: at the time of the recognition, did the judge or panel of judges truly expect me to hang on to the trophy until I am pushing daisies? Continue reading

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My Secret Identity

FirstApartment1989I never anticipated the strong reaction I would get among my Facebook peeps, when I innocently posted this picture for “Throwback Thursday”.

This shot from 1989 was taken at one of the first parties I hosted in my first apartment. What appealed to me about the picture was everything in the background: the cassette deck/turntable, the little TV, the VCR, the record albums, the video tape collection. To me it was a time capsule in a snapshot, displaying a treasure trove of my prized possessions at the time (for a 24 year old in his first apartment), but also an interesting case study in 1980’s memorabilia.

Yet my Facebook peeps seemed to zero in on one thing in particular: the cigarette in my mouth.

“You smoked?” several asked. Yes, my friends, I was a smoker!

At that time, I was what you might call a social smoker. I smoked at parties, in bars, at concerts. I also remember a few smoke-filled evenings in my man-cave at my Mom’s house, preparing university papers until all hours of the morning, as I alluded to in my post The Writer All-Nighter.

I was also a little bit of an oddity in the fact that I rarely smoked when I was stressed, I smoked more when I was happy, content, among friends and doing fun things in a social context.

I remember cancelled classes and the irony of going out for a smoke, while enjoying the fresh air and sunshine of a nice day. I also remember Continue reading

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Would I Come Back As a Contractor?

Revolving DoorAs the countdown to retirement marches on, surprisingly, the question of whether I would consider coming back as a contract employee comes up at least once per month. The question always makes me smile.

Given that retirement for me is still a few years away, I find the best answer to the contracting question is something along the lines of “Thanks for the vote of confidence! We’ll see when the time comes.”

First and foremost, I take it as an amazing compliment. I know I worked very hard to build a solid career based on quality work, strong ethics, working well with colleagues and maintaining a positive attitude. To me, the contractor question is one that fills me with validation and gratitude.

Over the years I have seen many of my colleagues retire and then come back a few years later for short contracts, sharing their vast corporate knowledge and expertise. It is always a pleasant surprise to see their smiling faces and renewed energy at meetings. Parenthetically, I wish they would stop looking so darn refreshed after a few years away from the office. It makes me very envious!

However, I think it is very natural to dream and fantasize about a time when I can truly reap the rewards of a retirement that I worked a lifetime to build. I look forward to the sense of complete freedom where going to bed promptly, getting up with the alarm, dealing with traffic, and commuting in heavy snow or freezing rain become optional. I look forward to having choices I can make, purely in the moment.

To me, my first priority when I decide it is time to retire is to do just that: enjoy the fruits of my labour: Continue reading

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For The Love of Running

The completion of my first half-marathon last fall is an achievement for which I am extremely proud. But from the moment I crossed the finish line, I have been positively stumped in determining the next goal for me and my running.

Unless someone is just incredibly gifted genetically, anyone that has trained for a half-marathon will attest to the time commitment one must make to get there, supported by organization, discipline, a goal and a plan. And sometimes the plan can appear so daunting, just getting started can be a challenge.

It is bad enough that we just wrapped up the winter-that-never-ends (here in Ottawa), during which time I did not see a sidewalk in what seemed like forever, so I hibernated in my cocoon of pillows and blankets while clearing the PVR or watching Netflix. Then the guilt of not running set in.

But with spring’s recent arrival, I got my first run of the season out of the way a few days ago (better late than never, I guess) and I was pleasantly surprised. The full routine of stretching I started doing in recent weeks, in anticipation of that first run, really helped as nothing hurt for this first 2 ½ km run, but clearly cardio capacity needs to be rebuilt.

I was happy to be out there, finally out in the fresh air and sunshine, already in shorts and t-shirt, bypassing the running jacket and running pants due to my late start. It was a wonderful day, but throughout the run I kept asking myself the question I had been asking myself since last fall: what is my goal?

Throughout my running life, I always had that one race ahead of me, or a tangible goal whether it was to run a longer distance, to beat my personal best time or to recover from an injury in time for the next big race. Running without a set goal seemed foreign to me.

Even among my group of friends who are runners, the goal always seemed to serve as an ice breaker in conversations: “What are your plans for your next race?” Or if someone was sidelined by injury, “When do you hope to be back in training for that next race?” Or travel-loving runners talking about the next destination race and figuring out the logistics of accommodations, meal planning and the completion of their pre-run rituals.

Without a doubt, running races is a big part of the process and helps many of us remain focused and on-target for a distance or a time, but at the moment, Continue reading

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