Tag Archives: running

Where Did the Running Season Go?

When I look at the calendar, it blows my mind that we are already at the end of what I refer to as “my running season” (typically, the period from March to November) and yet I still haven’t gone running yet this year.

How did that happen? How did a whole running season escape on me?

Thankfully, it’s not like I was sidelined due to injury or anything like that (been there, done that!), but I think we can all agree that 2020 was far from normal for anyone.

Much like every year, when the ice build-up on the wintry sidewalks was melting, making them less of a hazard for slipping and breaking an ankle or a hip (a legit concern for us folks on the cusp of “elderly”), I had every intention of getting out, building up my walking routine and slowly graduating to running.

At the dawn of the Covid-19 lockdown, I was working from home and during most lunch breaks, I was outside walking two kilometres to get some fresh air, sunshine and exercise. In reality, that wasn’t too far off from my routine had I been working from the office. Over time, my pace increased with no noticeable complaints from the legs, knees, hips, IT bands or shins. I felt like I was making good progress.

Over the span of a few weeks, I had just graduated to the walk-run combo for my two kilometre circuit, so I was almost there and planning to increase my distance.

But it was the last minute renovating, staging, packing and preparations for selling the house that threw me off my A-game and my plans went out the window.

In recognizing that my brain was programmed with the “A-type” module, I have spent the better part of adulthood talking myself into toning it down, and only unleashing it when the occasion genuinely called for it. To me, getting a house ready for sale was one of those times to unleash, in the hope of a quick sale and maximum return on investment.

After a number of very late nights, there wasn’t a lot of energy left the next day for a run, even though I recognize that a run could have been a healthy antidote to the stress I was feeling.

Just the same, running up and down the stairs like a gazelle, multi-tasking between home projects and hauling stuff into storage was a continuous workout in itself. When combined with grazing on small meals, I managed to drop ten pounds without really trying.

However, the pace of the transition never really slowed down. I wouldn’t call our house a fixer-upper by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems that it has been non-stop home projects ever since, whether to bring the house up-to-date on scheduled maintenance or adding finishing touches and updates to make the home truly our own.

Some of those tasks were time-sensitive or weather dependent, or both. With my plate at the tipping point of full, when a new project would present itself, I would do my absolute best to see if I could postpone it to 2021 (… I hope this doesn’t come back to bite me later, but apparently I need a new crown.)

And of course, those projects were on top of the regular grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry that can easily fill up a week already.

Plus, under Covid-19, my full-time job never really slowed down. In fact, it seemed even more demanding than usual, which I don’t fully comprehend. But I count my blessings that I still had steady work and a steady paycheque throughout.

I confess, I secretly envied people who felt bored during the pandemic.

It’s not like I was completely without exercise during that time. My loyalty to the PBS program “Classical Stretch” was unwavering, as I made time for 4 or 5 workouts per week. And when it came to fresh air and sunshine, I was spending considerably more time outdoors than I did in my previous home, just from performing routine maintenance outdoors or from walking the cat.

But when I break it down, running was my way of communing with nature while still in the city, by driving to one of my favourite parks and running along the Ottawa River or the Rideau Canal. With the beautiful bodies of water as the backdrop, running had a meditative effect for me and offered a great source of relaxation, sometimes acting like a spiritual tune-up.

In our new home in the country, I don’t feel as strong an urge to escape the city anymore. I enjoy nature every time I set foot outside of our house. And because I don’t feel as jostled by the city’s intensity in energy, I don’t find myself needing to look for the refuge that running has offered me for a good twelve years.

It’s not that I don’t miss running, it’s just that I haven’t craved it as strongly as a stress management tool for city living. Could I still have benefited from it? Yes, of course, as updating a home is not without its share of stress. However, the move to the country has been an interesting period of rediscovery and hitting the reset button on everything.

When things calm down with the home projects, I definitely plan on returning to running. It will be up to me to “re-brand” it, for lack of a better term. Will it be purely for the health benefits, will it be to challenge myself psychologically with new goals for personal bests, or will it be to explore and enjoy the scenery of new running trails closer to our new home? Time will tell.

That being said, running is a bit of a blank canvas for me at this point, and I look forward to seeing where the next chapter in running will take me next year.

 

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.

Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.

Sincere thanks for reading!

Have a great day,

André

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Health and Wellness, Running

My Struggles with Sunscreen

After an Ottawa winter that seemingly never ended, there is no greater pleasure than the feeling of the sun’s warmth against our skin. But as some experts tell us, we can enjoy that feeling but we should be protecting that skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

I am no stranger to sunscreen. I have been wearing it pretty faithfully over the years, and stepping up the SPF number at the urging of my dermatologist. Because I am pretty fair-skinned and can burn pretty easily, it makes sense.

But much like I have described in other blog posts, shopping for a sunscreen is another never ending episode of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.

A few years ago, I was introduced to a brand of sunscreen that I considered “just right”. It had a nice light fragrance, it didn’t feel sticky, and it held up well when I was out running. Basically, it felt like I wasn’t wearing sunscreen when I had it on. I could even reapply it throughout the day and not feel like an oil slick. To me, that was the gold standard.

But I wonder if they changed the recipe because it doesn’t feel “just right” anymore. By my schnoz, the pleasant scent now seems to present notes of chemicals (which makes me a little apprehensive about meetings in small boardrooms) and the texture seems stickier than before.

Even if I wrote to the company with my questions, would it change anything? Probably not. And there is a chance that it could be my body chemistry changing, as opposed to the product. Some colognes I wore a decade or two ago smell very differently on me now, so I wouldn’t rule out that a sunscreen that was once perfect, might not behave the same on my approaching-geriatric skin.

And so began the auditions for a new sunscreen. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Running

Running: The Slow Road to Recovery

NOTE: This blog post is not intended as medical advice, nor do I represent myself as a medical professional. Please consult your doctor or health care professional if you feel pain, fatigue or discomfort when practicing any sport.

It is a blow to the ego to know that in 2014 I was able to run 21 kilometres as I prepared for a half-marathon, yet in the years that followed my distances kept getting shorter and shorter.

In those years, I was frustrated with myself when instead of shaving seconds from my personal bests, the durations of my runs were steadily getting longer. I often asked myself if this was what it meant to be over 50.

For someone who isn’t a jealous person by nature, I admit I felt envy in seeing my Facebook friends sharing their athletic accomplishments and their new personal bests.

For someone who was an active participant in a running club, I felt like I was letting down the team when I just couldn’t keep up… or even to make it out to a get together because I was too embarrassed to admit I had slowed down so much, compared to what I was able to do.

When someone would ask “How is the running going?” after years of saying I was sidelined due to injury, it felt like I was making excuses when my body just wouldn’t cooperate, no matter how many times I tried. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Running

Planning the Best Stay-At-Home Vacation

Regular readers will remember my frustration with myself over my last stay-at-home vacation which seemed jam-packed with projects around the house. As much as I tried to fill my heart with the gratitude of having a nice home and the opportunity to do home improvement projects, I was left very tired and still needed a vacation after my vacation.

The reality is that after a few unusually tough years when mind, body and spirit didn’t have the energy to spare to turn a screwdriver or to declutter a drawer, the to-do list got pretty long. Fortunately, the energy and desire are back and ready to tackle the list, but there are only so many hours in a day to get to everything.

Just the same, when I think ahead to next year’s stay-at-home vacation, I have already committed to myself that every waking moment should not be filled with house projects. I want my vacation to be just that… a vacation!

To get to that point, I have made a commitment to myself that between now and then, I needed to find the time to knock one or two projects off the list each week. They just need to get done in small consistent increments.

When the prize is genuine unstructured play time, not spent with a paint roller in one hand and a drill in the other, I think this should be an easy resolution to keep rather than the old habit of deferring the projects to my vacation time.

So far, the plan seems to be working.

Which leads to the next question… So what do I want to do during the next stay-at-home vacation? Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under 50+, How to, Inspiring

50 Reasons Why I Enjoy Running

1. It gets me out to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
2. It’s a versatile activity: when running with friends it can be a very social activity, but when running alone, it can offer great moments of introspection.
3. There are several great programs and clinics offering information and instruction on how to run injury-free. Checking one out can be the difference between hating the sport and loving the sport.
4. Running helps me to clear my head.
5. Running can be a good activity for stress management.
6. Running puts a smile on my face.
7. Running is a great conversation starter with other runners.
8. The subtle changes I see and feel in my body, when a belt can tighten a notch or when something from the back of the closet suddenly fits again.
9. Overall, I feel more confident when I have been running.
10. Running only seems to require discipline in the beginning. Over time, the sense of progress, achievement and well-being seems to help discipline take care of itself.
11. When I am running regularly, the sense of progress and achievement seems to motivate me to make better, healthier choices overall.
12. The feeling of “ugh, I need to work out” disappears as soon as I am done, which means less guilt for the rest of the day.
13. There is a wonderful sense of community among runners.
14. I sometimes get my best writing ideas while running.
15. I sometimes solve problems while running. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Health and Wellness, Inspiring, Running

Top 10 Reasons Why a “Quick Run” Is Impossible

I admire those people who say they are going for a “quick run”.

They are those phenomenal runners who stack up personal best after personal best, while barely breaking out in a sweat, who can simultaneously update their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds with professional-grade photos of wildlife, beautiful scenery and gorgeous skies.

They can carry on a conversation without ever being out of breath. And they look so graceful, from the beginning to the end of the run, like gazelles out for a joyful dash through the savannahs.

They inspire me! I love them and I am incredibly jealous of them.

Meanwhile you can find me at the back of the pack, fiddling with something or other, or holding a part of my anatomy that’s complaining, wondering why a 3 kilometer run takes me an hour… or two.

Here they are, my top 10 reasons why going for a quick run is impossible (for me). Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under 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

4 Comments

Filed under Humour, Inspiring, Running

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

1 Comment

Filed under Humour, Running

Deleting Without Watching – The Madness and the Guilt

Remote A couple of weeks ago I did the unthinkable… I deleted 25 shows from my personal video recorder (PVR), without even watching them!

It is not because the shows weren’t good. In fact, some of them were shows I enjoyed quite a bit. Unfortunately, it came down to one simple fact: there just aren’t enough hours in a day.

The sad part is that I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to binge watching: game show marathons, “Bewitched” marathons, “The Nanny” marathons, “Dallas” marathons, watching an entire 24 hour rotation of MuchMusic (once, back in University, …I dared myself), and the list goes on. Television has been a passion since I was very young, as well as a good companion to a “latch key” kid (who also happened to be an only child).

I was one of those kids who pushed up the national average for the number of hours that kids watched TV. I could have easily put in 3 hours per evening during the week and on the weekends, cartoons in the morning and family programming in the evening. It is probably no surprise that the first book I learned to read was the TV Guide.

However, my conundrum is this: I seem to have the willpower to not fall into the time trap of hours of video games on my iPad, cute cat pictures on Instagram or chain watching YouTube videos (unless they are vintage Price is Right episodes, in which case all bets are off). However I really have to exercise tough love with myself when it comes to watching television. A few endearing characters, clever writing, a storyline to make me laugh or think… I can easily get hooked.

September and October brought us a new raft of shows to watch and even though I thought I made careful choices to ensure I wasn’t painted into a corner, I still seemed to be drowning in programming. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Humour, pop culture, TV

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

4 Comments

Filed under Inspiring, Running