Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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Winter Running by the Lake

My total miles run for last week was 60 and about 48-50 of those miles were run outside.  While there were some cold days, the wind has been relatively tame making runs by Lake Ontario quite pleasant.

I was pleased to find the Empire Sandy, a tall ship landmark at Spadina Quay in spring, summer and fall, docked nearby at Queen’s Quay.  I also enjoyed the outdoor art near the pond, now skating rink,  just outside Queen’s Quay.

The Empire Sandy, Docked for the Winter


Today I was drawn to run outside because of the wonderful blue sky.  It was however necessary to get into full winter gear to stay warm, a key item is the facewarmer.  These items are described in two previous posts, Winter Running Gear Accessories and Winter Running Gear: Base, Middle & Outer Layers.  It’s hard to pick out in the photo below but I am wearing a  vented-bandana-style face protector made by Seirus which was bought at Dick’s in the U.S.  You may find one of this particular style at a store specializing in snowboarding gear but specialty running stores like New Balance Toronto and Mountain Equipment Co-op usually have the plain black styles in stock.

Cold, but too blue to stay inside.


Just East of Ontario Place

Here are photos from the outdoor art display near the Power Plant by Harbourfront Centre east of Queen’s Quay.

Harbourfront Outdoor Photo Exhibit

More Outdoor Art

Now that I am taking a photography course, I’ve become acutely aware of the limitations of my mini-camera.  However, I just can’t see myself running with the Nikon SLR camera lent to me by my son.  Even if I did not mind the weight, I’m sure the movement would not be good for the camera.  The instructor will be showing us how to take shots of fast moving objects.  I asked her whether that would apply to the opposite situation, when the photographer is the fast moving object.  She said we will cover that later.  Here is a photo I took for my course with a few painterly touches courtesy of PhotoShop, which I am learning to use.  I think I’ll call it Alley Series: #1 🙂



Saturday Run Configured

Planning our Saturday route and its timing took a fair bit of communicating with emails flying between four parties well into Friday evening.  “R” wanted to run 8-9 miles and had to be home by 8:15 a.m. while “D” was to be out late Friday and requested a not-too-early start time.   I questioned a plan that had the four of us running separately along routes which in an ideal world would see us converge.  Four moving objects running along icy sidewalks in -9C seemed to me a formula for confusion and missed rendezvous points.  Been there, done that and it is far too cold to risk the possibility of standing on a street corner, wondering if so and so is late or has already gone by and should we wait.  I asserted that I would only go along with this plan if we were all running with cell phones.

With the help of  Google’s Pedometer I drew up a new plan and thanks to a couple of Blackberries  and an IPhone, consensus was achieved for this new route.  “R” ran by my place, we ran to “D”s and then we ran to “J”s.  From there we went to “R”‘s arriving at 8:15 a.m. on the dot, our most important mission accomplished, and so on, all done with all the waiting done, in the warmth our homes.  One day, there will be an APP to figure out how to organize a group run minimizing time spent running alone, coming from disparate points and all with different mileage targets.  Here is what each of us got out of this group run.

Lynn = 14 miles, 2 miles solo

R = 8.75 miles, 1.5 miles solo

D = 7 miles, company all the way

J = 6.75 miles, 0.9 miles solo

Recently, I was showing our roommate how to use Google Maps Pedometer and he immediately noticed a function that I had never used.  Once you have calculated a route, you can turn on the calorie counter, input your weight and voila,1165 calories burned for 14 miles.  Time to eat!

Gmaps Pedometer

Total Distance: 14.0102 miles
Last Leg: miles
Draw route: automatically (for runners)
automatically (for cyclists)
manually (straight lines)
Turn off mile markers
Turn off calorie counter
Weight: 110 lb
Calories Burned: 1165.8345148371207110
Elevation: off small large

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Legs in Motion, A Legend

Following my post about weight training, a reader asked for recommended reading. I was reminded of this groundbreaking book from the early 80’s by Gayle Olinekova which inspired me to begin my weight training routine. Gayle was ahead of her time in that she incorporated weight training into her marathon training schedule. This former Torontonian ran world-class marathon times and yet felt a little embarrassed about her very muscular legs, which did not fit the typical marathon runner mold or the prevailing feminine ideal. Eventually, she was discovered by Sports Illustrated and covered in an article called The Greatest Legs to Ever Stride the Earth.

Photo by Helmut Newton

Sadly, Gayle died in 2003 at the age of 50.  Gayle’s book Go For It! was written at a time when books on athletics written by women were almost non-existent. It may be out-of-print but available used.

Go for it!

I can claim a shared experience, as she was at one time a member of the Toronto Olympic Club which I belonged to for a few years. From wanting to hide her legs to inclusion in Helmut Newton’s “Strong Women: A Portfolio of California’s Super Athletes” Gayle can be given credit for blazing a trail.  Here is part of an obituary from the Los Angeles Times.

Gayle Olinekova, a marathon runner and fitness guru whose chiseled, muscular legs helped change cultural views about beauty in female athletes in the 1980s, has died. She was 50.

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I’ve finally gotten round to writing an ABOUT tab for this blog. Here it is.

Detroit, Ford Field Finish

The choice to return to very active life I experienced while growing up, has brought many good things into my life. This journey began with a few runs, while still a smoker, fitness classes at the YMCA which led to quitting smoking, cold turkey. With all the excess energy of being more fit and tobacco-free I began to run regularly, first a mile and then a few months later, a marathon in 4 hours and 11 minutes. Recently, I celebrated 30 years of running for fitness, friendship with my 20th marathon, surpassing the Boston qualifying standard by 33 minutes.  One of the good things was meeting my husband over 25 years ago when he introduced himself in a YMCA cafeteria after the 1985 Peterborough Half-Marathon. He remains, my favourite running partner. We have a 23 year old son, 17 nieces and nephews and 4 grandnephews and grandnieces.

Highlights of my racing career came later in life; 1st place finish in the 50-54 category at the Chicago Marathon, 3rd place (50-54) at the Boston marathon and a time of 3 hours & 10 minutes at the Detroit Marathon, run at age 50. I like to refer (or brag) of having qualified for the Boston Marathon in the Open Men’s category at age 50. This time also qualified as an Ontario 50-54 age group record for the marathon. The time I am most proud of from my younger days is having run my 4th half-marathon in 1 hour & 23 minute after less than 3 years of running and with low-mileage training due to chronic ankle injuries.

Over the years I have learned that advising people about how to train is tricky business AND that there is no formula. We are, as George Sheehan put it, “An experiment of one.” I’ve run while pregnant, run good times on low mileage, run great times on high mileage and run purely for fitness for the first 9 years of my son’s life, returning with a vengeance by logging more than 100 miles a week at times, with high-intensity workouts thrown into the mix.

Along the way, I’ve had to learn and abide by the “laws of the body”, George Sheehan again. I hope that providing some insight into how running fits into my daily routine might encourage you to commit to habits that will enhance your quality of life. I find the benefits to be as much (if not a little more) about mental well-being as physical.

There is an abundance of information available on fitness and training for the motivated and curious, and it is not my goal to spend a lot of time on the details of which others have expertly written. I would caution however that discernment is required as there are obvious paralells between “getting fit quick” and “getting rich quick”. I hope my observations about what has worked for me, while running close to 60,000 miles or more in my lifetime, might arouse your curiosity and point you in the direction of finding out what routines work for you, be it running or your heart thumping activity of choice.

As for all the non-running chit chat, I think of it as my side of a conversation, were we to share each others company while on a run — that being the most companionable of spaces.  Consider this your invitation to comment and question.

All the best!



People4Kids, A Gala

One of the activities keeping me busy lately is my #1 Goal of 2011, which is to raise funds for a sponsorship program organized by People to People AID Organization (Canada) Inc. We have a personal connection to the dedicated individuals involved with this program and have done a lot of research to feel assured that funds are well used to benefit children who have been orphaned in Ethiopia because of HIV-AIDS.

C5 - Fabulous City Views on 3 Sides

I’m so very happy to announce that we have firmed up the venue and the date for the fundraising gala my husband and I are organizing.  It will be held on Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at C5 Restaurant in the ROM. Check out C5 and the Winterliscious menu HERE

My morning run was a loop over to drop a birthday present off to a niece.  I passed through Hillcrest Park with its fine view of the city.  Although, my small camera does not at all do it justice.

View From Hillcrest Park, Toronto

On the way back I took a pit stop at the Athletic Centre at University of Toronto and spotted some advertisements for some interesting sport-related presentations, all open to the public.

What's up at U of T?

The one I was most interested in took place yesterday. Too bad. I’ll have to remember to drop in more regularly to see what is on offer.

Defending an Idea. Interesting.

Runs, overdue photography assignments, gala planning, blogging, weightlifting . . . makes for busy days.  So much to do, so little time, gotta go . . . ciao!

p.s.  Please leave a comment if you would like more information about the Gala.  Thank you.


Weight Training, Love It or Lose It

Since blogging about the start of my off-season weight training regime, I have indeed been working through the first phase of Anatomical Adaptation as defined by Joe Friel, in the Triathlete’s Training Bible. My friend uber-Ironman triathlete Bev Coburn introduced me to this method of periodization of weight training.  I’ll never forget how she, in her low key way, said once you start this routine you’ll be doing this for the rest of your life.  In fact, I been doing upper body weight training since my early twenties however I had never done lower body weights, as I felt that running was enough of a leg workout AND I had never systemized my weight training.  You can find out more about Bev’s athletic accomplishments and work as a personal trainer and fitness consultant at Active Age Fitness.

Ed Whitlock, Beverly Coburn, Bob Moore

So she was very right, as nearly a decade later, I’m sticking with the program and see no end in sight.  My favourite part is the Maximum Strength Phase as this is where you really see yourself bulk up a little.  So why not time this phase to coincide with a reunion with your high school basketball team or a holiday when you will be mainly wearing a swimsuit. The reality of my training is that the maximum weight phase does not coincide with key races.  Once the serious racing begins, weight training shifts into maintenance mode and my focus is on becoming very lean and wiry.

Anatomical Adaptation (AA) phase * (2 sets)
Total sessions/Phase 8-12
Sessions/Week 2-3
Load Select loads that allow only 20-30 reps
Reps/Set 20-30
Speed of Lift Slow to moderate, emphasizing form
Recovery (in minutes) 1-1.5

* Table from Triathlete’s Training Bible

Here is a list of the weight machines or free weights I use.

Lat pull-down machine
Chest press machine
Seated row machine
Free weights or machine for pectoral muscles
Bicep curls with free weights
Reverse wrist curl with free weights

Squats on Smith machine
Leg press machine
Calf raise on leg press machine
Knee extension machine (no periodization – 3 x 8-10 reps ongoing maintenance)
Hamstring curl machine (no periodization -3 x 8-10 reps ongoing maintenance)
Hip adductor machine (no periodization – 3 X 8-10 reps ongoing maintenance)
Hip abductor machine (no periodization – 3 x 8-10 reps ongoing maintenance)

For my next weight workout I will enter into the Maximum Transition (MT) phase and then into the Maximum Strength Phase, shortly after.  For all the details click on Periodization of Weight Training

Maximum Transition (MT) phase * (3 sets)
Total sessions/Phase 3-5
Sessions/Week 2-3
Load Select loads that allow only 10-15 reps
Reps/Set 10-15
Speed of Lift Slow to moderate, emphasizing form
Recovery (in minutes) 1.5-3

* Table from Triathlete’s Training Bible

What happens if you find that you cannot learn to love weight training? If you are a middle-aged woman, you will experience fairly dramatic declines in strength which can result in poor posture and the hunched shoulder look. You might find opening heavy doors progressively more difficult as well as carrying bags of groceries for more than a short while. If you learn to LOVE the results of consistent weight training, you could be bounding up the double set of long stairs, at the York Mills Subway Station, arriving at the top first, while many of the morning commuters are standing or slowly walking up the escalator.

Subway Stations, A Good Place for Circuit Training

A funny thing happens to me while taking public transit.  I often get offered a seat by kind, younger men and women, sometimes I happily accept this offer, secretly telling myself that yes, my legs could use a break from all the miles I’ve run.

“Citius, Altius, Fortius.”


“The Sugar Blues”

According to some mental health experts, Monday, January 17th was the most depressing day of the year. Mainly due to the arrival of bills in the mailbox and gloomy weather. In addition, by this time, many will have abandoned New Years resolutions, short of the 21 days that it supposedly takes for good habits to take hold.

I don’t usually make New Years resolutions as I find that September is the month when I feel most upbeat about tackling new projects.  It must be all those years of mom-hood that have me stuck in the school-year cycle. Today however I feel the need to resolve to reduce my sugar intake for the rest of the year.

The reason for this belated resolution is that I have not quite recovered from the holiday season sugar overload and I’m hooked, with the energy lapses and subtle mood swings to show for it.  Some have called refined sugar consumption, “Death by installments.”  I read and was influenced by the book Sugar Blues in the late-seventies and this coincided with my return to regular exercise after a five year lapse. The results of these two important lifestyle changes were that my energy level became very consistent and stable through the day. Mid-afternoon sleepiness and drowsiness after meals can be avoided by reducing the refined sugar in our diet, and foods ranking high on the glycemic index.

Here is an enthusiastic review of the Sugar Blues by a more recent reader:

A true health classic! February 3, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from New York City
I’m sugar-free ever since reading “Sugar Blues.” I was sluggish, moody, hungry, etc. I remembered that John Lennon mentioned Dufty’s book in an interview once. So I bought it at the local health food store. He starts off with his own sugar hell and redemption and then delves into the whole history of the cane. Very interesting, health-wise and also politically. . . When I tell people I’m sugar-free they usually scoff, saying sugar’s not that bad for you, why give it up completely. Well, now I wake up clear and I get through the afternoon w/o any flagging of energy. At various times of the day I’ll feel some energy racing through my body. (A great feeling; keeps me motivated.) Now I need less food on my plate, and my hypoglycemia has all but disappeared. (Think about THAT one, folks.) Never eat “refined sucrose” again! It can be done! Sky’s the limit! Thank you, William Dufty!

Sugar Blues by William Duffy

Apparently, John Lennon used to regularly give away copies of Sugar Blues. Well I’m a believer in “baby steps” so here is what I did today to lessen my sugar intake, I had a non-sweet latte, at LIT, foregoing the usual triple-venti-whole-milk-vanilla latte and I skipped a sweet treat. Once I’m back to minimal sugar consumption, a sweet treat can be enjoyed every now and then without ill effect and it will be truly a treat rather than the satisfaction of an unhealthy craving.

I won’t delve into the more serious issues related to blood sugar levels such as Diabetes for which my knowledge is limited to first-year Biology and Nutritional Food Science but one starting point might be this link to The Canadian Diabetes Association.

LIT Latte Art

Here is a great quote from Jack Lalanne, the Godfather of Fitness who passed away recently at the age of 96.

Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen put them together and you have a kingdom.

Just say NO, to sugar!


Another Week of Winter Running

The wickedly cold Edmonton temperature during our visit last Sunday of -26C has been displaced by +5C.  What is going on?  And here in Toronto, the capital of not-so-cold-but-damp-cold it is -17C.  Wrong place at the wrong time.

Total mileage this week was 50 miles, with four indoor and three outdoor runs.  Five or six years ago during a particularly cold January, I ran 31 days with only three outdoor runs.  So it could be worse.  Thinking of worse I’m reminded of the power failure two winters ago.  Funnily enough, our gas furnace was so old (since replaced) that it was able to continue to produce heat and with gas stove and oven, the hardship was not severe.  I’m also remembering that a few years ago, I ran the Robbie Burns 8K in Burlington in a time of 34:58 in -20C temperatures on packed ice and snow.  Needless to say, I felt that were conditions better, I might have run faster.

The Communal Mule

We have stayed close to home these past chilly days.  Once again, we considered a movie outing and once again, we chose to hunker down on the homestead our only outing, to shop with a coffee break enroute.  We tried a new coffee bar The Communal Mule on Dundas west and enjoyed as my husband calls it, “Being tourists in the land of youth.” as inevitably we seem to be the oldest people about in our travels to nouveau espresso bars.  I had an excellent shortbread with white chocolate chip cookie and my husband enjoyed his latte.

As for me, I’ve become a bit stuck on Stumptown coffee.  Give me Stumptown coffee, Stumptown I say!  I’m a believer.  There is only one place in Toronto (2 in Canada total) where Stumptown coffee is available, LIT Espresso Bar. We have only been to the College street locations.

Stumptown Coffee at LIT Espresso Bar

Quiet days mean more time to read and I finished The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble. The “elegiac” writing and pace of the first 250 pages led to a disappointing finale, complete with a surprise ending, where everything came together, not with elegance but more like a season-ending episode of Desperate Housewives.  My very humble opinion for what it is worth, although still recommended as a pretty good read.

The final pages of The Sea Lady contain these words from Scotland’s favourite son, whose birthday is celebrated on January 25th.  And — to my husband, I’ll dedicate these lines from Robbie Burns and repeat that NO, the final quote of yesterdays post was in no way related to your plan to watch six hours of football this weekend.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:

I will love thee still, my Dear,

While the sand o’ life shall run.

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“The Strenuous Life Tastes Better”

I’ve added a link to my blog to a website honouring the late George Sheehan, the voice of the first running boom that began in the late-seventies. He wrote regularly for Runner’s World and captured the imagination of the many, who took up running during this first wave of enthusiasm for long distance running. His writing was a blend of pithy running one-liners like, “Don’t be concerned if running or exercise will add years to your life, be concerned with adding life to your years.” woven with an unrelenting stream of philosophical quotes to illustrate the best of the running experience. A William James quote “The strenuous life tastes better.” was one of his favourites.

A favourite quote of mine came out of his constant reminder to listen to your body because, “We are an experiment of one.” Some have said that the first running boom was driven by type “A” overachievers, a mischaracterization, when one considers George Sheehan’s place as the most influential voice of that first boom.  His premiere work, Running and Being was a New York Times bestseller.

Find out more about George Sheehan by visiting www.georgesheehan.com a website created by his children to preserve the legacy of his contribution to the sport.

From the moment you become a spectator, everything is downhill.

George Sheehan

Books by George Sheehan

* Dr. Sheehan on Running (1975)
* Dr. George Sheehan’s Medical Advice for Runners (1978)
* Running & Being: The Total Experience (1978)
*This Running Life (1980)
* How to Feel Great Twenty Four Hours a Day (1983)
* Dr. Sheehan on Fitness (1983)
* Personal Best: The Foremost Philosopher of Fitness Shares Techniques and Tactics for Success and Self-Liberation (1989)
* George Sheehan on Running to Win : How to Achieve the Physical, Mental & Spiritual Victories of Running (1992)
* Going the Distance: One Man’s Journey to the End of His Life (1996)


What I Think About WHEN I Think About Running

If you have been following my blog, you’ll know that most of the time, I don’t think about running, when I am running. I’ve forwarded the proposition that the more reasons you have to run, and the more that you have to think about while running, the easier it is to stick to running.  Does it follow then that since I run A LOT, a lot of what I think about is not about running?  Possibly.

Some of those thoughts and activities that occupy me or take place on the run include listening to music and audio books, watching television, list-making, photography, shopping, meal-planning and recently, I’ve become adept at checking my Blackberry while running on a treadmill.

The Pain Gain

However faster running, involving effort, discomfort and pain requires that thoughts be focused on running and it is helpful to develop positive mental strategies to deal with these more challenging physical sensations. At the moment, faster running is about 40 minutes out of the roughly 6-7 hours a week I run. A big part of what motivates me to push past the discomfort and pain is the knowledge of the health benefits of intense running. When you exercise at an intensity over the lactate threshold your body produces Exercise-Induced Growth Hormone Response (EIGR) the effect of which is double the benefit of aerobic exercise.

While running hard, I visually imagine EIGR secretions flowing through my body and soothing my joints.  I also think of my heart, pumping vigorously sending blood in strong gushes throughout  my circulatory system, massaging and cleansing my arteries.  While these images may not be sound biology, you get the picture, it is all about the importance of positive images.

Knee Joint Facsimile

My husband has been having knee trouble for nearly two years.   As a joke, I gave him a key chain with a replica of a knee joint.  As time passes, I’m thinking that this rattling, fragile looking knee joint may not inspire confidence in recovery and only lends fuel to the argument that the knee joint is poorly designed and engineered.  Not the best mindset for visual images of healing and health.

The simple practice described in this quote by Jean Houston strikes me as wise, at the gut level. 

“Try to spend a few moments each day holding a picture of your body and your mind in a state of splendid health.”

Hmm, I think this key chain has got to go!