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How to get out of that fitness slump

Two months ago, I participated in the Color Run – my first real 5k race. I wrote about the experience on Women’s Post and included some tips for first time runners.

What I didn’t talk about was how to keep yourself motivated once that initial race was over.

I originally signed up for the Color Run because I needed a change. My life was at a bit of a standstill and I needed to do something that would encourage a more positive outlook on

So without much planning and preparation, I signed up for the Color Run — and it proved to be exactly what I needed. I was running four times a week, eating better than usual, and I was much happier at work and at home. It was a struggle, but my friends and family supported me through it. On race day, I was incredibly excited and proud of my progress.

And then I took a week off to celebrate. And then another week to deal with medical issues. And then another week … well just because I didn’t want to get up at 5:30 a.m. to run. After about month of delays, I went from being able to run 15-20 minutes to being able to kind of jog/walk 10 minutes.

This is what inevitably happens during any health-related journey. You start off with the best intentions. You plan all your meals and you get up early to work out. You go on the Internet and print out as many inspirational memes as you can find. You do more activities with your friends instead of just heading to the pub for a drink.

But after a while, it becomes harder. You start to crave chocolate and a good sleep-in. You give yourself a weekend to celebrate your friend’s birthday and because you’ve been so diligent, you don’t bother thinking about the week ahead. Then, you become busy and tired, decide to order pizza three days in a row and end up eating a bag of marshmallows because you had a rough meeting at work and you deserve it.

Next thing you know, two months have gone by and your bad habits are back.

Or, is that just me?

So, what do you do? Do you try a new diet or a new fad? Do you give up entirely? I’m here to say: don’t do it!

Instead, take a weekend to re-evaluate your lifestyle. Take a look through some cookbooks and find some new recipes to try. Make a spreadsheet on your computer to help plan meals and then go grocery shopping. Don’t go overboard — just get what you need for the week. Then, add at least three workouts to that schedule. Reach out to your old support network and let them know that you will be back to your old routine.

On Monday, get up early for that run. That will be your new start. It’s okay if you aren’t as fast or as strong as you were a couple of months ago. Remember, there was a reason why you were so successful, and you can absolutely do it again. Take your time and start a new challenge. Then, you can work your way back up to where you are and surpass it! Also, don’t forget that it’s okay to allow yourself to eat a piece of chocolate cake — it’s all about balance, okay?

At the end of the day, it’s about making sure that you are feeling good about yourself. Everyone deserves to be happy and confident. In this day and age, where both work life and home life can get a bit hectic and stressful, it’s important to take time for yourself. For me, that means getting back in the game and going on morning runs. Who knows, maybe I’ll also get into yoga! What I do know for sure is that I’m not going to let this slump get me down. Are you?

What are you going to do to get out of that slump? Let us know in the comments below!

I ran my first 5k and it was colourful

Last weekend, I ran my first 5k race! Well, I ran most of it — but that’s not the point.

A month and a half ago I made the spontaneous decision to start training for the Color Run, a non-competitive course dubbed the “Happiest Race On Earth!” Every kilometre or so there is a “colour zone”, where volunteers pelt you with coloured powder until you can hardly see and breath. I figured it would be a fun way to get fit and challenge myself during a time in my life where everything seemed to stand still.

However, I didn’t realize how much of a challenge it would be. When I first started running I could go for about 30 seconds at a time before collapsing into a puddle of sweat and tears. After my first week I thought it would be impossible. I’m what society would consider a larger girl, and therefore I was experiencing a lot of shin splints and pressure on my ankles when I ran. I found the movement itself difficult and exhausting. There was no way that I would be able to run for 30-40 minutes straight!

But, I vowed I would at least try.

I trained using the app “Couch to 5k”, which uses intervals to slowly increase endurance — or in my case simply get my body used to the movement! It was great the first week because it started with one minute of running and then moved up in intervals of 30 seconds. However, by the third week, it seemed as if every two days the app was telling me to run two minutes longer than I had before.

The interval training was working! Soon, I could run five minutes at a time, then eight, then 10! By the time my race day had come around, I could run about 18 minutes straight. I have to say I am immensely proud of my progress and I really don’t care that I couldn’t run the whole 5 kilometres. This was a success in my eyes!

The key to this type of training was to move at my own speed. Sure, the app says I should be running eight-minute intervals, but if I couldn’t do the six-minute interval the day before, then what’s the point of moving on. Nothing is more discouraging than stopping before the darn app tells you to. At that point I would ignore the app and redo that workout until I felt comfortable pushing myself to go to the next level.

It’s also important to keep yourself accountable. I started a (mostly) weekly video diary about my progress and the challenges I was facing. These videos helped me connect with friends who were runners for advice and motivation. It’s especially useful when your progress has stagnated and you need a little bit of extra encouragement.

Race day came up quickly and that morning I couldn’t contain my excitement. The Color Run itself is non-competitive, so it was the perfect race to start with. No one was timing me and most of the participants walked anyway. I went with a friend (who coincidentally runs at the same speed as I do, which was perfect) and had an absolute blast. I’m proud to say that we ran most of the way, only stopping to walk through the colour zones because there was so much traffic and we wanted to make sure we got lots of splashes of powder. It also provided me with the perfect excuse to catch my breath. The only problem was that the powder would get in our eyes and mouth. I now understand why some people sported goggles and bandanas.

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But, that’s it! The race is over and I’m left wondering: what now?

I’ve decided to keep running. I still want to be able to run a full 5k, and I think that after two more months of training it may be possible. My next race will be sometime in September or early October.

Wish me luck!

If you are thinking of getting into the race-game, here are five things I learned about running: 

Get good shoes: I had to switch my shoes out half way through my training because they weren’t supportive enough. If you are going to start running, make sure you invest in top-notch athletic shoes.

Run outside: If you have a gym membership, it may seem easier to do your running training on a treadmill. But running indoors is very different to the rough and unpredictable terrain you will be faced with on race day. It’s important to get your body used to the feel of pavement and grass under your feet, not to mention the curves of the road.

Stretching is important: I soon learned that I needed a good 10 minutes of stretches before I ran to avoid shin splints and sore muscles. Do more than just stretch our your calf muscles. Everything in your body is connected, so stretching your hips, your back, your neck, and your arms can be just as important as your legs. Don’t run the day before your race — instead, just do some relaxing yoga and make sure your body is nice and rested.

Don’t run with people who are more fit than you: This is a personal preference. Others may enjoy the extra pressure and push they may get from running with a really fit friend, but if you are overweight and just starting out, focus on your own journey. It’s already hard enough to watch an old man run four laps to your one. Who needs a friend to do it too?

It’s hard: It’s not like getting together with friends to play a sport — running is very solitary and if you don’t have some good music to listen to, it’s really easy to get stuck in your head. It’s also easy to stop even if your body can be pushed a little further. Running is all about you and for some people (myself included) that can be quite an adjustment.

 

Have you run a race this summer? If so, let us know your tips and tricks in the comments below!

What to know before signing up to run a 5k

I’ve decided to register for a 5k race.

This is a big deal. I’m not a very fit person, and I’ve never been able to run for more than a minute without collapsing into a pile of sweat and exhaustion. But, I’ve been in a funk lately and I’ve decided to do something big — I am going to commit to running a 5k in June.

Don’t ask me why I chose this specific goal as my catharsis. At the time, it seemed like a great idea. However, after doing some research, I’m beginning to feel a tad overwhelmed.

Since announcing this decision, I’ve received lots of advice from friends. They all say it’s possible to run a 5k in nine weeks (although I’m not sure if I believe them) and that I’ll have no problem finishing (this is possibly a lie). I’ve also done a lot of research on my own on how best to train and prepare my body for such a gruelling exercise. Luckily for you, dear readers, I’ve decided to share this knowledge with you.

Here are five things you should know preferably BEFORE signing up for a 5k:

 

The date of the race: This may seem obvious, but it becomes incredibly important if you haven’t run a day in your life. Race day has to be far enough away to give you time to train, but not too far that you are lax in your commitment. My race is in nine weeks and, to me, that seems a bit soon. At the same time, if I had registered for a race four months away, my procrastination habits would probably hinder my success rate. I would suggest keeping it between 10-15 weeks.

Do you have the equipment you need: Running shoes, leggings, and a sports bra. Before you commit to a race, make sure you have what you need to train.  You don’t need a fancy fitbit or a gym membership, but you do need the basics. Also make sure that you have the money for a) the race and b) the food you need to refuel your body. As a side note: if you (like me) are doing one of those races with coloured powders or lots of mud, think about your eyewear. I’ll be visiting the optometrist very shortly for some contact lenses.

Training is important: Running once a week isn’t going to cut it, and there is no way to magically make yourself appear at the finish line. Most websites suggest running at least three times a week and then scheduling a cross-training workout in the middle. This can be an activity like boxing, cycling, or skipping. The idea is to keep your workout fresh and strengthen the rest of your body. If you are just starting to run, don’t worry about the cross-training. Just focus on running three times a week. If you are insistent, do something low-key like yoga. This will help stretch out your sore muscles and increase your core strength. You can always step it up half way through your training.

You have to give up junk food: It’s not all about the training. You also have to eat properly. If you start to exercise on a regular basis, but you pair that exercise with high-sugar and high-fat foods, your stomach will start to really hate you. Eat lots of low-fat, high-protein, carb-rich meals and snack regularly. It’s also important that you don’t overeat or starve yourself during this process. High-salt foods may also impact your hydration. If you decide to run a 5k, make sure that you are prepared to change your eating habits as well. Goodbye Cadbury mini eggs and hello apples and peanut butter.

Make sure you are surrounded by people who motivate you: It’s going to be tough. There will be mornings you won’t want to run, where you’ll feel like staying in bed with a full bag of marshmallows watching reruns of Gilmore Girls. There will be days where it’s cold outside, where your alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and your entire body says “NO”. This is where it’s important to have a friend, family member, or fellow 5k-er to text or call for motivation. Have them remind you why you are doing this race in the first place and that you’ll feel better once you get your legs moving. Create a wall of inspirational quotes and place your gym bag right beside it. You’ve got this!

 

Do you have any tips to share with this 5k newbie? Place them in the comments below!