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Why it’s important to challenge yourself

Every once in a while I get this sinking feeling — like I’m not doing enough with my life. I go to work, I come home, and then I lie on the couch for a few hours before I go to bed. The next day, I wake up and it starts all over. It makes me think: is this all there is? Shouldn’t I be doing more with my life? Where can I go from here?

This downward spiral can lead to self doubt, anxiety, and fatigue. It prevents you from actually accomplishing your goals, and makes you feel as if the few things you’ve accomplished aren’t good enough. It’s also incredibly hard to switch off those negative thoughts.

The thing is, it’s completely natural to feel like you’re in a rut. A number of things can cause it: a stale relationship, a ho-hum work environment, or it could be things in your personal life that send you over the edge. Everyone experiences it — but it’s what we do after we realize we’re in a rut that matters.

Peg Streep, author of Mastering the Art of Quitting says the human brain is hardwired to work hard and push through despite what’s happening with your life, which may sabotage your happiness and create a cycle of negative energy. This negative energy is what causes the rut. Overthinking, overworking, not taking time for yourself — all of these things make us tired of the lives we’ve worked so hard to create.

So, what to do about it?

When I start to get into this rut, I decide to challenge myself.  I try something different each time. The first time was 30 days of yoga (I suggest You-tubing Yoga with Adriene, who is an absolutely marvellous instructor, especially for beginners). The second was a video challenge, where I had to film myself every day for a month. The third was training to run a 5k. And this time, it’s trying my hand at poetry.

For me, it’s all about setting, and completing attainable goals — it makes you feel accomplished. It’s like creating a to-do list and then crossing items off. Except, instead of “send email to boss” or “do laundry”, these are life goals. At the same time, they are doable. These goals are tough, but are easy enough to complete within a month or so.  A lot of people will try to set a number of goals to accomplish at the same time (eat right, go to gym three times a week, learn a foreign language, etc ). The problem is that a full body and mind transformation takes a lot of time and patience, and if you aren’t ready for that type of commitment, you’ll just end up overwhelmed and discouraged. Go one challenge at a time and you’ll get to that end-goal, I promise you!

It’s also about pushing yourself slightly outside your comfort zone. Now, I’m not suggesting you leap out of a plane to conquer your fear of heights, but rather take small steps to push yourself in creative and impassioned ways. Understanding what keeps you within your comfort zone is equally as important as pushing yourself outside of it.

For me, running a 5k, doing yoga, writing poetry, all of these are things that are small, simple, and personalized to my specific goals — to be healthy and to develop my creativity. I’m not running a marathon. I’m not becoming a published novelist. I’m not establishing a completely zen mentality. I’m changing, slowly and at the right pace for me. At the same time, I’m challenging myself! I’m not an athletic person, nor a particularly creative one, so these goals really do force me to work hard and carve out time for myself.

At the end of the day, I enjoy these ruts. Sure, they are terrible for the first few weeks while you figure out your feelings, but they inspire creativity and give me an opportunity to re-evaluate my life. And with that creativity comes a new mentality.

Suddenly, anything is possible!

How do you deal with your rut? What are the goals you’ve set for yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

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!

‘You are bold, you are brilliant, and you are beautiful!’

Ashley Graham is a goddess.

Seriously, she is drop-dead gorgeous — anyone who says otherwise is blind.

Graham recently graced the cover of the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. Sporting a purple bikini with yellow-stringed ties, she sits on the beach, allowing the water to gently splash over her skin. You may ask, what’s controversial about that? It seems standard for any swimsuit edition.

The difference is that Graham is a plus-size model, the first of her kind to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated.

Screenshot 2016-02-29 11.04.45Graham has been featured on the covers of Elle Quebec, London Times, Cover Magazine, Style Magazine, The Edit, and the Shape Issues of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and Elle UK. She is also quite the entrepreneur, having collaborated with Canadian brand Additionelle on her own line of lingerie. She even appears in her own television advertisements, dressed in her sexy apparel — confident and absolutely seductive.

Despite all of these accomplishments, Graham was still on the receiving end of many body-shaming comments.

My favourite was made by a Facebook group I followed (used to follow I should say) called Bright Side, that said “you decide to get healthy and then see this.”

Former Sports Illustrated model Cheryl Tiegs said that Graham’s face was beautiful, but the magazine shouldn’t be glamorizing full-figured women because her waist was too large. YouTuber Nicole Arbour, whose “Dear Fat People” videos are too shameful to link to in this article, slammed Graham, saying that if she simply worked out she could lose weight. “I want to eat cookies and still be a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model; what’s next, you can be a midget and a Rockette? What’s wrong with having a physical standard for something?” Arbour said in her video.

It boggled my mind that people didn’t see what I did — a beautiful NORMAL sized woman.

Just because a woman is larger, doesn’t mean that she is unhealthy or inactive. I would be considered a plus-size woman, despite the fact that today I ate a salad for lunch, did some yoga, and walked to work instead of taking the bus. I know a lot of beautiful women that are on the larger side. They go to the gym on a regular basis, eat healthily, and live a full life.

During her Tedx Talk in May 2015, Graham starts by saying: “You are bold, you are brilliant, and you are beautiful! There is no other woman like you. You are capable. Back fat, I see you popping up over my bra strap, but I’m going to choose to love you.”

In the U.S., plus-size is defined as size eight to 16. “Most of the people in this room would be defined as plus-size,” she said. “How does that make you feel – to be labelled?”

Graham has worked hard to rid these labels from the fashion industry (which, admittedly, I have used numerous times in this article). She is also the co-founder of ALDA, a modelling agency that “represents beauty beyond size”. This group of five women have made strides to break down size stereotypes within the fashion industry and prove that beauty is not just skin deep.

I commend Sports Illustrated for having the courage to stand up and tell the truth: activity does not necessarily equate size, and size does not necessarily equate health. There is no need to pressure regularly sized women to lose weight through extreme dieting. There is no need to encourage women to drink juice for eight weeks or take pills from unqualified doctors on television. Sports Illustrated has come forward as a magazine for active individuals — regardless of whether you are a size zero or a size 16 — and that means that people like me may actually read the magazine.

One final thought: take a look at how gorgeous Graham looked at the Oscars. Does that look like an unhealthy person to you? As she said in her Tedx Talk, “the fashion industry may want to label me as plus-size, but I like to think of me as my-size.”

All women should be that confident — and it’s time we stopped shaming them for it.

 

 

What did you think of Sports Illustrated’s decision? Let us know in the comments below.

Five ways to spot nutritional misinformation

Last year, I bought a Paleo cookbook.

It all started when I went out to dinner with my mother and we chose a restaurant in Newmarket called Rawlicious. It served raw and vegan food. I was skeptical, but I rather enjoyed my meal and, after reading up on the “Paleo Diet”, I decided to buy the restaurant’s cookbook. Eating raw must be good for me, right?! There were all these advertisements and articles in the newspaper about how cavepeople ate simpler, and therefore healthier, meals. They had less transfats, less processed foods, and less sugars. This diet was sure to make a difference, I thought.

This, I would soon learn, is not essentially true.

Paleo. Gluten-Free. These “diet” terms are everywhere. They pop up every few years and we automatically flock towards them, trusting that the “experts” claiming there are health benefits to each fad. Why are we continually taken in by these crazes? According to Kate Comeau, dietician and spokesperson for Dieticians Canada, it’s a “desire to try something new and try something that will work.”

In this digital age, it’s easy to be consumed by the immense amount of information found on the Internet. There are, quite literally, thousands of blogs dedicated to weight loss and nutrition.

“Something comes up and you look to google, it is second nature. We are advocates of our own health,” Comeau says. “Because of the amount of information, it can lead to more confusion. We want to equip people with smart searching. Bring that information to your health care provider and get them to help you sort through it.”

But, how do we know what advice to trust? Which fads should we follow? Here are five ways to spot misinformation on the web and to make the right choice with your nutritional advice:

The Quick Fix: Losing weight is not a sprint, it is a marathon. It’s also a rather personal journey. There is no miracle-working pill, smoothie, or nutritional regime that will work for everyone. The only way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to eat well and exercise regularly. Everything else is a false promise that may hinder your weight-loss journey.

The Product Sell: Do you need to buy a pill, a fibre supplement, or an entire week-worth of meals? These special food diets don’t encourage healthy eating habits, and instead make you dependent on the product themselves. There may also be financial gains for the person providing the nutritional advice.

The Personal Story: It’s great that Sally, age 45 with two kids at home, lost 30 pounds eating nothing but fruit for a week, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It is encouraging to see the results of a successful weight-loss journey, but its not proof that it will work for you. It may not even be true. “It can be quite compelling, especially if they are in an influential position. But just because it works for someone, doesn’t mean it’s science-based or that it would work for you,” Comeau says.

The Study: We hear the words often—”studies show” this [insert diet name here] will make you feel more awake and energized, while still allowing you to lose those extra pounds. But, what study? Were the subjects of the study following the same lifestyle as you? Are they the same age or gender? And is there more than one study to confirm the results? The more scientific evidence available, the more legitimate the advice.

The Qualifications: Celebrity-supported cookbooks are becoming increasingly popular, but I’m not sure when we decided they were the health experts. Look for the initials “RD or PDt” to ensure the person giving you the advice is a registered dietitian. They are the only people who should be giving nutritional advice.

Instead of buying into the latest diet fad or cleanse, Comeau suggests what seems like the simplest solution: eat better and exercise regularly. “I sound like a broken record,” Comeau says. “Eat more vegetables and focus on making food from basic ingredients from home.”

If you, like me, enjoy reading about nutrition and health on the web, try following @DCmemberblogs on Twitter. It is hosted by Dieticians Canada and links to credible, evidence-based blogs about nutrition. Information comes from 40 different member blogs, and there promises to be some amazing recipes in the mix.

For those who want more, Comeau suggests cochrane.org, a website dedicated to evidence-based analysis of health issues.

As for my “Paleo diet”, lets just say I never got that far. Turns out, it is harder to adopt that lifestyle than I thought (and I lot more expensive). I still make some of the recipes, but I don’t claim to do anything more than live by the Canadian Food Guide.

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It’s getting old

Aches and pains. They’re a part of life. I train an older demographic: ladies of “a certain age,” as I like to say. When people are first starting out in the gym, I often hear things like, “Well, I have back pain. But that’s to be expected. It’s just old age.” Is it?

Many of us seem to think that putting up with a growing assortment of aches and pains is part and parcel of getting older. But other cultures throughout the world demonstrate better aging than ours. (I’m thinking of Japanese centenarians who can still pop a squat, for example.) I won’t presume that these folks feel just as sprightly as they ever did but it’s fair to say that they feel good enough to keep (surprisingly) active.

There are a couple of problems with using “getting older” to account for feeling crummy. The first is that it can obscure the real reason why you feel that way. If I’ve got one bad hip, let’s say, then why doesn’t the other one feel just as bad? If it were all about aging then both hips would have gone bust because they’ve got the same number of miles on them. It’s quite possible that there’s a specific mechanical issue that can be addressed with proper exercise (and as a matter of fact, a good trainer will make it her business to look out for those issues).

[pullquote]“Well, I have back pain. But that’s to be expected. It’s just old age.”[/pullquote]

The second problem I see is that this kind of thinking winds up stopping older folks from doing stuff that will keep them healthy and well. If you think “getting older” is the only explanation for your aches and pains then you’re much less inclined to do anything about it. You do less. And the less you do, the less you can do. I’m not suggesting that age isn’t a factor in how people’s bodies feel and function but I do think that using it as a catch-all is getting old. (See what I did there?)

Keep fit and travel fit

It’s easy to let your resolve to stay fit fall by the wayside when you’re on vacation or travelling. If you don’t have access to a gym you might say to yourself, “Why bother?” But it’s not all that hard to at the very least maintain your level of fitness with only a couple of pieces of portable equipment, even in a small space. I’d like to share with you what I do while travelling. (And as a matter of fact, I’m writing this from India, where I’m spending four weeks.)

First, I pack a skipping rope and resistance band. Both of these pieces are light and can be stuffed into just about any part of my bag. They add versatility to the workouts I create, allowing me to include many exercises that are not limited to ones using my own body weight.

Second, I choose six to eight exercises. To give a few examples: planks, crunches, squats, leg lifts, biceps curls, shoulder presses, rows and push-ups are among my favourites. I move quickly between exercises and after each cycle I do one to three minutes of skipping to get my heart rate up (or if there are stairs or steps nearby, I’ll run up and down them as an option).

Third, I challenge myself to be as precise and controlled as possible. This really cranks up the intensity in a big way. I always go slowly and if I’m not fatigued by the end of the set, I’ll hold a position and focus on contracting my muscles until I am.

I’ve used these strategies to work out in spaces barely sizeable enough to swing a skipping rope. My workouts while travelling are short (20 to 25 minutes typically) but effective. I try to do something like what I’ve described two to three times per week, as well as walk a lot. I look at it as a period of time when I don’t have to work out like a maniac, I just have to maintain. After all, I’m on vacation.

Marathon runner beats the odds to survive car crash and run again

In the blink of an eye Leaha MacDonald’s running days were over. Instead of training for her next marathon she was lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life.

On September 16, 20ll, MacDonald was walking her bike across the street and was struck by an SUV. What came next for MacDonald was an incredible journey to not only beat the odds in surviving the collision, which threw her 50 feet, but to walk and, amazingly, run again.

On August 25 the Calgary resident will be lacing up her shoes with two friends to run the Edmonton marathon – just two years after that fateful day.  MacDonald started running again four months ago and is looking forward to participating in the marathon on Sunday. Her goal is to run it in seven hours – to complete the distance. Her best time is 4:11.

In a recent phone interview from her family home in Ontario, MacDonald and her mother, Mariann, shared with me details of her miraculous recovery and her passion for running. “I was on my way home after a work event – a team building session, and it was 4:30 pm. I was walking my bike across the street. If I didn’t wear a helmet I would have been dead. The helmet saved me,” MacDonald, with a positive, confident delivery, says. “Also, the doctors said I was in good shape, which helped.”

MacDonald was in a coma for two months. She sustained a severe brain injury and hip fractures. After three weeks in a coma doctors informed her family there was little hope of recovery and were recommending palliative care. MacDonald says: “They told my family there was only a two per cent chance of recovery and they thought I would live in a (care) home the rest of my life.”

Her mother adds, “She still has a long, long way to go yet, she is struggling with memory and problems with balance. She was paralyzed in the right leg and right arm and only started running recently. She is seeing a speech therapist and a physiotherapist. The doctors are surprised of her recovery.”

MacDonald explains, “I had to learn to breathe, eat, swallow, talk and sit again.” She spent three months in hospital in Calgary and then went home to Toronto to spend six weeks in rehab for brain injuries, which followed another six weeks at the brain injury rehab clinic. She then began to learn to walk.

She says, “Oh my God, as soon as I walked I told my physiotherapist I wanted to run.”

With six marathons and three half irons under her belt, this marathoner was determined to run again. She says, “I am a hugely stubborn person and almost two years after the accident, here I am running in my first official full marathon.”

In yesterday’s Edmonton Marathon MacDonald completed the distance in eight hours. She says via e-mail, “I thought I’d let you know that I finished today! I was super slow, 8 hours and I am very tired. But I did it!!”

Leaha MacDonald learned again to breathe, swallow, walk and will now run.  She is a symbol of perseverance and in my opinion is a true Canadian hero.

 

Change up your cardio with interval training

I saw this on a card from a gag shop: two hamsters standing in front of wheel. One hamster is saying, “First I do one hour of cardio then I do two hours of cardio then I do one hour of cardio…”. Funny, isn’t it? There’s truth to it. So many people put in time at the gym working up a sweat, eyes glued to the calorie counter, desperately hoping that their hour of cardio is over sooner rather than later.

In the first column I wrote for Women’s Post, I put forth the idea that doing more weight training and less cardio would help women reach their typical goals (fat loss) quicker and reduce stress on their bodies comparatively. Despite favouring weight training, I still think that it’s important to train your heart. However, I think that you can do it in far less time than the typical hour of low-intensity cardio and you can do in a way that gives you a hormonal boost which will trigger fat loss.

What I’m hinting at here is interval or “burst” training. It takes no time at all to do but it sure is ugly. If you’re unfamiliar with it, interval training is alternating short bursts of intense cardio (one minute or less typically) with recovery periods of approximately equal length. Interval training is short on time and high on intensity. For example, after an adequate warm-up, you might sprint for one minute and walk for one minute (local tracks are a perfect spot for this) and repeat five times or so. An interval workout can be as short as 10 minutes. It tends to be less popular among gym-going people because the effort level is decidedly uncomfortable. Most people would rather cruise on an elliptical for an hour than endure 10 minutes of all-out effort. That’s a shame because the effects are totally different.

Firstly, interval training conditions the cardiovascular system much more effectively because it presents a legitimate challenge to the heart and lungs that requires them to adapt. When you’re cruising on the elliptical, you’re not demanding much of your body so none of your tissues are required to change for the better. Secondly, interval training prompts a cascade of hormones that give you a metabolic edge. Among them is growth hormone which is known to help the body burn fat and build muscle. Moreover, because interval workouts are so short they don’t let the body get to the point of releasing cortisol, the major stress (and fat-packing) hormone, which can happen during longer bouts of cardio.

I suggest that you give interval training a go, provided you slowly build up your intensity level so that your body can handle maximum effort. You’ll see better results in a shorter period of time. But don’t expect to look pretty doing it.