Tag

running

Browsing

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.

Run With It: proper footwear, goal setting, and the Vancouver Sun Run

New to running, but don’t know where to start? To begin, shoes are the most important equipment for a runner. Not wearing the right shoes could lead to injury. It’s best to go to a specialty running store to get the right fit for you. Also, clothing and socks are important to stay dry and warm while running in the natural elements. Don’t have a goal? Having a goal will help you make the right decision to find the proper program to suits your needs and lifestyle.

In our first episode of Run With It, a contemporary show on running/fitness and health, we speak with expert shoe fitter Andrew David and former owner of Rackets and Runners. He talks about proper footwear for beginner runners as well as socks, which are as important as the shoes you choose.

David also covers clothing tips on what you should wear in rain vs. colder temperatures. Current owner of Rackets and Runners, Vanda Borean, talks about her passion for fitness. Borean shares her knowledge of cross training and gives us some running gear tips.

Ever been to the Vancouver Sun Run? It’s the largest 10 km event in Canada. The Sun Run attracts thousands of runners and walkers each year to test their fitness level. It’s a cultural happening where the streets of Vancouver are shut down as a sea of runners make their way to the finish line.

Stay tuned for the second episode of Run With It!

Follow Christine on Twitter at @christineruns.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Put a spring in your step

It seems spring has finally sprung. People are on the move, and more than eager to get back on track with outdoor activities and workout programs.

Still, many are still experiencing a touch of the winter blues. No matter how anxious, it’s not easy to switch gears from often lazy winter indoor activities and exercise routines.

No matter what your outdoor sport may be, starting slowly, rebuilding strength and endurance can save you from (or prevent) an early seasonal injury that can ruin a summer of fun and physical activity. For runners, who may have not kept up steady workouts over the winter as avidly as hoped, the progression of walking to jogging to running might be a route to consider. Remember, pre-run warm-up and post cool-down stretches to prevent injury, and to ensure a safe reentry into steady outdoor workout routines. Getting into a regular schedule, without pushing it, keeps you consistent and on track, without pushing your body too much, and can leave you wanting more…and that’s a sure sign you’re ‘back in the saddle.’

No matter how far you go, remember to take and drink water. You might feel the outing is not long enough to need it, but who knows: on a nice day, you may walk a little longer, or stop in a park. Water is always needed for strength, endurance and focus. If you love to cycle but hate the stationary bike, you may not have kept your legs as strong as they could be for riding outside. Getting back to the streets can test balance going over uneven pavement, stones and twigs. Early spring can bring a lot of rain. Wet streets are harder to stop on and can be a challenge for the best of riders at any time.

As important as anything, drivers aren’t as used to seeing as many bikers on the road and need to readjust their eyes and attitudes to the outdoor athletes of summer. Rain and wet roads are harder to navigate for them too. Some drivers don’t feel comfortable around bikers. Proper protection and rider safety is a priority.

Getting back in tune with your body is important too. Massage and reflexology are just two healthy, preparation and injury preventing approaches en route to getting back in touch with the body/mind connection.

And besides, they feel great.

What I learned from my first 10k

On Sunday, April 21st I completed my first 10k run. With bib secure, laces tied and ipod charged, I made my way to the starting point of the Toronto Yonge Street 10k. Despite the enthusiasm of the crowd, I was still quite nervous. Prior to this, I had not run any further than 6k and couldn’t help but wonder if I was truly ready.

Now, hours after crossing the finish line, I am still buzzing with adrenaline. Having predicted an excruciating experience, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the run was not only bearable but enjoyable. The euphoric “Runner’s High” I had heard of but never understood became a reality for me.

Having learned a lot from the experience, I am excited to sign up for my next run.

Spring months in Canada are unpredictable. Dress in layers and be prepared for all weather conditions. Gloves and a running jacket to protect from cold wind were especially vital at this run.

For me, smiling had a great effect on my performance. I chose to be happy and grateful for the opportunity to run. I didn’t think about my time, the blister on my foot or the hundreds of runners who finished before me. Instead I focused on the present and enjoyed the great view of the city.

Be thankful for the support around you. Volunteers and spectators came out to cheer you on, operate water stations and direct traffic. Thank them for their hard work.

I was honoured to run my first 10k with my mom by my side. As an accomplished runner, she has participated in many half marathons and 30k runs over the years. We motivated each other to keep running (and smiling) throughout the race and made sure we were keeping a sustainable pace.

Add a few new songs to your ipod and delete the overused ones that no longer get you pumped up. I found that adding just three new songs gave me a boost.

Don’t hesitate to enroll in a 10k. I doubted myself thinking that I wasn’t ready to run such a distance and ended up surprising myself in the end. If running the whole distance becomes a challenge, walk the last few kilometres.

Chances are you will do much better than you thought.

Running with allergies

For some runners it may be challenging enough running in perfect conditions, let alone having to cope with allergies, which can make breathing difficult and turn a routine run into a tortuous test of will.

There is good news, however, for allergy sufferers: their condition may now be controlled and prevented if necessary steps are taken. After suffering for long enough I decided to visit my doctor to learn which medications would be most suitable. I was diagnosed with Rhinitis (Hay fever) and was prescribed Flonase (nasal spray) and told to take an antihistamine before the workout, which certainly helped to make my running experience more enjoyable.

A recent survey commissioned by Johnson & Johnson suggests up to 10 million Canadians may suffer from allergy symptoms. The survey found that more than a quarter say they’ll limit their outdoor time to prevent the onset of symptoms. Allergy season may start early in spring but can last into fall as the combination of climate change and pollen counts leads to expanded sneezing, wheezing, and gasping.

The main culprits tend to be pollen, ragweed and grass. Sometimes not knowing we have allergies can affect our work and personal lives, as well as our best intentions of getting fit and staying healthy. Often mistaken for a common cold, it is treatable if one knows the symptoms, which may include nasal congestion, itchy and watery eyes.

Speaking with Dr. Jack Taunton, who was Chief Medical Officer for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, he mentions certain regions across North America are harsher than others when it comes to allergies. “Did you know,” he asks, “that Eugene, Oregon isn’t the best place to run for people with allergies?” Dr. Taunton also includes the west coast of British Columbia as a particularly troublesome place for allergy sufferers because of vast forested areas and voluminous species of plants and grasses.

Dr. Taunton suggests various foods, such as strawberries, some vegetables, dust and pet dander, may trigger an allergic reaction, adding, “Some triathletes are even allergic to certain types of chlorine in the pool,” also showing that for some unlucky people there is no escape. He suggests seeing an allergist when symptoms become difficult to manage.

To summarize, your allergies are caused by the environment or certain foods and the best we can do is try to manage the situation.

So what can you do to enjoy your workouts more? “Try breathing more through your mouth,” says Dr. Taunton. Try running when the pollen counts are lowest (check the weather report) and wear sunglasses to prevent itchy watery eyes. Avoid running in trails or parks at the most dangerous times (for your allergies). Before your workout, take an antihistamine. Allergy shots may be the answer and I’ve heard green tea may help provide relief. If unsure, pay a visit your doctor first to find out if you do suffer from an allergy condition.

 

Marathon running? Ever heard of Philippides?

The inspiration for the marathon was a man named Philippides.  According to Greek myth, Philippides ran from the battlefield at Marathon all the way to Athens to announce Greece’s victory over Persia. He ran roughly 26 miles as fast as his legs could carry him – an amazing athletic achievement.

No one seems to remember though what happened next to Philippides: he collapsed and died on the spot.

Training for a marathon is an increasingly popular activity these days. For a lot of folks the marathon represents the absolute pinnacle of fitness. “If I can run a marathon,” the thinking goes, “then I’ll really be in shape.” Chances are you’ll wind up in some shape, it just might not be good shape.

I think that the volume that training for a marathon requires is far too much for the majority of us and leads to unnecessary wear and tear on the joints. There’s a certain point at which the exercise that we do ceases to be beneficial and actually becomes harmful. Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize this point because exercise is promoted as being good for us; so logically more of it must be better. Not so. Exercising too much can raise levels of stress hormones causing our bodies to break down muscle and store fat. Just take a look at a marathoner. Most don’t look at all like pictures of health; they look like they’re wasting away to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I think that running can be great for fitness. But there’s a sweet spot where we can get most of the benefit while avoiding much of the harm. (It varies from individual to individual.) Perhaps running briskly for 20 minutes doesn’t gives us the same bragging rights that running a marathon does, but it might do us better at the end of the day.