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‘The Vagina Coach’ on pre- and post-pregnancy

Kim Vopni is known as the “The Vagina Coach”, and is a passionate promoter of female pelvic health in pregnancy, motherhood and menopause.  Pregnancy is an especially important time to pay attention to the pelvic floor because it can make the pregnancy more comfortable, the birth easier and the return to full function more likely.
Vopni is especially passionate about helping women prepare for and recover from pregnancy and birth, while aiding in the process of getting back into shape after the fact. She is a certified personal trainer and a pre/post natal fitness consultant.
 The Vancouver resident understands the importance of pelvic health care and how it can improve and reclaim your fitness level. Vopni’s mission is to help pregnant women have an easier birth and get back into a fitness regimen.
While growing up, Vopni was afraid of birth and never thought she would have children.  “I saw a childbirth video in grade six sex ed. that scared me, and my mother told me about her birth experiences and the resulting challenges she had,” Vopni said. “In 2002, that all changed when I watched my sister-in-law give birth. My vision of what birth was all about changed and it empowered me. The following year, I was pregnant and my research led me to a pelvic floor biofeedback product that helps you prepare for birth.”
Your pelvic floor is a collection of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments and connective tissue that are interwoven within the pelvis. The product helps mimic the sensations your pelvic floor will face. An inflatable silicone balloon is inserted into the vagina and guided by a pressure gauge, the user can see when they contract and relax their pelvic floor and they can also familiarize themselves with stretch and what they need to do to yield to that discomfort. The user trains their pelvic floor to respond appropriately during birth
 
“I bought one and had an amazing experience! I decided more women needed to know about this so I became a distributor for that product. That was my introduction to the world of pelvic health and I have never looked back!”
In 2009, she created a workshop called Prepare to Push for pregnant women that was all about preparing for birth and preventing or minimizing the issues many women think are normal after having a baby. These include birth position practice, exercise, pelvic floor release work, restorative exercise to ease back pain, eliminate incontinence, and regain control of your bladder.
“It started as a workshop and is now individual consultations, an e-Course and a book! I use the fitness principle of specificity to prepare the body for birth by mimicking labour and delivery as closely as possible during training. The benefits are a stronger core for delivery, a mind-body connection to the pelvic floor so that women know how to let go of tension when it comes time to give birth, increased confidence and a better recovery.”
Vopni says that runners should make informed choices about their training once pregnant.
  “While running in pregnancy is safe for baby, it places additional strain on the core and pelvic floor,  I recommend scaling back in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters and using the elliptical or better yet, get outside and walk up some hills or stairs.  It’s great cardio, low impact and the core and pelvic floor are better able to manage the loads.”
 As for returning to running postpartum, a pelvic floor physiotherapist should be the one to give you the ‘green light’ to go back.  Wait around four to six months postpartum, provided intentional and deliberate core retraining has taken place first.

For more information about her book Prepare To Push™ – What Your Pelvic Floor andAbdomen Want You to Know about Pregnancy and Birth and her program, go to www.preparetopush.com

Should you go running with your dog?

On a typical morning before work, I am out the door by 5:30. The Vancouver streets are quiet and mostly deserted, except for a regular runner ahead of me with a frisky, four legged friend at his side. The pair always look happy, enjoying each other’s company on these cold winter mornings. They were like dance partners in perfect synch, running step for step. It made a delightful picture. A dog may be the most reliable companion to share in your running journey, because they are always ready when you are.

Does this image inspire you to run or walk with your dog?

There are many benefits to running with your dog, including keeping you both fit and enjoying bonding time with your favourite furry friend. They also provide comforting security, especially for women who run by themselves in secluded areas. But, before going for that run or walk with your wiener dog, dachshund, or pug, however, knowing the dos and don’ts of running with your pet could save you both a lot of grief and injury.

According to Vancouver-based veterinarian Dr. Kathy Kramer, you can’t just decide one day to go running with your dog. Owners need to be committed to their pet first. “Running requires training, since most dogs like to sniff along the way and get easily distracted,” she said. “Not every dog is cut out to be a marathoner.  Common sense dictates that while you may try to run with your border collie, you would leave your bulldog or Chihuahua at home.”

The best runners are athletic breeds, or dogs over 20 kilograms, Kramer explained. It’s important to do your research. For example, greyhounds are sprinters and not long distance runners while labradors, golden retrievers, border collies, and German shepherds may enjoy the freedom of a marathon. Larger dogs like great danes or mastiffs won’t enjoy running because it will put pressure on their joints.

Training for any distance requires following a proper program, and it is the same principle when running with your dog.

“Dogs also require conditioning like people do,” Kramer said. “A person would be crazy to start out by running 10 kilometres, so don’t expect your dog to do it!  The same wear and tear that affects a person’s joints will affect a dog’s as well. Acute injuries, such as soft tissue sprains or ligament tears can happen quickly.  As the dog ages, the percussive forces of running can cause arthritis to start at an earlier age.”

When you and your dog encounter someone on the trail, it is best to pull off to the side to let them pass without interacting.  A dog might be occasionally spooked and one should not assume others want your dog to greet them. People will feel safer when the lead is shortened.

Some smaller breeds will love running and some larger dogs would rather be couch potatoes. A good running companion depends on personality, stamina, and overall health. Dogs with high stress levels may not be able to run in the city.  Dogs that are prone to heart disease should be thoroughly screened for starting a serious exercise program.

It is also important to remember that dogs are stoic creatures who won’t show pain or discomfort until there is real damage. Heat stroke is the biggest risk during the summer. Dogs only sweat through their footpads and can easily overheat, even in normal temperatures.  Always have water handy for your dog anytime you run. If your dog is limping, call your veterinarian. Sprains or ligament tears can be very painful even though your dog is not crying out or will let you touch the injured limb.

There is some debate about the best age to start training your dog to run. Most dogs have finished growing by 16-24 months.  Kramer says if you start slow and on a soft surface, you can start to train the dog at around 12-18 months.

Will you try running with your dog this spring? Let us know in the comments below!

Nikki Scott turns to her passion for running to beat major health issues

Nikki Scott’s survival in 2005 was not guaranteed. A car accident resulted in a broken back and ribs, and a dislocated collar bone and sternum. A disc in her neck was herniated and both of her lungs collapsed. A serial marathon runner, doctors told her she would never be able to run again.

But against all odds, in 2008, she completed her first half marathon.

For most people, coming back from a debilitating accident like that in just four years would have been impossible. But Scott had to undergo a second incident in August of this year. The Surrey, B.C. native’s world would change again when she took a serious fall, resulting in a deep cut, a bacterial infection, and a subsequent battle to keep her limbs.

“A few friends and I were out for a run in Golden Ears (Provincial Park),” she said. “We had our route planned – but soon after we got started we came up on a bear so we quickly turned around and headed back to the cars. I turned to say something to my friend and I caught my toe on a rock and wiped out. I landed on my knees and when I flipped over to sit down, both of my friends kind of gasped. Sure enough, I had a huge, bloody gash and a great big skin flap flipped open on my knee.”

“I kind of panicked when I realized that I could actually see my kneecap in the bottom of the wound,” Scott said, adding, “We all took a deep breath and started going through the first aid supplies in our packs. Luckily we had water, gauze and antiseptic wipes so we cleaned it up as best we could, covered it in gauze and wrapped my knee.”

They headed to Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock where she got the wound cleaned up and stitched back together. She was sent home. Everything appeared to be fine.

However, the next morning, her entire leg was burning with pain. She was given some painkillers and antibiotics and sent home yet again. An hour later, she was heading to Langley Memorial Hospital by ambulance.

Scott’s leg was infected and the doctors started her with multiple IV antibiotics.

“Over the next four days, the infection raged and spread from my toes to my ribs. My leg and torso were swollen to twice their size. The pain was unbearable and they had to keep switching the antibiotics, but the infection wasn’t responding. By the end of the week my kidneys had also failed, so they sent me off to Surrey Memorial, labelled ‘loss of life or limb’ and I was admitted into critical care,” Scott said.

She was diagnosed with Cellulitis and spent the next 20 days in hospital before her wound responded to antibiotics. The wound, luckily, healed in about three months. Scott says the infection was “stubborn and resistant”, but she is starting to return to her regular life. A month after coming home she was able to ditch the crutches and start doing physical activity again. 

“I started doing very short, 30 second intervals of ‘running’ on the treadmill. Because of the atrophy in my muscles, I have been taking things very slowly so I don’t cause new injuries, but have been working my way up to longer intervals of running and walking.”

Scott found that being fit helped her on her road to recovery. “Having that background of setting goals and devising a strategy and a plan to get there has definitely helped me figure out what I need to do to beat this injury,” she says.

Surviving a major car accident and the slow recovery process taught Scott to listen to her body and following the leg infection she also had to take it slow and let the pain and fatigue levels guide her.

Scott, a mother of two young boys, has completed 20 half marathons, five full marathons, and four ultra-marathons. She is refusing to let physical setbacks keep her from continuing her running.

“I was determined not to let my car accident beat me or define me and it has been kind of similar following this infection,” she said. “My end goal is to get my strength back and be able to run distance again, so I’ve just been setting small, manageable goals.”

Recovery strategies are not one-size-fits-all, so consult your doctor about when you should resume training. Once you do, make sure refuelling, repairing and rehydrating are part of your workout regime to help you reach your goals.

Soccer players and distance runners share similar training

Over 28,000 fans attended the Canada vs. USA Women’s soccer game held at BC Place, Vancouver, BC. It was the largest crowd ever at a national women’s match.

After watching the game, I decided to revisit the similarities between soccer players and runners, specifically the need for athletes in both sports to move for long periods of time without rest. It could be argued that soccer requires more stamina than other team sports because 120 minutes of play, including overtime, is common before a shootout decides the winner.  By comparison, a regular season NHL hockey game is 65 minutes, including five minutes of O.T. before the shootout, and NBA basketball games are 48 minutes before unlimited mini-halves of overtime – rare in basketball – decide the outcome.  MLB baseball, with its superb athletes, does not operate on the clock at all, though a typical nine-inning game takes about two hours and 30 minutes to play, with mega-stops and delays added in.  Even the tiring effects of physical contact from football, hockey and basketball don’t balance because of rest time that’s built into the stoppages.  Soccer, which has its own share of contact, rarely stops play.

Runners, like soccer players, are challenged by speed and the need for stamina and endurance. A world class runner can complete a marathon between 125 to 130 minutes — roughly the time it takes to play a soccer match.

Soccer players do a lot of sprinting in addition to their constant running back and forth on the field. Overall, to be competitive and on top of their game, they need both speed and endurance.

Interval training for marathoners and running drills for soccer players helps increases speed and can benefit both athletes. Running downhill is good for developing strong quads.  Running uphill will increase lung capacity and stamina.  When you add strength, focus, and mental toughness to the mix, you get a clear picture of what soccer players and runners share every day.  All athletes need to stretch every muscle group before and after a workout or match.

As for where the similarities end, soccer players explode for bursts of speed, which requires balance, control, and strength. These factors are what separate the soccer platers from runners, who simply have to focus on a singular task. It’s a sport that is up tempo and uses considerable physical and mental reflexes…and lots and lots of running. I was incredibly impressed.

Photo credit:  D. Laird Allan

Try running gadget-less once a week

I was preparing for my usual morning run when I felt something was missing. I glanced at the broken watch on my bathroom counter before perusing the lily white stripe on my otherwise tanned left wrist, and I wondered whether or not to run without a watch or any gadget device. The watch was as much a part of my gear as shoes, shorts, and cap, especially now in this techno-driven world in which we reside. Without a watch or a Fitbit tracking device to keep tabs of my time seemed so untrendy.

I was so programmed to run with a watch or GPS that the notion of running watch-less had never occurred to me. How would I know how well (or how poorly) I was running? You can’t go from ‘A’ to ‘B’ without knowing how long it took to get there – or can you?

Under a clutter of fridge magnets is where I chart my daily workouts. With the evidence in black and white I noticed my times have improved. Sometimes it would take weeks for my times to improve significantly. Other times I might as well have been stuck in quicksand because the speed wasn’t happening. Always there was my ticking timer to tell the terrific (or terrible) truth.

On this day, however, I realized the sudden demise of my watch could be a positive thing. It just might alleviate a lot of pressure that had been building, allowing me to run more relaxed and in control, subsequently making the entire running experience more enjoyable. This is not to say you should never run without a watch — indeed, I look forward to getting a new one — but I won’t wear it every day.

My planned workout was going to be a fartlek session, which was always done with the aid of a watch. Fartlek is Swedish for ‘speed play.’ For the uninitiated, it means sprinting and jogging for various periods of time with various periods of rest following up. For example, you might sprint almost full out for 60 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of rest before sprinting for 90 seconds followed by 40 seconds of rest. It can be done on road or trail and has been accepted world wide as an important training tool.

I thought to myself, this would be mentally challenging doing a fartlek session watchless. I would run to the next tree or pole and estimate my time of rest between each hard effort. As I got into a rhythm, my running time wasn’t a factor in this workout now. It was just the trail and me running at my best.

After a 10 min warm-up, I worked out for approximately 20 minutes, followed by a 10-minute cool down. My familiarity of the route certainly helped in estimating the sprint and rest times. Without a watch I had to listen more to my body, which meant needing to concentrate on my breathing and overall running effort.

Feeling a sense of exhilaration as the pressures of time disappeared allowed me to relax and just enjoy the moment. Turning the last corner to home I thought of my broken watch and how much I had relied on it to get through my workouts. I didn’t really miss it on that day after all. Now, I have a new training goal —to run without a watch once a week and to rely more on listening to my body instead.

Essentially, what I learned from running watch-less is I can still perform well without knowing exactly how fast or slow I’m running. Next, I might run shoeless, but only on manicured grass and only in good weather conditions. A long sandy beach might be perfect!

 

www.runwithit.ca

Twitter: @christineruns

Run With It YouTube Channel – Run With It

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!

Meet YWCA Toronto’s 2016 Women of Distinction

Half of the federal government’s Cabinet is made up of women, but 90 per cent of women do not report sexual abuse. Investment in community infrastructure is on the agenda again, but in Toronto alone, there are 95,000 households on the social housing waiting list.

While it would be wrong to claim there has been little or no improvement on so-called “women’s issues,” it would be equally erroneous to suggest that continued progress is inevitable, especially for women and girls living in poverty, fear, and isolation. The work to secure equality and social justice remains an ongoing challenge. That’s why we need to support associations like YWCA Toronto.

For 140 years, YWCA Toronto has provided shelter and support to those seeking refuge from violence and abuse; offered training and resources to help women into jobs and out of poverty; increased participation and empowerment among girls; and advocated for a fairer and more equitable society.

Over the past year alone, more than 6,000 women received training, job-seeking assistance and links to community resources through YWCA Toronto’s employment and skills development centres. More than 900 women and their families found permanent homes through YWCA Toronto and 1,300 women and their children were able to escape and recover from violence. Working together, YWCA Toronto was able to help 1,000 more women and young girls than the previous year.

YWCA Toronto has also played host to the launch of the provincial government’s Action Plan on Sexual Violence and Harassment; advocated for better child care, poverty reduction and national housing strategies; and called for action on Truth and Reconciliation recommendations, among other things.

YWCA Toronto recognizes that these results can only happen if women work together. For the past 35 years, YWCA Toronto has honoured extraordinary women who have worked tirelessly to make a difference for women and girls across the city, country, and the globe.

More than 200 women have received a Women of Distinction Award since the first awards ceremony in 1981. They are game changers in their respective fields – law, education, health, culture and the arts, politics, environment, international development and corporate leadership. These women have used their talent to improve the lives of other women and young girls, and helped raise awareness about inequities in local, national, and international communities, and create systemic change.

See for yourself. On May 26 YWCA Toronto is hosting the 2016 Women of Distinction Awards ceremony – the organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year. Proceeds support the over 30 programs that serve more than 12,000 women and families in the Greater Toronto area.

There will be eight women receiving the honour of a Woman of Distinction award. These women are truly awe-inspiring:

Roberta L. Jamieson (President’s Award) First Nations leader, highly acclaimed public figure and CEO of Indspire, Roberta has spent five decades in numerous breakthrough positions advocating for change and justice for Indigenous people and Canada.

Tessa Hill and Lia Valente (Young Women of Distinction) Tessa Hill and Lia Valente were 13 when they took on rape culture as a documentary project and turned it into a successful public campaign bringing sexual consent into Ontario’s health education curriculum.

Colleen Johnston (Corporate Leadership) This senior executive from TD Bank Group and women’s leadership guru has successfully championed for stronger representation of women in corporate leadership, which helped to significantly increase the number of women in TD’s executive ranks.

Georgia Quartaro (Education) Georgia created innovative education programs and violence-against-women training that reaches women and marginalized groups who have experienced trauma and responds to their needs and potential.

Reeta Roy (International Development) Reeta Roy saw that opportunities and conditions for girls and women farmers in African countries were disturbingly unequal to men’s. The MasterCard Foundation she heads guarantees that at least 50 percent of program participants are women and girls.

Elizabeth Shilton (Law and Justice) Elizabeth argued before the Supreme Court to uphold the rape shield law; won a pay equity case ending wage inequities; defended the right of sexual assault survivors to keep their names out of the public eye; and prevented the disclosure of counselling records of sexual abuse survivors.

Dr. Cheryl Wagner (Health) When HIV/AIDS first hit women, Dr. Cheryl Wagner was one of the first – and few – Toronto physicians to whom they could turn for expertise, help and health care. She extended her work to include researching and advocating for services to address their distinct needs.

Celebrate these women and what they have accomplished! To get your tickets to the exciting event at The Carlu (444 Yonge St.), visit www.womenofdistinction.ca.

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!