JK Guest Post: Why I’m doing a 30-day challenge

Jen, aka JK, is often my partner in crime in book-related and fitness-related things . I’m really excited she’s decided to tackle this 30-day challenge with me and even more excited she wants to share this journey with all of you! Jen will be sharing updates about the challenge throughout the 30 days, so follow along! — Erin


Jen and me, making some awesome videos about books. Yup, we're that cool. -- Erin



Why am I doing a 30 day challenge?

Because Erin convinced me when I was a little bit tipsy.

But in the sober light of day, it still seems like a good idea for a few reasons. To start, I’m a little bored with my workout routine (which is generally yoga at Kula 4x a week, Ultimate Frisbee once a week, and one Body Pump class at Goodlife). I also think my brain has been infected my many impressive marathoning/road racing friends, and that sense of accomplishment that comes from a physical challenge appeals.

But I think the main reason is that I’ve been craving a deeper, more dedicated practice. I’ve been thinking a lot about a retreat (Jill’s reports from Costa Rica made this fixation much, much worse), an opportunity to get away, refocus, purge the madness of the first quarter of 2012 from my body. I am very drawn to this Gardening + Yoga retreat that seems basically made for me (but it’s only one practice a day, and not inexpensive), and I even considered trying to do the staycation version of a yoga retreat (lots of yoga, healthy food, no internet), but I question how effective (/possible) that may be.

Thinking about this 30 days, it occurred to me that what I might need most of all is not an escape from life, but more practice at bringing yoga into my regular life conscientiously, at cultivating more sensitivity. I’m almost as competitive as those Balser sisters and I’m really good at a power through. That’s why 30 days doesn’t actually scare me. But what I’m not good at is backing off, at being in the moment, at ceasing my multitasking and just breathing.

When I was only doing yoga once a week, when it was a treat, I was getting pretty good at being in the moment. And I remember what it felt like having left a class not just having worked hard, but having had those transcendent moments, when it’s just breath and movement and not to-do lists or dinner plans. But now that I do it more often, now that I have a weekly “quota” to meet and yoga fights for space with all my other commitments, for some reason it’s harder. And I expect doing yoga 30 times in a month means it might get even harder. So my goal will be to be a seven-times-a-week yogi who thinks like a once-a-week yogi. Someone sensitive and grateful. And that’s more challenging than getting through 30 yoga classes any day.



My next big race: a 30-day challenge


I don’t consider myself a yogi. I like yoga and I’ve found it’s brought a lot of balance to my fitness routine. It’s a nice complement to all the cycling and running I do and allows me to get out of my own head every once in awhile. I’m a constant worrier and list-maker and too often become overwhelmed by my own emotions. Yoga creates that space for me.


This counts as a 30day session, right?


However, I’ve never become as addicted to it as Jill. I don’t “need” it or “crave” it or “desire” it beyond occasionally when my calves are screaming from do 80 hill repeats a few days ago. But Jill’s passion and enthusiasm for yoga is making me think about my practice differently. And now that I have a studio I love and look forward to returning to (Kula — thanks JK for the introduction!), I’ve started wondering how I incorporate yoga into my life more often.

So, because I am who I am, I’m going full-throttle. From Friday, May 10 to Sunday, June 11, I am doing a 30-day yoga challenge. Why (other than the obvious reason that I am crazy and have a tendency to take on too much at once) am I doing this? Let’s see…

I’m tired of running. I’m proud of my winter season (4 races, 4 PBs and my highest weekly mileage ever) and am looking forward to the fall. But I need a break. I beat up my body and abused my mind to get through this season. I once abandoned a run and came home crying (I’m sure Matt thought I had truly gone nuts that day). I lost toenails. I discovered foam rolling and YakTrax. I hurt in places I didn’t know existed. I ran in snow storms and rain storms and weird winter heat waves. I ran early in the morning. I ran late at night. I ran with others. I ran alone. I ran and ran and ran and ran and I don’t want to run anymore. (For the time being.)

I want a new challenge. I’m the kind of person that needs a goal or a deadline in order to complete things. I never understood running for fun. I understand running for racing. By turning this yoga challenge into a 30-day “move it or lose it” activity, it appeals to my super competitive self without abandoning the fundamentals of yoga that I hope to discover and reinforce during the journey.

If Jill did it, so can I. If you have sisters, especially sisters who are close to you in age, physical size and athleticism and have similar interests, you will understand this. If you don’t, just believe it’s healthy competition. Really, it is.

I want to embrace yoga. For all the reasons I’ve stated above and for more that I haven’t learned about yet. Jill swears by it, Jen swears by it, my friend Christina swears by it, my friend Erin swears by it. I want that.

We’ll see how this goes, and what I learn on the way. I’m really excited that JK is doing it with me. I’m not sure if I can do this alone.




Paddling the Don

While Erin was off running her half marathon I was venturing down the Don. The Don Valley River that is. In a canoe! And who says this blog is all about yoga and running!?

With my life jacket, splash plants, sun glasses, and way too many layers of clothes on, I was very excited. I haven’t canoed in… ummm come to think of it, I can’t even remember the last time I was in a canoe! Okay, that’s a little scary.

Paddle the Don was another event I jumped at the opportunity to do when work sent out a message looking for paddlers (see, Bullfrog is a very fit organization!). I also convinced Cecilley (my work/running buddy extraordinaire) to join me. I was going to need a canoeing buddy if I was going to do this and I wanted it to be her. I totally assumed Cecilley knew how to canoe. As did everyone from Toronto and Region Conservation as experience apparently wasn’t required. At least no one ask me if I ever canoed before. Should I be worried? How hard could it be if “Experience Not Required” was the tag line.

Me, ready to paddle!

So Sunday morning after my Dad reassured me canoeing will be fun — he and Anne made a surprise-but-not-really-a-complete-surprise visit over the weekend as part of their travels from coast to coast to bring Anne and her stuff home for the summer. I saw them off, then jumped in a cab to pick up Cecilley. We arrived at Ernest Thompson Seton Park just as the sun was starting to get hot, were we met Tom and his daughter (the other half of our corporate team). We were then assigned a canoe, life jackets, whistles (we had to be safe) and escorted to the river!

Then the fun started. I totally forgot this would be moving water, as my canoeing expertise were lake style canoeing. But thanks to country style roots and closeness to nature, I had no doubt my canoeing techniques wouldn’t have completely disappeared. At least, I was sure hoping they hadn’t. Cecilley and I moved quite fast and the moving water was a little more than I bargained for. They opened the dam to make sure the water would be moving and the river would be full. Well, it was. I vowed to be the steerer and sat in the back because Cecilley also couldn’t recall the last time she sat in a canoe. This may not have been best of plans after all. Here were two experienced — within 10 years — canoers getting ready to paddle unknown territory, this can’t be good. Ummm, how shall I say this? Cecilley and I did see the city (and the river) in a whole new light. That was the selling point for me to see parts of Toronto in a way you normally can’t even if you wanted to. Plus when would I ever paddle anywhere in Toronto? The Island doesn’t count.

After a few bumps along the way, a couple 360 turns mid-paddle, three portages to get out and carry our canoe around the insane breaks in the river (this may have been worse then spinning in circles and heading down the river backwards — which both Cecilley and I did at one point — those canoes are heavy!), we made it to land. We made it to land and be didn’t fall out. Thank goodness for that! As lovely as the Don Valley River was the list of things we found floating around maybe longer then the paddle ride itself. There is something romantic about the Don River, but sad at the same time.

Cecilley and I after paddling! There was a face painter at the BBQ, we couldn't resist.

This will not be my last canoeing experience in the city now that I’m fully practiced — Erin and I have lots of summer fitness plans to make — but I sure feel more Torontonian after Sunday now that I can say I paddled the Don. And the fact I walked the city with paint on my face.

Race Recap: Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon


Perhaps this race was doomed from the start.

Or, at least, doomed after Around the Bay.

I PRed. (2:14:09). But it was a poorly executed race. Perhaps, though, it was the race I needed.

Let’s recap.

The original plan was for Goodlife to be my first-ever marathon. I created an elaborate running plan. I followed it like the most dedicated student. But, about 16 weeks in, I was sick of running. Utterly, completely sick of it. I was tense and everything hurt. Then I went on a cruise, came back and crushed Around the Bay. It was my best race experience to date, but it destroyed my body and my mental attitude towards a full marathon. After much contemplation, I backed down and decided to do a half.

Then, it seems, I got lazy. Without a proper training plan to follow, I slacked off. Spring literary season sped up, so I found myself drinking more wine and seeing more people as opposed to downing water and hitting the pavement. I felt confident, though. After all, I finished Around the Bay. I ran a great 10k race with Jill. I was ready for this race. I was going to crush it.

I crushed the first 13 kilometres. Then I fell apart.

I fet good the week leading up to the race. Really good. So good, I started seeing 1:59:59 in my sleep. I became focused on that, convinced a sub-2:00 half-marathon was in my reach. I went out hard, hitting 5:30s pretty much the whole way through the first half. I was on track to do it. Then my stomach got weird. And it got hot. I needed an emergency bathroom break (thank goodness this race goes through the Rosedale ravine!) and a few minutes to walk. Suddenly, I was exhausted and dehydrated. The next three water stations were low, low, low, which meant making the choice between waiting the few minutes in line to get a sip from the volunteer’s sacrificed water bottle or zipping past and ignoring the stomach cramps and dizziness that really wanted to amp up. Kilometres 13 through 16 were horrendous.

This may be the only decent running photo I'll ever take. And I'm still not spending $34.95 to download it.

Then, as we passed my house (literally — this route took me by my house and my office), I decided to stop being so hard on myself and enjoy the race. It’s a great, fast course. It was a beautiful sunny day. I can run and run strong. I slowed down to a 7:30 pace (my usual LSD pace) and just focused on feeling strong. It worked, and I made it to the end.

I’ve never felt so grateful that a race be over in my life. I felt nauseous and sore. I had to go find a spot on the ground to sit for a minute. I almost cried, I was so overwhelmed with how my body was feeling. My watch wasn’t on (I turned it off during the bathroom break so I could figure out exactly how much time that cost me and forgot to turn it back on), so I had zero clue how I did.

Then I started walking back to my bike. The finish zone was directly by the marathon route, so I could watch some of the slower marathoners make their way through the 30-32k stretch. There were plenty of older women, plodding along. Older than me. Running a marathon. It was a weird route and people were clearly ignoring it. These marathoners were dodging dogs, baby strollers and a group of teenage girls doing sprints. I stood there for a moment, cheering each one as they went by me. These women were amazing. No one was supporting them or paying attention to them or giving them the support they deserved to make it through this awfully planned stretch (who makes marathoners run by the finish line with 12k left to go?!) And yet, here they were, not giving up. My bad race was my own fault. I could have prevented it by being smart at the start, by not eating that disgusting Power Bar before the race, by not convincing myself I was superhuman. I have the power to make it a good day or a bad day, by my attitude, by how hard I try. These women, they were making it a good day. Everything was against them, but they were making it a good day.

I need to learn from these women.

So, what lessons did I learn? Let’s see.


Stick to the game plan

Once ATB was over, my game plan was out the window. But even on race day, the game plan that worked so well at ATB was out the window because I am an overeager idiot. Next time, I’ll run the race I train for, and I’ll follow the training plan I have mapped out. I also won’t do things like try a new Power Bar the morning of the race, because we know that never works out well.


Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

I didn’t have enough water the day before the race, the morning of the race or on the course. It might have been enough water for a cooler, greyer day, but not that day. I can’t rely on the race’s water stations, either. They may not be frequent enough or have enough water. And even if they do, the line may slow me down. I need to have a hydration plan and come prepared to execute it.


Don’t come out gunning for it

This is a lot like the first lesson. But if I feel strong, wait a few kilometres before amping it up. There’s always time in these long races to make adjustments along the way. Get settled, assess how I feel, then make the changed. Seems simple in theory. In practice? We’ll find out.


I’m already eyeing fall races. And I have a big summer fitness game plan on the go. But, right now, I need a break. I need to run for fun and get the urge to get out there and crush it again. I know it’ll happen soon. Just you wait.





The run: 21.1km in 2:14:09

The route:

My own living Moksha challenge



Lately, I’ve been finding my thought process towards fitness has taken on a bit of an alternative motive. Sure challenges are fun to accept and I like having stories for the blog to show how crazy committed I am to this. But I’m finding my need to know if I won or lost or was I successful becoming my over lying reason for accepting challenges. Is that bad? I don’t really know.

I blame my competitive nature growing up. Having a sporty mother (who grew up with 4 brothers) who put Erin, Anne (our baby sister) and myself in all the same sports, activities, etc., we did everything the same. I’ve been thinking more about this, is this why I seem to have an ultimatum for every thing I do? It’s great to have a goal, but setting an intention is a completely different thing. I’ve never really ever stopped to think what the difference between the two actually is.

It wasn’t until Day 1 of the Living Your Mosksha Challenge when I realized goals and intentions are not the same thing, but different – it was smack dab starring me in the face on the Intention string we were all given – I need to start setting intentions for my fitness regiments and not do them solely for the goal of just saying I did it. Although, this is a form of motivation for me! Hence the CN Tower climb, the 10k, the Speedo Run… the list goes on.

See? I can do anything! Even yoga on pavement!


Maybe it’s the lack of food going to my brain (it’s is now day 4 of this spring cleanse I’m torturing myself with). I’m kind of worried I’m developing a Type A personality. I am doing this cleanse just to prove I can eat pretty much nothing for 10 days and survive. Actually that was only day 1 and 2, there are a lot of things one can make and eat on this cleanse – I trust Allison which is why I’m doing it. Just to say I did a cleanse is not the entire reason for the cleanse. I want to feel as light and grounded as I did in Coast Rica, and I want think differently about food entirely. See, I do have good intentions!

And eating better goes along with week 1 of the Living Your Moksha – Be Healthy.

But now because of this whole LYM challenge going on I thought it would be awesome to have a challenge within the challenge between all the different Moksha studios in the country. It could create a very cool nation wide sense of community with a competitive edge. And there could be a winning studio – which Moksha will be the best?! I really don’t know what the challenge could be, maybe who has the most participants or what is your studio doing for each of the 7 pillars? I think it’s a great idea!

Monday night while I was on trade duty Partica (the manager this evening) thought it was a great idea too, Graham (the other trade that night) did not. “Competition is not the way of yoga” he said and that I shouldn’t accept a challenge just to win. There are other types of challenges like the LYM for instance – it’s a life challenge. Well, I sure put my foot in my mouth big time because now after the 7 weeks are done Graham has challenged me to a free standing head stand competition – who can last longer in a head stand and you can’t use the wall! Oh man. This all happened so fast, why did I agree to this?

I have 7 weeks to practice. I have a horrible feeling I may end up buying Graham a lot of pints (the loser owes the winner beers). My new intention is to think before accepting a challenge, my goal is to last longer then Graham.

Bring it on, Goodlife.

Are you sick of this photo yet? I need more photos of me running!


On Sunday, May 6, I will run my third half-marathon.

For the first time, I’m excited. I know the course. I know I can do it. I want to crush things. (And by things, I mean my PR). I want to cross that finish line knowing I gave it my all. I want to leave it all on the course. I want to be so sore the next day, I can hardly move. I want to love running, love pushing myself and love being challenged.

So bring it on. I’m ready.




5 ways yoga has made me a better runner

ATB. Powered by yoga. And a ton of training.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but 99% of these posts are about running and yoga. Or running to yoga. We have grand (GRAND! I swear!) plans to branch out into more exciting fitness endeavors (remember that time we climbed the CN Tower? It was crazy, and awesome. And not about running or yoga!)


1) It’s all about the breath

For all you non-yogis out there, here’s a secret: breathing makes everything better. Even when you are running. I find concentrating on my breath while cranking out a long run means less stitches. When a spot is especially uncomfortable, yoga has taught me to breathe to that space. Thanks to this, I get into a meditative zone more quickly and am more aware of how my body is reacting to running.


2) There’s a difference between discomfort and pain

Growing up, I was the kind of person who pushed through pain. In a high school basketball game, I got an elbow in the face, which gave my a bloody nose and black eye. In the medical time-out, I shoved tissue up my nose, iced the eye and got back out there right away. What can I say? I was young and stubborn. (I think we won the game. I don’t remember.) I’m less young, but not less stubborn. When I started yoga, I was keen to do ALL the poses and be the best in the class. Yoga class is a competition, right? What, it’s not? I learned this eventually. I also learned that when you’re just uncomfortable, you can push through it, but when you’re in pain, you can back off. This seems obvious, but it took me a looooong time to apply this to running, but I’m also a smarter runner because of it. I’ll push through anything when the time and place is right (like a race I want to PR in, perhaps), but that when I’m training, it’s okay to back off and let your body heal.


3) Focus on the here and now

In yoga class, you’re supposed to focus on the here and now, leave whatever is going on in your life off the mat. With running, it should be the same. When you leave behind your daily regime, your stresses and your problems, running can become an hour to yourself to reflect and escape. When your mind is free, your body is free, and running is more fun and more therapeutic.


4) Success comes in small increments

When I first started running, I was all “hell yeah, I can sun a sub-4:00 marathon! I’m fit, I’m dedicated, I’m competitive. I’ll happen, no problem.” Spoiler: it has yet to happen. I was keen to go big and fast right away. But that’s not how running works. In yoga, you take it step by step. Maybe you start and you can’t touch your toes. After a few classes, you might be able to touch your lower shins. Then the tops of your feet. Then the floor. But this takes time and patience. Running is the same way. You need to start small and build — reasonably — on your successes. After almost two years of running, my A goal is a sub 2:10 marathon on May 6. I think I can do it, but only because I’ve worked hard over these 18 months to get to this point. And when it happens, it will be glorious.


5) Runners need to do more than running

You don’t need to be into yoga as a runner. Maybe you like cycling or swimming or pilates. It doesn’t matter. But running is such a repetitive motion that puts strain in very specific muscles. By adding something else to your training program, it will make your work-outs feel fresh and will work other muscles in your body. And it will make you a better runner. I swear.

Not convinced? Try this free mini-lesson from YouTube. It’ll change your mind, I know it!


Mission run a half marathon is on

10k down! What's next?

After running the Toronto Yonge Street 10k I am determined to be a fast runner! Now that running is fun, I also what to strat running farther. This may not be so fun.

I don’t really remember where my sudden need to run races came from. Knowing Erin was running all the time way back when, then dedicated herself to run a marathon, may have helped slightly. Actually it helped a lot. Running a marathon I feel is one of those things on everyone’s bucket list. I would love to say “I ran a marathon!” one day, but highly doubt I can hold my attention for that length of time. What do people think about for this long? How do they push themselves though those awful stretches when anything would be more appealing than running another second? I’m not going to scratch the marathon idea just yet, it’s only May and I’ve already signed up for race number three The Midsummer Night’s Run. I think my sights are set on a half marathon. I would be very happy to run this far in the short amount of time I would call myself a runner.

I’m convincing myself if I can finish 15k in August I can do a half in the fall. Plus I’m still using the “I climbed the CN Tower” bit to convince myself I can do anything. That, and I have to say each race I run gets better and better and more and more fun. Thank goodness Erin is running the 15k too that’s pretty much the whole reason I agreed to it, oh and I’ve been told people dress up like fairies! I want to dress up as a fairy. At this rate by the fall I will love running, only if it involves dressing up. And sleep overs at Erin’s. That is very important.

Runners look and talk like very fit people should. Or at least that’s my impression of them anyway. Races make me feel like I could be one of them. I really want to belong mostly because of Charlie and Graham, and now Jenn too. I live in a house with a super couple — you may remember them from the day I ran in Yorkville wearing nothing but a speedo — who run races and train for the Iron Man competitions and an all star track superstar, no wonder I have this overwhelming urge to be great at running. But thankfully Erin keeps me on track. Her upbeat confidence in me, tells me I can run a 10k sub 50 if I train for it.

And maybe run a half marathon too.