Category Archives: 2020

The First Week Is the Hardest, Baby. (Or maybe not.)

Week 2, Day 1

As Week 2 began, I was hoping that I would be able to announce how much easier the second week was than the first. The start was promising: it was a lot easier getting up early than it was last Monday. In fact, I set my alarm for eight (since it was a holiday and all) but I woke up at 7, so I got up. In spite of that, it was almost noon before I prodded myself out the door for my run, and it was warmer and muggier out there than I had anticipated.

It’s cooler this week than it was last week, but it’s still warm when the sun is out. Between the heat and the humidity, plus the fact that the running time on my training schedule had increased from 2 minutes run/3 minutes walk (times six) to 3 minutes run/ 2 minutes walk (times six), it was a huge struggle to complete my assignment for the day.

But I did it. (My musical accompaniment was Pink.) And today I went for my walk, dodging raindrops. So I’m still on track.

Tomorrow I’ll go out when I get up. Difficult as it is, it’s really the only way, at least as long as the summer heat is on us.

I found an article in The Guardian last week that certainly might help get me out the door if my brain were functional enough at 6:30 in the morning to think about scientific evidence of any kind, which normally it is not. It concerns a report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care in the UK that reviewed a lot of existing literature and added some new studies of its own on the subject of dementia. The Commission determined that by addressing certain lifestyle factors, “up to 40% of dementia cases worldwide could be delayed or prevented.” Physical inactivity is only one of twelve risk factors mentioned in the report, but it’s one of the ones that individuals can do something about — unlike, say, pollution. (Note to younger readers: exercise is particularly beneficial in this regard when practised starting in middle age.) Since the report points out that depression is also associated with dementia, and since exercise definitely helps to lift the spirits, physical activity may thwart dementia on two fronts.

I am very grateful to my friends and followers for the positive feedback I’ve been getting on this undertaking. It helps a lot.

Photos from my walk today include an unidentified flowering tree and a snail – both enjoying the rain.

Week One, Day Four

Run a Day, Walk a Day

My goal at the outset of this new regimen is to get out there every other day for a total of three runs a week. I have read that muscles need an opportunity to recover, and for that reason running every day is not recommended. (Those who offer such advice are probably talking to people who run five k in half an hour, which isn’t me. But I figure I might as well keep the wear and tear on my aging joints to a minimum.)

However, running only three days a week creates a problem. I know that if I don’t get up at the same time on the other days as I do on my running days, I will never develop the getting-up-early habit, and rolling out of bed will continue to be a battle. So I’ve decided to try to get up at the same time on the other days as well and instead of going for a run, go out for a walk.

Guess what? Going for a walk turns out to be far less onerous than going for a run. You have more time to check out cloud formations and you can smell the trees. You can even give yourself permission to stop to take pictures of interesting things, which you can’t do when you’re running. Take this chair set in the back of someone’s yard, looking out on Sheppard Ave. It’s the kind of chair I’d love to sit in: it’s far from human activity on three sides, well shaded, and looks out on the traffic going by on a pretty busy street (albeit somewhat less busy during a pandemic than usual).

I also found a path heading off into the woods from that busy street, and I was very tempted to see where it led.

So far this week, I’ve done two runs and two walks. This is a definite improvement over last week, and the week before that, and the one before that, etc. Many steps in the right direction. I am grateful to all those people who I imagine are reading this blog, because you’re the ones who got me out there! Onwards.

Just fyi, my first week’s schedule is 2 minutes of running plus 2 minutes of walking, repeated six times, plus a warmup and cool down at five minutes each. The first day out I was accompanied by Queen, and the second time by Chris Isaak.

This little guy has been the highlight of my outings so far. I paused on the path when I saw him and asked if he’d stay where he was if I moved a bit closer to take a picture. Keeping his eyes on me, he sat still until I’d snapped this photo.

Well, That Was Dumb

or maybe not….

Your overheated scribe, post-run. Note steam rising from head.

So the alarm went off at 7 o’clock this morning, and I did what I always do: I turned it off and I went back to sleep.

When I woke up for real at 8, my immediate thought – of course – was that I had promised myself and the small corner of the universe that reads my blog that I would get up and go for a run, and I had failed to do that. Guilt set in immediately. My one hope was that no one had read the blog post yet… maybe I could take it down and repost it today and everyone would think tomorrow (Tuesday) was the day I had promised myself to start this new regimen.

No such luck, of course. My WordPress dashboard indicated that quite a few people had clicked on the post during the night (in addition to those who get the post whether they want it or not because they are subscribers). Someone had even commented already.

Although my first instinct was to throw myself off a very high escarpment somewhere, that seemed a bit dramatic even to me. My more realistic choices were: a) to confess in my post today that I had failed to get up and go for a run, and to say I would try again tomorrow (we’re all human, blah blah blah); or b) to go for a run today at some later hour than 7 a.m., and then to confess in today’s post that I might have failed to get up, but at least I had gone for a run.

The Don River was high and fast today due to the heavy rains, but it didn’t cool the air much.

There was, obviously, only one option available to me, and that was Option B. But the problems associated with Option B were almost enough for me to seriously contemplate settling for Option A. The first problem was that I could not go out until an hour after I’d eaten breakfast (because I don’t like running on a full stomach. I am such a delicate flower) and the temperature was already nearly 30° (that’s 86°F). By the time my oatmeal had settled, it would be several degrees higher. I was going to bake out there. Sunstroke. Ambulances. I visualized them all.

Don’t be a wuss, I told myself.

The next problem arose just after the oatmeal had found its happy place. This one took the form of a Severe Thunderstorm Watch that had now appeared on the Environment Canada website. I could see the clouds moving in. I weighed the heroics of having been killed by lightning because of my determination to get some exercise against the horror of having to admit defeat (see Option A).

Sure enough, we got a huge downpour — and then it was time for lunch.

And so it went all afternoon — heat and stormy weather. But by five p.m., I could delay no longer. It was still more than 30° and the Thunderstorm Watch was still in effect (as it is even as I write this post at 9 p.m.), but by now I knew I could not face this blog tonight if I had not gone for a run.

Not too many people were out on the trails today.

So off I went. I went down into the ravine by the Don River, where it was marginally cooler than on the paved streets above, and most of the trail was shaded. But it was still the hottest run I can remember doing in about ten years – and that one was in Edmonton, which is in a much drier climate. I was drenched with sweat when I got back. But I did manage to attain my tiny beginner goal for Week 1, Day 1: run (or “wog.” Thanks for that term, Lee. That is in fact what I did) for two minutes, walk for two minutes, six times. With a five minute warmup (hah!) at the beginning and a five-minute cool-down (hah!) at the end.

As I was dragging the weary puddle I’d turned into back up from the ravine, it occurred to me that given the heat and the weather warnings, I would never have gone out today — never never never — if it hadn’t been for this blog, and the people I knew had read it. So the trap I set for myself has worked, at least for today. I just hope that I have enough sense to avoid putting myself into such a hot, humid and embarrassing position again. Tomorrow is a walk day, rather than a run day, and I swear I am going out at 7, when it is still cool.

I do have an extra nudge to get me up and moving tomorrow. The first comment I received on last night’s post was from my son Dan, who does a hit on Radio 1010 about science and technology every morning at 6:50 a.m. He suggested I listen to the hit live (instead of tracking down the recording online once I am awake, as I usually do), and then head out the door. Thanks, Dan. If you can get up in time to do the segment, I can get up in time to hear it.

I think I can.

I hope I can.

P.S. Thanks to Lee and Ruth for their very supportive comments, too. Your feedback helped so much!!