Tag Archives: running

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.

Here We Go Again

At the start of this pandemic, when it came to looking after myself I did fairly well. I went out walking or running every other day, and I was watching what I ate. I was even meditating fairly regularly.

But the interminability of the crisis and the unpredictability of the future got to me after a month or so and I fell into an extended period of languor, disinterest and general malaise. I know I am not the only one to have had this experience because when I tell other people I have “Quarantine Brain” or “Isolation Brain,” they tell me they have it too.

In addition to Quarantine Brain, I also have Quarantine Body, by which I mean that I’ve gained a few pounds that I really didn’t need. And now I need to get rid of them – which, as we all know, is more easily said than done. (As you may also know, I have been fighting against excess body weight for long enough that I have written a novel about the challenges of dieting, trying to work out why almost any diet will do the trick as long as your head is in the right space, and why nothing will work when it’s not.)

I am not sure that my head is anywhere near the right space, but I do know that I can’t afford to put this off any longer. I am having some surgery on my left foot in early September to remove a bunionette, which will mean no running for six weeks. And we all know what comes after October in Canada: winter. If I don’t get around to addressing my lack of condition and extra pounds until after that — well, I don’t want to think about it. I am no spring chicken and if I let my body go, I might never get it back.

For several weeks, I’ve been absolutely determined to get up in the morning and go for a (slow) run before it gets too hot. The only problem is that I’m totally determined until the instant before the alarm clock goes off. When it does, I find myself quite undetermined to do anything but roll over and go to sleep again. My husband is kind enough not to point out what a lazy-butt I have turned into, so I need to build some external accountability into my life. So here we are.

Since we’re unable to travel, which means I’m unable to regale you with stories about our trip to Spain (which is where we were planning to go when COVID-19 raised its ugly head, or its nasty coronas to be more accurate), I will be giving you a tour of my running program in the days and weeks ahead. Enjoy. I hope you will find some humour and possibly even some inspiration here.

And if you’re engaging in your own Quarantine-Brain-and-Body Battle, share your experiences in the comments section below. As they say about masks and social distancing, we’re all in this together.

See you tomorrow.

A place to stay — and a place to run

Post #3

Last week, I sent friends and relatives on my email contact list an announcement of my impending move, and a link to this new blog. That list includes several people I’ve known since childhood. A family friend I haven’t seen in at least 40 years responded almost immediately to invite me to stay in her basement bed- and bath-room suite in North Toronto while I am looking for a place to rent. I have now accepted her kind offer with deep gratitude. (Thank you again, Pat!)

I had intended that this week I would start to look for a furnished suite that I could rent for a few weeks while I was looking for a permanent address. I’d had a look at Craigslist and a few other on-line sites that advertise furnished suites that are available on a weekly or monthly basis. I was going to follow up on those more seriously, and put a notice onto a few of my on-line forums to see if anyone wanted to sublet for a month or so. However, to have now had that part of my to-do list eliminated before I even really started on it is simply wonderful, and the fact that Pat is centrally located and close to public transit is icing on the cake.

One of the first things I did after I accepted Pat’s invitation was to figure out how far she was from the Toronto Running Room stores and/or the Y. I was delighted to discover that there is a Running Room less than a kilometre from her house. The Running Room stores all have “run clubs” that go out on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings, with different groups doing different paces. Everyone at every stage and speed is welcome. (Increasingly these stores now offer walking clubs as well for those who are not into running.) These and similar outlets are great resources for finding safe running trails in unfamiliar cities.

I am not an athlete. I’ve never been one—I skated in winter and swam in summer as a kid, but that was about it. Just after my second son was born I took an aerobics class, and ever since then I’ve been a recreational-level fitness fanatic (although admittedly an inconsistent and often inactive one. Sometimes my weekly exercise consists only of admiring people on television who are cycling or running). Running (or, more precisely, “jogging” in my case) is my favourite activity. Even my slow pace is enough to get the endorphins firing after twenty minutes or half an hour and the fresh air and small calorie burns are bonuses. Even at nearly 60, running is still a pretty good activity for me—especially when I do it.

One of the biggest drawbacks to living on the frozen prairie is that there always comes a point in the winter when running outside is not possible for an extended period—it is too cold and/or the roads and sidewalks are too slick. Getting downtown to the Y to find an alternate activity also seems to require too much courage in such weather. So inevitably, I stop. Getting started again when spring comes and the sidewalks are finally less treacherous is always hard. I worry that some year I will not start again at all, and so I had this thought: if I move to a place where I don’t have to stop running for more than a few days in a row, and if I keep on running all year round, then I’ll never have to start running again. This reasoning makes perfect sense to me: especially when I’m high on endorphins.

I finally have got myself back to the point where I’m running four days a week. I know that one key to my successful transition to Toronto is going to be to ensure that I continue to work out consistently. If I let that go during the move, it will be hard to get started again – there will always be something else I need to do more. In addition to boosting my spirits and my self-confidence, of course, exercise also builds my energy and strength. I’m going to need lots of those resources if I’m going to get all the packing done and do everything else I need to do in the next few weeks and months. I can’t afford to let the workouts slide.

So the Google map of Toronto with its little red balloons that showed the proximity of Pat’s house to a Running Room was a very welcome sight.