Tracy: back on track with running just in time for Christmas

It’s Christmas Day and I’m in Haliburton, Ontario this year. Though it started off very cold (about -15 C), it warmed up to -3 C a couple of days ago and that temperature held steady, with a little bit of light and beautiful snow, yesterday.

That meant good conditions, temperature-wise anyway, for running. I’ve been sort of off track with it, just dabbling since the half marathon in October. And then with China at the beginning of December and re-entry into the Easter Time zone after that, coupled with a huge end-of-term scramble, my running just didn’t come together.

Until last weekend when I went out with the Running Room Around the Bay training group for their Sunday long run. Anita and I have committed to do Around the Bay 30K on March 31st, and though it seemed really far in the future when we signed up, it’s a mere three months and a week away now. And 30K is a long way. So it’s imperative that I adopt a consistent training plan about now and stick with it.

It amazes me always how quickly I can go from “oh wow, I’m off track completely!” to “hey, back on track and feeling good.” This time the transformation took exactly three outings. There was the Sunday with the RR, then a couple of days ago, another Sunday run up here on my favourite cottage road in the world (shortened from 10K to 9K because of icy uneven ground–the Yak Trax took care of the slipperiness but not the unevenness), and then, because the weather was so perfect on Christmas Eve, another 5K yesterday.

Here I am on my Sunday run a couple of days ago:

And lo and behold — I feel back on track. I’ve been communicating with my coach, Linda. I took a breather from her training plans for a couple of months, but we’re working together again and she sent me a new plan on the weekend and it kicks me into gear in a couple of days.

I realize that winter running can range from amazing , when it’s crisp and clear and not too cold and the pavement is not treacherous, to freezing and icy and windy and unpleasant. But right now, with the conditions we’ve had in recent days, it’s feeling do-able.

The prospect of Around the Bay should keep me on task. And working with Linda, combined with the camaraderie of Anita and the RR Sunday run club group that’s training for the race, will be fun and motivating.

One of my favourite things about winter running is the post-run bath. Up here in Haliburton it’s even better because of the clawfoot tub.

All the best for a great Christmas today if you’re celebrating Christmas, and just generally for an awesome day regardless!


Defying the evidence: I DO remember the pain of my one and only marathon

Image description: overlapping black and white oval stickers that say “42.2 – Member of the club”

Yesterday Sam sent me an article that is re-circulating. It’s entitled, “The Science Behind Why You Don’t Remember the Pain of Running Marathon.”

The thing is, I actually do remember the pain of my marathon. So I’m some kind of anomaly in that respect. I think one reason I remember it is that I blogged about it. In serious, painful detail. You can read that post here. I also had this research presented to me shortly after the marathon. So I filed it away and have kept it near the surface of my mind.

Nevertheless, the research makes sense to me. In a nutshell, the findings say that endurance athletes (indeed pretty much all athletes) are used to experiencing some pain associated with pushing themselves. But they learn to distinguish that pain from the pain of injury. Not only that, athletes also tend to recall event highlights.

And finally, “Pleasant emotion—your sense of accomplishment, self-satisfaction, or pride—can blunt your memory of the tough stuff…” Maybe there is something specific about physical accomplishment because I don’t know that we do this in other areas of life.

When I talk to friends who didn’t enjoy graduate school, for example, they have a tendency to dwell on what was hard and awful. When I talk to friends about broken relationships, only those who have worked hard at it are able to get past the parts that made them angry or sad (that is, it’s rare that someone will forget the pain of a bad relationship).

So I wonder if the accomplishments associated with physical endurance–the sense of achievement, of hard training paying off–are a different order that enables them to create amnesia.

Sometimes. As I said, I remember. I also remember the Around the Bay 30K of 2015. At the time I doubted I would ever run the 30K again. But here I am, training for Around the Bay 30K on March 31, 2019.

It’s not that I don’t remember that it was difficult, especially the last few kilometres. According to my race report, with about 2K to go, “This is around the time that I started to ask myself what the heck I thought I was doing and why did I sign up for this race and is this supposed to be fun or what the hell?”

So I clearly didn’t love it the whole way through. But that would be an unrealistic expectation anyway. Does my willingness to do it again four years later mean I’ve forgotten how hard it was? Or does it mean I’m up for another challenge?

I don’t know for sure. But based on my half marathon experience, my half marathons these days are a lot more fun than my half marathons four years ago. Not that there aren’t any tough moments, but I’m a stronger runner. If that can translate into a longer distance, then it’s possible that Around the Bay will be a stronger race for me in 2019 than in 2015. I guess we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I agree that we should focus on the positive after a race. But I don’t think that necessarily means the pain is forgotten. It’s more than we decide that, in the end, it’s worth it.

What do you think? Do you need to forget the pain of a difficult endurance experience to sign up again, or is it something that you think of as part of what makes the experience feel like a true sense of accomplishment (perhaps worth doing again)?


Geeta Iyengar and her lasting impact on yoga

Image description: Head shot of Geeta Iyengar, an older Indian woman,  smiling, dark hair tied back, bindi on forehead, white v-necked wrap-style top, blurred background.

With the death of Geeta Iyengar, age 74, on December 16th, yoga lost another giant. Geeta was the daughter of renowned yoga guru BKS Iyengar, and co-director of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India.

My foundational yoga training took place under the instruction of Karen Major at Yoga Centre London, in London, Ontario.  Apart from the first class teaching, Karen regularly visited the Ramamani Institute as part of her ongoing teacher training as a certified instructor of Iyengar yoga. After her trips to India she always came back with stories of Iyengar himself, Geeta, her brother Prashant, and more recently  Geeta’s niece, Abhijata.

These family members dedicated themselves to extending Iyengar’s yoga legacy by practicing his methods and upholding his strict attention to the form and detail of the yoga asanas.

Indeed, Geeta was teaching classes and giving talks at Balewadi Stadium from December 3-14 as part of the celebrations surrounding the centary of her father’s birth.  One of the senior teachers attending the celebrations recounted a story in which someone asked Geeta what it was like to live in her father’s shadow. Geeta replied that she didn’t live in his shadow, she lived in his light.

In addition to being devoted to her father and his teachings, Geeta was a significant figure in bringing yoga to women and helping them develop their own practice. She wrote Yoga: A Gem for Women, as a guide for women, making specific practice suggestions for menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

Geeta’s death came as a shock to the yoga community and Pune and to the Iyengar yoga community more generally.  To read more about her lasting impact and her legacy, see The Times of India, “Geeta Iyengar, renowned yoga exponent, passes away at 74″ and The Hindu,
“Yoga exponent Geeta Iyengar, daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar, passes away.”

I will be forever grateful to B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, Karen Major, and all the other fantastic Iyengar instructors whose wisdom has benefitted my practice since 2000 when I was first introduced to this style of yoga.

fitness · holiday fitness · holidays · tbt · Throwback Thursday

On Pacing Yourself *During* the Holidays #tbt

We aren’t quite there yet and I’m not having any guests this year, but this post about pacing ourselves during the holidays seems like a timely #tbt nonetheless. Enjoy!


christmastreeI’ve just emerged from a couple of solid days in the kitchen (a treat for me, since I love to cook and don’t usually have time to make it a priority).

Sam posted the other day about pacing yourself after the holidays. But since by my count we still have a week of revelry to go, I thought it might not be too late to post about pacing yourself during the holidays.

I’m not talking about food, though of course there is that.  No shortage of magazine articles telling us how to deal with holiday parties and cookie exchanges and a time of year when it seems we’re surrounded by delicious food almost every where we go.  My advice on that isn’t all that helpful: eat it.

I’m more interested in pacing ourselves activity-wise. For some of us, when the routine gets thrown sideways, even by good things, it’s…

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Jet lag as a test of physical endurance

Tracy at the Great Wall of China on her big step day. Photo credit: John Hatch.

I’ve been in China for a week and I had some modest fitness goals while away: to do the hotel room workout my trainer gave me twice, to get enough sleep, and to walk when practical. I didn’t have any grand plans of using the hotel gym or trying to keep up with my running. I thought that if I set a low bar I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Turns out the bar wasn’t low enough. I haven’t done the hotel room workout once even (I could do it now because I’m awake and have been since 4 am). I haven’t slept well since arriving, getting at most 5-6 hours of intermittent sleep. I have walked when practical, including a big day on Sunday that included the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Judging by someone else’s step tracker that day was good for at least 25000 steps. But there has also been a lot of sitting in cars and meeting rooms.

And yet I feel physically taxed at the moment. The long days of meetings with Chinese partner institutions–which have all been productive and exciting–and totally reversed time zones (the part of China I’m in is 13 hours ahead of my usual Eastern Time Zone) turn out to be a brutal combo.

Most mornings we have been meeting for breakfast around or before 7, and I’ve been awake already mostly before 4 without being able to get back to sleep. We have usually had morning and afternoon meetings. I’ve had more coffee than I usually do.

And by the time I get back to my hotel room for the night there has been no way I could possibly consider working out.

I consider that totally reasonable. Though I do like to keep working out when I travel, on these short trips across the world where there isn’t even time to adjust before heading back home, the physical endurance required to get the day’s work done is enough of a workout for me.

When I’m sleep deprived it makes matters worse. I’m told there are things that can make it easier. Staying hydrated. Melatonin. Using drugs for sleeping (not an option for me). So far I haven’t found anything that makes it easier for me. And yet I love traveling. I think I just need to go on longer trips with more gentle schedules!

Most of all, I’m not going to be too hard on myself for not making the already low bar I set. It’s been a great trip and I’ll get back on track when I get home, which is tonight.

What’s your best advice for managing jet lag across many time zones? Do you keep to a workout schedule or find, like me, that the day’s events are challenging enough?


Enjoy the festivities, eat the food

Vegan sticky toffee pudding. From

Holiday food anxiety is a thing. I’ve already started hearing about it from friends and co-workers. It usually starts around Halloween, when people are “worried” over eating their leftover candies from having over-purchased for the trick or treaters, or sneaking chocolate bars from their kids’ stashes while the kids are at school. But it intensifies through late November and early December, when we attend parties and social events and also contend with the leftovers thereof, which people like to bring to work.

I know food anxiety, having experienced my share of it in the past. But since my almost 30 year project of intuitive eating (see my post about finally becoming an intuitive eater), I no longer feel stress over holiday eating. One thing that has alleviated that for me is that I no longer treat it as an “indulgence.” Indulgences, guilty pleasures, “sinful” or “decadent” treats — these are all ways of insinuating that we ought to feel guilty for eating these things. Guilt is associated with wrong-doing, and so there is an underlying “I really shouldn’t” behind every bite when we regard eating holiday treats in this way.

I realize that in some sense, venturing into taboo territory can add an extra little charge of delight, but for the most part, it leaves us feeling worse in the end. Why not instead just eat the food, enjoy the food, and move on?

This makes it sound easier than it actually is for many people. And I don’t mean to sound flippant or to trivialize the agonizing internal dialogue that can ensue when a chronic dieter who has spent a lifetime monitoring their food intake and watching their weight. The level of preoccupation that some experience, and the self-recrimination afterwards, is hard for those who have never experienced even to fathom.

And yet the mixed messages of media–where we are bombarded with recipes for holiday treats, on the one hand, and cautioned against “over-doing it,” on the other hand–encourage this tortured internal dance.

I vote for giving ourselves permission to enjoy the food and realize that we are grown ups who get to make our own decisions. If it’s not easy for you to do, consider how life would be if you gave up dieting as a way of life and instead dealt with food on a more accepting level? For some, this may be the beginning of an experiment, starting on the path to thinking of food in a more neutral manner, and learning to enjoy what you enjoy in amounts that feel good and comfortable, knowing that you can make that choice again later if you wish. That’s in contrast to the diet mentality, when we consider the holidays (and special occasions) as “cheat” times before we go back to the drab day-to-day of incessant food restriction.

Enjoying what we eat isn’t indulgence. It’s completely acceptable adulting.

Do you enjoy holiday eating or find it stressful?

fitness · running · tbt · winter

Bracing myself for winter running…again #tbt

As I brace myself again for winter running, this post from last year seems a propos. Why does winter running always feel SO HARD at the beginning, when it’s not even as cold or icy or windy as it’s going to get?


winter runningEvery year it seems as if, despite the inevitability of winter, the running outside in winter thing comes as a sudden shock. I had to laugh when I sat down to write this post because I did a little search of the blog for past posts on winter running. That yielded not one, not two, not three, but four posts of my own on running in winter, plus posts by Susan and Sam.

The annual winter running post idea (brilliant and original, I know!) came to me because Sunday was my first real winter run of the season. The kind with snow and wind and cold. And it wasn’t even a lot of any of them. But still, brrrrrr. Because even as a Canadian I have to acclimatize every single winter.

Once I do, it’s brilliant really. I mean, you can dress for most winter running conditions and be quite…

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