Category Archives: Fitness

Garmin Fenix 5S; a Rave Review

Activity trackers. All the rage lately, right? Well, I've just recently jumped on the bandwagon, and with just over a week of wearing my Garmin, I think it's safe to say that I'm officially hooked.

In all my years of running (and I'm coming up on 25 years of distance running!), I have never worn a device to track my distance or my pace. I pre-plan my routes most times, and use MapMyRun.com to know how far I'm going. The odd time, I'll turn on an app on my phone to give me an end-of-run summary of what I've just done, but most times I run old-school; no timers, no heart rates, no step counts. All that changed on August 1st, when I put on my shiny new Garmin Fenix 5S, and now I've become a data junkie.

My sister-in-law works for Garmin, and has been in the wearables world for a long time. I've borrowed her watches for a run here and there when we meet up on vacation or when she comes to visit, and I've always been intrigued. So I've been saving my pennies for months and finally decided to see what all the fuss is about. And while this post isn't meant to be a plug or an advertisement for Garmin specifically, I can only speak from this one experience, so it very well may end up reading like a brochure. Bear with me. Runners, you're going to love this…..

The Fenix 5S tracks my heart rate all the time, giving me insight into my cardiovascular fitness, and showing me an overall picture of my workouts. In fact, resting heart rates have become a competition between my husband and I (I'm winning):

It gives me a guide for my VO2 max, albeit based on an activity algorithm. And while the actual numbers may not be perfectly accurate, I like that it can give me a rough guide on my fitness level at the present time:

It measures my runs. This is the main reason that I got a Garmin to begin with; I wanted something to tell me my pace, to guide my interval training, to support my long runs. Here's a glimpse into what I did this morning:

As you can see, I love this thing. I can see what all the fuss is about. Happy training!

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5 x 800m

If you’ve been following my blog over the years, you will know that I’m a sports fan.  My husband is too, and he’s a high school Phys Ed teacher, so sport is as much a part of his life as it is mine.  My practice is by no means “athletes only,” but my patient population is definitely dominated by active people leading active lives.  In fact, it was the fitness/movement/sport side of chiropractic that initially drew me in and made me want to join this profession.  I was a newly-graduated University student with a Bachelor’s degree and cloudy vision of my future when I got a job at the front desk of a sports-based practice in Calgary and it suddenly all seemed so clear: this was my path.  

OK, the intro’s over, onto my story:

I did an interval workout this morning; five repeats of 800m.  With the Summer upon us, my kids and my husband are now home during the day, and as I pulled on my running clothes just after 7am, my five-year-old daughter asked to come along.  “Can I come too?” she said, “since you’re not going far?”  She’s getting heavy to push in the running stroller, and my runs these days tend to be long and hilly, so adding 50lbs of drag makes her running-buddy days few and far between.  I’ve written about her coming with me on runs before and about how many hundreds of miles I’ve put on my running stroller with my kids over the years.  “Sure,” I said, and she jumped up to put on some shorts and grab some snacks.  My eight-year-old son’s interest was piqued when I mentioned the race-against-the-clock aspect of interval training and he asked to come too, which he hasn’t done in a couple of years.  So out the door we went, armed with scooters and the stroller, snacks and smiles.  

We did loops of our neighborhood; I’ve got an 800m left-turn-only route that I envision as my own personal track just outside my front door.  My son and I both had watches, and we raced each other and timed ourselves, he on his scooter, me pushing his sister in the stroller.  She soon finished her snacks and wanted in on the action- so she jumped on her scooter and the three of us raced the loop again and again.  It was the best interval workout I’ve ever had, only because they were there too, testing their limits, pushing their bodies, learning their capabilities.  

The point?  Well, let’s get back to my sports-fan intro…..

My daughter is a sports fan too.  In fact, at five years old, she often wakes before the rest of us, and sleepily wanders into the living room to watch SportsCentre or BlueJays in 30 until we get up.  You may ask why I’m focusing this post on her in relation to sport.  Well, that’s an easy answer: because the world is already set up to make boys into athletes.  Now, I’m most certainly a feminist (or more accurately, an equalist), but I’m not burning my bra while I write this post, I’m simply stating a fact.  “I’m going to win the World Series when I grow up,” she says while we watch baseball, “I’m going to win the Stanley Cup,” she says while we watch hockey.  I smile, I encourage, I tell her she better give her mama front row seats.  

I don’t tell her that pro-sports are nearly exclusively male, that female athletes are often sexualized for their feminity or criticized for their masculinity, or that the two eight-year-old girls at my son’s baseball practice get lumped into “boys, let’s hustle.”  I think about aspirations of female athletes; College scholarships, Olympic Games, sponsorships.  I think about how Title IX started to change the culture of sport when I was growing up.  I think about how if I had to do life over again, I would be a sideline reporter and eat/sleep/breathe the ups and downs of sport even more than I do now.  I think about how I can foster her passions, teach her to think outside of gender boundaries, and to use fitness and sport as a way to gain health and friendships, mental clarity and strength, energy and joy.

And I think about how I can show her that running 800m laps on quiet suburban streets before 8am is not weird, it’s actually pretty damn fun.

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Then the Wheels Came Off

This post is being published on a Monday morning.  For the last five years I have published my blog post on Tuesdays, so a Monday post is new territory for me.  But I ran in a half marathon yesterday, and since I have so many incredibly supportive people in my life, I keep getting texts and emails asking how it went.  I thought I’d write a post to give you my summary of the race, and how I fell way short of my goal…..

I tried to write part of this post ahead of time, you know, before I had even run the race.  I had some time mid-week last week, and because writing time is such a rarity, I pounced on it.  But the words didn’t come easily.  I knew what I wanted to write about, I just couldn’t seem to make it happen.  What I wanted to write about was the half marathon that I had been focused on for months.  I wanted to set the scene for you.  I wanted to talk about my mindset, my training, and my race prep, but my headspace wasn’t right.  I had doubts about my performance, anxiety about the forecast heat, and superstition about pre-writing even part of a post before the end result was known.

And so I write it now, with emotions running high and fatigue pulsing through me.  It’s 9:00pm on Sunday night.  My feet are up on our coffee table, there is a mug of Rooibos tea steaming, the hockey game is on, my tablet is laid before me, and I have had time to process what happened this morning.

Sigh.

You see, I’m trying to qualify for the 2018 New York marathon, which is traditionally built around a lottery system for participants.  Last year, more than 98 000 people entered the lottery, and roughly 16 000 were accepted- that’s less than a 17% chance of getting in.  The other 34 000 runners (yes, there’s 50 000 runners that run this race) come through various other means- 9000 charity spots, paid tour company entrants, New York Road Runners members, and NYC race volunteer spots.  The tricky part of these logistics is that my dear friend and training partner, Michaela, has never run a full marathon and NYC is at the top of her list.  So the best sure-thing option for both of us to get into the race is to meet the tougher-than-Boston qualifying standard; for our age group, that means running sub-1:34 in a race sanctioned by Athletics Canada.IMG_6581

Now, Michaela is much faster and a much more natural runner than I, and in fact, she ran 1:27 at the Hamilton half marathon last Fall on only two days/week of training.  She’s a natural, and her effortless pace still astounds me, as I huff and puff beside her on our weekend long runs.  In that same race last Fall, I ran 1:37, and battled stomach issues and under-training.  I felt old and slow and defeated and the doubts creeped in.  Could I manage to shave three minutes off my time?  I have a 1:23 personal best and I’ve run under 1:34 dozens of times, but with an extra 13 years and 2 kids under my belt, my abilities have changed.

So for the last few months, I’ve been focused.  I’ve run early.  I’ve run late.  I’ve run through blinding rain more times than I can count and an early-morning thunderstorm on the NorthShore hills.  I’ve run with my daughter in the Chariot, with tired CrossFit legs, with to-do lists in my brain, with sunrises and skunks and solitude.  And I remembered why I love this sport so much- this sport that’s been a huge part of my life for twenty-five years- sometimes in foreground but always in the background, a common thread through my teenage angst, my insecure twenties, my schooling, my cross-country move, my marriage, my kids, my career, my life.

But 1:34 still seemed seemed impossibly far away, my goal unreachable…. and then my training came together.  Fitness is like that, at least for me; weeks of effort will come together in a single run, and all of a sudden it clicks.  It clicked for me last weekend, when I tested my speed at the Moon in June 10k and surprised myself with a 41:46 and a first-place finish; my 4:11/km pace felt tough but manageable, painful but attainable, gritty but realistic.  Perhaps 1:34 wasn’t a carrot on the end of a stick I couldn’t reach.  So when I toed the line at the race this morning I had the usual doubts mixed with a taste of confidence and a sprinkle of hope.

Then the wheels came off.  I didn’t just miss my goal, I missed it by nearly six minutes, and I was the closest I’ve ever been to walking off a race course and calling it quits.  I went out way too fast, and ran my first 10k recklessly faster than I had planned.  But distance-running can be risky like that; it tricks you into thinking you’re feeling well and then it pulls the rug out from underneath you.  I hit the proverbial wall at 13km.  I stopped, I bent forward, my head between my knees.  I felt dizzy, my legs felt heavy, and I started to panic. I could feel my breath catching in my throat and tears came to my eyes.  But Michaela was there to talk me off the ledge.  “One foot in front of the other,” “you can do it,” “you’ve got this.”  I cried and ran and cried and walked for the next few kilometers, the heat becoming oppressive, and my mind jostling between pain and anger and frustration.  I wasn’t wearing a watch, I was running on feel only, and at the 17km mark Michaela looked at her Garmin and said “I know you won’t believe this, but we’re still on pace.  You banked enough time in the first half, you can still do this.”  Only four kilometers to go.  Four kilometers to reach a months-long goal and I just couldn’t do it.  I had nothing left in the tank, I couldn’t dig any deeper, I was running on empty.  I suspect we walked 2km of those last 4km and I hobbled across the finish line at 1:39FullSizeRender 16

But I hope this post inspires you.  I hope you don’t see failure, but rather perseverance.  I hope you see grit and determination and I hope you see that big goals achieved are that much sweeter when there’s been big struggle endured.  I hope my kids see that too- they saw me win last weekend and they saw me cry when I got home from the race this morning….. the ups and downs of sport and life.

I’m going to lick my wounds and nurse my ego for awhile and I’ll try again this Fall.  And if the wheels come off then too, well, I’ll try again.

 

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