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Occasionally it Happens

There is no question in my mind that running can be an up-and-down thing. And I’m not just talking about the hills.

We are nine weeks into training for the Dumbo Double Dare in California. The training schedule is pretty reasonable. Most weeks involve two 45-minute runs through the week, then a longer run on the weekend. At this point in the training, we run back to back runs every other weekend to prepare us to run the back to back 10K and Half.

This weekend, I happened to be in Atlanta for a conference. So I ran my 45-minute run on Friday, then my 6K early on Sunday morning, with plans to run 15K with Barb on Monday night. We chose the evening to avoid the worst of the heat and humidity.

I proceeded to have one of my Worst. Runs. Ever. But sometimes that happens. I had been dreading that run, hadn’t hydrated properly, hadn’t slept much (flight delays from Atlanta), etc. When I finished (after bathroom stops and walking almost all the last 2K), my calves started seizing in the shower, I had a fever, and my stomach was a complete mess. I downed a bottle of PowerAde and went to bed. I slept for 7 hours straight (which is not normal for me).

But I finished the distance. It didn’t kill me. I feel fine today. I’m chalking it up to a perfect storm of a virus, the humidity and dehydration. Bad runs happen. And I don’t have to do it again for two weeks.

And my 45 minute run on Wednesday is going to feel like a cake walk.

Keep running (even when it completely rots!)


Heart to Heart in the Park

My schedule got a little out of control on Tuesday, and Barb and I couldn’t connect for our 45-minute training run. We agreed (promised) that we would run separately. Barb managed to knock her run off early in the day, but I was in and out of meetings, and resigned myself to running in the evening (following a volunteer Board meeting). Mark suggested that I run with Madison, and that he would run with Gabrielle, and the whole family could get a run in. That sounded like a great idea.

Needless to say, by the time I got home from my meeting at 7:45, I didn’t feel much like running. And despite my promise to Barb that I absolutely, positively was going to do that Tuesday run, I was pretty much ready to call it a day. But when I walked into the house, Madison and Gabrielle were already in running gear, raring to go. I had no choice – no “out”. They were my little motivators.

Madi and I had a great run. She was feeling conflicted about having to choose between performing in her school musical and performing in the year end show at Atlantic Cirque. (Thankfully her dance recital is a week earlier – that was a huge issue last year…) So we talked about it. For 45 minutes we ran, and we talked. About her decision. About the impending end of elementary school. About “stuff”. The thing about talking while running is that there’s no eye contact. Madison was able to just talk, without the awkwardness of having to sit across the table, or the living room, and look at me. I really think I’ve just stumbled upon the best way to have a conversation with your pre-teen.

(As an aside, I also find it amusing that when you run with children, they have to stop and pet every cute puppy in the park.)

So if there are big things happening in your son’s or daughter’s life (or even if all is well) take him/her out for a little run, and find out what’s on his/her mind. I’m glad I did.

Yours in Running,


Get Your Kids Running Part IV

Last night Lisa took Gabrielle, and Mark took Madison, for their final training runs before the Scotiabank Bluenose Marathon Weekend ( As usual, Gabi (aptly named) chatted the whole 4.5K. Lisa got all caught up on what she’s learning in school, and all the third grade politics and shenanigans. Madison and Mark ran 7K, incorporating some hill strategies that she’s going to need on Sunday! We picked up our race kits today, and we’re getting ready to “Just Giv’er”.

So while we’re anxiously awaiting the Bluenose, here’s the last of the Top 10 List of strategies to get your family on the road to running. (The list has been spread out over a few posts.)

7.     Keep distances reasonable for the age of the child. There is a lot of controversy about how much distance children should be running, and at what ages. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, overuse, overtraining and burnout are increasing issues among children as their participation in sports increases*. There is no single guideline regarding the distances that are appropriate at specific ages. That means that as parents, we are responsible to work with our children to determine how much is too much.

Start off slowly, with short distances, then increase speed and distance as you go, but not by more than 10% per week*. Listen to your child. If he or she is experiencing any pain, it could signal injury to muscle, bone or tendon. We follow training plans that allow at least one “rest” day between runs, so that muscles have a chance to recover. Our 8-year-old daughter can run 5K without too much strain, but we wouldn’t let her do much more at her age. Our 11-year-old daughter – we’ll call her the gazelle – has no problem running 10K. With the right training plan and lots of monitoring, we would allow her to start training for a half marathon.

8.      Set goals and help your child build a plan to achieve them. When you decide to start running, be sure to set a goal. It might be a specific race (a Family 5K Fun Run is an excellent place to start) or a distance or duration that you would like to work up to over time. Make sure your goal is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Set a plan to achieve your goal. Follow the plan. Make a chart that your child can update – it’s a visual reminder of his or her achievement. Build your plan to increase your distance and speed over a period of time, with milestones along the way. Training without a plan is like trying to put together a Lego set without the instructions.

9.      Run while on vacation – it’s a great way to see the sights. When you plan your next vacation, have your kids plan a couple of runs. Discover the local parks and gardens, or incorporate some of the major sites. Last year, Mark ran the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco (amongst other ports on a Mediterranean cruise). Remember: safety first, of course. Stick to the beaten path, be aware and alert, and be sure to learn about the area before you hit the road.

10.   Make it fun. Children love to run. If they start looking at running as something they have to do versus something they love to do, you’re sunk. (They love the idea of helping with housework, too, until you add it to their chore list.) Vary the route, set goals, make it family time, get them talking, sign up for running events, involve them in planning, and incorporate running into your routine. Don’t underestimate the power of a race goal to motivate your little runner. Ours are pretty fired up about the Bluenose.

No more excuses. Just get out there and run – Family Style! You’ll be glad you did.

*Brenner, Joel S. (2007). Overuse Injuries, Overtraining and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes. Pediatrics, Vol. 119, No. 6, June 1, 2007 (pp. 1242 – 1245)

Get Your Kids Running – Part II

Whether you’ve decided to make running a part of your family’s lifestyle or you’re still considering it, this series of posts offers some tips and pointers on getting your kids excited about lacing up the running shoes and hitting the trail. Remember, these tips are not just for kids. Being the “reluctant runner” that I was, I needed a few of these strategies to get started as well.*

1.      Model the behaviour you want your kids to follow. If you already run, let them watch your races and get involved in cheering. Immerse them in the sport. If you’re not a runner yet, consider taking up the sport with them. It’s good family fun. I think part of the reason we started running was the steady stream of runners who pass our house every day. There came a point where we just couldn’t ignore them anymore – you start to feel really lazy just watching them. Likewise, if you expect your children to get off their butts and start moving, consider practicing what you preach, and make it part of your own lifestyle. When they see you running, they’re more likely to want to follow. 

2.      Start off slowly. If you run, but your child doesn’t, take her for a short, slow run. Talk to her as you run, and gauge how she is breathing. At a moderate pace, she should be able to talk, but not sing a song. At a vigorous pace, she should be able to say a few words between breaths. The folks at ParticipACTION recommend that even young children should get both moderate and vigorous activity on a regular basis (six times per week). If your child is gasping for breath, dial back the pace. If she’s successfully singing her latest One Direction fave, increase the intensity. Gradually increase distance and speed as your little runner improves. Running with Gabrielle is a treat. She chats incessantly the whole way. On walks and runs with her, we have built and re-built her Dream Tree Fort a hundred times.

Of course it’s conceivable that your child is already a bit more advanced than Mum or Dad in the fitness department. It may take some time before you can keep up with your child. If that is the case, allow your child to run a safe distance ahead of you, then run back to meet you. They are able to get a bit more distance in while you build your endurance. Older children may be able to run ahead with a friend or sibling.

3.      Train in intervals. If you are, or your child is, new to running or physical activity in general, and running a whole kilometer seems daunting, break it up using run and walk intervals. In our humble opinion, run/walk intervals are the best thing that ever happened to running. Both John Stanton of the Running Room, and Jeff Galloway, coach to over 200,000 runners and walkers, endorse the run/walk method of running.

Beginners can start with whatever is comfortable. Depending on your fitness level, you may want to begin with walking. Once you and your child are comfortable with walking, try running for 30 seconds out of every five minutes. (A watch with an interval timer makes this easier to track.) After a week, increase that to one minute of running and four minutes of walking. Continue this progression until you are running four out of five minutes. Gradually increase your run intervals until you can run for ten minutes and walk for one minute. That one minute walk break provides enormous benefits. It allows you to alternate between the running and walking muscles, resulting in increased endurance, improved times, and fewer injuries than just straight running. It has enabled many middle-aged runners with no exercise background to complete marathons.

Run 10, walk 1 is the “typical” interval, but Lisa and her running partner, Barb, are currently running 7/1’s, and Dave, Barb’s hubby, recently completed his first full marathon using 5/1 intervals. Mark and his running partner, Kurt, well they just plain run. We call them the Energizer Bunnies. We’re all different. The key is to find the interval that works for you.

Stay tuned for more Top Ten Tips on getting your child running…

*If you and/or your child are new to exercise, or haven’t exercised in a while, discuss your plans to start running with your family doc.

Get your Kids Running

The folks at ParticipACTION, proponents of a healthy, active and fit Canada, recommend that children ages 5 to 17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day. That sounds like a lot to pack in, considering how many activities children are involved in these days. But making running part of a child’s life doesn’t have to be difficult. The key is keeping it fun.

Most young children love to run. They don’t necessarily consider it running. They play tag, they chase each other, and they race. They elevate their heart rates, mostly in short bursts. They have fun. Gradually, they move on to less vigorous activities on the playground, get lured into the sedentary world of TV and video games, and leave parents scrambling to get them into organized sports and other programs to get them active. The thing is they never have to stop running. If we want to encourage them to become “runners”, we only need to offer them support, guidance, a safe place to practice, and some of our time. It’s cheap, it’s convenient, and it’s effective.

Children of runners are more likely to want to run. The want to imitate what we do (until they hit that age at which parents become the most un-cool people on the planet.) So get them started early, while you’re still awesome! Below is our top 10 list of tips for turning your children into runners. Note that many of these tips apply to adult beginners as well. Over the next few posts, we’ll elaborate on these tips.

  1. Model the behaviour you want them to follow by becoming a runner yourself.
  2. Start off slowly, then add distance and speed later.
  3. Practice interval training, using a run/walk progression.
  4. Change up the route so it doesn’t become boring.
  5. Encourage your child to join a running club at school or in the community.
  6. Participate in local running activities and events.
  7. Keep distances reasonable for the age of the child.
  8. Set goals and help your child build a plan to achieve them.
  9. Run while on vacation – it’s a great way to see the sites.
  10. Make it fun.

Are you going for a short run tonight? Why not try running family style?

Humbled by the Road

I have come a long way over the past two years. Once upon a time, I used to run cross-country (25 years ago to be exact). So when we decided in the spring of 2011 to run the ½ marathon at Disney World, in January 2012, I figured I could hold off training until the fall. After all, I used to run cross-country.

Lisa and her friend Barb began their training in the spring, but I opted to relax most of the summer and start later. I can still remember my first training run. I had looked over Jeff Galloway’s programs and they looked very good, but he preached a run/walk method, which I dismissed. It was late August when I ventured out to begin my training. I had mapped my route and decided on a 45 minute run. The sun was out and there was just a little breeze. It was a perfect afternoon for a run.

I didn’t even own a watch I borrowed my daughter’s Ariel watch and away I went. Feeling the adrenaline of getting started I took off quickly, but soon after slowed down, trying to find a pace that was comfortable. As I rounded the corner of the second street I started to realize it had been a long time since I had run. At 46 years old, my body was not in the same condition as it was 25 years prior. Looking down at Ariel I swore her hands were not moving and the second hand seemed frozen. I had run exactly 3 minutes. At that time I had a startling revelation: Jeff Galloway was a genius! Who was I to argue with an Olympic runner? If he says do a run walk cycle then that’s what I should do. My only problem was his method spoke of 10 minute run and 1 minute walk, but I wasn’t sure I would be still upright for seven more minutes.

I pushed myself to keep running and managed to run four more minutes. At that time I was convinced my heart was beating too fast and I might be having a heart attack. I stopped running. I really thought at that time maybe I should go home, admit defeat and give up. But something inside me said, “Now that you have realized you are human, just settle down and train”. My wife was never a runner, but now she was running 3 times a week. So, I completed my 45 minute run/walk and never looked back (nor did I ever speak of that day to anyone).

That first day was tough, but it did get easier. After a few short weeks I was running three times a week (two 45 minute runs and one longer run). I used the 10 and 1 training method for all these runs.

Over the next few months I experimented with my running and walking cycles and eventually found for me it was better to run the whole time. NOTE: I would strongly suggest anyone starting to run should use this run/walk method to get started. It is an easier and less discouraging way to get started.

By the time January came around I was ready to run my first ½ marathon, with a time goal of under two hours. Stay tuned for tips for beginning runners.