Category Archives: Seasons

The Dreadmill…

Also known as the hamster wheel, this contraption has single-handedly garnered an equal number of dirty and thankful looks from runners. Leaning more on the running purist side, I found this definition of a treadmill on Mark Remy’s RW blog to be pretty amusing:

“treadmill (n.) – A primitive torture device first imagined by medieval jailers and perfected in the late 20th century, designed to destroy one’s mind through sensory deprivation and monotony.”

All joking aside, I do prefer being outside, taking in the scenery and what passes for fresh air in downtown Toronto. There is a sense of freedom and fluidity of movement that happens when I pound the pavement or set out on trails. On the flip side, there is also the reality of snot from a runny nose freezing to your face and your eyelashes freezing to your eyebrows on a blustery winter run.

Cue some pros for treadmill running!

While I’ve committed to suck it up and push through the challenges and travails of Mother Nature this year (pending further examination of the weather forecast), I can certainly appreciate the allure of a climate controlled atmosphere, with self-regulated pacing, safe foot traction, and the possibility of a TV blaring the Food Network near by.

Treadmill running can be a great way to casually keep fit over the winter, especially if you’re not planning on running any races in the spring. According to Alex Hutchinson’s Jockology column on treadmill running vs. outdoor running, running on a treadmill is often softer on the joints than sidewalks or roads, but also means that it won’t build the muscle endurance needed for running outside. An easy solution is to not rely too heavily on the treadmill if running outside is something you want to keep your endurance for. The article also suggests adding a one-per-cent incline when running on a treadmill to account for the lack of wind resistance.

The truth of the matters, like many things in life, seems to be that it is not an all or nothing prospect. Many elite runners and coaches alike use treadmills as part of their training regime. The March edition of Runner’s World has blurb from Kristin Price (winner of the 2009 Pittsburgh Marathon) who uses the treadmill to simulate the challenge of running negative splits in a race for a strong finish.

While nothing can really replace the endurance slog of a long slow run, for everything else, the treadmill seems like a reasonable alternative for when the weather is bad. Mixing up your tempo runs, intervals and even hill repeats are all within the self-controlled scope of the modern treadmill.

I recently read of a fun way to approach tempo runs on the treadmill that involved putting on a half hour TV show. You run at your tempo pace while the show is on, and slow down slightly on commercials, putting in a warm up and cool-down before and after. See? Now you can watch some Judge Judy and train for a race at the same time!

Personally, I like to approach treadmills like junk food. I know it’s not the ideal, but sometimes, it’s a viable option that hits the spot. But maybe that’s not really fair either. Perhaps it’s better to look at treadmills for what they are: a tool that runners have the option of utilizing as part of their training.

I’m curious to know what you’re doing this winter? It’s been pretty mild here. Are you still running outside? Have you caved and used a treadmill because of the weather? What are your favourite treadmill workouts?

22 min. in 10lbs update:

Two days in and feeling good! The scale has begun to dip (rather dramatically actually) and I’m sitting at 182. This is likely water weight, and will balance out as I continue. In terms of food, I’ve been enjoying an awesome batch of chili and scoping out a few new recipes to try. I’ll have the recipe for one of my favourite winter dishes coming up in a post next week, so stay tuned!


Hair of the Dog…

The Terrible Tutus at the 2009 Hair of the Dog fun run and walk. From left: Shawn Syms, Paul Schofield, Sylvie Desroche, Thomas Anderson, Aestus Rogers and moi with the lovely Syd.

While most people I knew were snug in their warm beds yesterday morning, resting or nursing a hangover, a few zealous runners were out kicking off the New Year at the 30th annual “Hair of the Dog” fun run and walk.

In particular, my running buddies “The Terrible Tutus” ran the 9 km route along the Eastern Beaches Boardwalk/Martin Goodman Trail that started at the Balmy Beach Club. The “fun” run also features a glass of schnapps for each of the participants around the 4.5 km turn around at the foot of Leslie Street.

Runners at the start line at this year's run (the sign says "start" on the other side - the event is an out and back)

The event was put on by the Balmy Beach Canoe Club, a non-profit organization that has been serving amateur athletes in Toronto for over 100 years. The annual race benefits the paddling section of the Balmy Beach Club – which includes the rugby club, the hockey club, the squash club, and other sports such as football, deck tennis, surf boarding, tennis, etc. The event was open to both walkers and runners of all levels.

Sylvie (in front) and Thomas (behind) getting ready for their venture into the winter waters of Lake Ontario. Brave souls, those be.

Following the run, Sylvie, Thomas and half a dozen others who had a little extra crazy in them headed for the frigid waters of Lake Ontario for a little post-race dip. I’ve never understood the desire to voluntarily jump into freezing cold waters, but have to give it up to these two who took the plunge with smiles on their face and scarce clothing on their bodies! After their aquatic adventure, we headed for warmer grounds inside the club where they were serving chili and salad. A great day and a great way to kick off both a new year and a new decade!

Of course, while not official, we musn’t forget the best looking (and patient) dog with hair — Syd!

New Years, food and the Hair of the Dog…

I’m back from being up north! There is something about being up there that allows me to actually relax, because there is nothing that I have to do. Long runs on quiet rural roads, snow shoeing in the snowy forest, playing with the dogs, and lounging around made for some major battery recharging time. Of course, now that I’m back in Toronto, there are a million and one things I should get to. But all of that can wait till next year.

I went back to the gym this morning for the first time in a week (in my defense, there was no gym where I was). I was planning on doing two classes (an hour each), but after the first one, decided I should ease myself back to the intensity I was going at. It feels great to be back at it though.

A four-bottle Fuel Belt, Body Glide, new running shoes and a marathon clinic were waiting for my under the tree in the form of gift cards!

Yesterday, I had a chance to go and spend my gift cards for my local running store, and picked up a bunch of the things that were on my X-mas wish list. Shoes were also purchased, but my size had to be ordered in from a store in Quebec City (not because I have ginormous feet, but because my size is common and they were out ;-). I apologize for the quality of the photos in this post – my camera is on the frits and possible dead. I’m currently sourcing out a new one and for the time being, pictures will either come from my phone (booo) or my camera if it decides to work again.

Tofu-spinach "ricotta"

Initially, we were planning on going to a friend’s party tonight to ring in the next decade, but due to the hubby coming down with a nasty cold, we’ll be celebrating at a house party for two, complete with a homemade meal and some new DVD’s. I’ve whipped up a tofu-spinach lasagna dinner for us. I know most of you will be thinking “ewww… vegan lasagna”. But seriously, this recipe is really good.

Lasagna in progress..

Of course, lasagna isn’t complete without Caesar salad, so I also whipped up a vegan Caeser dressing from Laren Ulm’s Vegan Yum Yum (based on her award winning blog, — an invaluable website for amazing vegan recipes!).

Caesar dressing:

¼ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp miso
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 pinches salt
6 oz silken tofu
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp water (to thin).

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and well, process.

Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting up with a bunch of my running buddies who are running the Hair of the Dog 9k (complete with peach schnapps at the 4.5 km mark!) and will have a report of that at some point this weekend. I’m not running the race, but will be my own little cheering squad for the Terrible Tutus!

Happy New Years everyone!

Christmas running…

I’m chilling at my Dad’s place about an hour and a half northwest of Ottawa (Pembroke for those who know the area). It’s a winter wonderland here, complete with roads with rolling hills, acres of forest around the house to hike and snowshow in (see picture to the left), and lots of good-smelling food in the kitchen.

We had a pretty traditional morning, complete with gift opening and lots of caffine. Among my loot was a bunch of gift cards for a running store (yay for new gear!), and running jacket and a set of Henckel knives. We’re heading to Ottawa tomorrow (weather permitting) for some retail therapy (ya, like any of us need that after this seaons). The husband wants to hit up Silver Snail for their Boxing Day sale and I’m hoping to unload a few of these running store gift cards and pick up some new clothing that fits (it’s amazing how quickly one shrinks from running!).

But for now I’m enjoying, relaxing, spending time with family and friends. I went out for a quick 12 km this morning – the picture on the right is after I got back (my camera is busted, so these photos were taken with my parent’s camera, which has that annoying date stamp. I didn’t realize this till after and dont’ have access to photoshop… booo).

I hope you’re all having a fantastic holiday season, with lots of love, food and of course running!

Happy Holidays!

Confessions of a winter runner…

Today’s post is a guest post by Allison Larsh, who was profiled on The Fartlek Runner’s Toronto Runner series.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=winter+running&iid=4510111″ src=”c/4/4/f/Unusual_Arctic_Cold_9f97.jpg?adImageId=8569166&imageId=4510111″ width=”380″ height=”248″ /]  You know the one thing that really kills me about summer days? That everyone else loves summer days. You go out for a run —say on a trail by a certain valley — and soon enough you realize that everyone (and their dog!) had the exact same idea. All of a sudden, escaping for a bit of solitude during a run is a little bit harder to do. But, switch the calendar a few months and I’m singing a different tune. I can run the 7.5 km loop without seeing a single other person. It’s me, the trail, and the sub-zero temperatures.

That’s right. My name is Allison and I’m a winter running fanatic.

First, let me get a few things I don’t like about running out of the way. These things are pet peeves, and it’s probably too early in our relationship to tell you about them because I’m afraid I’m going to come off as, well, a bit of a bitch. But, here it goes. I don’t like dodging people on the sidewalk, especially when they are on my half of the sidewalk. And I don’t like to be hot and sweaty. Also, I’m pale, and let’s face it, this skin was not made for the sun. And last, I run to be by myself. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy running with friends, because I truly do. But, a lot of the time, I run to get into a better headspace, my headspace, without interruptions. I know, this is making me sound cranky, it’s just that running really is my alone time.

The thing that people don’t seem to realize is that running is actually more comfortable in the winter. I know, it sounds crazy, but hear me out. It’s a summer day — let’s say a balmy twenty degrees centigrade. You go out, tank top and shorts, and you start out feeling fine. Then you knock out a few kilometers, and your internal temperature rises a few degrees. After 10 km, you’re outright hot. If it’s humid, your legs have started to feel heavy and every step feels a little bit harder than it should. This doesn’t happen when it’s cold. Instead, you start out a bit uncomfortable. But, throw on a hat, some winter leggings, a wind proof jacket with a soft under, and some mittens, and for the vast majority of the run, you’re… wait for it… comfortable. Last night, the Weather Network told me it felt like -14. Well, I’d like to argue. After 2K, it felt more like perfection.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=winter+running&iid=3429676″ src=”0/9/1/2/Germany_Hit_By_c388.jpg?adImageId=8568324&imageId=3429676″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]Of course, there are some problems that I haven’t quite sorted out yet. For instance, I am not happy with how early it gets dark. And some days, with the wind chill it really is just too cold. But for the most part, I promise, once you get out there, you will wonder why it took you so long. There are days where the snow is fresh and the sun is shining and it will more than match that beautiful fall day or that perfect summer afternoon. One of the best things about living in Toronto is living in a city with four seasons. Winter is definitely one of our most, ahem, talked about. It’d be a shame to write it off without testing it out first. When you come home and pull off that ice encrusted toque and peel away the layers to settle into a bath, you’ll be proud of yourself for adding a little bit more of a challenge to that tempo run, or that speed work, or that long run. It will make you feel more confident in your running and more optimistic about what you, yes you, can do as a runner.

There’s certainly something hardcore about running in the winter. I don’t usually wave at runner’s during the summer (those fair weather runners!). In the winter though, I smile and sometimes even say “hi”. You can’t ignore the feeling of understanding. That is, in a nut shell, what I love about winter running. I don’t run to spend time with other people. I run because I love to run. When I see other runners, especially in the winter, I am struck by a feeling of community, and it always makes my run just a little bit better.

Oh, I almost forgot the absolute best thing: all that winter running gear totally hides any and all jiggling. Promise.

You can hear form Allison on her blog at

’tis the season…

to bake! I’m cramming a fair bit of baking and cooking into this weekend — some friends are having a pot-luck tonight to which I’m contributing:

Butternut Squash dip

I got the recipe for this dip from Yoga Journal last year (I can’t find it on their website to link to and am not sure about the legality of reprinting it here). Every time I make it I get requests for it again. It’s similar to a hummus, but without the chickpeas, and is excellent with veggies or breads.

Stuffing Balls

My grandmother used to make these for various holiday meals. She would also make stuffing the traditional way, buts she’d make extra and form them into small balls and then bake them, basting them as they cooked. For these, I tore up a loaf of bread and let it go stale over night. I then seasoned the bread with powdered sage, savory and rosemary. I  sautéed a diced onion and two stalks of chopped celery and then added those to the bread along with a cup of vegetable stalk and “mushed” everything together, forming them into balls. The balls in the picture are still not cooked.

Apple pie with lattice top

This got a little crispy in the oven. But it’s still tasty. Nothing beats apple pie for comfort food! I also baked a bunch of shortbread last night, that had to be taste tested of course. ;-)

However, I did get out this morning for a shorter run. Tomorrow won’t be able to do my normal LSD because I’ll be out visiting family, so I went running with a buddy for 11 km. We ran the belt line, which was covered in ice. Great for the stabilizing muscles, not so great for speed or confidence in not falling on one’s face. We made our way over to Mount Pleasant and down to Union Station. It was cold, but beautiful and sunny.

I’m now off for that most glamourous of jobs… the dishes!

I run so I can eat…

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=christmas+cookies&iid=107915″ src=”0104/66b4916f-a9b9-40a9-9e0d-aaab775ff238.jpg?adImageId=8397091&imageId=107915″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /] For me, this time of year is when some of the One More Mile t-shirts are most relevant. Like a scarlet letter blazoned on my forehead, it should read: “I run so I can eat,” or the classic, “Will run for wine.” Trepidations of over consumption around the holidays can run deep for even the most hardened of health-conscious runners. For myself, having lost 80 to 90 lbs over the last few years, I rely on running during festivus to carry me to the other side and back to sane eating habits. Burning a couple thousand calories on a Sunday morning goes a long way to picking up the slack of grazing on nuts and indulging an extra glass (or three) of wine, and having running commitments (like signing up for a 2010 race) may keep some of us focused on our longer-term goals.

Of course there are other ways to survive the holidays without packing on the pounds. Here are a few tips that may help you out:

  • Eat, and eat often – make sure to have dinner before going to parties and try to not sit down to a meal starving.
  • Drink lots of water to help you stay full and hydrated.
  • Consider offering to bring a dish to a get together, and make it something healthy.
  • Tighten your belt one hole (this is often known as anchoring).
  • Make sure two thirds of your plate is covered with non-starch veggies.
  • Sit further away from tables that have snacks and treats on them. Grazing on holiday snacks can be a major source of excess calories.
  • Have breakfast — it’ll help to control cravings later in the day.
  • If you’re drinking, alternate with nonalcoholic beverages that are calorie free (you could also do wine spritzers: half wine, half club soda).
  • Take a breather between plates/courses/helpings. You might find yourself full sooner than your eyes think!
  • Get out there and run!

Of course, while a diet can be thrown off by an over indulgent meal, a lifestyle cannot. If you go overboard, just remember when you wake up the next morning that it’s a new day and a new opportunity to get back on track with your nutrition and training. We also have one of the best ways to relieve stress and help keep calories in check, and the best part is we love it!