Tag Archives: running

How to run with your dog…

Over the winter holidays I decided that if I was going to take our dog Sydney (pictured left) for a walk, I could metaphorically nail two birds with one stone and run with her for a short warm up, then drop her back off at home before continuing on for the rest of my run.

Not so much.

Syd is an awesome dog and heels very well. But on our inaugural running adventure, she was good for the first kilometer or so, and then her attention quickly devolved into smelling anything that would get me to stop running. This included stopping very abruptly to relieve herself in the middle of the sidewalk.

Unknowingly, I had committed one of the most common mistakes when attempting to take a dog for a run — too much, too fast. “They [people who run with dogs] make the mistake of assuming the dog will stay at their side and assume that the dog can run forever just because they seem to be able to,” says Gillian Ridgeway, Director of the Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centre, and author of Citizen Canine.

Gillian recommends that your canine companion get a visit with their vet before starting a training program. Yup, despite the extra fur, our four-legged friends need the same things that we do before starting an exercise program: a check-in with the doctor, and a training plan to improve their fitness.

According to a New York Times article from January, you also need to take into consideration the type and breed of your dog, and whether these factors might exclude them from being a running partner. The article says, “for example, dogs with flat noses — pugs, bulldogs, some boxers — may have trouble breathing during strenuous exercise. And while hunting and herding dogs are physically built for running — like border collies and Rhodesian Ridgebacks — they may be more interested in chasing prey than staying on the sidewalk.” The NYTs also prepared a visual for this that can be seen here.

“Your dog needs to be fully developed,” adds Gillian, “and it is not recommended that you start a running program with young pups.”

With all of these considerations out of the way, starting your furry friend’s training program is nearly identical to many Learn to Run schedules I’ve seen. “Like any training program,” says Gillian, “have them build up to it. Go for short, medium-speed runs and start to build up the stamina before the speed.” In addition, she also recommends building up your dog’s endurance by teaching your dog to fetch a ball or Frisbee, saying that once he or she has mastered that, you can stand at the bottom of a hill and toss it up the hill for them to fetch. “This will ensure that the dog will give his all while going up the hill,” she says, “and build the strong muscles he will need for running.”

Not putting the proverbial cart before the horse, it’s also important to ensure that your dog has some obedience skills before training. “It is important that your dog knows to stay at your side and not pull or lag, prior to running,” says Gillian. “If they do not have this skill, then it is time to get back into school.”

Once your dog is ready to begin training, you could try a program such as this one suggested by Dogs in Canada from Canadian Running Series, or try following one of many Learn to Run programs.

In addition, the safety of your dog is very important, and you should familiarize yourself with many of the warning signs. Gillian recommends monitoring your dog for signs of stress, such as panting and cautions owners to carry enough water for both runners. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to the dog park, lugging water with me, to get there and find the rest of the dogs parched,” she says. “The owners just smile as they come and drink my supply, and this is in a park where they’re running for balls, not jogging for miles.”

Gillian recommends that runners stop and encourage their canine companions to drink frequently to avoid dehydration and to keep an eye out for overheating.

If you’re going to put your dog on a serious training program, you should speak to your vet about proper nutrition to fuel your calorie-burning pooch, as they may need a diet designed specifically for active or performance dogs. Another safety recommendation is to keep an eye on the pads of their paws and make sure that they’re protected (Gillian suggests avoiding running your dog on pavement). “Humans can purchase super-shoes to help us, so make sure the traction is good and not too hard on your dog’s joints,” she says.

An article from last year’s Dogs in Canada Magazine also recommended using a harness when running with your dog, instead of a standard collar, as the collar could cause damage to the spine and other parts of the neck. It also recommended using a standard leash and not a retractable one (which most runners know as trip wires).

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!

Finding motivation…

Sylvia Ruegger sports her 1984 Olympic jacket. She takes time out of her busy schedule to speak to running clinics using her story to inspire others.

I’m a motivation junkie. I love having goals, a training schedule and a clear focus, but it’s the motivation that gets me through the nitty gritty of it. The 5 a.m. alarms on a -23°c before the wind chill morning where I’d rather just hit snooze and crawl back under the covers like all the other sane people in the world. But that fire in the belly, the need and desire to do something more is amazing.

Tonight I had the opportunity to hear Olympian Sylvia Ruegger speak during our weekly clinic session. This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Sylvia — the first was about a year ago when I was in the Learn to Run clinic. The talk that Sylvia gave was more or less the same, but both the passion and enthusiasm with which she delivers her talk, combined with a new perspective and a year of experience on my part, made this time all the more rich.

Sylvia Ruegger ran for Canada in the first ever women’s marathon at the 1984 Olympics, finishing 8th. The Olympic marathon was her second marathon event ever, after running her first in Ottawa to qualify for the Olympic team. Sylvia still holds the Canadian women’s marathon record that she set when she won the 1985 Houston Marathon in 2:28:36. Now retired from professional running, Sylvia continues to run four times a week and founded the Running and Reading program with Kidfest, which look to foster physical activity, self-confidence and literacy in the country’s most disadvantaged kids.

The upper portion is Sylvia's bib from her Olympic run. Below is the piece of paper she retrieved from the floorboards years later.

Sylvia began her running career chasing cows on her family’s farm outside Newtonville, Ontario. While watching the Olympics in her home in 1976, she decided that she wanted to be an Olympian and run in the games. Writing her dream on a piece of paper and hiding in the floorboard of her bedroom, she pursued her love of running on the country roads with her mother driving behind her to provide light.

Whether we’re a recreational runner or we run at an elite level, Sylvia believes that we can each learn and be inspired by our stories. The struggle and tenacity of the human spirit that is inherent in endurance sports allows us each to dig deep and find what it is that motivates us to keep at it even when things get tough. This struck me, because it was this that was behind the inception of the Toronto Runner’s series that appears here weekly. I love Monday posts for that reason — another profile to draw inspiration and motivation from. Another person with goals, and hope that is out there pounding the pavement and pushing themselves — and all right here in our very own backyard.

When things get tough during a race, Sylvia says she thinks of it as a dark tunnel – like the ones you might drive through under a bridge – you’ll come out the other side shortly, all you have to do is hold on and remember that anything really worth doing is going to be hard, and all the richer for it.

One of the most memorable parts of her talk for me was when Sylvia talked about one of the common questions she gets: “you’re goal was to run in the Olympics and win a medal – aren’t you disappointed?” She says what gives her perspective on it is a quote by John Ruskin who said, “the highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.”

Which begs the question, who have you become by your running?

I’ll finish this post with one final quote that I think is excellent. It’s from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and how, at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Happy trails.

P.S. This is the only video I could find of Sylvia speaking. The first part of it is her story:

Running for cancer survivors: a journey to wellness

Claire was the 2:15 pace bunny for the Mississauga Half Marathon in 2006

As a running instructor for the Running Room and Nike, I have taught numerous beginner clinics, but none have touched my heart and soul more than the Breast Cancer Survivor Clinics. As we all go on our weekly long runs, and pass runners on Toronto’s numerous paths, we assume that everyone who is running must be healthy.

This is not always so.

I have been privileged to teach three Breast Cancer Survivor Clinics on behalf of the Running Room, which are tailored to women who have had cancer, although I have not had cancer myself. As with any running clinic, we embark on a nine-week journey to increase their fitness level; this is a wellness clinic for thrivers. As a group they learn about fitness, but most of all, they build self-esteem and a network of fast friends. Cancer survivors share a powerful bond, which coupled with a common goal of the 5K Run for the Cure makes for a magical experience.

The students at these courses are as diverse as you can imagine — ranging from age 30 to 70. Some have only recently completed treatments, while others have been in remission for over a decade. These ladies bravely face a wide array of health challenges, ranging from depleted energy, to depression, to lymphedema, to weight management. While some cancer patients suffer from weight loss due to drug therapies and treatments, a great number experience weight gain.

The sessions begin like most other clinics, with a little lecture on a wellness topic followed by a group run/walk. The lectures focus on topics ranging from nutrition, speed walking and injury prevention, to oncology-related topics such as cancer support resources and the effect of lymphodema on exercise. These clinics are particularly individualized, with some students walking the entire nine weeks, while others take on the traditional run/walk format. Everyone is welcome to proceed at their own pace, and each and every lady’s accomplishments are applauded, whether they manage to walk five blocks or run five kilometres.

While some instructors enjoy teaching marathoners who are striving to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I love teaching cancer patients who are brave enough to take that first step out the door. My personal philosophy is that teaching running and walking clinics is an honor. I have never met a student who didn’t teach me more than I taught them. It takes a deep inner strength to combat cancer, and when I ask my students whether they are nervous about entering their first race, they always reply, “How hard could it be after chemo?” My role as an instructor is to lead, encourage, inform, listen, smile, and inspire, but frankly it’s my students who do that for me every day.

As you head out the door this week for your long run, wondering whether you can manage that nagging hamstring, and whether you have brought enough Gatorade with you, just think — how would I feel if I were worrying about my next round of chemotherapy instead? Embrace each and every run as a blessing. Wave to every child you see in a stroller. Smile at everyone you pass, you never know what they are going through.

About Claire:
Claire Colle has completed four marathons and 12 half-marathons in her running career. She has been a running instructor with the Running Room since 2005, coaching Learn to Run, 5k and Breast Cancer Survivor clinics. She was the instructor for the 2009 Nike 10k Cancer Survivor Walking Clinic and teaches group cycling classes four-times a week at GoodLife Fitness Clubs. She has her RPM Les Mills certification for cycling, Schwinn cycling instructor and Can-fit-pro certification. By day, Claire is a Marketing Manager at IBM and a mother of two teenage sons.

Yoga for runners…

I’m excited to present today’s guest blogger Christine Felstead — creatrix of yoga for runners. Those who know me, know that in addition to running, my other love is yoga. I recently had the pleasure of attending one of Christine’s yoga for runners classes at the Downward Dog Yoga studio in the Beaches, which I’ll write about in a future post. Today’s post is an article Christine wrote for The Fartlek Runner on the benefits of yoga to runners. Enjoy!:

Runners love to run – and so they should! Running is a fabulous sport that invigorates the body and mind. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a runner’s long, rhythmic stride, seeing the look of determination and focus on their face, and feeling their euphoria and sense of freedom that comes with every step.

The lucky ones — those who are structurally symmetrical and balanced — can enjoy years of running with minimal discomfort. But many of us aren’t in this elite category, and yet we still want to enjoy the benefits that running offers. Running affects the body through its repetitive use of the same muscles. Every sport or activity involving repetitive movement carries its own set of potential issues. Note the classic modern day overuse symptoms of lower back/shoulder stiffness and carpal tunnel strain from sitting for extended periods of time at a computer

While running, specific muscles in the legs, hips and feet are used in continuous repetition and become overused. Overused muscles will shorten from being in a constant state of contraction. Without opportunity to restore length to these muscles, they will continue to shorten and eventually restrict and even limit the range of motion of related joints, creating misalignment in the body that in turn makes one more prone to injury. While each body is unique, it is safe to say that runners are susceptible to tightness in the hamstrings, hips and lower back. Initial soreness may be a warning that something is out of alignment. Rarely will the issue go away simply by “running through it”. Moreover, taking time off running may cause the acute pain to subside, but once you’re back on the road, it’s very common for the injury to flare back up. Unless the initial muscle imbalance that caused the injury is treated, the same injury will reoccur.

Yoga is a perfect complement to running because it works to restore balance and symmetry to the body. However, while the stretching is such a key part of the benefits of yoga for runners, there are also tremendous benefits related to strength, lung capacity and mind/body centering. Benefits of yoga for runners include:

Strengthening: Improves strength in core and upper body and also in leg muscles that are not used in running (e.g., adductors, gluteus).

Lung Capacity: The conscious breath work that is practised in yoga can also increase lung capacity.

Mind/Body: The meditative aspects of yoga are well known, however many of us don’t immediately relate this to the meditative aspects of running. Especially during longer runs and/or races, the requirement to remain focused, calm and tuned to the body is key. Running is meditation in motion!

For the casual, avid or competitive runner, the benefits can include:

  • Improved running times
  • Feeling better while running
  • Less aches and pains
  • Nagging injuries that heal and do not recur
  • Reduce risk of new injuries

Now that you have been convinced of the benefits of yoga for runners, and perhaps interested in giving it a try, you may be scratching your head wondering where to start. If you live in Toronto you have a plethora of yoga resources at your fingertips – like Starbucks, yoga studios are everywhere. While all forms of yoga are good, I also encourage you to try one of my yoga for runners classes. These classes are tailored to the needs of runners and many students feel more comfortable knowing they are in the class with others that are equally stiff. I offer a range of workshop and drop-in classes across the Greater Toronto Are — for more details, please visit my website.

For those that prefer to practise yoga on your own, there is a yoga for runners DVD that is tailored to runners and provides the basics so you can start feeling the positive effects right away.

Kick off the new year with some yoga for runners – your body will thank you!

Christine Felstead has more than 20 years experience as a marathon and road race runner and used to run with the Metro Central Silver Runners. She has been practising yoga for 14 years and has been a yoga instructor for the past eight. Focusing primarily on runners and endurance athletes, Christine’s work with runners teaches them to incorporate yoga as an effective means of cross training, helping to keep them healthy and on the road.

Hello winter…

The craziness of the season is here — the holiday parties, lunches, and shopping. With so many demands at this time of the year (not to mention the lovely slush storm Toronto had this week), it can be tempting to skip that midweek run to get more done, or to seek asylum in the warmth of your home. I know this because I did it Wednesday night. For the first time, I skipped a planned run. In my defense, I had just finished an hour-long weight lifting class and had run five speedy kilometers on the treadmill before that. But I had the best of intentions to finish this off with a brisk 10km. That was until I stepped out of the gym, and into the blustering cold of the city street, something in me said, “hell no.” I think my body may have been in shock — we’ve been spoiled with such a long and moderate autumn that made it seemed as if the reality of winter would never arrive (ya right, dream on!).

Instead, I went home Wednesday night and did some work on the blog (you’ll notice we now have a facebook page and there are a few other bells and whistles on the blog), and I didn’t give another thought to leaving the house.

Then yesterday I regretted not going for my run, and it made me think of one of quotes Allison Larsh told me about for her Toronto Runner profile: “I’ve often regretted not going for a run, but I’ve never regretted going for one.” So there was no skipping last night’s 10km. The official temperature was -9˚c, but with the wind chill chill to it to -21˚c!

I bundled myself up with two layers on the legs, three on the torso and a pair of double layered socks. I used one of those running headband things with a toque overtop and winter running gloves. The first few kilometers were uncomfortably cold and several times I regretted not lathering my rosy cheeks in Vaseline. There was an incredibly strong head wind coming from the west (the direction I was running into, but figured it better to have it on my back for the second half) that would nearly blow me into the streets when I crossed at intersections.

Despite all this, after the first few kilometers I was nice and toasty warm. My toes, which only a few blocks back felt like they were frost bitten, were now snug and warm, and I was trotting along a fairly decent pace.

What this long, drawn out post is getting at is, don’t skip your runs because of the cold weather (dangerous weather, yes. Cold and wind, no). It’s likely one of the few things that will keep us all sane through this insane time of year and land us on the other side fit and ready for another (much warmer) season!

This week’s runs:

Date Distance (km) Pace (/km) Time
December 2 14 4:39 1:04
December 3 10 4:53 48:42
December 6 25 5:00 2:04

Toronto Runner: Shawn Syms

Shawn prepares for a strong finish at the Niagara Falls Marathon 10 km event on October 25, 2009.

It was one year ago that doctor’s orders found Shawn Syms signing up for a local boot camp with a friend. “At that point I’d been fairly sedentary,” recalls Shawn. “My doctor told me to get more exercise in order to keep my blood sugar and cholesterol in check.”

During his initial foray into the world of squats and drills, Shawn discovered a love/hate relationship with what he found to be the most effective part: running. “Initially, it left me huffing and panting the entire way,” says Shawn. “But I eventually discovered that the more I ran, the more I enjoyed it.”

The running he experienced in boot camp also led Shawn to discover a competitive streak that he hadn’t realized he had. He frequently found himself one of the slowest runners in his group and decided he wanted to improve. Seven months ago, he and a buddy signed up for a learn to run clinic at his local Running Room. “It really surprised me how much I enjoyed running because I’d never really liked physical exercise growing up,” Shawn admits. “From that initial clinic, I went directly into the 10K clinic and have now just started with the half-marathon clinic.”

In only seven months, Shawn has run number of races including a 10 km in his hometown of Niagara Falls, where he had a personal best of 55 minutes and 44 seconds. He also had the opportunity to run the Brooklyn Bridge while on vacation in New York City this past summer. “The Brooklyn Bridge was bustling with pedestrians, sightseers, cyclists and runners,” recalls Shawn. “The bridge was an exciting, disorienting, yet phenomenal experience.

Shawn cools down after running the Brooklyn Bridge this past summer. He often enjoys combining traveling and running. In addition to NYC, Shawn has also run in both Chicago and Tokyo.

“I enjoy running while travelling; it can provide a great perspective on an unfamiliar city. I passed the 10K mark for the first time while running in Chicago this summer and got lost while running in Tokyo where I was lucky to find a Metro station that I recognized.”

Shawn says that learning to run has been but one chapter in a long story of coming to terms with his body as someone who grew up with weight and self-esteem issues. “I love taking clinics because of the camaraderie of running in a group and the structure and discipline imposed by the schedule,” he says.

With most of the races for the year wrapped, Shawn is focused on training for the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington next March, which he wants to complete in less than two hours. “Running has increased the scope of what I dare to accomplish, and has influenced the rest of my life — I’m now more open to saying yes to the unexpected, to being more adventurous.

“If all goes well, I plan to train for the 2010 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon next fall. Sounds like a great way to celebrate turning 40.”

Shawn continues to go to bootcamp three days a week, while running an additional three times a week. “Between that, my day job, and my sideline career in freelance journalism, that’s about all I can fit in,” he says. Shawn even has a book review being published in the January 2010 issue of Canadian Running Magazine. To view more of shawn’s writing, visit his website at www.shawnsyms.ca.

“Running in a group is such a pleasure in and of itself. I’ve met great people — and more than a few kooky characters,” says Shawn. “And my doctor isn’t raising alarm bells about my blood sugar or cholesterol like he used to. If I’m still doing this 10 years from now, I’ll be very happy.”