My WordPress.com Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 6 years ago.
Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.
Amazingly I have been using WordPress.com for 6 years! I’m not really sure where the time has gone, but suddenly I’m here. I know when I started using the platform in my classroom I had great plans to communicate with my students — which I did sort of. Then I created a variety of other sites for other purposes, which were also used sort of. Finally I created this site. While I am not a power user like many other blogger, I still find time to post things about my journey towards a healthier me, as well as some photos and book reviews. Here’s hoping I can log a few more kilometers running and biking and crank out a few more post in the coming year.
Thanks for playing along!

Thinking Out Loud Thursday #4

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This is another link up with Amanda at Running With Spoons.

  • I blinked and September was over; now we’re at the first long weekend of the school year, Canadian Thanksgiving. Looking forward to lots of family time and way too much good food. YUM!
  • One of my goals has been to stay active as we move into fall and winter. This week I actually managed to exercise every day. Sunday I had a hard skate with my daughter’s ringette team. We even got on the ice early so there was more than an hour on the ice. Monday the team had dry-land training where the girls did body wieght and cardio exercises followed by a rousing game of handball. Of course the coaches lead the activity — good modelling and team building — so that was hour 2 for the week. It turns out that skating and exercises use similar but different muscles. Tuesday I hit the trails for a run while the team had power-skating. Although I planned for 30 minutes, I was done 5 km in 26 minutes so I kept going, but then I was in the middle of the forest after 6 km and I had to keep running to the end of the trail. As I ran out of the trail and into the parking lot, Strava let me know I had gone 7 km in 39 minutes. The first 5 km were harder than they needed to be, and I sure felt it the next day when all of my leg muscles seemed to be sore. Wednesday was a day for walking, including a nice 3 km walk after dinner. I’m still a bit sore today, but I’ve been walking a lot and stretching too so things are getting better. I may even get in a short run.
  • My average run length these days seems to be about 7 km in about 40 minutes, averaging 5:35-ish / km. A little over a year ago, my average run was 5 km, and I was running about 2 mins/km slower. I am still amazed that I can run as far and as fast as I do. I am a runner.
  • Wednesday October 5 was World CP Day. If you are interested in learning about this day, and about CP, please check out the website https://worldcpday.org/.

Back to work food temptations!

As often happens when schools come back after the summer break there are treats for staff and students. My school is no different. We provided coffee and muffins for the staff, and our grade 9 students and student leaders were given cheese pizza for lunch.

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Muffins for staff

Even though I have been super careful this summer about what and how much I eat, and I told myself I would resist, the temptation was too great. I had two muffins this morning and a slice of pizza at lunch. And I still had the lunch I brought from home.

A small pile of the Pizza for students

Sure I had breakfast at 6:00 am, so I was hungry by mid morning and I don’t get to have lunch until 12:45, but I brought a healthy lunch with veggies and fruit that could be eaten in one sitting or grazed upon throughout the day. Sure I knew better, and I’ve lost weight through my better eating and exercising. But I AM WEAK! All I can do is remind myself that while a couple of treats is the start of a slippery slope, it is not a food mountain-slide. I just have to be mindful of what I eat, and stay away from temptation.

So with only 77 days to go to Christmas break, every day will be an interesting challenge to keep away from free food and empty calories.

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Truth!

Where did THAT number come from?

Have you ever had one of those days when you stepped on the scale, looked at the flashing light, and then stifled a slight gasp when the numbers stop flashing? That was my experience this morning. I knew my weight was creeping up ever so slightly because I’m not running right now, but I did not expect what was presented to me today. How could this happen? I’ve been so careful; even though I’m not running, I am exercising. Sure I wasn’t being careful at Christmas, but hey it’s hard to completely abstain when there was so much awesome cooking happening, which of courses required the appropriate libations. But that was a month ago and I had recovered from those indulgences.

One of the things I’ve learned in my job as a Vice Principal is that you have 15 seconds to think before reacting. Instead of beating myself up about gaining back a bit more weight than I thought, I paused and took sometime to think about my eating habits in the last few weeks. A little reflection is a powerful thing, and here’s what I discovered. We had a retirement party for our Office Administrator — snack food and drinks. Last week was exam week which means we order lunch one or two times — chinese food, shwarma with a side of potatoes and garlic (I NEVER get the side but a colleague bought it for me), a can of ginger ale. Those two lunches alone would have been enough to kill any efforts to keep my wieght in check, but when you’re on a roll why stop.  That’s right, I also realized I consumed of few more treats last week: dessert squares, cinnamon loaf/sticky bun from the Rideau Bakery (if you’re from Ottawa you may know why it is hard to resist this awesomeness), and guys night out beer and wings. But heck, with things going so well, why stop there. This weekend my daughter had a ringette tournament in Kingston. We usually eat healthy food when we hit the road, but there are few things that aren’t so good. In addition to the three visits to Minos where we had a couple very tasty Greek salad with sliced chicken breast — she ate a medium all by herself and I had some chicken souvlaki pita wraps — we had a visit to Woodenheads for gourmet pizzas. I also had an excellent 8 Man English Pale Ale from local brewery MacKinnon Brothers.  Add to that the oversized hotel breakfast, pizza dinner with the team, Lone Star fajitas, and beverages, and I know I had way too many calories coming in. Running 5k on the treadmill and doing my regular workouts while away couldn’t keep the weight at bay. I finished everything off with a potluck lunch at work yesterday. Even taking small portions, I still managed to eat too much. Again, even though I worked out last night, the little numbers on the scale continued to go up.

All of this brings me to today. It’s the beginning of a new month and a new semester. This is an opportunity for a new start, a new resolve, and a new direction. Interestingly, on one of the blogs I regularly read, Andrew Richter’s Fitness for the Regular Guy was a motivating post that reminds people to Keep It Simple, Stupid when it comes to getting back on track. Timely for sure and pretty basic, but good to remember. I’m keeping track of my exercise in a journal, I’m going to get back to more blogging, and I’m focusing on eating healthy food in appropriate portion sizes. I know where the number came from, and I’m working hard to get away from there.

Excuses, I’ve got a few.

This morning when I stepped on the scale, I thought at first my eyes had deceived me. Did it really register that number? 199. No way. How did it happen? Oh yeah, I spent the weekend at a tournament where I didn’t eat the best food. Sure I used the dreadmill in the hotel, parked as far away from doors as possible, and did yoga in my room, but all that managed to do was help keep the weight gain disaster to a minimum. For the last 3 months my weight has consistently been 3 to 4 pounds lower than that, and I plan to keep it there for the winter. I know the weekend gain doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but having worked so hard to get below 200 lbs, realizing that I could have come so close to hitting that number again in a single weekend is a shock.

I have written before that my exercise typically drops off during the winter.  This year I am only coaching one team, and it only has practices once a month so I’m not getting much skating. My bike is set up in the trainer, but I haven’t actually used it yet. Running in winter doesn’t appeal to me as I fear injury, but I may have to rethink that. I have lots of fitness app, but I’m not using them as regularly as I should.

The idea of scheduling exercise into your daily routine is not new, now unfamiliar to me. Changing my behaviour, however, is another story. I know I’m not alone in this, and that other much more successful runners (and bloggers) have had to double back and re-set their path. Their stories are both familiar and inspirational to me; there is hope and there is a community of support. Clearly, though, I will have to get my body moving.

Improvements Made, Lessons Learned

The first time I ran a race, the 2009 Army Run, I had never run any long distance.  My training was inconsistent and uninformed.  Yes, I tried to follow the 10 & 1 rule recommended by various experts.  I ran around the neighbourhood and the school track a few times, much to the amusement of my family.  I knew I wasn’t going to finish anywhere near the front of the group, but I knew I was going to finish, I just wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me.  The route takes runners past Parliament Hill, the Canadian War Memorial, and along the World Heritage Site Rideau Canal. It is also the route many students from Lisgar Collegiate Institute have run for years as part of their Canal run in gym class.  As my father was a teacher and Head of Phys. Ed. at Lisgar for 33 years, he knew exactly how long it should take somebody to run that 5k loop.

2009 Army Run Result

When I finished my first race, I proclaimed my success to any and all who would listen. My dad’s response he has stuck with me more than anybody else’s. He was pleased that I had completed the race, but my time of 36 minutes received a less than enthusiastic response: “It should’ve taken you 25 minutes.”  That’s it. At the time I was impressed that I finished at all. Sure I knew I could go faster, like maybe as fast as 30 minutes, but 25 minutes was just plain crazy. That’s the kind of pace/time super-fit, lean, long-legged true runners achieve. Not 220 lb, stocky, thick calved coach potatoes lumber to.

The idea that I could run 5k faster than I did, let alone in 25 minutes, has stuck with me since. As a result, I’ve been more aware of my pace, my form, and my effort. When I did finally run 5k in 30 minutes (last year), my daughter’s wise assessment was “That’s what happens when you run more.” Not bad for a then 11 year old. Typically, though, I do not spend enough time each year running to get much faster. Last year I was averaging about 7:15/km while still holding to the 10:1 pattern. This time held regardless of the distance; sometimes I was a bit faster and sometimes I was bit slower. While I was pretty pleased with that time, I knew I was getting faster and stronger. I started running a couple of times a week in April of 2015, and fairly quickly (no pun intended) I was getting under 7:00/km. Sure enough those times started dropping below 6:00/km and I wasn’t stopping for walk breaks anymore. Imagine my surprise when I finally ran 5k in 5:05/km — that’s a time of 25:22. I had finally achieved what my father said I could do, something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do. What changed? Quite simply, I did. I exercised more this year than any other year. I made better food choices. I worked at it.

I weigh less and I move more; that’s a simple equation for success. But there’s more to than that. I value each accomplishment I’ve made, and I recognize that while those accomplishments will come and go like the tide, I have to keep at it. Here’s hoping I stick with into the winter and beyond.

Back at it

I recently recently wrote that I had lost the motivation or focus to run, but that I knew I needed to find it again. After reading on Twitter about a number of people who were either getting back to running or were beginning to run for the first time, I knew I had to make the time to get back at it. I’m fortunate to live in a runner friendly city; there’s even access to a great trail network at the end of my street. I’m also fortunate to have a wife who supports my running even if she can’t imagine why I would enjoy it.

Yesterday I made the time. I hit the trails for 5.5k at 6:04/km pace. Also, I went back to 1 minute walk with 15 minutes running. Given that I hadn’t run in a little over a week, I thought it best to play it safe.

I don’t have a goal race yet, but I’m toying with a fall 10k or even making a return to the half marathon. The one and only time I completed the distance, I hadn’t really trained properly. Because I didn’t know how to at the time. Now that I’ve been running for a few years, albeit off and on, I have a better idea of how to train, and I know where to look for training ideas and plans.  I also appreciate the value of encouragement. When I hit a wall and was walking during the duathlon, at about the 3k mark of the final run, a teenage runner going the other direction said “You can do it. Keep running.” She didn’t know me, but her smile and positive words got me running again and got me to the finish line under my goal time.

It felt good to be running again. I’ve found a new training plan to follow thanks to iRun magazine. They’ve partnered with sporting goods retailer Sport Chek to provide a variety of 10 week training plans (5K, 10k, half, and marathon) for people looking to race in October. Because I want the challenge, and I still hope to meet my goal weight, I’ve opted for the Half Marathon plan.  I have no idea how this will go, but I’m prepared to give it a shot. If you’re looking for a plan for the fall, why not chick out the site (http://mybestrunningrace.com/). Who knows, you might find your self pushing new limits.

Looking for motivation

In the last few weeks I’ve run a 5k race and a sprint duathlon. While the 5k was an opportunity that popped up because we were in Chicago the weekend of the race. And it fit my training schedule for the du. But now that I’m done the du, I’m at a bit of a loss. I haven’t run or biked since the race, and I’m having a hard to time “finding the time” to get moving again.  The lethargy is even in creeping into my writing; it took me almost a week to finish the BTN Big 10k recap, and I haven’t even started the National Captial Duathlon recap yet. Hopefully I will find the “time” / motivation to get going again; maybe I have to sign up for another race.

What tips do you have for getting back to running/exercise after your goal race?

Spring? Maybe? Exercise for sure!

I recently attended a workshop on wellness and personal fitness presented by Ottawa running coach Phil Marsh.  He asked us if we exercised.  A simple question really, but it had us all thinking.  What do we do in any day that would count as exercise.  The attendees ranged from people who are competing in marathons and triathlons, to people who have considered maybe doing a Couch to 5K.  So where do I fit? Well when I did a little self assessment it turns out I am fairly active, or at least I have been fairly active.  Last year I ran fairly regularly through the spring and summer, even competing in 8k and 10k races.  In the past (the way back past) I rode my bike the 20 kms to work each day.  And I’m pretty busy with the kids and our dog.  But that was the past.  Where am I at now?  How active am I really, right now?

This is the first week of March. I can’t believe how quickly we’ve gone through through the first two months of the year.  Maybe that’s because we’ve spent all of our free time at sports with our daughter’s ringette, one of our son’s hockey, and all three kids’ wheelchair basketball.  Okay, admittedly we signed up for this because we want our kids to be active and healthy, but as we head into playoffs and Provincials, we kind of just want it to be over.  Also, the fact that the average temperature for the lat two months seems to have been -30C may also have something to do with my attitude right now.

I had grand plans for this year that currently don’t seem to be realistic.  I had planned to write a semi-weekly series on music.  This was great in January, but February had me planning and drafting but not actually publishing anything.  So now I’m behind on that project.  I had planned to exercise for my self.  You know, regular 7 minute workouts, some yoga, some time on the bike.  Nope. Zip. Nadda. Once again, the best laid plans … well you know.  Any way, this is really an outcome that is of my own making.  When I wasn’t dealing with work, taking my kids to a sporting activity, or doing the parental hand-off in the driveway/parking lot because my wife and I play zone defence when it comes to the kids, or shoveling the driveway, I actually liked to sit down and enjoy some family time.  But hey, I really should make an effort for exercise.  Especially if I want to keep up with my kids.

Now it’s not all doom and gloom.  I haven’t been a complete couch potato.  Because I have a hard time sitting still (I mean a REALLY hard time) at the kids’ sporting events, I coach and participate.  That means I get to play some wheelchair basketball once a week.  I’m on the ice or bench coaching.  That means for the months of January and February I’ve been on the ice for 18 practices of skating and shooting.  While I’m not always working as hard as the players, I do get a good skate in.  And it turns out shooting is not a bad workout either.  Also, we own a dog. Ostensibly the dog was for the kids, but I think my wife really wanted him so that I was guaranteed some exercise.  While I share walking duties with son #2, the dog and I have managed to walk approximately 50 kms so far this year.  Our walks have been hampered by the extreme cold, so I expect we will cover more ground in the coming months (assuming it does actually get warmer).

So I am getting some exercise, at least enough to keep my calorie intake at bay.  My doctor always reminds me I need to move more so that I can get my weight down.  My sister-in-law, who is one of the fittest people I know, keeps telling me I can make time to exercise.  She and my brother-in-law are two of the biggest sources of encouragement to get moving.  And keep moving.  Of course my family — my wife and our three kids — are the BIGGEST reason to keep moving.  I plan to be around for a long time, so I do need to keep moving, and I will keep moving.