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The fix for achy cranky stiff body? #activitystreak

There is a one word answer: Yoga.

Why do I let my daily yoga practice slide? It just takes 10 minutes (or less) to do a mini practice at home and after my body (and soul) feels incredible.

To repeat wise words from the world’s oldest yoga teacher featured in Older Faster Stronger, Ida Hebert, “Yoga is good for three things: strength, stretching, and your spirit.” Another of Ida’s quotes sticks in my mind: “There’s a difference between being happy doing something and finding happiness in doing something.” She strives to find happiness in doing whatever she’s doing, whether chores or play or exercise.

And to borrow my own words from OFS: “Yoga is the yin to running’s yang. Running exhausts while yoga recharges energy. Running tightens. Yoga loosens. Running exhilarates and pounds. Yoga soothes aching muscles. Running works a few muscles hard. Yoga works all muscles softly. Running drives forward in a headlong rush, providing an amazing cardio workout. Yoga glides in multiple directions, building muscle strength, flexibility, functional strength. Running breathes in a huffing rush. Yoga breathes with control.”

And so yesterday, to renew my commitment to yoga (and give myself a serious dose of my own advice), I trotted 2.5 k to a yoga studio and enjoyed a delicious hour of my body in healing motion. Today, I feel younger, stronger.


Ode to the Runners Soul: #Activitystreak!

First group run back from an injury, and my fellow striders are readers of Older Faster Stronger — newly retired and new to running, seasoned for-lifers, coaches, Boston qualifiers, new mom pushing stroller, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (who herds us/leads us).

A beautiful menagerie who run with the Runners Soul in Lethbridge, Alberta.

What trail they lead me down, winding around a frozen lake, path snow dusted, massive prairie sky drenching us with winter sun.

Their marathon club invited me here to share wisdom, advice, inspiration from my Older Faster Stronger super-fit year, yet they explode my heart with their zeal, their running goals:

– to keep an activity streak going (do something every day, whether run, walk, swim, bike, ski, chase stars…)

– to run a marathon in every capital of Canada (this from a 65-year-old newbie runner; she says, I better get cracking with 14 to complete)

– to find fun and joy in every run (which sometimes includes donuts)

That searing pain in my back? What pain? What back? What winter? What cold?

Their running dreams buoy me so I become feet gliding on air.

Too soon, this run is over.



Well, that didn’t last long #runningstreak

On Day 7, I felt like Superwoman, running a 10k along the beach, with five 200-metre sprints tucked into the back end. Immediately after, my partner and I took a 6k walk to the farmer’s market, which I had scouted on my run. I felt so awesome that I took over carrying ALL six bags of fresh Gulf seafood and Florida produce while my partner ducked into the wine store. And if that weren’t stupid enough, 50-something Superwoman decided she should run the last block back to the hotel while carrying those six bags. Third step in, pain stabbed into my back, just above my left buttock, and I knew immediately my running streak was over.

A mere week in.

Next day, I woke up feeling like a magician’s prop — the one that gets sawed in half, only for real.  I considered hobbling out a k just to keep the run streak going but that went against my deepest values as a runner — which, as ultra Pam Reid put it in my book Older Faster Strong, “I run to protect my running.”

Heck, even attempting a running streak in the first place cut against the the principles that successfully took me through my Older Faster Stronger super-fit year. And that is to take a balanced approach to running, with rest days and cross training and yoga, to run in a way that would enable me to keep running into my 90s and maybe 100

So what possessed me to attempt the streak? A new running adventure? A regime to keep me disciplined through a winter and spring that would take me away from my running club and a running program? To discover the meaning of running?

Oh yes, I wanted something from that streak — maybe a touchstone to get me through this next year of incredible change in my life, a new direction in writing but, much more than that, building a new house on an island a few hours away from my best running pals and the best running club in the world. The move is months away and I know we’ll stay in touch, run together when I’m in the city and when they visit, yet I’m already feeling the deep loss of daily commune with my running sisters.

Damn it, maybe this run streak/injury has given me something after all — realization that this loss will be huge and I can’t just plug in a daily run to fill it. That I can’t run away from that pain but must figure a way to run with it.




What’s the Inner Athlete Say? #RunningStreak

Train. First week of streak, I’m just running for the joy and fun of it. Second week, I’m trying to write a “running streak program” for myself, thinking about how to insert long runs, fast runs, interval training, hills into daily runs. It doesn’t feel like a bad thing or like work either. After years of running, varying runs to squeeze out maximum fitness just feels right, for mind and body.


olderfasterstronger: How Much is Too Little? #runningstreak

Some runners put in a 1/2 marathon a day or more. Not this runner. And so my daily mileage may seem puny into day 7 of my running streak — ranging from 6 to 10k a day. First I’m on vacay and walking miles of beach every afternoon. And I’m still figuring out what my body can handle while running every day. The point of this running streak adventure for me is not to spend huge chunks of my day running but to enjoy every day running. So far, seven days a smiling.


OlderFasterStronger: When the running is magic #runningstreak

My go-to imagery to get me through tough spots in a race is to conjure up a dolphin “swimming” alongside me, laughing, pulling me along. As I jogged onto the snow-white Fort Myers Beach for my morning run, the real thing appeared, surging through the water about 30 or 40 feet off the beach. I had decided on a shorter easier run, but the magic made it difficult to stop.


Older Faster Stronger: When the brain’s trained to Go #RunningStreak

This is a joyous, liberating, uplifting result of committing to running every day. When I wake up, my mind does not wrestle with whether to run or not. Instead of being mired in that muck, my thoughts leap immediately and delightfully to this: How to make the run fantastic.

Today’s 10 k scamper: Reveling in key scenes of the novel I will sink into after this vacay wraps in a week.



Older Faster Stronger: #Defensive Running #Ft Lauderdale drivers #Running Streak

Day two of my bid to run every day of 2016 may have been my last had I not practiced extreme defensive running. This was my routine during the 10K scamper down to the beach: Get to crosswalk, wait for walk signal, raise arm to point to where I’m crossing, look over my shoulder to make sure no one’s turning right on a red. I even make eye contact with any driver in proximity to ensure he sees me. And yet with all of that, two motorists — while making eye contact with me and seeming to indicate they would yield to MY RIGHT to cross — actually turned on red lights and sped up through crosswalks, forcing me to leap back. What kind of driver intentionally forces a walker/runner off a crosswalk? Really? Seriously? Today’s run was in Ft Lauderdale, a city full of shuffling retirees for gad sakes. But as is so often the case with drivers who seem enraged by the sight of runners, both offenders were white 50-plus men. Times like this I fantasize about firing a paint gun full of putrid green paint onto the vehicle. Or perhaps it should be blood red.


Older Faster Stronger: #2016 #runningstreak

So this idea popped in my brain a few days ago and, crazy as it is, I’ve decided to go with it.

A few years ago, the bizarre idea of running a marathon lodged itself my brain and would not let go even though I had never wanted to run one; in fact, I swore to all my running buddies that the half marathon was as far as I’d ever race. But I went with that gonzo idea and it worked out pretty well. Great health, happy brain, youthful energy, weight loss, quitting smoking, forging new best friends, heck, a running book all followed!

So here I am on New Year’s Day running around the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport because a) it’s one of the few low traffic areas to run near my sister-in-law’s, where we visiting and b) the crazy idea that popped into my brain a few days ago was this: Run every single day for the entire 2016 year.

Here’s why the idea is nutso: A body needs rest, so running every day is not necessarily healthy. I’ll have to work hard to vary run lengths (what’s the minimum I can go and still feel like I have run?) and develop a strict routine of cross training, stretching, yoga etc. to stay injury free.

But here’s why I’m starting this running streak: In a word, focus.

My best writing days always follow on the heels of the mornings I run. And I am digging into a massive new writing project in 2016 that will require intense singular solitary focus, more than I can muster now.

Training for marathons turned back my biological clock back a couple of decades. So I am putting my faith in running again, to help me develop the kind of deep focus required to get me to the finish line of my next writing project.

I run for a huge pile of reasons but mostly I run so that I can write.


My Current Faster, Stronger Workout

Some Older Faster Stronger readers have asked me about my weight-training routine. I don’t have any big secrets other than I DO IT. And when I do it, I get stronger and faster. Need motivation? Studies show we can increase our strength by 40 percent in a 12-week training period and by as much as five percent in a single training day! I stick those figures in my head to spirit me to the gym for my twice-a-week weight and core workouts and to the yoga studio for a vigorous vinyasa once a week.

But this is the other incentive: When I skip these cross-training sessions, my body quickly gets cranky sore and stiff. I can feel repetitive-strain injuries creaking in. I’m not interested in being just runner fit. I want to be overall fit, balanced, flexible and strong. Plus, I get the same kind of endorphin kick from a weight-training session as a hard run. That cuts down on the desire to drink. How awesome is that?

But big disclaimer here. I truly don’t think you can simply follow my plan. Everyone’s body is unique and has different fitness needs. My best advice is to get a personal trainer who knows your body & your sport and have her design a new program for you every 6 weeks to 2 months. You don’t need to see a personal trainer every session — unless you have the cash and need that motivation! Once you learn the principles of training, you can start to change up your own super-fit regime (check out Runner’s World online for ideas).

Remember, you have your own starting place and to push beyond that is to beg for injuries, frustration and, ultimately, defeat. When I started cross training, I could have whipped my bra on backwards to cup the fat on my back. When I ran, there was no daylight between my thighs, and I used to apply Glide liberally before runs to prevent igniting forest fires on trails. Using the resistance of my own body weight was more than enough. Marathon training helped me slim down, but cross training toned me up. Now I add weights to boost my fitness. And weirdly, I have gone from hating the gym to rather liking it.

But please don’t label me a fanatic. I took the summer off the gym and played outside. I don’t live for workouts. I work out to live well.

Still, for what it’s worth, this is my current program:

I jog to a FREE community centre. I’m extremely grateful for this free gym and think every community should have one, as a tax dollar invested in fitness easily saves many more in hospital bills. The gym (attached to a library, how cool is that!!) is a kilometre from my home, so I arrive warmed up.

I start with core work and follow this mantra: I want long strong back muscles so I avoid shortening back muscles with anything that smacks of a forward crunch. I do two sets of the following, working through each exercise once before repeating the set.

40 swimmers – I lie on my stomach and alternate lifting an opposite arm and leg as if swimming. The key is to tighten every muscle in my body and dream about being an Ironman streaming through ocean waves in Kona.

20 Superwomans — Still on my stomach, I stretch out my arms and legs ala the spandexed superhero, tighten every muscle in my body, then lift my chest and legs off the floor, which is one rep. I pass the time by imagining myself soaring through the air, passing Kenyans and Ethiopians at the front of the Boston Marathon.

plank & side plank – I’m up to holding a plank for a minute rather easily so I immediately ease into side planks: One arm holds me up while the other upraised arm swoops down in front of me, 15 times, like, oh-my-god the crowd’s still cheering so I have to take 15 bows! I hate that these side planks are also getting easy because next week, I’ll have to add a light weight while I’m taking my sideways ovations. Must work on attitude.

push ups — I hit 15 yesterday and my ego nearly exploded. I admit I pump these out to try to impress the guys around me. But I really have to slow these down, go lower. So this number is really just show offy. I’ll probably be back to 10 proper ones next week.

leg kicks – I lie on my back, bend at my hips and lift straight legs in the air then kick to the left, then the centre, then the right. I kick as if I’m fending off an attacker. It’s a killer core workout, and yesterday, I hit 20 per set and dropped the entire “Gentlemen’s Club” at the Dalhousie U dental school, along with Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi!

Now I should be heading for the pull-up bar. But no one can make me. I suck at them. My personal trainer, Kirsten Bedard, would tell me to suck it up and just try cause it’s the best all-body exercise, period. Maybe next week, Kirsten. In fact, maybe next summer. About the only fun I ever have doing pull ups is in a park on kids’ playground equipment. What’s super motivating is that me doing them always prompts little kids to try pull ups, except the little brats can always do more than me — and better.

Next up, weights. I alternate three reps of a leg exercise with three reps of an upper body exercise so I am constantly lifting. This keeps my heart rate up and also means I’m out of the gym in 45 minutes. Example: If I’m on the leg-press machine, I’ll take two 5-pound weights with me. When I’m resting my legs from a lift, I’ll do wrist curls.

This is what I do for legs and butt:

squats with weight bar: I’m doing heavier weights for 8 to 10 reps as I want to build butt and and hamstrings to increase my 5K speed. During marathon training, I did lighter weight for 15 reps, which helped with endurance. Somedays, the thought of loading up the weight bar makes me queasy, so I’ll grab a heavy weight and hold it in front of me while I do deep squats and then spring/jump up in the air. What a way to bring a sweat on.

one-leg lunges: I have worked up to holding a 25 pound weight in each hand for 10-12 reps. When I do these, I latch my opposite leg on a bench behind me so I get a good quad stretch and work on balance all at once. Focussing on balance keeps me from focussing on how hard these lifts are.

leg-press machine: I felt pretty damn good about pressing 200 lbs until I read that former US sec of state, 77 yr-old Madeleine Albright, was pressing 450! Well, I have 25 years to catch up to her. To strengthen my calves, I  also do toe-presses on the machine — toes pigeoned, then in a V and then middle. I believe this is helping me move from a heel strike to a springy-toed forefoot landing, but I could be just developing a rocking set of calves to show off at the beach.

This is what I do for my upper body:

rowers: I tried to crank it to 25 pounds in each hand yesterday, but couldn’t get beyond 7 so backed off to 20 lbs for the next two sets.

bicep curls: I get a 15 pounder in each hand and alternate 15 aside. Some days, I lift 20-pounders and do 3 sets of 10 reps. If the writing career goes bust, I could sling pitchers of beer for a living. And who knows, I might.

wrist curls: I have pathetically weak wrists, which is making some yoga moves painful, so I’m working on building up my forearms with wrist curls. Goal: To do a downward dog without wrist pain — or twist off my own beer cap when I’m 95.

tricep curls: I really have no use for triceps, save heaving myself out of my desk chair once in a while. But I hate that fold of fat at the back of my arms. I’d rather have a muscle there. So I have worked up from a 15 pound weight to a 30 pound in the last 2 months. But who knows, maybe I’ll pull a Cheryl Strayed and heft on a monster backpack and hike the Pacific West Coast Trail some day.

standing backfly: I am only lifting 10 pounds in each hand on this one, but my back is getting stronger and I love, love, love the feeling of a strong back. I imagine myself at 105, sitting arrow-straight at my desk, cranking out a 50th novel, all because of this exercise.  So I love wrapping up on this one.

On the kilometre run home, I keep myself from ducking in for a Jamaican patty by doing plyometrics: butt kicks, high knees, sideways hopping, strides, carioca, hops, lunges. I do these frantic leg moves on a city sidewalk, in daylight, in front of bus shelters packed with people. Folks stare. Small children point. Some snicker.

This work is extremely difficult, but it’s building leg strength and turnover speed, so I plaster a smile on my face and hope people watching me think I’m some super-fit Wonder Woman soaring off to fight extremism & western imperialism & restore peace and balance to the world. And when a not-so-wonderous inner voice tempts me to skip this part of the workout, I remind myself of the 5k personal best I want to crush this spring, and that a five percent improvement in strength multiplied by two workouts a week is a 10 percent faster and stronger self each week! Even if I’m over imagining my improvement a tad….it helps. It really helps.