The last few weeks since the launch of Older Faster Stronger have been a blur of interviews, fantastic social media support from new running & reading pals across North America and some pretty positive reviews about how I butted out the cigs, pushed away plates of pasta and dragged myself off the couch and onto the road to run Boston Qualifying marathons. I do realize that I wrote a MEMOIR; still, it’s humbling/weird/cool to hear what others are saying about my journey in major publications such as Maclean’s, Toronto Star, Runner’s World, and on NPR and Daily Xtra. What’s my reaction? Geeze, I’ve been slacking doing book signings at the NYC Marathon! I need to up my game, pump up the iron, get back on the track. Coach Elaine McCrea at the Runner’s Shop, I need a new training program!!
That’s my $5 advice. And it goes out to Nancy, who was the first to take up my challenge to pose a fitness question to me in exchange for a small donation in support of my Toronto Neighbourhood Champ ½ marathon run. Her question: How to learn to run? Nancy knows how to run, as we all do to a degree. But she takes up running and stops running a couple of times each year. So the real question is, how to stick with it? Running is more than a little like starting grade 1. We don’t start school without the structure of school and often going takes a little coercion. After a time, we go out of habit. And after a longer time, we find ourselves – like education – hungering for more as we so appreciate all that running gives us – fitness, good health, mental well being, energy, balance, zest for life and on and on. So, make yourself a student of running & see how far it takes you. If you want a fitness question answered, make a small donation, leave your question in the message to me box and I’ll answer here! The first 17 tips are free!
Here’s the deal: Put your running-fit question to me by clicking here and donating a few bucks to my run as Neighbourhood Champ raising money for Toronto Neighborhood Centres in the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon. Post your question in the message box, and I’ll help you on the path to living #OlderFasterStronger. Don’t forget to check back here for my answer or follow me on facebook or @MargaretWebb on twitter where I’ll post the answer so we can all get fitter together. This deal will make your budget fitter too as you’ll get a charitable donation! The first 16 tips were free!
I trained for my first marathon to get super fit, yes, but to what end? Running five marathons in the past four years lifted me from a midlife malaise, trimmed by butt down to size and gave me the drive, focus and confidence to write a book that, hopefully, will inspire many others to take their own fitness journey to a stronger self. What will come of the millions of women around the world taking up running, getting strong? As Kathleen Wynne, the first female premier of Canada’s largest province, put it in my book, Older Faster Stronger: “It takes strength to take your place in the world.”
Do you have a V-8 engine driving a sports coupe body or a V-4 struggling to power a SUV body? In fitness terms, that’s your VO2 score, a measure of the working capacity of your heart, lungs and muscles. In poetic terms, a VO2 test measures your life force, your internal candle burning brightly, hopefully, for as we age, that candle burns down a little each year, from a relative VO2 of 40 to 46 for fit women in their 20s, to 28 or 29 for menopausal women, to 15, which will likely land you in a retirement home as that’s considered the minimum required to live independently. But here’s the thing: Your life force need not decline so drastically, and you can spark up your VO2 by as much as 15 percent in just four months, at any age. The magic elixir? Exercise, of course. Stuff that makes you move. That’s why masters runners can sport a VO2 in the same range as very fit 20 somethings; and, sadly, why so many couch-potato 20 somethings now score a VO2 in the range of sedentary 50 somethings. Show me the VO2 of a 70 year old and a 20 year old, and I’ll tell you who will win the race – and age has nothing to do with it. Click for more tips.
A sensuous delight of getting fit is the feeling of toned muscle where flab once flowed. Overindulge in this delicious sensation: Squeeze your butt cheeks while brushing your teeth, clench your core while walking, bulge your biceps while blow drying, tighten your thighs while, oh, let your imagination run wild. Start at 15 seconds and work up to a minute or two and you’re not just tuning into your new muscles, but toning and strengthening them. Isometrics is the fancy scientific term for these stealth workouts. Take a few personal training sessions with an isometrics pro, and you can can learn how to build significant strength throughout your entire body, without weights, risk of injury or any equipment. Just remember to breathe while contracting muscles or blood pressure can climb. My trick: Track time by counting deep breaths. My advice: Avoid doing these exercises in an open office lest you look and sound too hot. Click for more hot tips.
Bad bad bad is the attitude we have developed that exercise is not fun. The 80-plus-year-old runners I interviewed for OFS did not stick at it all these years because running is good for them. Oh, no. They were drunk on the joy of running and competing, addicted to it even. I run because I love moving fast, chatting through long runs with good friends and making new ones, being outdoors and exploring trails and cities. I revel in how it makes me feel after, brain pumped with energy and muscles deliciously spent from work. I would never walk in a rainstorm, snowstorm or vicious winds, but I will run and delight in being in those hellacious elements because it makes me feel joyously alive. But put me indoors on a track or a treadmill and I will not run. So, thing everything to fitness, is finding what you love to do – walk, kayak, cycle, dance, squash, soccer, whatever – and indulge. Slurp it up, reveal in it, spoil yourself crazy with the fun! Click for more tips.
Please, don’t even think about using $ as an excuse to delay taking charge of your health. The cost of poor health is astronomical – spiritually, emotionally, financially — but the cost of fitness, truly, is a pair of running shoes and a creative approach. Free running and walking clubs abound. Playgrounds and park furniture can double as resistance training equipment for push ups, chin ups etc. Community gyms and public schools offer free weight-room hours and ridiculously cheap fitness classes. Run or walk around soccer fields and arenas during kids’ games. Take a bootcamp and burn the workouts into your memory. Hire a personal trainer to show you a program that you can do on your own and refresh every few months. Trade your services for fitness services. Gather together friends, pool your knowledge and design your own fitness boot camp. Tap into your workplace Employee Assistance Program — chances are there’s $$ on offer for fitness. Rent a yoga DVD from a library or take karma (aka free) classes. Skip the new outfit/shoes/makeup/dinner out and treat yourself to a fitness makeover instead. I did all this and more during my super-fit year and got super fit at saving money. Click for more tips.
Some very good racers allow themselves ONE glass of wine or beer to relax the night before a race, so drinking like every day is a pre-race day is an excellent strategy. But I must fess up: I enjoy wine way too much and struggle to stop at one, so much so that I have taken to abstaining during weekdays to curb consumption. Why? Because it’s seriously messing with tip #10, my big-picture reason for striving for super fitness not to mention tips #1 through #9. And while one cuppa can be relaxing and even have health benefits, two or three increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which reduces levels of natural human growth hormone by as much as 70 percent, and that youth-enhancing hormone is what we need coursing through us to stall aging and even turn back that clock. Click to see all the tips.
Why do you want to get fit, stay fit? What is the singular reason driving you? The longer you keep at this, the reasons will multiply and become so splendid and numerous you will wonder how you ever endured a life of lethargy. But now, right at this moment, you need to dig deep and find that one compelling reason that will spring you from bed on the coldest cruelest morning, shatter self doubt, and keep you pushing through another mile, another hill, another speed interval. I’m not even going to suggest a reason or share mine. It is thing one for each of us, at every stage of our fitness journeys, to have that singular big-picture purpose we can haul up in our hearts when the going gets tough and we need to keep going. For tips one to nine, click here.