Easy Tips to go from Running on Road to Trail

If you’re like me, you started running on good-old flat, predictable roads. Sometimes there are cracks, other times grassy traverses… maybe even puddles – or the worst, black ice.

But there are no rocks. There are no boulders. And there are few surprises.

In fact, the hardest part about going from road to trail for most of us is constantly adjusting our stride.

If you’re also like me (in that you’re old) you might remember those old school pedometers that required you to set your stride length. It would then count how many steps you took in your run and do some simple multiplication to figure out how far you went.

That worked well enough on roads – but hit the trails and your distance calculation would be way off.

As a general rule you want to keep your strides short, compact and quick. That being said, you’ll need to be able to go between those tight little strides to bound over things: big rocks, roots, tree trunks, streams, dogs, etc.

You might think I’m kidding with the dog comment.

I’m not.

 

1. Flats and Gradual Slopes

Stay tall and relaxed with your head up. You want to look a few feet ahead: not at your feet. As the adage says, your body will go where your eyes lead… and that includes down.

You want quick, light, even and relaxed steps just as you would on the road. If there are rocks or roots on the path, pick your knees up a bit higher than you think you need to. But keep the effort as relaxed as possible.

2. Uphill

You’re going to need to lean into the hill a bit… but in doing so, stay tall and long through your torso. Don’t collapse at your hips or hunch. You need to keep your chest proud to get adequate air and you need to extend your hips to get full firing of your glutes (aka butt). Your butt is what gets you up the hill, so use it.

Again, take quick light steps. Think about floating up the hill, driving the elbows back and the knees up with a relaxed effort. If it’s a short steep and you have some momentum, you may want to bound up. That’s fine as long as the effort to get up is minimal.

If your heels can touch down, I say let them. You might get to a hill so steep that you end up on your toes. Which is fine… and a great calf workout.

Lastly, if it’s so steep that you could walk faster, or if it’s a long run – power hike. Go ahead and use your hands on your knees too if you feel like it.

If it is a shorter more intense effort though, think about cresting the hills and getting your pace back quickly. You’ll settle back in.

3. Downhill

You love it – or you hate it. Maybe both. Maybe even both at once.

This is certainly the area I have to work the hardest on… let’s put it the nice way… not being the risky type.

I like to think about a waterfall running down the mountain, or a cyclist riding downhill. No impact, just flow.

Just as on flats, your feet should stay under you and your stride should stay circular.  You also need to find the right amount of lean into the hill… lean too far into it and you’ll feel unbalanced, too far back and you’ll end up jamming your feet down ahead of your body.

You also want to look ahead and pick the line flow with the least resistance – – and run it with the quickest, lightest steps you’ve got.

Eventually you’ll end up stepping on something slippery or unstable. If your feet are moving quickly and you’re balanced, you’ll likely just bounce off and keep going.

If the hill is steep, I like to swing my arms about to counterbalance. If it’s gradual, I try to kick my legs up and back (toward my butt) as I do on the road.

Lastly, like anything, it’s mostly just a matter of getting out there and getting used to it. So get runnin’.

Runner Maintenance 101

Let’s face it, look at runners of any distance, and at any level and you’ll find that most of them are dealing with some sort of injury.

They usually let it boil up until it affects their running, and then – and only then – do they do something about it.

That something is usually visiting a doctor, physiotherapist, chiropractor or massage therapist. Or they buy new shoes.

In most cases the injury goes away to the point where the runner can run again.

So they run and run and run until that or something else snaps again. Oh and they stop seeing their therapist and pack their shoes back down.

I’ve been there. And it’s an ugly cycle.

There are some easy ways to break free: buy new shoes before you squish the poop out of your current pair – and continue to see your therapist on a maintenance style schedule that they recommend.

You can also make yourself stronger and more biomechanically efficient by adding core work, squats, lunges, and glute med exercises to your program.

Most importantly in my books though, is getting you to mobilize your body before a tight calf muscle becomes a shin splint.

Here’s a list of stuff I do every day to “pre-hab” my body. On that note, if I find that my calves are nasty, I’m not hitting the track that day. I’m doing a kilometer of lunge walking or something that isn’t going to take them from sore to injured.

You also need to be able to relax and enjoy the mobilizations or you are not releasing, you’re creating damage.

If you’re holding your breath or wincing, take some pressure off.

1. Thoracic Roll.
Lie with your foam roller across your heart rate monitor line and slowly roll toward your neck (never roll over your lower spine). You want to mobilize your upper spine into extension so keep your chin and tailbone tucked. You can place your hand across your chest, behind your head or straighten your arms overhead.

I also like to rotate side to side gently and even roll out my sides a bit from my armpits to my pelvis. If you did a heap of pull-ups the day before go easy. Remember to ensure you are relaxed – and not too much pressure on those ribs!

2. The IT Band, Kinda
I say kinda because I really go in front and bank of it. The IT Band is super thick and you’re unlikely to actually affect change in it. But it gets gummed up to the tissues around it and releasing those stickers can be live changing.

Basically you’re rolling behind it and then in front of it. I go up and down in small increments, and then I roll my hips side to side, and then I kick my butt. I do each three times and then I move up.

You can do the front of your leg the same way.

I shouldn’t need to say this but please don’t roll over your knee. Just gross.

3. Tennis, Lacrosse or Floor Hockey Ball.
I listed them from least to most intense. You can even tie two tennis balls into a dress sock or tape two lacrosse balls together and then roll up either side of the spine. I prefer to use a single.

I almost always start at my hips and then work my way up. If I find a really good spot, I’ll either hang out there or open my leg to the side and back.

Don’t roll over your spine or shoulder blades (they’re actually really thin) but feel free to work around them. And as you do move your arm beside you and over head to see if you can really get in there.

4. Baseball.
These are the perfect size to stick into the back of your legs. Assume a sitting position and stick the ball just forward of your sit bones. Then rock your hips side to side. Magic right? If you need more you can reach for your foot as in a dynamic toe touch.

You can also use baseballs for ugly spots in the front of your thigh or in your hips.

5. Calves and Feet.
If you have bad feet, you probably have bad calves… and vice versa. I start by rolling a small ball just behind the bone on the inside of my lower leg. If (ok when) I find pain, I hang out there making tiny circles until it releases or point and flex my foot. Then I dig into the meaty muscly part of the inside of my calf. Lastly, I rotate my leg and do the same thing on the outside. I also really make sure to get into my Achilles’ tendon.

After I’ve done both legs, I stand up and roll back and forth a bunch on the sole of my foot – again hanging out on ugly spots.

Another “No Excuses” Mom

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To check out the full article on Women’s Health Magazine, just click the photo.

I don’t know if your Facebook feed has been swallowed up with this new “no excuses” mom photo, but mine certainly has.

Those are nice abs Abby. And I get where you’re coming from Maria.

You’re trying to encourage more moms to take control and get active. That is empowering. You might even be considered a feminist.

“Strong is the new skinny,” right?

“Real women have muscles”

“Squat now, selfie later,” am I right?

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Is there even any weight on that bar?

The problem here is not that they are trying to recreate women’s ideas about how their body should look or how fitness can help them achieve “the new standard” if they only drop their excuses.

The problem is that they are reducing the amazing machine that is a woman’s body to a cheap made-in-china “for display purposes only” ideal.

Who cares what your abs look like? Mine aren’t great. I’ve had two children. But you know what, they weren’t all the great before the kids either. I make my living on being fit. Not having sweet abs.

One of my good friends sometimes gets her RDA of exercise by gardening and eats Nutella by the Costco sized jar. She has the nicest six-pack I have ever seen.

But you know what else? I don’t really care how my abs look. I care that they can stay solid while I carry both my kids up a mountain. I care that they are strong enough to help me traverse a set of monkey bars or pull my knees high enough to make the rope climb easier.

I agree that people, and mothers, have too many excuses and/or reasons (whatever you want to call them) in terms of prioritizing their own fitness. And I agree that we are at a crisis in terms of poor nutrition and more critically, low activity levels. I see moms all the time who simply give up after having a baby, or more often, two babies. And I’m a mom. I get why.

But a set of ripped abs doesn’t motivate me. The feeling of utter triumph when I make it over a 10′ wall does. The feeling of standing at the top of a mountain trying to catch my breath from the scenery, and the effort, does.

I have had the good fortune of racing with some of the best athletes (and best six-packs) in the sport of obstacle course racing. When I think impressive though, I have one image.

Waiting for my husband, who went into a later wave at the local Spartan Race, I saw a lady who must have been about 300 pounds hauling herself over the final wall on the course with some difficulty. I was amazed.

And then I saw the reason she was struggling. And it wasn’t the extra pounds.

She had her skinny, fit looking teenage daughter in her free hand.

Tears still come to my eyes every time I think about it.

We don’t need a reason not have excuses, we need a reason not to want excuses.

That reason for me is obstacle course racing.

BTW, if you haven’t read this article by Lauren Fleshman, you need to click the photo and read it now. It’s awesome – just like her.

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And then sign up for the interactive online OCR training community http://www.mud-fu.com and never lift your shirt in front of a mirror again.

How to Make Lost Better

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First off, know you’re heading into the trail… and then prepare for the worst.

Wow. Admittedly I thought only a handful of people would ever read my blog.

When the local island paper contacted me to talk about the story, I was surprised – and glad to be able to thank the Arrowsmith and Port Alberni SAR teams and squadron 442. A friend from Search and Rescue felt that bringing SAR’s achievements forward was important because they need more positive exposure and because stories like this help provide their education mandate a platform.

I was also happy to say, “Hey, I messed up big. Here’s what not to do. And here’s a few things that worked in my favour.”

I guess with the tragic disappearance of Liang Jin, it was a discussion that needed to happen and well, “Kaboom.”

In one interview, the message about my biggest mistake: using Google Maps to plan a route (thinking it was a back road route rather than a back country route I was planning) came across more like it was Google Maps fault. My miscommunication. But I don’t blame you Google Maps. It’s the not the hammers fault, it’s just the wrong tool…

That is, of course, not the only mistake that I made… it’s just the biggest one.

A lot of great people have been kind enough to email me from all over with future safety recommendations. Many are comments on my original blog post. I felt they deserved their own spot though… so here goes.

Thanks to everyone who offered their advice and joined the discussion.

  • Two SAR rescuers (Outsider Adventures from Arrowsmith and Kelda from Port Alberni) recommended carrying basic survival gear: see below for the ten essentials that everyone should carry into the back country.
  • Brian, a SAR manager from Powell River recommended calling as soon as you think you might be lost, rather than waiting. And then staying put. Higher and in an open area is better. Do not start bush whacking.
  • Michael recommended a dedicated backcountry GPS unit that runs on alkaline batteries – and keeping the unit in a waterproof case or zip lock bag until needed. He also offered an excellent article on “Why you shouldn’t use smart phones for navigation” – And Ryan sent a good page with a bunch of activity appropriate GPS units here.
  • Kip, a long time SAR hero, reinforced the need to keep it together mentally after getting lost. Eric (as well as ambassadors from the North Shore and Port Coquitlam SAR teams) recommended buying a personal locator beacon and satellite messenger such as the Expedition ones featured here. They are light, inexpensive and easy.
  • The local Metro Van SAR teams also talked about never setting out alone or without essential gear, GPS, compass and paper maps. And of course – not relying on your phone – but making sure that you don’t drain the battery down either so you have plenty of juice if you do run into trouble. And carrying a spare cell phone battery is low cost and light as well.

SAR chapters also are excellent education resources. North Shore Rescue has put together and an excellent and very concise resource on How to Avoid Getting Lost here and What the Ten Essentials are here.

Since I was in an active logging area (and not a park) with roads that change way faster than maps, getting a paper map would have been difficult. But that’s exactly why I should have set out for one. I would have realized that there are no maps for the area because it’s a just a maze of more or less undocumented logging roads that usually lead only to a dead end kilometres out. My search for a map would have told me… don’t go in there.

The SAR techs who picked me up have been continually amazing and quick to point out the things that I did do right…

I was wearing extra clothes, had a flashlight with a beacon and emergency audible signal and some food. I tried to conserve my cell battery even before I got into trouble and managed to revive it. I stayed moving and warm and kept my head. I should have had more food, a puff jacket and a waterproof layer in my pack… and often do. The Nathan Flashlight that I was carrying was really an essential. Meant for road running, it has an high pitched audible signal to scare off attackers (or cougars)… it also has a beam, strobe, and red flashing light in the rear for cars (which I would have encountered 17k in to this run had I not gotten so horribly far off track). I was also wearing a bright orange glow in the dark jacket. You might not think about visibility being a factor in the trees but since I thought I would be running on lesser used roads when darkness fell, visibility was one of my main concerns… and it ended up easing the burden on the rescuers.

Phoning to report yourself early on and staying high (and put) is also important. I stayed at my coordinates on top of the mountain – and through some crazy luck I ended up getting reported early (my husband “running” into the RCMP). In honesty, that was not my doing, but it certainly worked in my favour and has been a lesson for me since.

I can see how people wouldn’t stay at their coordinates as crazy as that sounds. Or how they would cut through the bush as even crazier as that sounds. But following my compass straight through the bush crossed my mind and what was in that woods less so.

Heck, I probably would have been hell bent on running myself out of there had I never gotten that phone call. I would certainly never think to call for help. Looking back, I wouldn’t have even told my family I was lost for fear I’d worry them. And I could have made things a lot more difficult for myself and the SAR teams.

In fact, most people don’t contact SAR until it gets really bad. And when they don’t, not only do they make SARs difficult job far more dangerous, they are far more likely to not make it out themselves.

Of course, part of the issue comes in that people are hugely embarrassed to admit they are lost, and don’t want to inconvenience anyone. After experiencing it firsthand, you could see why. There are people that spend their entire day bullying other people on the internet, and being on the receiving end of a SAR makes you an easy target.

In contrast, the SAR people who brought me off that mountain at no time made me feel like a burden. After all I put them through… only more kindness and understanding. I owe these people me life in the rescue, and my sanity in the aftermath.

In short, if you’re in trouble, call before it becomes big trouble… for everyone.

I also told my husband the route and he was running backwards out to meet me on the more major road on the other side. He knew that something was wrong very early on. I was supposed to be through that initial 17k to the road by 4:30-5:00pm and it was 6:30pm by the time he bumped into the RCMP cruiser on that road. Obviously in this case, fate also intervened. I had the find my phone app and he had the password. And I turned my bluetooth on to get my exact coordinates (which I didn’t initially do).

My husband is a hospital technician and encountered a patient who was frightened of the tests she had to do. My husband used Orange Jump Suit Guy’s humour to melt the fear away. She finished those tests with a smile on her face. I feel like the world would be a much better place if you could launch him into various tense situations for a selfie.

No Run Should Ever End with an Air Lift

Unfortunately, yesterday my run did.

Yes, I was that person that should have succumbed to Darwin’s theory.  Lost and on a ledge.

I’ve often read the facts of such stories but never the lead up… so I wanted to share my experience of how it all went down.

I set off about 3pm on a 35k run from Port Alberni to Qualicum Beach via back roads. The route itself was 40k, but I got dropped off partway in so I wouldn’t have to run on the highway. Based on google map directions it looked pretty darn straight forward.

I left later than I had hoped but I had a good flashlight and a fully belly. I was supposed to be out of the more challenging terrain and onto well traveled roads in about an hour and a half, before it got dark, and back to the folks for a late dinner. Or I had hoped.

In hindsight, I should have looked at the terrain map. Even with that simple button push the map went…

from this:

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 4.25.21 PM

To this:

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I thought I was decently well prepared. I left the car with an energy bar, flashlight and most critically, my fully charged iPhone with a brand new battery.

Assuming there would be some dead spaces I took pictures of each turn and memorized the names of the roads.

I soon realized there were way more roads than Google Maps had documented, that the main roads were no more obvious than splinter roads and that signs did not exist. What I thought would be country roads were mountain roads. I should have turned back then, but not wanting to inconvenience anyone by driving back out to Port Alberni (and there is the true irony of the night), I forged on.

photo 2Started off pleasantly surprised by the view and climbs.

I was afraid to take a wrong turn, so at every intersection I would look at the Google Map and make sure I was following the blue dots. Between intersections (and there were many), I would shut my signals off to conserve battery power.

I got the intersection of Main and Highland (which happened to be the first marked trails) and put on the GPS since neither name was on my list. My phone went from 80%, to a thin red line, to dead.

Off.

Two helpless beeps and it was just me standing in the deep dark wilderness. No one anywhere. Not a sound to be heard.

I had climbed considerably, and as such, was now immersed in a winter wonderland. I again considered turning around but remembered all the intersections that I made it through relying on my GPS. And how many other roads there were.

I saw some ATV tracks in the snow and although I remembered this being a “stay to the left,” I figured I should follow the tracks. In a maze of dead-ends, tracks were probably the surest thing to lead somewhere.

I followed them for about an hour until they stopped abruptly at a Y-intersection. That, or the thickening of the heavy falling snow had covered them.

I decided to continue up to the peak to see if I could see city or highway lights.

The peak was incased by falling snow and fog. I could hardly see past the edge. No lights anywhere outside of a faint moon, struggling through the clouds.

I hoped the cold had triggered my phone’s untimely shut down, so I put it directly against my skin to warm it up. Even for just enough juice to get a quick check of the GPS and start on what would perhaps be a life or death memorization test.

70% battery and full bars. Hallelujah.

As I was madly memorizing the turns and taking photos, a call came in. 6:30pm. Must be my parents asking about dinner. I would tell them to start and that I was fine, just a little delayed.

It was, however, the RCMP. I couldn’t figure out why they were phoning so early in the night. I wasn’t even late yet.

Apparently when my husband John had run out to meet me, he did some quick pace calculations and decided something had gone horribly wrong. I was supposed have passed through the 17k road in the park in about an hour and a half and be on the main road before dark to run the rest with him.

The RCMP officer was out looking for a stolen car and John flagged her down. His phone would not connect but hers did.

She asked if I wanted a ride. The road looked passable via truck from where I was, so I reluctantly agreed. Fear that my phone would abandon me again and what can only be described as reverse claustrophobia was setting in.

I realized that if I turned my phone’s Bluetooth on, it would show my coordinates. Some time later, I sent the turn by turn list from the main road. I was hoping I would be an easy enough pick up, particularly since my battery was once again running down, but I could not have been more wrong.

photo 3

I felt terrible putting her out, but she indicated she would get the key from Search and Rescue for the gate and head up to get me.

Search and Rescue, however, knew the terrain was not passable by truck and immediately set up “base camp.”

At this point she texted me to let me know an ATV was coming.

I had no idea that half the island had come together to get me out. Or that they had set up some state of the art “Alli location station,” or that by 10pm both the Qualicum and Port Alberni Search and Rescue were out there.

I thought it had escalated to a couple guys on ATVs. And it was bad enough in my books for two poor people to suffer out there for my own dumb mistake.

Meanwhile, I ate my energy bar and did hill repeats to keep warm. I counted from 1-1,000 and back down  on every three foot steps to stay sane.

I did try to squat down and hug my knees but I got cold fast. Moving would keep me warm. Moving would keep me awake.

Staying sane was probably the hardest part. Sure, I was cold. Really cold. But I kept seeing and hearing stuff. A raven bobbing it’s head, a man in a black hoodie, a pile of square baled hay, an old truck, people talking, headlights.

Every time I started to hallucinate, I’d say out loud, “that’s not a thing,” and get back to my counting.

I’d also hit the alarm button on my flashlight every time I turned around at the top of the hill to scare the cougars off – and every 500 numbers, I would turn the signals back on and check my phone.

My phone became such a critical connection to the world. Almost as if it would bring me instantly back from this crazy place my mind kept going. And that little red battery bar was staring me down.

John told me that they were very close but would be forty minutes longer since I had wandered off trail and was no longer on a road.

Granted, I was rapidly loosing all mental capacity. But I was sure that I had followed a road up and was currently on a road.

I went to text back that I was absolutely positively on a road, but my phone died. And, this time, really died. I wasn’t sure the message sent.

And so feared that something was really wrong. And after 40 minutes past, and then one hour, and then two, was convinced.

I would later find out that the ATV rescuers were less than a kilometer away but that I was across a gulley and totally inaccessible via ATV, on foot, or otherwise.

I wondered if I should head down the mountain, thinking the searchers may have called it a night since visibility was degrading and a storm was rolling in.

I may still be lost, and without a phone again, but I remembered most of the turns from before. And getting off the peak of a mountain in a snow storm seemed reasonable.

I was worried though that the people who had come out for me would go all that way for nothing, and that I would be perhaps be endangering them if they were still looking for me, so I stayed put as per the original plan. Plus, if people that knew the area couldn’t get in, I wasn’t getting out.

I thought I heard things from time to time, but nothing that I heard was concrete enough to be certain it was not just in my head.

Four hours or so in, I heard an ATV, and it sounded like it was coming from the road. I sprinted the half mile back to the junction yelling in hopes of catching it. When I arrived, however, the fog had lifted enough off of that side of the peak to see that the noise was coming from the highway across the valley.

I thought briefly about making my way over to the headlights on the road. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t, since I probably would have gotten lost in the maze of roads below.

After I realized that I was chasing down something that was, “not a thing,” I started making my way back to my coordinates across the snowy ridge.

I saw some sort of a plane across the valley. Or at least I hoped I did. My track record was unreliable at best at this point.

I turned the strobe on my flashlight on and waived it all about, once again running and yelling across the cliff.

Maybe this plane would radio in about the crazy lady on the mountain top and tell the guy on the ATV where I was and I could go home, cuddle my family and never leave my house again.

The plane turned and started coming towards the ridge. At this point I saw the spotlight and realized that he was looking for me. Initially I felt a punch in the gut from the immense guilt that comes with requiring a helicopter rescue from your own stupidity.

That subsided rather quickly though, and I was soon consumed by fear that he would not in fact find me. It donned on me that I must be in trouble if they sent a chopper.

The helicopter turned right toward me and I started to sob. Saved.

This elation faded pretty quickly when he turned back. Not saved. He can’t see me.

Convinced he didn’t see me, I made huge figure-8s with my light, shined it on my reflective jacket, aimed it right into the helicopter, and generally just flailed like crazy.

For some reason I was sure that if the spot light was not on me, they didn’t see me.

I thought about jumping into the gulley where the spotlight was.

After having a look at the map, I’m glad I did not bring this plan to fruition as it probably would have meant plummeting through a layer of deep snow into a four kilometer free fall.

At one point, I doubled over on my knees for a moment: knocked back from the power of the chopper wind kicking up the newly fallen snow – and my own utter exhaustion.

I made several more attempts at raising my flash light but my arm would have none of it.

A little orange puffy suited man launched out of the bottom and I ran in his general direction (flash back to the sand storm at WTM: so much wind and so much sharp debris in my eyes).

He placed a U-shaped flotation type thing around my torso and warned me NOT to lift my arms. I would soon see why.

The helicopter took off and started slowly reeling us in. I had a feeling I shouldn’t look down… and I was right both times.

As I was suspended about a thousand feet in the air above a valley, orange jump suit rescue man was cracking jokes about how much fun we were having and if he could have my phone for a selfie. Even flying through the air attached only to a life preserver, and definitely not having fun of any sort, he totally made me smile inside.

They put me in the helicopter, fastened me down, filled my shirt with heating pads, covered me with blankets (noticing I was still shivering, one man took his own off and added it to the pile) and warmed me up. They checked my pulse and made sure my extremities were intact. I declined a hospital trip since they can’t cure feeling incredibly dumb.

Orange jump suit hilarious rescue man took that selfie.

I inhaled the best ham sandwich I have ever had and guzzled just enough water to make myself feel very queasy.

The chopper insisted on staying until John arrived at the Qualicum Airport. Something about not leaving a person they just found on a mountain in a parking lot.

When the police came to get a statement, I was sure they were going to give me what for. I deserved it.

Yet another heart warmingly kind and understanding person.

He reassured me that people make bad decisions all the time and that those decisions have ramifications, that often call for use of essential services… whether it be a broken leg skiing or relying on a malfunctioning iPhone in remote areas.

Bottom line: I alone made a huge mistake that cost many amazing people time and resources. That feels pretty terrible.

It happens even to people that don’t think it will happen. In fact, it is probably to those people it most often happens.

What struck me was the amazingness of the people that helped me. Beyond words amazing. Every single one of them.

Thank you just doesn’t cut it to all the people that came together to get me off that mountain, and their families.

If you are looking for a tax-receipt eligible donation this year, it’s a worthy cause. Especially when it’s you or someone you love out there.

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue

Ready for Anything

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In an interview the other day, someone asked me what I feel the biggest impact I have made on someone’s life is.

It wasn’t a hard question to answer.

Eight years ago a sedentary couple came to my bootcamp class to get fit before they started having children. The wife, Kim, knew that it was way easier to stay fit than get fit after kids and she dragged her previously active husband along hoping she might inspire him back to an active lifestyle.

Colin was a sporty type and had a heck of a lot of power and agility under a very large frame. He was a linesmen in university and could out sprint me with his arms tied together if he gave me a thirty second head start. After 100m though, he was done.

And he made that clear.

I remember forcing him to run “the mile” across the bridge that bordered the park and back. He cussed me out the entire time. Every time.

And then one day he just kept running. He ran 5k’s, 10k’s, a half and a full. Then he started doing Ironman distance triathlons. And doing well. Once again he could crush me… only this time covering great distances from the water to the bike.

For a dude, and sturdy one at that (I believe his left femur weighs as much as most triathletes)… it’s tough to qualify for Kona (AKA the Hawaii Ironman World Championship) but Colin isn’t about the easy way. He was on his way to completing his 8th Ironman of the twelve he needed to get to Kona the hard way.

All while training and completing seven Ironmans (his PB is under twelve hours), Colin and Kim had the four incredible kids they wanted. He found the teaching job of his dreams. Life was pretty much perfect – until he got a tummy ache.

His wife brought him to the hospital expecting they’d send him home with some laxitives.

He left with stage four colon cancer.

In the course of the next month he would discover that of the forty-five lymph nodes they removed, forty-five were cancerous. He would be told he had between six months and six years to live. He would cancel travel plans to Ironman to learn about the chemo that he would have every two weeks for the rest of his life.

The time he spent so diligently readying his body and mind for Ironman, would now save his life. That initial decision to improve his fitness to be a better father, would give him the chance to see his four children grow.

Sometimes we get swept up in the joy of overcoming challenges in training and racing and loose sight of what’s really important… preparing ourselves to be able to meet whatever comes our way in life with strength and fitness.

I didn’t even consider the impact that I had on Colin’s outcome until his mom wrote me a message thanking me for getting him hooked on endurance sport and saving his life before he knew it was in jeopardy.

Sometimes it’s the little things you do in life… like inspiring people to find their fitness… that create ripples you could never anticipate.

You can find Colin’s hilarious blog at http://trifattytri.blogspot.ca

Make a resolution calendar to make this year awesome

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Let’s face it. January 1st is not just any day. It’s the first day of the new year. I’m not a big resolutioner, but I do love to sit down and review my races, goals and training plans to make sure that I have all my ducks in a line. Bottom line for me is, if there’s something you really want in your life, it’s a great day to make the change happen.

With clients, I like to set a new small goal each month that ultimately leads up to a big goal… much like I do with my own training plans.

Want to run a fall marathon? Schedule some 5, 10k’s and a half marathon throughout the year. Maybe a small race each month. Or take it a step further if you want to make a big change like loosing a significant amount of weight or living a healthier lifestyle: do a 12 month action plan for a new you. Those changes just wouldn’t all happen at once on January 1st.

The other magical thing about a resolution calendar is that 30 days is generally the agreed upon amount to make new habits stick. Once you’ve ingrained a new habit, it’s time to build upon what you already have going.

Don’t make the mistake of scrawling them down on a piece of paper somewhere. I like to buy a brand new calendar that inspires me each year and put my goals down in ink.

I also make sure I know exactly what my goals are, what steps I need to do to accomplish them, and when that needs to happen when I write them in.

Some people like to add an inspiration board above where they use photos or magazine cut outs that inspire them.

You also need to get your family on board NOW… since you are going to be relying on them to see these goals through.

I thought you might like some inspiration with drafting your new you, so here goes.

1. January: bike, walk or run every day at lunch or to or from work. Get moving five days a week. Doesn’t matter how fast. Work out the details on making this happen. If you’re at work that day, you’re doing cardio – buy an umbrella, an iPod, some shoes… whatever helps get you out the door.

2. February: foam roll and stretch. By now you should have a good habit of fitness at least five times a week. Devote at least 30 minutes every day to foam roll and stretch. You can even watch tv or read. You will be amazed at the difference it makes. Don’t know how? Ask at a good sport med shop or buy a book.

3. March: Join that fitness class or group that you’ve always wanted or hire a personal trainer. Put it on your credit card and mark down the start date in pen today to start the first week of March.

4. April: make every dinner at least half vegetables and have at least one leafy green. This is such an easy way to make sure you eat more vegetables, the foundation of any healthy diet.

5. May: drink more water. Buy a water bottle that you just love on May 1st. You can add lemon or lime wedges to liven it up – just stay away from anything processed like drink powders. The point is to drink more water, not ingest more sugar or chemicals.

6. June: get out and play! Now that you’re getting cardio in five times a week, going to a class or trainer and foam rolling daily, it’s time to enjoy that new you! Hiking is always an easy way to get out there. Try a new route every week on Saturday or Sunday and make it a routine (just start easy).

7. July: remake your breakfast. Often touted as the most important meal of the day, it’s is sadly often the most unhealthy. Ditch the cereal for soaked oatmeal, and the whole wheat toast for Silverhills bread (or another type made without flour) or a smoothie. Most people eat the same thing every week day so the change might be hard at first, but it will stick fast!

8. August: cut out processed sugar for the whole month. There is plenty of delicious fruit this time of year – and you might find interesting ways to substitute – or find you don’t need it anymore.

9. September: join another class! Or if you have been working with a trainer, just join one! There are so many wonderfully exciting activities, I am sure you can find a second that lights you up and keeps things fresh.

10. October: do a resistance training challenge like the 100 push-up challenge. What fitness move have you always wanted to rock? Go with that one.

11. November: cut out processed flour. This one is tough but it will give you an arsenal of ways to eat whole grains and you’ll end up loving them for how good they make you feel.

12. December: go play in the snow! Take a snowshoeing class, buy a cross country ski pass or take the family out for snowshoe hikes every weekend.

Just make sure you ink up your calendar with exacts and hold yourself to that plan when each time arrives. Again, make sure that these are things that you really want to see for yourself and keep your eyes on the prize.

How to Not Excuse Yourself

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After my podium finish at World’s Toughest Mudder, I have been asked countless times a string of very similar questions.

Well, I came to some conclusions that I wanted to share since I know that a lot of you are living a very similar lifestyle or trying to build one.

And January is on it’s way.

So here’s what it seems people want to know:

“How do you live with no excuses?”

“How do you find the willpower to make consistently positive lifestyle choices?”

“Do you ever get lazy?”

We all know that someone who is successful in whatever they are doing probably made a few really big impact decisions (like races etc.) and a heap of really small ones (like what to eat, when to sleep and who hard to work).

The “how” though is trickier.

I hopped onto the highway to get to an early morning crossfit class the other day. Traffic was backed up to my on-ramp from the far side of the bridge three miles away. I tried to get off and go around it. More traffic. So I parked my car and ran. I was twenty minutes late but I figured that some was always better than none. Plus, I’d get a run in.

When I arrived, I explained the circumstances. People were flabbergasted that I would just park my car and run rather than throw in the towel.

But for me I wasn’t thinking, “Should I go in this traffic?” – I was thinking, “How do I get there in this traffic?”

My workouts are a priority… so I make them happen.

But how does one get there? Well, I think everyone has cultivated that discipline in some respect.

Mothers don’t wake up, hear a crying baby and think, “Should I get up?”

They just do.

Pregnant ladies don’t think, “Should I have this baby?”

They just do.

And the list goes on. People are good at making the things that they have committed to happen.

In my own personal experience, people will have a much easier time committing with a deadline (like a big race or wedding).

The other thing that I have noticed is that committed and positive fitness oriented people have a sense of adventure. That bridge traffic wasn’t an annoyance. It was a challenge. It was an opportunity to run in the dark and the rain and look out over the reflections on the water.

It may be hard at first to get your butt out the door and do hard things… but you’ll soon find the rewards are worth the effort. And effort and reward are almost always proportional. I know that the more difficult a workout or race is, the better I’ll feel for days, weeks or months after. It’s a very small price to pay really.

I also know that I’m in the body that I built and I like owning that.

No excuses? I guess… I’m never looking for them though.