My Five Running Essentials (+ a giveaway!)

Every runner has certain things that they need in order to run. Or perhaps I should say “need” because really, the only thing you truly need to run is a pair of working legs with the feet stuck into comfortable running shoes. So really, it’s more that all runners have certain things that they prefer to have to make their run more comfortable/efficient/enjoyable/etc.

The things I need to run

The things I need to run

Here are the FIVE THINGS that *I* “need” when I head out my front door to take a run whether I’m doing it for training purposes, to de-stress, or just because it’s a beautiful day and I’m in a gazelle-like mood.

1. Nike Air Pegasus

Obviously you can run in whatever shoes float your boat but I’m pretty in love with my Nike Women’s Air Pegasus+ 29 Running Shoe.

I adore them because they have just the right amount of cushioning for me. I like to be able to feel the ground beneath me to an extent but I like some padding too. However, I’ve tried on some shoes that had SO MUCH padding that I felt like the running version of The Princess and the Pea. I like a nice in-between. Whatever shoes you get, make sure that you’ve been checked by an expert. I went to Running Room and they had me walk and run in my socks; the expert serving me said I have a neutral foot and arch, no under- or over-pronating so he suggested a few different pairs and I went with the ones that felt best to my feet. If you do tend to pronate one way or the other, you’ll want shoes that compensate for that.

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Race Day! My very first half marathon

Sunday mornings usually find me sleeping in but last Sunday I was up by 6 am – on purpose! And I was happy about it! And I practically skipped to the bathroom when I saw the sun shining!

Why was a night owl and not-much-of-a-morning-person so thrilled to be up with the early birds? It was race day!

After putting in my contacts and splashing some water on my face I got dressed in my black running pants, a bright blue running shirt, and tucked my ponytail up into my favourite hat. I was downstairs making two pieces of toast with peanut butter by 6:30 am and made sure everyone in the family was up and at ‘em. Once 7 am hit we were pulling out of the driveway and heading downtown so I could run my very first half marathon ever!

Bright and early at the Public Gardens, walking to the race

Bright and early at the Public Gardens, walking to the race

It was a beautiful morning, that’s for sure. Maybe there’s something to this whole get-up-early thing.

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5 things yoga did to ease my anxiety

For a great deal of my life, I found myself plagued by anxiety and by panic attacks that would quite literally leave me gasping for breath, feeling like I might faint or vomit, and worrying that I would never ever feel normal again.

(You can read my description of what a panic attack felt like right here)

I never took any pharmaceutical medication for it, mostly because the warnings scared me; almost everything that they warned as a side effect was something that I felt when a panic attack crept up on me. I didn’t want to pay a lot of money for a pill that would just cause the same symptoms I already had for free.

I tried Kava capsules but they only worked occasionally. I tried (and still sometimes use) Rescue Remedy and it worked beautifully but I had to make sure I always had it on me; on top of that it wasn’t preventative, it only works when I’m already having an anxiety attack. I tried avoidance of places that were most likely to cause an attack, like banks, grocery stores, malls, and churches or really any place where I couldn’t escape easily, but that gets tricky and really limits the ability to live life.

Fear is like those Escher staircases. They lead you nowhere, but you can’t seem to get off.

yogameditate

After years of suffering, I tried yoga and to my shock it worked. I’m not 100% cured, but anxiety no longer controls me. I often joke that yoga saved my life. But then when I look at the ways that I’ve changed and the way I can just LIVE again, I’m not so sure that it’s a joke after all. Here’s how it helped me.

1. It gave my body a physical release.

In panic mode, the worst thing for me was to sit and try to ride it out. My mantra (before I even knew what a mantra was!) was always, “don’t stop, keep moving, don’t stop…” I figured as long as I kept moving I wasn’t going to faint.

Practicing the asana (posture) side of yoga gives me a physical release for built-up tension in my body. The more I move and physically release that energy, the easier it is for me to cope or avoid anxiety altogether.

2. It taught me to breathe.

That always sounds funny, doesn’t it? “Don’t you just do that anyway?” Well, not quite. Of course I knew how to breathe, it’s something we’re born able to do. Yoga, though, taught me the magic of breathing in a way that slows down that panic-pounding heart rate and makes me calm. Whether it’s alternate nostril breathing (practically an instant panic-stopper) or just remembering to breathe fully, slowly, and into my belly instead of my chest, yoga breathing has brought me down from the ledge more times than I can count.

3. It taught me to let go.

Anxiety forced me to try to find control. I have to sit near an exit. I need to know where the bathrooms are. I can’t sit in the middle of the row because I need to be able to get out. It’s exhausting. Luckily, yoga has taught me that control is a myth and in letting go of that control, I find it easier to cope with anxiety. I still don’t like to sit in the middle of a row but I can. I let go every time I’m on the mat and it makes it possible to let go in the rest of the world too.

4. It taught me to accept without judgement.

Yoga is supposed to be all about acceptance and not competing, not judging – not myself or others. In that acceptance without judgement I learned a powerful way to deal with anxiety. When I fought my panic it was like losing the war. With yoga I learned to accept anxiety when I feel it creeping in. I acknowledge its presence, observe it as an outsider, and I don’t judge it as being something bad. It just is. Amazingly, in accepting it without fighting it, it seems to lose steam and doesn’t affect me as much or for as long.

5. It taught me to quiet my mind.

With yoga came meditation. I blew that part off for a long time, deeming it too hard to shut my brain up. Even Savasana, the final resting pose was difficult as my mind would immediately start to chatter away at me. Finally I started taking steps to include it too.

It’s not perfect, my meditation is still a work in progress, but it’s getting there, and in that occasional quiet I’m able to still myself enough that anxiety doesn’t come knocking as often. When it does, I use my meditation techniques in conjunction with the breathing and the accepting and it usually beats a hasty retreat.

I’ve been using a free app called Insight Timer and it’s helped me to make meditation a daily practice whether it’s for five minutes or 20 minutes. It makes a huge difference.

Anxiety can be frightening, the first time or 700th time. My yoga practice has changed me so that it doesn’t happen as frequently now. When it does, it’s no longer terrifying. It’s just that annoying neighbor that tries to stop in and visit at inopportune moments once in a blue moon.

My life is so much more joyful without anxiety and I credit yoga so much for that.

Do you deal with anxiety? Have you ever had a panic attack? Leave me a comment telling me what has helped you to deal!

Recipe: Venison Sausage with peppers, onions, and mushrooms

Recently a friend of ours sent George home from band practice with a ziploc bag of venison in sausage format. I am a HUGE deer meat fan. Growing up, my dad and I used to go camping next to a beautiful lake and we’d celebrate our first day by starting up a campfire and he would cook two venison steaks in a pan right there. It was so good. I have also inhaled a great deal of venison burgers. I had never had the sausages though and was intrigued.

That first night George grilled up four on the BBQ to go with some chicken that we were having. The sausages were SO GOOD and I sang their praises so highly that our friend brought us another care package. Last night I decided that while it was tasty on the grill, I really wanted to try something different so I threw this together and it was just delicious.

Venison Sausage with Peppers, Onions, and Mushrooms

Venison Sausage with Peppers, Onions, and Mushrooms

Deer meat is very lean; there’s very little fat. Unlike the meat you buy in your average grocery store, there are also no antibiotics. It’s just straight up lean, clean meat. The sausages had been seasoned already so I didn’t have to add much in the way of flavouring. Depending on who prepares your sausages and what they use, you may want to add whatever seasonings you enjoy. (And it should go without saying but of course you can use any other type of sausage you happen to have if you don’t have venison handy or if you prefer not to eat it!)

    Venison Sausage with Peppers, Onions, and Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 8 Venison sausages
  • 2 peppers, I used green
  • Button mushrooms, I used about half a basket but would use more next time
  • Two large onions
  • Fresh garlic to taste
  • Water

Method:

Boil sausages for about 15-20 minutes. While they’re boiling, chop your peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Remove sausages from water and slice. Heat some oil in a large skillet and add the peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Cook until they soften and onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add sausages and stir well. Crush fresh garlic and add directly to pan (if you don’t have a garlic press you can also finely chop it and add it to the pan with everything else. Then buy yourself a garlic press because they are AWESOME!).

Because there isn’t a lot of fat in the meat I added about 1/4 of a cup of water, maybe a bit less, in increments just to keep it from drying out and sticking to the pan. Once it’s all heated through and well mixed, reduce heat to low and cover until you’re ready to eat.

We had ours served on rice but would probably go nicely with potatoes as well. It doesn’t really make its own gravy (again, due to the lack of fat) but I still didn’t find it to be dry at all. It was fragrant and delicious and extremely satisfying. It’s definitely a meal I’m going to revisit in the future.

Let me know if you try it (or if you try it with a different type of sausage!).

Do you enjoy wild game or are you more likely to stick to the standard meat that you can get in any grocery store?

The pain of NOT running

Time to dust off the old blog right? I know I will regret not tracking my training here, but I’ve been working towards my first half marathon in this year’s Bluenose Marathon weekend on May 18th. It may be called a half marathon but it’s a WHOLE 13.1 miles/21 km. It’s definitely nothing to sneeze at and when I signed up for it, it was much farther than any distance I had ever run before.

My view on my last long run

My view on my last long run

I set forth with my training, not really following any particular plan. Rather, I simply did two shorter runs during the week and did a long one on the weekend, increasing the long run by 2-3 km each time with an occasional step backwards so as to not over-train.

Or so I thought.

On Good Friday I got up earlier than I normally do on a holiday and ate my traditional two slices of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and had some water. About an hour and 15 minutes later I laced up, filled my water bottle, set up Runkeeper, and headed out into a beautiful day. It was cool but not cold, the sun was shining, and it was the kind of day where you can’t help but be so grateful to be outside.

I ran and ran and ran, and it was wonderful. I tired from time to time but overall I felt great. I ran without any walk breaks until a little after the 10K point and I was thrilled. At about the 14 or 15 km point though, I noticed that something was not right with my left leg.

It’s fairly normal for something to hurt while you’re running at some point. At any given moment I might notice that my left hamstring is tight and achy, then that stops but my right knee is twinge-y, and once that stops my left shoulder might be a bit irritable. Things come and go and they usually never hit a higher blip on my radar than, “huh, that’s annoying”.

This time though, my left leg kept increasing in pain. By the time I was on my last loop I was walking more and more often; I’d run for a couple of minutes and then I’d have to walk for 20 seconds. Going uphill was tough but not unbearable and I looked forward to looping back around so I could hit the downhill portion. Alas, the downhill was much worse and I thought I might cry at one point.

Normally I loathe red lights because it interrupts my momentum. By this time I was ecstatic when I hit red lights because it gave me an excuse to just stop and massage my leg.

Once I got home I stopped Runkeeper and found that I had gone 18.5 km in two hours, one minute. I was really happy and not overly concerned with the pain. I came inside, stretched, inhaled some eggs and toast, and carried on with my day.

I was stiff the next day but didn’t give it much thought. I ran 18.5 km, my longest distance ever, of COURSE my legs were stiff. I took it easy for a few days and then on the following Tuesday I headed out after work for a quick and easy short run.

I did 6.5 km that day at an excellent pace but the problem was my leg started to ache by the 5K mark. This worried me tremendously because it was the exact same pain as Friday. I made it home but when it hurt to walk down the stairs the next day I knew I had to make some changes.

At first I thought it was an over tight and sore IT Band so I rolled it out on my handy dandy wooden rolling pin (I really must get a real foam roller one day) but the next day the pain was localized enough that I realized it was the oh-so-dreaded shin splints.

Shin splints can knock a runner out of commission for WEEKS on end so I immediately stopped my running. I need to do this race in May and not running is just not an option so I figured it’s better to take a week or week and a half off and start slowly. It’s not ideal, it’s not where I was hoping to be with my runs and subsequent tapering but I’ll just call it a creative taper and suck it up. I still feel confident that I will finish the race and it’s better to stop now for a bit than not run the race at all. I never had a time goal in mind so I’m happy with just being able to say I ran my very first half marathon ever.

The worst part is NOT running when all I really WANT to do is run! Some days I have had to talk myself into running, when all I really wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch television. However, as soon as there’s an actual reason when I can’t run that’s all my brain wants. On Saturday it was lovely to sleep in but when I came downstairs it was bright and sunny and beautiful out and every time I saw a runner go by I felt sad.

Luckily my leg is feeling MUCH better now and when I jogged in place earlier there was no pain. I’m going to give it another couple of days and then I’m getting back out on the road (or treadmill if this blasted cold rain keeps up).

I can’t wait. Not running is making me crazy and I need my runs to keep me sane!

Have you ever had to stop running because of an injury? Did it drive you nuts?