Working out is better with friends

Most of my friends know  if they are planning a visit to New Brunswick, they better pack running shoes.

For Miranda, my friend of 15 years and blogger of Thoughts and Pavement, this was a given during her recent visit here from the United Kingdom.

Since I have managed to get in four HIIT workouts each week since starting at 3rd Degree Training 11 weeks ago, I wanted to find a way to stay on track while enjoying her visit. So I signed us up for the weekly Co-Ed Weight Circuit on Saturday morning, a great way to try something new while taking part in a class that is open to non-members.

The weight circuit is different from regular classes because the workout includes the use of equipment, including kettle bells, battle ropes, a spin bike and weights. It’s a fun way to mix things up at the end of the week with a guaranteed sweat.

Feeling badass on the battle ropes!

Miranda is always up for a challenge and totally killed this workout. My red face shows this was a good challenge for me as well.


Seeing Miranda this past weekend was a reminder to me just how special it is to have friends who share this passion for health, wellness and physical activity. I am lucky enough to have many friends – both nearby and far away – who like to lace up and go for a run or try a workout class when we’re together.

There’s nothing better than getting lost in conversation on a run (even if it’s breathless, for me) or enjoying a feeling of tackling a tough workout together with a friend. I’m so grateful for all my workout buddies – you know who you are.

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Exactly one year ago today, I was running the @geneva_marathon_for_unicef! Today, I’m in Saint John, New Brunswick hanging out with the amazing @aprilacunningham and her beautiful family. This one inspires me daily. Mom of three boys, she attends boot camp 4x a week and runs regularly. Yesterday she took me on a little jaunt around Harbour Passage trail. What a beautiful place to run with the brisk ocean air in our face! In a week, when I’m running the @rungatwick half marathon, I’ll try to remember that feeling. I’m undertrained and not ready, but I’m running for @neurokinex kids, a very worthy charity that provides rehab for children with spinal cord injuries. There’s a link to my JustGiving page in my latest blog post [Link in bio] Now, off to enjoy my last day with the fam! #friendswhorun #canada #saintjohn #harbourpassage #happyrunners

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Is Saint John ready to feel the burn?

3rd Degree Training set to open on Manawagonish Road Feb. 27

Kevin McEachern is opening 3rd Degree Training, a body-weight boot camp fitness facility, in Saint John on Feb. 27. Submitted photo.

Kevin McEachern wasn’t entirely shocked when he got downsized from his business development job in the vacation industry. The timeshare exchange business wasn’t on an upswing, he says, and he knew it likely wasn’t a career that would take him to retirement.

Over his 10 years of meeting with clients — many of whom owned small businesses — he came to respect and admire their work.

“I was always the corporate guy on the other end of the desk trying to sell them a product,” says McEachern, 37, who is opening 3rd Degree Training in Saint John later this month.

As much as he thought about going into business on his own, the stats were a little daunting. According to Industry Canada, only half of small businesses last five years.

Nearly 80 per cent of franchises, on the other hand, continue to operate five years after opening their doors, he says, because businesses models and processes are already established and proven to work.

So when McEachern, of Quispamsis, lost his job and started considering his options, the idea of starting fresh and opening a franchise held real appeal.

“I became intrigued and thought it was the way to go,” he says.

McEachern has always had an interest in healthy living and took up running a few years ago, running his first marathon in 2015 and several Spartan obstacle course races in 2016. When he started looking through franchise opportunities, he soon stumbled across a PEI-based fitness franchise, 3rd Degree Training and Actual Nutrition. The required upfront investment was affordable, he says, and the idea of opening up a business he truly cared about was exciting.

“When you get moved out of a position not by your own choice – you realize you have an opportunity to make a decision,” he says. “I could get a regular old 9-to-5 day job and work for someone else, or I could have the opportunity to give something back to the community.”

McEachern knows the power of exercise and its ability to help one overcome life’s challenges first hand.

After separating from his wife a couple of years ago, instead of sinking into a depression, McEachern immersed himself in the world of fitness, nutrition and running.

“It became a way of stress management, and I realized it was very empowering for me,” he says. “Every time I went for a run or went to the gym, I felt like I was thinking more clearly.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could take that passion for exercise and healthy eating and turn that into a career to help others?’”

Now McEachern is turning that dream into a reality.

The Saint John location of 3rd Degree Training opens at 1490 Manawagonish Rd. on Feb. 27. Registration is Feb. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.


The gym runs eight-week boot camps including unlimited classes and nutrition advice. Clients can also take advantage of before-and-after photos and measurements so they can track their progress.

Workouts completely consist of body weight movements — such as squats, burpees and planks — in a group atmosphere full of encouragement and motivation.

“Running is the backbone of my passion for fitness,” says McEachern, who is now a trained fitness instructor. “At the same time, I understand it’s not for everyone. At 3rd degree, you can still get that runner’s high. About 15 to 20 minutes into the workout, you feel like you’re elevating, and you get your body to a point you didn’t know was possible thanks to the group environment, the pumping music and the serotonin flowing through your body.”

Anyone who signs up for an eight-week boot camp also benefits from Actual Nutrition, which subscribes to a whole foods-based approach to eating. It’s about nutrient density and no gimmicks, McEachern says.

“It’s not points-based, it’s not calorie-counting, it’s not about making people feel guilty,” he says. “It’s getting back to basics.”

McEachern says the goal will be to help members stay accountable to healthy eating.

The Saint John location — which boasts an expansive space equipped with showers and change rooms — will be the fifth in the Maritimes, joining Stratford, Montague, Summerside, Dartmouth and Moncton. 3rd Degree Training is only the second franchise to come out of PEI — the first being a popular ice cream chain.

McEachern says he not only believes in the business, but he has seen the difference the program has already made in people’s lives across the region.

“You can see crazy results even after one eight-week boot camp,” he says. The body weight movements are effective because they are all ways humans are meant to move — no heavy weights required.

“It’s a welcoming environment and it’s meant for people of all shapes and sizes. Every person walks out of there feeling like, ‘Holy, that was tough. But wow, am I ever proud of myself.’”

For more information, join the Facebook group for 3rd Degree Training – Saint John. Be sure to like and share the post for a chance to win a spot in the first 8-week bootcamp!

Christmas blog swap 2016

One of the best things about sharing my running journey online is getting to know other bloggers who may be going through similar experiences. So when western Canadian runner Leigh from All You Need is Love invited me to join the Canadian Christmas blog swap this year, I gladly joined in.

I was matched up with Christy from The Last Honest Love. She bravely shares her story of infertility turned motherhood. Her posts are honest and real, and her one-year-old daughter Eleanor is just precious.

I received her little package in the mail from Calgary this week. How fun to rip open a gift so close to Christmas — just for me!


Christy, this gift is perfect. A wine cozy, dark chocolate and a running ornament? Can we be best friends?

I am notoriously five minutes late for everything, so this ornament couldn’t be more bang on. Such a great addition to our tree — and motivation to keep my December run streak alive.

I’m very grateful to have been included in this year’s swap, co-hosted by Lindsey from A Running Tale. Be sure to visit Leigh‘s blog to see the list of participants and check out their stories.

Race Recap: Maritime Race Weekend

Rolling hills, scenic vistas, cool sea breezes and pirates: this was the backdrop for my 7th half-marathon and a season’s best performance at Maritime Race Weekend.

This well-organized and spirited event takes place in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia, just outside of Dartmouth. The course is one of the most beautiful I have ever run — and I have run through many stunning places in the Maritimes. It starts off at Fisherman’s Wharf and weaves along the coast. The weather was absolutely perfect, around 18 C, but very sunny — I wish I had my sunglasses.


I went into this run without any particular goal in mind. Life has been moving at a hectic pace and I have managed to get in my training runs but not much more, so I wasn’t expecting a PR. Still, I have felt strong the past few weeks, which really is to be expected at this point in the season, so I knew wouldn’t fall flat on my face.

Mark, Silas and I packed up and left for Dartmouth on Friday morning, making the four+ hour drive. We stayed at the same hotel where race kit pick-up took place, which made everything easier. Silas was immediately impressed with the pirate theme.


We got to bed early and prepared for a 6 a.m. wake-up on Saturday, race day, which we thought would give us plenty of time to get to the start line in time for the 8 a.m. race.

Sleep was so-so with the two-year-old waking up at about 4 a.m. and tossing and turning next to me for the last couple hours of the night. I’m not blaming him for anything though because I had typical nerves and wasn’t sleeping the greatest anyway.

We woke up and I set straight into my typical race morning routine: chug water, eat English muffin and peanut butter, hotel room coffee, bathroom and get dressed. My watch and iPod were charged and ready to go. My two cheerleaders were moving a little more slowly than me.

I sent them down to the 7 a.m. breakfast buffet to pick out a couple items for the road while I finished up in the hotel room.

Instead, I went downstairs to see them seated in the dining room. I started to sweat. We still had a 15-20 minute drive ahead of us (in unknown terrain), plus we needed to find parking and I had to get to the start line. Finally we got into the car even though all Silas had eaten was a quarter piece of toast and a couple of Cheerios. The car was stocked with fruit and other snacks so I knew he would be fine and eat eventually.

As we arrived in Eastern Passage, the two-lane road soon became lined with parked cars. We started looking for a parking spot and ended up having to turn around and drive farther away from the start line. Eventually I got to the right place with less than five minutes to spare. Problem was, I needed to use the port-a-potty one last time (as many runners know this is crucial on race morning!). I figured I would have just enough time, but as I made my way to the crowd, I realized there was still a huge line-up and the crowd was packed. I tried to move up toward the two-hour half-marathon pace group but couldn’t get anywhere near them. I settled for the 2:20 group and figured I would just have to catch up.

As the gun sounded, the crowd didn’t move. It took a good 2-3 minutes before I crossed the starting mat. I tried to take it easy, thinking this conserved energy would help me later but I couldn’t help but feel anxious. I wanted to go, but I was stuck in the crowd. I weaved as best as I could, but there wasn’t a ton of room. I spent most of the first 5 km of the race like this. The up side was I didn’t go out too fast. (First 5K – 28:55)


The first few water stops had port-a-potties but at least one person was waiting outside and it wasn’t an emergency at this point so I continued to hold out until the 5 km mark. The outhouse was hiding in behind the water station and no one was in it. Score! I paused my Garmin and managed to get in and out within 1 minute.  I hit the course again and caught up to the people I was chasing before in no time.

Around the 8-10 km mark I realized I was making great time, in fact it was the best pace I have been running all season around 5:30 to 5:45 min/km. Part of me worried I would run out of steam but I tried to focus on effort rather than the number on my watch. I enjoyed the scenery and relaxed. I was having so much fun! I took a GU gel at about 8K. (10K – 57:54)

Around this time we hit a few bigger hills. I slowed down but didn’t stop, trying to steady my heart rate. Cresting up a hill always guaranteed a beautiful view. While I was feeling good around the 13-14K mark, something weird was happening in my shoes. The smaller toes on my left foot seemed to be overlapping each other. I’m not sure what caused this, but it really started to hurt. I told myself some weird things like, Who needs baby toes anyway? Focus on the big toe. When I walked, the toes were fine. I can’t explain why this was happening. Hope I haven’t developed some kind of weird gait issue.

Around 15 km I told myself I was going to hold back a bit then boost the pace for the final 5K. I wasn’t sure if this was a goal I could sustain, but I wanted to try. I have always wanted to get negative splits (faster last half than first half) and I thought it might be possible this time given my slow start.

Lucky for me, as I rounded a bend, a person directing traffic yelled out, “Last 4K, all downhill!” and I practically fist-pumped. I got my second wind and really pushed it down a big hill. I saw this photographer and jumped in the air but looks like he just captured my goofy grin after the fact.


For the final few kilometres I continued to push the effort even though I knew I wasn’t going to break the coveted 2-hour mark. I didn’t really mind because overall, I felt the strongest I have all year, and I knew I would come close. I continued to “go fishing,” reeling in runners ahead of me and picking them off one by one. Did it ever feel good to finish with a bang.

I rounded the final corner and saw 2:06:xx on the clock, but my Garmin (which I paused for the bathroom break) said 2:02. Awesome! I was so happy. Official time was 2:03 on the nose. And I did get the negative split I was looking for — the last half was three minutes faster than the first.


I crossed the finish line and the first thing out of my mouth was “Where’s the beer?” I was directed to a small building where the after-party was taking place. I drank up rather quickly because I was anxious to find Mark and Silas. After grabbing a banana and an orange and some water, I wandered around for a bit and found my guys. They had spent the past couple of hours enjoying the scenery and throwing rocks in the water, one of Silas’s favourite things to do these days.


We also ran into Anna from Piper’s Run! I was so happy to meet a fellow mom/running blogger from the Maritimes, and it totally happened without planning. So great to meet Anna and her husband Saï, who both took part in Maritime Race Weekend. Runners are great people! Go check out her blog. I love her honesty and can truly relate to how difficult it can be to balance chasing running goals with life as a working mom.


Hard to believe I have now run seven half-marathons. And of course, I can’t wait for the next one. My body is definitely used to this distance and I know I could beat my PR from 2013 of 1:59:54 with better race morning punctuality. I’m tempted to sign up for another one this fall but taking it easy is also appealing.

Thank you Maritime Race Weekend for showing us “Good times in the Maritimes!” We will be back!

Spectator sport

Over the past couple weeks, I had not one, but two vivid dreams that I was able to take part in this year’s YSJ 10K.

At nearly 33 weeks pregnant, this simply was not possible for me. But on Saturday, I did have joy of watching my husband and many close friends cross the finish line. I got to live vicariously through their collective exhilaration.

Kevin McEachern, victorious after a time of 48:35 in his first 10K
Kevin McEachern, victorious after a time of 48:35 in his first 10K

The Saint John Airport run gives runners the unique opportunity of running the flat asphalt of the airport runway. One lap is five kilometres, and two laps is 10K. This was the event’s fourth year.

I have run the 10K race twice before – last year and in 2012 – and I will never forget the feeling I had two year ago for my first 10K. I couldn’t believe I had it in me. It’s what inspired me to tackle my first half-marathon later that summer.

This year, I learned to take a step back and watch (with glee) as my husband had that experience for the first time too. Despite tackling his first 10K after working a night shift, he excelled with a time of 53:21.


Mark and I before the run
Mark and I before the run

Aside from watching Mark, I had so much fun mingling about, chatting to friends and people I have met through the running community and my work at the Telegraph-Journal.

What a thrill to catch the male and female winners of the 10K.

Dean Strowbridge blasted across the finish line at 34:06
Boston Marathon competitor Brenda Guitard finished in 41 minutes
Boston Marathon competitor Brenda Guitard finished in 41 minutes

And also catch some other great friends too:

Janie Jones, after her first 5K, Mark and Kevin
Janie Jones, after her first 5K, Mark and Kevin
Julia Wright, who took part in the first-ever "double dare" - running both races in 80 minutes
Julia Wright, who took part in the first-ever “double dare” – running both races in 80 minutes
Scott Briggs, sports reporter for the Telegraph-Journal, with his speed-demon wife, Stacey, who crushed 5K in 22:14, and Kevin Barrett, fellow running blogger, who raced a swift 10K in 49:15
Scott Briggs, sports reporter for the Telegraph-Journal, with his speed-demon wife, Stacey, who crushed 5K in 22:14, and Kevin Barrett, fellow running blogger, who raced a swift 10K in 49:15

What a great way to kick-off the 2014 running season, which for me will be a spectator sport.

I’m OK with that.


Colour me crazy

“How did the wig stay on?” my sister wrote on Facebook after I posted this pic on Saturday morning:

Julie, Jen, Amy, April and Katie before Run or Dye
Julie, Jen, Amy, April and Katie before Run or Dye

A group of girlfriends and I had dragged ourselves out of bed, threw on some fun, colour-themed costumes and met up with our Halifax-based friend Katie to take part in Run or Dye. It was in Windsor, Nova Scotia, on the other side of the Bay of Fundy in the Annapolis Valley. We had driven more than four hours the night prior (after a very full day at work). We were tired.

We should have known after we heard there were between 5,000 and 7,000 participants to expect traffic jams around the single-lane backroads leading to Ski Martok.

As soon as we left the main highway, the line of cars was several kilometres long. We started to worry we would be late (and worse, run out of gas). But our mighty and mohawked driver, Jen, got us to our destination with time to spare. The only problem was we lost Katie, who was in another vehicle with her work buddies, along the way.


By about 10 a.m., we walked a short trail to the starting corral. Colourful powder was everywhere. Tutus abound.


Very energetic DJ-type guys were in a tall stand at the starting line. They did their best to hype up the crowd, throwing more colour on runners who might already have been buzzing from free Red Bull that was provided in our race packs. They released packs of tie-dyed runners in groups of 50 or so. Finally it was our turn to run.

With all the pent-up anticipation, we were ready to rip. But the trail was muddy, narrow and full of walkers. It was hilly and difficult to navigate. Our pack of four stuck together not too worried about our pace – the event was not timed.

Several colour stations were situated throughout the trail. Bursts of yellow, green and purple popped through the morning air. It got kind of addictive. It made you want more and more colour – on your face! on your arms! on your clothes! Give me more!

And yes, the wig did stay on over my mop of hair.

Before long, we had made it the end of what felt more like an obstacle course than a race. Someone said the 5K trail was actually 3.8K. It definitely felt short.

Scores of colourful runner were hanging out on a big lawn after the race. A stage was set up with a DJ pumping up another crowd. We took in the sights, grabbed some more fun photos, and headed out for Halifax.

Amy and April
Amy and April

The traffic wasn’t as bad on the way out. It also helped that we found a short-cut down another back road.

We were happy to get an early check-in at our Halifax hotel. We were not as happy about how much scrubbing was required to get the gunk off our skin. Yesterday I was still finding purple bits on my q-tips.

But we managed to get ourselves presentable again, and head out for a night on the town to celebrate Amy’s birthday. We also reconnected with our friend Katie. We hit up Lululemon, a few other stores, and then dined at the Wooden Monkey.

April, Amy, Julie, Katie and Jen at the Wooden Monkey
April, Amy, Julie, Katie and Jen at the Wooden Monkey

Overall, an excellent girls weekend, and a running experience I won’t soon forget.

His death made her stronger

There are days in journalism when the news hits too close to home.

For Julia Wright, a news anchor and radio journalist in Saint John, that gut-wrenching day came in June when her longtime boyfriend’s disappearance topped the hourly newscast.

A short time later, police thanked the public for their help. Shane Magee, a 42-year-old man with a strong Irish accent and a limp, had been located.

What they didn’t say was that he had been found dead, a victim of suicide.

“I have spent time pouring through old journals trying to piece it together,” Julia says during a run on Harbour Passage in Saint John one brisk, cool morning before we both set off to cover city council.

“But I finally came to the conclusion – and I probably came to it while running – that trying to fathom the thought process of someone who’s that mentally ill is an impossible task. You’re never going to be able to put the dots together. It’s not rational.”

What is rational, though, is talking about it – something us journalists are not so good at doing, especially when it comes to suicide, a topic that traditional media outlets do not cover for fear of copy-cats.

Julia, though, is different. She wants people to know it’s OK to ask her about Shane’s death. Discussion and awareness is the only way we might prevent mental illness from taking someone else, she says.

“If his mental health could deteriorate to that level, it could happen to anyone,” she says. “So I think it’s really important to talk about it, as hard and awkward as it is. It’s awkward for me too.”

Julia strikes me a woman who has the emotional strength of an iron horse. And it’s true that with the support of friends and family, she continues to manage her grief and loss.

But she has another way to lift her spirits: running.


Julia, who is 27 and grew up in Saint John, has always tried to stay active, but from the time she was 15 or 16, she smoked. She knew Shane’s death presented a time to change – a time to quit smoking and get healthy.

Smoking taps into your pleasure receptors, giving your brain a sense of “faux reward,” she says. “And running is actually a great way to take the place of that because it’s the same positive rush of endorphins, without the lung cancer.”

So when she’s sad, Julia runs. She breaks out of her uptown apartment, away from her cat named David Goss after the local historian, and she breathes the sea air. She doesn’t listen to music. She listens to her breath and gets to that zen place.

She thinks about Shane. She gets angry with him. And she grieves.

And less than a month after his death, Julia ran her first race – the five-miler at the Marathon by the Sea, in 50:16


She blew away her goal of getting in under an hour, and it might be safe to say she was hooked. She ran another 5-miler in Hampton a few weeks later. Now she has her sights set on a half-marathon.

“I just want to be able to live my life as healthily and happily for as long as possible,” she says, before we jog up the Reversing Falls hill, across Douglas Avenue and back Main Street to the uptown.

For Julia, who also publishes a zine, Hard Times in the Maritimes, part of that health comes from acknowledging what happened.

“We should be able to remember him like we remember anyone who died rather than let his memory fade,” she says.

“I feel it would be a disservice to him and to others who have gone through this to pretend it didn’t happen.”

To a girl whose legs, lungs and heart are so strong, I salute you.

Find Julia on Twitter or Facebook, or listen to her on CHSJ.