Trying to avoid the winter blahs

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It’s been a very long time since I have taken a moment for a little self-reflection. While this blog evolved over time to share my running journey — especially last year’s marathon — I have also used it more recently to share some of my writing and stories about others. But for those wondering what the heck April has been up to (is she even still running?), here it is.

Yes! Still running, just not as much, and for the first time in a long time, without any immediate goals. It’s actually quite liberating!

Instead of focusing on mileage or training plans, I have been trying to mix up my exercise with more cross training, yoga and strength training. Trying to become a less injury-prone runner for when I sign up for that next big race. While I didn’t suffer any injuries during the previous two half-marathons, my IT band was under duress during the marathon, and I certainly don’t want to go through that again.

I don’t think I ever shared my New Year’s goals on this blog, but they were to do yoga once a week, do strength 1-2x a week and read one book a month. So far I am more or less on track. Even if I don’t get to yoga or a strength class, YouTube to the rescue.

Our membership at the Saint John Y has certainly helped. It’s also been a blessing to keep Silas occupied (in child-minding) while I exercise after work. So far we have only attempted to do that one day a week, but it’s been awesome to get back into spinning!! I also try to go to Group Power (like Body Pump at Goodlife) on Saturday mornings, and on Sunday, Silas and I go to the early years open swim. It’s a beautiful facility and so perfect for this point in our lives.

"The Y? Can we go to the Y?" #startthemyoung #ymca #swimming #toddlerlife

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As far as running, my goal has been to aim for three runs a week. At first I was hoping for two short and one long, but realistically, they’ve all been short, “easy” runs. On the treadmill. I feel as though that, combined with the other stuff we’re doing is pretty reasonable. This week Silas and I even got out for a stroller run. Holy, it was tough! I’ve been used to #netflixandtreadmill!

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At this point my biggest challenge has been to stay motivated to eat healthily. Craving carbs and sugar, hard. Even fast food (ugh, I know). I always joke that I hope all my running and exercise cancel out my bad eating habits, but I know that only goes so far.

So as the mountains of snow slowly melt outside, I hope to stock my fridge with healthy snacks and get inspired with fresh, family-friendly recipes to carry us into the spring. No more blizzards, please.

Happy trails, everyone. Run on!

Is Saint John ready to feel the burn?

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

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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.

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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!

My 2016 in running

In many ways, 2016 was rough. I know many personal stories of struggle and loss. Then there was the U.S. election and other international events leaving us questioning what is going on in the world.

But if you will indulge me a little, I want to share about what has been going on in my little running bubble over the past 12 months. For me, running has always provided a little escape away from worry and dread into hope and motivation. Let’s focus on some positivity.

Best race experience: Ottawa Race Weekend 

In May, I ran a marathon for the first time.

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The race experience in Ottawa was just amazing. I wholeheartedly recommend Ottawa Race Weekend to anyone considering a fun, spirited, energetic and flat goal race. This year will be huge with the run corresponding with Canada’s 150th. My husband and I made it into a couple’s getaway weekend and we would love to make the trip again — perhaps next time with our little guy — so we can take in more sights and enjoy the nation’s capital. As long as Ottawa can promise to turn down the heat!!

Best run: Stroller running

I finally bought a new-to-me B.O.B. stroller which has encouraged more stroller running with my two-year-old. Combining my love of/need to run and enjoy time with my son is truly priceless (why didn’t I buy one sooner?!). We even ran a 5K race together this fall. To think about it gives me goosebumps. We were sailing down Manawagonish Road in our neighbourhood, which I’m sure Silas recognized. The experience must have been so cool for him. And not a bad time, either: 28:30!

28:30 for our first 5k race 🏁 #runningmom #strollerrun #5k

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A close second would have to be my new half-marathon personal best at Moncton’s Legs for Literacy in October. 1:59:47, baby!

Best new piece of running gear: massage stick

Man, when I think back to all the $$ I spent on running stuff this year, it’s a little frightening. Three or four pairs of good shoes, Lululemon and Lole clothes, a water belt, race registrations, etc, etc. But the very best thing I invested in was PHYSIOTHERAPY. Oh goodness, am I ever glad I went during the weeks leading up to my marathon. Rob saved me. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say it either. He told me to buy one of these torturous sticks, so I did, and continue to poke and prod my lower extremities after runs, though probably not as much as I should.

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Best running advice received this year: “Let pain be your guide, but don’t let it stop you.” My physiotherapist said that. He also told me that I could heal/get stronger while continuing to run.

Best advice I can give: You will feel better after 10 minutes. Drink more water. Get more sleep.

Most inspirational runner: Krista Duchene, Canadian Olympic marathoner, mother of three, 39 years old. This video brings tears to my eyes.

Favourite picture from a run or race this year: 

So many photos in my library bring back good memories.

Sitting in the frigid Bay of Fundy after a long run was pretty classic!

But it’s got to be my Ottawa finish line photo! After running 42.2 km in extreme heat and humidity, I made it to the finish. There is noooooo feeling like this, folks.

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Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat: Not going to say Ottawa because running a marathon in 40 C with humidex is not something I want to repeat.

Maritime Race Weekend was absolutely stunning. The weather was simply perfect for a half-marathon. The run was well-organized and so much fun. I want to go back!

7th half marathon in the books in beautiful Eastern Passage, N.S. @maritimeraces

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Worst running moment: I had a few very painful, long and lonely long runs leading up to my marathon. It was in cold, damp spring weather and my IT band was throbbing in pain. I trained by myself. I had many moments of doubt in those two-three hour runs, but refused to give up. I walked a lot, my pace sucked, but I got through it. And was stronger for it.

Favourite medal: I received many beautiful medals this year but Ottawa is my fave!

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Summing up the year in a few words: I ran a marathon! What?! I have come a long way. Every year gets better. Running makes me more balanced in other aspects of my life.

The “Year of Running” is hosted by Courtney from Eat Pray Run.

Read more Year of Running posts here. 

Eat Pray Run DC Year of Running 2016

After the marathon

I was prepared to feel a big letdown after the marathon. After such an epic life event, at least in my world, I thought I would feel sad about it all coming to a close.

Instead, life went on as usual, and after just a few days of soreness – nothing extraordinary aside from a really sore, black toenail – I felt back to the old me again.

It feels good to be back. No more hobbling around, no more stressing about miles. Just running for fun. Yes, there’s a reason why runners must allow themselves an off season. I guess since I’ve been training since Christmas, this is mine.

Still, you know me… I’m always thinking about running, the next run, the next challenge. And after months (years, really) of procrastinating, I finally found a great, used BOB Stroller. LIFE CHANGING!

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Small world, it actually came from the home of one of the few other Saint John area women who ran the Ottawa marathon! Thanks Amanda!

So now, Silas and I are enjoying weeknight runs through the neighbourhood. Tonight we knocked off a pretty swift 5K. Not exactly sure of the time because I forgot to turn off my watch, but I think it was not far off 30 minutes.

I’m hoping to take him along on a couple shorter races this summer. He’s quite a side kick! He now understands that Mama went to Ottawa to “run, run, run!”

“Mama, run, stroller!” he says. My heart is full!

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What to look for in a jogging stroller

New mothers are often faced with overwhelming purchasing decisions on everything from cribs to car seats, cloth diapers to breast pumps. For many of us, jogging strollers are just another item to worry about as the baby’s due date approaches.

For a mom who runs, a good stroller can be your ticket to freedom, fresh air and exercise. But how do you know what stroller is for you and your wee one?

We own a BabyTrend jogger, which is OK but certainly not the Cadillac of running strollers.

 

Caroline Mackay, registered nurse, StrollerFit Saint John instructor and self-described stroller “connoisseur” offers her wisdom on the topic. She has owned several strollers and has taught StrollerFit for five years.

“I would like to offer some guidance to those who feel they don’t know where to start in this area which can be very overwhelming,” she says.

Read on to find out what jogger she recommends, and tips to help you decide what stroller is right for you. (Please note this post is not sponsored, and is solely based on Caroline’s opinions and experiences.)

Post-baby fitness: a Q&A with Caroline Mackay

Running after baby

How do you know if you should invest in a jogging stroller? 

Jogging strollers help with the ease of pushing your little one while moving at a faster pace than walking. They are often three-wheeled, with a front wheel that either swivels or is fixed. (You want to have your wheel fixed when jogging). Four-wheelers exist but look like all-terrain vehicles. This was my first stroller, the Quinny XL. It could go over sand, snow, or dead bodies. This is the stroller you want in the zombie apocalypse, but turn on a dime – it does not. 

Jogging strollers are often adjustable in the handle bar height, lighter weight, and have air filled tires for a smoother ride for both pusher and passenger.

You want something that can be used for everyday use though; you don’t want five strollers in your garage – one for shopping, one for walking the dog, one for traveling, one for running… many husbands will attest to this as it takes up garage space. Also, with most strollers, you want one that will accommodate your growing child.

It is not recommended to run with a child under the age of six months but most moms want to be out walking before that. A stroller with a car seat attachment is nice for when baby is young so as to not wake them so mommy gets her sane time. Having the three-wheel stroller in a swivel position will allow you to maneuver easily at the grocery store, etc. whereas a fixed wheel tends to be longer (think yacht) than many strollers. 

What qualities should a mom/dad look for in a jogging stroller?

Value for money is my goal but it is like a car and has to feel right or you won’t want to use it. The stroller has to be the right height for you and if there is a second user, ie. your partner, you may want to take that into consideration. Wrists need to be aligned with forearms, not at an angle. 

The angle that your child sits is another consideration. The BOB strollers have a reclined angle that older children don’t love if they are not used to sitting back. The Joovy is the same way though, as a friend who owns one points out, if they don’t know any different, it doesn’t bother them. The Chariot is pricey but super versatile and can convert to winter mode with ski attachments and bike attachment. I think that brand has the best set-up for infants I have seen- a sling/ hammock inside with a sleeping bag over top. You never have to worry about your child getting cold in that thing. 

That’s another feature to be aware of: a weather shield. High-end models have accessories that cost extra but weather shields fit snug and keep rain and wind out and are totally worth it when you run into bad weather. Also, babes are usually lulled to sleep by rain and they must take pleasure in the fact that mom is drenched and they are snug as a bug.

Would you ever recommend buying second-hand?

Absolutely! Buying baby gear is sort of like renting… you pay to use it, then sell it to someone else. The top-end brands hold their value and keep performing well if looked after. I bought my BobStroller second-hand and well-used for $300 and it is still my favourite stroller. I can lock the front wheel if I like, it is light, easily foldable and durable.  If you are lucky enough to find a Chariot second-hand, it will be worth the money. Always test out the gear before buying though, a broken brake or missing piece to a harness to be a deal-breaker.

How much should you expect to spend for a decent jogging stroller?

Strollers are on par with road bikes it seems. You are looking at about $700 to start for a new jogger. Accessories are extra, i.e. the Chariot does not come with a jogging wheel and runs about $100+ and note that all jogging stroller front wheels are different! I foolishly made this mistake when I went to a bike shop looking for a wheel to fit my import. I ended up paying big time shipping fees for a special wheel. This is why second-hand is the best way to go.

What are your top three recommendations for running strollers?

1. Look for a stroller that will meet multiple needs in your growing child’s life and won’t take up too much garage space.

2. Make sure the stroller is the right height for jogging – this is higher than walking.

3. Shop around, ask your friends (and me!) what they like about theirs and why. And then try theirs out. And then ask them if they want to sell it. Top Brands are: BOB for jogging and everyday use, Chariot for versatility in multi-sports and infant-carrying, Quinny XL for multi seat configuration.

Any other helpful tips for buying strollers?

I do want to note that jogging strollers are for people who are serious about running and need to get their running fix. Running with a stroller is not like running solo, you use different muscle groups and it is a heck of a lot harder. If you are someone who just wants to get out with baby, attend Stroller Fit classes, then most strollers will do the trick.  Even the classic Graco strollers will meet most needs of moms who do Stroller Fit. Those things are super light-weight, durable, fold down like a dream… and are considerably less expensive. 

What stroller do you recommend?

The BOB Revolution.

Stroller Fit is Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:45 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. in Saint John’s Rockwood Park. Classes are full for the May session, but will be ongoing throughout summer. For details, check out the Facebook group.

The chocolates are calling me…

I’m always amazed when I hear about people throwing out their Christmas chocolate to start fresh in January. Really? But it’s perfectly good chocolate…

I, too, have vowed to clean up my eating. I haven’t set any diet or weight-loss goals, instead preferring to focus on my next big running goal: run a 13K race on April 12.

My other health-related goals are simple and achievable, but easy to let slip:

Drink at least 2.5 litres of water/day. I should obviously already be on top of this since I’m breastfeeding but I know I often fall short.

Eat veggies with every lunch/dinner. I am a real fruit eater but can often bypass the veggies, which is a bad habit I’m trying to break.

So back to the chocolate. I stuffed a bunch of unopened chocolate in the freezer, along with a few leftover Christmas baking. And I can go most of the day without even thinking about it. But by the time 4 p.m. rolls around, I get the munchies. My hubby is off to work for his evening shift, it’s me and the baby, who is growing more irritable by the hour, and I find myself reaching for a frozen chocolate truffle. AH!

In a stroke of serendipity, I got a call from GoodLife on Monday. I won a free week at the gym. The funny thing is, I don’t even remember entering my name in the draw. (Maybe they were just trying to reel me back in?)

IMG_20150106_164113The timing was good because I was just trying to figure out what to do about running in this frigid weather. I’m not afraid of a little cold-weather running, but I’m not equipped to run in -20C weather.

So I was able to get a couple treadmill runs in on Tuesday and Wednesday, surrounded by hoards of other “January joiners” just like me.

Work it at home

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I have been so indecisive about how to proceed with my workouts as the weather gets colder.

Join the a gym? Which one? Get better winter running gear? Buy a treadmill? Wing it?

As I attempt to figure out the best option for a busy new mommy, I’ve definitely been winging it. And despite the Christmas gorging, I’ve actually been doing OK.

When the weather is nice, Silas and I get out for a walk. If it’s passable, I’ll go on my own for a short run. Sometimes I am able to sneak in a gym class with a friend. Soon we’ll be back at the pool for the mommy/baby classes. And yesterday, I took advantage of one of Silas’s trademark cat naps to squeeze in a workout surrounded by toys on my living room floor.

And folks, I am still hurting today. Guess I needed a little kick in the butt!

This is what I did:

10 squats

10 modified push-ups

10 forward lunges with each leg

30-second plank

30-second wall sit

10 kegels

Repeat the circuit five times.

It was not overly tough but I’m totally feeling it in the abs, butt and quads today!

Guess is this proof that you don’t need any fancy equipment, gym membership or even shoes to get a little sweat on.