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!

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Ray Strowbridge: From wrestling ring to political arena

As appeared in the Telegraph-Journal on Jan. 23, 2017

The last time Ray Strowbridge saw his father, he was eight years old.

Growing up without a dad was “incredibly hard,” he says, as his mother, Margaret Haigh, struggled to make ends meet on Scott Avenue, one of the poorest streets in the Kennebecasis Valley.

But on that apartment-lined avenue crawling with children, Strowbridge, now 41, remembers then-Fairvale mayor Jigs Miller stopping by to talk to residents. His pockets were always filled with candy.

I was always fascinated by him, and politics,” says Strowbridge, who has been a Saint John city councillor for nearly five years. “People would flock to him.

Those early impressions continued to impact Strowbridge, who was born in Newfoundland, as he moved through elementary school. In Grade 6, his teacher orchestrated a mock election between three classes. They organized political parties and ran campaigns.

Strowbridge was elected president.

I dreamed of becoming a politician,” Strowbridge, who represents the east side’s Ward 4, says over a coffee at Tim Hortons on Loch Lomond Road. “I’ve always had a strong sense of community and where I belong.

As Strowbridge got older, his interests temporarily changed direction. Like many youth of his generation, he started to idolize the stars of the World Wrestling Federation, now known as the WWE. Posters of Hulk Hogan plastered his walls.

It was my religion growing up,” he says, adding he now connects his fondness for Hulk Hogan to the lack of a father figure in his life.

By the age of 16, Strowbridge made the “stupid” decision of dropping out of high school to pursue a wrestling career. He attended “wrestling school” in Moncton.

It wasn’t long before Strowbridge says he realized he wasn’t good, adding he returned to school and got his diploma a short time later.

I wouldn’t make it to Wrestlemania,” he says with a laugh. “It was a really big growing up moment.

Still, Strowbridge maintained his passion for wrestling, making appearances in Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling. He took on the persona of “Teddy Too Sweet Champagne,” a drag queen dressed in pink with a feather boa. The idea is to get a strong reaction from the crowd by getting fans to either love you or hate you, he says. Strowbridge was a “good guy.

It’s now been about 10 years since he has wrestled, though “they keep asking me to come back,” he says.

Strowbridge, who has been a paramedic for 20 years, says he has never taken any heat for his unique interest in wrestling.

Most people think it’s pretty cool,” he says, adding many locals who follow the wrestling scene remember his “Too Sweet” persona.

Fast forward to 2012, and Strowbridge threw his hat in the running for council after spending time on his now 11-year-old daughter Brooklyn’s Parent School Support Committee. The political fire in his belly never burned out, he says.

That first term on council under former mayor Mel Norton was an intense experience for the political rookie, as the politicians navigated one problem to the next – whether it was the desperate need for pension reform or securing funding for the city’s massive drinking water system overhaul.

So far, Strowbridge says this second term under Mayor Don Darling is rather quiet in comparison. It’s not as easy to point to big accomplishments in the first few months of this mandate, he adds.

The thing is, we don’t have any huge, crippling problems,” he says. “We’re like hungry soldiers looking for a fight, but there isn’t one. There are no big wins, because there are no big problems.

Strowbridge says there is a definite difference in the leadership styles of both Darling and Norton, but he doesn’t see that as a problem. Darling is not as “strict” in meetings as Norton was, for example. And Darling “doesn’t micro-manage.

With fewer problems to tackle, Strowbridge says he sometimes struggles with how to focus his energy. But he has found a happy medium in focusing on local neighbourhood needs.

He’s eager to see a splash pad built in the Forest Hills area, for example.

And he has just received word that the city will set aside $10,000 from its capital budget to build a dog park and shelter at the Little River Reservoir. These are the things he hears about when he goes door to door, he says.

They’re tangible – they matter.

A member of the city’s growth committee, Strowbridge says Saint John residents need to stop comparing themselves to the outlying communities.

We will always be more expensive because we’re bigger,” he says. It also doesn’t make sense to compare the city to Moncton, which is geographically smaller than Saint John.

Council recently voted to hold the tax rate, which hasn’t changed from $1.785 per $100 of assessed value for nine years. Strowbridge believes it doesn’t make sense to drop it by a cent for the sake of a few dollars in savings for each resident when the city’s revenues would drop by $673,000.

Why don’t you keep your $20 and pave roads, or improve a park. Taking $20 off my tax bill is an insult to me. Why not keep that money and invest in something that matters?

 

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. 

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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!

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

Adorable ornament from @hellochristyy Thank you! #bloggerswap #runnersofinstagram #runnerslovechristmas

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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.

Mom ecstatic as boy gets gift of health – Telegraph-Journal

By April Cunningham

Zackary Shaw may not make it home for Christmas, but he’s already received the greatest gift.

After years of battling leukemia, including a second diagnosis last spring, the nine-year-old from Back Bay, near St. George, has just received news that an umbilical cord stem cell transplant was a success.

“My heart is exploding with so much happiness right now,” says his mother, Courtney Shaw, who remains with Zack at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, on Thursday. “It was the best feeling in the world to tell him he fought cancer for the second time. There are no words to describe what I’m feeling.”

Preliminary results from Zackary’s October stem cell transplant were a 100 per cent match, Shaw says, meaning his old cancer cells are gone and he is completely cancer-free.

The news could not have come at a better time for Zackary and his parents, who have spent months in Toronto after a series of intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments leading up to the transplant.

He was diagnosed with chemotherapy for the second time in May, just seven months after finishing treatments. This time, the cancer had spread through his blood, chromosome 21, brain and spinal fluid and his bone marrow.

But just as Zackary and his mother hoped he would be given the all-clear to return home to the Maritimes in time for Christmas, a series of infections led to his readmittance to hospital.

Shaw, who has been forced to keep her chin up, saying positive through the battery of tests, treatments and pain she has been forced to watch her son endure for the past four years, called it “just another bump in the road.”

What was once a Christmas wish to return home to St. George, west of Saint John, faded to a slim hope of even making it as far as Halifax, where Zackary would remain close to pediatric oncologists at the IWK and where they could reunite with his sisters, Jennika, 14, and Harley, 4, who remain in St. George.

“We aren’t sure when we’ll be home,” Courtney says. “But if we don’t make it, we will Skype the girls Christmas morning from here.”

The latest setback had wiped Zackary’s typical sweet, demure smile from his face — aside from the day he had the chance to meet a few members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, his mother says. He was downtrodden, leaving his mother to make any attempt she could to bring a smile to his face, as they played “Russian roulette” with his fragile immune system.

This latest news was the lift he needed.

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Back in 2012, Zackary had been lethargic and ill for months, and while his doctors thought he had throat and ear infections, the antibiotics they prescribed weren’t doing a thing. They finally sent him for bloodwork.

“I got the phonecall at work,” Shaw says in an interview over Facebook video chat, Zackary snuggled next to her. She was just a few days into her new job as a Charlotte County physiotherapist when she received the news that her four-year-old son had leukemia. “I couldn’t even go home to pack my bags. They wanted him straight through to Saint John, and at 4 a.m. the following morning we went by ambulance to Halifax.”

It was scary, Courtney says, but she put her trust in doctors and the healthcare system.

“When you’re going through this, you don’t know what to expect,” she says. “It was all a foreign language to me.”

Little did she know she was entering a medical world she would become only too familiar with over the coming years, as they ferried Zackary back and forth between Saint John and Halifax for nearly four years.

He finished his final treatment on October 17, 2015.

Only a few months later, on May 30, the cancer was back.

It seemed to come out of nowhere, Courtney adds, since only six days prior, Zackary’s weekly test results were completely clean.

“Then he started having signs of weakness in his arms,” she says, adding it was a symptom of infection. “He couldn’t write, or pick up his chair at school to put it on his desk at the end of the day.”

Zackary was at his father’s house one day — his parents are separated — and he went to the Saint John Regional Hospital for bloodwork to see what was behind the weakness.

Once again, Courtney got the call at work. “He had relapsed. This time, it was a more intense diagnosis,” she says. “That’s why he needed the bone marrow transplant.”

Although Courtney and Zackary’s father, Jaret Wentworth, were told he would likely need the transplant, they were warned that even with 28 billion people on the registry, the chances of a match are rare.

One day before the St. George community organized a September bone marrow clinic — which attracted nearly 200 people willing to add their names to the registry — officials found two matches suitable for Zackary.

What ended up being the selected match came from the umbilical cord blood of a baby boy, which they hoped would make Zackary healthy again.

In a process that only took 25 minutes, the small bag of blood dripped through the lines in Zackary’s chest, leaving what Courtney describes as a strange yet pungent odour or cream corn in the hospital room for days after the transfusion, Courtney says. The smell leaked from her son’s pores.

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Ask Zackary his age, and he jokes that he’s 100 years old.

What does he want for Christmas?

He shakes his head, looking down. “Nothing.”

The past few weeks have left a boy that his mother describes as “always playing, always on the move,” utterly depleted.

“He was very, very sick this time around,” she says of the second diagnosis. “He just didn’t have the energy to do anything.”

He lost his hair much faster, too.

The first time Zackary was diagnosed with leukemia, life because a series of predictable tests and treatments. But nothing has been predictable about these past few months, Courtney says.

“It’s been one disaster after another. Bad news upon bad news. So when we get good news, we’re like, ‘Finally.’”

As a mother, Courtney says the entire journey through cancer, the disease that can only be described by expletives, has been a lesson in patience.

“Doctors are slow,” Zackary chimes in. Courtney laughs.

“There’s never a true answer,” she says. “There’s always a possibility of something else happening. There’s always a waiting game. It’s one test to the next.”

Courtney has her down moments, for sure, but staying positive is so important, she says. In fact, it’s the only way to soldier on.

“No parent wants to see their child suffer,” she says, eyes welling up with tears. “It can get emotionally hard sometimes. But you just keep going. Life doesn’t stop.”

Another run streak?

I’m so sorry I have been MIA for an entire month. November is always such a tough month to feel inspired. Let’s face it, the days are shorter and darker. Today it felt like it was getting dark by 3 p.m. It’s so difficult to muster up the will to get out and run.

But hey, I have been running, at least a little. I’m grateful to have the treadmill these days. I even made it out for a long run with a group of friends a couple weeks ago. But without a race on the horizon, it’s only too easy to put off today’s run until tomorrow.

That ends Dec. 1.

I’m challenging myself to yet another December run streak and I hope you will join me.

Let’s plow through the sweet and savoury month of December and run every freaking day. Who’s with me?

The idea of a run streak is to run at least one mile every day in a row. It is modelled off the Runner’s World holiday run streak which actually bridges the gap between the American Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. As the magazine suggests, please don’t attempt this if you haven’t been running consistently for at least six months.

Why streak? The holidays are busy, caloric and at times stressful. Running provides at least 10 minutes of “me time,” and provides a little balance at a time of indulgence. I have participated in two previous December run streaks and was amazed how great I felt at the end. I recall running at midnight after covering a city council meeting and another day at 6 a.m. before covering the Dennis Oland murder trial last year. When I was just a few weeks pregnant in 2013, I remember feeling so triumphant after dealing weeks of early-pregnancy queasiness to get out and run every day (and I didn’t even have a treadmill then). I remember Christmas baking cookies, sampling a few, then running.

Truth is, I tend to feel pretty listless without a goal. I need this to keep me accountable and to give me licence to sample a few more goodies over the coming weeks.

Are you ready? Let’s go streaking!

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Last weekend I ran with Silas a few blocks to the Santa Claus parade. Every little bit counts, right?

 

 

A new personal best

There’s nothing like capping off the 2016 running season on this kind of high.

I shaved a mere seven seconds from my personal best time for the half-marathon — 1:59:47!

This is what a personal best looks like! (Pic by @freshstartmolly)

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This was my third time taking part in Moncton’s Legs for Literacy race, and the second time doing the very fast and flat half-marathon. It’s the biggest race in New Brunswick and so much fun.

Every time I have done this run the weather has been iffy, as the end of October tends to be. This year was no exception. We had all of the weather: cold, wind, clouds, rain, rainbows, sun, warmth, followed by extreme gusts and pelting cold rain at the end. My crazy lime green hat, which I won at the expo, nearly blew away at certain points.

One of the best parts of this race was running alongside my friend, Jenn. (I have two running buddies named Jennifer so try not to get confused.) We instantly fell into the same rhythm and having her nearby made me feel secure about holding a fairly challenging pace around 5:40 min/km.

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Kevin, Jenn and April after a the Moncton Legs for Literacy half-marathon 2016. And my shark child at bottom right.

If it wasn’t for Kevin, I would not have bothered to sign up for this race. Kevin is so rational and convinced me it made complete sense to go for a second half-marathon and aim for a PB, after coming so close at Maritime Race Weekend. Good friends do that for you. He also lured me with free race registration for the Sweet Caroline 10K.

This race was important for me to know I am officially back to pre-baby race shape. It took a long time to get here, but I’m here. And now on reflection, I have gained so much running experience after having a child. I may even call myself a “seasoned” runner, to throw around a cliche. This year alone I have run one full marathon, two half-marathons and a few other runs. All with a toddler! I don’t think I dreamed this could be possible. I think I always had a quiet fear that my running life would peter out after having a child, but instead, it’s better than ever.

 

Of course, support from my hubby is an absolutely essential part of continuing to run, chase goals and just continue to enjoy the sport. He knows it makes me happy and healthy, and so he doesn’t complain (much) when I tell him about early morning long-run plans, which means he doesn’t get to sleep in after an evening shift, or yet another running road trip. In fact, he almost loves these trips as much as I do. I know, I’m really lucky.

So accomplishing this goal is not just about the number, or the sub 2 hours, or anything like that. It’s about knowing that I can continue to find strength to meet my personal goals even as life changes. It’s about carving out time for myself and showing my little boy that running is healthy and fun, too.

Looking forward to seeing what new challenges and adventures 2017 brings.

Run on!