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21 Weeks Ago I Ran My First 21.1K Race

Twenty one weeks ago I ran my first half marathon. I truthfully can’t believe it’s been that long. Blogging has taken a back seat lately because I’ve had a ton happening in my life. It was a lot of personal stuff and a lot of non running or non fitness stuff. In the weeks since running my half marathon I’ve had two new jobs, two deaths in the family, got the flu super bad, and a had big flare up of my back injury. Plus, the clock is ticking down to my wedding this summer. As you can imagine, LIFE HAS BEEN CRAZY!

But HELLLOOO MARCH. Hello warmer temperatures. Hello daylight. Finally, this month, I’ve started to refocus on my own fitness. As a personal trainer I’m always thinking about workouts, but sometimes my own goals get thrown to the side. Three weeks ago I grabbed an intro pass to a nearby yoga studio and I’ve been practicing yoga a few times a week. Yoga is like, totally my jam right now. It has been the perfect blend of physical and spiritual practice.

Everything I do through the winter is also a build up to my running season. I’m a fair weather runner and I really enjoy my time off during the cold months. My fall trail running gave me some ankle and foot issues and yoga has been helping me get over them. I am a big champion of barefoot workouts and exercises that get you onto one foot at a time.

I haven’t been able to plan too much in the way of races for this season. Both Brad and I have been on a series of different short term work contracts and projects for well over a year. This uncertainty meant that we haven’t planned a honeymoon. With no set honeymoon, I had no idea when or what I would race after the wedding. Like any good running addict, I just signed up for races that were before the wedding.

Dreaming of my 2016 race season.

Dreaming of my 2016 race season.

Race #1: Toronto Women’s Series 5k – aka my bridal shower race

Date: Sunday May 29th

Goal: 26:26 or faster (my current 5k PR is 27:27)

I am not kidding my friends, my bridal shower is being coordinated with my first race of the season. The Toronto Women’s Runs are always so friendly and fun that I thought it would be a great idea to invite my friends to join me to run or walk 5k and then we’ll have my bridal shower. Not sure how many of them have signed up yet but I’m pumped. I really have to give it to my bridesmaids for agreeing to this 😉

Race #2: Toronto Waterfront 10k

Date: Saturday June 25th (you know, 6 days before my wedding)

Goal: Sub 58:00 (current PR is 59:58)

Brad and I are both signed up, plus Lily, one of my bridesmaids. This is my way of putting a deadline on Brad by saying “don’t you dare be leaving wedding shiz for the week before.” If you didn’t know yet, he’s designing our wedding and the man has big schemes and only a little bit of free time. I’m going to assume that Brad and I will both automatically PR this race because we’ve only raced 10k at the zoo. If you have never run the Toronto Zoo Run, it’s hills, hills, hills.

Other than that, we’ll see what the rest of the season brings.I do hope to hang out with my Mizuno team and my Burnbrae Farms team at a handful of events this year. And I do hope to be able to get back to regular blogging.

Oh one more thing … 8 weeks until my first dress fitting. That’s another super motivator to stick to my fitness!

Tell me, what goals do you have for this running season? 

Eat A Healthy Breakfast Everyday This Week

Yes, I know that I said in my last post that I’m not “staying on track” this holiday. However, I’m not on an all Christmas cookie diet. I find that lunches, dinners and snacks are are where all the decadent foods come in this week. Between now and Christmas Eve I’ll be having the easiest, healthy breakfast of them all – SMOOTHIES!

For the last two weeks Brad and I have been drinking a smoothie every morning. As always, when I focus on a healthy breakfast I have more energy and less cravings during the day. The less cravings, the less I reach for the crappy junk food. You know, like store bought doughnuts and chips. I’d rather save my belly for all the amazing homemade food this time of year.

Morgan and Brad’s December Smoothie Mix:

  • banana
  • cranberries
  • frozen fruit mix (peaches, grapes, pineapple)
  • scoop of Vega One Nutritional Shake
  • water

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IT TASTES BETTER THAN IT LOOKS! I know, that’s what everyone says about weird looking smoothies. I love to throw spinach in smoothies too but sometimes the green can make it look really gnarly. Another fav smoothie ingredient is egg whites. Not gross, I promise! I work with Burnbrae Farms and their egg whites are pasteurized and completely safe to put in smoothies. It’s an awesome way to get clean protein. Check out my carrot cake smoothie recipe.

For as long as I’ve been making weird looking smoothies Brad has been complaining about them. Even though he knows that they taste better than they look he still prefers a good ol pink smoothie.

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Brad’s favourite smoothie recipe:

  • banana
  • orange juice
  • vanilla greek yogurt
  • frozen berries

Weird or gnarly looking smoothies – thumbs up or thumbs down?

 

Why I’m Not Staying “On Track” This Holiday Season

All. The. “Staying on Track.” Posts, right? And I’m not knocking them at all because I too have been there many Decembers. I too have offered December fitness challenges. This year, I’m giving a big F U to staying on track for the next few weeks and here’s why . . .

I’m tired. I’m incredibly tired from training, racing, recovering from injuries, teaching bootcamp, coaching clients, and well, life. I know I’m not the only person who’s spent the year deep and dedicated to my physical goals. Coming back from my back injury was emotionally and physically tough. Training for my first half marathon was so rewarding but I’m still feeling the effects. Although I’ve loved my trail running last month, even that is kicking my butt. (I went for an Xray yesterday because that uneven-ground-branches-all-over-the-place life screwed my ankle up a bit.)

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What if you skipped the weights and the treadmill and went for your yoga matt instead? Heck, yesterday I did yoga for couch potatoes. It’s a real thing, look that shiz up on Yoga with Adriene. What if you didn’t get up for an early morning run and slept in and ate a Clif bar + banana for breakfast.

If you, like myself, have been busting it all year, you’re good to relax for a bit. It would probably even be better for your well-being if you stop busting it for a few weeks. Self care is not just about maintaining weight. Self care is about doing what’s best for your soul. I’m not about to eat butter sticks and stop going to work but let’s just cut ourselves some slack. Agreed?

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Here’s what I’m going to focus on for the holidays:

  • Walking (let’s dig out that Polar Loop shall we?)
  • Yoga
  • Eating plants
  • Sleep
  • Meditation
  • Enjoying all the spirit of the holidays

Bootcamp will be waiting for me on January 4th. My 2016 running season will require cross training in the new year. And yes, I do have goals for how I want to look in my wedding dress next year. I’m looking forward to attacking all of those things after a few weeks of rest.

 

 

First Half Marathon: My Recap in FAQs and Stats

Today is Thursday, my first half marathon was Sunday. I know I want to recap it but it’s so weird putting in to words something that I worked so hard on for so many weeks. It’s hard to capture the insane confidence burst that this race gave me. It’s hard to really understand what over coming the back injury and laying down this comeback meant. I’ve been asked a lot of questions both leading into and since I finished my race so I figured that I’d share those q and a’s and the accompanying details.

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Q: What was your goal time?

  • My reasonable goal time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • If something went wrong goal time (being realistic with my back injury and the last minute IT band issues): 2 hours 45 mins
  • My dream goal time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Q: Are you happy with your finishing time?

HELL YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! I set out the morning of my race to hit between the 2:15 and 2:20 mark. I felt like all things considered, it could be done. The truth is, I would have gotten under the 2:15 mark if it wasn’t for a porto-potty stop. But, when you’re dealing with a back injury the absolute most important thing is to keep your core engaged. It’s just impossible to keep the core engaged and hold your pee, especially for my fellow lady runners.

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Q: How did the weather affect your race?

Well I freaked out about the cold for 48 hours leading up to the start. I had 5 billion outfit versions in my head. From a physical stand point, the cold weather (around -1 degrees Celsius at race time I believe) was not a big hurdle. Mentally, I wish I had expended less energy thinking about it. Also, I over dressed. I’m thankful that Brad was at the 7km mark to take my jacket and gloves.

Q: What was your longest run before your race?

Two weeks before my race I planned for my longest run. The plan was for 18km, but due to a miscalculation I ran 20.7km. I don’t recommend going off training plan, but for me the mental test this gave me was helpful. I knew when it was going to get hard. When I hit the 15km mark in the race I went to town with positive self talk.

Q: Fuel?

Two Raz Clif gels (at 8km and 15km) plus water and Gatorade on the course. I had trained with the Clif gels and lemon lime Gatorade for about 5 weeks leading up to the race.

Q: Injuries?

My back is a bit sore, and my hip (due to the IT band issue) is tender but the worst of it all was some toenail issues. I won’t go on, it’s gross.

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Q: Shoes?

Mizuno Wave Rider 18

Q: How did you like the course?

I loved it! Doing this race in my own city was awesome. The cheering crowds were far too good for words. The best part was heading east after the turnaround. Running down Lakeshore, towards the CN Tower was a truly amazing experience.

Q: You taught bootcamp the day after the race?

Yes, yes I did. I’ve been asked this so many times since Monday. I teach two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays AFTER working an 8 hour day in the office. I did not, under any circumstances want to finish the race in such bad shape that I would have to skip either of my jobs, but especially not bootcamp. See, I just don’t see the point of killing yourself to THAT extent. I’m an adult, with adult responsibilities, such as two jobs. Running means so so so much to me, but, it’s also just a hobby. I happily finished the race with nothing, not a damn thing left in my tank. Maybe my tune will be different if I get to a full marathon but for something that takes around 2 hours, I don’t let it beat me up.

Q: Are you going to do a full marathon next?

I should have put this Q on top because it’s the number one question. Eventually, I’m sure I’ll attempt a full marathon. Next? Probably not. I have so much rebuilding to do after this season and know that I can take a good chunk of time off my half marathon. That will be my next goal. And as my friend Krysten (@darwinianfail) reminded me, perhaps it’s not the best idea to do a full marathon and have a wedding the same year. I think she might be right!

I Ran 20km and I’m My Own Hero

Twelve weeks ago today I was sitting my family doctor’s office listening to just how serious of a back injury I had sustained the day before. My back hurt, a lot, that’s all I knew and I desperately hoped that she would say it was just a small sprain and I’d be back to normal in a few days to a week. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. “But I’m training for a half marathon” . . . her response, “you WERE training for a half marathon.” In addition to my half marathon training (that had started just a week before), I was also panicked about how I’d deal with my bootcamp classes. Tears followed, lots of them.

The doctor at my family clinic told me that the recovery time was 10-12 weeks. The workplace insurance board (the back injury happened at my daytime job) told me that I should expect the recover time to be 12 weeks. Believe me I didn’t like what I was hearing at all. But in the words of a 90s trashy talk show guest, “you don’t know me!”

Days later, my treatment plan was approved by the workplace insurance board and I went for my chiropractor appointment. Finally, someone who DID know my body. It was bad, he told me that. But based on my prior training base, the fact that I was a coach/trainer, and the treatment plan he was going to provide, he hoped that I could return to running in 8 weeks. I was back in five!

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So yeah, I am publishing this post to brag. I was insanely disciplined in my treatment and training plan. I really didn’t believe in myself at all when I signed up for this race. I certainly didn’t believe in myself when I injured my back.

Last week I ran over 20km. Usually during my long runs I visualize the finish line of this first half. I think about how exciting it will be and how proud I’ll be. But last week when I was out on my last long run, the 20km, all I could think about was how far I’ve come. It was emotional. It doesn’t matter that thousands and thousands of people have run a half marathon (and further) before me.

We spend so much time putting ourselves down, but this week I’m my own hero.

 

Cheering On A Runner? Never Tell Them To Stop Walking

As you know, I’m the biggest champion of the run walk run method. This is my race plan. I walk on purpose. I walk to be faster. You may see me walk within the first kilometer of a race sometimes. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had someone yell out to me “don’t stop Morgan, keep going.” Well, I didn’t stop, I’m putting one foot in front of the other. I’m not on the sidelines contemplating giving up. I am on pace and in control of my race.

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Here’s the thing, I know that these strangers are meaning well. They are trying to be encouraging. I’ve been racing for a few years and I’ve never really made a stink about this because I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the encouragement or come off like a jerk. With this blog post I hope you may reconsider how you cheer on runners.

photo-59-768x1024This year I’ve had the pleasure of working two Toronto Women’s Run Series races as a Mizuno Run Bird. What’s a run bird? Basically, we position ourselves along the race course and help runners out. Maybe it’s a high five, a shout of encouragement, and sometimes it’s jumping on the course and helping them run their last kilometer to the finish line. When I approach a runner to join them on the course the first thing I ask is what is their race plan. Sometimes they want to run the last kilometer no matter what. Sometimes they want me to talk, to be silent, sometimes they want to walk and stop to take pictures with the race photographer. The point is that I ask them how they’d like to be motivated. Everyone needs support in a different way.

So I’m asking, if you see me on the course at a race, please don’t tell me to stop walking. And maybe, don’t say it to the other runners either, because perhaps walking is their race plan. There’s a bunch of other things you can yell out at them.

Motivational:

  • “Keep going!”
  • “GO _________ GO!”
  • “WOOHOOO”
  • High fives, low fives, air fives
  • “You’ve got this”
  • “Looking strong”
  • “You’re killing it!”
  • Anything hilarious related to Ryan Gosling
  • Promises of food at the finish line

Not helpful:

  • “Stop walking”
  • “Someone’s on your heels”
  • “You’re almost there” (particularly when a runner is anywhere more than 1km from the finish line)
  • “There’s only ______ km left” (you may be wrong, or even 2km may feel impossible at that point)

You get the idea. I’ve been a spectator and cheerleader for more races than I’ve run. I always think about what I’m saying to the runner before I cheer. If all else fails, just clap and smile 🙂

 

Ladies Choice Bootcamp Workout

I love my women’s only Toronto bootcamp class because these gals like to work hard. They are constantly asking to be challenged with harder workouts and new exercises. Every once in a while I put my boot camp class in the hands of the ladies who attend. On Monday we had our chicks choice workout in the Fit Chicks Fierce in 8 program.

Let me share their favourites with you so that you can build your own workout at home.


Or . . . looking to workout with some awesome females and live in Toronto? Consider joining my October bootcamp. We’re offering $60 off the October 10 week session (8 week and 4 week options available too!)

SIGN UP / MORE INFO HERE (scroll down to Forest Hill bootcamp location with Morgan): http://www.fitchicks.ca/locations/toronto-bootcamp

SAVE $60 OGG (1)


Here are the ladies favourite exercises broken down into three categories, cardio, strength and core. To make your own at home workout:

1 ROUND = 30 SECONDS EACH MOVE: CARDIO * STRENGTH * CORE

REPEAT ROUND 3X

CHOOSE A NEW EXERCISE FROM EACH CATEGORY FOR ROUND 2 (AND SO ON)

DO AS MANY ROUNDS AS YOU LIKE, 5 ROUNDS RECOMMENDED

Cardio:

  • standing mountain climbers
  • suicide runs
  • laps (if you’re at the track)
  • jump squats
  • butt kicks
  • jumping jacks
  • high knees march (opposite elbow to knee)
  • burpees

Strength:

  • wall sit (add bicep curl or lateral raise)
  • pivot pushups (side to side)
  • walking lunges
  • pliet squat with upright row
  • side lunge with bicep curl
  • crab walk / crab triceps dip
  • renegade row
  • donkey kicks

Core:

  • leg raises
  • scissor kicks
  • hundreds
  • around the world crunch
  • frog leg crunch
  • elbow plank to high plank
  • elbow plank with hip taps
  • side plank
  • bicycle
  • mountain climber crunch

Do you have a favourite bootcamp exercise? Share!

If you’re in Toronto and want a free trial class email me morgan@fitchicks.ca.

Half Marathon Training Necessities

Less than three weeks until my first half marathon. It really is amazing how different training for 21km is from training for 5km. Yes, I know that running is supposed to be an inexpensive sport. And it can be, you just need some sneakers. However, there are things that can make training for longer races a little easier and a little bit more enjoyable.

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  • Running Shoes – my Mizuno Wave Riders

I was wearing Mizuno Sayonaras because I loved how lightweight they are. However, once I hurt my back I needed a little bit more support and moved to the Riders. These have been perfect for training.

  • Resistance band

I use this for my warm up. In addition to the almost ten other moves I do for my dynamic warm up, I use the bands for lateral walks to get my hips activated. It also helps me ward off IT band issues.

  • Gymboss Timer

Intervals. Always. I train, coach and race using the run walk run method so using my Gymboss Timer allows me to switch between my intervals seamlessly. My timer beeps and vibrates to let me know to switch paces.

  • Ipod

Obviously! I ran for many years without music when I did 5km. Now that I’m out on training runs for an hour plus, I need the tunes. I see a playlist blog post coming soon!

  • Clif Shot Energy Gel in Raz

I had these laying around from an event I was at last year so I gave them a shot (pun intended) for my last few long runs. My belly has been having a lot of trouble the last few months so I was very pleasantly surprised that these worked well for me. I need to grab some more for the last few weeks of training and race day.

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  • Fitletic Fuel belt

I’ll be honest, I don’t like this fuel belt very much. This was the newest piece of running gear I bought when I started pushing up my mileage. It was on sale at a race expo I was working so I grabbed it, not giving it much thought. Because I’m petite, the bottles in the fuel belt wrap around so they’re sitting on the sides of my hips. When I run my elbows hit the top of the bottles and scrape my arms.

  • Gatorade

Typically I prefer G2 instead of regular Gatorade but for training I’ve been using the regular stuff. I chose lemon lime because that’s what is on the course that day and with my anticipated finish time (slow that is) I know I’ll be looking to the aid stations.

What are your training or race day necessities? What important things do you bring or use for a half marathon or marathon?

 

Building Mental Toughness: Why You Need A Tune Up Race

Earlier this month I ran the Toronto Zoo Run 10k for the second year in a row. Last year I ran it as my first 10k to celebrate my 30th birthday. I was using it as a tune up run this year. As you know my big goal race is the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon half marathon. A big goal to be sure, particularly since I sustained a seriously back injury in July. Part of the problem with my training plan right now is confidence in my body, I had to take many weeks off entirely and am still dealing with recovery. Never entirely confident in my ability to run 21 km (even before the injury), my brain turned “I hope I can” into “yeah friggin right.”

I know that I need a whole lot of “I can do it” on race day for my first half (4 weeks away if anyone is counting) so I decided that I needed to test my mental toughness. Even though I had signed up for the zoo run with Brad and another friend, and even though we were on track to all pace towards the same goal time, my plan was to run alone. My half marathon is going to be well over 2 hours of running alone, my brain and legs needed the solitude for the 10k race as practice.

So I had a plan, but as usual, the best laid plans can hit the fan, particularly on race morning. Here are all the things that tested my mental toughness during the zoo run:

  • Cold and rain

I have never raced in the rain and I have purposefully always ended my running season early in the year to avoid any cold weather. Race mornings at 18 degrees are freezing for me, so a very wet 10 degrees had me in the worst possible mood.

How I dealt: garbage bag ponchos.

  • Forgot my interval timer

The plan was for 2 minutes on and 1 minute off. Not only did I forget my own interval timer, but I also forgot Brad and Trev’s timer. Bad coach! I ran back to the baggage truck and begged the volunteers to look for our bag so we could grab the car keys. The bag was buried, no timers for us. Also no phone so no app option either.

How I dealt: made a plan to run for 1 km and then walk for 1 minute (approximately 5 and 1 for me). That didn’t work. Tried to switch to run 1 song and walk for 1 minute, also a no go. Brad gave me his stop watch so at kilometer 8 I decided to let the wrist watch be my guide and started gunning it at 2 and and 1 the best I could.

  • Running alone

This was just what I needed. With all the crap that was throwing me off I needed to deal with it myself. I let Brad and Trev run on without me after the first kilometer. My fuel belt was sliding up, the water station came later than expected, there was mud that I didn’t anticipate, lots of stuff for my brain to deal with.

The end result >>>> I had a HUGE 10k personal best.

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No idea what STWM is going to throw at me but at least I got some practice with less than ideal conditions. I’ve got two big long runs happening over the next two weekends. I’ve got a bunch of treatment dates lined up for my back. I’m as nervous as I am excited so I’m in the best shape I could be with 4 weeks to go.

Tell me about a race that tested your mental toughness . . .

Fight the Freshman 15: Healthy Study Snacks

Classes have resumed and students are officially back to school. For college and university students this is the time to try to find a routine, as hard as it is. This is also the time that first year students may start to put on the freshman 15lbs. Student weight gain, I know it well. I didn’t put on the freshman 15, I put on 25lbs in my first year. The number one culprit of my weight gain was unhealthy snacking. The biggest sin, late night snacking.

healthy hbe snacksMidterms will be here before you know it and staying up late to write papers or study for exams is not easy. I know that it often takes some fuel to stay awake and keep plugging through your work. Choosing healthy snacks will help you avoid the weight gain, but even more importantly, it will help you work harder.

Eggs are good for the brain because they contain a nutrient called choline.

 

Recognized as an essential nutrient by Health Canada, choline has been shown to play a strong role in brain development and function. One egg provides half your daily requirement of choline.

Luckily for all of us that are low on time, especially students, Burnbrae Farms has prepackaged hard boiled eggs. They’re already cooked and peeled and come in a snack pack of two. Here are FIVE delicious and really simple snacks you can make with hard boiled eggs.

  • Ham and egg cracker snacks

During my first year weight gain I used to eat cheese and crackers like my life depended on it. This is a much healthier version of that snack.

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  • Bagged salad + hard boiled eggs

You know how much I love bagged salad. This is a great snack or even a meal and it will take you 30 seconds to prepare. My current favourite bagged salad is shredded brussels sprouts and kale.

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  • Sweet and salty snack platter

Chop up some melon to satisfy your sweet tooth and grab a bag of roasted almonds to add to your hard boiled egg snack platter. A much better option than chips and candy.

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These are so easy to make. Just scoop out the centre of your hard boiled eggs and add some flavour. Check out this post on the Burnbrae Farms website for nine different variations of stuffed eggs. My personal favourite is dill.

  • Carb Free Egg Salad Snack

Want to enjoy your egg salad without the guilt? Instead of making a sandwich, spread your favourite egg salad recipe on to a few stalks of celery. Want to make it even healthier? Cut the mayonnaise in half and replace it with avocado.

Want to try some other healthy and student friendly recipes:


For more great recipes and information, please follow Burnbrae Farms here:

Disclosure: I am participating in the Burnbrae Farms campaign managed by SJ Consulting. I received compensation in exchange for my participation in this campaign. The opinions on this website are my own.

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