Fitness Swellness: Marathon-training mental meltdown

Actually I can

With six days to go until I run my eight marathon, the Goodlife Toronto Marathon, I’m overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, and I have been for weeks.

It’s more than just pre-race jitters. And it’s more than this having been a brutal winter to train in (although that certainly didn’t help out matters). I think running marathons for three-and-a-half years (two marathons a year, and one year during which I ran three, along with a few 30k races and some halfs and 10ks) combined with my type A personality is swallowing me up whole with stress. Type A personalities tend to be very competitive and self critical, and they get wound up easily. I’m surprised my picture is not next to the definition I just googled. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do better, run faster, and get that PB, but lately, and ironically, the very sport that I’ve been using for stress relief is now perhaps causing me more stress than it is alleviating it.

Don’t get  me wrong. I think some stress when it comes to training is good. It helps keep you disciplined when it comes to your training. But I’ve had a few moments running when I get so overwhelmed with it all that I lose my breath and have to stop running until I stop coughing and can get a handle on my breathing. I had a conversation with a friend who pointed out with concern that when talking about the race, I’m rocking back and forth out of anxiety. And I ruminate on marathon running constantly…”What pace do I have to maintain? How much faster should I adjust for the breaks I’ll need to take to sip water and for fuel? What will I race in the fall if I don’t qualify? If I do qualify, should I still run that race? What’s the weather on race day since the last time I checked? If I don’t qualify this spring or fall, should I try to add another marathon in the fall?” And so on and so on and so on.

I’m  not sure what’s different now that’s allowed this stress to reach this tipping point. Maybe it’s not taking much of a break from marathon-ing. Maybe it’s that I’ve set my sights on qualifying for Boston since I came so close in the fall in Chicago (although I have to constantly remind myself that just because I came within less than two minutes of qualifying doesn’t mean I “just have to take off two minutes.” I have to actually be able to run that entire race faster, it’s not just a matter of two minutes.)

Add to this that I’ve read how being psychological stress will cause your muscles to recover more slowly…which, you guessed it, only made me stress more.

My anxiety hasn’t lead to overtraining. But it has me contemplating what I need to change in my training, and in life. For now, with the Toronto Marathon in less than a week, I thought I’d remind myself of the things I do like about running to try to get into a better mindset for the race:

I’m fitter than ever. Running three (sometimes four) times a week, combined with weekly NTC classes with Nike, means I’m in the best shape of my life.

The friends I’ve made. Through the Running Room and through Nike, I’ve made some incredible friends. Shawna, who I’ve trained with for the past couple of years, well, we’ve laughed and cried through so many runs. I consider her one of my closest friends now (you get to sharing a lot when you’re running for three hours together!), and training is bearable on the days I’m not feeling it because we are training together.

That sense of accomplishment. It’s pretty satisfying to think back to when I could barely run a few minutes for an interval back in 2007 and then last fall running the  Chicago Marathon straight through. Crossing the finish line of any race is more fulfilling than…well, it might be one of the most fulfilling personal achievements I can think of right now, actually. And even more so when it’s a personal best.

The chance to explore. I’ve gotten to discover parts of the city I might have never come across if I weren’t a runner. And not just in Toronto, but when I travel and run in other cities, too. Running in the heat of Bonaire and finding that funny little tree of flip flop sandals, spotting some sea lions in San Francisco as I ran along the waterfront, stumbling into the market full of delicious food running along the Thames in England.

Those are just a handful of reasons. And I have a confession: even in the  midst of all of this anxiety eating me up whole, I registered this weekend to run the Sporting Life 10k race on May 10th…

Maybe it’s a running intervention I need! (gulp)

I’ll return to figuring out my future plans after the marathon. In the meantime, my focus is on this Sunday. “I’m not going to PB,” I told Shawna. “But you can’t go into the race thinking that. You just have to try your best,” she said. And she’s right. After all, as per Coach Taylor (Friday Night Lights forevah!): “I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is: It’s in the trying.”






Leave a Comment April 27, 2015

Fitness Swellness: How to make running a habit


I’m so excited this year to be partnering with the Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women, a fun race that takes place in a few cities across the country. The theme of the race is such an important one: “It’s up to us!” It’s all about how it is up to all of us to encourage, support and communicate with each other to make sure we are taken care of. The run’s goal is to support women’s mental health programs in the race cities. Women are three times more likely to suffer from depression than men.

I personally feel strongly about the cause, and love that it’s a running event. Research has shown that running can be as effective as medication at helping to deal with anxiety and depression; in fact, I wrote a feature for Flare magazine a few years ago about that topic, about how training for a half-marathon helped pull me out of a rough time in my life.

With the Run for Women dates fast approaching, and you’re keen to participate (I hear it’s a super fun race, you can walk if you prefer, and there’s a choice of 5k or 10k, plus there’s a total fun sisterhood vibe, too!), you might be wanting to get a bit of regular training in before the run. (And even if you can’t take part in the Run for Women, developing a running habit is good for your heart health and, as mentioned, stress relief and mental wellbeing!) Well, here are a few ways I make sure to run at least three times a week:

Find a running buddy or join a run group. I mostly train with my friend Shawna now, but for many years, I would join the Running Room for their group runs. You can also check social media for running crews in your neighbourhood. Although there is something to be said for running alone (you can decompress and zone out, for example), I think when you’re starting out running, and trying to make it a regular habit, ensuring you’re meeting up with someone will help keep you accountable.

Reward yourself. Make sure to treat yourself throughout your training and when you complete a race. After a month of training, get that cute running top you’ve been coveting. After completing your race, book a treatment at your favourite spa.

Develop cues to get you to run. For example, I work from home, so I’ll put on my running gear in the morning if I plan to run later that day. There’ve been times I’ve been tempted to skip a workout, but I’ve just felt too guilty to change out of the running gear without having run. For you, you might find that having an alert in your calendar (or on your running watch) remind you that it’s time to go for a run will work, or that changing into your gear as soon as you get home and heading straight back out to run is the best way to ensure you don’t get pulled away into doing something else instead of fitting in your workout.

Register for a race. I’m fairly disciplined with my training now, but I know I’d slack off if I didn’t have a race I’d paid registration for in my calendar. Not training and going to do a race could cause you to injure yourself, not to mention make the run pretty brutal to endure. Train regularly and you won’t be completely out of breath and in pain as you work your way through the course! Need a race? May I suggest the Run for Women?

I’ll be participating in the Run for Women in Oakville on May 31st. That’s just six weeks away! There are 12 races around the country that you can take part in, some are this month. I hope you’ll consider taking part in one of the races — even better, gather your daughters, sisters, friends and make a gal pal day out of it (that’s what I’m doing!). Oh, there’s also a 1K race for girls under 12 if you’ve got some young runners amongst your group! What could be a more positive and impactful way to spend a beautiful morning than with women important to you in the name of women’s mental health?

Hope to see you at the finish line in Oakville or to hear about your day at other Run for Women races on social media (I’m @healthandswellness on Instagram and @healthswellness on Twitter, and I’ll be sharing updates on my training and from the race day!)!

Any questions? Ask away (running or Run for Women-related) and I’ll do my best to answer them)!

Leave a Comment April 20, 2015

Fitness Swellness: Join in and Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer on June 7th! (+ a GIVEAWAY!)


Here with Brent Bishop ready for Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer

Who’s up for a super fun boot camp event all in the name of a great cause??

This year, I’ve partnered with the Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer boot camp and will be pulling together a small team for the event. The event’s aimed at raising awareness and funds for kidney cancer patients and their families. This year it takes place on June 7th at Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto. And I’m hoping you’ll join in, too! Exciting, right? Even more fun, I’ve been provided with a fun prize to give away! More on that later in this post so keep on reading!

Did you know there are no screening tests, no early detection and no cure for kidney cancer? I have to admit, that I wasn’t aware. It only stresses the point that prevention and awareness is so important. There are more than 24,000 Canadians today living with a kidney cancer diagnosis, and more than 1,700 die from the disease each year.

Money raised from Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer will go towards education and support — and yes, that means I’ll be asking for your support! You can donate, or why not register and join in the boot camp yourself (you can join my team if you’d like!)?! I’ve never taken part but I hear it’s a ton of fun — yes, somehow a four-hour boot camp can be called fun! I met up with Brent Bishop, owner of Think Fitness, who’s taken part in the boot camp every year, and he’ll be co-MC-ing it again this year along with International Artist and Canada’s Queen of R&B/soul, Jully Black (who is hilarious! Love her!). Anyhow, I got the lowdown from Brent on the event (and we had some fun at his studio — I was basically showing him here what would happen if he made the boot camp too tough for me, haha).

Here with Brent Bishop of Think Fitness


What can people expect from the boot camp? It’s an extremely motivating and fun fitness experience. I think what’s great about the bootcamp is it’s not just a running event, just a biking event, you’re getting three different trainers who have three different backgrounds so three different modalities. Michael Decorte [of Jock Yoga] is yoga-based, Dara Bergeron [of Belly Bootcamp] does a lot of hip strengthening and I do a lot of performance-based training. So there’s a well-rounded approach to fitness. And people got a lot out of it in terms of great exercise and they realized they don’t need to have two hours to work out, that you can fit in a workout in 20 minutes; they found something they gravitated towards.

How can people prep for the boot camp? It’s not a challenge in a sense, preparation is just all-around fitness. People can work on power walking and running to get their cardiovascular system up—because you are going for awhile—and then your basic strength moves. Your basic squat, lunge, push-up, run, walk, whatever you can do based on your joints, and you should be fine.

What can we expect from you and Jully Black co-hosting the boot camp? Jully! She’s very high energy. She co-hosted last year and she introduced the program and talked about what it means to her, and she got involved in a lot of the exercises. It’s fun. Anyone who’s seen her perform…man, she’s intense and she’s moving all the time. She’s a great inspiration, people will love that.

Research shows that people who play sports or exercise five or more times a week have a 23 per cent lower risk of developing kidney cancer than those who are not active.   What advice do you have for people who find it hard to fit in five workouts a week? Being realistic. Everyone can make time. It goes back to you not needing an hour. If you only have 20 minutes, start with 20 minutes and make a commitment to do that, and maybe don’t start with five days a week, start with two days a week. And once you start and start to feel better, then maybe the next week, you add a day.

In addition to that, I think it’s really important to start with something you’re interested in. So everyone has something they enjoy doing and the things they don’t enjoy doing. I suggest people take five minutes and write down activities you enjoy doing or always wanted to do and go from there. Maybe it’s power walking in the neighbourhood. As long as it’s something you have interest in, you’ll do it. And then that opens up other things, once you start with something you’re comfortable with, you start aligning yourself with other things; next thing, you’re signing up to try a Spin class, for example. Also, schedule in your workout like it’s an appointment, and you can build up to five days a week.

Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer boot camp sounds fun, right? This year, the goal is to raise $100,000 or more! Alright, so, who’s in? Will I see you there??? Want to join my team? You can donate or join my team right HERE!

Kick It Up prize


To help you get ramped up and prepared for Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer, I’ve got a sweet prize (valued at more than $200) to give away. The prize includes:

  • a Herschel backpack
  • a resistance band to help train for Kick It Up
  • a Kick it Up for Kidney Cancer branded sweat towel
  • free registration to Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer
  • a voucher for two weeks of complimentary classes of Brent’s studio, Think Fitness

So get set for the boot camp by entering to win! You can enter in four different ways:

  1. Email me at with your name and address (please put “Kick It Up” in the subject line).
  2. Twitter. Follow me on  Twitter (@healthswellness) and tweet:

I want to Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer and win this prize from @healthswellness!

  1. Instagram: Follow me on Instagram (@healthandswellness) and like the photo of me and Brent Bishop on Instagram.
  2. Facebook: Like the Health and Swellness page on Facebook ( and comment on the photo of me and Brent Bishop about what type of exercise or move you hope we do at Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer! Is it burpees? Push-ups? Jumping jacks?

The giveaway is open to Canadian residents (however, to take advantage of the registration to the Kick It Up for Kidney Cancer boot camp that is part of the prize, you’ll have to be in Toronto, of course!) and the winner will be chosen at random and notified by the method they entered. You can enter up until 11:59 p.m. EST, Friday, April 24, 2015. Good luck!

Leave a Comment April 17, 2015

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