Pet Swellness: 5 essentials for safe summertime fun with your dog

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If there’s anyone who’s happy about living under lockdown this summer, I think it’s the dogs of the world. After all, their humans are home way more often, and most of us have had more time to spend with our pups. I’ve taken my dog Billie Jean on way more runs and walks this summer than ever and made sure to have a good supply of essentials for her. My summertime toolkit for safe and fun playtime includes these must-haves, all available at Canadian family-owned discount chain Giant Tiger (so it was all well within my limited pandemic budget!):

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1. Portable water bottle

I think the person who made the initial design of this type of water bottle for dogs is a genius. Compact and so practical. Although we do pass a few public water fountains on our walks and runs, Billie Jean often doesn’t want to drink from them. Also, many of the fountains have not had water running through the pandemic, so I bring this water bottle for her regularly to make sure she’s always well hydrated. (By the way, this whole outfit–the sports bra, bike shorts and runners? All from Giant Tiger. Have you checked it out yet? Here are my tips on how to shop their ACX Active collection.).

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2. LED-collar 

We are often running and walking after dark, and hopefully we will get to go camping sometime this summer, too. So this LED-collar ensures she is well seen by cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. And it’s helpful for me to spot her too when I let her off-leash after dark. It’s been attracting a lot of attention too from everyone during our outings. Guess it makes her look a little like she’s gone to a rave, haha. This collar is adjustable, and it also comes with a separate LED-light tag if you want something more discreet. Best of all, no batteries required; this product recharges via USB.

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3. Bright, secure leash

A neon bright leash helps to make sure your dog is visible at day and night. Bonus: I’ve always been a fan of neon yellow. This style of leash has a handle with the poop bag dispenser integrated into it and it’s comfortable to hold. It’s not as comfortable to loop onto your wrist if you have to hold something in your hand, thoughI’d say that is its only downfall.

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4. Nutritious treats

I like to always have treats on me for her as a training tool and also in case she needs a snack; after all, if I’m bringing snacks for me during a hike, I figure she could use a snack too for a little fuel when we are out for a couple of hours. But just like humans, you have to make sure that your dog doesn’t snack too often and that you take those into account when considering how much she is consuming over the entire day.

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The range of dog treats at Giant Tiger is impressive; there are a lot of the well known brands you know and love, but there are also a slew of products from smaller companies. I look at the ingredient list to make sure the treats are not loaded with fillers; an all-natural favourite I discovered at Giant Tiger is from a local company, Caledon Farms (Billie Jean is obsessed with the Sweet Potato Chews, but devours their Beef Tendersticks as well). Plus, I also stocked up at Giant Tiger on Greenies Dental Treats for her dental care (my vet gave me a list of vet-approved products to manage Billie Jean’s plaque and this is one of them so I always keep a supply of them on hand), and to entertain her while at home, bully sticks are always a safe go-to option since she can be a decently strong chewer (plush toys last about one minute in our house!). 

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5. Outside toys

Billie Jean isn’t the greatest at fetch or catching things, but we’re working on it! It’s important to me that she leads a healthy, active lifestyle, so this lightweight frisbee is perfect for our park outings (even though she often retrieves it, drops it elsewhere and I’m the one fetching! But I guess that’s keeping us both active, right?). Having toys for your dog and making sure they’re getting the exercise they need can often help alleviate behavioural issues.

Here’s to making this the best summer yet for you and your pup! Summer isn’t cancelled!

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Leave a Comment August 11, 2020

Fitness Swellness: Shopping for budget-friendly summer fitness gear

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With the pandemic, I feel as though there are two camps: those who’ve let their fitness fall to the wayside, and those who’ve dived in and are more fit than ever. And to keep your fitness groove on that track, I truly believe getting some proper gear for your workouts will be a big motivating factor. Of course, you can keep using the old apparel you dug out but over time, those sport bras lose elasticity and those shorts have seen better days. Besides that, working out in fitness gear that you feel good in makes it that much more likely you’ll be eager to do another sweat session.

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But everything in the world seems uncertain right now, and many of us are trying to be smarter with how we’re spending (maybe you’ve been furloughed or you’re on CERB, for example). The good news is if you have a small budget, you can still score some great gear for your new active lifestyle. My four tips on how to shop for easy-on-the-wallet gear:

1. Check out retailers outside of the usual brands. Canadian-owned family discount store Giant Tiger, for example. They carry their signature brand of fitness gear, ACX Active, which comes in plus-sizes too and includes shoes, and I can tell you firsthand that the gear is soft and comfortable. I’ve been living in the bike shorts ($6!), and the shoes, while I wouldn’t run a marathon in them, I’ve walked many kilometres in them for the virtual race I’m completing this summer.

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2. Try everything on in the store (even pieces that don’t immediately grab you as your personal style). Firstly, you should try fitness gear on in the store before you buy so you can ensure it is comfortable and suits the activity you’re planning on wearing it for (so if it’s for running, try a little jog in the store, or do a sun salutation if it’s gear you want to wear for yoga). But secondly, you may be surprised by what pieces you like the most once you try the pieces on. Fitness gear often doesn’t show well on a hanger, but once you get it on, you’ll notice the perfect length of a pair of shorts, or the soft drape of the fabric of a t-shirt you weren’t sure about. I knew I loved this orange sport bra ($12!) as soon as I saw it and was even happier once I tried it on and saw how flattering it is.

3. Don’t be afraid to customize the pieces. On the hanger, the piece might not be totally you but don’t limit yourself to wearing the piece as is, and remember this as you’re in the change room trying things on. Think of how you can style the pieces to suit your personal style. Knot that tee or even crop it with a pair of scissors (I love the drape of the blue tank top, and am planning on cropping it).

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4. Add in other summer fitness essentials at Giant Tiger while you’re building your fitness wardrobe. Caps, sunglasses, and sunscreen for example. One of my all-time favourite SPF products is Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Lotion. It goes on and disappears into the skin (it does leave an extremely subtle, flattering luminescence) so I happily slather it on daily (and a derm once told me the best sunscreen for you, if you’re undecided on say SPF 30 versus SPF 45, is the one that you’ll use regularly). For especially hot and humid days (when you’re sweating more and/or plan to be in and out of the water often), another great option is Coppertone Sport SPF 30 Lotion, since it is water resistant.

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Feeling good and looking good as you exercise can be what pushes you to keep up these healthy new habits, and getting some great new options that won’t drain your bank account is worth it. Consider it a small investment into your self-care. 

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Leave a Comment August 4, 2020

Fitness Swellness: 1,000 Miles Back Across Tennessee race recap

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This Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee been one full of revelations for most of the 19,500+ participants worldwide. I see it in all of the posts to the Facebook group: so many of us wondered if we could ever finish this 1,1021.68k race in four months…and so many of us have surprised ourselves with what we have been (and/or continue to be) capable of.

Last night, I passed the 1,000 mile mark of my race back across Tennessee. Which means from July 1 to July 30th, I completed 561.9 kilometres, for a GVRAT total of 1,613.8k, bringing me just a couple of kilometres past the first milestone for the BAT portion of the race.

When I finished the Race Across Tennessee on June 28th (58 days into the race for me—here’s my race recap), I knew I’d continue with the BAT portion of the race; after all, I’d thought I’d have this race to focus on all summer, not just May and June. And although my initial plan was to just take it a lot easier and aim for August 31st to complete 1,000 miles…on July 2nd, I was already texting my friend Aylin (who’s also running the race) the math I’d done to see how many kilometres I’d have to do daily to complete the entire BAT (that is, an entire 1,021.68k again) by the deadline of August 31st. “Well, that escalate quickly,” I messaged her, when I caught myself already planning on doing the entire BAT.

Forced to focus on active recovery

After I finished the RAT, I took three days off of running, and walked. As I mentioned in my race recap, for the BAT, I planned to include walking miles in the race. This has always been allowed in the race, and encouraged by Laz, but I was stubborn and a stickler for making it a running race for myself, and so I only counted running miles for the first 1,021.68k.

And that kind of wrecked my legs. Not that I got injured, but my exhaustion was obvious whenever I walked with friends (slow pace, ginger steps and wincing as we hiked uphill or took any stairs). So I decided to include the purposeful walking miles that are permitted as per the race rules, but I planned to do short runs as well, and I resumed that three days after completing the RAT.

It was a good 16 days after I completed the RAT that I realized how intensely sore and tired I continued to be. I’ve run 14 marathons and never ever have my legs been that ache-y so long after a race, and so for the next eight days, I only walked. Which was a nice break from running EXCEPT WALKING TAKES SO LONG. My walking pace is generally leisurely, and it’s been incredibly humid and hot in Toronto, so I slow down even more then. I’m honestly not clear on how people have only been walking this race (Are you speed walkers by sport? If not, this is hours and hours out of your day!). If I’m walking and not distracted and intent on getting to my destination efficiently, I probably walk the average, which is about 5k/hour. In the heat and generally no time limit and tired legs, I’m probably  more at a 4k per hour pace walking. Which means I’ve spent hours daily walking in the month of July.

The eight days focused on active recovery were much needed, though, and my legs felt much better (although still tired) once I started running again on July 20th. And I wanted to get back to including some runs (to have fewer long walks to slog through) and because in typical obsessive fashion, it irked me that I was on track with my training schedule, but that it had me completing the 1,000 miles by August 4th.

My goal to complete the 1,000 miles in July

But August 4th? Wouldn’t a nice and neat time to complete 1,000 miles be to complete it for July 31st, I asked myself. And so on July 16th, I upped my daily mileage, and on days off (usually weekend days) I walked as much as I could so that I could bank some kilometres since some weekdays can be extremely hectic, with limited time to run or walk. It took awhile for the projected finish in the standings to reflect by July 31st goal (at which point I found myself disappointed with it, the computer should know me and my obsessiveness better than this after more than two months!). And thanks to loads of walking, I finished one day earlier than my goal! Huzzah!

This BAT portion of the race has had me walking quite late at night and for most of the walks, I did a few usual loops within a four kilometre radius from home, and these walks (compared to walks with a specific destination in mind) were draining mentally on many days. I was grateful to not have to run on the most sticky humid days, but at the same time I’ve found the walking around downtown usually pretty dull. I did receive a new iPhone though, and on some walks have started listening to podcasts again (which helps pass the time, but I typically don’t listen to anything when I walk at night for safety concerns).

I’ve been keeping track of how much walking vs running I’ve done to get to this point of the race, along with how much mileage Billie Jean has done; I ended up doing much more walking than running, but I’m fine with that. My legs were completely spent from GVRAT, and I feel quite fortunate I didn’t injure myself. The general rule of thumb for ramping up your distance safely is to not increase your weekly distance by more than 10 percent. Had I followed that guideline, based on my last week of running in April, I’d have logged 240 kilometres in May (instead I logged 450k) and 325 in June (except I logged about 600k, to complete the RAT race and then a few additional distance since I started the BAT right after) so I ramped up extremely quickly and took no rest days, which I know is everything you shouldn’t do.

Another nice thing about including walking for the BAT means that it’s opened up more options, including walking with friends (most of my friends aren’t runners) and it’s been good for Billie Jean since I can’t run much with her in the harsh summer conditions as I want her to be safe from the hot concrete and heat stroke, but it’s less exertion for us to be walking (plus we take water breaks and always stop for her to cool off in Lake Ontario).

So how did my 1,000 miles play out over most of the month of June?

From June 1-June 30, during which I reached and surpassing the 1,000 mile mark:

  • I walked 465 kilometres.
  • I ran 118 kilometres.
  • Billie Jean, my little superstar pup, she completed 411 of those kilometres with me.
  • It took me 91 days (gun time) to complete 1,000 miles (90 chip time since I started the race on its second day, May 2).
  • I’m in position 886 in the race. 886!!! I can’t believe it.

With all of August plus today (the last day of July) in the GVRAT race window of four months, I have 430 kilometres left to make it back to the starting line where I kicked things off on May 2. I currently stand in position 886 (and if the gender ranking is correct—there was a long explanation from Laz about the constantly changing rankings, including why you can appear to pass people who ran RAT faster than you, and this is due to the fact that not everyone has chosen to continue BAT, if I understood his post…)—I’ve moved up to 406th woman).

I’m beyond thrilled to be in the top 900 in this race so far, and my position is fueling my obsession with doing more miles daily, and I have already calculated how many kilometres I must complete daily to finish by August 31st…but let’s be real, I’m going to up that distance so I can finish earlier! I’m also registered to do the Lululemon Seawheeze Virtual Half-Marathon mid-August so that will be part of my total mileage for this race.

Hope your summer of virtual racing is going swimmingly! I’d love to hear how your running season is going!

 

Leave a Comment July 31, 2020

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