A few weeks ago, I read an article in Runner’s World about planking twice a day at work. The author, Leah Wynalek, made the effort to do just that for 90 seconds each time. Within a month, she said, she noticed the benefits.
I was hooked. Finding 90 seconds in my work day is totally doable. What I wasn’t sure about was whether I could actually hold a plank for more than a minute. I could last year, but I’ve been slacking off in the core department all fall. I felt I could probably hold a plank for 60 seconds; 90 seconds would be a challenge, and that is exactly what I needed: a challenge.
To hold myself more accountable, I enlisted the help of some FB friends. “Who wants to join me?” I asked. Surprisingly, I have many who did, and many of those friends work at my school. Two of them are Amanda, who works two doors down the hall, and Christina who teaches in the classroom next to mine.
We’re all at different levels in our planking, but we are all committed to the challenge. Christina planked for the first time ever last Monday morning and, while she isn’t holding one for 90 seconds, each plank is a little longer than the one before. Amanda is focussed on her health in general so the Plank90x2 Challenge is just one more way for her to improve her overall fitness. Me, I’m hoping to keep up with this until June when school lets out for the summer, and I have challenged myself to do a 5 minute plank by then. So every day, we try to connect for a few minutes so that we can plank together or time each other. And if we end up being alone, we seek and find someone else who can watch and time us so that we can say “I did it” and not feel guilty for missing out at the end of the day.
Throughout the week, I have had other friends post their plank pictures on IG, message me that they are happily planking and send me plank-related articles and posters. If you want to join the fun, use #plank90x2 so that we can find you.
Surprisingly, I am already feeling a difference. My abs feel tight – or maybe they’re just sore – from the planking I did last week. Whatever it is, though, it’s good and it has me dropping back down into a plank for more.
One of the things I love about living in Canada is being able to truly experience all four seasons – until we get into the coldest days of the winter. Then, life as a runner isn’t all that great. Some days it means sliding, not running, along sloppy snow/slush-covered roads; others entail running straight into a biting wind that hurts your face; and, then, there are the days that it is so cold that you don’t just see your breath, but your lungs can also feel the thickness of the air while you run. Fortunately, we haven’t had too many of these days but, when we do, everyone complains.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to layer for the different types of winter weather that we can get; what we can’t double or triple, though, are our socks. It is so important to wear the perfect pair. Like summer socks, I want something that is comfortable, blister-free and, if possible, a more anatomical fit. In the winter, I want all of the above and warmth. This season, I finally found the perfect sock.
During the break, I went to the Running Room to replace what has been my go-to winter sock: double-layered and blister-free. I pulled them off the rack, only to put them back. They didn’t feel right. The quality wasn’t there any more. Clearly, it was time to make a change.
I scanned the walls and noticed Feetures brand, a product that I have seen quite a bit in sporting goods stores. I hadn’t heard anything about their socks, but I was pulled towards the packaging. “No blisters” and “merino” on the winter running socks had my immediate attention; “lifetime guarantee” kept it. These weren’t cheap, though. In fact, they were about $10 over my budget. But these socks wooed me. They were a soft wool, had a L/R foot anatomical fit, and made promises that most long distance runners would succumb to. These seemed to be the right socks. Lured by their cushioning, warmth and promise to keep me blister-free, I bought them. All I needed was another cold snap so that I could try them out.
Within days, Mother Nature dropped the temperatures for us. Since purchasing my Feetures, I have worn them three times and they have not disappointed my feet. The fit is great and my toes have not felt cold at all, which is unusual for me. Yesterday, I ran in them for 21K in a windchill that gave us -20C temperatures and the Feetures winter running socks did everything they claimed they would and more; they made me want another pair.
***These opinions are solely my own. This blog post is not endorsed or sponsored by Feetures.
Last Monday, Dave and I went to Hamilton so that I could race the Boxing Day Ten Miler. While time and place are important to me, I was using the race mostly to see where I am at in terms of my own fitness. Since the beginning of December, my running has consisted of, well, just running. There has been no speed work, no tempos, and no hill practices. My busy month of work and family activities and the icy streets have resulted in a slight drop in my weekly mileage so I had just one goal: to run as fast as I can and feel good. I was really hoping that I could race in under 75 minutes.
Based on how my running had been going this fall, I felt that I could run that. I was up for the challenge of racing the day after Christmas, on a course with gentle rolling hills and a noon start. “If nothing else,” I told myself, “I’ll get in a good run and spend some time with Monica.”
Monica is one of my training partners. We run together when we can, which usually only means once a week. If I’m lucky, it ends up on a day when I am running long; when I am unlucky, it’s a day when she is doing intervals. Monica was also going into the Ten Miler with a “casual” attitude; it was just a post-Christmas tempo run. Unlike me, though, Monica has been doing all of the right things in her training and she was bound to have a strong race.
On the drive out to Hamilton, it poured. Over Christmas weekend, temperatures rose to slightly above zero, so the precipitation was rain – heavy rain. Most of it had passed by the time the race started but we still had some drizzle and a cold rain that leaves a chilled to the bone feeling. I actually didn’t mind it because the rain kept the temperatures a little more comfortable for racing.
There were, however, a few things that I didn’t like about the race. There were several problems with the start, for example, as most of us had no idea of the direction we were to start in; that’s an important detail in any race. Secondly, all runners in the 4 mile run and 10 miler began at the same time, which is so unusual in today’s road racing scene. I know that I am not alone in wishing that there were two starts, one for each group; even a 5 minute delay would have helped alleviate some of the congestion. There was also a bit of chaos in how the actual start was managed. The race director announced “Two Minutes!” Runners put on their race faces, and the race director said, “Go!” without any extra warning, no horn, nothing – just “Go.” People scrambled forward, surprised by the casual approach.
Hamilton is nicknamed “Steeltown” after the steel-making industry and, on Monday, the skies were as grey as its name. We can’t control the weather but the course would have been a lot nicer on a sunny day. Even when we ran along Bayfront, which is normally a scenic area, we had nothing but concrete, barren trees, grey water and grey skies. The first 5K were downhill or flat. I went out too fast for the first two kilometres, which is easy to do on a downhill start, and spent the next three dialing my pace back under control. By the time I hit the 8K mark (around 36:50), I felt that I had my pace exactly where I wanted it to be. Of course, every downhill is followed by a climb and we had a long one between 8K and 9/10K (it’s a bit of a blur right now). Then we ran up and down the hilly roads/paths until we had a last gradual (and long) climb to the finish. I ran 1:14:20 – mission accomplished. We headed inside, changed into warm clothes and had some hot tomato soup. Yum!
And I felt great. Monica ran a speedy 64 minutes and complained about being sore the next day. Not me! My legs felt fresh and ready to go. Obviously, I could have pushed myself more.
Both of us finished second in our age groups and that leaves me with my final criticism of the race: the awards. First, the finisher’s medal had a “95th year” ribbon on it, but this was the 96th year. I, as did several other runners, felt that we were given leftovers from 2015. Similarly, we were given a bronze coloured buckle for our second place finish. I questioned it – twice because it seemed so odd that ours was bronze but the 3rd place was more silver – but they insisted that we had the correct awards. I still feel like there was an error, or we were given leftovers from previous races when runners did earn belt buckles for running within a certain time. It’s not a big deal, but it irks my sometimes-ocd personality.
I know exactly where I lost to the first place winner, who finished less than a minute ahead of me. At the second last aid station, I stopped to make sure that I was getting Gatorade into me as I felt my sugar levels were dropping a bit; that’s where she passed me there. But rather than push myself to chase her, I simply started running again. Had I known that she was in my age group, I definitely would have given myself a good kick in the butt. Just before we climbed the last hill, I saw that the gap between us had narrowed, but I still didn’t feel the need to chase her down. After the awards, I wish that I had. Next time.
I got what I wanted out of the Boxing Day Ten Miler: a decent race, a baseline to build on in 2017, time with a friend. What I didn’t quite expect, though, was a boost in my confidence again – the realization that I am stronger than I think. Bring on 2017!
I’m not usually one for setting resolutions when the year changes, but I do set goals. Then I revisit them, revise them, and chase new dreams. In 2016, my goal was to become physically stronger as a runner. While my race times weren’t stellar, they were good enough to earn age group awards and earn a spot to compete in the Canadian 5K Championship race. It was a year of running based on raw talent – running without tempos, speedwork, or hill training.
In the past few weeks, while laying out my training plan for Boston, I’ve realized two things. First, I am a fairly decent runner, but I’m nearing the end of my age group (50-54) so I have to do something different if I want to stay competitive. Secondly, I am stronger than I think. In my past two races, I really just wanted to see how I would run, hoping to finish the Road2Hope Half-Marathon (November) in under 1:40 and the Boxing Day Ten Miler (December) in less than 75 minutes. I ran 1:37 and 74 minutes, respectively, and I felt good. Obviously, my base is solid; it is time to change my training.
So my 2017 goal is to bump up my training and cross-training in terms of distance, intensity and frequency. This month, my plan is to add speedwork and/hills into my running but I am absolutely terrified of doing either in the dark, especially when it’s icy. And let’s be frank; I don’t like either of them anyway. I’d rather just run. But like so many other things that are good for me, speedwork and hills must be run if I am going to be in shape for Boston. By running right after work, on the streets that surround my school, I should be able to get in a decent workout before daylight is lost.
During my marathon prep, I am also going to increase my cycling (windtrainer miles) so that I can strengthen my quads and be ready for the Boston hills. My core is another area for me to focus on, which can easily be strengthened with consistency at the yoga studio and indoor climbing gym.
These goals are not part of a new year; they simply coincide with it as part of my plan for Boston. They are in place to help me become better than I am and the runner that I aspire to be.
I am a 50+ mother of two boys, a wife, a dog owner, and teacher. In between my family and occupational roles, I train competitively as a Masters Distance Runner in the Ontario racing scene. Cyn’s Space is my story – the good, the bad and anything else that comes to mind.