Why I Run

To be clear, this is not a “Why You/Everybody Should Run” post or a listicle of the benefits of running . I’ll let you Google that or figure out whether or not you enjoy running on your own. I’ve been wanting to write a post like this for awhile, and since week #25 coincided with the beginning of my marathon training, I figured it was good timing!

I’m by no means an expert on the topic; I just like to run and I’ve found that certain things work well for me and other things don’t. If you want tips, I suggest checking out Running Room, Canadian Running Magazine, Runner’s World, etc.

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Current shoes – Brooks Glycerin 14, aren’t they pretty??

OK, so why did I start running? I’d always been involved in sports, but never understood why you would run without the incorporation of a ball or stick of some sort – what’s the point and what are you trying to prove?? I haaaated conditioning, didn’t like running laps, and just wanted to play (and win). That probably partly explains why I was never (ever) the fastest or strongest.

As an adult, I tried to get into a running routine a few times, but it never stuck. I attribute this to good old fashioned laziness and because it was friggin’ hard! One lap around the block and I was pooped. I liked to be good at things and running was definitely not one of those things. I also cared way too much about what other people thought and didn’t particularly enjoy displaying my out-of-shape-ness to the world.

You might be thinking that things didn’t look too promising for me…what changed? I’ve been running consistently for almost 2 years now, which lines up with around the time my Aunt Jen passed away from breast cancer. For those who didn’t know her, Jen was one of the most amazing people ever. She had a wicked sense of humour, loved being active and outdoors, was an awesome musician, and just generally made the most out of life. It was awful watching someone who was so young, healthy and full of life have all that taken away.

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Aunt Jen ❤

I signed up for the CIBC Run for the Cure in October 2015. I had been taking my health for granted and, while I wasn’t super unhealthy, there were things that could definitely be improved. There was no reason why I couldn’t exercise more, eat better, and generally take better care of my body while I was still young and capable.

Things started off slowly. I had next-to-zero endurance and was carrying extra weight, which didn’t help things. My knees weren’t in spectacular shape. I was huffing and puffing a few hundred meters in. Whew, how far have I gone?? Must be a couple kilometers by now…oh, I still see the house 😦 that’s unfortunate.

I slowly worked my way up to the 5K run with the help of a FitBit (I now use a Garmin), a training plan geared toward beginners, and tried to clean up my diet a bit. I think I ran that first 5K in 28ish minutes or something? I wasn’t too concerned with the time… I just wanted to finish and raise money (over $500 woohoo!) while I was at it.

And then I just kept running and running some more.

So, that’s my little journey so far. There are many reasons why I continue to run, but here are my top 5:

1. Happier, Healthier, Stronger

This is my #1 reason. I mean, there are scientific explanations for why exercise in general boosts your mood and energy (endorphins and all that), but if you like what you’re doing then you’ll get so much more out of it. So if you hate running, don’t force yourself to do it. Love kickboxing or yoga? Awesome, do that! I enjoy being outside and pushing myself to tackle new routes, speeds, distances, hills (well…”enjoy” might not be the right word for that one) and seeing improvements in my strength and endurance. Running also encourages me to do more cross-training to prevent injury (both while running and during recreational sports or other athletic endeavors like cartwheels) and improve my flexibility and strength.

2. Increased Gratitude

I have lost quite a bit of weight (not necessarily my goal but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t welcomed), but I also have a better appreciation of what my body is able to accomplish and I’m much more motivated to take care of it. So far it’s allowed me to walk across Spain, climb some mountains, and it continues to support me in running further and faster. I’ve also seen what years of not taking care of yourself looks like and, since we as a population insist on living longer and longer, would prefer to spend my golden years tearing up the pickleball court vs. being in the hospital. I also never want a doctor to write “appears MUCH older than stated age” on my chart. Goals.

You only get one body – unless we get reincarnated. In that case, I’d like to be a dolphin next time. A majestic free-roaming one, NOT a tourist dolphin. Whoever takes care of the reincarnation, make note of that please. Where was I…oh yeah, you (probably) only get one body, so take care of it while you can.

3. Adventures!

I love incorporating running into my travels. It’s a fantastic way to see new places, gives you a different perspective, and you can access routes and viewpoints that you can’t always get to by car. I’ve also seen a lot more of my own city and love discovering trails or streets I never knew existed. It gets me outside, is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some vitamin D, and has made me (sometimes begrudgingly) more of a morning person. Plus, running seems to be a more acceptable way to gawk at nice houses vs. slowly driving by them haha.

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Ocean sunset views
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Beachy lake views
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River views

4. Food Food Food

I won’t lie, sometimes thinking about what I’m going to eat when I get home (answer = waffles) is the only thing that gets me through the end of a long run or tough workout. More calories burned = more calories consumed = two breakfasts. It’s science. I love food and trying new recipes (btw you have to try these pretzel energy bites SO GOOD). I also have a better understanding of nutrition and what (and how much) I need to eat.

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Run all the miles, eat all the waffles.
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A breakfast staple: oatmeal topped with delicious-ness
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Yum yum yum peanut butter pretzel bites…I like peanut butter…like, a lot

5. Challenge

Signing up for races and having a training schedule are very important motivators for me; it helps keep me accountable, gives me a goal, and it’s something to look forward to. Since that first 5K, I’ve run a few longer distance races and all of those distances (yes, including the 5K) seemed impossible at first. You have to start somewhere though, even if it’s just a 10 minute jaunt down the street. And the medals, shirts, and race bibs are nice souvenirs 🙂

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Light at the end of the tunnel at my first half-marathon in Arizona.
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A bit excited to finish the Waterloo Half…just grateful that I didn’t blow away on the windiest day in recent memory.

What’s next? I’m training for my first full marathon, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October. 42.2 km seems very far…one could even say double the distance of a half-marathon :p And I’m super excited that Eric, my sister, and my mom are going to be running the 5K at this event! I guess I’ll have to wait a few years for my niece to join though…I’ll settle for having her as part of the cheering squad for now.

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Stretching with my future running buddy!

Thanks for reading, happy running 🙂

 

Veggie of the Week – Sweet Potato

Since Week #24 was pretty uneventful in terms of “wanderings”, I decided to write about my favourite root vegetable: the humble sweet potato. They are so delicious, nutritious, and versatile: spiralize them, roast them, throw them in a curry or soup, make them into a waffle, sneak them into baked goods to trick your husband. Eric is always a bit skeptical of what I have added (or not added) to recipes. Mwahahaha.

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Sweet potato-y goodness

And they’re so good for you! These bad boys are loaded with B vitamins, rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C, and full of fiber. They’re one of the best sources of vitamin A too: one medium sweet potato contains more than 100% of your recommended daily intake. Keep the skin on to get allllll the healthiness.

I wanted to spread the sweet potato love by sharing a few of my favourite recipes, so here they are…enjoy! Click the titles for recipe links.

Sweet Potato Curry

There’s a ton of variations of this and it makes a quick and easy weekday dinner. I linked to a basic recipe from Pinch of Yum , which is one of my go-to sites.

I like to add protein (usually tofu or chickpeas) and lots of veggies like broccoli and bell peppers. You can also mix things up by switching out the rice for cauliflower “rice” (throw some cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until it resembles rice), quinoa, rice noodles, etc.

Wild Blueberry Sweet Potato Bread

Just in time for blueberry season!! I’ve made this a few times and it always turns out well and is perfect for (first or second) breakfast, snacks, and dessert. I like to top it off with almond or peanut butter. Mmmm.

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Sweet potato + blueberries = perfection
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Sorry I lied…sweet potato + blueberries + peanut butter = perfection

Sweet Potato and Orange Muffins

Sweet potato puree is a great addition to muffins! These made a delicious breakfast or snack and they kept well in the freezer. And, as always, topping them with peanut butter is advised. Or if you’re feeling fancy, you can also add some toasted coconut or coconut chips. Ooh, and/or this healthy-ish faux Nutella (so good) – or normal Nutella (also so good).

Waffles

Dear waffles, I love you. We usually make these simple whole wheat ones but have tried a sweet potato recipe. I can’t remember if it’s exactly the one I linked to but I know it involved sweet potato and oats (sidenote: oat flour is really easy to make, just grind rolled oats in a food processor) so I’m sure it’s similar.

We have this vertical waffle maker and, because this batter was thick, it didn’t work so well to “pour” in the top (i.e. it was a mess). We ended up turning the waffle maker on its side and propping it up on a bowl, which worked well.

Ideas for topping combos: avocado, egg, and sriracha; peanut butter (surprise!), banana, and toasted coconut; berries, nuts, and Greek yogurt. Or maple syrup (the real stuff!)…can’t go wrong with maple syrup.

Breakfast Bowl

Super easy and filling breakfast idea from Running on Real Food. Just roast or mash/puree a sweet potato and top it with delicious things like (you guessed it) peanut butter, granola, yogurt, berries, bananas, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, coconut, maple syrup, honey, spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice….anything your sweet potato-loving heart desires! You don’t need to have it for breakfast, but it’s a great way to start the day.

Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili with Cinnamon Sour Cream

This one from Michael Smith is my favourite vegetarian chili recipe. Other stuff to add to veggie chili to “beef” it up a bit: lentils, chickpeas, tofu, or veggie burger pieces. Or, you know, actual beef.

Buddha Bowl

I’ve linked to Minimalist Baker’s (another one of my go-to sites) version of a sweet potato chickpea Buddha bowl, but you can really throw anything you want into your bowl. I like to have a bunch of different textures like wilted greens, crunchy carrots, crispy chickpeas, and a creamy sauce. And obviously sweet potatoes – lots of sweet potatoes.

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Up close and personal with this bowl of deliciousness

Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes

This can be a great appetizer, side, or main dish. Take the basic recipe and add whatever fixings you want! The sauce for this one is easy and can be used for other stuff (like Buddha bowls or stir-fries) too.

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A beautifully roasted sweet potato

And here are a few sweet potato “noodle” recipes (both courtesy of Pinch of Yum) because I love spiralizing stuff:

Creamy Spinach Sweet Potato Noodles with Cashew Sauce

This was the recipe that got me hooked on spiralized sweet potatoes. I also discovered through this recipe that cashew sauce is easy to make (as long as you remember to soak your cashews ahead of time…and a blender probably gives a smoother consistency, I used a food processor in the pic below) and super delicious.

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Our cheap spiralizer from HomeSense has held up pretty well
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Noodles! Make sure you chop up the “core” and end pieces that are left after spiralizing the potatoes and add them to the pan or save them for another recipe

 

 

Chipotle Sweet Potato Noodle Salad with Roasted Corn

This is a great one for summer! And you can make extra dressing for future salad adventures. Tip: Most recipes don’t call for very many chipotles in adobo sauce. Freeze them in a Ziploc and then just cut off a chunk whenever you need it. I think our one jar has lasted approximately forever this way.

One last thing! Roasting up a bunch of sweet potatoes is a great meal prep idea so here are some ideas for leftover cooked sweet potatoes:

  • Breakfast sweet potato hash
  • Soup – a classic
  • Veggie burger 
  • Southwest style burrito with avocado, roasted corn, salsa, black beans, etc.
  • Mash, spread on toast, sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Summery sweet potato salad

Hope you give some of these a try 🙂 If you have any favourite sweet potato recipes, I’d love to hear about them!

 

 

Week #23: A Little Pre-Amble + Ottawa

After a refreshing month and a half-ish long social media hiatus, I’ve returned to the dark side. I highly recommend (temporarily…unless you’re really committed to the cause) deactivating your account(s) every once and awhile if you, like me, tend to waste too much time on them. I love getting ideas for stuff like workouts and recipes but there’s a fine line between inspiration and comparing yourself to other people’s (sometimes highly curated) lives.

I’m also going to ease up my self-imposed requirements of doing something “new” each week. I’ll still try to post weekly, but it might be a bit of a different format (exciting).

That’s my little spiel, now onto a belated Week #23:

Eric and I headed to Ottawa this week for the AIC conference. The drive from Sudbury is a pain in the butt (too many trucks + not enough lanes + traffic lights on a highway whyyy) but it was worth it since Ottawa is a great city. I spent one summer living there in university and it was super fun…might have also had to do with the fact that I was 19.

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I prefer my Muskoka chairs un-chained but still a nice view

As part of the conference, there was a cocktail reception at the Canadian War Museum, which is one of the coolest venues ever. Our wedding venue (Science North) gives it a run for its money though…just substitute that fighter jet for a bush plane and stick it in a cavern.

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Let’s get one of these for the basement

I spent some time cruising on and running beside the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fun fact: the name comes from the French for curtains because of the appearance of the waterfalls where the canal joins the Ottawa River. The lock system is pretty neat too; we watched a small boat come through it and it appeared to be an arduous process.

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Rideau Canal – still need to get here in the winter to go for a skate!

And the Chateau Laurier is gorgeous but definitely haunted. Avoid the Charles Melville Hays Memorial Suite if you do stay here. I guess old Charles is still upset that he didn’t get to see the grand opening of the hotel. He probably regrets taking the Titanic back from Europe. Oops.

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Chateau Laurier

I really like the Byward Market and didn’t spend much time here when I lived in Ottawa. It does get really busy, especially on summer weekends, but has some great food and patios. Some of my favourite foods here were (in no particular order): the peanut butter gelato from Mantovani, all of the chocolate (especially the chili dark chocolate) at Stubbe Chocolates, Beaver Tails (obviously), mango bubble tea from Wang’s Noodle House, and naan at Shafali. I had samples at some of these places on a C’est Bon food tour and then took Eric back to my faves the next day. The best ways to see a city are definitely to eat and run (or walk) your way through it.

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Returned to Mantovani since a sample size wasn’t enough – peanut butter and coconut gelato yumminess
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Couldn’t resist the lure of the OG Beaver Tail

I loooooove breakfast (everyone eats two breakfasts right??) and found a good spot close to our hotel. Before leaving on Sunday, we headed to Scone Witch and it was delicious. We both went for the brunch option: a scone (as you may have guessed) with jam, scrambled eggs (I got mushroom ragout on top), and a bunch of fruit. We should have gotten some scones and a jar of jam for the road – next time.

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Sorry no scone pic…devoured immediately

That’s Ottawa in a nutshell, thanks for reading 🙂