Quest for Running Songs, Week 2: “Yin Yang”

Although I’ve added a few new songs to my Shuffle, nothing has hugely inspired me yet so I’m pulling this week’s song out of my favourites list because it’s by a Canadian band that I think many people might not have heard of: USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker).

Last year I signed up for a Spring 10K race to ease back into running after a bit of a knee problem through the fall and winter. Halfway through the race, this song came on and gave me that wicked mid-race boost I needed – so much so that I played it a few times in a row and occasionally burst out singing along. (Yes, I was that girl.)

I love how the laidback feel of the verses helps me relax into my stride, and then the chorus breaks into a raw energy that charges me up with these lyrics:

I got infinite ammunition
Coming out the yin yang
I got limitless stealth positions
Extract the champion

Give it a listen and see what you think.


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Quest for Running Songs, Week 1: “Running For Your Life”

In my quest for new running music for 2015, I’ve decided to start posting some of my favourite running songs as I search for new tunes to add to the Shuffle. I’m not talking about the usual “Mony, Mony”, “Born to Run” list. I’m talking stuff that’s a little newer, and maybe a little less likely to be hitting people’s radars. Yes, I know you elite runners don’t need music to get you through long runs, but I do! My hope is that if I post enough of these, eventually some of you fellow runners will help me out by sharing your favourites with me, too.

So, to get this started, here’s my song of the week:

“Running For Your Life” by Dirty Heads

We all know running is at least as much about mental strength as it is about physical strength, and sometimes the right song can re-ignite our Inner Fighter voice just when our tired legs are starting to drown it out. For me, what makes a great running song isn’t so much whether or not the beat matches my pace, but rather if the lyrics energize and inspire me.

This song is all about seizing the day and squeezing everything we can out of every moment. I have two favourite lines:

Tell the reaper to his face, ‘I ain’t scared of you.’

and

Running for your life, don’t waste it, the moment’s never right so make it.

Dirty J from Dirty Heads elaborates: “A lot of people think ‘Oh the moment’s not right.. I’m not going to take this chance, I’m too scared…’ If the moment’s not right, don’t leave it to fate, don’t leave it to luck, fuckin’ make it right. Find something in that moment, and do something about it.”

I can’t tell you how many times this song has given me a burst of energy just when I needed it most. It’s kind of like a GU gel for the mind. 🙂


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I’m a sponsored athlete!

Life is just full of surprises. After running my first half marathon last Fall, I was searching for ways to get more involved in the running community when I stumbled across an application form for a sponsorship program. It claimed to be “for all levels and abilities”, with a tagline: “You don’t have to be elite, just motivated and passionate about running, triathlon or cycling.” Intriguing! I decided to call their bluff and sent in an application.

A couple of months passed by. I amused myself wondering if I would ever hear back, and almost fell out of my chair when the email popped up in my inbox one quiet afternoon at work. The squeal was heard by many! I ran out of my office jumping up and down, “I made it! I was accepted for Team Running Free!”

I decided not to write a post that day because it just would’ve had a lot of “eeeeeeee!” and “yaaaaaaay!” in it, but now that I’ve settled down I really have to say I am so honoured to be representing Running Free in 2015. They are a small chain of stores that is aligned not only with my athletic passion but with my personal values. From their Re-Use Shoe Program that collects and distributes used shoes to local homeless people and overseas, to Mission Haiti that turns used shoes into a viable microloan program for Haitians, to their support of Run and Read, an after school program focused on children living in some of the most impoverished communities in Canada — they are doing really cool things in the world!

I am so grateful for this sponsorship program that gives amateur athletes like me a chance to step up and get involved in the running community in new and exciting ways. I will wear my uniform with pride, and to my fellow team members, I can’t wait to meet you out on the road!

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10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Running

miracle of runningWhen I first started running almost two years ago, I thought all I had to worry about was being able to run without passing out or giving up, whichever would come first. Now, seven weeks away from my first half marathon, I’m still discovering unexpected pitfalls and obstacles. So, if you’re new to running, here’s a heads up on the things not everyone will necessarily warn you about:

1) Toenails will die. At first maybe just one will throb and turn dark after a longer than usual run. Over time it will turn black, get crooked, and eventually fall off. Hopefully, a new one will have grown in underneath by the time it falls off, but that can take a LONG time. If you’re attentive, you *may* be able to prevent the death by popping the blood blister under your nail if you catch it right away. However, I clearly haven’t mastered the timing and currently have 3 black toenails. Dark nail polish is your best friend, girls. Closed-toe sandals for you, boys.

2) Food matters. Protein helps repair muscles, carbs give you energy. If you don’t fuel up properly before a run, you’ll run out of steam and motivation. If you don’t fuel up properly within 60 minutes after a longer run, your body can’t recover properly and you’ll impede your own progress. You really need to find the formulas for fueling properly for your body weight, because it really does make a difference, and it’s not all about the protein powder!

3) Long runs can make you sick. Be careful what you eat before you head out to run 12 km or longer, because all that up and down can make your stomach very upset and have you running your fastest time ever to a washroom. I thought fuelling for a 15k with a peanut butter and banana sandwich would be a great idea, but I didn’t leave enough time for digestion and was sick for hours after the run. Even when I’ve given myself enough time for digestion, I’ve found that having a protein shake after a long run makes me queasy, so tread carefully with food on long run days! Little bites until you figure out what works (and doesn’t work!) for you.

4) The blister phase never really ends. I worked hard and suffered through many days waiting for the blister on the bottom of my foot to turn into a callus, but it was worth it. I enjoyed many months of comfortable running after that, until one day, for no immediately apparent reason, I suddenly developed a painful blister again. Did I wear the wrong socks on a hot day? Did I slightly adjust my stride? I have no idea. All I know is that I had to go through that blister phase all over again.

5) Shoes get old. I’m not referring to the rule that you should replace your running shoes after every 400-500 miles. I’m talking about when you see your exact model of shoes in a warehouse sale for an awesomely low price, and you immediately want to grab every box they have to stock up for the rest of your running life… wait! The materials in shoes break down over time even just sitting in a box, so that awesome deal might turn into a dud by the time you get those shoes out on the road or trail. If the shoes are more than a couple of years old, resist the temptation to save a few dollars and just buy yourself the newer model when you need it. New shoes are cheaper than rehab.

6) Do yoga. Those roadside stretches are all well and good, but running is about more than just your legs. Yoga will help you stretch and strengthen all your muscles, even the ones you don’t realize are absolutely essential for runners. I credit yoga almost entirely with eliminating my iliotibial band pain because it helped me loosen up my hip fexors! Who even knew there was such a thing as hip flexors, and that they could be at the root of knee pain?! Even just 20-30 minutes of yoga a few times a week will make you a stronger, better, safer runner.(Runner’s World has a great section of free yoga videos online.)

7) You’re always at risk of injury. When I first started running, my shins hurt. Then my hips. Then I encountered a pretty persistent knee problem. With each new pain, I investigated recovery and prevention techniques and incorporated them into my routine. However, inevitably, a new pain eventually crops up. This time it’s my achilles tendon. I literally didn’t even know where the achilles tendon was until I googled the sudden pain that took me from a fantastic speed workout to a hobble in 10 seconds flat. Now I’m learning about even more things I should have been doing differently, and have even more prevention techniques to add to my regular routine. Don’t get cocky, you’re never infallible. Proceed with caution.

8) Cramming doesn’t work. If you miss a workout, you can’t make up for it the next day. If you have a bad week, don’t try to work twice as hard the next week. Don’t try to improve endurance and strength in the same workout. Cramming doesn’t work! It leads to injury – maybe not that day, maybe not even that week, but it will come. The more you try to cheat your training plan by cramming, the sooner your body will be reminding you who’s boss. And there’s nothing more frustrating in running than feeling like you’re finally improving, just to be sidelined for several weeks feeling all those gains just slipping away. Be patient and be kind to yourself, and don’t try to cram your progress.

9) It’s harder than it looks – for everyone. You know those people who speed past you with their perfect ponytails, lean bodies and barely a drop of sweat to be seen? They’re working hard, they’re out of breath, and they also have trouble motivating themselves to get out the door. They also wish they were faster, or stronger. They’re not looking at you thinking they’re better than you, they’re in their own struggle to dominate their bodies and their minds just like we are. If anything, they’re happy to see another runner out there too. Remember, we’re all in it together, no matter what level we’re at.

10) Running will change your life. It will become one of those things that you love and hate. Sometimes you dread it, but you can’t live without it. When you’re not doing it, you’re thinking about it and talking about it. You will look forward to the high of accomplishment every time you tackle a new distance, speed, or route. Every slight incline in the road will suddenly look like a hill to you, even when you’re driving. You will start to identify yourself as a runner, and you will be so proud to be known as one. Your life will never be the same again, and that will make you the happiest person alive..

you know youre a runner when