Balanced Runner


Combating Running Injuries and Sickness – the Flexible Triathlete

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Training | 4 Comments

As a runner, injuries are bound to happen.  They say that fifty percent of runners are injured at any given time.  Thankfully I have been a very resilient runner over the years and have experienced very few running injuries.  Unfortunately, my time has come.

Injuries do not come out of nowhere, and I had my first warning sign four weeks ago. A day after a workout I feel a small poking in my heel; I ignore it.  There must be something strange going on with my shoe.

Week number two, I feel it again after speed work. I take more notice and add more stretching and icing to my routine.

Week three – I reduce the amount of speed work to let things heal.

Week four – back to my old routine, but pain is still there and intensifying – time to do something about it. It’s getting annoying. I go to the chiropractor.

The prognosis was not what I wanted to hear: planter fasciitis in my right heel.  It is a notoriously tricky injury to overcome.  The chiropractor declared that ideally I should take 10 days off of running.  I really don’t want to hear that! One small consolation: I am not just a runner, but also a triathlete, so no worries.  I will miss running, but I can swim in the meantime.  In fact, I say to myself, I’ll have a great week of swimming.

And I do… to start. I had a great two hour swim workout on Saturday; swam again the next day.  Two days in a row of swimming! This won’t be so bad!… and suddenly the next day, an ear ache materializes out of nowhere!  Doctor at the clinic prescribes antibiotic ear drops and 5 days of NO SWIMMING.

Am I in the twilight zone? Is there some giant government conspiracy? This all feels a little odd.

Two sports down – but there’s still one to go! Thankfully I have a friend with a spin bike and we can do a workout in her basement tomorrow, before I go crazy with no activity!  I just hope I can safely get to her home…

Part of the reason I love Triathlons is that there is always something else to work on.  Take away one sport, there is another to focus on.

We can be creative and flexible.  I can pool run – no land running, no swimming, but I can still combine water and running, as long as I keep my ears out of the water and don’t pound my feet on the bottom of the pool.

This experience is only making me more determined and eager to take on more triathlons in the future.  Take away a sport for a time, and I come to appreciate and love it more.  Injuries (as terrible as they are) are good for making us appreciate the gift that our training is to us.  It is a gift to be able to run and swim and bike.  May I never take for granted this body that I have that can do so many enjoyable activities.

I am dreaming of all the races that I will do in spring and summer of 2015….this is not going to stop me!  I am only more determined now…

Hike in Short Hills

Why do I Run? Embracing the Off-season from Racing

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Training, Why I Run | 12 Comments

In the off-season from racing, remember to ask yourself, “WHY DO I RUN?”

Back to the Basics:  I am running for the pure fun and thrill of it.  It has been a couple of years since I have had a true off season from racing.  Here I am, taking a break from competing for a couple of months and remembering “Why I run, and swim and bike!”  In the absences of a race, I get back to the basics of simply enjoying this physical activity and benefiting from the peace and joy it brings into my life.  In the hype of a big race, I can get very caught up in time targets and in achieving a certain goal.  It is imperative to return to the place of running and exercising for the simple pleasure of it.  I am enjoying long runs with friends and enjoying pushing myself in tempo and interval runs on my own.   I am slowly increasing my running mileage again.  I am out running five days a week once again and slowly building the distance of my runs.

I am starting to look forward to racing again.  My next races will be fun trail races along the Bruce Trail, part of the Aktiv Trail Run Series put on by Trysport Niagara.  Trail running at this time of year is glorious and it is a great way to build strength, as one must navigate the uneven and undulating terrain of the trails.

aktiv trail races

I am contemplating my goals for the next year. I want to train smart and know what my keys races will be.  I have appreciated the input of friends and coaches, who have offered me excellent suggestions.  They have confirmed what I had thought (but was second guessing), that I want to get faster at the shorter distances in triathlon, before one day attempting a full Ironman.

Why Do I Run?

  • For the pure joy of the physical activity of running; Using my body to do what it was made to do.
  • To push my own limits and challenge myself
  • To enjoy nature.  There are so many beautiful trails in Niagara, along the lake and along the escarpment
  • To set a good example for my children of living a healthy lifestyle.
  • To participate in the community, running with friends and being part of training groups
  • To spend time with God
  • To stay healthy, both physically and mentally
  • To unwind from stress  and clear my mind

Why Do You Run (bike, swim)?

Add your reasons below (you need to scroll down a bit); I really want to hear from you!  Everyone who comments on this article will be entered into a draw for a prize.

See you out on the trails!


James posted a link to this article on reddit, and the responses were great! We wanted to share them here as well:

koffeekev: i run because i can. having CP, a lot of people say i shouldn’t. yeah, i’ve hurt myself, so what? i can’t move forward without failing a few times.

megagreg: What else am I going to do, watch TV all night?

bah77: Its like a pyramid scheme i have already put 1000’s of km in to, and if i stop i will lose that investment.

goodsam1: I run because cardio/running frequently come into life and I got tired of sucking at it. Also I think I am hooked now, I think I have hit runner’s high at a mile.

abelcc: I’m preparing myself for when my life depends on running a long distance fast. When a meteor suddenly falls and the roads are collapsed I’ll run to safety.

dropdeaddaisy: This morning it was to see the fall colours and feel the breeze in my hair!


After The Big Race – The Post Race Void

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Training | No Comments

It has been an exciting year for me with the Boston Marathon in the spring and then all the new challenges of competing in my first triathlons.  The season culminated with the Muskoka Half Ironman.  It was a beautiful day and all my training came together for a successful race.  It was a thrill and my family and friends were there to support me.  Elijah ran around all day cheering for me.  My family, friends and training buddies were there at the end to celebrate with me as I crossed the finish line.  For months I geared up for this amazing race. It had, in fact, been a goal of mine for years and now it is finally accomplished.  BUT, what happens after the big race?

After a couple of days of recovery and getting back to normal life, I find myself asking, “Now what?”  What is my next goal?…

For months my body and mind had been training and focusing on this big challenge.  Now that it is accomplished, I find myself feeling strange…a bit lost actually.  It is a type of withdrawal!  I had been so focused on getting in my runs, swims, long rides, brick workouts….I was so excited and nervous.  Now I find myself missing the focus and determination of a very clear and exciting goal.

How do I deal with this post-race void?

TAKE TIME:  Sometimes it is hard for me to slow down!  Taking time is good….Time to be thankful for all that has happened.  Time to rest a bit and do other endeavors.  I can thank my training friends for all the work we did together to accomplish the race.  I certainly did not get there alone.   I thank training friends:  Nate, Dave, Scott, Lesley, Nicole, Barb, Geron. I thank coaches, Wolf and Barb of the Aktiv Racing Team, and Christine, with Masters Swimming . I thank God for a body that is healthy enough for me to train in swimming, cycling and running.

REFLECT:  What did I learn through all that training and the new experience of the Half Ironman?  I learned that I love challenges and goals!  I discovered how much I enjoyed the variety of three sports and a trying a new challenge.  I certainly like to push myself and strive for new goals.

SET NEW GOALS:  I had no goals in mind for after the Muskoka Half Ironman.  Often I know before a race is over what I will be doing next.  This time I did not have that sorted out!  Rather, I knew my family commitments were going to be all consuming after the race.  This fall Elijah had a heart catheterization at Sick Kids Hospital and I really could not think of anything else past that.  Elijah is doing amazingly well after his procedure and is running around with more energy than ever.

Now I can start to think of athletic goals.  I would love to do a full Ironman, however, I know that this is not currently a possibility.  I will likely focus on local races.  The Multisport Canada Series has a variety of races from Sprint to Half Ironman distances – I will plan to do several of these races next season.  I have not yet done the Olympic Distance (longer than sprint and shorter than Half Ironman) so I will definitely need to try that distance next season.

Post race “depression” is surprisingly common.  After the intensity of training for a big event there is a definite void afterwards.  Learning how to deal with this cycle is a part of the whole training experience.  Have you experience a post-race void?  Add your coping strategies to this article and add your ideas for future races!  I would love your ideas and input into new challenges that may be waiting around the corner!

AT feature2

The Payoff of Running – An Adventurous Lifestyle

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Why I Run | No Comments

Our Family vacation this summer consisted of 80 km of glorious hiking along the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Virginia.  A great payoff of running is an adventurous lifestyle and exciting new experiences with our children.  Many people thought we were crazy – but it was the best vacation ever!  Six very diverse individuals worked together and hiked along the highest mountains in Virginia:  A marathon runner (myself), a web-designer who runs for fitness (James, my husband), my 15 year old daughter Zara and her friend Paige, Caleb, 13 years old, and my youngest son, Elijah, who is 9 years old.  We even brought along the 10 lb dog who always joins us on our hikes.

Our hiking days ranged from 8km to 18km and we climbed to over 5,500ft above sea level to the peaks of mountains (Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain).  We carried all of our gear on our backs.  James had the cooking gear, I carried one tent, and Caleb carried the second tent.  The food was dispersed between all of us, and each person was responsible for their own gear (sleeping bag, therma-rest, clothing, toiletries).  Four nights we slept in shelters along the AT and one night we used our tents.

One of the principles we embraced on this trip was to BE ADVENTUROUS:  we petted wild ponies, we ate wild blueberries and blackberries and we climbed up rock cliffs (that we deemed safe!) to see spectacular views.  We bathed in cold mountain streams and enjoyed our dehydrated food, cliff bars, dried berries and high protein butters (sunflower butter, almond butter).

I have discovered that having a healthy running lifestyle has made me far more willing to try new adventures with my kids.  Since I train regularly for running, I knew the importance of training with James and the kids (and the dog) for the hike.  We trained together on the weekends, hiking most Sundays in the winter and spring to prepare.  We often hiked with our packs to get used to the feeling of carrying them on our backs.  In so doing, we ironed out the kinks with our gear and discovered what pieces of equipment were essential.  For example, we discovered that carrying water bottles in our packs was too difficult to keep properly hydrated (having to reach back – often dropping the bottle or not being able to access it at all meant we did not hydrate frequently enough).  We solved this problem by having a Camelbak in each pack, with the water spout right at our shoulders for super easy access.  This made a huge difference in everyone’s stamina, as now nobody got dehydrated.

My 15 year old daughter was the most reluctant member of the crew – before the big hike that is!  One day into the adventure, she told us how much she was enjoying herself and that she was glad that we had brought her along!  She apologized for having dragged her feet a bit during our preparations.  This from a teenager is truly impressive, and I am so thankful that we were able to do this journey together.  It was an incredible family bonding time.  We had no distractions from media and screens.  It was us and the great outdoors:  evenings we sat around the campfire and played “the questions game”.  We did star gazing; we played cards; we sat and talked for hours.  We breathed in the nature around us and were constantly amazed by the views and the wildlife.

Next summer we plan to discover a new section of the AT.  Our goal is to hike in New Hampshire and Hike up Mount Washington, which is the highest peak along the AT.  I am so thankful that my running has payed off in rewards for my whole family.  Four of us are now running regularly  and looking forward to using that fitness to summit new peaks and discover new adventures.  If you have any suggestions for hikes or outdoor adventures, please share them below!

Linda Summers

Path to Peace: 6 Simple Tips to Live in the Present

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Linda Summers, yoga instructor, Namaste Yoga Studio

Today’s article is written by guest author, Linda Summers.  Linda is my yoga instructor, who inspires and challenges me.  I so appreciate her classes and they enrich my training and life. – Janine 

What does it mean to be present?

Being present is simply being, or existing, in this very moment. Living in the
moment will create a life that is filled with calmness and peace; we all want a life filled with peace, but in
today’s day and age, life can become swamped. Trying to balance work life and being a parent, among other
things, can be overwhelming. So how can you bring yourself back to a simpler way of living so that you can
enjoy a life filled with peace?

  1. Breath: When things get a little stressful, try stepping away from all the external stimuli in your life and find a few moments in stillness to watch your breath. Watching your breath will allow you to be in the present moment; the nervous system calms down so you can take on the rest of your day in a calmer manner. Taking slow, deep, long breaths will help tame your agitated mind and create freedom within. So stop, clear your mind and watch yourself breathe.
  2. Yoga: Incorporating yoga into your daily routine is a great way to bring yourself back to the present moment. Yoga is a mindful practice which allows one to slow down from their regular routine and become present in the here and now. So grab a mat and indulge in a little bit of “me time”
  3. Meditate: Meditation is a great way to connect to the present. Commit to a daily practice to sit quietly and just be. Let go of thoughts about the past and try not to think of the future. Challenge yourself to be here in the now. Take that five minute break from your daily routine more often to just sit still, to simply exist and just be. You deserve it.
  4. Solitude: Being alone, just you inside your skin, can be a challenging task to incorporate into your daily routine. Oneness is a great way to keep yourself in the present moment. Make it a ritual to find solitude throughout the day to do something you enjoy doing, like taking a walk in nature, a massage, or reading a book. Try to do less. It’s your birth right. Enjoy life more. Stress less.
  5. Slow Down: Slow down the pace of your life… and take on a single task at a time. Whatever the task at hand is, such as eating, driving, listening to someone speak, cooking or working; take on one thing on your to do list at a time. Multi-tasking can cause chaos in your life, so take the simpler route and enjoy each moment in your life in a mindful manner.
  6. Gratitude: Practicing being grateful is another key component to finding a place of contentment in the now. Before stepping your feet out of bed, offer a moment of gratitude for the sweetness in your life. Writing a gratitude journal each evening before surrendering to bed is another practice you can take with you. Try writing three things you are grateful for at the end of the day before retiring to bed; appreciating and being more thankful is an attitude we can all practice more often. Incorporating these simple tips into your daily routine will keep you centered in the moment. Remember, the past no longer exists and the future is just a fantasy. So be present. Including these simple reminders into your daily routine will get you walking a path to peace once again. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to be present.

Check out Article:  Yoga For Runners


Life to the Fullest in 2014

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Why I Run | No Comments

Welcome to a New Year – 2014 – a year to fill with new experiences and new challenges.  My goal and my challenge to you is to “Live life to the fullest in 2014.

Life keeps going – chores keep happening, work keeps going….life will just keep going as it is, unless we are purposeful to chase some new adventure or make some new change – no matter how big of small.  Inertia keeps us going along the same trajectory that we are currently on.  To try something new takes great effort, and sadly, that effort becomes greater with each passing year.

Think about the people and movies that inspire  you….now, don’t just watch the movie, rather try to go live some of that adventure!

My goals fall into three categories:

1. Relational Goals – be purposeful to have quality time with family and friends

2. Spiritual Goals – spend more time in prayer and mediation and listen to God’s leading in my life.

3. Athletic Goals – become a faster runner, swimmer, cyclist:  Specifically –

  • sub 3 hour Boston Marathon
  • Successfully complete my first triathlon – Half Ironman
  • Work on cycling technique and become quicker

Let’s make 2014 something special

Here is a line up of my all my planned races for 2014:

boston logo



Please share your goals with me – post them below.  

– All my Best Wishes for a Wonderful 2014 –



Posted by | Balanced Runner, Why I Run | 3 Comments

Keep trying new things.  Never stop.

My children are trying new things, learning new skills everyday.  I work with children who have autism and we challenge them every day to move out of their comfort zones and learn new skills that are very difficult and uncomfortable for them.  When did we, as adults start being content with the skills that we currently have?  Somewhere along the way we start settling and start living through our children.  I am thrilled to watch my children achieve and strive, AND at the same time I am not going to stop living my own challenges.  Let these two be symbiotic – motivate and challenge your children with your endeavors and watch them trying new things and let them also spur you on to try something new.

Sue, a swim mom, who is connected to my son’s swim team decided to learn how to swim after watching her two children train.  She was a non-swimmer, afraid of the water, and she was determined to learn how to swim.  It is harder to learn as an adult, but that didn’t stop her and she now loves swimming and has goals for open water swims and her first triathlon this summer.


Firsts this week:

  • Running a TRAIL RACE in a Snow storm.  Fun, challenging footing and a great workout.  (more to come in another article)
  • Learning Butterfly Stroke in swimming for the first time.  Now that is tough!
  • Got my treadmill up to 11.6 miles per hour in a workout for the first time while doing 400m repeats during my intervals on Wednesday.

Goals for First in 2014

  • Do my first Triathlon – A Half Ironman – this has been on my “bucket list” for a while.
  • Do my first sub 3 hour marathon at BOSTON (I’ve done it elsewhere – but not at Boston)

What firsts did you do this year?  What firsts will you do in 2014?

running fights depression

Running Fights Depression

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Fit by Forty, Why I Run | 2 Comments

I freely admit that I fight against Depression.

When I’m depressed, all of my motivation evaporates, nothing seems appealing, and everything seems overwhelming and tiring. Getting out of bed takes a major act of will. I feel like I deserve an award just for showering and brushing my teeth in the morning. I feel like doing nothing except sleeping all day.

The last thing I feel like doing is going out for a run. And yet, according to a new study, that’s exactly what I should do. Because running fights depression.

According to a study out of the University of Toronto (yay! my alma mater), regular physical exercise can reduce future episodes of depression. So if, like me, you know that you are prone to depression, engaging in regular physical exercise makes a big difference in reducing the risk of developing depression. The study, which stretched over a 29 year period, found that even moderate exercise, like walking or gardening, can ward off depression.

Obviously this does not mean that exercise is some kind of magic bullet: you can exercise a lot and still experience depression. And telling a depressed person to “just go out and exercise” probably won’t help all that much. (Instead they will probably just hate you.)

For me, however, it’s encouraging to think that my quest to be “Fit by Forty” will have a positive impact on, not only my physical fitness, but my mental health as well. In my experience, it makes sense: when I go out for a run, even though it’s hard and it hurts, afterwards I feel better about myself. In the past I’ve found exercising outside to be especially helpful for my mental health. Something about getting dressed in my workout clothes, getting “out the door”, smelling the fresh air, and feeling the warm sunshine lifts my spirits, especially considering that my daily routine often consists of spending hours huddled in the basement by the flickering glow of my computer monitors.

Although “getting out” and doing anything can be helpful for depression, exercise is especially helpful for physiological reasons. As anyone who’s studied biology can tell you, exercise causes your body to release endorphins. These endorphins interact with receptors in your brain to inhibit your perception of pain and actually trigger positive feelings (similar to morphine). Following a good workout, runners may experience a sense of endorphin-induced euphoria, commonly known as “Runner’s High”. Other studies have found that these exercise related endorphins can be an effective tool in combating mild to moderate depression.

Now, there is a certain pathetic irony to be found in the fact that the thing to treat depression is something that requires motivation. But I guess that’s why it’s smart to start a running habit before you get depressed.

Checking in on running status update: Today was my 6th run and I ran my longest run so far (4.4km). I know it’s not a lot, but it’s nice to know I’m progressing slowly. I ran outside and the sun was up, which was nice (the last few times I ran outside it was night). I’m planning to choose a race to train for  so I’ll have a goal. Not sure what I should do yet, though. Maybe a 10k?

elijah hike

Running For Life

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Why I Run | No Comments

Time For Thankfulness

I am thankful for health and fitness shared with family.  I am thankful that my running makes me strong enough to hike all day and keep up with my active children – running for life!

All members of my family greatly enjoyed a hike through Short Hills on a sunny Thanksgiving.  My 8 year old son ran up and down all the steep hills for the thrill of it!  I was proud of him and joined him on several of his sprints up the hills and also walked behind him at times, allowing him to show me up.

Our children have been hiking since before they could walk!  Yes, we transported them initially via baby snugglies and hiking backpacks, but they have been hiking on their own since they were strong enough.  Today they hiked for 2.5 hours, which is an easy hike for them.  A highlight of our summer was a 16km hike along Cape Split in Nova Scotia.

Running provides the fitness for me to take my children on these expeditions and challenge them to be fit and healthy and enjoy the great outdoors.  Today’s workout was a hike/run with the family gang.  It was glorious!

Elijah running



Balancing Act: Family and Training

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Why I Run | 5 Comments

A typical day is full of excitement, stress, hugs from kids, running here and there, getting meals made, laundry done, children driven places or picked up and then also a training workout somewhere in the mix. Why do I do this? Is it all worth it? Am I achieving some sort of healthy balance between family and training?

Take this past Tuesday as an example:
5:10 – woke up, drank some greens plus, pulled on my bathing suit and grabbed my prepacked gym bag and drove to the pool.
5:30 – In the pool for masters swimming. Great workout with super-sets of 100m, 75m, 50m and 25m, until 7am.
7:10 – Home to get my three kids up for school, get breakfast, lunches made and off to school.
8:30 – Work an 8 hour day in the Autism Intervention program as an instructor therapist.
4:45 – Meetings
5:30 – Home for dinner
7:00 – Drive my son to his swim practice at Ridley Pool with his swim group. Great to see him working hard and learning new skills (working on fly stroke – new to him)
8:30 – Homework with kids, some housework –
9:30 – I am very tired!

I love being challenged; I dislike being bored. I am a perfectionist and can get stressed and anxious at times – exercise is the perfect stress release. I train at 5:30am many week days, and on the weekends I “sleep in” and start training by 7am. When I get home, even on the weekends, the family is just starting to rise. They wait for me to make them waffles or pancakes!

1098327_10151622430058661_1438793351_nI see the positive effects of my healthy pursuits, motivating my own children.  Last year, my 12 year old son Caleb tagged along with me several mornings to my 5:30am masters swim group.  This resulted in us finding a swim team for him this year with his peers.  Tonight, I tagged along with Caleb to a spin class for his swim team.  This is a wonderful new stage, where my children and I are starting to participate in sports together.   Had I not been training and Caleb observing, Caleb would never be doing what he is doing now.

I would rather my house be a bit chaotic or a little messy at times and still do the things I love and support my children in the things they love. Three nights a week my daughter dances, my youngest son goes to Cubs. We had “Meet the Teacher” night at the school one evening. There really is never a dull moment.

Most days it works. I wouldn’t want it any other way.