Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Year In Review

Here we are, days away from welcoming a new year again, 2014. I thought I would take some time today to review 2013. It was an incredible year for me and while it ended with a poor race and an injury to come back from, I have many reasons to be proud of all I accomplished in 2013. It was my most active year yet when it comes to races, participating in a total of 14 races: 1 marathon, 7 half marathons, 2 x 10km, 2 x 8km, and 2 x 5km races. In addition to that, I totaled about 2000km in running mileage, I made some amazing new friends through running, started training with a coach, won a fitness contest, and just recently launched a new career. It's been a great year! 

Here are my 2013 highlights, in chronological order

Sunshine Coast April Fools Half Marathon - April 2013:This was my best half marathon of the year when it comes to finish time, setting a new personal record of 2:00:48 (gun time). I did this race for the second year in a row, with friends there to join in on the fun. I'm back again in 2014. Read more...

Training with John Hill 
I met John at the April Fools Run through my friend and elite runner, David. I knew that John coached both elite runners and "serious recreational runners" like myself, but when I was at first told about his group, I wasn't sure it was suited to me. After meeting John and talking with him about the sessions and the group, it sounded like a group perfectly matched to me, and a great idea to join. He's really pushed me beyond my comfort zone to kick up my training to another notch, and it meant I saw real progress, and along the way, met some excellent running friends! The progress didn't translate to a better half marathon in 2013 after April Fools, but I had my strongest marathon, some great achievements at shorter distance races, and I hit some incredible milestones in training too that I didn't know I was capable of, inspiring great confidence in what I can achieve in 2014.

Social running! And lots of it!
This is something I didn't do enough of previously. Before, I trained for most of my races by myself. And while in many ways I love running solo, running with a friend or a small group adds a whole other level of enjoyment. It's quality time with friends, a chance to push one another, and try running in new neighbourhoods and trails. I spent lots of time this year running with friends, and I feel so blessed to have this community of active living enthusiasts in my life.

Rock N Roll San Diego Marathon - June 2, 2013
This was my 3rd, strongest, and most fun marathon. While I had the issue of cramping come up again, resulting in a slower finish time than I'd like, I had a blast at this race running the entire way alongside my friend Humphrey.  And the memorable vacation attached to it with time spent with my friend Megan, with my sweetheart Cam, and family members I'd not seen in years - few experiences compare with this. I did this race with Team In Training, although I trained my own way for this. I wanted to get the experience the TNT participants get on race event weekend while being a member of TNT staff It was indeed memorable and special. Read more...

Winning my first race!
Less than 2 weeks after the San Diego marathon, I ran my first ever 5km race for time. I registered at the last minute and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to do as well as I did despite very sore legs. I had also neglected to remember that I'd signed up to participate in a fundraiser 8km run only 2 days later, and seeing that there was prizing for the top finisher, I decided to give it all I had, and finished in first place! What a great ego boost it was! Read more...

Eastside 10K birthday party
A brand new race came to town 3 days before my birthday. I decided to make this race my birthday party, combining my love for running with friends with my love for community races. This was a very memorable race for me, being there to see my sister finish the race in under two hours as a walker (her fastest finish in a 10km event) and present her with her medal, as well as enjoying lots of laughs and memories with friends both at the race, and at the post-race-birthday brunch. Read more...

Winning the Steve Nash Fitness Clubs Success Stories contest
This here is still rather surreal! I was selected as one of 15 finalists in a contest by Steve Nash Fitness Clubs about fitness success stories. My good friend Kristy was also part of this. The experience included an amazing photo shoot, a marketing campaign featuring these photos, and then the big launch event on my birthday where I was announced the winner of the contest. It's been the most incredible experience, acting as a spokesperson for the company, and I've now launched into a new career with Steve Nash Fitness Clubs myself. Read more...

James Cunningham Seawall Race - Oct 27, 2013
This 9.5km race was my fastest race ever, and one of my biggest running achievements of 2013. Finishing in 49:08, this was the fastest average pace I've ever maintained over such a distance, instilling a new confidence in my running. I'd never seen myself as a fast runner before, just one with good endurance for distance. After lots of hard work this year with coach John and progress seen in training, I knew that I had the ability for a great finish time. At this race I not only discovered potential for me to do very well in shorter distance races, but a real enjoyment for them. I'm going to run less half marathons in 2014, only 1 marathon, and then focus on these shorter distances because hey, I'm good at it! Read more...

Launching a new career with Steve Nash Fitness Clubs
I made the difficult but important decision to leave my career at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (Team In Training) and accept a job offer with Steve Nash Fitness Clubs. I have only worked one day so far, all in training at head office, but I'm thrilled and excited to begin 2014 in the role of Operations Manager at the Downtown Sports Club, and be surrounded by a healthy environment where I can grow, learn, and hope to inspire others to achieve their fitness goals.


Thank you so much for reading this review, but most importantly, for your support and encouragement throughout 2013. Here's to a strong, fit, fun, and successful 2014! Happy New Year!

<3 Zahida

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Staying Motivated Over the Holidays

We all know what happens in December. The weather turns colder, daylight decreases to an all-time low, work commitments lessen while socializing increases, and it's very easy to fall off the fitness bandwagon. We all joke about holiday eating, how we're likely to need our stretchy pants, and of course, how right after Christmas we plan to hit the gym harder and/or set a new year resolution to lose the holiday weight.

In my opinion, it doesn't have to be exactly like that. December can definitely be a break from serious training, but it doesn't have to be a break from feeling good physically. If you maintain healthy habits in December, you're ready to hit the ground running in January to conquer those fitness goals you have. For me, getting active this December started a bit late after 3 weeks off completely due to my hip injury. But now that I'm back, it's been that much more important that I make fitness a priority, so I could get back to feeling like me, be energetic and able to be social over the holidays, and be ready for January and my plans to train for my 2014 races.

Here are my tips for staying motivated during the holidays. Perhaps I'm writing them a little late, but with Christmas dinners around the corner, and still a week away before New Year's resolutions are written, perhaps this is still relevant to you.

Schedule your workouts in advance
With December being a month of "active rest" for me, I have deviated from my usual Sun-Sat training schedule with long runs always being on Sundays, interval Tuesdays, weight-training Wednesdays, tempo Thursdays, etc. But even though I'm not following a strict regime, I'm scheduling workouts in to make sure staying active is actually happening. I'm just not freaking out about the quantity of runs versus weight training versus other activities. As long as I see there's a good amount of activity planned each week, I know I'm being good to my body. It helps if they are scheduled, in my calendar, and respected in the same way as social engagements. It's quality "me-time" and something not to neglect during a time where smiling and being the best version of myself for my loved ones is important.

Make it social

You're not following a strict personal workout regime, you need to schedule workouts, and the holidays are all about socializing, so why not combine them all together and make your workouts social. In planning your week's workouts, reach out to a friend to see if they want to join you, or find out what they have planned and ask if you can tag along. Working out with a friend or a group is a great way to catch up with one another and try something new. This month I've had the joy of running new routes, running with people I've never run with before and getting to know them, trying out new strength training circuits, and it's all been an absolute blast. I've been pushed in new ways, I've also pushed my workout partners, and I've not stressed about what distances I'm running or if it meets the requirements of a strict training calendar.

Wake up early and go early
For many, over the holidays work commitments lessen, and it would be very easy to have lazy mornings before busy days of shopping and socializing. When I'm scheduling my workouts, I remember that waking up early before was never an issue, so doing so now to make sure I get my workout in and start my day off right, is the way to do it.

The portable gym
You may be too busy to get to the gym or you're traveling over the holidays and don't have access to equipment. Putting aside a half hour for a body weight workout is a very good option. It's often easier to do this than plan runs while traveling: some winter climates aren't conducive to running outdoors, there aren't always available daylight hours when you have time, or you might not know where you're going. For a great workout, as all you need are your runners and some room indoors. Pump some tunes if you can. Do sets of pushups, burpees, jump squats, lunges, crunches, leg lifts, planks, etc., and boom, you have yourself a great workout.

Make it fun
Yes, a great way to make a workout fun is by doing so with a friend (as I've mentioned above), but it's important to make solo workouts fun too. For me, this has meant ditching the Garmin on my runs. I have a basic idea of how far I'm going, but without technology, I don't have any clue about how fast I'm going or how long it's taking me. I'm running because I love the sport and it feels good, not because I have to run a specific pace or distance to meet a training plan. I never run with music, but if you are one who does, consider swapping your playlist for some holiday tunes to get you in the spirit.

Moderation, not guilt
'Tis the season of baked goods, chocolate, restaurant meals, fine wines, and dinner parties. I am frankly tired of some health writers vilifying foods and saying you should "stay strong" not consume certain foods at all because of the type of flour it's made with or because of the sugar content, etc. This is where moderation comes in. Don't feel you have to be the one who says 'no' to everything your gourmet baker aunt has worked tirelessly to prepare for you. Having one cookie isn't going to break you. You can be polite and enjoy without indulging. Choose carefully, and enjoy every bite to their fullest so a small portion satisfies you. I take account for what I've eaten or plan to eat, not by counting calories exactly, but by recognizing that there will be some meals I have less control over. When I am the one in control, I plan to eat clean and leave home satisfied, so I don't over indulge at meals out. When I'm not in control of what I'm eating, I make myself very aware of how big my portions are. And it's hard to do this, but I do what I can to not feel guilty about enjoying my small treat. Enjoying food with loved ones is a big part of the holidays, and you don't need to feel like your goals have gone out of the window for partaking. Food is enjoyable for a reason, so enjoy it. Just don't overdo it.

For me, getting up early when it's cold outside and the warmth of my bed covers compel me is much easier when I keep in mind why I'm doing this. I work out because I enjoy it. I work out because I always feel better after I've completed a workout. I work out because I'm a priority. I work out because focusing on health allows me to be better in all aspects of my life. Why would I stop making this a priority just because it's harder to fit it in?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Getting closer and closer

So I've been a little quiet. I have found that when I'm not running, I have little to say about running as it's not on the forefront of my mind and daily activity. I've also been wanting to avoid saying anything that might sound remotely negative. It's rather difficult to talk about being injured and unable to run without it sounding negative, even if you try. Truth is, this has sucked, a lot. But despite the suckiness, I've kept my head cool about the whole thing. I'm not at all discouraged.

It's no secret I have a bad back. This is not the first time I've had an issue with my back and had no reason for it to freak out on me. This time it was a sneeze that brought it on. Yes, a sneeze. Past issues had been so severe that I needed assistance to get out of bed in the morning, and had I not had Cam to help me with daily functions like getting dressed, to the bathroom, cooking, etc., I would have been in big trouble. I've worked really hard to strengthen my back and core muscles to prevent this, or to at least lessen the severity of this. In fact, the biggest reason for me to join the gym was to learn how to strengthen. I believe it's worked wonders as I've not had a single moment of being in that kind of pain and uselessness with this current injury. I've been very independent still (despite needing help putting on socks a couple days) and I'm very very pleased about this. Perhaps with time, I can get strong enough that these moments will be a thing of the past. I'm confident I can get there.

But this time is a little different, as the issue is more my right hip, and my back is sore because of this hip's tightness. The moment I'm able to fire up the relevant muscle groups and/or stretch it out, the pain in my back is relieved. Most daily functions are fine. I can do almost anything, unless it requires prolonged sitting. This does mean that certain activities are not comfortable anymore - going for a coffee with a friend, getting a haircut, watching a movie in the theatre, or driving my car more than a few blocks. Yes, even writing this blog post has required shifts - type a bit, get up, walk around, come back and type some more. Again though, it's not a secret that my right side is my weaker one, and it hasn't been all that long that I've worked to address this imbalance. For the longest time I didn't even think it was an issue. But if I am honest with myself, I can't be surprised that my weaker hip is the one causing all this ruckus. It's telling me loud and clear that I need to work harder to address it. With time, I'm confident I can get the right side to be as strong as my left side and they can work together as equals.

So what about running? I haven't run in almost 2 weeks so surely I have mixed feelings about this. It's again, not because I'm discouraged, but more that I love running and simply miss the pleasure it brings my life. I love how running feels. I love how it feels after I've run. And one of the biggest reasons for missing running is that much of my social life is wrapped around running. I rarely do things like go out in the evening with friends, but I often train with friends or see them at races. I once joked with a friend how I've never seen her eat, yet we've had some of the best conversations - all on long runs together because that's a solid 2+ hours of quality time together talking. I missed a race last weekend, I've missed intervals with my group on Tuesday nights, and I've missed Sunday morning long runs with the girls. Being injured has been somewhat a lonely experience, although it hasn't been all that long and I've managed to find a few moments to socialize and energize myself.

Then there's progress. I could easily get upset about getting hurt right when I started to make progress again in my running. I was the fastest I'd ever been in my life and now it's been almost 2 weeks of no running at all. Surely I've lost some running fitness and it'll take work to get back to where I was before. But if I got there once before, I can get there again. And this time, it won't be as hard, I'm sure of it. Sure yes it sucks that I ended my race calendar with a very difficult half marathon, followed by not even lining up for my 5K race. But again, if I look at things honestly, I had a lot of great races in 2013 and there will be lots of opportunities for greatness in 2014. Time to be patient, stay focused, rehab my body, and come back strong. I'll be running again in about a week, and will have loads of time to get myself strong and ready to kick off 2014 successfully. I look ahead at those possibilities, and can't help but smile.