Tag Archives: Strength Training

Is today a 5 mile day?

Is today a 5 mile day?

It’s a saying in our house. Is today your 5 mile day? It’s a reference to when I finally broke my 5k wall and I do mean wall. I’ve run on and off since university, running is actually how I kicked smoking – and yes I use to smoke. I can’t even fathom the idea but when I was in high school and university I smoked.

I first started running in my 3rd year; well, it was more a brisk walk/jog on the treadmill but I discovered I could memorize a large quantity of information if I did it while running. Running became my smoking gun to nailing my university exams and then I stopped once school finished. I’d pick up running on and off in a half-hearted effort throughout my 20’s but it was after my second child I really started to fall in love with running. For one, it seemed less intimidating than the weight machines and definitely way less intimidating than the free weight area. I’d watch the women in the free weight area, self-assured and confident in what they were doing and I think I actually shrank. The treadmill provided safety and confidence, slowly it translated to running outside as I became stronger and overtime I learned how to use the weight machines and the free weights.

I officially became a gym rat but I never could run past 5k. I ran 5k well – even fast, but at 4800m my mind and I thought body started to turn off. Anything past 5k just didn’t happen. I couldn’t breathe, I hurt … I’d possibly die or at least fall to the ground crawling like Paula Newby-Fraser for my imaginary finish line … but no matter what, I knew I could not run more than 5k. Then I took a hiatus from running and triathlon for my third child, when I returned to the gym it was hard. Like every woman post baby, my body had changed. This was my third c-section, my abdominal diastasis was even larger, I was severely anemic and with 3 kids 3 and under. Essentially I felt like I was back at the bottom of this immense mountain with an impossible climb to the top.

One day on the treadmill a friend joined me on the elliptical next me and we chatted while we did our cardio, I decided to run 5k that day. Today was my day, I hadn’t hit 5k since the birth of my daughter and I decided this was my moment but 40 minutes in I was only at 3.8km’s. I was so demoralized but my friend kept encouraging me and reminding me of my goal; the point wasn’t how long it took to run 5k but that I ran 5k. Just shy of an hour I hit the 5 mark on the treadmill, elated and frustrated all at the same time only to realize I just ran 5 MILES!! It turned out I didn’t die or disappear into a heap of goo, in fact I felt pretty good. After that I entered 10k races, I even placed in a few 10k races. It turns out the only thing holding me back …. was ME. My mind fixated on the distance to the point I crippled myself. Only when I tricked my mind did I discover what I truly was capable of.

It’s an incredible moment when you realize you are the only thing holding you back. Since that day when we are stuck or need to push, we ask each other is today your 5 mile day. The past two weeks I started honestly training for triathlon again; putting down base mileage and thoroughly enjoying myself. But last night’s run sucked. It was hard and again I just can’t seem to run past 5k, so I gave myself permission to suck – to be horrible and suddenly my run turned around. I turned the speed down on the treadmill, I gave myself permission to walk intervals and before I knew it I ran for 50 minutes and reached 5 miles.

It doesn’t matter how long I’ve done this, or how successful I’ve been in the past … I still need ask: is today a 5 mile day?

Functional Strength

I’m a mum, a wife, a triathlete and a personal trainer at the YMCA. I don’t usually talk about being a personal trainer. I work on a very part time basis at the YMCA, especially during race season. To be honest, I’m extremely lucky to have such a compassionate and enthusiastic employer. The YMCA has completely supported my dream of going to England to compete while balancing my family life. It is an organization that stands behind their mission statement 100% and I find it so rewarding to give back by training people, showing each person their true potential. Plus, I just started teaching a core class on a weekly basis and a bootcamp class when a sub is needed. I love it! I get to put my triathlon spin on these classes. Giving people a chance to rethink their existing workout routines and try something new by doing more body weight activities.

The exercises I love to teach and use in my own strength training programs are full body exercises that use your own body weight as resistance. My absolute favourite is plank because it strengthens your core from the inside out, starting with the transverse muscles and ending with your rectus abdominis (your 6 pack).

Once you can hold plank for 30 seconds at a time you can start adding in any number of variations that target every part of your body.  When you hold plank your body should look like a flat board. To do this you want to relax your shoulders, pull your pelvic floor up by doing a kegel, pull your belly button in towards your spine and engage your glutes (your bum). You should be evenly distributing your weight so as the time ticks by try to push your heels to the ground. It lengthens your body and helps distribute the weight.

Once you have plank down the next version you need to learn is side plank. You start in plank position and rotate yourself to the side. Your feet can either be stacked on top of each other or resting side by side making a straight line. Again, your body is as straight as a board not allowing your hips to dip towards the floor. Your arms will form a straight line, keeping your shoulder blades squeezed together so that you don’t slump forward. This targets your internal and external obliques.

Now you are ready for my video demonstrating a plank to side plank variation. This combo helps build on your rotation in your swim stroke. The more you can cut through the water the faster you will swim. A strong rotation enables you to extend your reach, lengthening your body and improve your ability to slice through the water. This has been my achilles heel for several years but working with a series of plank variations starting with this one I have been able to steadily improve my rotation and pull in my stroke. My focus on functional strength training has been the key to improving my swim times in the pool. Over the next few weeks I will post a new video demonstrating some of my favourite plank variations. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Plank/ Side Plank Variation

Going For Gold Bootcamp October 13, 2012


Thank you to everyone who made it out to the bootcamp yesterday and to those who were there in spirit. It was a great success! Congratulations to Ian Moss, Karen Potvin and Kerri Mezzomo for winning the various raffle draws. I hope you enjoy your goodies. And thank you Meredith de Jong, the Flamborough YMCA and Preferred Nutrition for donating such generous prizes. I will be hosting a second bootcamp in the new year. The raffle draws will be out of this world and the workout will be a fun packed with partner exercises. Details soon to follow!


All photos curtesy of Ryder Photography & Kathleen Neufeld