If you're looking to increase your distance, your biggest hurdle is not having a plan, says Lucy Smith, a 19-time Canadian champion in distance running and multisport. "Winging it and making it up as you go based on how you feel leads to inconsistent training," says Smith, who works as a coach with LifeSport Coaching in Victoria. Consider, after all, the fact that you have a life – a job, children or other commitments – to fit in with your training.
Cross-train. If you want to improve as a runner, you have to do other types of exercise too. "What limits runners is mechanical breakdown, not their aerobic capacities," says Nathan Mellalieu, owner of Studeo55, a health club in Vancouver. "Their knees or hips start to hurt, for example, and it's because that structure is not stable or well conditioned enough to sustain the demands running puts on them." Mellalieu recommends dynamic training in three dimensions ("Running is just linear," he explains), such as strength training (he suggests squats, lunges, deadlifts, pull-ups and step-ups), agility training (think of running, hopping and jumping drills using an agility ladder, for example) and core conditioning.
Think positively when it comes to your training. "You have to learn how to cope with the sensation of ‘running hard,' rather than thinking of it as pain, and how to stay strong in terms of mental endurance. Let's not call it boredom; that has a negative connotation," says Smith.
Break long runs into chunks to help you focus. Say you have a run that will take an hour and 15 minutes. Smith suggests thinking of it as three components: "In the first 15 minutes, your purpose is to warm up. The next two chunks are half an hour each. Think of the last part as 15 minutes at a sustained pace with a loose, easy run to the end." On long-distance runs, fuelling and hydrating can help break your run into chunks too.
Hill train to build strength. Rather than choosing a killer hill, Smith suggests running up a hill with a five to six percent grade and completing 90-second to two-minute repeats (running up and down), including a recovering interval, ideally on asoft surface such as grass to lessen the impact on your body.
Half-marathon (21K) training plan (16 weeks)
Week 1 of 16
Monday: 7K easy run
Wednesday: Strength training
Thursday: 7K easy run
Saturday: 9K easy run
For your variable run,* complete speed work, a tempo run or hill training. "Increase it to 60 minutes after 8 weeks of training," says Lea Amaral, cofounder of Energia Athletics in Toronto. Increase Thursday's run to 9K after Week 8. For your long run on Saturdays, add 1K each week up until Week 13. Cut your run down to 15K in Week 14, and 12K in Week 15. Your Monday runs should also get longer, says Amaral. Add 1K every other week, but taper to 9K and 7K in weeks 14 and 15 respectively.
Yuki Hayashi, age 38 (ran the Cincinnati Flying Pig 42K Marathon)
"I've tried to run many times in the past few years, but it never stuck. But something caught within me last year, and now I go nuts if I can't get out for at least two runs per week. I might never be a five-day-a-week runner or a ‘fast' marathoner, but the sense of accomplishment I got from completing the marathon is unmatched. It was one of the best days of my life, even if I couldn't walk for the rest of the afternoon."
Executive assistant Linda Gill was worried frills would be too much volume—we proved her wrong.
Photography by Carlyle Routh. Hair by Jukka/Davines/Plutino Group. Makeup by Jodi Urichuk/Bite Beauty/Plutino Group.
Have you ever flirted with the idea of trying a daring style but weren't quite sure how to pull it off? We found six women who were intrigued by a trend they usually avoid, then we gave them the support and style advice to help them make it their own. Here, executive assistant Linda Gill tries ruffles on for size—despite her fear that they would be overwhelming.
After nearly a decadelong hiatus, flirty, structured and seriously romantic ruffles have gathered momentum as the "it" detail of the season. At its core, flounces of fabric are classic, a seemingly natural fit for Linda's traditional-with-a-twist style. But a ruffle, especially on a blouse, leaves her with mixed emotions. "I love ruffles because they're so feminine, but they can be overpowering," says Linda. "I'm big-busted, and I think they accentuate that area."
If you have a larger bust, wearing ruffles is entirely possible—and it can look incredibly chic. The trick is placement: Avoid ruffles at or around the bustline, since they can add extra bulk; instead, look for an open neckline with vertical ruffles or follow our lead and pick a blouse with tiered ruffles on the sleeves. Counteract the soft flounces with a structured pair of trousers in a wild print or a vibrant colour; an unexpected shade like fuchsia or bright orange can make all the difference in transforming ruffles from precious to powerful.
Measha Brueggergosman's voice is otherworldly, but her roots are firmly planted in the Maritimes. Born and raised in Fredericton, she still thinks of the city as home—and that's where you'll find her when she's not performing.
On a Wednesday night In Fredericton, you can likely find Measha Brueggergosman with her braids up and hat on, drink in hand, catching a reggae set at The Capital Complex, a live music venue. Saturday mornings are reserved for the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market, where there's a buffet of delicacies that mirrors Canada's multicultural flavour: Dutch sausages, Indian samosas, Greek souvlaki, German pastries and, let's not forget, the cheese counter. The next day, she'll be front row of her brother Neville's parish in nearby Maugerville to attend his 5:17 p.m. service (the start time is a nod to 2 Corinthians 5:17, a Bible verse about recreating yourself).
It was between the pews of her church and her grade school's music room that Measha, now widely considered one of the foremost sopranos of her generation, found her voice. By her teenage years, she had blossomed into the city performer, singing at every function, from bar mitzvahs to funerals. "Fredericton is a very musical community. I enjoyed a lot of early music education, and it's what set me on the path that I'd eventually take. I had access to many performance opportunities in the way only a small town could afford, which nurtured my desire to entertain," she says.
Measha has always felt a deep connection to her hometown, but she discovered more about her East Coast roots during the filming of Who Do You Think You Are?, the hit genealogy docuseries. She traced her family's history from slavery in Revolution-era America to their eventual freedom in Eastern Canada. She also learned that her ancestors hailed from Cameroon; they descend from the Bassa, a Bantu-speaking tribe known for its musical prowess. This revelation, and her family's past, is a recurring theme in Measha's new and most personal Christmas album, Songs of Freedom, a collection of traditional and spiritual songs that have been given modern arrangements.
Now, staring out her window, she spies the lobster pound bustling with activity before it closes for the year. She, too, is hard at work—writing her memoir, which she wants to finish before blowing out the candles on her 40th birthday cake this June. There's a lot to cover: her ancestral ties to the East Coast; her childhood in Fredericton; her journey to operatic stardom; her stories of pain and loss (she underwent emergency open-heart surgery at 32 and, only a few years later, suffered more heartache with the loss of her unborn twins). She knows she still has years of life to experience, but she wants to share what she's learned—up to this point, at least.
For now, though, Measha is relishing the East Coast scene. She'll soon be embarking on another international tour, but until then, she'll be in a tiny fishing village outside of Fredericton, where her dad has owned land for years, writing, eating lobster every day until season's end and soaking in the sights, sounds and views of home. "I like that my home base is here," she says.
Three insider tips from star soprano and Fredericton native Measha Brueggergosman.
1. Check out the music scene
"Lamèque is an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, just off the Acadian Peninsula. They have a music festival, the Lamèque International Baroque Music Festival, that's a destination for the world's music experts. People go because it's this utopia. It's hard to get to, but it's so worth it."
2. Eat at The Dip
"I would argue that the best 24-hour restaurant in the Maritimes is The Diplomat—which everyone calls The Dip—in Fredericton. It looks like a cross between the set of 9 1/2 Weeks and your stylish grandmother's living room. I get the special fried rice and bring it home to my parents."
3. Grab a coffee at Jonnie Java Roasters
"You have to go downtown to Jonnie's for the coffee. They were the first to roast their own beans, like 10 years ago. I would say they're the best at it."
You know the glee with which you first rebuffed parental admonishments to blow dry your hair or pull on a scarf before heading out on a wintery day?
Research had proven that cold weather per se won’t make you sick. It was the close quarters of the season that were to blame for the spread of all those viruses and bacteria, we thought. Alas, mom may have been right after all. In a new study out of Yale, researchers have discovered that when it comes to our immune systems, cold temperatures can allow the common cold to flourish in our bodies.
"In general, the lower the temperature, it seems the lower the innate immune response to viruses," said senior author and Yale professor of immunobiology Akiko Iwasaki in a Yale News piece on the study.
Instead of looking at how temperatures affect the rhinovirus — the main culprit in causing colds — Iwasaki and her colleagues looked at how cold temperatures might depress our immune system's ability to cope with the virus.
They sampled cells taken from the airways of mice, which were chilled to 33 degrees Celsius, four degrees lower than the mice’s core body temperature. At the lower temperature, the immune response was "impaired," they found, and the virus fared better.
Sure, the research at this point remains mouse-centric. But for the 20 per cent of us who host the rhinovirus in our noses as any given time, according to the Yale News piece, this is a clue as to how we might curb the virus in the future.
For now, a nose-concealing scarf is not a bad place to start, especially during the deep-freeze much of Canada is enjoying this season. Maybe your mom will even be kind enough not to say "I told you so."
We're a culture with a seemingly endless appetite for quick fixes, but could embracing the long way lead to happier, more productive lives?
Lindsey Lam considers herself Type A. Rather than shying away from challenges, she has always been determined, continually pushing herself to take on more. After graduating from the University of Alberta, where she majored in both English and women's and gender studies, Lindsey switched into high gear: She worked a full-time job, started a brand-consulting business with a friend and, if that wasn't enough, continued to volunteer as the communications chair on the board of her Rotary District. To help get through her lengthy and ever-growing to-do list, Lindsey used a few hacks to help schedule her time. Some she found helpful, like using visualization to mentally map out a stressful day; others, like using a complicated task-list app, turned out to be a bust.
Hacks (also known as shortcuts, tips or tricks) play on the idea that a wee shift in the way you do something can cause a dramatic increase in your productivity and allow you to do more with less: less energy, less time—you name it. "Hacks are fast, simple and novel ways to save time, money or effort that are fun, harmless and, at times, quite useful," says Dr. Janine Hubbard, a registered psychologist in St. John's, N.L. "There's great appeal in feeling successful quickly."
The Internet certainly agrees. Lifehacker.com, for instance, a website that describes itself as "the expert guide for anyone looking to get things done," has about 22 million monthly readers worldwide. And the site is hardly the sole online source of hacks; we're talking scores of beauty blogs, career websites and even the venerable New York Times, all publishing these seemingly helpful tricks. Not bad for a concept that's really only existed since 2003, when Danny O'Brien, a tech journalist, first blogged about a new project he was undertaking to document the clever shortcuts the computer programmers he knew were using to make their lives run more smoothly.
Now, the term "life hack" has evolved well beyond O'Brien's initial tech-focused collection of planning and organizing advice. Articles regularly promise things like a new job by the weekend, instantly well-behaved children or the ability to meet any goal you set in half the time, outcomes that seem a little too good to be true. But what makes these shortcuts so compelling, when many of us instinctively recognize an unrealistic claim? It all comes down to time. We know hacks are rarely as life-changing or easy to implement as they're made out to be, but with schedules, budgets and attention spans stretched to the limit, shortcuts sometimes seem the only way to get the most out of life. Carl Honoré, author of The Slow Fix: Solve Problems, Work Smarter and Live Better in a World Addicted to Speed, believes this kind of thinking is a trap. "We see time as the enemy, something to be conquered and exploited to the fullest extent," he says. "We seem to think that the best way to use time is to squeeze more and more into every minute."
Honoré is a proponent of the slow movement, one that (despite its name) is not about dragging things out or being inefficient. Instead, it promotes the idea that tasks should be completed at a speed that allows the participant to enjoy, savour and learn from the experience. Honoré believes that our lives are stuck on fast-forward, to the detriment of our health, relationships and personal development.
It's hard to disagree. Studies have suggested a link between mental health issues and our constant use of smartphones, tablets and computers. Though most hacks today don't depend on computer programs, as in 2003, there is still a strong focus on technology, especially when it comes to improving our productivity at work—and with the sum of the world's knowledge at our fingertips, it's easy to get caught up in looking for quick solutions to the challenges we face, rather than taking the time to think, reflect and finally act on the best course of action. Though Dr. Hubbard can see the appeal of hacks, she, too, believes in the value of slowing down. "Engaging in problem-solving helps shape cognitive skills such as reasoning, decision- making, critical thinking and creativity," she says.
Slow living takes on many forms, but whether it's slow reading, slow parenting or slow travel (to name a few), the concept remains the same: dialing down the pace to enjoy, rather than rush through, the experience. Even the corporate world seems to be coming around to the idea; some companies are adding nap rooms to their offices, offering on-site yoga classes or limiting emails sent to employees during off-work hours. The benefits? More refreshed, productive and engaged employees.
Still, hitting the brakes isn't for everyone. Some personalities, careers and lifestyles thrive in the fast lane. And, as anyone who has managed to double the storage space in her closet can tell you, hacks can be helpful, as long as you maintain reasonable expectations about what they can actually do for you. But "they're generally not realistic for larger goals or achievements," says Dr. Hubbard.
In the end, perhaps Honoré says it best: "Whether it's a fine wine, a happy family or a successful career, the good stuff takes time and effort." It's a reminder that, ultimately, it's often what you put into something that determines what you get out of it.
Ready to slow down? Here's what to do:
Take a pass
Too much going on? Learn to focus your energy on the things that matter to you by saying no to things that don't. If you find yourself put on the spot, try multitasking maven Lindsey Lam's tip: "Rather than saying yes right away, buy time by saying, 'I'll get back to you.' " That way, you're not forced to decide under pressure whether it's something you want to commit to. And when you do reply, "be sure it's with a definitive yes or no," she says.
Change your mindset
Proud of your packed, hectic schedule? "Being crazy-busy should not be a badge of honour; it should be a warning sign that your life is spinning out of control," says author Carl Honoré, a proponent of the slow movement. Remember that life will not be extra fulfilling just because you're extra busy. Take pride in time spent well: Do things you enjoy, connect with friends or work toward your goals.
Think you're doing more? Dividing your attention makes you less efficient and more prone to errors. If something, or someone, is important enough for you to spend time on, give it the honour of your full attention.