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Why Speed Work, Works

What an awesome weekend, guys! I have no idea how I was able to cram so much in and still feel like I had a restful weekend.

I had the 5 Peaks Rattle Snake race on Saturday morning (recap to come this Friday) and I was struck with an awful migraine that left me cancelling all my evening plans to sleep off my symptoms. I came to around 9:30 and promptly watched Orphan Black until 3 am. (I rarely watch TV, but occasionally I find a show I am addicted to and then it just gets out of hand).

 My Allegra and I. She won first for her age group in the Sport Course!

I spent Sunday with my family, eating lunch at my sister’s house, squeezing in a quick gym session and headed to the beach to watch the sunset.

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This week, it’s back to the grind, including a couple sessions of speed training. I wanted to chat a bit about the how’s and why’s of speed training and it’s benefits to runners.

I will use myself as an example. When I first began running in 2010, I thought you ran by just heading out the door with running shoes on. I was correct, but only to a point. To run WELL, I needed to incorporate intervals. It wasn’t until I seriously made them a part of my regular training that I began seeing serious gains in my performance including PRIng almost every race and seeing the podium more often then not. I have shaved 4 minutes off my 5 KM time in university varsity cross country in the past number of years because of interval training.

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Why Do Intervals Work?

Intervals make you focus on your top end speed which helps allow your body to get used to running at a fast speed, so you will do it more effortlessly in races. For me, the biggest thing that interval training built was STRENGTH. That explosive strength that gave me that extra kick in the last kilometre of a race and the sprints helps to develop stronger core muscles to help me in my distance runs.

You also are able to work HARDER than you ever could if you would try and sustain that speed over a long period of time. The break between your intervals allows your body to recover and it is a great way to monitor fitness.

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How Do You Incorporate Them Into Training? 

  • If you are just starting out, make sure you have a base built up in running. I would suggest being able to run 5 KM without stopping before starting to incorporate speed work into your training.
  • You want to find a local track or flat surface to do them on. Doing speed work on hills is helpful sometimes, but if the course is too steep or technical, it is hard to focus on speed.
  • Make sure you warm up – to reach your top end speed, it is important to not run on cold muscles as there is a much higher chance of injury. I always do a 20 minute run before my speedwork sessions.
  • Focus on your form! It can be easy to be hyperaware of speed and forget form, especially as you get tired, but making sure you are in correct posture will actually help you run faster.
  • Don’t over do it. Start with one speed session a week and work to two. I only do one speed session the weeks I am racing because too much intensity, like everything, can be a bad thing. By mixing it into your regular routine, you will notice huge gains in your racing speed.
  • Cool down. You are working your body hard and it will recover faster with a cool down. I normally run for about 10 minutes after my interval session.

Team Dave

Sample Interval Workout

20 minute warm up run

10 x 1 minute sprints with one minute recovery

10 minute tempo run

10 minute cool down

What is your favourite interval workout?

Goals for May

Goals for May 2014

What a weekend! It was one of those weekends full of amazing people, great memories and not enough sleep. The kind of weekend that leaves you exhausted come Monday morning, but with a huge smile on your face. I am so blessed to have a strong community of friends and runners who consistently make my day and that is something to be grateful for.

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If you follow me on Strava or Instagram, you saw there were lots of hills that were ran this weekend. I have a big hill race coming up next weekend and I want to be ready!

It is hard to believe that we are already in May. I have been ramping up my milage for my big summer races and so far I have been fortunate to remain injury free. It’s time to take a look at what I want to accomplish this May but first, let’s check out how I did in April. 

1. Foam roll and stretch every night before bed. C

Yeah…this was not a thing that happened. I had the best intentions, but I wasn’t able to execute it regularly because I found myself choosing between foam rolling and sleep, and sleep always wins. I did add a baseball and lacrosse ball to the therapy family arsenal so I feel as if I am more preventative than ever. I have made a huge effort to stretch and roll after ever hard run. Plus, our hot tub is open now, so there have been some long therapeutic soaks.

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Living dangerously

2. PR my next race. A+

 

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Check and check. Two races down in the books and both with a PR that shaved minutes off my old time. The interval training I have folded into my plan has been paying off!

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3. Stream line my schedule and instigate a bit more organization and time management. B

I have gotten better at my schedule and adding a few life hacks in to my days to help things flow more smoothly but I have realized that I thrive on being busy…almost too busy and until I can shake the habit, no amount of streamlining will add extra time to my day.

4. Organize my laptop. A++

I spent an evening at Starbucks with a latte and cleaned up my computer. It was fun to go back and find things I had written in undergrad and I even found a piece that I will be sharing in the upcoming months. SO nice to have a cleaned up computer.

5. Make big progress on my blog project. B

Blog projects always take longer than anticipated in my experience. I have had a number of meetings and developed the template, but there is still a bit to go…

Onto May! This month, I want to…

1. Increase trail running for Sulpher Springs and 5 Peaks Series. 

Lots of trail running friends have been shaken out of the wood work and I have been setting up more regular runs to go take in the local trail systems. I need to increase my hill training and technical skills so I am looking forward to adding more trails in May as the systems dry up and hope to add a brunch or two at the end!

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Past Sunday morning = Perfection. Long trail run and brunch

2. Increase community involvement. 

I have been given a really exciting opportunity to lead a running clinic with a local organization. I LOVE the community that I live in and I am excited to become involved in a new and exciting way.

3. Have a rocking race weekend on my birthday.

May 31 was the day that I first made a run into the world and I am celebrating with a weekend of racing. It kicks off with the Terra Cotta 5 Peaks run and ends with the Women’s Half Marathon in Niagara. I would love to see you at one or both of the races. They are my birthday parties. The race organizers just don’t know it yet…

4. Take one night off a week. 

I had alluded to my bad habit of busyness above and I am finding that it is getting just a little insane. For the sake of my training and mental health, I am reserving one night a week where I am home with nothing to do but get things done like cooking, laundry and blogging. Fingers crossed I can get an A+ on this one.

5. Spring clean!

It’s the time of year where my space and my car could use a little TLC and May is the month to tackle it!

What are your goals for May?

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Running With Friends (How to Avoid a 127 Hours Incident)

Happy Monday, one and all!

I had a weekend of running! I have run for the past 8 years or so mainly solo. I have run with local trail teams and varsity through university, but I seemed to thrive on hitting the trail, freeways and sidewalks alone without leaving notes or letting my friends and family know where I am. I love just dropping off the radar and running to my hearts content.

I do realize this is unsafe and a 127 Hours incident in the making.

james-franco-as-aron-ralston-in-127-hoursRecently, I have tried to broaden my horizons and realized how much faster my runs are slipping by with someone to talk to. I used to claim that a run was me time where I didn’t need to talk. But adding a friend to a workout adds so many new dimensions to a run. Examples, taken from this weekend:

Saturday morning – 7:15 am – 1 hour

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Angela is a blogger friend (EatSpinRunRepeat) who is one of the most inspiring people in my life. This girl does everything, succeeds at all of it and somehow makes it seem like a breeze. So when we run, we discuss everything from blog platforms and tech problems (she always has a guy for it) to pushing each other when we tackle that huge hill. She is a fast and dedicated runner and helps me keep my speed up and I am sure to get that stretch and foam roll in at the end and still be on time to teach my fitness classes.

Team DontGetLostAdventure – Sulphur Springs Ultra Marathon 

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I didn’t run this one. After teaching three classes, I headed up to Ancaster to cheer on Simon as he was in the area to run a leg of the 100 Mile race with his team. It was great to check out the race because I am planning to run it next May as well as to meet some amazing local ultra-runners. It was great to make the connections as I continue to train and become a better athlete; it is important to be surrounded by athletes who are role models. It looks like my summer trail workouts are going to be with groups from now on which is a fantastic change.

(Oh, and for the record? Not only did Simon’s team win – they set the course record. Again.)

Sunday morning – 8 am – 1 hour

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I have coached these ladies for the past month and a half and it has been a pleasure to see them go from not running at all to ripping out an hour. I warned them that I was doing a Running with Friends post and they struck a pose! These ladies help me remember why I started running – to see them discover all the pains and joys that come with sport has been such an exciting and rewarding thing for me. And people that run together share an endorphin fuelled bond. (And Starbucks, in our case. We like to call it a Coffee Run)

After church, I met up with another inspiring athlete and forgot to take a picture but…

Hydro Cut Trails – 12:30 pm – 1 hour

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Ashley is a trainer friend who is an absolutely ridiculously shredded Crossfitter. I took a Kettlebells class with her and needed to walk out for a “drink”. (Really, I was just dying). I have recently won her over to the dark side and she has taken up trail running. This was her first foray into the local trails and it was a pleasure to show her around. Running with someone who is stronger in another sport is a huge benefit because we are swapping benefits – I teach her the ins and outs of trail running and introduce her to more local runners and she makes sure that I keep muscle density as I increase my race training. Win. Win. And she is a true athlete and adventurer – really just a pleasure to be around.

So why run with friends? They strengthen your weaknesses, keep you accountable and help the miles fly by. I am completely won over to this whole running with friends idea. This is also a part of a challenge that I am working on with Under Armour. Stay tuned for more info on Wednesday!

On that note, want to go on a run?

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100 Miles of Wild Recap

A big thank you to all of you were so patient as I pressed a giant reset button and took a few weeks off of blogging to go on the Trek and get organized when I returned. This past Friday night, I spent that majority of the evening unpacking, organizing and going over the financial details of the trip. Can I just say that driving all the way to North Dakota and back cost me a mere $330 in my Prius? LOVE my car!

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I have gotten a lot of people asking me about my trip. How it came about? How the experience was? How I am feeling? I have a lot of caring people in my life and I figured this is the best way to bring everyone up to speed.

How it came to happen:
A couple Wednesdays ago, I was sitting in my regular spot in Starbucks, sipping a latte and trying to hammer out my column for AJ: The Green Athlete. The latest one can be seen here.

I was short on time and I was scrambling to find an organization that connected athletes and environmentalism. I forget exactly how it happened, but I landed on Adventure Science out of the blue and read their information on 100 Miles of Wild Trek in North Dakota this spring. I began furiously typing up my piece, getting more and more excited about the organization.

I thought it was an American company, but I felt a compulsion to email the founder, Simon Donato, and said I wanted to get involved somehow. I was thinking helping with the website, content, copy or promotion, but within 10 minutes, he had emailed me back and said that one of his athletes was hit by a car and potentially could not participate in the trek and would I be interested?

The days before leaving were a blur of requesting time off from bosses, cancelling appointments and a surgery, borrowing gear from friends, getting travel insurance, buying gear from Adventure Guide and figuring out how to tell my mother who had left the country for a short trip and had no idea that I would up and leave for a 100 mile trek while she was gone. (She has known me for over 23 years, I cannot understand why she would be surprised anymore).

My favourite conversation was with my AJ boss before I left. I called him to ask permission to go:

“So, it is going to the badlands of North Dakota and running 100 miles and it would be my vacation time and I will get everything done that I need to when I get back and (Insert other run-on, desperate pleading sentences here)”

He was silent for a moment. “Jessica. I knew you were an unusual human being when I hired you, but I can never get used to the requests you keep throwing my way. But GO!”

So I went. I had a brief conversation with my father as I headed to the border so he could tell my mom and break it gently. He gleefully crowed “THIS is the reason I held you over the banister by your ankles and swung you around when you were young – so you wouldn’t be afraid of anything!” (Do not jump to thoughts of child abuse. We loved it and always asked for more.)

Anyways. So the drive was a LOT longer than I thought. I taught a spin class before heading out and was on the road by 8 am on the last Friday of April. I had loaded up my iPod with new music and an audioversion of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, but the roads blurred into each other and I was almost hallucinating when I reach Minnesota for the evening to stay with one of the trek leader’s houses.

I saw distances like this on my GPS.

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Drive 760 km, then turn left

Soon, I was in the barren world of cactuses, oil trucks and country music. I heard advertisements for liquor stores that were leveraging cattle branding parties as a reason to come in and buy booze.

I arrived on the Saturday to the tiny town of Grassy Butte where I abandoned my car, picked up my huge back pack and headed to the base camp with the leader of the trek, Richard.

From there, I met the team and was briefed on what we were to expect for the week.

Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 3.09.13 PMWe were to head out into the badlands and would cover territory that people have never walked on and probably will never walk on again. We were to stop every 2-3 hours for “science” as they called it. We entered an analysis of the surrounding vegetation and wildlife into a book and took film and video footage to back it up.

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Why? Because they are planning on putting in 30 – 50,000 new oil wells in the badlands over the next 5 years. Our team’s goal was to go into the badlands as a completely neutral group of scientists and ultra runners, go to the wildest and most remote bits of the badlands and report back. The research will be taken to the University of North Dakota and the information will be presented to the citizens to help them make informed decisions when it comes down to the decisions surrounding the oil pads. Also, many years ago, it was the Badlands that inspired Theodore Roosevelt to develop the National Parks System and it was our job to see if the Badlands were as life changing now as they were back then.

I can tell you they are. I spent 7 days immersed in them, outside every day. Some days it was so cold that we woke up with frost on our tent and other days I came back with a sunburnt nose. We saw every form of wild life and woke up to sights like this:
Photo cred: Andrew Reinhard

Photo cred: Andrew Reinhard

I had experienced a lot of sad and discouraging things in 2013 – a break up, financial set backs, surgery, fear for Jolene. And even though the Badlands didn’t take any of that away, it was a reset button. I met some of the most incredible people who either love science or ultra running and in many cases both.  I was able to learn so much from the people around me. I learned how to orienteer from a US Army Ranger and discovered native flints in the creek bed with a geologist. The badlands broke me open and then filled me again.

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Getting away from the sappiness, an average day out there would begin with this.

We would put on our running clothes for the day (or in my case, almost every piece of clothing I brought to stay warm) and head to the eating area for Stoked Oats. (Buy them).

By around 7 am, we were ready to hit the Badlands with our maps, detectors and garmins. I was either on team Speed Deer or Mountain Kitty and we covered 20-30 miles with 3000-4500 ft of altitude each day. We would hike, climb and run through rolling buttes, grass lands, cattle feeding pastures and creek beds reporting on the wild life, landscape and oil pads, arriving at the last point at around 5-6:30 pm each night.

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Modelling some petrified wood

Modelling some petrified wood

Taken on the last day. They told us to take fun pictures but after running through miles and miles of cattle grazing, this was as creative as we could get.

Taken on the last day. They told us to take fun pictures but after running through miles and miles of cattle grazing, this was as creative as we could get.

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We were picked up and taken to base camp, which moved about 3 times throughout the course of the Trek. From there, we would “shower” (baby wipes), change into every article of clothing we had and gather around the fire to eat dinner and discuss our day, which was recorded or filmed to provide additional data.

By 10 – 11 pm each night, we would fall exhausted into our tents and the day would start all over again.

Our Team was the following:

Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 3.29.17 PM[Photos from the 100 Miles of Wild Blog]

Simon Donato: Geologist, Elite Adventure Racer, Founder of Stoked Oats, Host of the tv show Boundless. (Watch the trailer here) Ultrarunner.

Richard Rothus: Archaeologist, Historian, and Owner of Trefoil Cultural and Environmental and was in charge of Basecamp and Logistics.

Andrew Reinhard: Director of Publications for the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), Archaeologist. He headed up the control group which walked the trails of the Badlands.

Tim Puetz: Biomedical Research, National Institutes of Health, Army Ranger. Ultrarunner.

Keith Szlater: Technical Service and Basecamp and Logistics coordinator.

Tyler Leblanc: Our paramedic and member of the control team.

Jane Davis: Community Health Educator and Ultrarunner.

and, um. Me.

Needless to say, it was a wonderful experience to get to know all of these amazing and accomplished people over the course of a week. Another cool thing about the trek is that we carried the Explorer Club Flag.

untitledThe Explorers Club is an international multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of field research, of which Theodore Roosevelt was an honorary member. The flag represents the impressive history of courage and accomplishment, and has been carried by members to the Moon, the depths of the ocean, and around the globe. I am excited to be able to join the club having been on an approved expedition with the flag.

I will be going on more adventures with this team as I am now an ultrarunner for Adventure Science. I was given a huge boost of confidence by some of the ultra runners who told me they didn’t slow down for me. It instilled a desire in me to train harder, race more  frequently and in more international races and the belief that I am good enough to do it.

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It was sad to say goodbye to everyone on the team, but last Saturday, I dropped Jane off at the airport and began the long trek home. I stayed in Chicago for the night, ate deep dish pizza for the first time in my life (overrated) and slept for a solid 12 hours.

I arrived home on Sunday night and hit the ground running Monday morning.

Needless to say, with 48 hours of driving, I had a lot of time to think, some of which relates to the blog. Keep your eyes peeled for some new changes. Laces and Lattes will be around for a long time, but it will continue to change because I keep changing. Thank you all for being along for the run!

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For more reading on the trek, check out:

Adventure Science Facebook Page

Article in the Dickonson Press

Article in the Bismarck Tribune

100 Miles of Wild Press Conference

How to Liven up an Exercise Class..

Happy Monday, one and all.

I am tiiiired. This weekend, I was in Burlington and Vaughan for continuing education in fitness instruction.

15 hours of working out later, I am certifed to teach Aqua, Bootcamp, Body Sculpt, Step, and Kickboxing.

Speaking of step, I was just thinking of modelling my classes after this:

Literally one of the funniest things.

While we are the topic on amazing things to do in exercise classes, I was thinking of crashing a spin class and doing something like this:

If you could crash an exercise class, which one would it be and what would you do?

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chasing the footprints of those better than me.

Happy Monday, one and all! I hope your weekend was as relaxing as mine. I spent as much time as possible outside, soaking up that amazing sun!

On Friday, I hinted that I went shopping for a something that I had been waiting for over a year for.

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phoneWhich means I am now on instagram! It is a whole, new world of filters, friends and selfies. I kid. Self portraits are one of my least favourite things in the world. So on the off chance that I need to perform them, I will try to do them as creatively as possible.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

The very first picture I put up on Instagram was this lovely piece:

Screen shot 2013-03-10 at 11.42.11 PMNow. I promise that I will be more creative in the future than putting my mud caked, sweaty runners online for the entire world to see, but I truly felt as if it were myself or the shoe. So really, you all won. And I was so excited about the fact that I went on a long run on the most beautiful day in 2013.

I thought I would take this opportunity to use this seamless leeway to tell you another running story. A good one that is at the foundation of why I run. It is wrapped up in a single person who is fuelled by foreign beers and anger.

My father has a long time employee, we will call him George, that keeps to himself except to utter a few sarcastic tones and is generally not thrilled with people as a rule. However, if you want him to talk, ask him about running.

George has a way of deflating your best stories with a single word. I remember in high school when I was winning cross country races, I would go to him and tell him I ran 5 KM in less than 19 minutes. Without missing a beat, he would throw back at me: Run an ultra-marathon and let me know if you are good then.

And so I did. 

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t just as easy as just strapping on shoes and running. You had to join a club first. George invited me out to a trail running group that met every Tuesday night and introduced me to his friends, and then told me to run with another group.

Typical.

So I did. I found the most advanced group, who were winning ultra marathons around the region and I kept up, even if it meant returning to my car with blood and mud on my legs and either the taste of blood or vomit in my throat. (I am such a lady).

And I kept running until I fell in love with it.

George still talks to me when he sees me. Rushing over quickly to tell me about the latest race and checking in to make sure I am still running. He is over 60 and runs at least an ultra marathon a month in racing season. Beyond his crusty exterior, I found he has become fond of me, and what’s more – proud. He has invited me to his house to celebrate race victory parties, to train with him before a long race and has even let me sub in for him on a 30 km race for free.

Despite trying other sports, in a very strange and inexplicable way, running is like coming home every spring. Long winter months of fitness instruction and the odd foray into the icy weather to gingerly scamper over snow banks make me forget the pure joy of just running hard and fast until your breathing syncs with your foot  falls and your brain becomes quiet and it is just you and the road and maybe some birds for miles and miles and miles.

Sometimes I break my quiet runs to chase those who are better than me, to remind myself how far I have to go. But no matter how far he finishes behind me, I always can count on George to tell me that I would have been that much better if I would have ran straighter, had newer running shoes, or had been on the trails one more day a week.

And I love it. Because it was his dissatisfaction with my 5 KM that made me think I could do 50 KM. And why I am in the midst of planning to make it 50 miles. Sometimes overt pride from people suggests that your accomplishment is the best you can do, and I love that there is someone who always will have something I could have done better.

No matter how old I am or whether George is always in my life, I will always have his crusty voice telling me what I am doing wrong and how I could be doing it better which keeps me running. Running after perfection. Running after the finish line. And mostly, running for the sheer beauty of running.

Who inspires you in the things you are passionate about?

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The Definition of Insanity and other weekend adventures.

I just returned from a fabulous weekend away with my family.

We were all sitting around the table for dinner one evening and Max (my sister’s fiance) remarked how ridiculous it is that we need to drive 3 hours away in order to all be together as a family. We all agreed, but it is about being intentional with our time. That is why vacations are so important – to get away from the regular routine and to intentionally carve out space for your loved ones. I was only gone for 2 days, but I feel so much more refreshed than the average weekend.

We joined my father at The Carriage Ridge Resort where he had been staying all week.

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In all honesty, I don’t have many pictures of this weekend because it was the furthest thing from my mind, but our rooms looked something like this:

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We spent the majority of Saturday snowboarding.

Max & Megan - We talked lots of wedding plans this weekend!

Max & Megan – We talked lots of wedding plans this weekend!

LOVE these girls.

LOVE these girls.

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We didn’t really do all that much, which is the best part! I tackled more of my book. 

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If you follow my Books I am Reading Board on Pinterest, you will know that it has been the last book up there since…Novemberish?

It has been a rough book to work through. Recently, I was lamenting it’s difficulty to a friend and she asked me if the reason if the reason I cannot put down hard books in favour of things I ACTUALLY want to read is a residual affect of my athleticism? The fact that I just do things over and over, even though they suck. (Which is mighty close to the definition of insanity, I may add). I think she is right, I feel a moral obligation to a book to finish it once I have cracked it’s spine.

I have to say, my efforts are being rewarded because at about 250 pages in, it is becoming fabulous. It has been one of those books from the beginning that I couldn’t give up on even though I didn’t know why. (Maybe because my English Major heart would be wounded by the fact that I gave up on a book that won the Booker of Booker prizes.)

Regardless, I read my book.

I had a race and a faux water aerobics class that left me and my siblings laughing so hard we were crying.

Outdoor portion of the pool!

Outdoor portion of the pool!

We ate some beautiful meals together.

We watched this movie and talked about it:

We fought a little.

And then we made up.

That is the beauty of family and why I am so proud to call them mine.

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What did you do this weekend?

Are you one of those people that when you pick up a book, you HAVE to finish it? Or perhaps a tad more level? :P 

Weekend Recap: An Ode to Sunday

This weekend, I was thinking a lot about downtime.

As Jesse dropped me off after a friend’s birthday party on Saturday night, I asked him (with a day of work, tutoring and writing behind me) “Guess what we are doing tomorrow?”

“What?” he asked, with exhaustion and a clear tinge of irritation in his voice at the event that I again forgot to remind him of and was planning on dragging him to.

“Absolutely NOTHING!”

He grinned.

And that is exactly what happened. (Sort of).

We left early for church so we could stop at Starbucks and get our favourite lattes before church began. We stayed after the service and discussion groups to mingle with friends and catch up with their lives.

We went to a brand new restaurant for lunch and instead of ordering meals, just slowly ordered what we wanted, one by one, from the fresh menu and took a 2 hour lunch.

We went on a long walk.

We both took a nap.

We spent all evening cooking up a multi course meal and ate it slowly and watched a movie.

It was absolutely indulgent and completely what I love and need in a Sunday. Sometimes I spend my Sundays with family, sometimes it is helping someone out and sometimes, like yesterday, I just spent it with my best friend.

I love to live my life at warp speed, but the faster my life gets, the more jealously I guard my Sundays. For me, it is the one day where I can slow the pace of life down, unravel a bit of the stress and chose to do things the slow way, even if it is just for one day. I celebrate my relationships with those who are closest to me because they are often the first to get neglected when I am busy. I take the morning off to go to church because beyond so many other things, the simple routine, the loving people and the wonderful God are what help keep me grounded.

Sunday is my secret weapon to wake up on Monday and be refreshed, excited and ready to do the week all over again.

What is your secret weapon to staying balanced and managing stress?