Friday, February 29, 2008

The Inspiration Muscle


by Heather Hopkins

On the T2F website, there is a section called the Inspiration Muscle. Since our website started, I have often thought about what the inspiration muscle is. Is it just a clever play on words or is it real?

Over the last year, I have come to the conclusion that it is very real and can take many different forms. It may be reaching a personal accomplishment that encourages you to go further and try harder. It may be seeing your fellow runners achieve running goals they once believed to be unachievable. It may be a documentary that chronicles the experience of a group of non-runners as they become runners. It may be a high-five at the end of a run. It may be an extra point or words of praise from your running pals. Whatever form it takes, the result is often a renewed belief in yourself and what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.

But it is also much more. It is mind over matter. This is the biggest thing that I learned since we started our journey to become runners. While some days are effortless, others are a struggle. It is on these days that you use the inspiration muscle the most. Your thoughts are conflicted and you struggle with your body and your mind. Some days you need to tell yourself to get out there and go for it even though you don't want to. In the end, you feel such a sense of reward and you're glad you did it. You feel "inspired"!

Other days you have to convince yourself to hold back, slow it down, maybe even walk! Being patient and knowing your limits is a mental battle but it may save you from injury or help you recover from one. Sometimes you just have to be "inspired" to take things nice and easy.

In the end, you'll be happy you did.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Case study


You know, I've read lots of articles and heard many an announcer going on about how organizations have realized major cost savings by adopting a more active corporate lifestyle. Just Google the topic and you're presented with thousands of case studies outlining countless programs developed by employers encouraging regular, physical activity; programs that have led to healthy employees and even healthier bottom lines. Our little public transit operation in Canada's far east, may be the latest such case study.

As a business graduate, the term "case study" conjures up frightening memories of blurry-eyed all-nighters spent in front of a monochrome screen, typing countless pages of bla bla, convinced that my grade would be based on the weight and not the content of what I submitted - this case study, however, is a little different. Like all good case studies, I have to give you the background to make you familiar with the "case" part, so here goes.

In late December 2006, most of the non-union employees in our organization got together and planned to form a lunch-time running club in the new year that was approaching. We were not runners and many of us had very little physical activity in our lives; hardly the model group, or perhaps the perfect one, to be forming such a club. We started out by setting a couple of goals for ourselves - the first to run a 5-K road race by April and the second to run a 10-miler by July. Formal training started during the first week of January with some twenty minute walking sessions. Over the weeks that followed, and while training continued, we designed a website and established a regular newsletter. To make a long story short, we reached all of our running goals by the end of July and continued to train for more races throughout the remainder of 2007. Today, the group is training for a Half Marathon taking place in May of this year.

Now for the "study" part:

My boss walks into my office today and tells me she has something that should be included in our next Club newsletter. She went on to tell me that during a recent meeting with our firm's group benefits plan consultant, we were advised that our non-union prescription drug plan usage dropped 43 per cent in 2007. I'm not a numbers guy; I usually start to gloss over soon after the first instance terms like "percent" or "dollars" are spoken, but this was a statistic that grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. Like my boss said, it would be difficult to determine exactly what led to such a decrease, but it's awfully coincidental that in a year that most of us "got healthier" our use of the health plan benefits dipped dramatically.

I think we all deserve a pat on the back for this accomplishment and I extend a thank you to our employer for being a big supporter of our Running Club. So here's to us - well done gang!

Now that's a nice way to end the week.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Six more weeks?


I've never been much of a Winter-time runner, in fact, I always used to take the months from December to March, off completely from running. Lately though, I've been enjoying some cold-weather runs so much so, I'm kind of glad Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow.

And while the thought of a longer, colder Winter has at least one of my fellow Running Club members rolling her eyes, I'll state my case for why cold-weather running is as great, if not better, than its summer-time equivalent.

First, I like being able to dress for the cold - as the temperature drops, the number of layers increase until I'm comfortable - if I warm-up, I can take something off. Not true for fair-weather running - as the temperature rises, we run out of things to take off and are then tortured by the heat for the rest of our run only to finish resembling something between steamed broccoli and a cooked lobster.

Second, when you reach back to take a swig from your water bottle in February, your thirst is met with a cold and satisfying treat. In August, the water that has been nearing the boiling point since you started running thirty minutes ago, mixes with your sweaty lips producing warm swamp water, at best - now that's refreshing, not.

But what I find most appealing about Winter running is it's kind of our way of fighting back against the weather gods who seem determined, at times, to keep us in doors. Even after metres of snow, inches of freezing rain and more gale-force winds than Old Man Winter himself thought he could ever muster, we head out for our regular Sunday run. You can huff and puff, but you'll never blow a runner down.

I could go on, but in all honesty, while I'm loving running this Winter, I too look forward to the day I can run once again in shorts and a tee. Maybe it's easiest to say that I just love running.

Now Jill, you can stop rolling your eyes - oh and dress warmly.