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5 Diversions That Keep Me Sane

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Several years ago, shortly before George was diagnosed with autism, I realized that I needed a life. I can trace this realization to the exact moment it struck me. George, who was three, was at daycare, and one-year-old James was taking a nap. For all intents and purposes, I was alone. I was wandering from room to room picking up toys and gathering dirty laundry with only the background noise of the TV for company. The TV was tuned to TVO Kids because I had been too lazy to change the channel. An episode of Max & Ruby came on (for the uninitiated, Max & Ruby is an immensely annoying kids’ TV show featuring two child bunnies with unaccountably absent parents), and I actually sat down to watch because it was an episode that I hadn’t seen.

About three seconds later, I was struck by how ridiculous this was. Here I was, a grown woman with a university education, making a conscious choice to watch a TV show aimed at three-year-olds. What had happened to me? Clearly, I needed to take urgent action to prevent my brain from turning to mush. I decided to resurrect old interests that had gone by the wayside, and to start investing more time and effort into my friendships.

Since then, life has become more complicated for a variety of reasons, and so it has become even more important for me to have my me-time. Here are my five favourite things to do when I need to disconnect from the responsibilities of parenting.

1. Go for a run. I’m not sure whether it’s the fresh air or the motion, but there is something magical about the way running restores my mental equilibrium. This weekend, I was feeling an incredible amount of sadness. I went out for a long run, and when I got back I discovered that I had left the sadness out on the road somewhere.

2. Book, wine and bubble bath. This is my favourite way to unwind after a long day. When the kids are asleep, I run a bubble bath, and then I retreat from the world with a glass of wine and one of the Indigo Books new book releases.

3. Time with friends. The trouble with most of my friends is that they live in other countries. I don’t get out socially very much, but I still take whatever opportunities I can to grab lunch or coffee with friends. And for the friends who don’t live in the same city as me, there’s always Facebook. I have some amazing friends who I’ve never actually met in person, and those friendships are just as important to me as my “real-life” friends. While some people might criticize me for “wasting time on Facebook”, what I am actually doing is spending time with friends.

4. Learning new things. I am enrolled in a post-graduate writing certificate program, that I’m hoping will lead to a Masters degree program. Since enrolling in the program and successfully completing the first two classes, I have been reminded of how much I love to learn. Yes, it’s hard work, and I bitch and moan about deadlines and so on, but my complaints are really just hot air. I love being in school, and I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get from it.

5. Nocturnal TV time. I have bouts of insomnia from time to time, and there are few things worse than lying awake in the middle of the night worrying about stuff like whether your child with autism will be OK after you’ve shuffled off your mortal coil. When it feels as if the anxiety will overtake me, I get out of bed and curl up on the couch sipping wine and watching my Friends DVDs. Sometimes, all I need is a bit of solitude combined with feel-good comedy.

What are your go-to methods for escaping reality?

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle, published in accordance with my disclosure policy. Photo credit: jonathanhoeglund. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

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133 Days To Go

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In 133 days, 10 hours and 20 minutes (give or take a few), I will be starting my fifth annual run for autism. I run several races each year, and all of them mean something to me. Each race has its own story of struggle and triumph. Every race – even the ones that I don’t do particularly well in – is a victory.

There is no race that brings a tear to my eye in the same way as the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. This is the race that I dedicate to my son George, my amazing child who is so brave and determined in the face of his disability. As I cross the start line of this race, it is with the thought that while I will be done with the run in a little over two hours, George has to live with the challenges of autism every single day for the rest of his life. For him, there is no finish line. He does not get to stop and rest.

He has plenty of triumphs, though. Some of them would go unnoticed in “typical” households, but for us, they represent growth and a step towards independence. There is no such thing as a “small victory” in my family. That is one great thing about having a child with autism. You develop the ability to truly appreciate what others might regard as “the little things”.

I believe that the more help George gets now, the brighter his future will look. So my husband and I do everything we can to provide him with opportunities for living and learning. For me, that includes doing my part for the autism community, in an effort to make the world a better place not only for George, but for other people with autism.

And so I run, and I raise pledges. All funds that I raise go to the Geneva Centre for Autism, where they are used to provide much-needed services for children and youth with autism. Examples of things purchased with the money include musical instruments, art supplies, sports equipment, iPads, summer camps, job training and much more.

Today, I am excited to announce that pledges are open for my 2013 run for autism. At the moment, my fundraising goal is a cool thousand dollars, but I am really hoping that I can surpass that and up my target.

If you have any dollars to spare, please consider sponsoring me for this run.

Together, we can make a real difference to the lives of kids with autism.

To donate, please visit my fundraising page.

 

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Book Review: I Run, Therefore I Am STILL Nuts!

My sports medicine doctor once told me that runners are his least favourite patients.

“It’s nothing personal,” he was quick to add. “It’s just that rehabbing you people after an injury is impossible. You never listen to instructions, you just go out and run long before you’re ready to, and then you’re back here ten days later wondering why your injury has flared up.”

I have to admit that my doctor has a point. We have a very special kind of dedication to our sport, runners do. If our training program calls for a 20km run, then we will do a 20km run, even if the Weather Network is warning motorists not to go out because of a blizzard. We take pride in the incredulous looks we get from people when we go out in mad conditions, we wear our black toenails like badges of honour, and we are slaves to our Garmin watches.

If you can relate to this, you will love Bob Schwartz’s hilarious book, I Run, Therefore I Am STILL Nuts! The author writes about his experiences as a runner, from injuries to races, from trying to force encourage his kids to run with him to giving in and getting a dog instead. All through this book, I was nodding along knowingly and gaining little insights into the slight insanity that the partners of runners have to live with. I’m sure my husband appreciates the new-found awe with which I regard him.

You don’t even have to be a runner to appreciate this book. If you live with a runner, know a runner, or simply get frustrated with races messing up the traffic where you live, you are sure to get a kick out of reading this. The easy reading and laugh-out-loud humour are supplemented with delightfully funny artwork by B.K. Taylor.

Runners and supporters alike will get more than a good laugh out of reading this. Interspersed among the humour are little snippets of wisdom. Thanks to the book, I now know how I might be able to achieve the all-important Runner’s High if an injury prevents me from running. I have a new appreciation for the sheer simplicity of running, and for the first time I realize that runners are more than a little obsessed with the concept of time.

I also take pride in the fact that I am part of a tribe that can claim to be truly nuts.

(Review copy and image of cover kindly provided by Human Kinetics).
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The Liebster Award – Questions and Answers

The two wonderful ladies who nominated me for the Liebster Award each gave me eleven questions to answer. I didn’t want to include my answers in yesterday’s post, because that was already running to over 900 words.

Here are the questions Maya asked me, along with my answers.

1. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My difficulty with food. I have some long-standing body image issues and a very uncomfortable relationship with food. I have tried countless ways to permanently fix my eating habits, and I have finally come to the conclusion that this might be something I have to take up with my therapist.

2. High heels, sneakers or flip flops? Sneakers!

3. The beach, the city or the mountain? The beach. I love the energy of the sea along with the hot sun.

4. Who is your favourite singer/group? I enjoy many artists, but the one I always come back to is Queen. When Freddie Mercury died, the world lost a man with phenomenal talent.

5. If you could vacation anywhere (cost is not a consideration), where would you go and why? South Africa. I’d have a good long vacation there to see my mom and brother, and other family members and friends. And I’d get my fix of hot sunshine and Highveld storms.

6. Do you mind that my blog is sometimes snarky? Nope. I can handle snark as long as it’s honest.

7. What is the one thing we would be surprised to know about you? My job involves a lot of interaction and a certain amount of conflict (all very professional, of course), and I find this incredibly difficult because I have social anxiety issues.

8. Favourite guilty-pleasure TV show? Friends. Last time I had to take sick days from work, I hunkered down in the front of the TV with my Friends DVD set.

9. Favourite book or author? This may sound really lame, but I absolutely love Dr. Seuss – even at my age. I love the rhythm of his books, and his quotes are the absolute best.

10. Do you admit to having a favourite child? No, but when they’re misbehaving, they do conveniently become my husband’s kids.

11. If you could replace your life with one from the Disney Channel, which show would you pick? I don’t know what’s on the Disney Channel, but I wouldn’t mind being the guy in Blues Clues for a day. I’d have a good long conversation with that talking mailbox. But only for a day. I wouldn’t be able to handle the psychedelic world for longer than that.

And here are the questions that Phaedra asked me, along with my answers.

1. Speed work. Love it or loathe it? Love it. It can definitely be painful, but I love having a specific goal for my runs, and the feeling of accomplishment at the end is great.

2. How did you get into running? The first time round, it was part of a quest to quit smoking and get healthy. The second time, I was (and still am) motivated by the opportunity to raise funds for kids with autism.

3. What is your one guilty pleasure? Most evenings, when the kids are in bed, I sip on a glass of wine while winding down from my busy day.

4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? I’m pretty happy where I am, to be honest. I love Toronto, and although waiting lists do my head in sometimes, autism services in Ontario are pretty good.

5. Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s #1 on it? Yes, I do have a bucket list. The #1 item is to run the Cape Town Marathon. I only want to do one full marathon, and that one is it.

6. What piece of gear could you not live without? Hands-down, this has to be my Garmin training watch.

7. Do you have a bad habit you want to break? I’m always too rushed (or too lazy, let’s be honest) to put on Bodyglide before heading out for my long runs. As a result, my oversized boobs get shredded to ribbons from the chafing.

8. What is your go-to pre-race meal? Two slices of whole-grain toast with peanut butter, and a good-sized cup of coffee.

9. Do you prefer to run in cold or the heat? I’ll run in just about anything, but I do love summer running. The only weather condition that I absolutely loathe running in is strong wind.

10. What do you love about running? I have figured out what duration and intensity it takes for me to achieve the Runners High, and it’s always worth it. The big thing for me – and the thing that keeps me motivated during runs that are not going well – is the feeling of accomplishment at the end.

11. Are you a solo runner or do you run with a group? I always run by myself, mostly because my schedule doesn’t really allow me to run with other people. I like running alone, but company would be nice on the occasional run.

Now, I get to make up eleven questions for the people I have nominated. Here’s what I would like to know.

1. How much time do you spend on the Internet each day (no judgment, I promise!)

2. What is the dumbest thing you ever did?

3. What is the smartest thing you ever did?

4. If you had to entrust one person with a winning lottery ticket, who would it be?

5. What is your earliest childhood memory?

6. What one thing (if anything) would you change about your physical appearance?

7. When did you last hand-write a letter to someone?

8. Have you ever had a falling-out with your best friend, and did you make it up?

9. If you could have any job in the world (regardless of qualifications needed), what would it be?

10. BlackBerry, Android or iPhone?

11. If you could have dinner with any famous person, living or dead, who would it be and why?

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Body for Life: Starting the Adventure

Quite a few years ago, on the suggestion of my friend Adam, I entered something called the Body for Life Challenge. Adam, who was my chiropractor at the time, was entering the challenge himself, and he formed a little group of people who would take part and offer support and encouragement to each other along the way.

Body for Life is an exercise and nutrition program that promises spectacular results if you follow the guidelines. The guidelines are quite simple. The nutrition aspect involves balancing carbs with proteins, and it follows the now-accepted protocol of six small meals throughout the day instead of one large one. The exercise aspect involves daily workouts, alternating cardio activity with strength training. You follow the Body for Life program for six days a week, and on the seventh you are free to eat whatever you like and sit in front of the TV all day.

I stuck with the program for about nine of the twelve weeks, and during that time I had phenomenal results. Excess weight melted off me, and for a while, my flabs actually turned to abs. Unfortunately, I was thrown off-track by a serious injury to my left (dominant) hand that required stitches, cortisone shots, and all kinds of other ugliness. Back then, I did not have what it took to get back into the saddle after a setback. I was completely derailed.

Although I gained back some of the lost weight after that, it wasn’t all a complete waste. Being on the program taught me some basics about nutrition and exercise that have stayed with me to this day, and of the fifty or so pounds that I lost, I gained back about fifteen. So as a program with long-term effectiveness, it’s pretty good.

I have been feeling a little iffy about my body of late. I run long distances and exercise several times a week. My eating is less than ideal but certainly not disastrous. And yet, I still struggle with my weight. I continue to fight with belly fat gained during my pregnancies seven and nine years ago. I have bat wings. My thighs wobble. My oversized boobs get shredded to bits on long runs, in spite of a good sports bra.

I hate to think what I would look like if I didn’t exercise. I mean, what does a girl have to do to be a normal weight around here?

In the wake of my decision to run a marathon three years from now, I have decided that I am going to reinvent my body. I will never be reed-thin or fit into a B-cup, and perhaps I will always have a little jiggle in my belly to remind me of the lives I had the honour of growing. But there is weight for me to lose. There are things I can do to lose fat, increase muscle mass, and be leaner and stronger.

Over the years, I have tried a number of different eating plans. I have sought the advice of a life coach and a dietician. I have attempted this thing and that thing. But none of it has worked, and it has been very frustrating. For someone with body image issues and a history of eating disorders, this is not healthy.

And so it makes sense to me to go back to the only program that yielded results, the only program I was able to sustain for any length of time. Yesterday, I started the Body for Life challenge again. I have recorded my weight and measurements, and I have had my “before” pictures taken.

This time, it will be even better than before. Because now, I know I will have the strength to pick myself up after any setbacks that may come my way. And when the twelve weeks are over, the healthy habits that I gain will stay with me.

I am not publishing my initial weight and measurements, but I will report back every week to tell you what I’ve (hopefully) lost, along with pictures that show progress. Hopefully they will look better than this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you really want to see my flabby bits in all their glory, you can click on the pictures for full-size versions

Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle’s long-suffering husband

 

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Ten Running Questions

Several months ago, I became a part of the WEGO Health network – a group of people advocating for health, either for themselves or for a loved one. My health advocacy serves a treble purpose. First, I want to do my part for the autism community on behalf of my son George. Second, I want to share how running helps my physical and mental health. Third, I am tentatively starting to talk about my own mental health, sharing stories from my past, in hope of removing the stigma surrounding depression and other mental illnesses.

Recently the folks at WEGO Health announced that November is National Health Blog Posting Month, and they issued a challenge for bloggers to publish a post every day for the month of November. I am never one to shy away from a blogging challenge, so here I am! Some days I will go with the suggested prompt, other days I will just follow the lead of my writer’s instinct. I will even have a couple of guest posts along the way.

Some time ago, my friend Phaedra tagged me in a post on her own blog. Phaedra is the kind of runner other runners want to be like, and she coached me through a phenomenal running season, in which I clocked up no fewer than five personal bests. In her post, Phaedra gives the answers to ten questions, which she then passes on to fellow runners. Phaedra’s answers can be found here. My answers are below, and I invite all runners to post their own responses and leave a link in the comments below.

1. Best run ever? In August, I did the Midsummer Nights Run 15K. For some reason 15K has always been a challenging distance for me – far harder than the half-marathon, which is six kilometres longer. The Midsummer Nights Run is on a course that I have tackled a couple of times before, and I have never done well on it. I was dreading this race because I had such big mental issues with the course. This time, though, I found my zone early on in the race. I hit the runner’s equivalent of the “sweet spot” golfers are always on about. I well and truly conquered the course, beating my previous personal best by a whopping 13 minutes and with energy still in the tank.

2. Three words that describe your running? Determined, focused, stress-relieving.

3. Your go-to running outfit? In the summer, I wear one of two pairs of running shorts – the leg-hugging kind, so my thighs don’t chafe. I pair that with either my Energizer Night Race T-shirt or one of my Geneva Centre for Autism shirts. In the fall, I replace the shorts with a pair of longer lightweight tights, and in the winter I wear whatever will prevent bits of me from freezing off in the cold.

4. Quirky habit while running? When I turn onto my street at the end of a long run, I pretend to be an elite athlete from Kenya. I sprint down the final stretch and fantasize about having run the entire distance like that, and when I step over the line dividing the road from my driveway, I raise both arms in a victory salute and pretend I am breaking the tape at the finish line of a race. It will probably never happen for real, but a girl can dream, right?

5. Morning, midday, evening? In general, I am an early morning runner. In the winter, though, a lunchtime run in the crisp cold air can be a purely magical way to get a break from the chaos of the workday.

6. I won’t run outside when: there’s lightning. There are a lot of trees in my neighbourhood, and I would worry about being struck, because that would just be my luck. I also tend to avoid the wind. I don’t mind running in rain, snow and sleet, but I absolutely detest strong wind. For some reason, it makes me anxious and edgy, often to the point of a panic attack.

7. Worst injury and how I got over it: Almost three years ago, an appointment with a chiropractor went dreadfully wrong – a result of pure bad luck rather than any fault on the part of the chiropractor – and I ended up with a pinched nerve in my neck. My left arm was in absolute agony, and the fingers on my left hand were numb. I had to go to the emergency room twice, and for the next six weeks I cried myself to sleep while I was waiting for the Percocet to kick in. Physiotherapy ultimately sorted me out, and to this day, I have numb fingertips.

8. I felt like a most badass mother runner when: I spent virtually all of the Good Friday Ten-Miler neck and neck with an older but much fitter gentleman who issued a friendly challenge to me, and then near the end of the race, I tore away from him and beat him to the finish line.

9. My next race is: the Tannenbaum 10K at The Beach in Toronto, on December 2nd.

10. Potential running goal for 2013: I’d like to see if this old body can handle three half-marathons in a single year. I’d also love to break an hour in a 10K race and beat 2:15 in a half-marathon.

 

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Book Review: The Art of Running Faster (Julian Goater, Don Melvin)

When I was given the opportunity to review The Art of Running Faster by Julian Goater and Don Melvin, I was hesitant. Although I have a passion for running and am on a permanent quest to be better at it, I have tended to find books about running to be a little dry. The books have contained good factual information, but they don’t make for easy reading.

Two pages into this book, however, I was hooked. Julian Goater, the primary author, is a former elite runner from England. The advice he offers in The Art of Running Faster is liberally interspersed with anecdotes from his competition days. He gives lively accounts of races that he and his contemporaries took part in: the book artfully combines instruction with storytelling.

Goater manages to give solid advice in easy-to-understand language without talking down to his audience. He strikes a tone that is authoritative yet conversational, and while the book does seem to be geared more towards competitive athletes, there is plenty of advice for runners of all levels.

A book like this one has to meet two basic criteria in order for it to be deemed a success. First, it has engage the reader and hold his or her interest. Second, the reader has to be able to follow the advice between the covers and judge whether or not it works.

The authors have unquestionably succeeded on the first count. The material is clearly presented, the topics are covered in a way that is both informative and entertaining, and each chapter concludes with a nifty point form summary of the main topics covered.

With the first criteria met, all I had to do was test out the content of the book. In doing so, I discovered three things:

1) The advice is clearly laid out and not couched in theoretical language. Julian Goater tells runners exactly what steps to follow in order to improve things like  form and hill running.
2) I didn’t have to get through most of the book before finding advice that I could act on. I was able to practice techniques I read about from the very first chapter.
3) The advice actually works. Since reading the book and using it to change various aspects of the way I run, my average long run training pace has improved by about thirty seconds per kilometre and I am no longer completely intimidated by monster hills.

This book has earned a permanent home on the “frequently read” section of my bookshelf. I have a feeling that I will read it many times, and each time I will get something new out of it.

In spite of its title, The Art of Running Faster is not only about becoming a faster runner. It is about becoming a better runner.

(Review copy and image of book cover kindly supplied by Human Kinetics)

 

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Dad: My Running Inspiration

My Father The Hero

When I first started running in the winter of 1996, my dad was my first-ever coach. At that stage of my life, I was quitting smoking and giving up a host of very unhealthy lifestyle habits. My idea of running involved jogging for about thirty seconds and then walking for five minutes while trying to get my breath back. I was that out of shape. When Dad offered to coach me, I initially felt a little awkward. I mean, he was an ex-marathoner of note and he’d be coaching someone who could barely get off the couch. But he insisted that I since I had the spirit of a runner, the rest would follow easily enough.

Over the next few years, Dad gave me a ton of advice that came not from reading books, but from experience. He taught me about hydrating in small frequent sips rather than the occasional big gulp. He took me to the running store not for shoe shopping, but to make sure I knew how to pick out the right socks – something he said many runners fail to see the importance of. He told me that it was important to keep moving after a run instead of just stopping, and he showed me how matching my breathing to my pace would help me not only physically, but mentally as well.

While I was still living in Johannesburg, Dad and I spent many hours sitting on his patio drinking wine and chatting about the South African running scene. He would tell me why this guy was probably going to win the nationals despite being a rookie, and why that guy would crash and burn despite years of experience. He was usually right in his predictions.

Now, seven years after his death, I have realized something that makes me very sad: I did not talk to him enough about his own days as a runner. Today I was looking through a scrapbook I have put together of newspaper clippings, certificates and photographs. I looked at the medals and trophies he won that I got when he died, and I read his training log. And I got a true appreciation for just how great a runner he was.

In his prime, Dad was one of South Africa’s elite marathon runners, featuring in the top ten lists for various distances. As a 22-year-old running his second marathon, he won a place on the podium by crossing the finish line in third place. He ran the now-defunct Peter Korkie ultramarathon – a distance of 37 miles or 59 kilometres – in a time of just over four hours. He ran sub three-hour marathons as a matter of course.

And I wish that I had asked him about those days. How old was he when he started running? What got him into it? What was it like, being a runner in those days?

Apart from a few anecdotes he shared about his days as a runner, and the artifacts that I have now in my possession, I know shamefully little about my dad’s journey as one of South Africa’s true running talents.

It’s not too late to try and find out, though. I have plans to go back to his roots, to the sports club he ran for, to try and find someone who ran with him.

Maybe he will guide me in my quest to find out more, just as I feel him guide me in the races I run today.

(Photo credit: unknown photographer – picture is from my dad’s running archives)

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Running: Microlactin As A Race Recovery Aid

When I ran a personal best at last year’s Fall half-marathon, I could barely walk for about a week afterward, and I didn’t even attempt to run for about two weeks. I knew that I should get out and run as soon as possible, that the best cure for tight muscles was motion. But when you have trouble getting from your bedroom to the bathroom without looking like a 200-year-old, the idea of a 5K jog around the neighbourhood is akin to climbing Mount Everest.

Initially I blamed the bag pickup setup at the race. The bag pickup area had been placed at the end of the finish line chute, which meant that twenty thousand runners were forced into a corral the width of a three-lane city street. It was absolute chaos. I stood in that line for two hours waiting for my bag, with no place to stretch or cool down and dehydration making my mind go moggy.

While that experience undoubtedly hindered my race recovery, it could not have been the only factor. All I had to do was cast my mind back to my long training runs. I had been in pain for several days after each one, even when I had not pushed myself particularly hard. There had to be some other factor that was preventing my body from bouncing back in the way that I thought it should.

I was introduced to a supplement called Microlactin in early May, about three weeks prior to the Toronto Womens Half-Marathon. Among the things promised in the promotional material were decreased joint pain and enhanced recovery from strenuous exercise.

Microlactin is made by Swiss Natural, the same company that manufactures the only multivitamin that my body tolerates. The active ingredients are micronutrients found in cow’s milk, that slow the emigration of neutrophils from vascular spaces into the joint spaces.

What’s that? Oh never mind, I didn’t understand that sentence either.

Here’s a translation: the milk proteins in Microlactin help reduce the inflammation associated with joint pain, thereby enhancing mobility and recovery from strenuous exercise. All I had to do was take it for a minimum of two weeks to see these benefits.

Well, this would be interesting. My first thought wasn’t whether this supplement would actually benefit me, but how it would fit in with all of the other stuff I take. My daily regimen already included multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and a vitamin B/C complex. Could I really add something else to the mix?

Before taking it, I Googled Microlactin. I didn’t see anything that indicated an adverse reaction to Microlactin, either taken alone or with other supplements. Best of all, it made no difference whether it was taken with or without food.

According to the instructions on the bottle, the recommended dosage is four capsules twice a day. That seemed like an awful lot, especially considering how big the capsules are. I soon found, however, that as long as I swallowed one capsule at a time and washed them down with plenty of water, it wasn’t a problem.

I took my first dose on a Wednesday, and I did a long run the following Sunday. It was an intense phase of my training cycle, so I pushed myself hard on the run. To my amazement, I woke up the following morning feeling nothing more than some residual aching in my hamstrings, which dissipated as the day went on.

Well, this couldn’t be right. No supplement could possibly yield such dramatic results in only four days. The manufacturers themselves made it clear that it could take two weeks to see a difference. I decided that it was a fluke.

The following weekend I ran further, faster and harder. By rights I shouldn’t have been able to get out of bed the next day. Not only did I get out of bed, I was nimble about it. There was none of my usual Monday morning post-long-run moaning and groaning as I got ready for work.

The real test, of course, was the half-marathon on May 27th. By then I had been taking Microlactin for almost three weeks. I was definitely benefiting from it, but now I was going all-out in an attempt to run a personal best.

I ran hard on a tough course, missing my personal best by 25 seconds – no mean feat, especially considering that my iffy ankle was acting up. After the race I was really hurting. My ankle was throbbing painfully and my legs just didn’t want to have anything to do with anything. I hobbled painfully to the designated pickup spot that my husband and I had agreed on prior to the race.

The following morning I woke up, fully expecting to be in a lot of pain. But no! I had some stiffness in my legs, but I was able to move around easily enough. My ankle was very sore, but even that seemed to be better than I would have expected. While I had been focusing on the race recovery aspect of the Microlactin, I had not paid much attention to the fact that it could help ease the  pain of a very old injury.

Two days post-race, I had an appointment with my sports massage therapist. When I walked into his office, he looked up in surprise and said, “What happened? Did you miss your race?”

“Ummmm, no, I was there,” I replied, going on to give him an account of my run.

“So why aren’t you hobbling in here on one leg like you always do after your races?”

During the massage itself, the massage therapist was amazed at how loose my muscles were. When I told him why this was, he joked that Swiss Natural Microlactin was going to put him out of work.

The following day I went out for a leisurely but very comfortable 6km run, and two weeks later, I am ready to start my training program for my autism run in October. This time, I will take Swiss Natural Microlactin throughout my training. Speedier recoveries might just help push me to a personal best time.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

(Disclaimer: this review, which is kindly sponsored by Swiss Natural, is based on my own personal experiences and observations. Any statements made here or elsewhere on Running for Autism are not intended to replace the advice of a certified medical professional.)

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2012 Run For Autism: Starting The Journey

Many of you already know the story.

You already know how I was a runner way back when, and then stopped and completely neglected my physical health after the birth of my kids. You know how I always wanted to get back into running, but never found the discipline. You know how I became completely comfortable as a couch potato but never quite got rid of that residue of regret.

You also know how an email landed in my inbox one day that completely changed everything. The email was an invitation for me to join the team being put together by the Geneva Centre for Autism for the forthcoming Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront races. Participants could run the 5K, half-marathon or marathon, and in the process raise funds for services for children and youth with autism.

It turned out to be just the motivation I needed. Within 24 hours I had made the transition from couch potato to speed demon extremely slow runner. Six months later, I had dropped almost sixty pounds and I was standing exhausted but triumphant at a half-marathon finish line, clutching my finishers medal and sobbing with emotion.

Here I sit, three years later, getting ready to embark on training and fundraising for my fourth Run for Autism. Since that first half-marathon in 2009, most of the weight has stayed off, my half-marathon time has improved by almost ten minutes, and I have raised over $2000 for the Geneva Centre for Autism.

This year’s race is on October 14th. My fundraising goal is a cool thousand dollars. This means that for the next four months, I will be shamelessly asking people for money – friends and family, complete strangers, and everyone in between. The money will go towards supplies and services for children and youth with autism. These are services that can provide skills that will last a lifetime, enabling people like my son George to lead happy, productive lives as fully integrated members of their communities.

Some examples of what $1000 can do are as follows:

  • Art supplies for 40 children and young adults
  • Sports equipment for 20 children and young adults
  • Musical instruments for 15 children and young adults
  • Job training for 15 young adults
  • Field trips for 10 children and young adults
  • Summer camp for 4 children and young adults
  • 2 iPads loaded with apps for individuals with autism
  • 1 piece of state-of-the-art sensory equipment

This list goes to show that every single cent really does make a difference. If you have the ability to, please consider sponsoring my Run for Autism and contributing to this incredible cause for my child and for other people with autism.

To donate, please visit my fundraising page.

It takes a very special kind of village to raise a child with special needs. Today, I invite you to be a part of my village.

(Photo credit: Brightroom Professional Event Photographers)