#Streakcember In Review: Taking On A Holiday Run Streak

From December 1st to December 31st 2018 I went streaking every day.

It was thirty-one days of running from the beginning of the holiday season all the way to the last day of the year. (Even though, yes, I am one of those afflicted souls who thinks Christmas season begins after Remembrance Day.)

Some days of the run streak I finished more than a mile, some days I didn’t want to run at all, and one I almost forgot completely, busting out the running shoes at a late hour to keep the dream alive. Still, at the end of the month I was victorious—and despite the struggle, I think this is something I might keep up every December as long as I’m able.

#Streakcember has become a bizarre framework to my celebration of the holiday season. Where will I end up running my mile? How will I fit my run into the middle of all the festivities? How bad can running be with a mulled wine hangover?

It’s cause to ask me little questions of my dedication. It’s a way to keep the proverbial fire going, even when I’m too busy to put in more distance. Oh, yeah—and a great way to scope out all the houses in the neighbourhood with the best Christmas lights.

Because of Streakcember I’ve dashed through the snow on Christmas day. I’ve run in a Santa costume and also jeans and my old lawn-mowing sneakers when I ended up at my parent’s house and had no gear.

It’s the bizarre determination and utilitarian spirit of the challenge which keeps me coming back for more. You make it work. The distance is small enough that up-and-quitting isn’t necessarily a real option. There’s the fact that when you’re done, it feels like a Christmas miracle and you start the new year off with a little extra pride at what you finished.

#Streakcember, it was a blast. I’ll see you in just about twelve months.

For now, we have memories. And this video—1 second of footage for every day of running in December. So in a way, like… WAY better than memories.

#StartingLine: Coach Xandra Yantzi - Part I

Xandra Yantzi once got a standing ovation in third grade just for making it down the basketball court without travelling or losing the ball.

She suspects her height kept her in those early games, but it was perseverance and hard work that got her into Lehigh University, where she played four years of Division 1 ball with the NCAA.

At Lehigh she developed as an athlete and got to know herself better. It was there that she came out to someone for the first time—a teammate she had a crush on—to a less-than-enthusiastic response.

Now Xandra is out, proud and a force to be reckoned with. She’s a French immersion teacher and a spoken word artist. She lives with type 1 diabetes. She’s also a basketball coach to a team of girls who range from ages 10-12.

Xandra sat down with me to talk about her coming out experience, the responsibility of shaping young athletes, and more!

Xandra Yantzi Young Basketball

Can you tell about coming out to your teammate?

During my time at Lehigh, especially my freshman and sophomore years, I was kind of navigating how I was … feeling attraction. In a particular, in the locker room, the micro-aggressions were really… interesting. You’d hear someone say, “oh that girl’s hair is short, it must mean she’s gay.”

Hearing those little conversations and interactions pushed me away from feeling comfortable. Like eh? Maybe I don’t need to explore this.

I fell for a straight girl, which is the number one thing not to do. I had never seen her with a guy before, so I thought “hey, maybe she does identify differently too!” My senior year I reached out. Once again, terrible timing—it happened to be April 1st. I remember telling her and she replied like “ha ha ha, April Fools! You must be joking!”

“I remember telling her and she replied like ‘ha ha ha, April Fools! You must be joking!’”

I regret how I went about telling my teammate I was attracted to her. As a person, I try to be really reflective on how I do things, how I treat others, and the consequences of my intentions.

She clearly wanted nothing else to do with me, and then the girls on my team were split. Unfortunately a lot of people gravitated to this other teammate. Having that one relationship ruined, it kind of ruined a lot of other relationships with the team too, which was hard. It took me a whole other year to even consider telling my family. But I did and they are incredible about it.

Was it tense in the locker room after that?

Even the idea of being in the same room, like sleeping arrangements, was made awkward too. Which was frustrating, right? Because it goes to show society's ideas of consent and that culture and understanding… Which is a whole other add to that.

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Was that the first time your sexuality intersected with your athletic career?

I’ll have these moments now where I’ll go to Toronto …  for example to a lesbian or a gay event. You look across the room and you see a player that you’ve known forever. I think of part of being part of the basketball community is that everybody knows everybody. So I’ve had about five moments where it’s like, “Oh my god! You’re gay too!”

I think the reason that I grappled so long with my sexuality was that I was afraid I was falling into the gay basketball stereotype. I read this ridiculous article about how players in the WNBA are fearful that it’s becoming an LGBT league. And people are fearful that coming into the WNBA means that they will suddenly be attracted to women. The misconceptions and blatant ignorance is frustrating to say the least.

I think about how now, in high schools and elementary schools there are GSAs. Gender and sexuality are actually talked about. I don’t remember ONCE in my whole high school or elementary career that it was discussed. Ever. I think about it often. I try to talk about it with my kids, I try to get it in there somewhere.

Speaking of your kids, let’s talk about your coaching experiences!

I love coaching—from a player’s standpoint, I know I wouldn’t be the person that I am today had I not had the coaches that I had. I think sport has always been something that goes much further than the game. You learn how to work with other people. Time management. Prioritizing.

I think it’s overlooked sometimes—being able to work with diverse people and be accepting, even beyond, is a beautiful part of team sports.

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What are some of the values you instill in your athletes?

With my team, we spend a lot of time talking about toughness. What is toughness on a basketball court? It’s not as much about physical strength or aggressiveness. Instead, it’s about the bigger, universal ideas. Running over and helping somebody if they’re on the floor. Sportsmanship. The idea of community. We’re also trying to create an environment where mistakes are allowed.

“You try to create this environment where good mistakes are actually encouraged.”

I have girls who come in and the idea of making a mistake is terrifying. It’s really nice, you try to create this environment where good mistakes are actually encouraged. So when you make mistakes, you know you dribble that ball off your foot because you’re dribbling too hard? Perfect. Or if you’re dribbling a little softer and you lose the ball because that level is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, fantastic!

I coach because I love the sport. I can definitely help girls develop. I’ve have amazing experiences and opportunities that I would feel bad if I wasn’t giving back to what so many coaches gave me. I would not be where I am today if it hadn’t been for basketball and the amazing coaches I’ve had.

I know a lot of these girls will not be pro basketball players. The idea is that sports and basketball can foster the idea of good self esteem. It can foster good work ethic.

I’m trying to, at the same time [teach them more]—young girls have questions.

What kind of questions?

We went to a Raptors game. So I’m sitting in the stands with one of my girls and she looks up at me and goes, “Coach X? Why are all the players Black?”

How do you answer that question? You could talk about culture. You could talk about opportunity. I decided to talk to them about at one point in time, black people were not allowed to play in the NBA. And that equal opportunity and equity were not widely known ideas. I talked to them about the 1966 Miners.

I don’t expect my girls to be able to grasp all these ideas immediately.

But maybe, there’ll be a day when one of the conversations they had when they were playing with me—they’ll be able to apply it. They’ll be able to listen and learn from perspectives or experiences that aren’t their own.

Check back soon for Part II of Xandra’s interview, when we talk encouraging young girls to embrace sports, making athletics more inclusive, and her best basketball advice.

Winter Running: An Amateur Athlete's Survival Guide

So we talked about what #Streakcember is, and I pledged to run at least a mile every day for the last month of 2018. We’ve also discussed WHY working out outdoors in the winter is actually awesome and not terrible at all.

We’ve covered every angle of this cold weather workout and winter running issue except the big bad one—the abominable “how.” HOW do you prepare for ice, snow, and wind?

How do you fight off the temptation to stay snuggled up in bed while the sun refuses to shine and everything is frostier and flakier than your pre-long run breakfast cereal? I’ve got you!

Whether you’re looking to survive a whole winter running outdoors, or just curious about trying cold weather running for the first time, read on for some tips to help brave the elements and run happy until springtime!

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Sleep In Until Sunrise

Waking up at 6 a.m. to run in the winter looks the exact same as waking up at the crack of midnight. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s not exactly a great motivator to get up and get moving. The sun doesn’t rise until later in the day during the winter months, which means the temperature doesn’t either. So if leaving the safety of your cozy bed for a chilling dash outside doesn’t seem likely, schedule your run for later in the day, when temperatures have (hopefully) risen.

You can try trading in your early morning run for a mid-day jaunt. I’ve started bringing my gym clothes to work and going during my lunch hour. Just don’t forget the sunscreen—skin safety is a good habit to get into all year!

Dress For Warm(er) Weather

Stay comfy by avoiding under AND over-dressing. The general rule of thumb is that running makes you feel it’s about 10 C (or 20 F) warmer than it actually is outside. So if you’re running in 0 C weather, you want to dress like you’re running in 10 C. If it’s -10 C, dress for zero. You get it. Dressing with adjusted temperature in mind will help keep you comfortable once you really get going! Speaking of dressing…

Layer Up, Layer Often

Running gear can be pricy as h*ck, so layering can help you use the gear you’ve already got to its full potential. Maybe you don’t have a Nike winterproof jacket, but you have a technical long-sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, and a windbreaker—you’re still good to go! Experiment around and find what works for you!

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Don’t Let a Cool Head Prevail

Consider getting a cowl or a scarf to cover your nose and mouth to keep cold air from shocking your lungs. A hat or hood will help your ears stay warm and keep you from losing heat on the top of your head, while a headband will protect your ears, allowing some heat to escape on milder winter days.

Sunglasses will keep the wind out of your eyes, but if you breathe on them, they will fog like nobody’s business. I like to wear a Buff wrap over my ears and then a running baseball cap for eye protection if it’s sunny but not too windy. Countering these little pain points will make winter running a LOT less painful.

Say “Cleats!”

I don’t have a pair of winter-centric running shoes. I generally use whatever pair I’m wearing at the time for all seasons. A budget friendly solution to keep from sliding on packed snow and ice is pull-on traction aids! These rubber grips generally strap onto your shoes and help keep you safe from falls or slips outdoors. Find these in your local running store or online.

Pro tip: If you want your traction aids to last, rinse them of road salt and grit when you get in from every run.

Scale Back Distance, Increase Frequency

There are some guidelines for running cold weather conditions. I don’t have them on hand. I just know when it’s -20 C or below, being outside for more than 30-40 minutes not only sucks but is also not 100% safe. If you live in a place where the days are consistently frigid, consider cutting up your longer runs into shorter ones. Crush out three 5k runs over a week instead of one 15k. Take advantage of warmer days to fit in longer runs, or wait until spring thaw to get back to distance training again.

Learn When To Skip Out

A final note: many runners don’t like to say it, because skipping out on a run feels like admitting defeat, BUT there may be some days when it’s too cold or too icy to go running outside. (Booooo, I know.) The best thing to use them for rest, hit an indoor track, take to the treadmill (ugh), or cross train.

What are your best winter workout tips?

#Streakcember Is Coming—Let's Go Streaking!

#Streakcember Run Streak

(Air horn noise) 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, people—#Streakcember 2018 is upon us!

Uh, what’s #Streakcember?

Great question! #Streakcember is a challenge which takes place from December 1st to December 31st OR January 1st—whichever you decide. Participants choose one activity and commit to doing it every single day for at least 10 minutes a day.

Once again this year I’m committing to running at least one mile every day, in solidarity with the Runner’s World Run Streakers… and for fun! (Have you ever had two Christmas-morning mimosas and then run through your snowy neighbourhood full of cheer and joy for the world like George goshdarn Bailey? I HAVE.)

Does my streak activity have to be running?

Heck no! It can be biking. Yoga. Calisthenics. Walking. Rowing. A daily dance party for one. If it gets your heart pumping, it’s a great choice for streaking.

(…Except actual streaking. I don’t recommend that for meteorological or legal reasons.)

Why should I try #Streakcember?

• Allows you to keep up a workout routine during the busy holiday season
• Challenges you while only asking for a tiny fraction of your day
• Gives you a head start on any movement-related New Year’s resolutions you’re cooking up
• Gives you a feeling of accomplishment and positive proof you can achieve your goals
• Is a freaking blast!!!

Seriously, I completed my first run streak this way last year, and on New Years Day, after running for 32 days straight, I was more energized than ever to keep up my routine. I victory danced. I almost did a cartwheel.

How do I join in on #Streakcember?

You don’t have to sign up for anything in order to participate in #Streakcember. BUT if you want, I’ll be posting with the hashtags #Streakcember and #EBCStreakcember all month long. It’s a great way to share your daily success and struggles, connect with other streakers, and celebrate the end of 2018 together.

LET’S GOOOOOO.

Four Reasons To Workout Outdoors This Winter

jason-leung kids ice skating

It’s the middle of November and, if you live in the North of the Northern Hemisphere, that means the weather’s already cold or things are about to take a very dramatic turn.

Unlike October, it’s not frosty in the morning and blazing by noon. Unlike December, there’s still some mildness to spare before we’re all plunged into a deep freeze for the next four to six months.

With snowstorms looming and early sunsets on the horizon, we would all be justified in planning hibernation instead of packing our schedules with physical activity—winter fitness? It’s kind of awesome.

No, really—and I have a highly-scannable list of reasons to prove it.

CUE. THE. MUSIC.

1. Kicking SAD’s Butt

Seasonal Affective Disorder (AKA SAD) can leave you drained of energy, moody, and feeling like a stock photo of a forlorn guy looking out a window pane.

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Now don’t get me wrong: working out is not a cure for depression, BUT it does produce a feel-good boost of endorphins in your brain that keeps some of the SAD at bay. And sure, you can work out in a gym and get some of the same effects—but a crisp powerwalk outside gives you a chance for fresh air and Vitamin D.

The alternative? Spending time in a cramped gym, building up a slow-churning rage while someone hogs the squat rack. Sad.

2. Staying Cool On YouR Own Terms

Summer workouts can mean sweating in places you didn’t know you could sweat—and probably some you shouldn’t be. Winter workouts actually can give you more control over your body temperature than warm weather ones.

During the winter, the simple trick is to add more layers. You should be comfortable—not hot, not freezing—when you step out into the elements. If you’re chilly, head back inside and add another layer on. And, if you’re TOO warm once you get moving—you can tug off that toque or roll up your sleeves. Custom control, people!

winter running outfit

3. Adding Resistance With Snow

Think about any training montage in any movie and there’s probably a clip of the hero running on the beach because they’re a badass, and adding resistance with sand is badass. Well, you get the same badass effect from running in snow. Increased resistance means increased badass effort and badass muscle development, you badass.

Really though, one of my favourite runs of any given year is the one that comes after the snow melts and clears off the sidewalks. After hustling in the snow all winter you feel like an Olympian on clear sidewalks. You feel like you could fly.

(Note: I recommend traction aids for running in snow AND ice. We’ll talk about this in another post.)

4. Winter Sports Are Fun Eh?

If you told me to run up a hill, I would do it, but I’d hold a grudge. BUT if you told me to run up a hill and jump on a toboggan, I’d want to run up that hill about nine more times.

This could be my tragically Canadian sensibilities, BUT winter offers up all sorts of cool activities we don’t have readily available all year, and lots of them are fun and cool (and would look great on your Instagram). Snowshoeing, ice skating on outdoor rinks, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowball fights—all wicked wintery ways to get your heart pounding and your sweat on.

Do you keep moving outdoors in the winter or hit the gym until spring? What’s your favourite-ever training montage?

Hit me up in the comments, on Instagram
@rilesrunswild, or Facebook and let me know!

A Post-Marathon Crisis & Some New Goals

Riley_Finishes_Marathon

My wildest running dream came true when I made myself a marathoner last month.

When I say “wildest” I mean that literally. Less than two years ago I was struggling to run three kilometres without stopping, let alone 42.2…

And then I freaking DID it.

Achieving the dream was better than I ever imagined. I knew myself better on that course than I had on any other day of my life. I cried and celebrated with friends and family. I brought my medal into the office for my curious coworkers. And yet, after the week of resting my legs came to an end, I realized finishing the marathon left me with a new, weird emptiness.

Existential dread for runners

Suddenly I didn’t have any goal to push for—not a race, not an untouchable distance. When you aim for the highest, most impossible peak you can think of and actually exceed your own expectations… what then?

So now, I’m suddenly having a mini existential running crisis. (Who am I if I’m not getting up before dawn to drag my ass over a couple dozen kilometres?)

The knee-jerk instinct of the fresh marathoner might be to leap into the next race, setting eager sights on getting a faster time, or even aiming for a further distance. I don’t have that driving urge. I know it will come back, but for the mean time I’m trying to sort out now. I’m asking other questions.

Can I ask any more of myself?
What do I want out of my sport?
How can I give back?

And here’s what I’ve come up with—some new #rungoals.

Get Involved In The Running Community

After receiving so much Instagram support during my marathon I realized I’m officially in the running community… Maybe that was obvious to everyone BUT me. The only problem is, unless you’re about to reinvent the livestream, I can’t go running with all the amazing people I know on Insta.

And, since my friends and family are immune to my attempts to get them into running so that I don’t have to y’know… meet people, it’s officially time to get some new ones. (Sorry mom!)

This means fighting my instinct to avoid running with other people. It definitely means volunteering at races and getting my ass out there. I’m putting this here to hold myself accountable. The time for being a hermit is over!

Become A More Well-Rounded Athlete

Why is it so hard to find time for an hour of yoga, but easy to find one for a 10K?

A runner is a runner is an injured runner. (Maybe they’re also a runner with weak t-rex arms like me.) Basically, I’d like to work on building a better overall fitness base by incorporating more cross training and other sports/workouts into my weekly routine.

I’m also counting on the fact that changing things up will make the days that I DO get to run more just that much better… and that this will make me a better runner over all.

SIGN UP FOR More Races

Right before the marathon, I was freaked out. Ask anyone who was within a 10 metre physical-or-digital radius of me.

I got lost in grocery stores. I terrified Running Room employees. I sewed.

My pre-race jitters probably would have happened anyway, but I’m convinced they would have been considerably less intense if I had run more races this year. Races have their own energy, and I need to get used to being in that energy. (Plus, who doesn’t love a good finish line photo or some bling?)

Run Another Marathon (But Take Better Care Of Myself)

While working myself up to arguably the best shape I’ve ever been in for the marathon I wasn’t necessarily at my healthiest. I spent most weeks getting less sleep than I needed and struggled to eat enough.

In fact (warning, TMI ahoy) somewhere in the middle of training I actually missed a period. I’m pretty sure upping the weekly mileage without having an adequate meal prep game/sleep schedule had something to do with it.

Hopefully embracing these other goals will give me the physical strength and mental fortitude to tackle another marathon some day. And, when that day comes, I want to commit to a more wholesome training routine. The name of the game will be actually forcing myself to be regimented, replenished, and rested.

So that’s it. The new set of goals. New heights. New challenges to carry me into 2019. Has anyone else started thinking of running resolutions (WAY) in advance of the New Year?