The Spring I Start Running

New Balance Minimus

I don't know what to do with this. I don't know how to respond to yesterday's running related tragedy in Boston. I've been a spectator at the Boston Marathon. I've been at that finish line, waiting with my children, for my parents to cross.

My Dad met Laurent for the first time, as a six week old baby, at the Boston Marathon weekend. I am angry and sad and so very tired of bombs and guns and people killing people. 

This post was written and scheduled for today and I am going ahead with it. I think the subject matter is fitting at least. 


I've been thinking for a while now that one day I would start running but I've been digging in my heels, quite literally. The last time I did any serious running was when Céline was a baby. That seems like another life.

I believe in healthy living and well being. It's one of my core values. But I also believe in doing things I enjoy and doing them for a purpose. There never seemed to be much of a purpose for me in running and it was definitely something I didn't enjoy doing.

Running makes your muscles tired and it makes you sweat. And where I live, at the end of a dirt mud road, running makes you dirty. I just haven't enjoyed running in the past and I thought of every excuse to avoid doing it. And felt perfectly fine about making those excuses. 

I am physically healthy. I hike or ski every weekend with my family and usually get a couple walks in during the week. That's good enough, isn't it?

It used to be good enough but it's not good enough any more.

I thought I could get by with exercise every other day and then one longish day of physical exercise on the weekends. 

I found out this winter that I need more physical, outdoor activity than that. I don't need to run to lose weight. But it turns out I need to run for a different kind of health - my mental health.

I started simply by walking every day, for about an hour.

In order to make this happen in my life I have to do it in the mornings, because then I know it will happen. This is not an early morning routine. If I knew I had to exercise, outdoors, first thing when I got up I wouldn't get out of bed.

For me exercising has to happen during my daytime work hours. It's a commitment I'm making to my health and it's work. It can happen during the "work" hours of the day.

Sometime between 10:00 and 12:00 (I want to be all done by noon), I leave the house for an hour of exercise. Sometimes I walk, but three days a week I run. I'm training for a 5K in June.

I had a difficult mental struggle this winter and one of things that came out of that was a commitment to daily (or near daily) exercise. My mental health depends on it.

Once I committed to being outside everyday for physical exercise it wasn't much of a leap to running.

New Balance Minimus

I used to think running was hard. You get sore muscles, side stitches, leg cramps. Blah, blah, blah.

Let me tell you, the pain I have experienced running is nothing, nothing, compared to what I put myself though learning to telemark ski this winter. Once I made this realization I viewed running in a whole new light.

Telemark skiing gave me burning thighs, bruised shins, sore ankles, and more. My body hurt after skiing. And while I was on the hill I felt defeated as often as I felt elated.

Telemark skiing is hard. Running is like child's play compared to that. It's as easy as putting on the right layers, the right shoes (minimalist of course), and simply running out the door. (Keeping in mind I'm only going out for short runs at this point.)

This is such an amazing turn of events for me I can't quite believe this has happened.

I used to need my exercise to be fun and purposeful to get me out the door. But once I made a commitment to exercise for my mental health, knowing I would get out the door whether I felt like it or not, the decision to run was easy. If I'm going to exercise anyway, why not run?

Our whole family is running now, picking up where we left off last fall.

With my daily commitment to outdoor exercise and Damien's continued commitment (he's always been a dedicated exerciser), our kids are getting in on the running also.

New Balance Minimus

They are required to spend time outside every week day and of course Sunday is our day for family outdoors, so that's at least six days a week that they get outside. As they get older "playing" outdoors has less appeal, but they still need outdoor physical exercise. Running and walking are perfect activities for this.

We require our kids to spend time outside (because we require ourselves to spend time outdoors). They can choose what they want to do with that time. They are choosing to exercise with us.

So now we're all training for a race in June. Damien made training plans for us all. He's training for a half marathon, way out of my league right now. The rest of us are training for a 5K.

New Balance Minimus

You can download our 5K training plan here in case you want to do something like this yourself. Our usual training route is 2.5K from our door. We do it twice, so a R R W R stands for Run out, Run back, Walk out, Run back.

Damien wants me to add that this is a very unscientific training plan. It's simply a guide to help the kids and I gradually ease up to running 5K. (Damien's own training is the near opposite of mine; involving a heart rate monitor, a computer program, GPS technology and other technical wizardry. Damien's training program is science through and through, complete with altitude graphs and maximum heart rates. My training plan is sheet of paper with check boxes.)

All these years I have dug my heals in and refused to "go running". I laugh now at my stubbornness. This feels really good.

I'm finding that once you make that commitment to your health, and find a way to make it work in your schedule that works with who you are, there's really nothing to stop you.

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  • Sarah

    Sarah on April 12, 2013, 2:26 a.m.

    Outdoor physical excersise is the tippity top, for me. Well, amoung a few other things. Before last spring I don't think I ran for more than my soccer games required, ever. But I tried track and I LOVE running!! It's hard getting into it (getting strong and in shape), but it feels soo good, too! And just like hiking, I've found I've gotten close to those I run with. Sometimes I regret all of the time I spend on it because it can mean other priorities (like service and maintaining relationships) get less time. I want to do those things, too! However, I have found that the feeling of health--mental and physical--that running brings, is important to me. When I move further north in a few years (and have a few less hours of sunlight much of the year), I know it will become even more important to keep this priority high on my list (while hopefully figuring out what to do about the others, too). Have lots of fun!!


  • Tonya

    Tonya on April 16, 2013, 1:50 p.m.

    Hi Renee, I have just started jogging as well again - it has been such a wonderful outlet and what works for me is that it can take as little as 20 - 30 minutes and I feel so energized. Yes, we are praying in our home too, for healing - there are so many broken hearted, so many lost, so much hurt, so much loneliness - so many that don't know the Lord - it can be hard sometimes to rise above but we have no other choice. Thinking of you and glad you are back blogging! Love, Tonya


  • Katie

    Katie on April 16, 2013, 4:17 p.m.

    What kind of shoes are those? And where can I find them? I like the grey. Thanks!


    • renee

      renee on April 16, 2013, 9:43 p.m.

      Katie, I currently wear New Balance Minimus. I bought these ones two years ago so I'm not sure they have this color anymore. I think the new ones might be these ones. 


  • Lisa

    Lisa on April 16, 2013, 4:33 p.m.

    Funny, I've been trying to mentally gear up to get back running this spring too, as I came to the recent realization that my 6 & 4 year olds would be able to accompany me now on their bikes, so we can all get out together for a bit. For me running is about 70% mental and 30% physical (both in gearing up to do it and actually executing). Good luck!


  • Aimee

    Aimee on April 16, 2013, 5:26 p.m.

    I did the Couch to 5K app last year and it was wonderful!

    It's so true about the mental health aspect.  After being in a soul-weary place the last few months, I started taking a 30-45 minute daily walk every day starting 2 weeks ago. It's amazing how therapeutic it has been for me...the quiet, the birds, the trees, the wisteria, the dirt...cleansing me mentally probably way more than physically. 



    • renee

      renee on April 16, 2013, 9:38 p.m.

      I totally hear you Aimee. being outdooors is incredibly therapeutic in our modern life, getting out the door is the hardest part for me. 


  • Sarah m

    Sarah m on April 16, 2013, 9:20 p.m.

    Yes, to all of it! My running story (I thought) ended in college when I stopped running because I didn't have the time anymore, and during the 3 years I did it to stay active and in shape, I actually hated it. Oddly enough, I remember one "fun run" I did as a trail run in a local forrest, but that was a one time thing. After about a year of nothing I really noticed I wasn't sleeping as well and just felt 'draggy'. I had always been highly involved with sports or being active, so I joined my local YMCA and took up spinning. Couldn't get enough of it--STILL love it. I stopped my membership after having kids because it just wasn't working, so I bought a spinning bike for home use. I used it for a good 5 years (on and off) to keep fit but just as we moved the seat broke and it needs to be replaced! Good timing, since my body had been SO used to it, I wasn't getting the same level of endorphin kick every morning that I needed.

    Just 5 weeks ago, I started running again since almost 5 years ago....could barely finish the first half mile without stopping to walk! I am also breaking in my Vibrams, so all the research says not to go far with them until you get used to them. I am now up to 2.25-2.5 miles every morning in them, and I feel GREAT afterward (no walking in between anymore!) and I know I will be able to steadily increase .5 miles every week at this rate. It felt really hard, but I think not having my bike option has been really, really helpful. I'm an early morning exerciser (love to get out there by 6:45AM) and if I don't do it in the morning, it doesn't I make sure it happens. 

    Happy Running! 

    Sarah M


    • renee

      renee on April 16, 2013, 9:37 p.m.

      Way to go Sarah. I am way too unmotivated for early morning exercise. I've been wearing minimalist shoes since before they were on the market (or nearly). When we stumbled across the idea of barefoot or near barefoot there was hardly any shoes on the market for that. Damien was an early-adapter to the minimalist movement and I was wearing five fingers when no one had even heard of them. I got so many weird looks and constant questions. Now they're de rigueur. You're right, you need to transition to minimalist footwear. I run and hike in New Balance Minimus right now. 

      PS. I didn't run today. The morning totally got away on me, (I blame taxes, one day late) and then Laurent was sick this afternoon. But tomorrow is a new day. 


      • Sarah m

        Sarah m on April 17, 2013, 2:29 a.m.

        I think my husband (who is the researcher of the family) actually found Damien's footwear site through a google search back in the Summer when he was researching it for both of us. He found the reviews really helpful, and for what he needed (shoes that could account for everyday and nice enough for work) he got Vivos, and for what I wanted mine for (running, hiking, and general use but don't need any particular 'look') we got a great deal on some Vibrams. The first 2 weeks running (even very short distances) were rough on my hips, and then my ankles, but now I feel great and love them. My toes go numb after about 2 miles, so I need to find out what I'm doing to not have that happen....

        How did you guys even come across the barefoot idea in the first place? 

        Sarah M


        • renee

          renee on April 17, 2013, 1:09 p.m.

          Damien tells that story here on Toesalad. Of course, it all started with health and wanting to be active but having pain and trying to find a solution. 

          Damien is also the major researcher in our family (smile).


        • Sarah

          Sarah on April 17, 2013, 5:23 p.m.

          Hello Sarah! (I like your name!)

          I wear "normal" thick soled running shoes with extra padding (an insert)... Becuase of the mileage I am doing at this point (running for my track and xc teams at school so about 30-40/week) I don't think it would be a good time to test/try minimalist shoes. I've also had problems with shin splints in the past and the shoes I have now have helped them... so I don't want to risk regressing by trying new shoes! That said, After I run about 5 miles, I start to get numb/tingly in my feet... I've read a bit and a lot of people said that it was because of shoelaces being too tight. Others said that it's just your body getting used to the mileage, pounding, ect. I think that is what it is for me... so I'd say probably it's best to keep adding mileage slowly and it will get better. I'm not an expert, but this has been my experience. Good luck!


          • Sarah m

            Sarah m on April 17, 2013, 9:49 p.m.

            Thanks for the reply, Sarah :) 

            I actually did have really thick padded shoes and an extra "sports" (read: heaviest duty) insert in them, because my arches started to fall about 2 years ago. I also had a LOT of back pain, and I just needed something to help, along with weight loss (I've always been about 15-20 lbs overweight for my height since having kids, even with extreme exercise 5 days a week and a gluten free diet), so I knew my weight was part of it. I think, though, that with my experience, going to the barefoot style has actually helped my back pain (more than the inserts!) after I adjusted to them slowly (since they use different muscles). I have zero back pain now, and after hiking with my barefoots, I can attest to feeling like I was going to break my ankles hiking in boots. I felt so much more clumsy. 

            I think you're right about the tingling/numb toes. Since I just 'restarted' my running, I'm hoping that's all it is, though when I first started spinning years ago I'd get it, too, and the instructors told me it was because I was clinching my toes and that the clipless shoes would help (they did). I'm hoping it will go away as I get more and more miles under my belt. Thanks for the tip!! Also, I do know people who run as much as you, just ease into the barefoots and carry their 'regulars' in their hands for a mid-run switcheroo, if you're interested.... ! :)

            Sarah M


            • Sarah

              Sarah on April 18, 2013, 1:44 a.m.

              Oh, thank you! That sounds like a neat idea. My grandmother (85!) is the same size shoe as me and she wears Merrel barefoot shoes for walking... and I have a few hand-me-downs. I usually bring them as campsite shoes when backpacking. I agree, I always feel like I ma going to break my ankles in boots... so here's my plan (you've inspired me--I'd love to try barefoot and see if/how it helps my pain): I'll start transitioning by doing my running warm-up or cool-down barefoot (it's on a track, so it isn't dangerous) this sping. Then this summer, when I reduce mileage and do mostly trail runs, I'll try increasing my barefoot running... and see how it feels! I'll also be on a lot of canoe/backpacking trips in the summer, so I'll try the minimal shoes on some of those--shorter ones at first. 

              Congratulations on making your back feel better! That's wonderful!


              • Sarah m

                Sarah m on April 18, 2013, 3:16 a.m.

                I hope they work for you! When my husband and I were reading about it (him doing most of the research) he told me not to use them for general use more than a few hours a day for a couple weeks, and gradually get more and more into them for longer stretches. I know a marathoner who is only currently up to 6 miles in her barefoots and finishes the rest of her runs with the regular shoes (she's the one that carries them!) take it easy at first. I hope you like them.

                Sarah M


              • renee

                renee on April 20, 2013, 2:24 p.m.

                Sarah, I'm inspired by your grandmother - backpacking. That's what I want to be. An active octogenarian. 


  • Mel

    Mel on April 17, 2013, 1:29 a.m.

    I also started running this year (and a little bit of last year). And I also run in Minimus :) I'm training for a marathon right now, and every time I do a long run (I'm up to 13 miles) I'm surprised at how not horrible it is. Really, it's the first couple miles that are the toughest. Once I get going (and get into the podcast I'm listening to) I can go a suprisingly long way.


  • Anna S

    Anna S on April 20, 2013, 10:39 a.m.

    Good to see you back at fimby Renee!

    I returned to running 2.5 years ago after about a 16 year break since I last ran as a teen.  At first it was me going out the door leaving three kids sobbing that they didn't want me to go (aged 3 to 11), after about six months if I got a bit snappy one would look up at me and say "mum, do you need a run?"  Makes a huge difference to my mental and emotional well being.

    As a physician I really encourage my patients into exercise.  Many people want to try medication as their first option for low mood, but my philosophy is to look at lifestyle first, harder to do, but great payoff.

    Our fourth child was stillborn in November last year, I had had a few months off running during pregnancy.  Two weeks after Theo was born I put my shoes on and headed out the door.  The five months since have been some of the hardest runs I have ever done and they are only 5km with no 20km on weekends like I used to.  Sadness and anger accompany me often but I know that the running helps heal too and keeps me in the best emotional space it is possible to be in when in the midst of such grief.

    I run in Merrell pace gloves although mine are pretty shabby and I sometimes find the soles a bit slippy.  I have all the gadgets like Damien, although I don't run races and right now I don't want to know my pace so I'm not using them.  I do plan to one day run the Kepler challenge, a 60km mountain race here in NZ, might be in my old age though!





    • renee

      renee on April 20, 2013, 2:20 p.m.

      Dear Anna, thank you for sharing your voice here. I appreciate your NZ (non North American) and doctor-mom "professional" perspective (sorry, don't know how else to explain it). Interestingly, since moving to Quebec I have more "professional" friends (women doctors especially) than I have in the past. Most of my friends over the years have been like me - stay at home, homeschooling mom types. Since moving to Quebec my friendships have grown and expanded a lot and my life has been enriched.

      Thank you for sharing your experience with running and health, from a mom and doctor's perspective. 

      But what I really wanted to say is that I am so sorry you lost your baby. My heart aches at the grief you and your family have experienced in that. much love, Renee


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