Great Twitter Row Race: Week One

MPC_RowRaceThe wall is in your head.

Surely you’ve said it before during physical challenges, “I hit the wall!”

Today was the first 2000m component of the Great Twitter Row Race for My Peak Challenge prep program 2016. Kim has a bye today because she’s doing the Princess Half Marathon at Disney this weekend, lucky duck.

On Tuesday she beat my 1000m time by a full 54 seconds. I knew that I was going to win by default today, but that didn’t seem to do much to ease my mind. I went in thinking “Kim is going to win anyway, so I’ll just do what I can.” This is backwards positivity. Yes, I can only work within my own limits but I basically started today’s challenge having already given up.

For the majority of the 2000m I was able to keep pace with my time from Tuesday, but suddenly just before the 1500m mark…I hit the wall.

The wall feels physical – a sudden onset of extreme fatigue, muscle pain, laboured breathing, energy running on absolute fumes. For me, my only hope of pushing through hinges on what is happening in my head. Today, my mind was working against me. When that moment came I thought, “I can’t” and it was my kryptonite.

I watched as 38 strokes/min dropped to 20, my estimated 10:05 finish time jumped to 10:30, 10:40, 11:00 and continued to climb – I completely gave up. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, only something to improve from.

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Final time: 11:30 (Yikes!)

I kept saying to myself, “If this was a powerlifting competition, I would own this!” – but it’s not. It’s The Great Twitter Row Race. The whole point is about taking the absolute weakest part of my overall fitness and pushing myself past my comfort zone to improve it and doing it with my friend Kim, who not only challenges me but encourages me.

I can, and I will. I may not be the fastest, but I’ll still be there at the finish.

The one about a challenge…

MPC_RowRaceCombining fitness with collecting charitable donations has long been a regular activity for me; whether it’s Run for the Cure, Relay for Life, the Terry Fox Run and many others.

A relatively new event is breaking the boundaries of the more traditional fundraiser, creating a challenge that is individual to each participant while bringing together people from around the globe.

My Peak Challenge was created by actor Sam Heughan, along with his trainer and good friend John Valbonesi, as a way to raise money for Bloodwise, a UK-based blood cancer research charity. The concept is simple – choose something that challenges you and reach your peak potential. It could be fitness or weight loss related, or just be something in life that participants have put off for too long and need to check off their list.

More than £100,000 ($145,060 USD) was raised for Leukemia and Lymphoma in 2015. Now entering in its second year, My Peak Challenge has raised the bar, putting out a formal fitness and nutrition prep program to help guide participants along the path to personal success while continuing to raise money for charity.

MPC has special significance to both myself and special guest blogger Kim. We each have a family member that has been afflicted by a form of lymphatic cancer, so joining this challenge was a no-brainer. With solid foundations in training and nutrition, we both joined the prep program as a way to contribute to Bloodwise and maybe get a few new ideas to amp up our current training but really felt there was room to push ourselves further.

Enter: The Great Twitter Row Race.

Living on opposite sides of North America does make it a bit more difficult to come up with a team style challenge. Starting next week, Kim and I will utilize social media as well as the space here at Fatty to compete in a rowing based race. We will row twice each week, 1000m one day and 2000m another day and log the time. At the conclusion of the MPC prep program at the end of March, the person with the fastest total average across the weeks wins prestige and a whole lot of bragging rights. To keep things fair and account for the natural ebbs and flows that come with performance, we will each get a bye – a free week where we don’t have to row.

Kim has a much stronger cardio background than I do, since as readers know mine has mostly been in power/strength based sports, so I know for me I’m really looking forward to seeing how I’m able to improve week over week. Many more updates are to come as we get this fun, web-based challenge put together. Check this space for updates from both myself and Kim as we put our internet money where our mouth is and go head-to-head for charity.


The one on the exhale…part II

Asthma Story_0In my last post, The one on the exhale…, I spoke about my history of asthma and the frustrating judgement I feel when people immediately connect the limitations of my lungs with my overall physical fitness. As I mentioned in that post, I usually try to avoid doing cardio in public because of the embarrassment I feel looking weak and out of shape while struggling to keep up.

A coworker recently invited me to attended a new class that was starting up at the gym. She describe it as being a mix of spin and circuit training and I thought I might check it out because at least on a spin bike I don’t need to worry about falling behind. The class, which is mostly attended by experienced endurance athletes, is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.

Don’t get me wrong, challenging is a great thing. The first couple classes we went through a nine-station circuit including kettle bell swings, ball slams, battle ropes, Bosu hopscotch and a slew of other things, mixed in with 15-minute sessions of intervals on the spin bike. I didn’t in any way feel strong throughout that 90-minutes, but I finished and felt accomplished for having done so.

This week, things changed a bit. The class was taken outside, which is something I had been dreading. All day at work I prayed it would rain so we wouldn’t have to do the class outdoors. Breathing outside is an entirely different scenario compared to inside. I suddenly have to contend not only with my usual exercise-related asthma challenges, but also with the environment. Allergens in the air, the wind, the temperature, humidity (or lack thereof) and a host of other factors all irritate the delicate bronchial lining of my lungs, leading to increased mucus production and airway inflammation.

The plan for the class was a trail run to a steep set of stairs, followed by stair sprints, some flat sprints then a trail run back to the gym for a spin session and a bodyweight circuit. I had kind of hoped there would be at least one person in the class who was not a runner, like myself, and that I wouldn’t be the only person holding everyone back. The last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself. Unfortunately, that’s what happened.

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The one on the exhale…

asthma_inhalerPicture yourself at the gym, on a treadmill next to someone else. The person next to you doesn’t appear to be exerting that much effort but is red-faced, winded and wheezing. Most people’s first thought would be to assume that person is out of shape, maybe even lazy, especially if they happen to also be overweight. A lot of people avoid going to the gym because they assume these thoughts are rampantly playing through other people’s minds as they work out. For me, it’s why I avoid doing cardio in front of other people.

Anyone who knows I am a regular to the gym would assume that I am in shape, given that I have been a frequent gym goer for more than a third of my life. When I do cardio though, I become the dictionary definition of what so many people think of as “out of shape.” I wheeze, huff and puff and get red in the face while doing something as simple as walking on an incline or pushing the stepmill up to level 2.

Like 3 million Canadians and 15 million Americans, I am asthmatic.

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The one about acceptance…

z_2713There is a trend sweeping social media this summer…

The Instagram and Twitter hashtag, #fatkini has been gaining popularity, encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to post pictures of themselves in bikinis as a way of showing acceptance for their bodies. There are some who believe that by encouraging women in this way, it is the equivalent of saying that morbid obesity is okay and that health should not be a priority.

Here’s the the thing…

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Product Review: Krisda Stevia Sweetened Chocolate Chips

There’s not much more satisfying than biting into a gooey chocolate chip cookie. When avoiding refined sugar is something you’re concerned with, though, the sad reality is that a simple pleasure like a chocolate chip cookie may no longer be an option.

The big label food producers jumped on this reality by offering a slew of “sugar-free” baking options, but they only replaced refined, processed sugar with refined, processed artificial sweeteners. I’ve aimed to buy chocolate in its more pure form, as dark as possible, 70% or more, for baking but I’ve never been a big fan of super dark chocolate and find it somewhat unsatisfying when I want something a bit sweet.

Enter Krisda semi-sweet chocolate chips.

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The one from the back…

I think this is the first time I’ve ever written a post from a mobile device. It’s annoying. But if I wait until I’m in front of my laptop, it’ll never get it written. The reason being, that much of my free time lately has been spent exactly as I am now – in bed, flat on my back.

It’s been a busy week for my back. I just came from physio and yesterday I had a CT scan. I don’t think I’ve really gone into the details of what I have been struggling with lately so let’s recap.

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The one about vitamins…

I don’t take vitamins.

There’s a lot of reasons that go into why – one being that I can never seem to fully pick up the habit of taking a pill every day, two that they kind of upset my stomach and three (the most important one) being that I’m not suffering from a vitamin deficiency.

I used to always tell people buying multivitamins is basically just buying the opportunity to have really expensive pee every day. Whatever vitamins we take that our body doesn’t need just get flushed out by the kidneys. If you have what you need, through your food, then why feel compelled to “top it up”?

My anti-vitamin views were recently further enforced when I stumbled upon an article that talked about how anti-oxidant rich vitamins actually contributed to accelerated tumour growth in people with cancer. This Wednesday a study in the journal Science Translational Medicine uncovered the potential link between the two.

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