[V] is for Varsity – and I love it!

The indoor track and field season is quickly coming to a close! This past weekend marks a bittersweet end to the out-of-town portion of the indoor season. Although I love competing, I miss the furry guy tremendously when I’m gone (hence the bittersweet aspect of the whole thing). I’m beyond lucky to have amazing friends and roommates to check on him and keep him company in my absence!

While the season isn’t over yet – there are two meets left here in Ottawa: one on February 18th and one on March 4th – I think it’s worthwhile taking a pause to reflect on my experience so far.

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First and foremost, I’m grateful for the opportunity to train and compete as a Gee-Gee. Yes, I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth stating again. The varsity program is exceptionally well-run; the coaches are professional, dedicated, and supportive – they know exactly when you need to be pushed and how to do so; there is excellent communication between the coaches, the team manager and the athletes; and last but not least, my teammates are amazing – they’re positive, encouraging and inspirational.

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From a ‘pure numbers’ perspective, I’ve seen a significant improvement in my race times (Heck, I’ve even won one of my heats – a very exciting experience in and of itself!). My first 3k on the indoor track, which I ran in December of last year, I DNF’d because I lost track of the number of laps I had done and ended up shorting the thing by 200m. If I had completed it, I would have likely run a 11:45 or 11:50. Since then, I’ve managed to get down to 11:11, and now have aspirations of coming in under 11 minutes.

In addition to growth in terms of fitness, I’ve also experienced significant personal growth. I have made some wonderful new friends (Aw!) – but seriously, I have met some amazing people through track and cross-country. There are definitely too many people to name and/or post photos of (you know who you are if you’re reading this!),but you guys and gals are the best! Knowing that we get to hang out before and after practice/meets is one of the things that keeps me coming back.

I’ve also encountered – and am working on overcoming – a dimension of track and competitions that I didn’t expect: Stress and performance anxiety. These two things are closely related.

The reason that they were unexpected is because I’ve been faced with numerous stressful situations in both my professional and academic life. I’ve made it through the LSAT, law school, and countless presentations (ranging from 5-6 people to upwards of 175). I’ve organized several major events, including a 3-week orientation program for incoming law students and a multi-faculty sports tournament. I’ve been in meetings with and provided advice to senior ranking public officials. And yet, nothing has stressed me out to the degree that literally putting one foot in front of the other on a track has.

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(Photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/ashutteraway/)  

The symptoms of the stress and anxiety are a little TMI – but let’s just say that it involves extensive perspiring and an upset stomach. The result – I often end up holding back during competitions.

One of my amazing coaches provided me with some excellent advice during a recent competition, which I put into action this past weekend. I used dissociation techniques to silence my nerves. Upon arriving at the track at 9:30am, with my race scheduled to run only at 3:40pm, I took off into Ithaca, NY and walked around. I had a tea, took a yoga class and made my way back to the track for lunch. I chilled and watched some Fast & Furious 6 and then, with about 1h30 to go before my race, I got changed, put on a playlist that I use at Spin City and started my warm-up.

My warm-up is a bit atypical, but it gets my heart-pumping, my legs loose and my mind excited. I do a 15-20 jog on the track, followed by some dynamic stretching. I move into a strength and conditioning warm-up that I’ve adapted from Bodies by Phil (push-ups, bridge pulses, squats, lunges, knee highs, squat jumps, Spiderman jumps, mountain climbers, burpees) and then finish with a dance party. Once I spike up, I toss in some strides and then I’m good to go.

After all is said and done, I’m very pleased with how my race went this weekend! I had minimal race anxiety and stress, made a decent time and was happy with the result. 

I know that I have more give and that I can get faster. I’m already looking forward to the next two home meets, to outdoor track this summer, to indoor track next year, and to running generally. And that’s what it’s about. A love for a sport that I get to compete – and if I can improve at the same time, it’s an added bonus.

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[B] is for #bodiesbyphil (and [F] is for #fitfam)

In addition to varsity running, another important part of my life is #bodiesbyphil and the amazing friends (#fitfam) that I’ve made since starting there – a circle of friends which continues to grow.

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I found Bodiesbyphil (or BBP, as we affectingly call it) shortly after returning to Ottawa post law school. I was in kind of a funk – I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but had an articling position lined up that I was about to start, my licensing exams to complete and was sinking in debt – and I needed an outlet for stress. That’s when I found Phil’s!

In my first week, I could only get through two classes – with breaks. Within the span of two months, I was going every day, Monday to Friday. By Christmas, I’d signed up for a Goodlife membership so that I could lift weights on the weekends, when BBP was closed.

Not only has BBP transformed me physically – into a beast! –

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– but it has transformed me psychologically and emotionally. First and foremost, I’ve made some of the best friends that I have ever had. We support each other in our endeavours inside and outside of the gym; we have fun together at football games, movie nights, comedy shows, dinners – with plans to do tons more!

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I’m also more confident and happier than I have ever been – and I credit BBP.

If you can’t find me at varsity practice, it’s because I’m at BBP. 13516258_10154030740959667_7450106689934351357_n

[V] is for Varsity

One of my seminar professors once said that doing a Ph.D is socially isolating. To this I respond, “I think not!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work on a Ph.D, in an area of research that I’m passionate about, with a supervisor who is compassionate, supportive and an all-around fantastic human being, but the Ph.D is only one component of my life. As this blog will (hopefully!) demonstrate, I’m more than a Ph.D student. I have a life outside of my studies, I have friends and family who I love, and more than my fair share of hobbies that I plan to maintain. In addition to keeping me happy, these hobbies – nay, passions – keep me mentally, physically and emotionally healthy and strong. They’re great opportunities to meet new people, to challenge yourself and grow, and they’re once-in-a-lifetime.

This – and many other reasons – is why I run with the UOttawa Cross Country & Track and Field team. I’m the oldest rookie on the team, but I’m pretty short, so I blend in (that’s me, second from the left in the front row with the pink headband). I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to train and compete as a #geegee and look forward to continuing to do so for the next four years.

On the days when studying feels like it’s never going to end, I always know that there’s a run at the end of the tunnel.

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