Do any of you remember the old CBC show “Yes You Can”? I used to watch it fairly regularly when I was younger and one of my favourite bits was Coach Cuddles Ford (a character name that nowadays would never, EVER pass – for the record). The gist of Coach Cuddles is that he would eat a healthy food and explain how it would give him enough energy to do a certain exercise for X number of minutes. Pretty progressive stuff, looking back at it.

Invariably, Coach Cuddles would suffer some catastrophic injury and then there would be a cartoon about the damaged body part, its treatment and rehab. Again – probably way ahead of its time but it’s always stuck with me and definitely become more relevant as I am now a reborn runner and facing my forties square in the face.

At this point, you are either reminiscing with me or wondering when I am going to get to the point. Well, if you’re in the second category – way to stick with it! What I’m getting at here the importance of listening to your body, respecting it and taking care of it. A lot of runners have the tendency to push themselves very hard – “testing their limits” – and while progress and improvement definitely require hard work, a balance must be struck.

When I was younger, I definitely subscribed to the “no pain, no gain” school of thought. I don’t think that this is the best approach though and I have adapted it now to “be comfortable with being uncomfortable”. What’s the difference? It comes down to realizing that pain is most often your body’s way to tell you to stop doing whatever it is doing – right now. We all have different thresholds, but we all inherently know when we are tired/sore/achy versus when we are in pain.

I honestly feel as though the improvements I’ve made (in the past year in particular) are a result of training smarter and giving my body a break when it’s asked for one. I’m not looking to break any records or land a spot on the Olympic team, so staying healthy and improving incrementally are not just more realistic goals but more sensible given my desire to be a runner for as long as my body allows.

The “never give up” mantra is a tough one to overcome in any athletic arena, but it is one that runners constantly hear. There is a lot of inadvertent pressure and even shaming that occurs and drives many of us to the point of hurting ourselves, setting ourselves back or even ending our ability to run at all. I can stop at any point during a run. I can withdraw from a race if I’m not ready or in the best shape to run the distance. I can even drop out of a race and I should never feel ashamed or embarrassed.

Never giving up can also mean knowing when to call it a day and keeping the bigger picture in mind. Ultimately, what I never want to give up is my ability to lace up, open the door and hit the road for a run.