The Runner Diaries — Mark Kennedy

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Inspired by Refinery29’s Money Diaries and The Cut’s Sex Diaries, welcome to The Runner Diaries, where we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look into a week of training with runners of varying ages, paces and GPS coordinates.

This week, we have Mark Kennedy of Toronto, Ontario — a 43-year-old businessman, father and leader of Strava’s None to Run Challenge, who knows the best way to celebrate a run well done is with a pint of beer.

The Rundown

Name: Mark Kennedy
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Age: 43
Training For: N/A
Occupation: Chief Compliance Officer, I also blog/podcast for fun.
Goal race? N/A (but and signed up for a 13km trail race in September and am contemplating a half marathon in October)
Following a training plan? No
Part of any running communities, clubs or training programs? I lead and participate in the None to Run Challenge on Strava
How long you’ve been ‘a runner:’ 24 years. Played many sports growing up, but got into running my first year of university.
Goal weekly mileage: N/A

Runner’s Statement

At the moment, I am not training for a specific race, nor distance. I grew up playing many different sports, with a focus on basketball, baseball and track. I never considered myself a great long distance runner and, actually, as a youngster, was a better sprinter and jumper.

I studied Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was there that I started to run to stay fit and even started entering a couple of 10k races per year.  I have been running for more than 20 years now and typically do one or two races per year. I have run two marathons (2009 and 2012) with the first being a huge learning experience! Over the years I have run about 12 half marathons as well, with the half probably being my favourite distance to run.

Today, I have a demanding job, a wife (who also has a demanding job) and two young boys. While I still enter the odd race, my approach to running and fitness in general, is to just do enough that I feel good and I can ramp up when I need to.

This week is a pretty good snapshot of what my current and relatively unstructured fitness/running regime looks like.

Wednesday, March 22 // Day One

Here we go!  Day one of my running diary has come at a good time for me. I have recently come back from a week vacation in Mexico with my wife and two sons.  While I did manage to get three runs under my belt while down there, the amount of beer and endless buffet food surely offset these activities!

Since January I have started something I like to call “Take the Morning Back.” My two young boys have always been 6a.m. risers and they don’t like to ease into the day like my my wife and I do. The moment they’re up, they’re up.  I decided that in order to get back into meditation, something I have dabbled in before, I needed to quiet time to myself. And that time is at 5a.m.….an hour before the boys get up.

5:05 AM  — Wake up & meditate

First stop is the kitchen to get some coffee going. I make a strong cup of coffee with a French press and bring it to my “meditation” chair. It’s just a chair, but that sounds way cooler.

I meditate for my usual 10-minutes using the Calm meditation app. I have only been meditating daily for 10 weeks, but I must say that it has been a game changer.

The way I have explained the benefits of meditation that I have experienced is to imagine all the information in your brain as a bunch of files lying all over the place. Unorganized and unlabeled. Consistent meditation has felt like someone has gone into my brain and carefully organized all of these files. I can think clearer, am happier and have a general sense of calm throughout my day.

5:15a.m. — Breakfast

Breakfast was a smoothie with ice, frozen mango, frozen spinach, frozen blueberries, banana, chia seeds and water.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 10.31.30 PM

After my smoothie and getting the boys ready for their day, my wife and walk to the subway together. It’s about a 1km walk. Sadly, we’re well into March and it’s friggin’ freezing today….not good for the motivation to run.

8:48a.m. — Coffiest Soylent

At work, I have a Coffiest Soylent.

If you don’t know what Soylent is, I suggest starting here. For me, Soylent is a simple way for me not to screw up breakfast and to get some protein to sustain me until lunch. It keeps me away from crappy breakfast cereals or other cheap carbs like bread as well. I realize there is some controversy around Soylent, but I have been drinking it most weekday mornings for three months now, and it works for me.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 10.35.03 PM

12:30p.m. — Lunch

I grab a salad from one of my favourite healthy option spots near the office. The colours are magnificent!

While I do enjoy food and eating at nice restaurants I’d say that I eat to “fuel” for the most part. I would be perfectly happy to eat the same things every day. Especially things like bread, pasta and cereal — I think I love my carbs too much!

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 10.35.46 PM

Organic quinoa, organic tempeh, organic kale, roasted yam, pomegranate, beets, carrots, rainbow radish, purple cabbage, white cabbage, organic sprouts, sunflower and sesame seeds with maple chia sauce.

2p.m — Coffee (Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with Lion’s Mane and Chaga)

Yes, coffee is a theme in my life. I feel like I need it more now that I get up at 5a.m. each weekday.

5:30p.m. — Dinner

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 10.40.20 PM.png

Chicken, brown rice, arugula salad

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 10.55.09 PM

Apple with almond butter for dessert

After dinner, the boys and have a wrestle and play some Nerf basketball before they go to bed.

9p.m. — Beer

I fancy a pint. The beer of choice tonight is a High Park Brewery Across the Pond English Pale Ale. My wife and lived in England for a bit, so I do like a nice English Ale.

Today was an unplanned rest day. I was going to go for a run, but my wife had a work spin class so I stayed home and watched some BBC Earth on Netflix.

I used to get pretty worked up if I unexpectedly have to miss a run or workout. Now, with young kids I am much better at going with the flow, and know that a missed workout here and there will not cause a loss in fitness.

10:21p.m.  — Bed

Total steps: 9,841

Thursday, March 23 // Day Two

5:05a.m. — Wake up, coffee & meditate

Up at the usual 5:05a.m., and straight to my pal, the French Press to make some coffee. A friend gave us some collagen powder to put in our coffee, so I tried it out this morning. I didn’t even read up the benefits of collagen powder (if any), which is something I would normally do, but hey…I hadn’t had my coffee yet!

After, I meditate for 10 minutes.

6:45a.m. — Breakfast

I make the same smoothie as yesterday before heading off to work.

12:20p.m. — Gym Session @ Lunch

During my lunch, I go to the gym. I am keeping my strength training routine simple these days. It usually consists of a push, a pull, squats or lunges and some core stuff. Here’s what I do today:

  • Bench press (3 sets)
  • Dumbbell Goblet Squats (3 sets)
  • Weighted calf raises (2 sets)
  • Pullups (3 sets of 4)
  • Front plank
  • Side plank
  • Stretching

Lunch — Chicken salad with mesclun, avocado, grilled corn, tomatoes, black beans, toasted corn, chipotle puree and balsamic vinaigrette.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 10.58.53 PM

3p.m. — Caffeine

I had a major energy crash this afternoon. Cappuccino time!

5:45p.m. — Dinner

I have pasta with tomato meat sauce for dinner tonight. I also eat a piece of mint chocolate chip ice cream cake that our friends brought over a couple of days ago and left in our freezer. So good!

8p.m. — Run

Tonight I was just looking to get a short run in to clear my head and get some exercise. Unless I am training for something specific, my mid-week runs are typically 5-to-10 km (3ish to 6ish miles).

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.00.40 PM

I feel good tonight, keeping the pace easy without a focus on speed at all. I enjoy running at night, but in a perfect world, I would run mid-morning when my energy levels are peaked.

9:15p.m. — Recovery beer

I had a beer because, it’s a recovery drink, right?

10:00p.m. — Snack

Bowl of cereal with banana

Total steps: 13,433

Friday, March 24 // Day Three

5:05a.m. — Wake up

Up at 5a.m. again. You know the drill: coffee and meditate for 10-minutes.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.11.21 PM

After my meditation, I have been trying to use the remaining time before my family wakes up to read. I am so tired at night, I always seem to fall asleep when I try to read. Doing it in the morning has been much better.

Today I am reading Raising Cain – Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. I heard it’s a great read for anyone with sons, so I am giving it a go. Worst case scenario, I’ll pick up some lingo to impress my social worker sister-in-law.

After reading for 20 minutes, I watched a few videos from Colin McCourt’s Instagram feed. If you don’t know who Colin McCourt is, read this interview with him. In short, he’s a retired (still in his early 30’s I believe) elite middle distance runner from the UK. After he stopped running, he packed on some serious pounds. His friends made him a bet that if he loses, means he’ll get a number of tattoos (again, read this first and then follow Colin on Instagram).

8a.m. — Breakfast

I have oatmeal with almond milk and some maple syrup (I’m Canadian, eh!).

8:20a.m. — Caffeine!

Fire alarm at work — on all the days, it happens on the day I come in early! So I walk over to my favourite local coffee place and grab my standard cappuccino to kill some time.

9:30a.m. — Snack

I have an apple. Our nanny was sick today, so I leave work early to switch with my wife be with kids.

12:30p.m .— Lunch

I eat leftover pasta, with an apple and almond butter. Then, I also have a piece of leftover ice cream cake…get this out of the house!

6:35p.m.  — Dinner

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 11.14.56 AM

Chicken and rice and salad.

8:30p.m.  — Craft Beer Fest!

Tonight my wife and I had tickets to the Toronto craft beerfest. I am a pretty keen craft beer guy and especially enjoy trying local ales.

I tried a bunch of different beers including a stout, some IPAs and a sour beer. I didn’t know sour beer was a thing. It tasted a bit like unsweetened lemonade, but in a good way. I don’t know that I could drink a full pint of it, but enjoyed a small glass.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 10.43.49 PM

10:30PM — My wife and I head home. Wild partiers, eh??

Once I get home, I stay up for another 45 minutes to watch some March Madness.

Total steps: 12,043

Saturday, March 25th // Day Four

7:15a.m. — Wake up; breakfast

On weekends I do not get up at 5a.m. (phew). This morning, I sleep in until 7:17a.m. It’s blissful! Thanks to my wife for letting me have a little lie in this morning!

I have coffee and oatmeal with cinnamon, almond milk and banana.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.18.17 PM

12:45p.m. — Lunch

Lunch is soup and a bagel with peameal bacon and tomato.

1p.m. — Run

I ran 10km (or 6.2 miles, the distance I intended to run!) and I felt nice and relaxed. The first 5k was faster than the last, but that was largely due to the first half being a bit downhill.

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 11.25.19 AM

Matt Fitzgerald’s book, 80/20 Running really resonated with me, so for the last few months I have really just been running without worrying about being fast. To be honest, I actually enjoy my running a lot more when I just run without worrying about pace. When I am training for something specific, I do incorporate a lot more speed/tempo work into my schedule, but right now….I am just running.

While I have never been totally consumed by pace, I have probably been guilty of running in the grey zone too much (the grey zone is that pace that’s not fast, but not slow — on a relative basis). It’s difficult to get faster when you are never running fast!

3:35p.m. — Pre-dinner, post run snack

After my run I felt tired, but in a good way.  I was also really hungry!  A friend came over to watch some basketball and I ate a lot of raw veggies and chips with 7-layer dip.

6:00p.m.  — Dinner

Pizza and a salad

9:00p.m. — Beer

I have one beer while I watched some more March Madness.

11p.m. — Bed

Total Daily Steps: 13,628

Sunday, March 26 // Day Five

6:30a.m. — Wake up!

Woke up at 6:30a.m. this morning to both boys proclaiming they are starving! 

After filling the guys belly’s with some French toast, my wife makes us a smoothie with spinach, orange, banana, frozen mango, chia seeds and water. Then, of course, coffee.

8:30a.m. — Gym sesh

On Sunday morning, the entire family goes to the gym. There is a daycare for the boys with lots of great toys, so they are happy to go. A win-win!

Similar to my running, I started strength training in university and have never looked back. Yes, I did go through a short phase (like many guys!) where I wanted to get bigger. But my general approach to strength training nowadays is to use it to supplement my running and to allow me to participate in pretty much any other physical activity (including wrestling with my boys) without worrying about getting injured. The practice of strength training is also like meditation for me. It’s awesome for clearing the mind.

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 11.31.34 AM

Today’s strength workout:

  • Bench press – 3 sets of 10 reps (150 lbs)
  • Pull ups – 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Lateral dumbbell raise – 3 sets of 10 reps (12 lbs)
  • Preacher bar bicep curls – 3 sets of 10 reps (50 lbs)
  • 7-Min Strength Workout for Runners
  • Stretching with a focus on hamstrings and hip flexors.

After the gym we rushed to my oldest son’s hockey game.

12:20p.m. — Lunch

Leftover pizza.

1p.m. — I take a 90-minute nap, and boy was it amazing. Woke up feeling refreshed and energized. In a perfect world, I think I’d have a 60-minute nap every day!

8:20 PM — Dinner

For dinner, my family goes over to a friends’ place. We have Greek chicken souvlaki. Desert was a brownie, and I also had a couple of Mad Tom IPAs.

10:25p.m. — Bed

Total steps 6,438

Monday, March 27 // Day Six

5:08 a.m. — Wake up + coffee

As usual, I did my 10-minute meditation followed by a black coffee and some reading.

9:00a.m. — Sustenance

Coffiest Soylent

1:00p.m. — Lunch

Salmon with salad.

2:30p.m. — Coffee

Four Sigmatic Mushroom coffee

5:45p.m. — Right after work today, I did a podcast interview with Nate Helming of The Run Experience. I really enjoy doing podcast interviews and learn a lot from each guest. My chat with Nate was no different. We talked for about an hour about running, with a focus on stuff to help beginner runners.

7:45p.m. — Dinner

Greek salad, rice, stir-fried vegetables.

8:30p.m. — Strength Workout + stretching

After dinner, I did my 7-Minute Strength Workout for Runners and some stretching.

Lately been amazed by my 5-year old’s ability to sit in a squat position. I want to be able to do that again and hence, I have been trying to stretch with more consistency.

Total daily steps: 8,985

Tuesday, March 28 // Day Seven

5:06a.m. — Wake up

Coffee and 10-minute meditation…loving my morning routine!

9:05a.m. — Coffiest Soylent

12:15p.m. — Workout

Workout

  • 3 sets of pushups – 3 sets of 15 reps
  • 3 sets of wide-grip pullups – 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Lunge matrix (recommended by Coach Jay Johnson)
  • Stretching with a focus on hamstring and hip flexors

1:25p.m. — Lunch

Veggie burrito with brown rice.

6:15p.m. — Dinner

Chicken, roasted vegetables and brown rice.

8:00p.m. — Run

I haven’t run with any real pace for a while and tonight I felt good 1 km in, so I kept the foot on the gas.  I normally run with music or podcasts, but for this run, I chose not to. I find running without the noise pollution allows me to focus on my running more and be in tune with my body/breathing.

That said, here are some of my favourite podcasts right now:

  • The Tim Ferriss Show
  • How I Built This
  • Workplace Hero
  • Freakonomics Radio

Total steps: 10,458

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 // Day Eight

5:05a.m. — Wake up

My normal 10 minutes meditation

Full disclosure: today I am doing a cleanse. I am not a fan of cleanses and don’t really see the value of doing it for one day. I believe in eating real food and a statement that really resonates is from Michael Pollan:

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

But, some people at my work were doing it, so I reluctantly agreed. Team camaraderie, right? These are the juices I had to drink throughout the day:

  • First thing: Clean-Zing
    • Filtered Water, Lemon, Liquid Cayenne
  • Mid-morning: Almond Milk
    • Filtered Water, Almonds, Dates, Vanilla Bean, Himalayan Salt
  • Late morning: E3 Live Booster
    • Aphanizomenon Flos-Aquae (AFA), Filtered Water
  • Around noon: East of Eden
    • Apple, Celery, Romaine, Kale, Lemon
  • Mid-afternoon: Choco-Maca-Milk
    • Filtered Water, Almonds, Dates, Cacao, Maca, Vanilla Bean, Himalayan Salt
  • Late afternoon: The Good
    • Cucumber, Spinach, Romaine, Celery, Lemon, Himalayan Salt
  • Evening: Deep Roots
    • Apple, Carrot, Beet, Celery, Lemon
  • Right before bed: Chia Seed Hydrator
    • Filtered Water, Chia Seeds, Lemon

Oh, I did I mention that I can’t have a coffee today? Crap.

Because I was doing the cleanse, I decided exercising today might not be the best idea. Again, missing planned workouts used to bum me out, but no longer. Working and being fit is for life and is not lost with one missed workout!

I didn’t feel particularly hungry at all during the day, but I sure did miss my coffee. I had a caffeine withdrawal headache during the morning, but it disappeared by noon.

With all of the liquids I was drinking, I felt like I was hitting the bathroom every 15 minutes. Oh well … they say that sitting kills so I viewed these forced breaks as a good thing!

8:15p.m.  — Dinner

OK, I have a confession. I totally forgot that my wife and I had dinner plans at night with some friends who were moving away from Toronto soon.  I didn’t want to be that guy and cancel the dinner because I was cleansing!  So, my wife and I met them for dinner and it was fantastic. My guilt for breaking the cleanse early went away as that first bite of sashimi entered my mouth (we went for Japanese). I went to Japan in 2002 and fell in love with Sake, so we ordered some for the table. Wonderful.

10:45p.m. — Bedtime

Total steps: 11,401

Total weekly steps: 86,227

A Look Back: Thoughts on the Week

Looking back at the week, the biggest thing I would like to change is that I want to enter into more races. Having an ad-hoc workout/running schedule that’s just kept in my head works for me, but I realized that I am much more focussed and have have better quality workouts when I am training for something specific.

While the craft beer fest did definitely not help, I would like to get rid of the random midweek pints – especially if I am just at home watching a game.  A beer here and there is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it does interfere with my quality of sleep.

On the topic of sleep, because I get up quite early with my meditation/morning routine (and not going to bed earlier) I am getting less sleep than I used to. I operate best with 7-8 hours sleep, not 6-7 hours. I might start going to bed a bit earlier.

There are always things to work on, but overall, recording my diet and activity levels has confirmed that I am on the right track and when life starts to calm down a bit (i.e. the boys get older) I’ll be able to ramp things up if I want.

About Mark Kennedy

AJ4_3206

Mark has been running for more than 20-years, and has run two marathons and numerous half marathons. As USA Track and Field certified coach and a former Kinesiologist, he created his blog, Healthynomics, as a personal outlet to stay in touch with his passion of running, exercise science and healthy living.

Lately, Mark’s focus has been on helping beginner runners get started running through his podcast, None to Run plan and email series for beginner runners.

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