Downtown is my Playground

I’ve been sitting on a post detailing downtown workouts for quite some time now, and frankly, forgot about it until my workout yesterday. I have this treasure trove of drafted posts that I really need to mine more often. Would you like to hear what I really think of Fifty Shades of Grey?

Didn’t think so. That’s why that particular post has hit the dusty “drafts” bin. Erk.

Stairs in Major’s Hill Park

Anywho… I did not want to go for a “run” yesterday. I was dreading the aches and pains, I was eyeing the angry black-blue stormclouds, and I was definitely not feeling energetic enough to lace up and go 5k along the river. I was also not keen to run along at a slow enough pace that everyone also running would pass me. Yes, shallow, but there it is.

I wanted to feel powerful and athletic, and knew that with my headspace at that particular moment, I would not. I would feel slow and fat.

Stawp. I know. I’m working on it.

I posted on my weight loss support group that I didn’t want to go, and someone tell me to go *grumble arggg*. More to put it out there that I needed to, so I would, more than needing the responses of “GO!”. Accountability, thou art a beast.

Zig Zag Path behind the National Art Gallery

I went. (FYI, thank you, ladies.)

I rarely give myself music to listen to anymore, keeping the earbuds out, or listening to an audiobook if it is a longer run. I want to learn to run without it (can’t do Spartans and Tough Mudders with music, y’all), and really, I need the silence sometimes, to zone out and quiet my &^%*ing brain. Today, I plugged into some music. I needed the boost, and chose a Slacker channel with ultra-trendy pop that normally makes me want to bash things, listening to lyrics of teh stoopid. (my apologies to anyone who enjoys top 40 pop. There are some songs I do like, don’t get me wrong, but man…)

As I got going, I started to feel less draggus-buttis, so I decided to go as fast as I could for as long as I could then walk or jog to recover (sprint, medium pace, walk, repeat), then go to Major’s Hill Park and do some stretching for my poor hip, keep it easy, make sure I was taking care of myself. I like hanging out in the park stretching too, and it was a beautiful day to do it. Under my favorite shade tree, people playing, the wind coaxing stories out of the branches above me… Perfect. (edit: My very favorite shade tree was toppled in yesterday’s storm. I stood in the park today, efforting not to cry. I was NOT the only one in this state either.)

Something happened as I ran North on Sussex, though. I started feeling playful. Maybe it was the music that I was listening to… I have no idea where it came from. So when I got to the Saudi Embassy, I veered and ran down the grass terraces beside it to the pathway below, leaping over the wooden dividers as I strode down, repressing the urge to go “RAHHH!” as I bounded. I crossed under the bridge, and then ran along (up and down? it is a hilly bit of road.) Lady Grey drive, finally veering back to Sussex up a bicycle path ramp. I practiced my trail clinic “spin” steps to get up that hill and I was pleased to reach the top NOT stumbling and swearing.

Stone Benches in Major’s Hill Park
Alcove between the national Art Gallery and the Canadian Mint. The lightposts are perfect to “weave” through.

Aside: I tell you, learning how to run up hills at that trail running clinic was a friggin’ epiphany. Until I am much, much fitter, this technique is making hills a butt-tonne less intimidating! I may take forever to get up them, but I get up them without killing myself, my quads, or my self-respect! Win!

I was starting to get winded, and my right toes were aching. I was running faster than I normally do, and it was hard work on the pavement. I slowed down and turned through the alleyway between the Gallery and the Mint, and I weaved through the light poles, making my way towards Nepean Point. At the back of the Gallery is a zig-zag peagravel pathway that climbs up the hill towards a strange, crooked needle statue. I ran that too, “spinning”. The gravel was hard to run in, so it was kind of a necessity. *crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch*

Once I descended past the “Giant Iceberg”, I crossed to Major’s Hill Park and sprinted up the hill by the washrooms to the main open area. I stopped my Garmin and Runkeeper, barely able to catch my breath. I had gone less than 2k. For a moment I felt ridiculous for only going that far and feeling so wretched. My God, my cardio has gone to &*%$.

But I recalled the hills, the gravel, and the jumping and such and didn’t feel so bad. I decided to continue around the park for a bit, doing a loop slowly to really feel my footstrike and form, then jumping up and down stairs, stone benches, and hills. I trotted back over to the Gallery when I got bored of that, and decided to end on 10 “sets” of stairs at the amphitheatre, my favorite place to stair climb since it is shaded and steep. Up, down. Up, down. I was waiting for security to come over and banish me (the security at the NAG are not very much fun, I can attest to this) but they never did. A few families negotiating the stairs looked at me funny, and an old man sat on a bench in the alcove watching me open-mouthed. When I passed him afterwards, he muttered something about “dangerous to be runnin like that” and I suppressed a giggle. Hey, it wasn’t long ago that women were told their uterus would fall out if they ran, and it was dangerous for women to do any sport at all!

National Art Gallery Amphitheatre stairs


I did a few of these workouts last summer, and loved them every time. Usually spontaneous, I travel from spot to spot, looking at what is available and simply “playing”. Running obstacle races this Spring reminded me that I need to do more of this kind of thing, not just steady state running, or intervals. I need to jump around, get used to stopping and starting. Taking the trail running clinic really opened my eyes, and now I work on the muscles that let me react to changing terrain, going uphill and downhill with corners, all that crazy stuff.

Where better to do all that than here? The workout was 45 minutes total. I was drenched. I was exhausted. I had, in less than 5k, likely burned more calories than running the loop run. I felt better about myself too.

Clearly I need to do this more often. ♥


2 thoughts on “Downtown is my Playground

  1. Christy July 30, 2013 / 3:10 pm

    Wonderful, wonderful way to keep things fun, to change up from the norm, this is how we make things sustainable and get us wanting to get out and do it again. And again. Thanks for this, I have steered away from running because I found it boring – maybe if I play a little more on my runs, I will once again love to do it.

  2. Sabby July 30, 2013 / 3:15 pm

    I think part of it is that I don’t “plan”, I just go. I do wee hill sprints, or I find a rock and jump up and down on it. Also, if I space it out between run segments, I feel like I am still “running”, and not just farting around LOL. has some great articles on working out with only your surroundings. He uses playground stuff quite a bit. 🙂

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