All posts by Chad Baird

Do you Even Lift, Bro? Lesson Two

Lesson Two: Learn How to Get in the Best Shape of Your Life

In my last blog, I explained the issues surrounding my lack of focus during a sports performance class at the YMCA. I want to elaborate on this. Without a doubt, my sports performance class in high school was the most useful class I have ever taken. I learned how to better myself, how to workout at a functional level and how to avoid a multitude of injuries.

I have seen a plethora of poor decisions in the gym across my many years of running and lifting. I have seen people bicep curling 100 pound bars primarily with their lower back. I have witnessed people running in a flailing fashion that is sure to break an ankle during their travels. I have seen people lifting weights in ways that offer no conceivable benefit to their bodies whatsoever. Furthermore, think of all the people you don’t see at the gym.

Two years ago, I got my best friend into running. Recently, I asked him why he doesn’t go to the gym to gain some more muscle to benefit his runs.  His answer made me sad as he told me that the reason he doesn’t go to the gym and previously lived an unhealthy life is because he didn’t know how to workout.

There are so many people out there who are living unhealthy lives simply because they don’t know what to do when they get to the gym. There are many people who feel the gym would be an embarrassing or an unprofitable venture because they have not educated themselves on proper form and gym technique. Maybe this person is you.

I want today to be the day you decide to better yourself. A life of fitness is a beautiful thing. Educate yourself about fitness and join the millions of happy people who decided to learn about fitness to further enhance their time on this earth

  • If you are in high school, take sports performance or any fitness-based class that your school has to offer. I still use the skills I learned in those classes to better myself today.
  • For those of you who are going to post-secondary institutions, take fitness classes at your campus gym to learn how to workout. They are presented at phenomenal student rates and are so beneficial. The YMCA also has discounted rates for students and youth. It helps you so much in your life!
  • For those of you who are working full-time, find a gym that you love and start taking a few personal training sessions just to learn the ropes. The YMCA has awesome personal trainers and offers awesome classes to make you a better you. Also, just to get into the swing of things, start going to the gym with a fitness-oriented friend. Ask questions and engage.

I believe the most important part of fitness is the way in which we educate ourselves about the topic.

See you on the weight floor.

Written by Chad Baird | BCMM Public Relations Student | Mount Royal University

Stay tuned next week for Lesson Three: Hey You! Get Off the Phone!

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Do you Even Lift, Bro? – Lesson One

Lesson One: Bad Things Happen When You Lose Focus

The story I am about to tell you happened in 2008. I was seventeen years old and my follies were due to my overactive teenage brain. Yes, this story does involve a pretty girl and me making a fool of myself. No, I did not get her number and, furthermore, she was less than impressed. I am sure I left her wondering, as she ran away shaking her head, “Do you even lift, bro?”

I was in a sports performance class in high school. I got to learn about health and fitness while getting the opportunity to workout at the YMCA for school credit. I was on my last bicep set and an angel entered the room, lights shone from the heavens. From afar, I could see this majestic woman gallantly striding towards me, choosing music on her iPod as she prepared for her run. “Surely, she must be listening to Beethoven or Chopin,” I thought to myself in the timid stillness of my mind. “Only the stringed quartets of Beethoven could express the elegance of my future wife.” As violins danced and flutes fleeted about my thoughts, I was in awe of the woman getting closer to me with each step. Her flowing hair delicately brushed her face and likely smelled of strawberries and playful kittens. It was in that moment that I made a grave error. I convinced myself that I had to get the attention of the woman in pink for she must tell the tales of my mighty manliness in the gym!

I decided to grab 50 pound dumbbells for my last bicep set in order to impress her. A little background on me, in high school I weighed about 120 pounds and had a problem curling 15 pounds, let alone 50. I could barely get dumbbells off the rack and I nearly burst a vein in my forearm trying to hold on to 50 pounds in each hand. I hobbled and wobbled across the free weight section to make sure that she saw me. It was then that I made eye contact with her. I smiled a smile that told her, “Yes, I am interested in marriage.” She saw me and awkwardly smiled back. Love at first sight.

I felt weak in the knees, my world started spinning and my hands seemed free of the weight I was carrying. I was falling, falling, falling in love.

In fact, what was actually happening was that my legs got abruptly taken out from under me as my kneecaps collided with a flat bench that I didn’t notice in front of me as I was flashing my ‘smooth’ smile. The weakness in my knees was a physical weakness as my legs buckled in the contact with the bench. I felt as if my world was spinning and falling because indeed it was. I fully face planted on the unforgiving gym floor. Not only did I epically fall on the floor, but I was so off balance with the dumbbells that were similar in size to my entire body mass, the weights rocketed out of my hands and rolled across the floor. After that toss, I briefly considered professional shot-put or joining the Team Canada curling team because it had some distance! Unfortunately, the weight rolled right on to the track, and directly in front of my pink princess. Gracefully, she hopped over it and looked at me on the floor with a look of pure disappointment and shame. I will just wrap up this story by stating that I am still single.

The reason I tell you this story is because I see gym antics like this all the time. I have seen guys go on exercise bikes with dumbbells, doing super-fast bicep curls when girls run by on the track. But hark! Men are not the only ones who do this. I see women who come to the gym in full make-up and hair like they are ready for a photo shoot. They smile at every good-looking person they are interested in while burning 6 calories an hour on an elliptical, cruising at a snail’s pace.

My advice: stay focused! Get healthy and well, and be safe on the weight floor. You can seriously injure yourself by using equipment incorrectly. Use weights that your body can handle and remember that it takes work to get results.

See you on the weight floor.

Written by Chad Baird | BCMM Public Relations Student | Mount Royal University

Stay tuned next week for Lesson Two: Learn How to Get in the Best Shape of Your Life

Read more blogs written by Chad.

Don’t Call Me a Gym Freak

Nut [nuht]: a person who is mad, crazy, or foolish.

Rat [rat]: A rodent; sometime responsible for transmitting diseases.

Freak [freek]: a person on exhibition as an example of a strange deviation from nature; monster.

I am writing to you today to address a stigma in today’s society. I am writing this article because this stigma is rarely realized and rarely spoken about. Today, I will ask you why we bestow negativity upon positive action. Read with an open heart. Read with an open mind and please, never call me a gym freak.

In my time, I have been called a health nut, a gym rat, and a fitness freak. These terms have not been swept under the rug or whispered behind closed doors. Many people including close personal friends of mine have called me these things directly to my face. It never dawned on me until recently that there is something significantly wrong with this. Why are people with a high fitness level ostracized for making phenomenal personal decisions? Should this dedication not be celebrated and revered? The words freak, nut and rat are thrown around with such an ease, such a shaking pointed finger that it seems many have forgotten that fitness is fantastic. This brings me to the question of the day. When you examine the following question, examine your heart and evaluate your own personalized stigmas around this situation.

Why is health and fitness often associated with derogatory terms?

If I called my mother a freak, I would probably be grounded for a month! I am fully grown with a job and if those words came out of my mouth, I would have to check in with her before I left my apartment. Think about calling your grandma a complete nut. I believe your result would be the same as mine as you would swiftly catch the business end of a wooden spoon on the backside. Our final word of the scornful trinity is rat. I know what you are about to say, “Hey Chad! The word ‘rat’ has two meanings!” Yes, I am fully aware that a rat can mean a person who frequents a specific location. However, when that word is spoken the mind immediately jumps to a dirty, sewer creature. Again I ask you, why is health and fitness associated with derogatory terms?

Just because you love to run marathons does not justify negativity. Just because you are a yoga goddess or can swim like a fish does not merit disapproval. Just because you have a burning desire within yourself to change for the better does not make you a freak, a nut, or a rat. These things make you beautiful. Embrace your passions and shine for all to see.

This is a formal call to action to break down this stigma and cease the oxymoron. Negativity bestowed upon positive people, it is simply not right. Be proud of your friends who make the extra effort to better themselves and take pride in yourself if and when you do the same.

Celebrate the success found in fitness. Rejoice when the ones around you meet personal goals. Love yourself and love the ones around you for this world runs much better when kindness is shown. I will say this only one more time so listen when I repeat. Being healthy is a beautiful thing, so never call me a gym freak.

Written by Chad Baird | BCMM Public Relations Student | Mount Royal University

Read more blogs written by Chad.

The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race: Lesson 5

The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race
The Tales and Lamentations of the Ill-Prepared Runner

Lesson 5 – Don’t Eat Too Much

Nutrition goes hand in hand with running. If you are eating improperly before or during a race, you may find yourself running into a few problems. In the spirit of this series about my tales and lamentations of running, I shall share a story with you, a tale of an upset and turbulent tummy.

It was the 2010 harvest half-marathon. The sun was shining on every runner who ran that beautiful course through Fish Creek Provincial Park. On a side note, that is my absolute favorite course. I have raced it once and ran it on my own time at least ten times over, excellent course! If you ever want to come run it with me, give me a call and we will party on the trails! Alright, where were we? Yes, Harvest half! Gorgeous day, but I came a little too prepared. I thought I would put a little rocket fuel in my system, be prepared with a wicked boost to carry me along! I had an immense number of power bars, and power gels! The contents of my waterpack looked like the evidence of Running Room robbery! Nevertheless, I was under the misconception that I needed all of this to fuel myself! The gun went off and I burned it off the line. I went up and down the hills like a champion, and then I made the mistake to pillage my robbery bag. I downed one powerbar, then another one. At 15 km, I ripped open two Powergels and swiftly ingested the contents with the might of Thor. I am heroic! I am fueled! I am ready to go! Soon after this, my stomach fluid turned from an elegant pond, calm and serene, to a storm on the high seas. My face went green and I felt my yellowing eyes bug out of head. I felt so nauseated, but purposed to not be one of those guys reproducing their breakfast on the side of the course. I thought happy thoughts of Pepto Bismol, Ginger Ale, and crackers. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Make it to the finish line! I completed the race in under 2 hours, but my stomach was less than pleased. However, I learned a great lesson that day!

My advice to you is to not eat too much during a race. Your body is expending a massive amount of energy to keep you moving and directing a lot of blood to your extremities and away from your digestive system. Digesting food is a major body function, and when you are running, the digestive system is not your body’s main concern. I suggest one or two
Powergel’s throughout the duration of a half-marathon or full marathon. Powerbars have never worked for me during a race, because they are too heavy, too much too digest. However, after the race they are excellent. Personally, I love the Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Plus Bar. In the words of the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, they are magically delicious.

Don’t eat too much before or during a race. You will not be able to perform to your maximum potential because your body will be conflicted between your circulatory system and your digestive system.

Running is beautiful; don’t mess with the Mona Lisa.

If you enjoyed reading this series, please comment below and let me know!

Written by Chad Baird | BCMM Public Relations Student | Mount Royal University

The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race: Lesson 3

The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race
The Tales and Lamentations of the Ill-Prepared Runner

Lesson 3 – Hitting the Wall(s)

Pain is temporary, victory is forever – this was the caption written on a large cardboard sign, held by a loving spectator at the half way point of a grueling hill in a half marathon I ran in 2010. I will never forget that sign because it inspired me to not only finish the race strong, but adopt that as my mantra for running. That is a meaningful saying because there are two walls that a runner can hit when they run a race – the mental wall and the physical wall. I have experienced both and both come with their own pace-stopping criteria.  I fully ran into both walls when I ran the Calgary Scotiabank Marathon on May 30, 2010 – my first full marathon. Let’s talk about the mental wall first because frankly, you will often meet this guy first in a race.

The body is truly incredible, yet our mind can play tricks on us. It whispers to us, “Slow down man. You can’t do this. This is boring, go grab a cheeseburger! Wouldn’t you rather be watching Full House?” All of these thoughts were running through my head as I approached the 26km marker. I was mentally spent in every capacity. I met the mental equivalent of the Berlin Wall, and it didn’t seem like it was ready to crumble anytime soon. I wanted to stop…I wanted to quit…but I didn’t. I accepted the fact that I felt tired, but I knew that I had trained for this moment. That is what you must learn in running races. The challenge can sometimes seem insurmountable and impossible, but you must remember that your body is a well-oiled machine. Push through the false thoughts of failure and you will finish the race successfully.

The mental wall has a friend. This friend is not such a nice guy, nothing more than a schoolyard bully! With the mental wall comes the physical wall. Unfortunately, they are inseparable and come as one unified package throughout the duration of the race. At kilometre 39 of the full marathon, the wall took a flying leap of a high dive and came crashing down upon me in a pile of rubble and sorrow. 300 meters from the 39 kilometre sign, I knew I was SUPER tired. As I continued to run I thought to myself, “Alright Chad. You are going to just throw up. But you have to keep moving when you do it. Run a little, throw up a little, run a little. Easy peasy! Just keep going and do it right behind that bush.” I passed the bush that I had eyed out, and to my surprise I didn’t put on a show for any of the spectators. This was a great choice because the crowd on that section of the course consisted of a large group of children who looked to be especially happy and pleasant and an old woman sitting on a lawn chair with a big red cow bell. There was no need to ruin their day and hear a chorus of 30 screaming, crying children! I pushed for the last 3km, it was hard, but I did it. Crossing the finish line of my first full marathon is a feeling of pure elation that I will truly never forget in my entire time on this earth. My advice, when the wall hits, keep pushing, keep running, but slow down a bit. You want to keep your pace, the wall wants to crush you – slowing down is a fair compromise.

Walls can be a challenge. But make sure that you bring your mental climbing gear to each and every race because with some determination, you can overcome anything. Run safe, run smart, know your limitations. Running is beautiful; don’t make a mess of the Mona Lisa.

Stay tuned next week for Lesson 4 – Dress for the Weather

Written by Chad Baird | BCMM Public Relations Student | Mount Royal University

The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race: Lesson 2

The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race
The Tales and Lamentations of the Ill-Prepared Runner

Lesson 2 – Not Training At All

October 16, 2011, Toronto half-marathon, the smell of victory in the air. As I stood in the cluster of runners at the start line, I was simply stoked to get going. It was at this moment that I realized a very important factor in the immediate outcome of this race. The neural pathways in my brain lit up and I thought to myself, “Hey Chad, you haven’t trained for this race at all? Have you?” Oh dear…this isn’t going to be good.

Alright, let me back up. I am a frugal person and the thought of saving money thoroughly excites me. I truly believe that there will be a Value Village just inside the pearly, golden, gates of Heaven. This said, I made sure that I purchased the early bird special for the 2011 Toronto half-marathon. At that time, I was in the process of moving from Alberta to Ontario, so training time got replaced with high levels of box-filling and joyous days of painting a house. After I moved, I felt displaced and out of my element. I did not run because I simply did not have the motivation to train. One week before the race, I woke up in a state of alarmed panic as one sentence flowed through my head: “RACE DAY A-COMETH BUD AND YOU HAVEN’T DONE A THING!” I jumped out of bed and did push-ups until I was red in the face. Unfortunately, 27 and a half push-ups doesn’t replace 4 months of training. Seven days later, I woke up, laced up, and went and ran a half marathon completely cold.

Alright, back to October 16th. The gun went off and to my surprise I felt like a million bucks, possibly even 2.87 Million. I ran at a very acceptable pace, and did not start too fast (Lesson 1). I didn’t take too many walking breaks and had my breathing under control. I didn’t understand it! 5k, 12k, 15k – I was invincible! It was at 18k that my thoughts began to change. I started slowing down and felt a peculiar sensation in my legs. However, I pushed through the last 3km and victoriously raised my hands in triumph at the finish line. “YES! I beat the system! I didn’t have to train for a race! Marathons are easy!” Correction Chad, you are currently crossing the finish line with a lower body injury fit for a hospital waiting room. I received my participation medal and began walking down the street to head on home. It was at this moment that I realized there was something wrong. I looked like a new-born baby giraffe who didn’t know how to use his legs. Wobbling about, I sat on a bench and wanted to scream “SERENITY NOW!”

I didn’t train for my half marathon and I put a major tear in every single one of my leg muscles. I also developed a sciatic nerve injury that disallowed me from running for nearly two years. This may sound ridiculous, but always remember to train for your races and train properly! John Stanton’s book, Running, has many training schedules and tips to ensure your long-term success.

Train for your races, train properly, train hard. Your body is incredible, but to be successful in races, you need to help it out with some preparation. Running is beautiful; don’t make a mess of the Mona Lisa.

Stay tuned next week for Lesson 3 – Hitting The Wall(s)

Read Lesson 1 – Starting Too Fast

Written by Chad Baird | BCMM Public Relations Student | Mount Royal University

The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race: Lesson 1

The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race
The Tales and Lamentations of the Ill-Prepared Runner

Lesson 1 – Starting Too Fast

I have been a competitive distance runner for 4 years. Throughout the duration of my race career, I have stumbled and fell – both metaphorically and literally. I have had great moments and I have moments peppered with pure stupidity! I am here to inform you of the latter, the mistakes and pitfalls of running. Throughout this series, I will be discussing some of my errors on both race days and in training. Please learn from my mistakes! Take notes! Tell a friend! Call a broadcast station! Do anything to not repeat my mistakes!

My name is Chad Baird…and I am a distance running fool!

The date was July 11, 2010 in Calgary, Alberta. 8:00 a.m., 7 degrees Celsius, slight wind, perfect. The half-marathon section of the Stampede Road Race was ready and waiting for me to tear into it. This was my first half, so I was itching to run, itching to get the rubber of my soles on the pavement. Unfortunately, with new experience comes naivety. As I joined the crowd of excited runners at the start line with my father, who I love to death but secretly and subliminally loathe because he is 29 years older than me and in better shape than me, I prepare myself for the ruckus that is about to ensue. 21.1 km ‘til freedom. The gun goes off and my dad and I take off at a speed typically saved for the land-speed records of large jungle cats or the roadrunner’s foot speed from The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show. Pacing between a 3:45 to 4:15 kilometer for the first half of the race, we were on top of the world. There was nothing that could stop us. In our heads, we were Greek gods, shining, majestic, eating a cluster of grapes atop a grand mountain of stone and steel. Nearing a full sprint pace, I looked down at my Garmin wristwatch at the 5km mark and thought to myself, “I am going to finish this race in 1:30:00! Marathon running is easy!” Correction Chad…marathon running is not easy and you are just sadly misguided. My dad and I hit the 7km marker and I could see panic brewing in my father’s eyes. His gears were grinding, the machine slowly crumbling. He told me to keep up the pace and run ahead because he couldn’t maintain the crazy pace anymore. I swiftly bid him farewell, and victoriously ran ahead. I was running on pure adrenaline, but my body had had enough and at the next aid station, I fully understood the meaning of pain.

9km aid station, the plague of my soul – either name with suffice. As I slowed down to walk and grab a Gatorade, I realized that I was fully destroyed. Everything is wrong, everything is lost. At that moment, I am pretty sure I heard a violent car crash in my brain. Crunching metal, screeching tires, sirens. I had nothing left. My lungs heaved as I tried to catch my breath. The sun beat down on me and I was reduced to nothing more than a weary desert traveler. My legs felt like scuba tanks, heavy and hollow, wading through endless amounts of water. My arms were so weak that I could barely lift my Gatorade cup to my lips. It was in this moment, I considered a good, healthy man cry. “NO CHAD! GET IT TOGETHER!” I threw my cup to the ground and started to run again. “Yes, Chad! You are the king again! Back at it! Eating Zeus grapes on Grecian mountains! Racing like a champ!” I looked down at my watch and expected to see the sub-four-minute pace I boasted previously. My watch read a dismal 13:38 kilometer pace. It is at this point that runners start to make excuses. “THE GPS ALIGNMENT IS OFF! THE TREES ARE BLOCKING THE SIGNAL! SOLAR FLARES ARE DISRUPTING MY SATELLITE!” It was none of those things. I was just pacing at a speed that is often surpassed by infants crawling for a toy in the modern family home. With my back slouched and legs burning, I continued on in the race at my Baby Gap super speed and finished the race in 2:15:00. Considering how violently I hit the wall, I am just happy that I didn’t have to get pulled to the finish line in a little red wagon by a road marshall.

2010 Stampede Road Race = 1, Chad Baird = 0

I tell you this story because there is an important point I want to outline. Do not (and I really mean do not) start out a race faster than you are comfortable. I’m going to repeat that just so we understand each other. DO NOT START OUT A RACE TOO FAST! There is so much excitement in the beginning of a race that it is easy to start off too quickly and do exactly what I did – burnout! You trained for the race and you know your pace. Make sure that you keep yourself in check because you don’t need to be a hero. I tried to be hero, but I lost my cape and fell from the sky.

Start the race at a pace that you can maintain, and you will be running across the finish line with a smile on your face. Running is beautiful; don’t make a mess of the Mona Lisa.

Stay tuned next week for Lesson #2: Not Training At All

Written by Chad Baird | BCMM Public Relations Student | Mount Royal University

YOUTH: Live the Life You Were Meant To

Written by YMCA Volunteer Blogger Chad Baird

What does health mean to you? During extensive interviews with Calgary youth, it became clear that there can be many different interpretations of the word, but they all center on a life that is fun and fulfilled. Words such as happy, Zen, whole, energetic, ripped, and active were descriptions of what the word health meant to young people just like you. However, this raises an important question: Do these words describe your life? If not, YMCA can help you reach your happiness goals.

It can be tough to manage the day to day! There are all sorts of regular responsibilities like school, work, laundry, dishes, relationships, vacuuming, clipping the cats nails, catching the bus… How can anyone find a free moment to workout and focus on their own health/happiness at a time like this?

Schedule some time at YMCA because the personal benefits are incredible. YMCA has its doors open from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Physical activity can give you an outlet for your stress, channelling your energy, making you a more efficient person.

Jenéa McMahon (student) states, “Working out gives you a clear mind and moment to de-stress. When I go to the gym, it is a night and day difference in how I feel – I feel great!”

When you feel empowered, you transform into a powerhouse! Your schedule can become easier to manage because working out releases a large amount of endorphins. This endorphin rush (a.k.a. adrenaline rush) causes a greater amount of focus and mental clarity. This, combined with an overall feeling of health and wellness, will make you feel like a million bucks!

Throughout the interview process one point became exceedingly clear – young people love a variety of machines and a variety of classes. Well, it looks like you are in luck, because the YMCA has both! Collectively, the girls said they enjoyed using yoga mats, exercise balls, an assortment of leg machines, and cardio machines to tone muscle and lose weight. As a whole, the guys stated they loved to use free weights, weight machines, and a variety of cardio equipment to build muscle and advance their fitness level.

YMCA has an incredibly diverse gym which caters to every kind of fitness desire. To compliment this, there are fitness classes offered every week at YMCA. Spin classes, yoga, Zumba!, strength training, Pilates, water aerobics, rock climbing, swimming, full body boot camps, and so much more! These classes range from beginner training to intense fitness levels and everything in between!

A healthy lifestyle defines you and changes a person for the better. It is a way to maintain balance in your life and feel fantastic about yourself every morning. “I wake up happy, and I believe that everybody deserves to feel this way,” says fitness enthusiast Janine Poersch. Working out can create self-confidence, a greater quality of life, and can make you feel better physically and emotionally. Isn’t this what we want out of life? Being happy, being fulfilled?

This is not practice life. According to Kelsey MacCuaig (student), “When you don’t work out, you feel that a part of your life is missing.” Complete the puzzle and place the piece in the empty space. You are currently up to bat and YMCA wants to ensure that you knock it out of the park with a smile on your face.

Let 2013 be YOUR year! A life of health and wellness is on the horizon and the winds of change are blowing – may the breeze bring you through our open doors.

Written by Chad Baird | BCMM Public Relations Student | Mount Royal University