The Axel Project

This post is about something wonderful, that comes from something terrible.  So it’s hard to know where to start.  Every once in a while, I’ll get a notification that I have a new follower, and it’ll be someone who seems really cool.  This happened a couple of weeks ago.  Jen Charrette is a mom into cycling, adventure, and travel.  Her twitter profilet also mentioned The Axel Project; with a name like that, how could I not be intrigued.

Before I get into what’s great about it (besides the name), I did have the sinking feeling that it was one of those causes born from a terrible loss.  Axel Charrette was a 2 year-old who had “love of life and adventure….He left a mark on almost everyone he came in contact with. His energy, kind soul, and joy of life was contagious.”  I remembered reading about his death in the news earlier last year, and I think I had repressed the memory; suffice it to say, I wish I had never read it, and if you’ll take my advice, we’ll leave it at the tragic loss of a child.

Having said that, I simply have to tell you about the Axel Project because it’s just that fantastic. From the website:

Axel Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fundamental principle that a productive, happy life begins with bikes. Our mission is to introduce and nurture a lifelong passion for cycling to children and their families. While our goal is broad, our first project is aimed at providing balance bicycles and instruction to children in need, ages 18 months to 5-years of age, to teach the basic skills necessary to get them riding on two wheels—with their friends, their family and forever.

As I mentioned in the Designed To Move post, it’s imperative to develop these habits and values before age 10.  This is where the Axel Project is being smart – they are promoting the use of glider bikes.  The more traditional path of getting kids on pedal bikes with training wheels only delays their progress; the complicated act of turning the pedals is what they work on before learning balance, and so they get to go so fast, that they’re scared to take off the training wheels.

We’ve had great success with a glider for Shark Boy.  Thanks to using a glider, he was able to participate in a Duathlon before he turned 3. Though people always marvelled to see him cruising our neighbourhood at such a young age, I was surprised to find how resistant people could be to adopting a similar strategy – the worst had to be when I found myself arguing with an 8 year-old neighbour over the necessity of training wheels; +10 points for intention, -100 for common sense (an 8 year-old!).

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Less than a year later he was riding a real bike (in a foreign country, no less)… that’s a bike with pedals, no training wheels, being ridden by a 3 year-old.

We’ve been struggling a little with the Lightning Kid in this regard, but the honest reason is his legs aren’t so long and don’t reach the ground from even the plastic toddler glider we got, though I have a good feeling about this spring, after seeing what kind of physical stunts he’s been capable of pulling around the house.

Thanks to the Chariot, we’ve already taken short family bike rides on weekends, and I look forward to more. Bicycles are really the best short-cut to getting the whole family involved in an active adventure, and the Axel Project is making that happen for as many families as they can. Donations can be made by Paypal or mailing a cheque.

I really hope that somewhere, Axel Charrette, is having fun, and smiling at the kinds of adventures families like mine and his might be having.

Iron Rogue Finds a Cure For Winter Running at Tribe Fitness #JoinTheTribe

After having complained about winter running, I was feeling a little painted into a corner… was I really going to give it up? No, but without a change in perspective, I would be locked into dwelling on the negatives and wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself.  Enter an unusual set of circumstances (and a little initiative on my part).

It was shortly before Valentines and my wife and I had our plans already locked down – we were going to see a production of Alice In Wonderland that benefitted Mary Centre.  That was Thursday, so when an opportunity to be kid-free for Wednesday came up, she wanted a girls night out.  While a guys night out would have suited me fine too, they tend to end in the wee hours of the morning, and I wanted to pick my kids up and have them home and in bed before 9:00 at the latest, so I looked for other opportunities.  

One of the things I find have to miss out on are group exercise classes and lessons, since they tend to be held sometime in the period that is usually dinner and/or the kids’ bedtime.  Not this Wednesday!  I ended up picking Tribe Fitness, I believe having originally heard about it on Robyn Baldwin’s blog.  They have been doing training runs on Wednesday night, and some of the group are using this to get ready for Around the Bay or other bigger races.

All I was expecting was a fun, social 5 km run, but I got so much more! After struggling to find a parking space (which ended up being illegal, I didn’t discover the parking ticket till the next day!), I caught up with the tail end of the group and was warmly greeted by Heather Gardner who runs the group.  The warm greeting I got in person was to be expected after the one I got on Twitter when I mused about maybe turning up that night.

OK, tweeps… I have free time early Wednesday evening. Who thinks I should go to the @Tribe_Fitness 5k run?
— Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) February 10, 2014

We ran a little around the area surrounding Canoe Landing Park

First up was Biathlon.  Instead of skiing and shooting a rifle, we ran a sprint lap and took up to 3 throws to hit Hulk-hand targets with a snowball (I made a successful hit on my second lap, but otherwise came up empty).  Taking the throws counted as recovery between sprint laps of the park.

Next up was Luge (though it reminded me more of Bobsled).  I was on a team of 3, and as the biggest member, I didn’t ride, but only pushed my teammates on a crazy-carpet.  I think I made my biggest contribution for the uphill segment, when we switched riders for the way back, I had trouble keeping up and ended up letting go, rather than contribute to bad steering and crashing.  Luckily there was none of that, though there was plenty of laughter.

The last event was a “speed-skating” relay, or more simply, a relay around the park.  All 3 events were great ways to introduce a little of the dreaded speed work (which burn more of those hibernation calories) into the evening, and what’s more, they made them fun.

The group headed indoors for warm drinks, but I had to take my leave and pick up my boys, but I’d heavily recommend to any level of runner in the Toronto area to try and make it out to one of these events, or any other that Tribe Fitness puts on.

The Problem With Winter Running

This season has been a little different.  The weather has been unexpectedly cold, but you knew that.  It’s gotten so that there are now complaints about all the complaints about how cold it is. And I’m about to throw another complaint in, but maybe it should go into a different pile.

I live in Canada, and I like living in Canada… frankly (going back far enough) I had other choices.  This is my home and I embrace its strengths and weaknesses.  It is my belief, or I should say my family’s belief, that if you want to survive this country year-round, you have to embrace what winter has to offer.  Tobogganing, skating, skiing (both nordic and downhill), building snowmen, snow-shoeing… it’s all good.   And by that rationale, I try to include my running training in my love of fresh air in the outdoors, and like any good blogger, hope that my example will inspire others…. it’s not that bad out there!

Still, I’m starting to hate winter running… but it’s not the cold or the snow.  Really.  The cold air doesn’t seem to bother my lungs as much as everyone expects, and the rest of me gets protected by layers.  I like the lower impact of running on snow, and the muscular challenge of trudging through it.  So where’s the hate?

The logistics of it all.  Getting dressed in the appropriate layers probably takes 15 minutes, though frankly, I’m afraid to time it – it might break my heart.  I really, really have to remember to put on my heart rate monitor strap first, because it’s too hard to slip it on after I’ve put on 3 layers.  Remembering all the winter gear has created some situations I wouldn’t have expected.
While effectively preparing all the winter clothes I need for running such as:

  • hat
  • gloves
  • facemask
I have forgotten the following things at one point or another:
  • one running shoe (yes really)
  • earphones
  • water for my water bottle (twice)
  • pants
And of all the equipment you’re bringing and wearing, heaven forbid if any of it is not up to snuff…

  • Brought light cycling gloves = nearly got frostbite
  • My original facemask used to hamper my field of vision (not good because I’m having to run in areas with cars and traffic more than I usually do) so I bought a replacement
  • …which didn’t allow enough airflow for me to exhale properly.  I spent my run feeling like I was gagged by kidnappers or something, and for the air to get out, the sides expanded like the gills on a fish which was just plain weird.
Not my happy face
I haven’t quite closed the door on winter running.  Due to a funny set of circumstances, I will have a little bit of free evening time, so I’m hooking up with Tribe Fitness for a group 5k run in Toronto on Wednesday night… misery loves company, right?

I’m putting this into the #BestFoot Linkup over at Darwinian Fail… join us there, OK?