Why I’m doing another Whole30

I’ve never had a good relationship with food.

I am almost 32 years old and I still haven’t figured out how to be at peace with who I am and what I eat and how food makes me feel about myself, which is mostly bad.

This past fall though, I did experience somewhat of a breakthrough and a sense of calm and acceptance over what I was putting into my body – this was when I was doing my first Whole30.

Following the Whole30 isn’t easy – no dairy, legumes, sugar, alcohol or grains (this part was easy for me since I have a wheat allergy) – but feeling a constant sense of guilt around bad food choices or the physical discomfort of eating too much isn’t easy either.

On Wednesday June 1st I am going to start my second Whole30 to reset my body and my mind for a healthy summer, and beyond.  I know it won’t be without challenges, but I feel more prepared this time and am ready for what’s to come.

The first time I did the Whole30, I started just before Halloween. I remember that night at my sister’s house, surrounded by tiny packages of chocolate, candy and chips. On any regular Halloween I probably would have eaten 10, maybe 15 of these packages, easily racking up hundreds of (empty) calories of mindless eating, telling myself that those calories didn’t count because it was a “special occasion.” But on that night I stuck to the Whole30 and I woke up the next morning feeling good about my decision. A Halloween without chocolate was OK.

Over the next month I made it through 3 birthday parties without any cake. I also made it through every afternoon without my 3pm chocolate fix. Weaning myself off sugar was tough, and the sugar hangover they talk about is real, but it’s amazing how your body naturally starts craving healthier foods when that’s the only option you have.

From delicious soups and chilis, fresh salads, amazing meat dishes and my ultimate, I-could-eat-this-everyday favourite, Sauteed Cabbage with Red Onions and Apples, I ate very well on the Whole30. I spent more time than usual grocery shopping, meal-prepping and cooking, and I hardly ate out, but it was worth it because I learned so many new recipes and discovered new foods.

As someone who spends a disproportionate amount of my day on social media (I’m working on that too…), my journey was certainly made easier by the incredible Whole30 online community. I frequently consulted the Whole30 Recipes Instagram account as well as the #Whole30 and #Whole30recipes hashtags for inspiration. I regularly shared my #Whole30problems on Twitter, receiving immediate feedback and love from others. I also enjoyed following Whole30 co-founder Melissa Hartwig for her tough-love attitude and delicious food pictures.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to start another Whole30 on June 1st, but I know that I am ready. Since I finished my last one, I have been struggling a lot (too much) with my eating habits and it’s affecting all other areas of my life, both physically and mentally. I’m turning 32 in a month and I can’t bear to spend another 365 days with all the added guilt, stress and physical discomfort that comes from bad eating habits, especially when I know that I can do better.

This isn’t a diet, it’s a framework for a new way of living and a better relationship with food. While the Whole30 isn’t meant to be followed forever (I will drink wine again!), its principles and philosophy form the basis for a life-long shift in the way we think about food and what we put into our bodies. 

If you want to follow along, I’ll try to document as much of my journey as I can on my Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat (junepet84) accounts.

What I Know After One Year As A Triathlete

0771_001823On Sunday I’ll be returning to IronGirl Canada, the race that started my triathlon journey just one year ago! Since then, I swam, biked, and ran hundreds of kilometres and learned a few things along the way. While my triathlon journey is still very new and I still have a ton to learn about this whole swim-bike-run life, here are a few important, fun, and/or useful things I’ve learned this year. If you are thinking of making the leap to triathlon or are just looking for something new in your life, I hope the list below shows you that while triathlon training is hard work, you can do it.

1. Swimming is hard. Open water swimming is harder. But it gets better with practice, practice, practice. If there’s one sport you can’t skimp on, it’s swimming! The only way you’ll get more comfortable in the water, is to be in the water, and often. I know heading out to the pool at 6am is tough, but you’ll thank yourself for sticking with it when you experience a major breakthrough!

2. Tri gear will make your life easier. Tri shorts, tri laces, tri belt, all these things are great! Tri shorts are long and they stay in place! For someone with “generous” thighs, this is a welcome change from most run shorts which just ride up. Tri laces will never come undone so you’ll never have to stop again during a race to tie your shoes. Tri belts make it so you won’t have to poke any more holes into your favourite race shirts. The tri belt will hold your race bib and allow you to easily move it to your back for the bike and to your front for the run.

3. A Coach will make it better. Let’s face it, triathlon can be a confusing sport! When I started, I didn’t know how to swim and I had never owned a road bike. Luckily, my Coach at Skywalker Fitness is not only a triathlete himself, but is also certified in triathlon coaching. As I transitioned from running to triathlon, my Coach gave me workouts to focus on my weaknesses and build my confidence in the two sports that were new to me. All those hours in the pool and on the bike trainer this winter? I can say they have definitely paid off!

4. Changing your own tire will make you feel like a superhero. This is a skill you just can’t go without in the world of triathlon! The first time I had to do this myself, I used this video from Trek Bikes. The hardest part for me was getting the tire back on after the inner tube had been changed, but with some practice and a whole lot of muscle, it can be done!

5. If you want to do something in a race, make sure you can do it in practice first. I have found this especially true for swimming. If you want to swim 1000m without stopping in open water during a race, make sure you do that exact thing in practice. If you want to run a certain pace off the bike during the race, do that same thing in practice to see if your legs can handle it. This will do wonders for your self-confidence and when the pain gets real during the race,  you can remind yourself that yes, you CAN do this because you’ve done it before!

6. Your body will love the training variety. As much as I love Biking Alisha Jennarunning, I can’t do it 5 days a week. Late last year I had to drop out of my first marathon because my groin started acting up and long runs became very painful. As I took some time away from running last winter, I turned my focus to swimming and cycling which kept my cardio up and my body strong, without the strain on my groin. When I returned to running in the spring, I did so 3 times a week. The variety has kept injuries at bay and my body has never felt stronger.

7. Learning something new as an adult is awesome. I’ll never forget my first training session in the pool. My coach asked me to swim one lap and I barely made it 25m! All I could think of was, I have to do that 40 times to swim 500m! It truly seemed impossible. Today, I can swim that distance without stopping and the journey to get there has been tough and amazing at the same time. For all the times I have wanted to jump out of the pool and quit in the middle of a hard workout, there have been an equal number of times when I have high-fived myself for completing a tough set. Sometimes at the end of the workout I do a few easy laps and just think how beautiful and calming it is to be in the water, learning something new, and treating my body to an amazing workout at the same time. I am so glad I took the plunge and learned how to swim.

8. Clipping In – Just do it. Eek! This one was nerve wracking because everyone around me just kept telling me how many times I was going to fall, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, you will fall, probably as you are trying to unclip. But once you fall you realize it isn’t that bad and you get on with it. You will get faster when you switch to clipless pedals (bonus!) and climbing hills will be easier! I got my pedals put on by the very kind people at D’Ornellas Bike Shop in Scarborough and was taken on my first ride around the block by Olympian and Canadian Road Racing Champion Eon D’Ornellas. Having someone kind and patient teach you how to clip-in and clip-out makes a big difference. If you’re local, I highly recommend you check them out!

9. Apply sunscreen between the swim and bike. This year at the Toronto Triathlon Festival I got burnt! I put on some sunscreen before the swim, but didn’t reapply before the bike and when I got home I quickly realized my mistake…ouch! Luckily, Neutrogena makes a very handy sunscreen spray that’s easy to apply in 10 seconds or less. I will definitely be using this on Sunday to save my skin from the harsh rays of the late morning sun.


Victory Photo10. It’s never too late to become a triathlete.
The oldest woman competing in the IronGirl Triathlon this Sunday is 73. the most competitive age category group is women 40-44 and there are 39 women competing who are cancer survivors. How freakin’ awesome is that? It’s so inspiring to see women of all ages and abilities competing in this sport and doing things they never thought they could do! More than anything, triathlon has taught me the importance of goal-setting, hard work, the joy of learning something as an adult, and the personal satisfaction that comes from knowing you can do something today that you could not do yesterday, and it never stops. In another 365 days I will be a better triathlete than I am today. If you want to start, start today and next year we could be lining up together at the start of IronGirl Canada, doing something we both never thought possible.

I’m serious. If this is something you want to do, start today. tweet me @jennapettinato or email me jenna.pettinato@gmail.com and I’ll hold you accountable to your training, introduce you to the awesome triathletes I know, and support you through this incredible journey. Let’s do this.

Try This Workout: Moves Like Lanni

Lanni STWMLast month after the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon, I had the opportunity to chat with Lanni Marchant, Canada’s marathon record-holder and recent bronze medalist in the 10,000m at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. The incredible thing about so many of our Canadian athletes is that they really care about their fans and are so kind and generous in sharing their training experiences. Lanni is no exception and it’s amazing to see how she’s become a hero for Canadians and women runners all across the country!

We were talking about developing speed and training on the track and I asked Lanni if she had a favourite workout she could recommend. She mentioned something called “The Brazilian,” which she describes in this post on her blog. 

The Brazilian involves a lot more than running. It includes crunches, push-ups, supermans, and lunges, followed by a 100m sprint, running drills, and then even more sprints! I am telling you, the first time I did this workout I screamed on my last interval because I was in so much pain. Lanni’s version of the workout is pretty intense and obviously tailored to an elite level athlete (which I am not), so I asked my Coach Brock Armstrong to modify the workout into something I could fit into my training. Here’s what he came up with:

Lanni Marchant’s Brazilian Workout, Modified for the Recreational Athlete:

Warm-Up: 5-10 minutes of full body movement.

Main Set:
Repeat this set 4 times, increasing the final sprint distance each time:
10 crunches, 10 push-ups, 10 supermans, 10 reverse lunges
100m all-out sprint
20 reps of a running form drill. Choose one from this video: http://ow.ly/Q8Iku
90 second easy jog
200m sprint
Back to the top for a total of 4 intervals, increasing from 200m to 400m, 600m, and finally 800m on the final interval. Get ready for the HURT.

Cool Down: 5-10 minutes of easy jogging after stretching out any tight areas.

Moves Like LanniLooks OK on paper, right? But those core exercises really add up and the final 800m sprint will really test your pain tolerance! Can you see the pain on my face? The first time I did this workout, I had to stop for 10 seconds during my final 800m sprint. The second time I did this workout I controlled my pace and didn’t fade at the end. Woo! This is definitely a workout I plan to keep in my training regimen and my goal is to increase the number of intervals as well as the distance of the final sprint as my speed improves over time.

If you’re looking for something new to do at the track, I definitely recommend trying this Lanni-approved workout! It’s easily modified to fit any runner’s skill level or preferred distance by adding or removing intervals. Right now I am focusing on shorter distances, but this workout could also be used by the longer distance runner. As Lanni says in her original blog post: “As my season progresses, the intervals will lengthen, and eventually the entire workout is replaced with more marathon-specific intervals.”

Let me know if you try this workout! Tweet me @jennapettinato and tell me how it goes. Good luck!

Toronto Triathlon Festival: Race Recap

Jenna Triathlon 1I have been looking forward to the Toronto Triathlon Festival all winter and I can’t believe the race has already come and gone. Despite some fear of a cancelled swim and a predicted thunderstorm, the day was absolutely perfect and the race went off without a hitch.

I rode my bike down to Ontario Place early on Sunday morning to get in line before transition opened. We were let into the transition area around 8:00am and setting up was quick and easy. The very kind Triathlon Ontario Officials walking around checked to make sure everyone’s bike was racked properly and gave us a full hour to prep our area and warm-up before the start of the race. Around 9:15 we made our way down to the swim start at the Ontario Place West Channel and took a short dip into the water to acclimatize ourselves to the 16 degree lake temperature. To be honest, it wasn’t that bad! Compared to the 10 degree water we swam in last week, this felt like a hot tub.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a “natural” swimmer, and 365 days ago, I could not swim more than 25m without stopping. Getting into the lake, hearing the horn go off, and then seeing 750m in front of me, was a bit overwhelming and I did get a bit panicky towards the beginning of the swim. It took me awhile to find my breathing pattern (which it always does) and I kept worrying that I would bump into someone or get kicked in the face so I stayed towards the right and the back of the pack. Unfortunately that wasn’t the best strategy as I actually swam about 100m more than I should have (due to my inability to hug corners and swim in a straight line), but 20 minutes later my 750m swim was done and I was out of the water and onto the bike.

Jenna Triathlon 2

Photo Credit: Tribe Fitness

The bike was pretty freakin’ cool. We got to ride along the Gardiner Expressway, with cars zooming past us in the adjacent lane (separated by a concrete barrier – totally safe!) With my slow swim, I had a lot of time to make up on the bike and I really did try my best to keep my pace as close to 30km/hour as I could. I knew this was a pace I could maintain. It was pretty windy up on the Gardiner and my legs were feeling the burn. I did pass a lot of people on the bike, but I don’t think I really caught up to too many other people in my age group. They were too far gone and I just couldn’t make up the lost time. I ended the bike in 41:29, pedalling an average of 28.9km/hour. I love the bike, but I know I need time to get more comfortable with speed and riding with my clip-in pedals. Of course this will only come in time, but I am excited to put in the work. My huge thighs and gigantic calf muscles have got to work to my advantage somehow, right?

Once I was off the bike, I made a quick transition into my running shoes and sprinted towards the run course. Not going to lie, my legs felt like lead during the first kilometre or so and I had no idea how fast I was going, but I was going as fast as I could! When I saw the first kilometre pass by in 5:24, I got a little burst of confidence and just decided to grind it out and maintain my pace. I was hurting a lot at this point, but as the run went on, things felt smoother and a bit “easier.” It just took me a while to find my stride. Around the 3k mark, I caught up with my friend Amber who was doing her first triathlon. I knew we could maintain around the same pace to the finish, so I ran up beside her, told her we were going to maintain a 5:30 or faster pace, and we conquered the last two kilometres to the finish line side by side. It was really cool coming through the finish chute together and crossing the finish line smiling, knowing that we’d both accomplished something great! My final finish time was 1:34:15.

Jenna Amber

Photo credit: Tribe Fitness

I didn’t have a specific goal time for TTF, just to finish stronger and faster that my last triathlon and I accomplished that. My swim was 13 seconds/100m faster, my bike was 1 minute and 18 seconds faster, and my run was 2 minutes and 45 seconds faster than IronGirl last year. All in all, this was a great start to the Triathlon season and I am looking forward to working on my speed in the lead up to my next race on August 9th. I know I still have a lot of work to do, especially on the swim, but triathlon training really is so much fun and with three sports it never gets boring, so I am really looking forward to what lies ahead.

One thing I know I need to work on in addition to all the swimming, biking and running I’ll be doing is my mental game. I can’t tell you how many times during yesterday’s race I had a negative thought. It started when I looked up from the swim start and saw how far the first buoys were and actually questioned whether I could swim that far (when I have swam more than twice that distance in a pool). It continued on the bike when I was passed by a woman who looked about 60, riding a much nicer bike than me and I wondered if I was just too slow to compete. And yes, it happened on the run too during the first kilometre when I was afraid I would have to stop to walk because my legs felt so tired and my chest was so heavy. But I finished that swim, I eventually caught up to that woman on the much nicer bike, and I completed my run without stopping. So what was the point of all my negative thinking? Just wasted energy. Imagine what I could have accomplished if I never gave those thoughts any power?

I know I probably end off most of my posts with this sentiment, but I am constantly humbled and inspired every time I finish a race wanting more out of myself. In today’s society we are so used to seeing instant results and we are bombarded on a daily basis with images of people’s successes, but rarely of their failures or struggles. If you made it this far, you can know that I finished 29th out of 30th in my age group during the swim portion of yesterday’s race. I’m disappointed because I don’t think this accurately represents all the hours of swim training I put in this winter and spring, but I also know that it means that I am still a new swimmer and I have a lot to learn. Swimming has been such an incredible learning experience for me, and although at times it has been frustrating, I love that I have learned this new skill as an adult. It’s humbling to know that although you have come so far, there is still far to go, and I wouldn’t trade this lesson for anything. Can’t wait to see how I improve in another year!

Photo credit: Tribe Fitness

Photo credit: Tribe Fitness

P.S – Huge shout out to Mark from Tribe Fitness for taking all these awesome photos! If you don’t know Tribe, check them out at http://TribeFitness.ca! From beginners to experienced athletes, there’s a place for everyone at Tribe. Plus, we’re a lot of FUN!

5k Revolution: Toronto Women’s Run 5k Race Recap

No matter how many races you run, there will always View event: http://www.zoomphoto.ca/event/19636/be a handful that stick out. Whether it’s the first time you conquer a new distance, a race where you set a PB, or one where you just have a damn good time, some races will always remain fresh in our hearts and in our minds.

On Sunday, I had one of those races.

I had been looking forward to the Toronto Women’s Run 5k at Sunnybrook Park since I signed up last month. This was a late addition to my race calendar, but the Toronto Women’s Run Series will always hold a special place in my heart as I did my very first race ever back with them in 2011.

My goal on Sunday was to run a 5k PB (sub-24 minutes) and see how hard I could push myself in this new distance. I’ve only ever raced 2 other 5ks before, but there is something about the short and quick burn of the 5k that I love. I absolutely hate how I feel when I’m running them, but immediately after crossing the finish line I want to do one again to see if I can go faster! To be honest, I almost gave up a few times during Sunday’s 5k, but I never let my legs stop moving and ended up with a big surprise at the finish line.

The race was pretty small, 762 runners in the 5k, and we were divided into two corrals, sub-30 and over 30 minutes. I tried to line up as close to the front as I could and just let er’ rip as soon as the gun went off. My strategy was “fade from the front” and to just go as fast as I could for as long as I could and slow down towards the end if I needed to. Well, my first kilometre was 4:27 (I’ve never done that before) and it was a bit fast for me. I tried to pull the pace back, but I was already in a world of pain so I thought I might as well keep going as hard as I can to get this thing over with as quickly as I can! That’s the goal, right?

As you can see from my race photos, I was not a happy View event: http://www.zoomphoto.ca/event/19636/camper, but as my good friend Christa says “pretty stops when the gun goes off.” Yes, it sure does! I pushed through the remaining 4 kilometres in 4:49, 4:48, 5:03, and 4:59. You can see where I paid for that ambitious 4:27…I have never been so thankful to see a finish line in my life and I grabbed my medal, took some water and headed straight for the finish chute to find an open area to catch my breath. I often get really anxious when I finish a hard run so I just needed to get out of the crowd and into my own space.

After I picked up my post-race treat bag, including a delicious Awake Chocolate Bar, and a tiny sample of Starbucks Iced Coffee (damn, that tasted good), I walked over to the results board to see I had finished sub-25 in 24:41 and that landed me in 5th place in my 30-34 age group. I was feeling pretty stoked about that. Although my time was about 30 seconds off my PB, I was pleased with my race and hungry to train throughout the summer to improve that time in the fall!

As I made my way back to the course to cheer on some of my friends who were still coming in, I realized something…if any of the top 3 women overall were also in my age group, that would bump me up in my standings since you can’t win awards for overall placing and age group placing. No double dipping. I quickly opened my Sportstats app to see that the top two women were in my 30-34 age group. I got really excited and nervous and mentioned to my boyfriend that I might win an age group award! I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I made my way over to the awards stage to listen to the awards ceremony.

Sure enough, when the 30-34 age group category TO Women's Run With Plaquewas announced, I came in 3rd out of 104 runners! After I picked up my award and posed for some pictures I immediately texted my friends, family and Coach who all replied with some variation of “Are you serious?” and “You got to be kidding me!” Yes, even I was (and still am) shocked, but what a cool experience it was to win that award! Crossing that finish line is a moment I will never, ever forget and I am so happy that I didn’t give up, even when I really, really wanted to.

After a very disappointing marathon debut and a physical and mental struggle with recovery, this race (and AG award) were everything I needed to get my head back into the game. When I chose my race outfit for the 5k, I wanted to channel my inner Lauren Fleshman with my favourite green Oiselle Flyte Tank because I’ve been a long-time Fan Girl and really love the funny and poignant pieces she writes about why the 5k is freaking awesome. She presents a view that we don’t hear a lot, but one that gives credit and strength to the women (and men) who excel at short distances, and most importantly LOVE to run them.

I can say with all my heart and soul, that I LOVED running that 5k. Did it hurt? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. Did I love it? Absolutely. Do I want to do it again? As soon as possible! I think I’ve found a strength in running I didn’t know I had and a place that I want to keep exploring. Although my initial plan for this year was to build up to another long distance race in the fall, I realize that that’s not what I want to do. Right now I want to focus on getting stronger, getting faster, and seeing how much I can improve my 5k and 10k times over the next 6 months. As Lauren Fleshamn, a master of the distance says:“It’s time for a 5-K Revolution!”

I’m on board.