Running for mental health (Team Unbreakable)

Mardi Michels running Team Unbreakable on eatlivetravelwrite.comIf you’ve followed me on Instagram these past couple of years, you’ll know that I have taken up running. If you know me in real life (or if you knew me when I was younger), you might be shocked – I’ve never been into running in my life (despite having a marathon runner for a dad).

What changed? My path to running.

Two years ago, I was in the final stages of work on the manuscript for In the French kitchen with kids. It had already been a two year process at that point (from initial discussions with the publisher) and I had nearly another year before publication and then a good year of promoting the book ahead of me. It’s a long haul, book writing, and it takes over your life. Well, it does when you do it alongside a (very) full-time job, keeping up a blog and other freelance writing gigs. Something had to give in those first two years of working on the book and sadly for my body, that was exercise. I literally could not find the time to fit enough exercise in 🙁 Looking back now that seems like a poor excuse. Because two years ago when things started to lighten up a bit, I took a good look at how I was feeling and I was feeling awful. SO out of shape and unhappy I’d let myself get there. And we all know that if you’re not feeling good inside, it affects how you feel about everything. I knew I needed to get active again.

I’m not sure when exactly I decided to make a change but somehow in October 2017, I found myself signed up to walk a 5km race to raise money for the Humane Society. 5km? I knew I could walk that. No problem. I mean, i walk up to 25/30km per day when I’m on the Camino every summer, right…?

On that day, I think I discovered the running bug. I lined up (in the back corral!) ready to go for a walk along Toronto’s gorgeous lakeshore. It was a beautiful day. It was the first time I’d ever been in a race and I was struck by the “realness” of it all (chip timing! cheer stations! spectators! a medal!) and somehow I felt silly walking across the start line. I mean, it’s a race, right? So I started jogging, I told myself it would just be for a little bit. Just 1km. After 1km, I was feeling good so ran the next one as well. I walked for a little bit to grab some water and then walked-ran the rest of the way. Competitive me felt like I needed to be running at least when people were cheering which was a lot of the way. Yes, I let myself get caught up in the “show” of it all but when all was said and done, I went home and thought to myself “Maybe I don’t hate running after all.” The way I felt (mentally, because physically I was a bit of a wreck – I do not recommend running a race “cold” like that!) was quite something. That “runner’s high” (even for a beginner) is real. On that day, I committed to taking myself to a learn to run clinic that winter (hey, I figured if I could run in the winter, that would be a proof if I really did like it or not!) and take it from there.

Fast forward to just over 2 years later. I’ve completed a few 10km clinics with Running Room, started running with Unleashed Running here in Toronto and regularly run 3-4 times a week.  I’ve run through my book going to print (SUCH a stressful, point-of-no-return!) and being released (I’m here to tell you a book doesn’t sell itself – SO much work post-release as well!) and I’ve come out on the other end feeling… GREAT. Sure, physically I’m in much better shape than I was but more importantly, I’m in a much better place in my head that I was this time two years ago. Running clears space for thinking, gives perspective and (so important for a teacher) gives me a little bit of “me time” in a hectic week. It’s been SO good for my own mental health.

1000km in 2019

Over the past couple of years, I’ve raised money for a few different charities through the races I’ve done but this year, at the start of the year, I committed to myself that I would run 1000km this year. I’d been told about Team Unbreakable by a friend and thought it was the perfect way to give back what running has given me while setting a reasonably challenging goal for myself. Actually, if I’m being perfectly honest, it was pretty daunting at the start of the year! But as of today, November 18th 2019, I’ve run 852km so the end is not only in sight but totally do-able!

Team Unbreakable logo on

What is Team Unbreakable?

Did you know that 1 in 5 Ontario youth have a mental health challenge? That 1 in 3 high school students report psychological distress, 3 in 20 at serious levels? Mental illness is among the most poorly funded and resourced areas of health care. Team Unbreakable improves youth mental health through building confidence, resilience and reducing stigma through the Team Unbreakable Run Program – an 8-12 week running initiative with a focus on Mental Health, and more specifically, how running has a positive impact on our moods and brains. Each student receives a training log that allows them to articulate a goal and work towards it, reflect on their mood before and after each run, and record their progress. The program is supported through the Mental Health Toolkit, which explores themes such as motivation, mindfulness, goal setting, and physical health for mental health. The training culminates in a fully supported 5km Goal Event facilitated by Team Unbreakable. As a teacher, I see SO MANY benefits to programmes like this and couldn’t be happier to be running this year to support this organisation.

How can you help Team Unbreakable?

Don’t forget – All the funds raised in the Unbreakable 1000 campaign go towards the Unbreakable Run Program for kids and youth. The program helps them build confidence, resilience, and teaches them how running improves their mood and both their physical and mental health.

Of course you can sign up to run for yourself (you can start your 1000km challenge anytime, it’s not January – December, that’s just how I set it up for myself).

Or you can support me !  Click here to support me in my effort to raise $1000 this year for the Unbreakable Run Program for kids and youth.

Thanks for your support – I’ve got just under 150km to go and your support would mean so much!

1 thought on “Running for mental health (Team Unbreakable)”

  1. Well, fantastic Mardi. Keep doing it 
 every run is what I used to call a small deposit in the bank of good health. However, it is really only worth doing if it makes you feel good and if you enjoy it.
    As you know, because of soreness in one knee, I stopped my usual 10km per day run about 10 years ago. But, nearly two years ago, I decided I might be able to run on grass. I started again and slowly (the first run I managed to jog for about 6 minutes before I needed a breather) the fitness came back. About a year ago, I ventured back onto pavement and, if I run every other day, find I can nurse the knee. I’m not running the 5 min kilometres I used to run – more like 7 to 8 min kilometres, but, like you, find it invigorating and helpful for general health.
    Keep going… you’re doing great.


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