Re-learning how to run – AGAIN


Some of you may not find running once a week (or more) in 2018 impressive, especially since my max has been 5k. For me, it’s been a show of strength, both physically and emotionally.

Until grade 8, I thought I wasn’t an athlete. I had been told by classmates for too many years that since I had asthma, I couldn’t do sports. No teacher built up my confidence about team sports, so I still avoid them. School also doesn’t support the types of athleticism I loved (ballet, downhill skiing, and outdoor sports like hiking and canoeing).

In grade 8, my gym teacher looked at me and said, “Janessa, you can run.” So I did.

Every gym class in the spring we did laps outside, and I kept up with the boys who were in competitive soccer. It was the best feeling, especially when I won 400m or 800m sprints. In grade 9, I got to try hurdles. It felt like I was flying. From then on, whenever I’d be stressed, Mom would tell me to put my running shoes on, and I got that runner’s high. It was the first time that I was proud of my “thicc” legs. I began to regularly run 5ks, and loved it.

When I was 19, I was an idiot and slipped my L4-L5 disc lifting canoes. Since then I spent hours doing physio, crying, gained weight, went through a severe depression, and lost running- one of my favourite ways to de-stress. I had an amazing physiotherapist during my undergrad, who focused on getting me strong enough to re-learn how to run, but I didn’t take it to heart. I would skip working on core, and every time I’d run, I’d cry. I wasn’t running as fast or as hard as I wanted to, and some days I’d get 2k in and my back would hurt.


I stopped for a long time, and focused on powerlifting. During my first year of my Master’s program, I realized that I was lacking in core strength that was preventing me from getting my lifts heavier. I started researching what was the best for core strength for powerlifters, and got strong at that. No more low-back pain.

I had a single, scary thought in fall 2017.

I wanted to run again.


I set myself a goal of re-learning how to run in 2018. I had to run at least once a week, even if it was -20*C outside, no matter what distance worked for me. I also signed up for a MEC fun run April 15.

Progress was slow. I ran 7km/h, it took me weeks to get up to 5 k, and I still can’t run 5k unbroken. I didn’t get that joy when I put my running shoes on, it was just to prepare myself for the race, and because I wanted that runner’s identity back.

Things changed on April 7 when I decided that instead of running a 5k, I wanted to do sprints. They were hard. It hurt so much the next day. Bu

 I felt like I was flying again. I cried on the jog home.


The next Tuesday, April 10, I went for a lunchtime 5k. I ran 2.5k unbroken, faster than 6km/h. I enjoyed it.

Today, Sunday, April 15, Nic and I ran a 5k MEC Race. It was very, very windy and cold, but it was my first time running 5k unbroken in years. I’m super proud that I did it in 29 minutes, and can’t wait to get down to 25min. I definitely thought I was going to pass out the last km, so I’m very thankful that Nic ran beside me the whole way to keep me going faster, and kept encouraging me. (Sorry you didn’t get a great time 😉 )

Tips for re-learning a sport:

  • You might not be the same athlete you were before your injury. That’s okay. You probably don’t even remember how hard it was to get to the level you were before. You have a second chance to be good at the sport, with more information about how to do it safely. Be humble about it. We all start somewhere.
  • Never stop your physio. Ever. Incorporate it as much as possible. I have to do core bracing, so I do that as I’m going to sleep. I make sure that my core exercises are at the end of every powerlifting session.
  • Warm up properly. I have some weird stretches to do before my lifting sessions, and that’s great. Don’t be embarrassed. My only excuse is when I’m panicked to find a squat rack 😉
  • Surround yourself with knowledgeable people. My chiropractor knows what’s wrong with me right away, and is a runner, so she has lots of great suggestions.  Ask lots of questions of people who are better at the sport than you are. I send my lifting videos to a friend, and post them on my public Instagram.
  •  Take time to recover, and vary your activities and intensities. While I was training for this race, I’d run home 5k at a slower pace, and do 2.5-3.5k runs at a faster pace. I also train at the gym 4 days a week, so my legs can get banged up. Lots of epsom salt baths, yoga, and foam rolling. When you’re starting over you need to make sure you take care of yourself.

Good luck!

We can do it!!

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com

Fitness Update – Powerlifting on or off a program?

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com

I started my first powerlifting program (Layne Norton’s PH3) in March 2016. Since then, I have gained 100 lbs on my deadlift, 75 lbs on my squat, and 55 on my bench. I am insanely proud of those baby gains! Of course, I won’t be able to continue to go in that exponentially, and this journey hasn’t been without pain and challenges. When I hit my 200lb squat in March (without pain, too!), I cried. After herniating my L4-L5 disc 6 years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do that. Next goal? 2 plates (225 lbs).

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.ComFirst Powerlifting Phase: March-May 2016

I LOVED Layne Norton’s PH3 programming, as you can read here. I was working 5 days a week at GoodLife, so I had time to be in the gym 5+ days a week, which this program requires. I liked working on percentages, but I also noticed that I would re-calculate every week, instead of keeping it steady for the whole month. Probably lifted heavier than I needed to at the start. It was also a very humbling process. I worked on my form, and sometimes super light weights felt incredibly challenging, and I’d be out for a week.

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com

Second Phase: May-August 2016

Cutting. Yuck. I’ve never tried an actual cut before, and it wasn’t fun. But I managed to drop from 20% body fat to 16%. That involved lots of high reps lower weight (also to recover my muscles a bit), skipping, and box jumps. Also, I ate less dessert. I hate that about diets.

I also adapted Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 programming to my needs. I still worked 4-5 days a week, but had gotten bored of PH3’s incessant accessory work that drove me insane. I wanted a bit more variation.

Third Phase: September-December 2016 Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com

Yup, didn’t do much. I gained 10 lbs and 5-6% body fat (including Christmas bloat) from when I started grad school. Stepping on the scale January 2 was a shock. I didn’t get the hang of 3 courses in grad school, 2 part-time jobs equaling 20 hours, 2 choirs, and being a youth sponsor AND having time for myself. I hit some heavy weights, but did not have the consistency to gain much strength. My energy also got super low. However, with the bulk came a bigger butt. I mean, not necessarily in a good way, but definitely bigger. It was a real, dirty bulk.


Fourth Phase: January 2017-Now

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com
I got an Inzer Weightlifting belt for my birthday!

What’s going to be the best phase: a slow cut for some weddings, but hitting some awesome numbers. Within a month of cutting (more healthy food, less dessert, jumping rope most days, and more gym sessions) I had lost the 10 pounds, and dropped 2% body fat. I’m at a very comfortable spot, but I’m looking to lose a bit more body fat before a spring wedding. I expected that I would lose strength, but I easily used up my Christmas carbs hitting my deadlift and squatting goals.

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com
My left shoulder (the one on the right, since it’s in a mirror) is insane. Not sure how it got that big, and why I still can’t do a pull-up. Getting mixed messages.

I’m happy  with my consistency at the gym despite not having a specific program for the past 6 months. I start co-op in May, and it’s a long commute, so hopefully I figure out a good schedule that will keep this momentum going. Then again, it’s not like I can pretend I haven’t had back or hip pain during this term. I definitely put on weight that I didn’t need to, and suffered. I think now that I’ve hit the 200 lb mark for both squats and deadlifts I’ll take a step back and work on higher reps lower weight to go with my cut.

Baby Gains:

Yes, these are considered baby gains, since they’re my first year of powerlifting. I don’t think I’ll be at a 300 lb squat March 2018, considering my back. But I’m very proud of the numbers I’ve finally hit, and can’t wait to see if my body can go further than this.

Bad Back:

On that note, as I mentioned above, my back hasn’t been super happy the whole time. I’ll tweak it by bending over, or putting on 10 lbs more than I should have. Pretty dumb of me. It seems like I haven’t learned anything. Now that I’ll be backing off, I’ll be making sure that I continue to do my physiotherapy to increase my stabilization strength, and focusing on recovery. Like baths, rolling out, and going to massage and chiro. I only have one back, and I’ve been given so many second chances on back health. Maybe I’ll try sumo deadlifts and see if my back likes that more!

Next Goals:

Deadlift 2 plates (225 lbs)

Squat 2 plates (225 lbs)

Bench 1 plate/body weight (135 lbs)

Pull-ups (I’ve been doing sets of 10 with the assisted band for months, I should really be ready soon, but it’s frustrating)

For summer drop 3% more body fat (but I get so angry when I limit dessert)

Let me know how your powerlifting journey has gone!

Review of the PH3 Program - JanessaMann.Com

PH3 Programming Complete! – First Time Powerlifting

Review of the PH3 Program - JanessaMann.Com

If you’ve read my fitness updates in 2016, you’ll know that I followed Layne Norton’s PH3 workout on I had a hard time on the website finding a workout program that had legs 2+ days a week, because I really, really like to deadlift. I stumbled across this powerlifting program, and knew it would be perfect for me. The program focuses on strengthening you in the “big three,” squat, bench, and deadlift, and then hypertrophy to pump up the muscles.

Throughout the months that I did this (it should’ve taken 3 months, but I had to take extra weeks in case my back got too sore) I saw strength gains (70 pounds added to my deadlift!) as well as improvements in my physical appearance-down from 18% body fat to 16.23%!

January & February

Since my lower back disc herniation (L4-L5), I haven’t been lifting heavy, and my workouts have been pretty random, and definitely mroe of a bodybuilding workout. Turns out powerlifting really leans me out! Since January I’vel ost 2+% body fat!

The biggest transition for the workout program for me was that it is percentage-based. It took a lot of patience and intention to not over-stress my back based on what I had lifted previously. Some days I could squat 155 for 3×5, other days 135 felt incredibly heavy. Percentage-based is great if you don’t have to worry about injury, but if you do, be very careful and humble about your progress. Don’t focus on the numbers, focus on your form, and the strength will come!


Thanks to benching 2 or 3 times a week, I’ve gotten new muscles in my back-ones I can’t even name! One thing I didn’t foresee was that my right scapula would freeze up. At one point I was doing 90 lbs for 3×3, and then I had to drop at least 15 pounds or my back would hurt. I learned to roll out my scapula lots, stretch constantly, and focus more on bringing them in during my bench. Now, my bench is going back up, and I can’t wait to hit 100 lbs!


My quads are still pretty dominant over my hamstrings, but I’m very happy with the definition between the two. Also, look at my back. 😉

I’ve definitely gotten over squats. With the new program I made for myself to shred a bit mroe for summer I have lighter squat days (well, I also need to de-load) and involving some front squats as well so I hate them less. Still absolutely obsessed with deadlifts and bench. If you’re interested in getting stronger in those three lifts, and losing some body fat, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s a mind game, and I worked hard, but it paid off.

Summary of Lifts:

Start: 135×8 = 170 1RM
Highest: 175×1
Issues: tight hips and low back, IT bands snapipng during reps, mental (hating squats)
Goals: 200 lb 1rep

Start: 95×7 = 115 1RM
End: 155×4 = 170 1RM
Highest: 170×2 = 180 1RM
Issues: tight hips, grip
Goal: 200 lb 1 rep

Start: 65×9 = 84 1RM
End: 90×2 = 95 1RM
Highest: 90×3 = 971RM
Issues: elbows flaring out, scapula pain
Goal: 100 lb 1

May Favourites - JanessaMann.Com

May Favourites

May Favourites - JanessaMann.Com
Product Favourites

This month I didn’t have too many new product favourites, but I will share with you the wonderful things I did love.

Aromaforce Lavender Essential Oils – In the fall I bought an essential oil diffuser because I had read that lavender can help with insomnia.

Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash pink grapefruit – So necessary when you work out a lot, super helpful for bacne. The biggest issue with working out.

Marc Anthony Nourishing Argan Oil of Morocco 3 day smooth – I don’t do much to my hair, but when I do blow-dry it I like to use a smoothing cream so it looks nice. This argan oil cream makes my hair super smooth and beautiful when I apply it before blow-drying. However, it doesn’t do much if you just put it in and then let it airdry.

Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Medicated Gel for Acne – Tiny, expensive tube, but cleared up the bacne I had really quickly in time for the wedding I went to recently. I’ll probably keep it on hand for when I have a bad breakout, but for cost effectiveness I’ll just use tea tree oil every day.

Squish Strawberry Rhubarb – I discovered Squish in the fall, and love their candy. They’re based in Montreal and are gluten-free, use real fruit extracts, no artificial colours, no-GMOs, and are fat-free. These are perfect to make me feel like I have a strawberry rhubarb pie with me right now.

Lush Aromaco patchouli deodorant – I’ve used this deodorant for years. I love the smell of patchouli, and unless I’m working out and going somewhere afterward, this is strong enough to block out any B.O. I keep mine in a small plastic container to keep in the moisture, and one $5 block can last me for a whole year.

May Favourites - JanessaMann.Com
Our herb garden

Check out what’s in our herb garden!

On Saturday, Nic and I got to check out an Olympic Lifting class, run by his friend Winston, at CrossFitYKV. It was a lot of fun learning snatches and cleans, and I look forward to incorporating some more of those movements into my powerlifting routine. At the end of the main workout, Winston said, “let’s do accessory work now.” For Olympic lifters, their accessory work is squats and deadlifts. That’s my main as a powerlifter. I squatted less than I normally would, but Nic and I were definitely sore on Sunday. I’d definitely recommend that gym, it’s BEAUTIFUL.


Starting a Home Yoga Practice

If you’re looking to get into yoga but can’t afford a gym membership (or there isn’t a good quality studio around you) or you want to expand your yoga practice, doing so at home is a really great thing. For years I only did yoga at home from instructions I found in books or online, plus the small amounts my ballet teachers had us do to increase core strength and flexibility.
Of course, you have to learn to be aware of your body, so that you aren’t hurting yourself, and you might train your muscles wrong, but that’s what you can go to class for, even if it’s a drop-in once a month.

Start with a yoga mat!
It’s very easy to get your hands on a yoga mat these days. You can buy them for about $20 at stores like Winners or Marshalls, try out the Gaiam brand which is sold at Chapters, or you can go the more expensive route and get one from a store like Lululemon. I would suggest starting with a cheaper mat, since there isn’t too big a difference in quality. However, the benefit of a store like Lululemon is that you can actually feel the mat better before you buy it, so you know how slippery it is.
On that note, the mat will be a little slippery or sticky at the start.
This is my current mat from Gaiam, bought at Chapters. It’s 4 mm.
My previous yoga mat (from 3 or 4 years ago) is a 3 mm Gaiam mat,
I can’t say that the extra 1mm of mat is that beneficial, or that I’ve noticed it, so don’t worry about that unless you have very bad knees.

Find some space:

Our living room is large enough that if I push the cofee table out of the way, I have lots of space to move my whole body around. You want to be able to reach all around your mat without hitting things, especially if you end up trying balances.

My Yoga Goals
If you follow @MrYoga on Instagram, they re-post pictures of people trying out the asanas!

Find some resources:

  • YogaWithAdriene – What I’ve always loved about Adriene is her mantra, “find what feels good.” She encourages you to stay on your own mat, and make any modifications necessary to feel good for you.
  • Yoga by Candace – Candace is very young and fresh, happens to like powerlifting, and a really encouraging teacher. If you check out her instagram, she has the most beautiful videos of herself playing around with yoga, and it’s super inspiring.
  • The Journey JunkieThe Journey Junkie – Allie has lots of helpful articles that explain how to get into certain asanas, how to do cool transitions, and answers to any questions you might have.
  • The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga: An Integrated Approach to Strength, Flexibility, and Focus” by Sage Rountree – great ideas for starting your practice, and talks about how beneficial certain poses are for your cross-training purposes
  • 2,100 Asanas” by Daniel Lacerda – for intermediate or advanced yogis, there are tons of modifications on every pose!


Get some props:
Obviously not all of these are necessary, so find what you think will help your body the most.
A blanket – great for extra support in poses, folding under your knees during low lunges, or keeping your warm in savasana!
A pillow– some restorative yoga practices will suggest using a bolster pillow to rest yourself on. Any pillow that can be somewhat stiff will be good for this. I have a throw pillow on my armchair which has the right amount of support for me. If you’re practicing inversions, or don’t want to break your face in crow pose,  it’s handy to have a pillow nearby.
Yoga strap- these are very helpful for getting your body into a deeper stretch. If you already have a blanket or towel on hand, you can use one of those instead. Here’s how to use a yoga strap. My yoga strap is actually an old lifejacket strap and I added a d-ring on one side.

Check out this blog post with 9 different infographics on yoga, including this one, to help you find which type of yoga might be awesome for you.


Starting To Powerlift – A Recover(ing/ed?) Back Injury

Starting To Powerlift - A Recover(ing/ed?) Back Injury - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca

I normally try to post something every weekday, but this month I hadn’t worked ahead enough, and then had a six day work week, so on my one day off, I’m going to pump this out.

I slipped a disc in my lumbar spine (L4/L5) several years ago, while lifting canoes by myself. We all know the story- I was lifting more with my back than my legs, thought “oh maybe my back will be sore tomorrow,” but when I bent over to pick up a paddle later, I was frozen in pain. I’ve spent years in and out of physiotherapy, thinking I was getting stronger, then I’d have a relapse.

Starting To Powerlift - A Recover(ing/ed?) Back Injury - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca
This is basically the only pose I do in the mirror at the gym:
to see how my quads and hamstrings look  

July 2015: Living with a back injury

In this time, I have gotten very conscious of every little twinge in my body. In a previous post I discuss techniques on how to live with a lower back injury, and I still apply them constantly.
For the past year of weightlifting, I’ve gone through several different phases of lifting. I’ve gone heavy, I’ve been incapacitated on the couch, and I’ve lifted light for physique purposes. This summer I got a job at a GoodLife Fitness in downtown Toronto, which means I’m surrounded by positive and knowledgeable people who’ve given me lots of help.

I finally feel like my foundation is strong enough that I can start lifting heavier. If you had told me in October that in February I would be able to squat more than my body weight and not be in pain the next day, I wouldn’t have believed you. The first time I squatted my body weight? I cried. Now I’m slowly upping the weight on my final sets, and making sure I’m going to parallel or deeper on my next to last weight. It’s incredibly important to maintain form and focus on your body during this: one week I did 155lbs x 3 reps, and the next, 145 felt heavy. Doing injury rehab is incredibly humbling.

Starting To Powerlift - A Recover(ing/ed?) Back Injury - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca
Booty gainz!!

I didn’t even realize I was “getting into” powerlifting until my husband pointed out that the workout plan I chose on had to do with “starting strength” for powerlifters. The plan, Layne Norton’s PH3 for Power and Hypertrophy, focuses on getting stronger in the Big Three. I chose the plan because it gave me enough upper and lower body days, because I really like both.

I love the workout split it gives, I love squatting, deadlifting, and benching so much now, and every day (except for the 2 rest days) I get to do at least one of those. It’s crazy the progress I’ve made on bench press: when I first started, 75 pounds was hard, but my PR today is 130 pounds for 3 reps!

Biggest Advice At the Beginning:

  • Keep listening to your body. If you’re feeling extra sore, take the day off, don’t worry about what your workout plan tells you.
  • Make sure you’re doing things properly-I thought my bench was fine, but when my co-worker Gary was spotting me, he gave me tips. Basically my elbows were slightly wrong, and once I changed my stance to the powerlifting one (arched back) I had tons more power. Score.
  • Don’t get discouraged-like I said before, my squat goes up and down, so I can’t focus on the number, but the reps are helpful. When you start watching tons of powerlifters on YouTube, don’t feel intimidated that their bench is 160 and yours is just over half that. 
  • EAT ENOUGH! Bulking is my favourite phase, because it means I get to eat lots. 

Starting To Powerlift - A Recover(ing/ed?) Back Injury - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca

A good bath with epsom salts to relax your muscles
Heat pad on the sore area
Rolling out muscles with foam rollers or hard balls (I use a softball, tennis balls just crack under your weight)
Ice on spots right after a workout
30-60 minutes of yoga the next day

Starting To Powerlift - A Recover(ing/ed?) Back Injury - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca
Traps for days

I can’t wait to see what progress I’m going to make while I do this program!

DIY Yoga Mat Spray with Essential Oils!

DIY Yoga Mat Spray with Essential Oils - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca

Ever hated how your yoga mat smells after a nice long hot yoga session? Now you can solve that!

DIY Yoga Mat Spray with Essential Oils - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca

All you need is a little spray bottle (mine’s from a travel toiletry kit from Dollarama), tea tree oil to clean, an essential oil of your choice, and water.

Put water in the spray bottle, and then about 20 drops of each oil, depending on the size of the bottle. The tea tree oil will kill bacteria, and the essential oil will scent it nicely. I have lavender for my air diffuser, so I used that.

DIY Yoga Mat Spray with Essential Oils - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca