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My name is Erika and I’m a wife to Jeff and mom to two boys: Jack almost 10 and Hunter almost 7. I haven’t always been active. I played sports in high school but most of my adult life I didn’t make sport or fitness part of my regular routine. It wasn’t until our family was faced with a stressful and challenging situation in July 2015 that this changed. Going through one of the most stressful times of my life, it occurred to me that I needed to take care of my own health – physical and mental – and I knew that exercise was a good way to do that. I recall clearly when I made that decision; it was one evening in July 2016 and I signed up to a popular gym near my work and promised myself I would start going regularly on my lunch breaks. I fulfilled my commitment and regularly went to the gym, supplemented by long walks pushing my youngest in his stroller on the weekends when I couldn’t get to the gym. One sunny day in October 2016, I broke into a jog for part of my walk…and I liked it! I alternated between walking and jogging for well over an hour. I thought about setting a crazy goal for myself: training for running a half marathon the following year! I don’t know where or why I came up with that goal, but that decision changed the trajectory of my life.

I created a plan, I stuck to it. I met other runners along the way who were so incredibly supportive of my goal and I suddenly felt part of a community. Feeling that sense of belonging really helped me to be able to get through the challenges I was facing in my personal life with the illness of a loved one. Not only did I complete the half-marathon but, in 2017, I ran my first ever 5k race, 10k race, 10 miler and TWO half-marathons! The sense of pride I felt after each one of those challenges was indescribable. I relished in sharing my accomplishments with my family and having them cheer me on at the finish lines of those events. I signed my kids up for running events so they could experience the same sense of working hard and challenging themselves that I was making a routine part of my life. By challenging ourselves, we learned we can do hard things and get through hard times. I noticed parallels between endurance running and navigating life’s challenges: there are parts that feel like you’re on top of the world, there are parts where it hurts but you keep going and there are times you feel like you can’t possibly go on… but you do. You always make it through. You might need to slow down, it might not be what you expected, but you persevere. This felt reassuring to me.

In 2018, I added trail running, tennis and cross-country skiing to the mix – my kids also started playing tennis and we love going to our neighbourhood courts together. Last year, 2020, I took up mountain biking – this year, I look forward to having my eldest join me for trail rides on flowy, single track trails around Ottawa! That is another huge benefit of embarking on having an active lifestyle: the opportunity to connect with nature and the inner peace that it brings! There are so many beautiful places that I would never have seen or experienced if it weren’t for running or mountain biking!

Fitness and sport have not only benefited me physically and mentally, but it has provided me with so much more: confidence, amazing friendships, a positive outlook, a sense that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to, appreciation of sport, connection to nature and most importantly I am setting a good example for my kids and ensuring we’re have an active, fun and fulfilling family life.