Employee Spotlight: Ryan Ortiz on Getting Active

Ryan Ortiz, Director of IT Customer Services (ICS) at McGill University, shares what inspired him to get active, the many ways in which getting active helps him, and how he has made running a habit for over 10 years. Read on to be inspired!

What do you do to stay active?

I try to work out five times per week. On weekdays, I tend to get up around 5 am, have a quick breakfast before either heading out for a run or doing a HIIT (high intensity interval training) / weight training routine. My weekday workouts are usually around 50-60 minutes. On weekends, I usually try to get in a longer run of 90 minutes or more. It may sound a little intense, but I really don’t push myself that hard. The goal has always been to do something that is sustainable over the long run. I’ve been doing this for about 10 years and it is more or less a habit for me now. That’s the key, it must become like brushing your teeth. I also don’t beat myself up on weeks where I don’t get in my five workouts. If you see it as a failure when you don’t hit your goal, you’re likely to get discouraged and not keep it up. For some, working out with a friend or group can be a good motivator too, but that wasn’t really the case for me. I actually like the solitary aspect of running and it’s where I get a lot of my thinking done.

I really got into running when I signed up for a marathon. This was initially my primary motivator to train. Since 2009, I’ve done 7 full marathons (always Montreal) and 2 half marathons. Now that running is more of a habit, I don’t need the race to keep me going anymore.

How do you think staying active helps you?

Since becoming more active, I feel like I have more energy and stamina. I don’t come from a very active or sporty family, so this is something that developed much later in life for me. I started running seriously when I was 35 and I’m 45 now, but the main benefit for me is psychological. The runner’s high is a real thing and I think it has gone a long way towards helping me stay centered and more or less stress free. I come from a family with a history of anxiety and depression and I think running has really helped me in this area. I can certainly feel it on days where I haven’t worked out. I would say this is now my primary motivator, whereas at the beginning it was more about getting more physically fit.

How do you stay motivated (especially during cold weather, fatigue)?

At this point, it’s the habit that keeps me going. It’s just something I do now. That’s not to say there aren’t days where I’m tired or don’t feel like going out in the cold (I run year-round), but I still manage to do it most of the time. I do have lazy days though. For me, the best trick is to just get dressed as if I’m going to work out. I tell myself that if I get dressed and still don’t feel like working out, then it’s ok. 9 times out of 10, however, once I’m already dressed to work out, I end up working out.

How do you fit getting active into your schedule?

Getting an early start in the day has been the key for me. I used to do a lot of my running in the afternoon. We live in NDG (approx 9 km door to door) and I would often run home from work. It was great in some ways because it didn’t take any extra time at all. Running home was actually faster than taking the bus and metro. I just found my energy level at the end of the day not very conducive to good running. Running in the mornings means getting up earlier than I used to, which also means getting to bed relatively early as well (rarely later than 10 pm), but I’ve gotten used to it.

Any advice for getting others inspired to move more?

My advice to those who are looking to get active would be to start slow, listen to your body (learn the difference between good pain and bad pain), and develop good stretching habits. With running especially, the cardiovascular improvements tend to happen much quicker than the bone and connective tissue improvements. I have suffered a number of soft tissue injuries over the years which I’m pretty convinced could have been avoided, or at least lessened, with a more disciplined stretching routine.

It’s never too late to get active. Running is one of those things most people can do without any real training. Sign up for a short race! That’s what initially did it for me!

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