Proudly Canadian   Canadian flag

Story of a New Runner: Featuring Lisa Marks

Times of widespread and profound adversity can become breading grounds for realizations and reprioritization. We caught up with Lisa Marks, owner of Brand Alive, a Calgary-based boutique event management business. She shared her path from “positively nonrunner” to “this might really work for me” to “I will complete an in-person 5k race”.

What if you found something in this for you? Read on...

Could you share a few words about yourself?

I am a corporate event professional and business owner based in Alberta, Canada. From a fitness perspective, I grew up as a competitive dancer, absolutely loving the pace but also the group environment and being choreographed and led by a teacher. As an adult, I left the dance world and found a new love for group fitness at spin and HIIT training studios. It was at Barry's Canada studio here in Calgary where I found out I really enjoy running and began to change my life.

How did the pandemic impact you?

The pandemic brought the global live events industry to its knees, so I spent most of my time consulting clients about rearranging 2020 event plans, and eventually building new strategies for engagement amidst a pandemic. It was chaotic, alarming, and unnerving and at the same time, enlightening and rife with opportunity.

What are some of the changes you’ve experienced over the last year?

How much time do you have? hehe. I believe the pandemic has offered us a chance for an Awakening. In fact, I experienced my own. I made some dramatic changes in 2020 inspired by the all-too-short nature of life that was made very apparent from COVID-19. 11 months later, I find myself in a new home, a renewed take on health and fitness, refreshed life goals, and a thriving business. As I look back, I know that I had to hit the "rock bottom" of feeling the negativity of the pandemic challenges first in order to see the light of what lays ahead.

What exercise / wellness habits did you have prior to the pandemic?

I'd say I was a fair-weather exerciser. I knew it felt good to exercise but I chose to make so many other things a priority over getting to a group fitness class. I was taking a spin class 2-3 times a week and walking a ton, but never really at a committed schedule or cadence. I also did not have the best eating habits, and now I realize that the pandemic brought me so many gifts in terms of realizing all of this. It was time for a change, and I discovered running and holistic eating all during the pandemic.

How have those habits evolved?

I have evolved in HUGE ways in the last year. Right before the pandemic, Barry's Canada opened a HIIT training (group fitness) studio in my neighbourhood and on a whim, I went to try it out. The 50-minute class blends floor work (with dumbbells, bands, a step unit and body weight exercises) with a treadmill (sprints, long distance runs, hills, etc.). I had never stepped foot on a treadmill before and I was the rookie in the class. That said, the "high" from a run and some weights got me thinking this might REALLY work for me. Me? A runner? No way. I was a self-described nonrunner. But Barry's changed that for me. The pandemic resulted in a temporary closure of the studio, but I had been enough times to know that this might change my life.

In the fall after a summer of heightened emotions, challenge, and struggle, I stumbled upon a teacher from Barry's who is also a holistic nutritionist with 1:1 coaching and meal planning programs. I signed up for a 12-week program on the spot and basically, I have not looked back since. The structure of weekly meal plans from an expert combined with a desire to change my body from the inside out was exactly what I needed. The pandemic brought about so many emotions and challenges, but the one thing I could control was what I ate and drank. Working with Erin also gave me the motivation to cut caffeinated coffee, which was causing me some challenges, and dramatically reduce my alcohol intake.

Lastly, hiring a nutritionist to maximize my body's potential also gave me the motivation and tools to run - I knew that if I were fueling my body properly, I could do anything. As well, I gained access to a private gym where I now workout 5 mornings a week, and specifically run a treadmill for 30 minutes before switching to weights. Me - on a treadmill, for 30 minutes - no way! But it is true. I mix inclined walking, running, and sprinting and it is so much fun!

What does running bring you?

First and foremost, a chance to zone out. I used to spend my time on the treadmill worrying I would fall off - legitimate fear. But as I gained strength and confidence, I now enjoy it as a time to think less, feel more. As well, I absolutely love that by 8am every day, I have tackled a set of mini goals. Sometimes my goals are to run 5.5 minutes without stopping, sometimes my goals are to sprint for 30 seconds followed by a 1-minute jog versus a collapsing walk. Either way, I get to head into my day with a few "wins" under my belt and I love that. I also love that running isn't something to conquer and be done. It is a lifelong journey of discovery and improvement and I love that.

What plans are you making around running?

In 2021 or 2022, when allowed, I will complete an in-person 5K race. My first! I am very excited. I will be using Alethea Sport's platform to find the best race fit for this first-time runner. But first, baby steps. Tomorrow morning my goal is to jog for 3 minutes on an incline. Yowza! My goal for March or April is to complete 5 outdoor road runs as I have currently only run on a treadmill.

What would you tell a fellow “positively nonrunner”?

So many things. Here we go:

  1. Runner's high is a thing and it is free!
  2. Start short/small and celebrate the little wins. For me, I gained 30 seconds of nonstop running at a certain speed one day and that was such an achievement when 10 seconds of running used to feel so painful.
  3. Do not be afraid to walk - active recovery is your friend.
  4. Find a playlist that not only gives you a beat to run to, but also songs you LOVE to energize your time spent running.
  5. If you are a digitally focused person, use an app to help you track your progress and keep yourself accountable.

Thank you Lisa for opening a window into your journey of self-betterment. I know there is a fabulous picture of you crossing that 5k finish line in your future!


Feedback? Have a New Runner story to share? Connect with us at