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It’s All Downhill From Here

17 Jul

On Sunday I woke up to find that someone had broken into my room the night before with a hammer and nailed a note into each quadricep muscle. The first one read, “‘I hate you.’ Sincerely, Your Body.” The other note read, “‘Thanks for the play-date!!’ Love, Seven Hills Road.” This is the worst my muscles have felt since my first half-marathon two years ago. If you plan on running a race with any kind of hills in the near future you need to learn from my mistake. Really, I’m finding that this is what this blog is about; I screw up and you get to laugh at me and learn from it. I’m strangely okay with this. I’m a team player. click to read more

Every Run is a Story (What’s Yours?)

10 Jul

There are so many reasons I love my wife that I couldn’t possibly list them all and you’d probably puke a third of the way through. We’re cuter than you can probably handle. So in an effort to keep your laptop keys vomit-free I’ll just focus on one reason I love my wife; She listens to me. She listens to me a lot. I’m an introvert, which I think is code for “I like my thoughts better than what you’re trying to tell me.” click to read more

The Top 10 Reasons We Stop Running

15 Jun

In the last post I gave you the Top 10 Reasons to Run. I thought I heard y’all say you wanted the good news first. Now for the bad news: you’re going to have periods when it becomes difficult or impossible to run. There’s still hope in such times! In this post I will discuss strategies to avoid burnout, prevent or rehab. injury, run through a busy schedule and more. Click to continue…

Top 10 Reasons to Run

12 Jun

No.1, To Look Good in Short Shorts…

..or to not have your gut hang over your favorite belt buckle.

Running gets you trim and fit, which increases your confidence and sense of worth. Guys deal with self image issues too. I think it’s why there are more women than men at the local YMCA… us guys are too embarrassed to show others how much we’ve let go of ourselves. Get over it and get moving again.

No.2, Increased Energy

Keep at running a mere month or so and you’ll notice a change in this department.  I won’t lie to you:  in that first month or so you’re likely to feel more fatigued (and sore!), but keep with it.

Too tired to run?  Do it anyway!  Running at a moderate rate (with walking sprinkled in if you need) is often better than a nap to give me that shot of afternoon energy I need.  Real, lasting energy doesn’t come in a bottle.  

No.3, Longer Life

Duh.  SOOO many health conditions are linked to excess weight that I won’t even bother listing them.  You know what they are.  You know that they’re looming.  Now is the time to do something about them.

Diabetes runs in my family.  I WILL develop it if I don’t lose weight now.  When I do get it I will have to change my diet and lose weight or I’ll start losing appendages, my eye-sight, and possibly die.  Does it make any sense at all to wait until I have the condition to change my life rather than make those changes and avoid it in the first place?!

I’ve said it elsewhere, but we need to get in shape not just for ourselves, but for our families.  I want my grandkids to enjoy my company and vise versa.  When we are fit we give our world the best version of ourselves.  

No.4, More Food!!!

That last one got a little heavy on the guilt trip, this one is all for you!  Run for 30 minutes and you just bought yourself roughly 500 extra calories to eat (once you reach your weight loss goals).

Ultra-runners are known to eat crazy things on their long running adventures.  Dean Karnazes, Author of “Ultramarathon Man” (affiliate link) and avid, self-promoting ultrarunning-crazy-man has eaten things such as an entire cheesecake* on a run.  He will even call to have a pizza* delivered on a corner during his long runs sometimes.

*RMSL accepts no responsibility or liability if you attempt to eat such foods on a run.

No.5, Stress Relief

I have three wonderfully intelligent and energetic kids.  They are six, five, and three years old.  My house is never quiet.  Okay, I do get like an hour and a half of quiet after they go to bed.  I take an extra hour of my sleep away to stay up in that quiet.  

Running makes me a better dad.  It’s two-fold.  Chemically I get my endorphins and feel so much better and less stressed.  During the time that these happy drugs are being released into my body, I get time for quiet and to think.  When I think in this manner I realize how blessed I am to be a dad of wonderful little people.

It makes it easier to respond to comments like this one from yesterday, “Dad!  Britta just dropped her bear in the toilet!”

No.6, Being able to out-run Predators

Mountain lions, bears, wolves, soccer moms in SUVs… let’s be honest, you’ll never outrun any of them.  The good news is that you only need to be faster than the people you’re with!

No.7, Mood Stabilization

Suffer from depression, or bi-polar disorder? There’s no shame in it. It’s not your fault. Since college I’ve dealt with depression and only recently did I discover that I’m bi-polar. It was a blow to my ego, but it helped explain a few things. I’ll have my days. If you have a mental condition so will you.

On those days I especially need running. Some days my wife looks at me with compassion in her eyes and says, “You need to get out and run.” Even though in that state I don’t want to do anything, I know she’s right and I’m often out the door in less than 10 minutes. I come back, not necessarily happy, but functional.

No.8, Peer Pressure

Everyone is doing it.  Not really, but it seems like that lately.  The year I ran my first half and full marathons there were tons of family members that had decided to run a half marathon.  Find a friend or family member and get in shape together.  Sibling rivalry is a powerful thing…

No.9, See More of the World

By this I don’t mean exotic locations.  I’m talking about the extraordinary, abundant life and beauty around us that we cruise past in our cars.  It’s fun how the land looks different based on the speed at which you’re traveling.  You can digest a lot more of the scenery on foot.

I’ve said for some time that I get to know a town through my feet and that’s what I mean.  I see more of it.  I feel more connected to it.  I knew every road, alley, and little side-path through the woods of my childhood home.  Now I drive too darn much.  I’ve lived in my current city for eight years now and I don’t know it half as well.

It’s time for us kids to hit the streets again and while we’re out there let’s BE like kids.  My next running goal is to run to the top of the town’s parking garage a few times.  Why?  Because it looks like fun of course!  

No.10, Because I said So!!

So get out there already, or I’m coming out after you!

NEXT UP… “Top 10 Reasons We Stop Running” Learn what throws you off your rhythm and how, like Stella, you too can get your groove back.

The Surprising, Life Changing Reason you Need to Keep a Food Journal

8 Jun

I’m a convert. I just did a 180 in my attitude toward food journaling. I did NOT want to do it, but now I’ll sing praises of its merits from the roof-tops.

PLEASE KEEP READING! I WAS JUST LIKE YOU!

Nearly every doctor, dietician, and trainer I talked with about weight loss told me to start a food journal. My reaction was the same each time they’d talk about it. I would nod my head the whole time, not in the “I agree” vigorous motion, but the slower, glassy-eyed, “I’m only pretending to listen so you’ll leave me alone even though I know you’re right,” kind of way.

Stop Nodding!!

I tell you, I’m on your side. I get it. Here are the three reasons I didn’t want to keep a food journal:

1)It’s a lot of work.

2)I knew what it would say and that it’d be ugly.

3)It’s a lot of work.

These are fantastic reasons when you don’t really want to make a change. If you’re in this boat, I urge you to read my last post found here: http://www.realmenshowleg.com/tough-love/.

Good Technology

I know there are many arguments about how technology has not benefitted society. I know a lot of folks these days say they long for the simple times of old. I’m not one of them. Simplicity is a high virtue in my mind, but I say it’s still out there and available for those with the courage to buck cultural norms.

In my case technology has saved the day. I was in the throes of despair again about the prospect of food journaling one day when I thought, “There’s got to be an app for that.” Turns out there is… are. Lots of them. I got the one that looked the most user-friendly and polished. I got the myplate app by www.livestrong.com.

My iPad goes everywhere with me. I’ve ceased to be ashamed by how much time I spend on it. I’m thinking about having it surgically attached somehow. Leave a comment below if you have ideas for me about how to do that. Duct tape might be a good secondary option.

Your smart phone probably goes everywhere with you, no? Put that data plan or wifi to good use and log your food. All you do is search from a HUGE list of foods and adjust your portion sizes. Starbucks lattes? Yep. Your neighbor’s chihuahua/husky cross-breed? Probably. It’s got EVERYTHING in the database. As I write this I’m challenging myself to find some obscure food brand that isn’t included. So far I haven’t.

The app does the rest. It tells you how many calories you should consume to meet your weight loss, gain, or sustain goals. On the top of the app it shows a bar with how many calories you have left for the day. As you log the food you’ve eaten, that number goes down. You can track weight and there is a detailed break-down of the nutrients you’ve eaten when you’re synched to www.livestrong.com. There is a category for water and you get an appropriate amount of calories added when you perform a particular exercise.

Burnout

The technology and interface will dazzle you. The weight loss will thrill you. Then you’ll get sick of doing it. This took me 2.5 weeks. I stopped. I gained a couple of pounds back. I started again and I’m going strong because I see a deeper impact than I expected to food journaling.

The Surprising, Life-Changing Reason you NEED to Count Calories

I’m like a really terrible anorexic. Before I started food journaling and counting calories I was a slave to guilt. I never knew how much food I needed and I always assumed I was eating too much. I was never really free to enjoy the gift that is food, but I was never free to abstain from over-indulgence either. I was a mess.

The Truth Hurts

Sure I learned where I over-indulged with food. I found I that I didn’t drink enough water. I discovered that I didn’t eat enough protein and ate WAY too many carbs.

SPOILER ALERT: You’ll find the same is true of you. Us Americans love our carbs. Carbs are good by the way. Carbs are your main energy source, but you don’t need that many unless you’re training. This is another good reason to exercise. If you want more carbs, you’ve got to earn ‘em.

In Control

Suddenly an amazing thing happened as I started to face the sordid reality of my eating hobbits: I stopped eating hobbits. Okay, had too much fun with that typo, I mean: I started feeling free. Free from guilt and shame over my eating. I enjoy my food so much more now. I have less stress because I’m in control of my caloric intake level. I still make bad decisions, but I log them anyway.

I Ate This

The MyPlate app has a brilliantly labelled button that says “I Ate This” to finalize the food you’ve just entered into your journal. It works both ways. When you’re ashamed of eating that HUGE pack of dots it is a confession that unburdens your soul. It is also a celebration of a healthy food choice. “I ate this and I’m proud of it!”

Twenty-something males may get out of hand with this button in their all-you-can-eat pizza eating contests. Maybe if they had this app they’d stick to Halo all-nighters.

For me, I’ll keep hitting that button roughly thirty times a day on my ever-present iPad friend. It’s still work, but it feels vaguely like a game to me and guess what? I’m winning.

**For the record, since logging calories I’ve lost three pounds and I have about twenty-five to go to reach my optimal racing weight. Just wanted you to know that I’m still there fighting it out in the trenches with you. Even after I lose the weight (and I will) I commit to leaving no man (or woman) behind in this fight.

Tough Love

6 Jun

Rise and shine buttercup! It’s time to get to work. (especially if you’re reading this at work) I’ve listened patiently to you for far too long about how you want to get back into running/exercising and I’m about to go all Nike on your lazy butt. JUST DO IT!!!

Tough Love

No, I will not apologize. You had it coming. I love ya. You know I do. In fact I care enough to call you out. I want you to live out your dreams and the irony is that in order to live your dreams, you have to wake up.

Awakenings

I woke up one morning two years ago and looked down at a scale. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Then I got off and checked to see if the kids messed with the calibration again. Nope.

Later that day my wife talked with a colleague who had decided to run a marathon. He was even heavier than I was at the time. He hadn’t done any training, but was tired of his sedentary lifestyle. I was fascinated. I was primed.

I signed up a week later. I had a little over three months to get my fat butt ready to run a marathon.

Go Beyond What is Possible

I didn’t know if I could do it. I gave myself a 40% chance. I had to try. I was desperate to get out of the fat body that I knew was not me. Sometimes you have to set goals so audacious that you wonder if it’s even possible to achieve them. I’ve since realized that I always need a goal like that to keep me vibrant.

What Do You Want?

Let’s get real here. Do you want to get fit, or do you want your potato chips? It’s not that simple of course, but what I’m getting at is do you want to get in shape, really? Is that desire strong enough to override your desire for comfort. It’s time we stop kidding ourselves.

We LOVE, flipping LOVE our comfort. We tell ourselves we need it. Can you give up your TV time? Can you pull yourself out of bed before work to run? That may require that you not stay up chatting on facebook or watching a movie late into the night. The ten o’clock news isn’t getting any better.

More Tough Love

Guess what… you’re not special. You’re not unique. I’m not your mommy so I can say that. You’re an adult. We make decisions. Many of us have kids. Many of us have more than one job. Life is hard. I’m sorry, but it is.

It’s precisely these commitments though why we can’t give up an active lifestyle. We need to be sharp and engaged. You NEED to exercise or you’re going to die before your time. Your family and friends need the best you. Forget getting in shape for you. That’s selfish. Get in shape, find adventure and life for THEM.

Do it Anyway

I know your kid was up teething last night. Do it anyway. I know your battle-mage is about to reach level 36 and unlock a really cool spell. I know the finale is on TV tonight. I know you’ve been pulling overtime for 4 months. I know you still have that nagging head-cold that’s dragging on for a month. Do it anyway. I know your dead-line is approaching, that school is looming, your dog died, your grandma is ill, your truck blew up and you need a new furnace. We all have times like this. DO IT ANYWAY.

That phrase has transformed my life. The irony is that for a long time I had no excuses to not exercise. Then I suddenly had three kids three and under. That’s when I got better about organizing my priorities. I realized just how selfish I was. Year one of fatherhood was not pretty. I had to decide what father I wanted to be. I chose to engage. I’m no hero. It’s what every dad should do, but they don’t. Grow up and live for something bigger than yourself. You’re not a kid anymore. I know it’s hard. DO IT ANYWAY.

I wouldn’t be this abrasive if we hung out for coffee and you poured all your guts out. Sometimes we need a sympathetic ear. But then I won’t blow sunshine anywhere it doesn’t belong either. Sometimes us guys need a kick in the #%$. In the words of my high school band director:

“Those that want by the mile, but try by the inch should be kicked by the foot.”

The Race

I fought through shin splits, plantar fasciitus, dehydration, poor nutrition, depression, and finally an achilles injury that my doctor told me not to run through. I listened. Kinda. I spent an entire month running only in the deep end of a pool, suspended by a foam jogging belt. I did three and four hour workouts like that, moving along at a blazing .001 MPH. Yeah, it was boring. I did it anyway.

I didn’t know as I lined up on race day if I’d finish or not. I’d been faithful to my training and it was out of my hands at that point. When I got to mile eight some energetic spectator pointed straight at me with deranged fire in their eyes and yelled, “Brandon! Today is your day!” (we had our names printed on our bibs, it was a nice touch). Hope surged through me when I heard that. It stirred that deep desire I’d had since I was a kid to finish a marathon.

I get goosebumps even now remembering what it was like to cross that finish line. I held my arms up high. I wept. Real men celebrate. They’ve worked too hard to be afraid of what others think of them.

You May be a Runner if…

20 Feb

Just about every weekend I do a “long run.”  For me these range anywhere from 12-40 miles.  I get to say 40 on the high end because I just did that last Saturday.  I spent the majority of Sunday in bed.  I thought I would share with you some of the self-inflicted complications running provides my daily life.  Some of you will relate, the rest of you… well I hope you laugh a bit.

I know this is long cliche, but you may have a running problem if:

- You spend one day a week laying in bed unable to move.  

- You park in the “seniors only” spots at church the day after a long run and figure that God is a merciful God.

- You consider wresting a walker from an old man because you think you need it more than he does.

- You don’t take the walker from an old man because you know that in your current state he would beat you down if you tried. (you mess with a man and his walker and the tennis balls come off!)

- You fall over at work on Monday as your legs fail you randomly.  (One day my co-workers found me lying on my back laughing at myself.  They kinda think I’m crazy there and I have no arguments to the contrary)

- You take ice-baths after long runs and your kids gather around to laugh at Daddy’s funny high-pitched noised as he dips into the water.

- You pound endless bananas even when the grocery store only has neon green ones left in a futile effort to stem the build-up of lactic acid.

- You “run” the day after a grueling long run to amuse your wife and kids.

- Your moaning and lack of mobility frighten your kids.  (the day after one long run my 4 yr old prayed for my healing of her own volition while my 3 yr old fetched my slippers and my 6 yr old rubbed my shoulders… I’ve got an awesome crew)

- On Sunday you think that’d it be okay if you never ran again, but by tuesday you think you’ll go insane if you don’t.

- You think that Gu and Clif Bars should be included in the food pyramid.  

- You refer to a meal as a feed.  Feed is for cows… which, incidentally, you feel like after such a gorging.  

- The only tee-shirts you own are from 5k races.

- You have another closest to house your finisher medals… I’m thinking about making a wind-chime out of mine. I think I just stumbled onto my retirement hobby.  

- You weep at the start of the Boston marathon.  I mean, I don’t do that, but I could see how one would;  all those dedicated runners training privately and coming together to form this massive wall of cohesive humanity living their dreams… *sniff.  So beautiful.  Real men weep with joy and longing for Boston.

-You work so hard to finish ahead of the cute girl next to you only to have her congratulate you and find you puking in the bushes.  Yeah, that happened to me.  I didn’t end up with her number…

Enough about me.  Please, continue this list below in the comments!