Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Let's Share: Jana's Story

Here is a story from a friend I made while working at Motherhood Maternity.  She just recently had her second baby and is already out there pounding the pavement!  This girl is funny, a fantastic mother, and so fun to be around.  She is currently in training for a 5k for the Battle of Nobility Foam Fest race this Saturday.  I was toying with the idea of doing this one too, but other engagements made that impossible.  Perhaps I can run it next year with her.   Don't worry, though, she is already planning on submitting a race story, hopefully riddled with pictures of her covered in mud and foam.   Enjoy her story and thanks, Jana, for sharing with us!

I attended the largest high school in Texas. By largest, I mean there were over 4,000 kids that I went to school with. Each grade had over 1,000 kids in it. I knew I wanted to do something active and be a part of a team, but getting into soccer or tennis or even cheerleading were next to impossible. The kids that had taken all those spots on teams had been doing those sports since they learned how to walk, so I didn't have a chance. Cross Country and Track, however, allowed a much bigger number of people to join. So, that's how I got my real start in running. I had always been good at track (Wow! I sound so conceited!), but learning to pace myself to run longer distances was tricky at first. Every race in CC is 2 miles (boys and girls race separately). And, it's always in different terrain. Sometimes the race is over rolling hills, sometimes it's in the woods with lots of tree's blocking your view as to where you turn next. It was always an adventure! The heat and humidity were harsh, so we usually had races starting in the early mornings...but, before you even began running you started to sweat. Being a part of a team was awesome! I made so many friends I would not have otherwise met in my gigantic school. And, it was a plus to find a runner or two that had the same pace as me during practice. What motivated me to do my very best each and every day was Coach Gibson. To this day, when I go out for a run, I think of him and all the wonderful advice he gave us. It's easier to have a coach helping you along the way, than to run and stay motivated all by yourself. This is where my husband comes in. He always wants to know how my run went, where I ran, how it felt when I did it etc. He is my secret coach and motivator. (I say secret because I don't think he has a clue.) We even take turns running in the mornings! After I wake up and nurse the baby (we have 2 girls ages 3 1/2 years and 5 months), I run. When I get back, my husband is dressed and ready to hit the pavement. Knowing that he is waiting for me to run first helps get me out the door. On days that he doesn't want to run or is too busy with other things, I find it much harder to go and run anyways! Another motivator is signing up and training for races! I have my first race since high school on September 3rd! It's called the 5k Foam Fest and I'm so psyched about it!! I totally miss the adrenaline rush I would get during a race! And, whats super neat about this race is it involves 2 dozen different obstacles! I'll be sure to bring the camera and have my hubby take lots of pictures to share. I love running. During the periods in my life that I didn't run I didn't feel as good about myself. I know it sounds crazy, but listen to Anna when she says, "running gives you more energy." It's true. It may not be the case when you first start, but your body adjusts so quickly! Making the choice to go running leads to other good choices. I've noticed I want to eat healthier foods when I run because thats what my body craves. Thank you Anna for creating this blog! You definitely encouraged me to start running again after the birth of my baby. I probably wouldn't have decided to begin running again so soon. But, it's been so worth it!

I think Jana has a cool perspective on running.  She's actually been trained by an actual coach before.  Most of us haven't.   She's already shared a few tips with me that she remembers from her coach and they are awesome!  I'm so excited to see the pics from her race.  She is going to have a blast.  I love the part in her story where she talks about her support system, primarily, her husband.  It's so great that there are such people in our lives who will get us going and even run alongside us.  What a great journey she's been on and her story is just proof that you may leave running for a while and for many different reasons (i.e two babies), but it won't let you go entirely and you'll soon find your way back.  Thanks for the story, Jana.  I look forward to your race story and the pictures.  Good luck!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Motivation

Okay folks, since I ended my last feature, A Case for Running (and I thoroughly made my case by the way), I've been trying to come up with a feature to take its place.  After hearing from some of you and from looking to my own life for inspiration, I decided that Monday might just be the hardest day to run.  Perhaps I'm wrong, maybe you guys like Mondays.  Here is my theory:  Monday comes right after the weekend.  You probably spent the weekend do something enjoyable while in denial that the weekend would ever end.  Monday comes, the start of a new week, the start of everything...again.  It's like a circle.  It's okay for a while, but sooner or later you're just sick of going around and around and around.  So Monday can leave you with a feeling of sorrow over the lost weekend and annoyance at the repetition of it all.  Feelings like this could easily lead to lower energy or just dulled motivation to go out and run...again.  Thus, Monday could most likely be the hardest day to run.  So, I've come up with a new feature....Monday Motivation! 

Come by my little blog each and every Monday for a tidbit of motivation.  Perhaps it'll be an inspiring quote.  Perhaps I'll just berate you for 3-4 paragraphs and tell you you're wanny for not running.  Perhaps I'll give you the best motivational speech since Aragorn rallied the troops for the last battle in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Am I a nerd?  Yes, yes I am.)
Whatever it is, I'll do my best to add some motivation to your Monday. 

So for this Monday, I give you this little video I found.  There are parts that are a bit fuzzy, but I thought it was good.


Friday, August 26, 2011

It's Running. What is There is Know Other Than Run?

The title reflects my initial reaction to someone who first introduced me to some running techniques.  I thought, "Running is the most natural form of exercise out there, unless you  consider breathing to be exercise, so what is there to know?"  In fact, there is a few tidbits about technique that I think every runner should know.  As a disclaimer, every runner has a different style of running unique to their own build and body type so take what I've found out about running technique and fit it to you and how you run.

Sit Up Straight!

Or I guess it would be "Run Up Straight."  The point is, keep that back straight.  We tend to want to hunch over as we run, especially as we get tired or toward the end of a run.  This will only make things harder on you.  When I first started paying attention to my posture, I really had to focus hard to ensure that my back stayed straight while I ran.  We're slouchy by nature it seems.  But I promise, running with a straightened back will take the load off of your legs and help you breathe easier.  But if you're not used to it, you need to check yourself every once in a while during a run.  I check my shadow a lot during a run if its to the side of me.  If my shadow is slouched, so am I.  Also, if my lower back is starting to hurt and my legs feel heavy and breathing feels like I'm trying to inflate two iron balloons, I straighten myself out.  Having a strong core is a benefit too.  Your core muscles are what help your spine stay straight and the stronger those muscles are, the straighter you can run.  In the end, I think focusing on my posture has also helped me to have a stronger back and that's just a bonus right there.

Don't Hyperventilate!

This would happen often to me when I first began running.  I would let the run control my breathing and I'd end up taking lots of short, shallow breaths.  The problem with that is that you aren't taking in enough oxygen and aren't expelling enough CO2.  The better method is that you need to control your breathing by taking in deeper breaths once in a while and run at a pace that doesn't leave you gasping.  And you need to use your nose.  Most of us run with our mouth hanging open because we breathe mainly through our mouths.  That's all fine and well, but the best way to get a nice, deep breath is to go through the nose.  For more in depth explanations on breathing techniques check out Running/


Relax?! Relax?!  How am I suppose to relax when I'm hard at work trying to make it through the next mile?  What I mean by relax is that you don't need to tense up muscles unnecessarily.  During one of my first runs I noticed my shoulders ached quite bit.  Some of that had to do with improper breathing techniques (see above) but it also had to do with tensing the wrong muscles.  While running, resist  clenching your hands into fists, relax your shoulders, and leave your mouth slackjawed.  You'll still have plenty of muscles at work for you, but having too many muscles working for you will only make things harder.  Clenching your hands into fists will tense muscles up and down your arm, leading to sore shoulders.  Relaxing your shoulders will save, obviously, your shoulders, but also your back from unnecessary strain and leaving your mouth open will allow neck muscles to relax during your run.


This is an actual running technique.  I stumbled upon it in all of my running research one day and have been trying to nail it down ever since.  Someone realized that the way most of us run is rather inefficient.  Most of us land heel first.  If you watch someone running in slow motion, it's fairly easy to see.  And it also looks like the person's leg almost comes to a sudden halt with every step.  That's because landing heel first is like putting on the brakes every step of the way.  So someone decided that it would make more sense to try and land in the middle of the foot or the ball of the foot, more like a sprinter does or is supposed to do anyway.  It's takes a lot of practice to do this and I still have to focus quite a bit if I'm going to run the Pose style.  Watch the following video.  They make more sense of it than I do.

I've watched this video countless times to get this technique down.  I still don't have it down, but when I focus on it, I can pull it off for a while but then my thoughts wonder and I slip back into heels first running.  So I'm still practicing.  But when I am doing the Pose method, I feel a load taken off my legs and I immediately run faster with little effort.  So it's worth the practice in my mind.

So there you go.  That's how you run.  I'm sure that there are probably more techniques out there that I haven't heard of or explored, but these seem to be the key essentials and ones that I practice.  Let me know if you guys want to add anything here; things that you may have discovered while running. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Let's Share: Lindsay's Story

Wow, I haven't shared a story from another runner for quite a while.  Could that be because NO ONE responded to my call for stories?!  I know at least 11 people read this blog, and at least half of those people haven't shared already so I should have gotten a few stories.  So I had to go hunting for stories.  Perhaps some of you thought you didn't have a very good story to share or you didn't want to share because you're only just beginning your journey.  Well stop thinking like that and the next time I ask for stories, you get yourself typin'! 

So this story comes from my husband's cousin, Lindsay.  So I guess that makes her my cousin-in-law?  Anyway, she lives in the beautiful state of Oregon.  She is a super mom of two beyond adorable boys.  She is currently training for a 10K in September (I expect a race story, Lindsay!) and since she recently got back into running, I asked her for something to share.  Here is her story.

I have been active all my life. Growing up in a family with a coach Dad that was a former multiple sport athlete, it was only natural that I played in numerous sports. Basketball, football, golf, volleyball, and tennis all seemed to come easy for me. I loved getting out and playing. As a youth, running wasn’t even on my radar. All I knew was I didn’t like to run for the sake of running. Why would anyone run, when they could play a sport? It seemed that with sports, I didn’t realize I was running, but simply having fun. To me, running just to run seemed boring and a big waste of my time. I dreaded the mile run in middle school, not because it was hard, but because it was boring. I surrendered myself to making the complaints that all my friends made on our mile run day.
Once I entered high school, I began to worry more about my looks and being accepted. Soon, running was something I dabbled in. Of course it always ended with me feeling more defeated than ever. You see, I have always been, for lack of a better word, chubby. I am athletic and in good shape. I could stay on the basketball court continuously when my coach needed me without wearing out, but the chub never left. It was my constant companion. I decided running was going to get me in shape, make me skinny! I enrolled one of my skinny friends to run with me. I figured she would help me stay motivated. Sadly, she couldn’t keep up and we ended up walking about 2 blocks to every half block we ran. I remember being so mad. Why was I chubby and she skinny? It didn’t make sense. Next, I asked my thin and athletic dance friend to run with me. Things didn’t go much better. After walking 2 blocks to every one, I was officially annoyed with running, and working out in general! It obviously wasn’t going to work for me!
Sometime between my junior and senior years, I lost some weight (without running), and I felt good. I stayed about the same size until after marriage and baby #1 came into my life. I thought I was doing a good job of managing my weight during pregnancy, but once my little boy arrived and I lost some of the baby weight I was still a whopping 35 pounds heavier than before. I decided to do something, so I ran. I dreaded running. I did it off and on, but my motivation to loose weight made things worse. If I didn’t loose weight after about 2 weeks of running, I would quit, get depressed, and eat. It was an endless cycle. I would drop 3 pounds, get depressed it wasn’t coming off fast enough and quickly gain 3 pounds. I never reached my goal. Two years later my second little guy arrived. As I got ready to get back into shape I realized that I was now 50 pounds heavier than before I had children. I was determined to get back into shape. I tried running, workout videos, and sports. Nothing seemed to work. I was still in good shape as far as stamina, but my body hurt after working out more than ever.
At one point, I decided to do what I called the 3-3-3 approach. I would run 3 miles 3 times a day. I did this for about 2 weeks. I would wake-up in the morning and run 3 miles. After lunch I would run 3 miles and before bed I would run 3 miles. By the end of the second week, I couldn’t move! You should know I have always been someone that pushes the limits. Growing up participating in sports I learned that our bodies can do much more than we believe they can. Sadly, I think I pushed a little too hard.
After many failed attempts at running, and being inactive for months, I read The Running Story blog. Anna and those who shared their stories seemed to enjoy running. What? Who would ever LIKE to run? I decided I would try to run, but I would have a different mind set than before. Instead of running to loose weight, I would run for the sake of running. Crazy eh? I started. The first week was hard. I remember that first day. I ran a mile and a half and felt it was much harder than it should have been. I kept running. The second week started out nearly as hard. I kept running. I found a 10k to train for and made myself a training schedule. Each day, I would check off what I ran. By the third week, looking at the schedule, I could see that I was accomplishing something. Each run was getting easier, and I was going farther. I got some tips along the way from The Running Story blog. The best: run with music. I had NEVER run with music before. The first time I did, it was heaven. I actually ENJOYED my run. It was crazy. I was shocked! I started using and timing myself. I loved that I could see myself improving not only in distance, but also in time. I was making progress. I was enjoying myself and working toward something achievable. Because I have not been focusing on how much weight I am loosing or not loosing, I don’t feel defeated. I don’t have a reason to quit and pout. Setting achievable goals is so important. Goals are good, but they were my crutch before. I could never reach them like I wanted to, and I would feel like a failure. I always loved the quote “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will land among the stars.” Sadly, when I shot for the moon I forgot my oxygen tank and fell flailing down to earth with nothing to show for my effort but a bruised ego and a feeling of letdown. I have also learned that I am the only one who can truly motivate me. I am doing what I can, and it feels good.
Before, running seemed like a punishment. Now, running feels like a break. We all need a break. My break used to be going up to my room to read or listen to music to get away from the kids (you all know you need to get away from those sweet little rascals every now and then). Now, I get so much more out of my “break”. I get that much needed time to myself. Time to think, sing, relax, push myself, enjoy myself, keep my body strong and reach achievable goals. I keep running for the sake of running, and it rocks to the moon and back!

I LOVE this story!  And for so many reasons.  The ultimate reason that I love this story is that even after failed attempts to get into running, she came back again and again.  Once Lindsay figured out why she really wanted to run, running became what it should!  I totally agree with not paying attention to the weight issue.  I was the same way when I began running.  If I didn't see that scale go down, I would scream, "Why I am doing this if I'm not losing weight!?!"  So I too made a decision to forget about the weight for two reasons.  1)In the beginning, you're building so much muscle that you might not lose weight, in fact you might gain some.  2)When you run to feel good rather than lose weight, you'll never be dissapointed.  I also like her point about goals and that the kind of goals we set for ourselves will very much determine whether or not we'll reach them.  Great story, Lindsay!!  I can't wait to hear how her 10K goes.  Racing is the best!  Keep going Lindsay and like I keep saying, I want a race story after you've completed your 10K!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Support Team

When you endeavor to become a runner, you will inevitably need a support team.  A group of unseen people to help you keep your running goals.  There are so many reasons to run, yet some days despite all of those reasons, I just don't have the motivation to do it.  That is where my support team comes in.  Did I hire a team of coaches, personal trainers, or motivational speakers?  Uh, how much do you think a teacher makes these days?  No, my support team is a built-in.  They are my family.  The twins have yet to be all that helpful as they usually whine when I go to run.  But the rolls of slack skin they left me after the pregnancy usually motivate me all by themselves.  Dani and Rachel are my little cheerleaders.  At every race, they've been there saying, "Yeah, mom! Go, mom!"  And each morning when I set out to run, I hear, "Have a good run, mom!" or "Be a good runner, mom!"  How can I not give it my all with those shouts of encouragement following me out the door?  Dani and Rachel will even ask to run with me around the block and that gives me more support than they realize. 

But my biggest support is my husband.  There have been mornings when I just didn't have it in me.  Then he slyly asks, "So, you going running today?"  For some reason that's all I need.  He's someone to be accountable to.  He never gets irritated at me when a run lasts longer than I said it would.  Whenever I say that I want to spend another $30 on a race, he just smiles and says, "Sure!"  He's always there to take my picture at the finish line and always willing to see me through to wherever all this running may lead.  I love the look on his face after I come back from running or finish a race.  I think it may be a look of pride.  I don't think I could be a runner without him and I don't think he realizes just how much I need him if I'm going to continue to be a runner.  I know he probably has no idea that I see him as my support system, that's for sure.  He's supportive by nature and I love that about him. 

So I hope you all have a support system.  Whether it's your kids, your spouse, a friend, a dog, whoever, it doesn't matter, as long as you have someone supporting you as you run.  I suppose you could get by without a support system, but I think I'm a better runner because I do have support from my husband and kids. 

My secondary support system would be everyone who reads this blog.  With every comment and every story I receive, I feel more and more support from you guys.  I hope that what I write here on this blog might be of some support to you as well.  That's what I like about running.  We get support from each other and we give it back ten fold when needed. 

Comment time:  Who is your support team and how do they support you?

Let's have a gush-fest and praise those who support us as we run!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tutus, Meteors, and Headlamps: My Nite Lites 10K

What am I?  Almost 30.  Yes.  A mom with 4 kids.  Yes.  A supposed responsible adult.  Yes.  Then I ask you to explain the following picture!

Yes that is me.  I seem to be wearing a tutu abundant in white and pink toole.  I have my running clothes on and a very rods-and-cones-altering (rods and cones are those things in your eyes, look it up) shirt of neon yellow.  I also have, what appears to be, paint on my face fashioned after the likes of the African tribes found in almost any National Geographic magazine.  And what is that?  Is it a homemade race number decked out in psychedelic rainbows colors?  Indeed it is.  What in the bleep am I doing?

I'll tell you what I'm doing in this picture.  I'm getting all jazzed up to run a 10k at night!  And let me tell you, once you sign up for a night race, all the possible immature things you could possibly wear to such an event pop into your head.  My sister-in-law Keersten thought of the tutus.  I thought of the war paint(which was supposed to glow, but did not.  Lame.)  The rules were that you had to glow or be reflective. But why glow and be reflective alone?  Why not wear something like a tutu and put sparkling ribbons in your hair and paint your face?  So that is what we did to prepare for our 10k.  Sure we trained for the running part, but, to be honest, we probably spent more time thinking about what we were going to wear then how to run the race.  We thought we'd be totally "out there" with our garb.  Turns out we were two of probably 50 girls in tutus to show up.  And our little glow sticks were nothing compared to some of the lighting apparatus' that we saw.  We definitely got some new ideas for next year.  So onto the actual race.

Since my husband and Keersten's husband would have to stay home to watch kids, we needed to find someone to take pictures.  Yeah, I wasn't letting this race go by without some documentation.  Immediately I thought of my youngest brother, Nathan.  Single, a night owl, and a very nice young man who would drive down from Rexburg to take pictures of his silly sister instead of hanging out with his girlfriend.  Nathan met us at Teton Running where we had to check in.  Keersten and I, plus another runner who needed a ride to the starting point, got into my brother's truck and headed up there.  We drove past runners who had already started and until you were really close to them, all you could see were bouncing lights coming down the road.  Once at the starting point, we told Nathan to drive back down to the finish line and wait for us there.  We checked in again at the starting point.  In this race, you could start at any time you wanted.  The goal was to start at time where you thought you could finish my midnight.  We got there at 11:00 and headed out right away because both Keersten and I knew it would probably take us an hour to run the 6.2 miles. 

It was a perfect night for a run.  The moon was full, no wind, a mild temperature and a starry night with the promise of a possible meteor shower.  We started on a steep hill going down.  This is the point where I realized that I forgot to switch the normal bra for a sports bra.  It felt less than good. 
This is as we started out.  Check out our sweet headlamps.
It was kind of trippy running in the dark with the vague light of the moon at your back and the bobbing lights from our headlamps intermittently lighting up the road ahead.  Keers and I are both iPod runners, so we didn't talk much during the run.  We mostly used hand gestures and immature sign language to communicate if necessary.  And so we ran.  And ran.  And ran.  The pace felt good.  I felt neither winded or restless.  You have to run a 10k slightly differently than how you would run a 5k.  We made sure to have a more steady pace and build up toward the end.  In a 5K, I usually get to my max speed right off the bat and work hard to keep it that fast until the end.

We passed some other runners in tutus.  We were passed by runners wearing the coolest lighting gear.  One runner had blinking LED Christmas lights on her back in a lace pattern powered by a puny little battery back taped to her hip.  Another runner had constructed a crown out of glowsticks to match an tutu made entirely out of glowsticks.  Other runners had balloon hats, glowhats, reflective shorts, pink wigs, and glowsticks snaked around their calves.  Creativity was all over the place!  At selected intervals, there were water stations or just people pointing the way to go.  Each was lit by a large police truck showing off all the capabilities of the lights mounted on top.

One of the coolest sights though was the city lights of Idaho Falls and Ammon which we viewed at the top of some of the hills.  We also got to see a few meteors streak across the sky for a milisecond.  It sounds corny, but it was kind of magical. 

Even with the glowsticks and headlamps, we were still cautious of the cars.  Everytime one came by in our lane, I would slow down, Keers (with the brighter headlamp) would merge in front of me and we'd stay like that until the car passed.  I can only imagine the "What the?!" expressions on people's faces as they drove past these girls in bobbing tutus and lights. 

As far as the running goes, it went off without a hitch for the most part.  There was one part where Keersten and I nearly took a header into the asphalt after unknowingly running into some kind hole.  And at about a mile from the finish, I felt a tendon in my right foot snap.  I don't think it actually snapped because I'm sure I would have stopped dead in my tracks and wouldn't have been able to continue.  But it felt like it snapped.  It's happened to me before.  I think the tendon gets hyper-extended.  So I had to run kind of awkwardly for a while.   

Keersten checking the time to see what our race time was.
Nearing the finish line, which was Teton Running, we got to run through the intersection at Hitt and Sunnyside and there the nice policemen stopped traffice for us.  It was kind of weird running through traffic like that, especially dressed as I was.  But any kind of awkwardness left as I realized how close to the finish we were.  Keersten and I, almost simultaneously, picked up the pace.  We had no idea of what time it was, but we were to finish as close to midnight as possible and both of us also wanted to finish with a good time.  Nearing the finish line, I spot Nathan, whose back is to me, and I clap at him to get his attention so he could turn around and take a picture.  Keers and I run as fast as our tired legs can go and we cross the finish line.  My iPod is still on at full blast so I can't hear what anyone is saying to me.  I yank them out and find out that we finished the race about 20 seconds past midnight.  Not bad! 

Nathan quickly hands back the camera, tells me, "Good job," and heads back to his car.  His job was done.  Thanks again, Nathan, for helping me out.  You're a good brother. 

This is right after we finished.  Look closely and you can see the imprints left by
the headlamps.
There are many a sponsor lined up to give us treats and Keers and I indulge in Jamba Juices and Great Harvest bread.  We chat with a few other runners and then the awards and raffles start.  The atmosphere was happy and excited and gleeful.  Yeah, I said gleeful.  As the race director handed out raffles prizes and awards for best costume, we all clapped and cheered and were having a grand ole time as the early morning went on.  Then it came time for the awards for those that finished closest to midnight.  There were first and second place prizes.  Each race got prizes.  Prizes for the 1 mile, the 5K, the 10k, and the half marathon.  "And second place for the 10K race goes to Keersten Goss!"  Keersten won second place for finishing closest to midnight!!  Wahoo!  "And first place for the 10K race goes to Anna Durfee!"  Wahoo!  We were both presented with a ceramic pumpkin (the whole Cinderella/midnight theme) and got a nice applause from our fellow runners.  So it's not a prize for the fastest time, but it is a prize for knowing your pace as a runner.  So that's something.  Keersten also got a raffle prize.  I think it was something for Jamba Juice.  All in all, we were mightily satisified. 

Adrenaline gone, the tired set in and Keers and I got in the car and headed home.  It was an extremely fun race.  The best race of the summer, hands down!  I am definitely doing this thing next year.  I'm so glad Keersten did it with me as well.  I'm also glad that she turned out to be a silly as me about the whole dressing up for it part.  Thanks for the tutus idea, Keers!   

The other part that I felt good about was the running.  I felt really good the entire race, even toward the end when we were sprinting to the finish.  Training pays off.  Cross-training pays off.  It was great to feel by body cooperating with me during a time when I needed it most.  I love this sport and I'm so glad there are people out there making fun events for runners like the Nite Lites race. 

P.S-  I'm still looking for shared stories, so please send me some running or race stories.  Please!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Map My Run

I thought I'd feature a handy little tool that I was told about recently.  It's called Map My Run.  It's a website you can go to where you're allowed to map out runs or bike rides or hikes or whatever to see how far you've gone.  But it's also a tool to help you keep track of your daily fitness activities. A sort of workout journal.  It has many features I have yet to explore and most of it is free.  There are extras you can access with a membership fee, but for my purposes, I'm fine with what they offer for free. 

I mainly use it as a way to find the mileage of new routes.  Sure beats having to drive the route in the car to see how far I've gone.  It's fairly simple to use as well, just visit their little tutorial about mapping a run and go from there.  It will also declare your logged runs onto Facebook for you so everyone can gush about your awesomeness.  Bonus!

So check it out at

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Case for Running: Because Now You Have To

I've given you 9 ( I think that's right) reasons why you should become a runner.  I hope the majority have started their running journeys well before I got to the 9th reason.  So this is my last Case for Running.  My tenth reason is that you have to.  I know it sounds like a lame reason.  You might say, "Well, I don't HAVE to do anything!"  If you've become a runner, you may know what I'm talking about.  This sport isn't something that will give you up very easily.  Even if you had to drop the sport for every pregnancy, injury or life altering circumstance, many of you have found your way back, or rather the sport has found you again.  All the wonderful benefits, all the times you were hit with a truck load of endorphines, all the races you've competed in, all the times you beat your last time or ran farther than last time; it's all just too good to give up and you find that you can't.  Running becomes a lifestyle, not just something we chose to keep the love handles away.  When you really get into it and for all the reasons I've listed over the last few months, it becomes a part of who you are.  If you've become a runner, then now you have to run, because to go back to spending too much time on the couch is just not an option anymore. 
I'll tell you what running has done to change me.  If I'm driving and I pass a runner, I have to resist the urge to screech to a stop and jump out and run with them.  When I hear any of my running mix songs, I get antsy to get out and pound the pavement.  When I'm depressed or life just sucks, I no longer turn to food or other self-destructive behaviors, I got out and run.  If I hear anyone complaining about their weight or the way they look, I immediately go into a prepared sermon on the wonders of running until I'm sure I'm about to get decked in the face. 
I have to do this!  I have to run.  That's the best reason.  So much of the time I think we suppose that we'll do an exercise routine until we've reached some arbitrary goal.  But that's pretty flawed thinking.  You need to change an entire portion of your life if you want to be healthy and fit.  Why not change into runner....for good? 

So I'm going to assume that I convinced you a long time ago and you are now a runner.  And you've probably made the realization that I've stated above that now you have to do this, you simply have to run.  If you haven't become a runner, go back to my first reason and read through them all over again until you become a runner and you'll understand this last Case for Running.

If you've become a runner, you are stronger, you are faster, you are healthier, you are happier.  And because of all of that, you have to keep going.  Don't stop.  Never stop. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Switch It Up: The Diverse World of Cross-Training

I went on a bike ride yesterday.  Yup, I didn't run a single mile of that 9 mile route, just biked.  Think me a traitor do you?  Rest assured, I was only doing the bike ride to help my running abilities.  Well that and sometimes it's just fun to ride a bike.  So how does doing another sport, unrelated to running, help with running?  It's called cross-training.  Perhaps you've heard of it.  Research recently, has shown that runners who take part in a few other sports will help increase their endurance and speed.  When I was riding the bike, I kept thinking, "Pssshhh, biking is easy, especially when compared to running.  I've got strong runners legs, this will be a piece of cake."  Not so much.  While I was still working my legs muscles, the same exact leg muscles I use for running, they were being worked in a entirely different way.  When I'm running, the calve muscles get more of the workout.  When biking, it's the thighs that get to sweat it the whole time.  What's cooler, is that I've just helped to increase the same muscles that will get me a faster 10K time, without having to constantly pound the pavement, as biking is a low-impact sport.  Obviously, running a whole lot will get me to go faster as well, but it's simply just more polite to my knees and shins to occasionally take a break from running and doing something like a bike ride.  You'd think more runners would be doing the whole cross-training thing, but many don't believe in it's ability to help them become a better runner.  So researchers got out there and did what they do best.
One of the first pieces of evidence that another sport could improve running came from Tom Miller, M.S., when he was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Utah. Miller had runners warm up on a stationary bike at low tension. Then they increased the tension until the wheel would barely turn. Next, the athletes stood up on the pedals for two bursts of high power pedalling for 30, 45, 60, 45, and 30 seconds. Between each power burst, the tension was lowered for recovery spells. All runners who used this training method a couple times a week for six weeks improved their 10K times; some even had PRs. High-power bike intervals work your leg muscle even harder than uphill running, but without the impact of hard running.

Even if you're fine with your current endurance level or speed, I see one other important reason for cross-training: the switch up.  It's nice to be able to, once in a while, switch to a different activity.  I started adding biking as a way to cross-train but also as a way to give my legs some reprieve from a high impact sport.  I also did it because variety is good.  And the thing is, after a bike ride, I'm SO ready to go back to the sport of my heart the next day.  I missed it a little.  Pathetic, I know, but it's the truth. 

There are other ways to cross-train as well.  Among them are weight training and walking.  Weight training is to improve your strength and walking to improve endurance.   For more info on these and other cross-training news click here.

So give yourself a walk or a bike ride, to switch it up.  I used to think doing ANYTHING besides running was a waste of time, time when I could be working on my running muscles.  But since researching cross-training, I now know that I can go on a bike ride feeling confident that while I'm leaving the runner at home for the morning, she'll be just fine and she'll be even stronger by the time I get back.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Case for Running: Power Against the Demons

Sorry this is a day late.  I was busy with (insert good reason here) and just couldn't get to this post until now.

Let's pretend that those men she's tying up are
my metaphorical demons.
I am a lazy person.  At times, I am extremely lazy.  I've been this way since the insanely high energy of my childhood started to wane.  In high school, if I didn't have to go to school, I'd sleep until noon.  Actually, there were times that even though I had to a class to get to, like my zero hour Social Studies class at 7 am (early mornings are still a struggle), where I was lazy enough to not even go.  Even though I knew it would be a cause for problems later on, dragging my butt out of bed was simply not happening.  Even as a mom of four, I still find time to be lazy.  Laziness is one of my demons.  Actually, I should say that laziness is THE demon with which I battle.  I only need this one demon because laziness spawns so many other vices that there's no need to really go into everything I battle because of my laziness.  When I decided to start running after my second child was born, I was making a conscious decision to take on this demon of laziness until one of us was dead.  As it stands now, Laziness is somewhere in the intensive care unit barely holding onto his life.  Running did that for me.  How in the world can you be lazy when you've just spent that last hour beating your legs and lungs into submission as you trudged though 6 miles of hills?  You'd think that once I got home, being so tired that laziness would have one up on me, right?  Wrong!  For some reason, even after that great expenditure of energy, I have even more energy the rest of the day to get things done.  I still have bad days, less you think that I've evolved into some kind of Wonder Woman (I couldn't pull off that outfit anyway as I lack the kind of rack it would take to hold it up).  I have days when, too tired to get out of bed at a non-lazy hour, I don't get my run in and I'm battling really hard, all on my own, to fight the urge to just sit in my bed (during nap time of course) and do nothing even though my kids are running around in only diapers and underwear because of the lack of clean clothes and my house looks like we're more squatters than homeowners.  But I've learned to not let the bad days rule me.  I've learn to stop regretting what I did or didn't do yesterday and just look forward.  So the next day, motivation to run overtakes the laziness and I'm out there running my miles, beating that dang demon to a bloody pulp (too graphic?).

I believe running to be a wonderful way to beat many a demon.  Whether it's low self-esteem, depression, love handles, committment issues, image issues, lack of will power, whatever.  Running, for all the reasons I've listed on this blog week after week, has to the power to beat whatever demons you're fighting.  The sense of accomplishment alone will vanquish those demons of doubt and self-loathing that makes us all unhappy.    I don't honestly know a runner who would disagree with me here. 

So, if you're looking into becoming a runner, here is my 9th reason:  Power to Beat the Demons.  In my head, I always seem to be saying, "If I can run up this hill, then I can organize that dang basement instead of wasting the day to channel surfing," or "If I can run these 6 miles, than I can sure handle the day ahead of me with 4 kids and a mile long list of chores."  My life will not be a lazy life and that's because I choose to run.  You can say that about any demon.  "My life will not be a sad life and that's because I choose to run."  "My life will not be a doubting life and that's because I choose to run."  So get on with it!  Kick that demon to the curb and get running!