Posts Tagged ‘my favorite running blogs’

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Why do you lace up your Brooks or slip on your Vibrams and hit the road? Why do you get up early or stay up late to put in an hour on the treadmill? Why do you put in the miles?

Whatever your reason, the word for what drives you is motivation. We all come to (or I hope will come to) running from different places, and therefore many of us are motivated by different reasons. We have all had the on again off again spurts of running/exercise. Whether it was because we felt we needed to drop a few pounds or our doctor told us we needed to get some exercise, we have all dangled the carrot in front of ourselves to get our feet moving.

And it works – for a while. We achieve the weight goal or bring down the bp. But the all too often truth is that we quote our last President, telling ourselves, “Mission Accomplished” and go back to our old, not-so-healthy routines. Chasing and achieving our goal is gratifying, but then we are left with a void that is usually filled with the very things we were trying to leave behind. If you are only running and exercising so you can fit into a pair of pants or a specific dress, I can pretty much guarantee that you will eventually end up back where you started.

Now I am not saying that the carrot doesn’t have its place in the overall fitness of the general population. It can be a very powerful, if flawed, tool. It gets people off the couch to the treadmill or the road.

It is a start.

Eventually though, we have to be willing to re-frame what it is we want and desire. We need to look in the mirror and ask how that triple helping of Breyer’s or the entire cheese pizza really makes us feel. It feels so good at the time, but what about 10 minutes later – 60 minutes later. Do the bad habits really make us happy in the long run?

I am not one to say there is no place for indulgence. I have and will continue to partake in my share, but if it’s something I do every day, it’s not much of a treat.

Early on in our relationship my wife and I had a conversation about long-term vs short-term profit. If we go solely after the short-term profits we tend to lose out in the long run – just check the economic health of America’s auto industry. She was talking about business, but that principle can be applied across the board in life. Your body is the temple that houses your soul, your well-being. Taking care of your temple for the long haul is more likely to bring inner happiness.

The bottom line is that we need to take that carrot, use it initially to get off the couch and then throw it away.

That is what happened to me last November. My carrot was that my wife declared to the world that she was going to run a half-marathon, on the Cape, in the dead of winter. I wasn’t going to let her do it alone, so I said I would train with her. For two to three weeks, this motivation – this carrot – got me out of bed and onto the treadmill. I would run 2 to 4 miles at a time and not really enjoy myself at all. It was a chore.

The internalization happened when I woke up one morning with a, um, “headache” from card playing the previous night. I dragged myself to the treadmill and started running. Lo and behold, after three miles I actually felt better. I added on a mile, then another and then another. I had to jump off at 6 miles when I realized I had to pick up the kids from school. It was the farthest I had run in memory and I felt GREAT! That was the moment for me. I had discovered that running could make me feel great. I no longer needed the carrot. The motivation to run became a need and has been ever since. Before I knew it I was running 10 – 13 miles a session with a smile on my face. The increased running then led me to eat more healthfully. I already ate well, but as I got into better shape, my engine began to demand cleaner fuel. The better I ate, the better I ran. The more I ran, the better I ate. It was a virtuous cycle*.

It didn’t hurt that I could see the benefits of running and eating well in the mirror and on the scale. I never felt that I was fat or overweight. I wasn’t. But since dropping from 205 lbs. to 175 lbs. I feel noticeably faster and generally happier and healthier. I also don’t get sick nearly as often nor as severely as I once did. I feel great and I don’t want to change that.

The desire – the motivation – needs to come from within. Find a way to do that and I guarantee you’ll find a new level of happiness.

*That’s the best I can come up with for the opposite of a vicious cycle.

***Note: I do find actual carrots to be a wonderful snack. Dipped in a little Sabra hummus, they can be a great healthy and filling midday/late night munchie.***

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Shortly after Thanksgiving, my friend Pete posted a challenge via the dailymile. Could each of us run 120 miles in the month of December? If 10 of us could, he would donate a decent chunk of change to charity. Truth is, whether 10 of us make it or not, he’ll probably give to his charity anyway, but I loved the idea of a group challenge.

Several day later, my friend Michelle sent out a cry for help via Twitter. She had set a goal back in December of last year to try to run 1000 miles in 2009. She was 105 miles short and was looking at trying to cover that distance in 25 days. She asked if we could help by running with her.

She is in New York. The rest of us are scattered all over the country, so she knows that we will not be able to literally run with her. However, the idea that each day, many of us will be running to accomplish 105 miles in 25 days is giving her the incentive and strength to accomplish her goal.

“We” are a group of runners loosely tied together through our associations with the daily mile, runkeeper street teams, Twitter and other social networks. Do I know these people? Not really. I have met Pete once (at the Manchester Marathon) and have never met Michelle. We’ve found each other through these networks looking for advice, information and motivation. We have found a bond in running and all (and I mean ALL) are welcome. I love that these social networks are using the emerging technology of today to bring together people who love the most ancient of all sports.

I hear over and over again that our dependence on technology has made us a nation of couch potatoes – a nation of obese, lazy people. We no longer have to get up to change the channel on the TV. With smartphone technology we don’t even have to go to our home offices to check email. We can do it right from the couch with the TV remote in the other hand. Dinner? A phone call away. Video games have taken our young and not so young off the playgrounds and streets and sucked them right back to the couch.

Well I’m here to tell you it’s time to re-frame it. Technology is what you make of it and the emergence of social networks can make us a fit nation again. Both Pete and Michelle are using technology to get people to run; to do some serious running. 120 miles in a month or 105 in 25 days is nothing to sneeze at. Before you non-runners tune out and say, “you speedsters don’t get it!” I would like to point out that “we” are runners of all speeds, shapes and sizes, ranging from the beginner who runs a 20-25 minute mile (most of you can walk at that pace) to the racer who is in the mid-5’s. We all cheer each other on. Your challenge doesn’t have to be 120 miles. How about 7 miles this week. Go walk a mile a day. Start where you can and then build on it. But don’t do it alone. Join a network and get motivated!

The point is that all of these people are here and they are together, using technology to improve their health.

In addition to the social networks, there are other technologies that are helping me and others run and stay fit. Runkeeper Pro is an app for the iPhone that I have been using since July 1st. It uses the GPS in your iPhone and helps track your route, pace, elevation and calories burned. You can program it to give you audio cues as you run so you can zone out and just enjoy your adventure. After your run it automatically sends your data to your web profile so you can review it later. One of the things I like most about Runkeeper is that the designer of the program is always looking to improve the app, which he has done time and time again. And, he has incorporated the social network concept into the web side of it. He gets it. The convergence of these technologies can make us strong again. But you don’t have to have an iPhone or a Garmin “watch” to map and keep track of your run/walks. Google has a perfectly good mapping program that allows you to input your routes yourself.

In this day and age, when most of us are trying to negotiate our way through tough economic times and the Congress debates the pro’s and con’s of health reform, running could be considered a patriotic thing to do. Raise the health index of our nation – lower the cost of care. And depending on your running style (barefoot anyone?), it doesn’t cost a lot.

Come join the party!

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I thought I was going to a friend’s charity’s wine tasting event.  Instead I walked into a surprise birthday party for me!  One of the many highlights was this amazingly awesome cake:

I  love the details of the heel pull and the VIBRAM label on the sole.  My wife had the cake “imported” from Connecticut.  It was made by our dear friends at Sweet Lisa’s. You may have seen them once or twice on the Food Network!  They are awesome and can make anything…ANYTHING! Oh, and it was delicious!!!

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For my friend M

Continuing my treadmill theme, here is my Top Ten* list of shows I like to zone out to while running on the treadmill:

Prison Break (Fox – no longer on the air)

Chuck (NBC – returning in January)

24 (Fox – returning in January)

Numb3rs (CBS – Fridays at 10)

Rome (HBO – no longer on the air)

Fringe (Fox – Thursdays at 9)

Heroes (NBC – Mondays at 8 )

Lie To Me (Fox – Mondays at 9)

30 Rock (NBC – Thursdays at 9)

The Mentalist (CBS – Thursday at 10)

Last fall I would set the DVR to record my shows (4 of them aired on Mondays and 1 on Tuesday) and I was set for the week.

Some of you who know me may be asking, “Uh, dude? Where’s LOST and BSG? Aren’t you always going on and on about those two shows? How they are the best ever?” That is true. My two favorite shows of all time are LOST and the new Battlestar Galactica. But these two are far too involved to be put on the list – too much fumbling for the remote to rewind to hear a missed line or clue. I see Flash Forward joining this special list very shortly.  When I’m on the treadmill I tend to want fun, easy, popcorn entertainment. My wife calls it Pringles for the brain (though she’s usually referring to books).

Sadly, some of these shows are no longer on the air (Prison Break and Rome) and only available on DVD, but if you haven’t seen them yet, they are totally worth it.

I would love to hear what you would recommend when stuck on the treadmill.

* In no particular order.  The new V series may be joining the treadmill list, but with only 4 episode aired and the show not returning to the screen until February, I am withholding judgement either way.  Since Rome and Prison Break are off the air, it would probably replace one of those.

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– My wife’s Facebook status on Wednesday afternoon

I spent the majority of Thanksgiving Week running from the pigs.

They came for my younger daughter Saturday night, then for my wife on Monday night and finally for my older daughter on Wednesday night. No, I wasn’t being chased by the police. I haven’t called a cop a ‘pig’ since high school. OK, maybe since college, but I digress.

I was running from the swine flu. Wednesday night we had three girls down.  I was the last family member standing.  Our Thanksgiving plans to visit family had been laid to waste.  I scrambled last minute to find a Turkey and all the trimmings. All week I was thinking one thing – with the rest of the family out of commission, I could NOT get sick. My wife had been hit especially hard and was pretty much bedridden.  My older daughter (too young to take care of the household anyway) was just entering the worst of it. I had to make sure that the piggies couldn’t get me.

I firmly believe that breaking a major sweat goes a long way toward boosting your immune system. So starting last Monday, I ran.  Not away from my family – they needed me to take care of them. No, I ran away from the flu.  Every day, I ran. Whether it was my quick 5K sprint on Thanksgiving Day morning or my slower but longer 10 mile runs on the dreadmill – er treadmill – I was determined to break a major sweat every day.  I was going to make my body an inhospitable place for any little pigs who might want to take up residence.

I ran more miles this week than I have in any of the weeks in the past several months.

My legs…are…tired.

But you know what? It worked. At this point, as I write, the girls have all come out of the depths of swine and we are pretty much back to normal. Knock on wood, I am swine-free.

Is running the cure to the H1N1 virus? No, absolutely not. But I do think that it helped reduce the effects it had on my body. There is no way that I wasn’t exposed to it. I will admit now that I woke up both Wednesday and Thursday mornings with pounding headaches and I went to bed both of those nights with a very, very slight case of the sniffles, but it never got worse than that. The sniffles were gone each morning and the headaches went away with breakfast and coffee.

So if you feel a chill coming on or your nose is starting to drip, this is my prescription: Run once a day – either hard for 30 minutes or at an easier pace for 60 – 90 minutes. Either way, break a sweat – a real sweat.

You’ll thank yourself for it later.

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“You okay?”

“I don’t know.”

“You can do it…you’re doing great…you’re almost there.”

– A brief but repeated conversation between me and my competitors somewhere between mile 20 and mile 21 at the Manchester Marathon. My quadriceps has cramped up and I was barely hobbling along.

In my two recent races I was struck by the camaraderie and solitude that is running. We all run for different reasons and some of us are more competitive than others. Some run for the physical health benefits; others for the meditative qualities of the repetitive footfalls.

To say that I was almost there was not quite true. I still had nearly 6 miles to go. 6 miles! That’s a pretty decent distance for most people. On a good day I can cover that distance in just under 45 minutes. On that day, I was barely moving. I still had what would be almost an hour and a half of “running” in front of me. Yet here these people were, my competitors, slowing down to check on me, to see if I was “ok” and then shouting words of encouragement as they pressed on, leaving me to my lonesome struggle.

The overwhelming majority of us are not elite runners. The races we run we have no hope of winning, yet we run them anyway. We don’t race to win. We race against ourselves. Sure, we want to beat the person who has been running stride for stride with us for the last so many miles, but in the end, it is ourselves that we want to beat, whether it be a previous race’s time or the inner demon that says we can’t possibly finish. We ultimately run alone.

But as ridiculous as this sounds, we are not alone in our “aloneness”. Because we all have the common experience in trying to better ourselves, we develop an empathy for each other. I have found that the longer the races are, the more empathetic the competitors are. At the marathon level, there is the shared understanding that the last 10K of the race is an internal battle of will versus sheer exhaustion. One can talk about it and understand it intellectually, but I don’t know if one can understand it without going through it.  No matter the external encouragement, we must find the motivation to move internally; the twist being that the external encouragement can guide us to our internal motivation. It is the shared pain. If we see someone struggling in those last 6.2 miles, it is instinctive to lend a voice. I did it myself, despite the fact that I was struggling with my own physical crisis as I passed a runner worse off than me. He shouted back at me in a remarkably chipper voice, “You’re doing great!”

Imagine if everyone in the world ran a marathon at least once before they were 30, and maybe again as a reminder before 50. Would people in our country, our world be less alone and be more willing to work together? Would our politicians stop talking at each other and start talking to each other. One can only dream…

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