Thursday, June 13, 2013

FAQ #2 - How should I train for my first 5K?

Once someone figures out that they are going to continue a new running habit, the itch to measure their improvement doesn't take long to emerge. One of the most common ways to measure improvement is to do something that would have previously been impossible or terribly painful. A popular way for novice runners to do this is to race a 5k.

First off, this is a excellent goal. 5k's (3.1 mile races) are a great way to give yourself a boost of enthusiasm for your new hobby and get to know other runners in your area. I wager that I've done close to 50 5k's over the years, and I still enjoy doing them.

If you've just started running and are following something like what I recommend in Running FAQ 1, you are probably already covering between 1-1.5 miles every time you run. Since your goal is to conquer a set distance, you'll need to find out just how far you have to go to be able to complete 3.1 miles.

Measure out a 1 mile course with a tool like MapMyRun. If you are running on a trail, find a park map or something of that nature that you can guess'timate off of.  Once you have your course, start by running the length of time of your typical jog on your measured course and confirm how far you are actually making it on any normal run. This is your baseline distance.

On your next workout, run 2 minutes past that point. Why 2 minutes? Because I said so. Why not say something like "run an extra 200 yards"? Do you want to eyeball 200 yards at the end of a run?

 Let's say you ran exactly 1 mile on your baseline test. The next run should be 1 mile (one complete course) and 2 minutes. Use a landmark (tree, mailbox, street lamp) to remember this middle finish point. On your next run, run 2 minutes past that point, and so on until you reach 3 miles.

As you may have realized, this means some of your runs will end a bit out from where you started. Walking is a great way to cool down and ease out of a workout. Eventually you will switch from walking back to the start to walking the rest of the course and completing another mile.

 Add 2 minutes until you get can complete 3 miles. Complete 3 miles at least twice before your race so you aren't worried about being able to do it on race day. This will also give you the confidence to turn on the juice coming into the finish and sprint past that snarky neighbor of yours.

Feel free to post questions if you have any.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Running FAQ # 1 - How often should I run?

Running FAQ # 1 - How often should I run?

I've been running for over 10 years now, and I've had a lot of people ask me questions about running during that time. One of the questions I am most frequently asked is how often should a person run?

This is a loaded question, because it often comes without any added details, like "I'm running because I want to..." or "I have/haven't run on a regular basis before", "my left ACL isn't 100% intact" and the like.

Assuming the person is in "good" health (read: I don't think they'll pass out bending over to put on their shoes), I generally advise them to start running every other day for 10 minutes. Just head out the door whenever you like and run at your own pace for 10 minutes.

Why 10 minutes? 5 seems like a waste of effort to most people, and 15 sounds too much like 20, which to most people sounds like an hour. 10 minutes doesn't seem like too much of a challenge, but it isn't something that everyone is 100% sure they can do. They seem to want to try it just to prove they can.

The next questions is invariably "So, I just run?". Yes. Take a nod from Nike and just do it.

Don't worry about speed or distance; focus on how running makes you feel. Do you have consistent pain in one area? Does one leg or shoulder cramp up near the end of your jog? How measured is your breathing? Signs like these will help you figure out what you need to focus on as you add more time to your every other day routine.

Next FAQ - How do I prepare for my first 5K?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Hated My Runner's Body

Faking it. We've all seen it. That guy at the local 10K who is decked out from head to toe in the latest running garb, has a wrist computer roughly the size of a Jr. Whopper, and is doing some sort of aerobic routine al-la Richard Simmons to warm up. Most likely, this is his first rodeo, and he's trying to fake being in on this whole running thing. It's not the worst thing really. I'd much rather smile at that guy than grimace at someone toeing the line in hiking boots (I've seen this).

Sadly, I must admit that I have been faking. I've been faking about not being a runner.

For the last month or so, I've been keeping myself off the road for the sake of spending my athletic energies in the gym. My heart and mind are always on the road, but for the last little while my body has been leaving those two behind and started to head toward a stack of weights instead. I've always enjoyed cross training, but the only cross in this training was written over my running workouts.

Why? What led me to fake? It's because I have a runner's body.Yes, I can hear your scoffs, but hear me out.

Thanks to genetics and my chosen hobbies, I've always been a bit underweight, and my body has roughly the same contours as a sheet of printer paper. That quote from Once a Runner "Gaunt is Beautiful" comes to mind.

I'm not sure when it started, but I started to see this as a negative. I started to want a UFC/CrossFit-esk physique. Why you ask? Uh, have you seen those guys? They look powerful. They look aggressive. Their physicality effortlessly demands respect from those of us without so much muscle fiber. This started to bother me. Occasional "harmless" little jokes asking me when the last time I had a steak didn't help much either.

Alright, place your bets. Who's going down?


Truthfully, GSP isn't even a fair comparison among other UFC fighters. What a machine!

So, I made like a runner and put my time into strength training. I started getting into a rhythm, and kept up the momentum through some very unusual kinds of muscle soreness. I added 4 pounds in 3 weeks and could already see a change in my vanity muscles (biceps, delts, quads, etc.) .

The biggest change, however, was the inner conflict this lifestyle change created. I enjoyed the workouts, but not in the same way. I was always eyeing the treadmills or wondering how long it would take me to circle the gym 100 times. I missed running, but I stayed off the road because running isn't really known for helping you put on the pounds. I was slowly getting what I wanted, but I just didn't feel right.

Finally, I have had enough. I'm over this. I have realized that some of us are meant to look like we could take down a rhino with our bare hands, and some of us are meant to look like we might be recovering from a hunger strike. Life is too short to waste it trying to look like something I'm not. Changing your life based on your thoughts about your appearance is a losing game for everyone.

I am a runner, and I am ok looking like one.I hope others will read this and take more pride in their frames, regardless of its type.

I know it sickens some to hear that I am having trouble keeping weight on, but let this article serve as proof that body image issues affect the petite as well as the plump. The grass is always greener on the other side, but it's a bi*%h to mow on every side.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Faith in the Wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing

Bombs at the Boston Marathon. I was at a loss.

It has taken me a few days to decide what I really feel and what  I really want to say.

First I felt angry and wanted to rant. I wanted to write pages on how I hoped and prayed that God's justice would be swift and heavy. I wanted to see God come out with some Old Testament style vengeance and fast. But then I remembered my Romans.

Then I was sad and wanted to pout my heart out. I was broken when I heard that an 8 year old boy was the first to die. I'm expecting my first child in June, and my wife has often encouraged me in my running by saying how fun it will be to race with my child cheering me on. The image of that dream was shatter with one headline.

Then I started to read things from writers much better than myself. Writers like Donald Miller who wrote this post about the goodness of all people. That gave me some much needed Godly perspective.

Then I saw cartoons like this one, reminding me how Americans have a history of stepping over old differences and pulling together during rough times. That made me feel proud of where I come from.

Image Credit:  cartoonist Bill Bramhall of Daily News

So, what am I feeling now? A strong sense of conviction. About what exactly?

That this is another example of how much this world needs a God who begs us to love one another.

That there will be more good than bad that comes from this when it's all said and done.

That we will never really know why all this happened and that we don't need to know, because this is not our world.

I am convicted that whoever did this picked on the wrong country, the wrong city and certainly the wrong sport.

I am convicted that Boston and its wonderful marathon will rise up from this.

Above all, I am convicted that God would want us to go on loving each other, running until our legs can't carry us any father, and doing whatever we can to promote a world where nobody would ever want to do something like this again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I'm Back

So, I've been slacking in terms of both blogging and running. Both streaks are finally being broken.

In the last 2 weeks, I've managed to drag my sorry butt out of bed before 5:30 and run before work 5 times. The first few days weren't pretty, but I got through them.

The weekend forecast told me my plans for a long-ish Saturday run would be thwarted. God smiled on me and gave Lexington, KY the warmest day it has had in months. I ran 6 hilly miles - the longest I've been on the road for more than a month.

Getting back to my favorite sport is like returning to my home town. After the feeling that the old has become new again, I start settling back in to the rhythm of things. I remember what it feels like to be what I consider to be "me" again. And that is a most welcomed feeling!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Need to Fall

I have fallen down on a run before. Most of runner have. Depending on the speed, terrain, and how far into the run one is, falls can take quite a toll on a runner. I've seen a fellow marathoner fall as we crossed a wet foot bridge. He got right back up and kept on going. I've seen a friend take quick slip down a hill that ended that days training, forcing us to walk back the way we came.

Falling seems bad. You were headed in one direction, and then you're not. You were doing what you thought was right (it is widely acceptable to move during a run), and now you're not. You weren't in any great amount of pain, and now you are. Falling seems bad.

So, why is this article entitled "The Need to Fall"? Who needs to fall? You do. We all do.

Sometime we are unknowingly running, physically or metaphorically, in the wrong direction. Sometimes we're just headed there too fast. Sometimes we're on the wrong path altogether, or one that is just too dangerous.

Why would we do such obviously stupid things? We're sinners, case you haven't heard, and that's what we do. Like it or not, we will lead ourselves down dangerous paths. Even those of us who love Christ with all of our hearts have taken our eyes off the cross and ignored the light on our path from time to time.

Falling forces us to stop, collect our thoughts, and make a decision about what to do next. Although we'll deny it, God knows we need to do all of those things more often than we'd like. Hopefully, the fall wakes us up to what He has probably been silently suggesting all along.

Anyone who has ever run towards the cross can tell you about times they have fallen. That's the story of belief. Anyone who still believes can tell you about a time they have fallen and managed to get back on the right path. That's the story of faith.

Anyone know what I'm talking about?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Best Training Tools I Know

I want to share the best training tools I have for just about every athletic thing I do. I'm going to try to make this useful and information without giving too much detail.

Pace Calculator -
This pace calculator thing is amazing. It can help you prepare for target pace workouts or give you a great breakdown of race performance.

Course Map -
 MapMyRun - Works great and is very accurate. Very few glitches.

Self Therapy -
My wife got me a Trigger Point Cool Roller last Christmas and it has quickly become an invaluable tool. Rolling is a great way to speed up recovery after a hard set or a really long workout. You can roll-out more areas of your body with a traditional foam roller  (cold stainless steel doesn't feel good on my hips and it's too small for my back), but the cold really helps large muscles in the legs.

Music -
I just have a regular iPod shuffle, but a waterproof one might be a good idea if you want to use it in the pool (Triathletes).

Running Headphones - I use iRun earphones and they work perfectly. I love the short cord. I hear great things about JayBird's and YurBuds.

Here's a tip -Combine the iPod shuffle and iRun earbuds (or something similar) and attach them to a thin, elastic hairband (like some soccer players wear) to hold the combo onto the back of your head. It works great for times when you don't want to wear a hat and it works MUCH better than attaching it to your shirt collar.

Protein -
I tend not to like products with 50 mystery ingredients, each consisting of 10-15 syllables, that were all created in a dark lab somewhere (call me crazy), so I steer clear of the typical protein powders. Raw Meal tastes great and is holistically good for you. If you have the wallet, Vega Sport products are supreme.

Diet -
If you have a smartphone, the My Fitness Pal app is a great tool. It has virtually any food you can think of in its database. You should still check the numbers out if you think something is way off. I found a few numbers that were wrong on a kind of pasta sauce I used and corrected my sodium intake by 500 mg.

Note - My Fitness Pal will let you input exercise to measure calories burned, but strength training and such will show up as 0 calories burned  no matter how of long of a session you input. You have to put that time in the Cardiovascular section under Circuit Training. I simply estimate the amount of time I spent "in" activity (not resting) and use that. This gets you "pretty close" and I tend to find it showing fewer calories burned off than seems logical.

I'll try to follow this post up with another installment in a few months.

Please post your favorite gear in the comments so I can try it out.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Everyone Needs A Lance Armstrong Moment

Let's get the obvious out of the way. 

  • Lance lied.
  • Lance cheated.
  • Lance fell in love with his perception of control over his life.
  • Lance intimidated, mocked, and ruined the reputations of others to protect his lies.

Lance said several things during his interview that I found to be very revealing: 

  • It was truly win at all costs. 
  • I was used to controlling everything in my life, every aspect.
  • Anger. Betrayal. Disappointment. 
  • I will spend the ready of my life trying to gain their trust back. 

Despite what you might think, even the best of us aren't much different than Lance. In fact, one of Christ's closest followers shares one of Lance's most prominent shortcomings. Lying.

In Mark 14, Peter does what many would consider unthinkable; He publicly denied Jesus while Jesus himself was in the room! He did it 3 times! Lying in front of Jesus is bad, like 2 foot-long chili-dogs before an aerobics class bad, but what makes it even worse are Peter's previous statements about lying. 

 In Mark 14:31, Peter boldly states "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you". And then he does it. He denies Jesus the very night he swears he never will.  Why? To protect himself from certain death. For Peter, it was truly live at all costs. Sound familiar?

I can't make St. Peter out to be the only liar, and none of us should make Lance out to be the only liar. Neither Peter nor Lance has a monopoly on their bad traits. Let's Any why not you? How about every red-blooded citizen of Earth? 

Try speaking these words without lying:

I have never tried to control something so obviously out of my control. 

How did that go? Not so well? Thought so.

For those of you who could use some truth, admit that you fight against God for control. Despite God's obvious power and might (remember that creating the universe bit He did awhile back?) your actions reveal that you think you can run your life better than He can. Admit that you too struggle with control issues.

I could go on with parallels, but I want to get to the most powerful words I heard last night. 

What Lance did was wrong. Lying is wrong. Cheating is wrong. The way he treated others who tried to expose him is wrong. But, he (finally) admitted it last night, 

"I am flawed. Deeply flawed".

He has admitted the truth.

Jesus wants very little from us in return for so very much. He wants us to come to Him and say "I am flawed. Deeply flawed. I need your help. Come into my life and take control. I love  you". In return, we receive eternal life. Nice deal, huh?

Many of us have no problem with loving Jesus. It's relinquishing control and admitting fault that most people struggle with. Without those two things, complete surrender to Christ is impossible, and without surrender, salvation is impossible.  

Take a minute to consider your actions, all of them, thoughts included. Consider them how God might consider them. If you're honest, you won't like what you find. 

Maybe you should think about sitting down and confessing a few things. Maybe you and God need to have a Lance-Oprah type conversation. I doubt it will air OWN, but they'll be running reruns of it in heaven for centuries to come. Trust me, you'll get tons more viewers!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Path Less Traveled

I love trail running. It excites me in a way that road running or track simply cannot. Trail running asks you to make your way back to the place you started following a single path that is always changing. Something about that appeals to me.

I've been reading more about the idea of a path or a way recently. An an Asian Studies major at Furman University (Go Paladins!) I studied many Eastern philosophical ideas that included concepts of a way. Most notably, the Dao De Jing speaks of how all things in the universe are connected to the Dao (way). It also heavily discusses the idea of Way-making.

As I understand it from the Dao De Jing, Way-making is something like living a just or righteous life. A life lived in the Way is a life lived in accordance with the laws of the universe. One of the central ideas is that one should have respect for everything (and I mean everything) in the world because all things are interconnect and depended on one another. There is no secret to Way-making; no step-by-step guide or score card to prove your Way-making worth. It's an intangible ideal at which to grasp.

There is a similar idea in the Christian faith largely based on the idea of righteousness. Christians are called to seek God's will in every decision in their pursuit for righteous action. Many people stress over major life decisions in fear that making the wrong choice will permanently move them off the righteous track and place them on the non-righteous or less-than-optimal righteous track. In this mindset, Christian Way-making, if you will, depends on each and every decision you make being the most righteous one available.

Pastor Ken Wytsma (a new favorite of mine) has taught on decision making and the will of God through Proverbs. After listening to his sermons, I realized that the commonly held belief  that righteous living can rest on any one decision, even a major one, seems at odds with the way God operates. Ken's teaching helped me see that God's view of righteousness is most likely more about staying on a righteous path than taking every single righteous step possible. Just like in trail running, the point is to get to the end, not to take every correct step as you move down the path. Trying to do that would be insane! Yet, that's pretty much what we are trying to do in stressing about every decision we have to make.

Christ's sacrifice paid for all of our sins, forever. His sacrifice protects us from God's wrath no matter how many missteps we made in our trek towards righteousness.The only turn we have to ensure that we make is to repent (Repent is a translation of shuwb; a Hebrew word meaning "to turn back") towards Christ. Once that turn is surely made, if you stay on a courses headed towards Christ, no one step can derail you.

Stop stressing, enjoy the views around you and focus on getting home in one piece.