How much is enough?

•March 26, 2010 • 1 Comment

I recently picked up a copy of the Guide to a Strong & Healthy Oklahoma booklet that is being distributed (for free) to all Oklahomans.  It’s a great little gem of information about fitness opportunities, healthy eating, smoking cessation, and all around good health.  But something in it really bothered me.  In the booklet, it claimed that “to maintain your body weight you will need at least 60 minutes of physical activity at a moderate level each day.” It goes on to say “to reduce your body weight, 90 minutes or more of physical activity at a moderate level of intensity is needed each day.”

Normally I let things like this pass by without much thought, but this certainly bothered me.  For those just beginning a fitness or weight loss program, hearing something like that would be terribly demoralizing.  I know it would have been for me.  In fact, to be told that without 60 minutes of physical activity I’m going to get fatter would be terribly depressing.  Blanket phrases like this are what keep millions of Americans and thousands of Oklahomans away from a healthy lifestyle.  If people feel that if they can’t hit that magic number every day, they won’t even bother.  And honestly, I’ve lost a great amount of weight and I have never (okay, very rarely) worked out every single day of the week.  It’s not practical for my life as a professional and a mom. 

The Magic Number

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services releases their Physical Activity Guide for Americans every few years.  Their guidelines are as follows:

    • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.

    • For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.

    • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

      To me, this is reasonable.  Now, to explain further, their definition of activity is anything that is above baseline.  Baseline activities are those activities that you typically do on a regular basis as part of life, job, and family.  So for example, if you are a postal carrier and walk 2 miles a day, and have walked 2 miles a day for the past 10 years with no weight change, those 2 miles do not count as activity.  The problem with many diets and weight loss programs is that they will tell their participants that vacuuming or lawn mowing counts as activity.  That is only true if you don’t already vacuum.  So in my case, by the looks of my house, it definitely counts as physical activity!

      These requirements seem much more fluid and sustainable.  2 hours and 30 minutes translates into roughly 30 minutes, 5 days a week.  But there’s something that is very important to remember…

      Anything you do more than what you are currently doing is good!!

      If you haven’t been taking part in a physical activity program in a long time, you may find 10 minutes to be a challenge.  If that’s the case, then start with 10 minutes.  You will eventually find that you can make it 12, then 18, then 25, then 30….  The important point is to start.

      If weight loss is your goal, there’s a very simple way of doing the math.  If you burn more calories than you eat, you lose.  If you eat more than you burn, you gain.  This handy little calculator will help tremendously.  This will tell you how many calories, without any additional activity, you need to maintain your current weight.  So, to lose weight, you either need to eat less calories than the number it gives you, or burn some using…. yep!  Activity!!

      The key is to not let yourself get hung up on a number.  I’ve said it before, it’s not all-or-nothing.  If you need to have less than 1800 calories and you’ve already eaten 1850, a 10 minute walk is better than nothing!  Starting small and making sustainable changes in your schedule and lifestyle will be much more successful than setting up unrealistic demands on your time and body.  Do what you can and do it well – small changes will yield great results!!

      On the running front – tomorrow is a 12 mile training run.  I’m breaking it up and running a 5k that my church organizes to fund our church’s gym.  The proceeds help with all kinds of programs, but my favorite is the youth basketball and cheerleading programs aimed at getting children active early!  What are you doing this weekend to guarantee that you will be moving4life?  What are your struggles and successes? 

      Ignoring Adam Sandler

      •March 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

       

      I remember the first time I stepped foot into a gym and the overwhelming paranoia that enveloped me as I stared around at the various terrifying machines, weights and people that filled the busy room.  Suddenly the sound of Adam Sandler and the mom from Carrie filled my head…

      “They’re gonna laugh at you…. they’re all gonna laugh at you.”

      Man, was I terrified.  I suddenly felt self conscious in a way that I had never felt before.  All of my physical imperfections suddenly seemed gigantic.  I felt gigantic.  I felt like the fat lady from the circus and wondered when someone was going to give me a quarter.  It was horrible.  I managed to get onto a bike and pedal for about 5 minutes before my overwhelming insecurity caved in and I left.  It took me a week to go back.

      Now, the gym seems like an extension of my own home.  The people, the machines, even the smell is something that is familiar and welcoming.  But I still remember that feeling the first few times.  I’m not sure why, but it seems to be a common thread among those who don’t work out regularly.  I’ve heard it in many ways.  “I’ll start working out once I’ve lost some of this weight and feel more comfortable.”  “I don’t like the gym because I feel out of place.”  “I feel like everyone is staring at me.”  It’s common, but it’s not true.  So here’s some things to think about the next time you consider going to the gym and talk yourself out of it.

      All roads lead to Rome, just some cars are ahead of yours.

      Roads to rome

      Whether it’s the heaviest man on a treadmill, the skinniest female on the elliptical, the muscle bound man in the weights, or the elderly woman on the bicycle, everyone in the room is there for the same reason; to become or remain healthy!  Some people are a bit further in their journey to good health, but each and every person who is working out is aiming for the same prize.   Nobody is going to judge you for being there because they fight the same fight!  In fact, once you let your guard down in a gym, many times you’ll find that those same people who looked terrifying are often times the most supportive people in your quest to better health.  Some of the best advice I’ve received in my path have come from others who have fought these battles before me.  Muscles don’t magically appear.  So that muscle bound man or that tight-abs female has had to (and must continue) work very hard to look the way they do. 

      Looking is not judging

      I have to honestly admit that there have been times when I’m working out on a machine that I’ll sneak a peek at the machine next to mine.  So I did a little “research” and when I noticed others peeking, I talked to them.  And what did I find out?  That they do it for the exact same reason I do!!  You see, humans are very competitive creatures.  And we’re also creatures that can do wonderful things with a little encouragement.  Most of the time when someone peeks at your machine or watches you lift weights, it’s because they are using you to motivate themselves.  If I begin to fatigue while on an elliptical machine and I look over and the person next to me has gone for 55 minutes and I’m at 30, I tell myself “I can do that!”  Or if I see someone similar to myself doing a certain yoga pose, I tell myself, “I can try that!”  In most cases, when someone is paying attention to you while you are working out (barring the singles out there trying to see if there’s a ring on your finger), they’re looking for encouragement in you.  This is why group classes are such wonderful tools.  Individuals will challenge themselves more and work harder and longer in a group setting because of the presence of other people.  Nobody wants to be the one that quits, so watching and observing other people help keep us motivated to stick with it!!

      I had an interesting conversation with a fellow runner about clothing.  We both admitted that we are paranoid about our own clothing choices while running.  What shows bunches or creases or (ugh) rolls.  We both have clothes that we could never run in public wearing because they feel too tight.. too revealing.  Yet, if we saw someone else with the same body style wearing them, we wouldn’t even notice.  We are so much more critical about ourselves than others are about us.  You know that.  You don’t need me to tell you that.  But the key is to not allow those feelings of insecurity give you reason to not take the steps towards a healthier life! 

      Whatever it is you are considering doing for yourself, remember, this is a journey.  You may see runners who look lean and trim and think “I can’t be a runner, I don’t look like that.”  Or you might see a person in a yoga class doing poses you think you’ll never be able to do, but keep in mind that with effort and determination, you can.  What you see when you glance at a runner, a yogi, a person in a gym is a snapshot of their journey.  The same holds for you.  Don’t let today’s snapshot keep you from achieving the beautiful portrait that is inside!!

      Pinch Me

      •March 16, 2010 • 7 Comments

      Wow.  It’s been a while since I’ve talked to you all.  What a rush!  So today, instead of a highly motivational and informational blog, I’ll post an update so you know why I’ve been away.

      First, I got some incredible news last week.  I found out last week that I had been selected as a member of the Brooks ID program!!

      What is Brooks ID – well, I’ll let Brooks explain it (they do a better job, afterall).

      “Brooks I.D. stands for Inspire Daily. These two simple words guide the principles of the program. Brooks I.D. is made up of over 800 members who are active in their running communities and share a passion for the Brooks brand. They are runners who are winners in their own right: Winning their age divisions, accomplishing their personal goals, pushing their own limits, and, by extension, encouraging others to do the same. They are coaches, mentors, and leaders.”

      So to say I am honored and so very excited to be a part of such an incredible program is quite an understatement!  I love coaching runners.  I love coaching individuals to become more active and healthy in their own way, as well.  And even more so, I love helping moms feel empowered to create a family of healthy, active, energetic people who are able to enjoy life fully!  I’m anxious to see what the next year holds in store for my opportunities to continue helping and motivating other individuals, couples, and families to use running, fitness, and activity to give themselves and their families incredible opportunities!

      The first opportunity I had to run as a Brooks ID member was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon.   Okay, I have to admit this.. I didn’t tell anyone on any of my running groups that I was heading down to Dallas to do the Rock n Roll Half Marathon because I didn’t want to have to face anyone (even though NOBODY would have pointed and laughed) if I didn’t hit my goals. So in advance, I didn’t tell you that my previous half marathon PR was 2:12 and some change.. and I hadn’t ran a half marathon in almost 3 years. I didn’t tell you that I was hoping to break that PR and run a sub-2:10. I also didn’t mention that in my dream scenario I would run a sub-2.

      There was NO excuses to have a bad run. The weather was perfect. The course was a bit hilly, but only until mile 8 and the rest was downhill. I was hydrated and had eaten well. I’ve been training for a full marathon in April so I know I had the miles I needed. I had no excuse. So I got brave.


      I was assigned to corral 3. What??? That’s the 1:55-2 hour corral. Huh? Excuse me? So what did I do? I moved myself to corral 4. That’s the 2-2:10 group. Yep. That should be home. I met the 2 hour pacer and thought that I would just run with them for a while, until my toenails felt like they were cussing, then drop off. Loud music.. lots of noise, Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders,.. we were ready to go.

      My plan worked until mile 2. The pace group kept stopping at all the water stops.. and would almost walk at the top of each hill. The pace was a bit erratic, and I know my body, and I don’t do well with starting and stopping.. I waste more energy trying to get back to speed. So, I just decided that I would run what felt good and not stop until I needed to. If I felt out of breath, I’d slow down. If I felt good, I might pick it up. So after the water stop right before mile 3, I told the pacer thank you and headed on my way. I didn’t look at my Garmin again until mile 8 when we reached the top of the hill and I started feeling tired.

      I needed to run a 9:09 pace to run a 2 hour. I needed to run a 9:50 to set a PR. I know I had some wiggle room, and I was starting to feel tired. I was also trying a new tactic of not taking nutrition one until mile 8. So I pulled out my Accel-gel and looked at my watch. What? 8:40 overall pace? Okay, I could slow down for a little while. Wow! I walked through the water stop, took my gu, stretched my calf, and went on my way.. feeling a little better but still a little pooped.

      At mile 12, I looked again. I had literally 15 minutes to finish my last mile and break 2 hours. I saw a friend ahead of me that was beginning to run funny. I caught up to her, and she told me she was hurting. We walked for about a minute, and took off, albeit a little slower.

      But I finished!!! I set a PR!!!! A.. ready for this??? A 1:57:02 PR!!!!!!!! AND – at mile 10 they stopped us and made us wait for 3 police cars to pass. I now fully believe that 2 seconds is dedicated to the City of Dallas Police Department. Yep. But 1:57?!?!?! Whodathunk?!

      And to channel my inner Lisa – my shiny thing is REALLY cool!!

      It was great to run with some good friends from Tulsa – Congrats to the following Tulsa runners who finished Rock n Roll Dallas – Jennifer (PR!!), Tiffany (PR!!), Bret, Gladys, Dana, Jeremy, Jenny, Terri, Maria, Cathy, Daryl, Angi, Jeanean and of course, my sweet husband who ran it also, even with a sore back!

      So, it goes to show.. never underestimate what you can do.  13 miles is a lot of time for self-doubt, a lot!  To be exact, in my case, it’s now 1 hour, 57 minutes and 2 seconds of opportunities for self-doubt.  But I just kept telling myself “there is no reason why I can’t do this.”  That’s what it took.  If I allow myself to think about reasons why I should slow down (sore toe, thirsty, heavy breathing, shin tight), then I will slow down.  But if I remind myself that all of those things I can fix when I am done, then that gives me the power to tell those little inner voices of self-doubt to “Shup up!”  And it feels so good to squash them, so very, very good!

      So, what have you done to tell those inner voices to go away?  What are you doing to be active this week?  Keep it up, you’ll feel great!!

      Calendar Yoga

      •March 7, 2010 • 2 Comments

      Sorry again for the brief hiatus.  A few, all-too-short days after posting of my near death experience with the semi-truck known as a cold, I was visited by his cousin, the mini-van of death known as the stomach bug.  Yuck.  So a few days off from blogging and a few days off from running, and I’m back.  Not 100%.  But Back.

      Which leads me to this question for all you in bloggy-ville.  How rigidly do you hold to your workout and training schedule?  I remember in my “early days” of running, if my training schedule said run 3 miles today, I ran 3.  Not 3.1, not 2.9.  3.  Sick?  3 miles.  Tired?  3 miles.  Hurt?  3 miles.  3. 3. 3. 3.

      I thought that my schedule had to be kept.  I couldn’t deviate.  I couldn’t stray.  But now I’m learning that it’s really important to keep some flexibility in your workout and training schedule.  Why?  Good question.

      Flexibility allows you to take time to be human.  We get sick.  We get hurt.  We aren’t machines.  Sure, if you went outside and the lawnmower didn’t start, you kick it.  It’s supposed to start.  It’s not supposed to break.  But we are.  Even the best runners take time off for illness and injury.  I already talked about working out when you’re sick, but the same holds true for injuries.  Sometimes even a single day taken off of a sore leg can make a huge difference.

      Flexibility helps keep things fresh.  Life comes at you full force and sometimes with little warning.  If you are so rigid in your workout schedule that when opportunities or events come up and you refuse to allow some budge room, you will begin to resent your workout time.  It becomes another tedious task that you just try to get through so you can check it off.  Giving yourself the freedom to take a day off now and then keeps it in perspective.  Keep first things first!

      And lastly, flexibility helps eliminate the all-or-nothing perfectionist feeling that we sometimes fall into.  I’ve been certainly guilty of this one.  If the nursery comes and gets me when I’m 57 minutes into my 60 minute cardio hot-date with the elliptical, I often get frustrated like my whole workout is a failure.  Are you kidding me?!  Keeping flexible lets you celebrate the accomplishments you do and helps you worry about the minor shortcomings.  Afterall, 57 minutes is certainly better than nothing, right?

      Within limits, allowing a bit of flexibility and budge room in your workout and training schedules will help you achieve your goals better, even if it helps in the psychological battle.  Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you can “be flexible” right out of doing, oh, your 20 miler prior to a marathon.  But remember.  19.6 rounds right on up to 20, right??!

      Ok, quick celebrations for tonight –

      Congrats to Jan from Mississippi for an incredible, wonderful, Route-66-in-the-dust PR for the half marathon!  I won’t say her time, but let’s just say she’s thrown down the gauntlet and has set her sights on even faster!!

      Congrats to Jennifer for having ran the Little Rock Marathon today!  She’s working on her 50 states goal and is doing a great job!

      Congrats to about 30 of my twitter friends who ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon today!  Great job!

      Oh, and a non running one!  Congrats to my good friend’s daughter, Kate, who absolutely rocked her figure skating competition this weekend!  I know her mom is very, very proud of her hard work and dedication both on and off the ice (believe me, she talks about you ALL the time!!).

      Here in Oklahoma, we’re having some absolutely gorgeous weather!  It was great to get out and get a “short” long run in today!  What did you do to get moving today?  What will you do this week to keep moving?!  I’d love to hear your plans!!

      Did you get that tag #?

      •March 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

      The past couple of days I’ve been feeling like poo.  Literally.  Well, I feel like poo that got ran over by a truck.  A big one.  But luckily this truck only ran over the part of me from my neck up, meaning I sound like a frog with cotton balls shoved up my nose.  It’s quite a frightening sight as I stare at you while in a frankenstein like march to the multitude of Kleenex boxes I have stragetically placed throughout my home.  And yes,  I ran today.

      So what is the rule about working out while sick?  It depends on what sick means.  If you are throwing up.  Please don’t.  I don’t want to clean it up.  You don’t want to clean it up.  The underpaid college guy working at your gym really doesn’t want to clean it up.  Stay home.  Fever?  Same idea, but without the cleanup.  But aside from the “Hi, I’m contageous and leaking fluids” type of illnesses, working out while you are not feeling well is a very personal decision.

      I follow two rules, the “neck up” rule and the “downhill slide” rule.  Keep in mind, every illness is different and every athlete is different.  We all experience different levels of illness and our tolerance to those illnesses vary.  For example, I have had allergies since before I was born.  I have believed, at times, that I am allergic to oxygen.  Possibly sunlight.  At least 2-3 times a year I get a sinus infection that sidelines me for a few days and it’s painfully predictable.

      The “neck up” rule comes out of that allergy/sinus issue.  If I feel good from the neck down, I usually feel pretty comfortable working out at a modified pace or level.  However, if I have body aches or chills, fever, breathing troubles or stomach troubles, no way.  I stay home and work on getting better.

      The “downhill slide” rule says that if I feel like I’ve begun the backside of the illness, where every day I’m feeling a little better rather than a little worse, I feel comfortable beginning to work out again as long as I’ve passed the “neck up” rule. Again, this is a very modified workout and I take care to allow my body to fully heal before I start full force.

      There’s several reasons why it’s important to not push yourself while sick.   I’m sure you’ve all heard the reasonings that it robs the body of energy that you need to heal as well as the frightening examples of viruses spreading to the heart. Those are very valid reasons, but there are also other reasons that are particularly important to those of us training for long term goals and events that we don’t want to miss (marathons, weddings, etc).

      When you are ill, you simply are trudging by.  Your focus is altered and this can cause form to get sloppy.  This is even more the case if you are taking decongestants or medications that tend to make you drowsy.  Sinus infections and ear infections interfere with balance.   Most injuries during strength training are caused by poor form and can sideline you far longer than most minor illnesses.  Something as simple as a misstep during a typically easy routine can cause ligament and muscle injuries.  Also keep in mind that the way your body works during strength training relies on the idea of breaking down and healing.  Spread out your workouts a bit more while you are recovering because the body simply won’t have the ability to heal both the illness and the effects of your workout as efficient as when you are well.

      And please, keep in mind, if you believe you might be contagious and are sneezing, sniffling, or coughing, please don’t attend a class or visit a public gym.  Even if you wipe down the machine and weights 20 times, you are still spreading illness!  And always – wash your hands!!

      How do you adapt when you’re not feeling well?  What secrets have you tried to get you on the trails sooner when you’re under the weather?  I’d love to hear your advice!!

      Time, time, time, see what’s become of me

      •February 25, 2010 • 3 Comments

      Sorry it’s been a few days since I’ve posted.  I simply ran out of….. time.  Time.  Ironically we talk about it like it’s liquid gold.  “I ran out of time.”  “Can I borrow a minute of your time?”  And yet, it’s the one thing that we always seem to blame when it comes to not taking care of our bodies.  Recently it was suggested that I write about how my family makes time to be active and it seemed like such a simple idea.  But I realized, that it’s only simple because it’s become that way over…. time.

      During my no-so-fit days, I remember making the constant excuse that I didn’t have time to go work out.  My work schedule was hectic.  My family schedule was hectic.  I couldn’t commit to a day’s schedule more-0r-less a week or a month.  I had every excuse in the books and they were all painfully, well, valid.  And this was all before I had kids!  I was a married woman working a full-time job with hobbies and interests and activities.  I was busy.  I was also tired and exhausted most of the time.

      After my first son was born, some major changes had to occur.  Obviously.  I listened to the friends and family who said to take advantage of help when it’s offered.  I was grateful that I had people who gave me time to nap during those first few weeks when sleep seems like a cruel character in a strange novel.  Tempting, alluring, and always just out of reach.  I was also fortunate to have family who reminded me to take care of myself and to not feel guilty about it.  I thought I knew what they meant; showers, shaving, haircuts, makeup.  But little did I know that they also meant one of the most important aspects of me, my body.  Take care of myself.  Gasp.

      As mothers and wives, we find ourselves holding a double-edged sword.  We are women.  We want to have that same alluring, tempting, sexy side of us.  We want to be hot.  And not just slightly hot, but hot in that “I don’t care if you’re wearing flannel pajama pants, you’re hot!” kind of way.  And we know what it takes to get us there.  We’re not silly.  But we also know that the clothes don’t wash themselves, the food doesn’t cook itself and the children,  well, until they’re 30, they’re basically helpless, right?  We’re torn by our own need and desire to remain or become attractive and our responsibilities as wives and moms.  What’s a girl to do?

      Schedule Health

      Taking care of yourself requires that it become a priority.  Most of our calendars are filled with endless appointments, meetings, practices, games and activities for our family.  If you ever plan on maintaining a consistent fitness plan, you have to treat your workouts with the same respect that you treat your other activities.  Put it on your calendar.  Schedule around it just as you would any other appointment.  And most importantly, don’t feel guilty about it.  That doesn’t mean that you have to be rigid beyond compromise, but you have to remember that you are doing this for not only you but for your family.  I make it a point each month to write out my mileage plan on our calendar.  That way, anyone in my family can quickly see how much I am running that day and know how long it will take.  Scheduling an appointment with yourself is an easy way to enforce the idea that it’s something you value.

      Use Resources

      Everyone has reason why it’s difficult to get to a gym or workout facility.  Long hours, early hours, children, and location are all excuses we use to justify our lack of participation in a healthy lifestyle.  But these don’t have to be limiting factors.  Seek out locations and resources in your area that work with your schedule or situation.  Don’t have the funds for a gym membership?  Find a YMCA or YWCA and volunteer in exchange for membership.  Do you work strange hours?  Seek out a 24 hour fitness center or a small gym that offers keypad access after normal hours.  Small children at home?  More and more gyms are integrating childcare into their facility.  Plus, as a mom, what better example to set than to take your children with you to work out.  We are lucky in Tulsa that our local YMCA membership offers ChildWatch.  Our children can go and play and be active themselves up to 2 hours a day while I get a workout in.  Sure, the 24 hour gym may not have the fancy new equipment.  Yes, the YMCA may not have a million dollar cardio theater like the fancy gym.  But if the fancy gym can’t meet your needs, what good is it doing you other than draining your pocketbook and causing guilt.  The best gym to join is the one that fits the needs of you and your family so take the extra time and effort to find that perfect place that fits your family.

      Be Creative

      When all else fails, sometimes a mom just has to be creative to be active.  We’re good at that, right?  We can make dinner from 5 ingredients in the pantry, so this should be relatively simple if we allow it to be.  Fitness doesn’t have to mean a 4 mile run or an hour-long aerobics class.  The American Medical Association recommends an hour of physical activity 4 days a week.  But keep in mind, that hour doesn’t have to occur all at once.  10 minutes of playing tag with your kids counts.  30 minutes of raking leaves is definitely a physical activity.  For those of you getting snow this weekend, cleaning off your walkway is quite a workout.  If necessary, break it up.  If you don’t have time for a full hour in the morning, aim for 20 minutes and then work the rest out in the evening.  Do you work in a building with elevators?  Take the stairs.  Make decisions throughout your day that offer you a more active option than you would usually choose and you’ll find that magic hour will work itself in.  I challenge you to wear a stopwatch for a week or so.  Anytime you do something physical that you wouldn’t normally do, start the timer.  Sure, it’s not going to be as beneficial as your date with an elliptical machine, but it’s certainly more beneficial than the alternative.  Anything you can do to become less sedentary will reap tremendous benefits with your health.

      Involve Others

      Women are so motivated by guilt.  We all know it.  We can beat ourselves up over the smallest of events.   But instead of feeling guilty, take that desire for success to a different level and involve others.  Find workout partners or accountability partners that allow you to help each other to your goals.  These partners can be online or in-person, but find someone who you can be honest with about your fitness goals and struggles.  Having someone who I can go to and be honest with about my running has been an incredible motivator in my path to fitness.  It allows me to have those occasional whiney moments all while knowing that someone is going to push me in the end to get back out there.  However, make sure that you do not allow your accountability partner to pull you down.  This is especially a dangerous possibility of you think you have to workout with someone.  You’ll use their inability to attend a class or make it to the gym and excuse to slack off yourself.  That’s why I have found that running and working out with a group is much more effective than a single person.  If one or two people can’t attend on a certain day, I know that there will still be others who are ready to run.

      Whatever you do, make your health and your fitness a priority.  Small sacrifices now will save you from years of pain and discomfort brought on by a lifetime of inactivity.  As a nation, we’re seeing the quality of life diminish as we age because of our choices and priorities during our middle years.  Just as you would never consciously park your car in front of an oncoming train, don’t park your tush on the couch knowing what possibly (and likely) lies ahead!  You were created for so much greatness!  Grab onto it!!

      Monday (okay, Thursday) Medals!!

      The sign is there in case he forgot...

      Since I missed my Monday Medals (oops), I’m lumping a few things together today.  First of all, I’d like to congratulate our friend Brad for his amazingly successful “birth” as a triathlete!!  We were able to come and watch him complete the St. John’s Triathlon this past week and he did a phenomenal job!  Awesome job!  And great job to the others who competed this weekend – Monica, Carolyn, Amanda, and the other locals did a great job this weekend!

      And a good luck goes out to those racing this weekend!  One of my great friends, Kim, will be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon this weekend along with Jack and Connie.  Leslie, Stella, Penny and Shane will all be running the half marathon.  Good luck guys!  Have fun and celebrate for me when you’re done!

      Also, a special good luck goes out to Linea who is running the Gasparilla Half Marathon.  Linea has set a goal which is very much an attainable goal, so good vibes are going out to you for confidence and strength to hit that goal!  Good luck!

      Running Mt. Everest

      •February 19, 2010 • 3 Comments

      Tomorrow is one of the first of a few somewhat dreaded, but always necessary hill runs during my marathon training.  While the course at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is relatively flat, there are some hill sections and regardless, hill workouts are always a great way to increase strength and endurance.  One of my favorite routes for hills involves a local “landmark” known as “golf-ball hill.”   This little beauty invokes feelings of dread and fear in most Tulsa runners, but is the perfect hill for a challenging workout – not too steep, but long and steady.

      See that little “golf ball” at the top.  Yep.  You run from the bottom of that building (only half of it is showing, it’s actually 60 stories tall) all the way up a winding, turning path.  It seems to go on forever.  It really does.  So one might ask what would make a self-declared sane person decide to go up that monster?  I’m glad you asked.

      Why Hills??

      For one, hill workouts build strength in the same muscles used for sprinting.  Your calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes will all hate you when you’re done.  But you will love them and the way they work better afterwards.  They’ll forgive you.  You’ll find that not only will hills become easier, but you’ll also find an increased speed during sprints.  Basically, it’s a super-punch to your sprint time!

      Also, it strengthens areas that runners typically have problems with.  This is a double-edged sword, which I’ll get into later, but your hip flexors and Achilles tendons get a much greater workout on hills than they do on flat areas.  The constant stretching and flexing of these muscles during a hill workout help work these areas to their full range of motion, which is great (once the soreness goes away).  If you go about your hill runs properly, they can help reduce the possibility of injury in these two very injury-prone areas.  That’s always a good thing, right?!

      Another area that hill runs help with is the upper body.  Yes, it’s true.  Uphill running requires a slight modification to your form, which shifts the center of gravity slightly forward and requires you to pump those arms just a little differently.  Think of how different arm curls feel when you do them upright and then at an incline.  It’s the same idea here.  Your shoulders, chest, and trap muscles get a completely new view of running when you add an incline in there!

      Most of all, you’ll feel better.  I promise.  Once you’ve reached a point to where a particular fear doesn’t cause you to seek anxiety medication, you’ll feel the same way in a race.  That hill at mile 2 in your 5k suddenly doesn’t seem like such a monster when you’ve been conquering its big brother every few weeks.  In fact, you’ll even find that you become bored in races and runs that are completely flat and the slight variety that hills provide will become a welcome addition to almost any race.

      But how?  How on earth are you supposed to climb THAT?!

      Hill Tips

      1. The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is a lesson on running math.  Effort ≠ Pace.  Period.  When you start to climb a hill, attempt to maintain a constant effort but don’t worry about your pace.  Yes, you will slow down.  But unless you’re running a point to point course, you will make it up later so don’t worry about it.  Try to find a way to measure your effort; your breath rate, your heart rate, ease of talking.  Attempt to maintain the same amount of effort going up the hill as you were using on the flat areas.  Your body will become more and more efficient the more you train on hills, and you’ll find yourself getting faster, but it takes time!
      2. Form.  There are many opinions on the proper form for running hills, but I have found that I get a better workout and see better results if during the uphill I lean slightly forward, moving my center of gravity just barely over my toes more than my heels.  This allows me to increase my stride rate and shorten my stride length.  Again, constant effort not pace.   Some coaches will tell you to pump your arms up the hills, but what I like is the illusion of reaching for the invisible rope to pull yourself up the arm.  The goal is for your form to literally propel you up the hill rather than keep you set for just standing there.  On the way down, think the opposite.  Lean back just slightly and decrease your stride rate while increasing the length.  And most importantly, don’t let it get out of control!
      3. Don’t stop at the top! The tendency for runners is to get to the top of the hill and just stop, but this can only lead to more troubles.  Go past the hill just a while.  This will give your muscles a dynamic stretch and help break down and eliminate all that nasty acid that you felt starting to burn on the way up.  Stopping causes all that nasty stuff to pool in the muscles which could lead to cramping.  Keep moving and if you must stop, wait until you’re a minute or so past the top of the hill.
      4. Be careful on the way down.  The most common way runners get hurt on hills is from the downhill.  The forward jarring motion can be very damaging to the knees and the ankles.  Remember them?  They’re the ones who are still pretty angry at you from your trip up the hill.  Be nice to them.  Accelerate slowly into the downhill and try not to let your feel pound or slap on the way down.
      5. Stretch, stretch, STRETCH! As runners we all know to stretch.  And most of us tend to be really lousy about remembering to actually do it.  But after a hill run it’s especially important to baby those ligaments and muscles that you just put through the meat grinder.  Remember those two areas that we talked about before, the hip flexors and Achilles tendon?  Yep, they won’t like you if you don’t take a little time to give them some TLC after a hill run, especially.  This doesn’t have to be a 30 minute effort, either.  Just a few minutes of cool down stretching after a hill run will help guarantee that it won’t be your last hill run!

      But the biggest advice I can give on hill running is borrowed from Nike – Just Do It!  I promise you’ll be glad you did.  Even if you’re not a runner, building in a hill run or walk to your workout can lead to great changes in your body and strength!

      Oh, and a big congrats goes out to Stephanie who won the LogBook One.  I had my 4-year old draw from all the Twitter and comment entries and you’re the lucky winner!  Email your mailing info to shawna@moving4life.com and I’ll sent it your way right away!  Stephanie is training for her first half marathon in April!  Good luck!!!

      Don’t forget to send me your celebrations and accomplishments this weekend!  Let me know how your long runs and races go!  It’s important to take time to celebrate those victories along the way!!  Good luck to everyone running and racing tomorrow.  Oh, and a special good luck to our friend Brad who is competing in his first triathlon tomorrow!

      What are you doing this weekend to keep moving??