I Took the Day Off

I shut my alarm off at 5:27 this morning and rose from bed to put on my workout clothes.  Around 5:33 I returned to bed and slept until 7 o’clock.  And I feel great about it!

Just a few weeks ago, I went to a 100K trail race and dropped out at 40 miles.  Any time I drop from a race without finishing, the first few moments after shutting it down and starting the walk of shame to the nearest aid station to find a way to the finish area and my gear, I second guess every step away from the race course.  Am I really in bad enough shape to need to drop?  Am I sure that I can’t muscle through the next hour and see if I feel better on the other side?  And so on…

 

 

 

 

 

Over the course of the last 16 months I’ve had injuries that have left me searching for even back-to-back days where I could run pain free.  Rising before the sun and running for hours in the dark has been a true test of endurance as I truly believe that this process of goal setting and doing the work it takes to achieve them should always have an over-arching focus of positive health.  Running injured for me is very much a gray area.  If I can see and feel that the injury and its symptoms are decreasing and my over-all health is increasing then I’m all in.  When it’s the opposite, I really sit in a dilemma.

Leading up to the 100K race, I was in the best shape I’ve been in over the last year or so.  My tendon or ligament strain in my groin area was almost totally gone and I was running pain free with just small amounts of soreness after really long, long run efforts on the weekends.  However, with a very challenging course that went either up or down with little flat sections, I could feel the ligament begin to weaken and tire by mile 20.  By mile 25 it was painful and by 30 it was hard to lift my right leg to run uphill and also hard to stride out on the downhills.  My hope was to get to 40 miles or more before feeling that set in so as to only have to push that last couple of hours.  At mile 40 I dropped from the race and still questioned my toughness until returning home and running my first couple of easy recovery runs that next week.

I’m confident I made the right decision as just today am I beginning to feel like I was before that race.  I do believe that had I run another 10 miles to, “tough it out,” I’d be taking a large amount of time off while trying to heal from a major injury.  Instead, I’ve come back slowly over the last two weeks and now I’m starting to think that I may be seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

And so this morning, I opted for more rest as I was able to run a very good long run on Saturday followed by a good hour on Sunday.  But I could feel the fatigue and the drain of wading through the muddy waters of trying to make positive gains, not detrimental ones.  That fatigue can sometimes be just as mental as physical.  Even as a boy, I once broke my arm when I jumped out of a tree from a limb that was quite too high.  On the way to the hospital I fell asleep in the back of our car.  I’ve always used sleep to recover and gain strength.  My mood is lighter, my outlook brighter, and my body feels the best it has since those tough 40 miles of racing.

And so I’ll hit up my strength training routine this afternoon.  I’ll eat well, drink well, stretch well, and find confidence in that sometimes the hardest decision is to see the big picture and know that something that may be perceived as a weakness, will in the end, be found as a strength.

The strength needed to make decisions based on your own health and wellness, goals, and desires is truly as important as the physical training it takes to do so.  I hope you are able to find inner strength to push through, to pull back, and to reassure yourself consistently that you are better for it.  Better for all of it.  And that you pass that strength on to others who need as much as you and I.

See, Believe, Achieve

Our college coach was very keen on the importance of positive self-talk, the power of the mind on performance, and visualizing to realize your goals.  Coach Johnson would always repeat, “If you can see it, you can believe it, if you can believe it, you can achieve it.”

As we enter into another New Year, many of us will begin to think more intently on our health and fitness goals for the upcoming year.  On January 9th we begin a Clinic Series entitled, “The Best You Yet.”  Our first clinic will focus on goal setting.  Many times, it seems that people set goals so far out there that they can’t even see them.  Sure every once in a while someone comes along with enough gusto to achieve the seemingly impossible.  But for most of us, setting a goal of running a 100 Miler doesn’t make sense if we’ve yet to even begin running let alone run our first 5K.

I look at goals like a road trip.  The end result can be miles and miles away but in the mean time there are mile markers, exits for bathroom breaks and food, and maybe even a side-stop at a friend’s place.  Having a goal without waypoints is a sure way to get lost.  Join us for our first clinic where we’ll help you set your goals on waypoints.  Set your sights on reasonable adventures that help you stay motivated, injury free, and more importantly, keep you moving forward toward your end result.  Being able to see each goal will help you also be able to believe and achieve.

Comfort

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We just kicked off the return of our weekly “Adventure Run.”  It used to be called Monday Mayhem and happened at night.  One winter, on a record-cold day, and one of the coldest days we’ve had in the last 50 years, many running stores around the United States closed their doors.  They posted announcements discouraging people from going outside for anything and especially, a run.  Instead, we posted our Monday Mayhem time and place and had 9 people show up and snowshoe across a frozen lake in George Wyth State Park in the coldest temps they’ll ever run in.  Ever!

Since adding another group run on a week night as well as having our children and not wanting to be out so much at night, our Monday Mayhem went quiet.  We started, “Tenacious Tuesday,” in hopes of filling the void that was created when we took away a group run that wasn’t normal.

So this past Tuesday at 5 a.m. 20 people showed up.  We ran two miles of dirt trail in the dark w/ headlamps before coming to the end of the trail.  There we put our outer garments in a water-proof bag, inside a canoe and then we put on life-vests and plunged into the 50 degree lake water!  It was 30 degrees windchill.  I was up until 11:30 the night before with my nephew Scott paddling the canoe across the lake and into position, then marking the trail run w/ flags, then setting up camp.  We slept outside under the stars as the winds blew 30 mph and the temps sank.  Then we rose at 4:15 a.m. to get ready for the fun.

I was nervous.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being the one to try to stretch people.  I love stretching myself.  But doing so at such an extreme level made me uneasy.  Never do I want anything bad to happen to others.  But I believe that sometimes the risk is worth it.  Sometimes, I think it’s needed. But I wasn’t even sure that anyone would dare join me.  The alternative was a simple turn-around and two more miles of trail back to the cars.

Our society is comfortable.  I grew up in a home that was heated with a wood stove and had no air conditioning.  In winter, you chopped, loaded, and stacked fire wood.  In summer you wet your hair down before bed, slept on top of the sheets and used a box fan to cool off long enough to fall asleep. We all say things like, “it’s good for them,” while raising our kids but when I look at how my children are growing up, they still have much more comfort than I did.  And I’m not sure I’m happy with myself because of this.

In such a period, people don’t have the willpower to sort through the barrage of options, and they default to the kinds of things that please their biological cravings (food, sex), or the kinds of pursuits that have been desired by humanity for thousands of years (wealth, fame, power).
 Kyle Eschenroeder.

And so it seems that if we were to really answer with honesty, our comfort has dulled our desire to push, to strive.  And that’s possibly the biggest reason why so many struggle with trying to create a healthy life style.  With trying to help those around them be healthy and truly happy.  If those of us who know the fight had a nickel for every time someone has said to us, “Oh, I wish I had your energy.”  We’ve forgotten what struggle truly is or how much struggle we can handle.  Which, by the way, is way more than many of us think it is.

“[W]e go to far less trouble about making ourselves happy than about appearing to be so.”
–La Rochefoucauld

We associate security and comfort with happiness.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” -Hellen Keller

And so on Tuesday at approximately 5:22 a.m. on the shores of a lake in Iowa, those who had arrived in the dry, heated comfort of their cars, left comfort behind and jumped into the cold, dark waters.  And for the hours of days since then, I’ve felt more awake and motivated than prior to daring to adventure.  And I hope that next Tuesday arrives with another parking lot full of individuals ready to leave the comfort of their warm cars for a chance to stretch themselves, to find greater will power, and to become more of who they desire to be.

 

 

It’s Confirmed

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It’s confirmed.  Well, it isn’t good, I mean it’s not that bad but let’s talk about this for a minute.  I’ve got some man belly!  Hey it’s not the end of the world, I’m 43 years old and still in pretty good shape.  I’ve been blessed to be able to stay active for almost my entire life thus far.

I’ve had a few injuries, and almost ten years ago, I suffered from Epstein Barr which is a virus like mono that knocked me out for an entire two years!  But, I was younger then and my metabolism ran like a scolded dog.

Last September I injured myself the way all 40 somethings do.  I ran a hard run in the morning and then after work I moved our children’s bedrooms around by lifting awkwardly shaped, heavy objects by myself, up a spiral staircase.  The next day I was sore and wondered why for a moment until I rewound the day before and figured it out.  It’s been almost a year and I trained injured for a while and then took almost two months totally off from activity.  I’ve been biking and think the injury is finally almost gone so I’m starting to increase how much I’m running and doing.  BUT, yesterday I happened a glance in the mirror after my shower and I could see a little belly fat!  Ok, so you say, big deal, join the club…  I get it.  It’s not the end of the world but it is a change from the norm for me.

I was once in the Ankeny YMCA to do some swim training w/ my coach and ran into a friend named Josh Wandrey.  “Hey Josh, what’s up man?  You training for something specific?”  Josh replied, “Nope, just trying to look good naked.”  You know what they say about sex…  it’s like pizza, some is better than others, but it’s all good.  Now naked bodies might be the exact opposite.  I once heard a talk show host say that it was a shame that what we think looks good and what we think feels good when the lights are off are many times, two different things!  So I’m not saying that I look bad or good or even what we all should look like.  What I’m saying is that my body has changed, I’m less fit, and I’m carrying around some extra weight that isn’t going to help me get back to where I’d like to be.

The plan for the removal of this most unwelcome companion???  The same as any logical, well-thought, incremental plan, slow but steady improvement.  You see, I could freak out and try to cut half my caloric intake and end up lacking energy and probably get sick or injured again.  I could go hog wild on the core/abs work and hurt myself more to the point of not being able to do anything.  I could even just say the heck with it, give up and resign myself to be a normal 43 year old that buys some sweet new clothes that help me feel better.  Instead, I’m going to eat half as many peanut butter cookies as I usually do before bed.  I’m going to do 2 minutes of planks a day.  I’m going to drink one more liter of water a day.  I’m going to keep up on my PT so that my injury doesn’t linger.  And just a few weeks from now, I hope to get a side glance in the mirror and notice that my unwelcome friend has gone home.

Giving 90%,    100% of the time is way better than 180% for two days or two weeks.  It takes positive self talk, disciplined habit making, and a desire to achieve YOUR personal goals and not the goals for most of those around you.

It’s the Fight

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Shout out this morning to one of our own!  He had his dog stolen and missing for two weeks, but was able to find him and bring him home yesterday.  He brought him home 20 lbs. heavier and with a shaved coat and dyed hair.  The dog and owner knew each other no matter the change in appearance.

I love dogs.  I love animals.  For many reasons.  But, I think one of the main reasons is that no matter how old they are or how rough life gets for them, they always seem to keep their same demeanor.  They always love those they’ve always loved.  They always play just like they’ve always played.  And they always seem to be ok even when they might not be.  That’s a hard order for most of us humans for sure.

As Mike got his dog back I got to thinking about that fight that dogs have, the fight that Mike had to find his dog instead of giving up the search, and the fight that we all face daily and for a lifetime.  We’ve all heard the quote, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of fight in the dog.”

As we head into Summer, we hope that you can find your “inner dog,” your “inner animal,” and keep your wits about you as you gain motivation to make positive change in your life.  Move more, love more, reassure more, and remind yourself that no matter how old, you still got fight in ya.

Congratulations Mike!

Using Recovery to Dictate Pace

A common question I get when coaching athletes is “how hard” or “how fast,” when speaking to a workout and its effort level.  There are times that I plan a workout w/ specific paces and times so that it is more of a mental challenge along w/ the physical effort.  Other times, I plan workouts that are based on perceived effort so they might have a day to relax mentally and just give a good effort without trying to hit specific times.  I’ve seen persons respond better to one or the other.  For example, I know a woman who was an elite marathoner that made multiple USA teams that only trained by effort.  She never did pace workouts.  She said she gave better/higher effort if she didn’t track pace.  I know other athletes who will fudge a workout and their effort if they don’t have set times and paces.

You probably know which type of athlete you are.  To understand how hard of an effort to give on a workout that doesn’t specify pace, here’s a quick lesson on pacing.  You might use the words “moderate”  “hard” or “fast” and easy for recoveries but if you track the timed efforts and the specified recovery, you’ll know how to approach each workout.

Full Recovery-
If a workout suggests longer amounts of recovery w/ short efforts… GO HARD
When taking full recoveries, the goal is to run fast and get the legs moving.  That increases running economy which helps you run smoother, longer during future efforts and races.

One-to-One Recovery-
If your workout has 1-to-1 recoveries based on time… i.e.- 60 seconds hard/60 seconds easy or 3 min. hard/3 min. easy… GO HARD BUT NEVER SLOWER.  Gauging effort based on whether or not you can maintain the effort/pace is a great way to make sure you don’t go too hard, too soon and die a slow death the second half of your workout.

Incomplete Recovery-
If a workout suggests short amounts of recovery and longer amounts of effort… PACE YOURSELF
The goal of a workout w/ short amounts of recovery is to slowly build lactic acid amounts into your system and allow your body to get better and better at clearing that lactic acid.  Going too hard, too early will only build too much lactic acid that your system won’t be able to clear.  You’ll slow down more and more and gain hardly anything from the workout.

Example:  I’ve been getting workouts with the same interval efforts but with differing amounts of recovery.  20 seconds hard w/ 40 seconds easy is going to be run a bit easier than 20 seconds hard w/ 1:40 easy.  If I have 30 seconds hard with 30 seconds easy, I’ll run them hard but not so hard I die.  If I were to have 30 seconds hard w/ 2 min. easy then my effort would definitely increase as I’d have more time to recover and get ready for the next effort.

Use these rules of thumb in your training and you’ll find that the workouts pay huge dividends.  Just remember,

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One Moment

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As I was threatening our son w/ a spanking because of continued whining, I had to pause and take a moment to step back.  We haven’t given spankings in quite some time.  We’d decided as a family that the goal is to teach our kids the rights and wrongs of expected behavior and not hand out physical punishment.  We do timeouts at the kitchen table or in their bedrooms as a means for them to do exactly what I had to do this morning, take a minute and reflect before proceeding with a more positive plan.

After a pause, I said, “I didn’t mean a spanking, I meant a time out…”  I explained that the whining simply needs to stop and we moved on throughout our morning.  I felt a little silly but more frustrated with myself for threatening instead of teaching.  I’m not the most laid back sort you’ve ever met so thinking before acting is a daily challenge that I continue to work on.  The biggest reason I continue to work on this is those, “moments,” past, present, and future.  The moments that impact others for better or worse.

Running allows us a time to work on these moments.  Hardly any of us run all of our runs w/ others.  That means that we have times where it’s just ourselves with our own inner thoughts.  Those times are ripe for self-reflection, improvement, and pause.  As we breath in and breath out, as we take in our scenery, and as we examine all the daily scenarios that we face, I hope we can remind ourselves that every moment can have a positive or negative impact on others and ourselves.  I hope you do a much better job than I.  And I hope that you find incredible moments where your plans that were hatched from a run on your own, yield wonderful results.

Do Not Conform, Be Transformed

 

9bd0eb61aaf569a9b5564abde58cf146  As we’ve been preparing for our upcoming clinic at the store, we’ve spent a lot of time mulling the intricacies of what makes a successful plan.  Over and over again, we see that it’s not the plan itself but the details that support it.  Those details can be broken into two categories, Your Basic Needs and Your Family.  We all know that if you come from a good family, those Basic Needs are probably being met.  What’s awesome about this is that by taking care to surround yourself with a good family you essentially get two birds with one stone.  Surround yourself with the right people and you’ll find yourself doing more and more of the right things.

Sure, someone can go ahead and try to pump themselves up day after day, trying to imagine that it’s them against the world and that they got this all on their own.  In the end, even the ones that seem to have it all together and appear to be so strong, have a supportive family supporting them.

For children, basic needs would be food, clothing, and shelter.  For athletes, that looks more like eating right, drinking right, sleeping enough, and taking care of their body that they subject hard training to.  Burning the candle at both ends is in our culture’s blood but it doesn’t yield great results for endurance athletes.  Many times, it yields injury, fatigue, burn out, and unachieved goals.  Flipping the script on goals left unattained is done by ensuring that your family has your back.  Does yours?!

In an article found on the Becoming Who You Are website, Hannah Braime lists the 5 Types of People that you want in your tribe.  Surprisingly she includes the nay sayers in that list.  When you think about it, there are some people in your life you might never be able to get away from…  Family, co-workers, professional or academic relationships etc.  If you look through the 5 Types of People and make an honest list of the people you have around you and what type of person they are, you’ll have a great start to figuring out if you’re moving in the right direction.

I got nothing for you when it comes to how you go about populating more people in the first 4 categories and less in the 5th.  Sorry.  What I can tell you is that polite silence can speak volumes.  Decreasing your involvement with those who will bring you down will free up more time to spend with those who can pick you up.  And that doesn’t mean that you can’t bring others along with you.  It means, that you should pay attention to those who either help you out or allow you to help them.  That’s how a team works.  Cutting ties with some (not all) of those who simply won’t be positive isn’t easy but I’d dare to say that it’s necessary.

Being transformed is to change your character or condition.  Conforming is to follow or move over.  If we desired no change, we wouldn’t set goals.  Setting goals is to acknowledge that we desire change, progress, renewed success.  Before you continue to push towards your goals, take a look around you.  Take a look behind you.  Do they got your back?!  Good, now go get em’ tiger!

 

 

Chomolungma

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EVEREST

The past few years I’ve been blessed enough to be allowed the opportunity to volunteer with our local high school boy’s track team.  I show up when I can, try to stay out of the way, and offer help where it seems it might be needed.  Mostly, I’ve worked with the athletes on visualization and positive mental tenacity.

As I’ve aged I’ve been able to see more and more the positive effects of being an endurance athlete.  If I’d known then what I know now about endurance, about myself, and about how life seems to be one practice run after another with higher and higher stakes, I might have approached the process w/ less stress and more courage.  When we take away the stress of a time goal and replace it with the goal of pushing ourselves to our capacity to ensure that that capacity continues to increase and strengthen, we begin to feel more empowered and optimistic within ourselves.

This past Saturday night I had a team dinner w/ the track guys prior to a Run Club send off to one of our own who continues to push his own capacity!  Andy is climbing Mt. Everest, “Chomolungma,” this May!  As we had a light-hearted dinner w/ the guys, I made an attempt to not let the significance of the evening be lost and gave each athlete the letter below.

Tonight, after you leave here, there’s another group of people coming in for a going away party. The person of honor is a professor at UNI who will be climbing the North Face of MT. Everest in May. Andy and his cousin will be the first Iowans to climb the North Face and will also be two of less than 50 total persons to ever do so. Ever. He’s a track guy. He ran track for UNI actually. Two weeks ago Andy finished his first 50 Mile Trail Race. But that’s not even the real story here.

He and his cousin are climbing Everest and raising money for Military Veterans who suffer from PTSD. Andy also leads adventure trips for veterans that help them find normalcy in the adventure of the outdoors. He’s using his own motivation to be better, seek adventure, test himself, and be brave to help others do the same.

You see, eventually running won’t be just about how fast you run or what place you finish. Eventually, running will be about the things you learn from running, not the running itself.

Are you willing to run in the wind and rain and snow and cold? Are you tough enough to go one more mile or one more repeat when you’re in pain, tired, or having a rough day? Can you be happy for the teammate that beats you because he set a pr? Can you deal with having a bad race yourself? Can you be humble in victory? Can you win a race and stay motivated to win another?

The lessons learned in running last a lifetime.

When you go to college and have more studies and tests and assignments on your plate than you think you can handle, can you take a breath and remind yourself that you can succeed? When you make a bad decision and need to right your wrongs, can you admit your wrongs and make things right? When you find “the one” are you brave enough to ask her out or ask her “the question?” And when you’re older and you have a wife or child that’s sick or injured, can you be the one they look to not just for support, but for hope and strength. Can you not only motivate yourself, but help others become motivated?

The answer is YES, to all of these. Running teaches you how to take a breath, remind yourself you got this, and succeed. Remember to enjoy the struggle. The struggle is how you get stronger, braver, better. Eventually, those lessons will help you succeed for years to come.

The Power of the Tongue P2

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“There is no human being that has a more profound influence in the outcomes of your life than you. So with that truth in mind; what are you saying about yourself? What are you consistently telling yourself to do?”  Karen Noe

In Part 1 of our two-part post on the power of the tongue we tried to encourage you to start with the easier half of positive talk, the words you speak to those around you.  You see, we talk considerably more within our hearts and minds than we do to those around us.  Consistently speaking positively to ourselves is quite a challenge.

“Positive affirmations should be a part of your daily routine. Post an inspirational phrase on your mirror and repeat it to yourself every morning and every night. Post your goals on the refrigerator and read them out loud everyday.”  Karen Noe

Our college coach is an incredible motivator.  One of the things I’m most appreciative of is that he not only motivated, but that he took the time to teach us how to motivate ourselves.  Many of us have been around a person or a group that is so motivating that we can’t help but get all pumped up and fiery when we are around them.  But when we workout 5 days a week and we’re only around those persons or groups twice a week, that leaves the majority of our workout time up to ourselves.  Coach used many affirmations.  Two of them that I’ve found most important to learn and realize are below:

“If you can see it, you can believe it.  If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”

“Everyday in every way, getting better and better.”

The first teaches the importance of positive self talk.  If we can begin to see ourselves achieving goals that we’ve set for ourselves then we are able to set in motion the process of truly achieving them.  If we never allow ourselves to “see” ourselves in this positive self-light, we will find it very difficult to ever achieve our goals.

The second is an affirmation that I use quite often.  Trying to focus solely on one huge goal is like thinking Rome was built in a day!  While we should always know what our ultimate goal is, we should also allow ourselves to find intermediate goals that are achievable and help us to continue feeling successful and motivated during the process.

In 1999 I qualified for the US Olympic Marathon Trials.  I raced the trials in 2000 while suffering from Epstein Barr, Chronic Fatigue.  Had I simply run the time I achieved to qualify for the trials, I would have been 11th over-all.  Instead, I ran over 15 min. slower and was 59th.  Over the next four years I took two years completely off in order to recover and get healthy enough to simply be able to run easy mileage without sending myself back into another cycle of chronic fatigue.  To dig out of that circumstance took a lot of prayer but also a lot of positive self talk.  “Everyday in every way…” was one of the affirmations I used on a daily basis during my lunch break in the quiet of a private room with just myself.  I used it again at night in the quiet of my bedroom before going to sleep.

We worked on speaking well to others because truthfully, it’s easier for many of us to be nicer to others than it is to be nice to ourselves.  We’re our own worst critics.  But what if we could become our own best advocate instead?!  What if we could speak as positive to ourselves as we do to those around us?  It’s not acceptable to speak harshly to those around us on a regular basis so why do we think it’s ok to speak to ourselves in this manner?!

“It ain’t over yet!”  We’ve learned to speak kindly to others, we can learn to speak kindly to ourselves.  One note written on a scrap piece of paper inside your wallet or purse.  One affirmation you speak to yourself each morning while you shower.  One 10 sec. sliver of time you take to look yourself in the mirror and remind yourself YOU are good! One routine of lifting your head each and every morning before you officially start your day.  YOU can do this!  We all can.

Run in or Drop us a line!