Even if You’re Not Training For a Race Speed Play and Faster Workouts are Fun…Even Addicting

Not everyone runs to race. On the flip side I’ve known runners who really ONLY run to race. The latter are the ones that need the extra endorphin and adrenaline fix of race day to keep them motivated to put in the training and stay dedicated. Their motivation can lull in the off-season and they are the ones who may say, “The day of my last race I’m hanging up the shoes all together and gonna get as fat as humanly possible.” (No, they don’t all say this but I’ve got a friend who did and though laughing, truly meant it…haha.)
tinkerbell running
But for the people who just run to run, or if they do run a race the clock is a non-factor, I’ve gotten the question, “Why should I do anything more than my usual ‘easy’ runs? Why bother with speed workouts, or any kind of structured workouts at all?”

Valid point and I’m guilty of getting stuck in the ‘pace rut’ of going through large chunks of time where yea, I’d be putting in plenty of daily miles, but they were just ‘running’ running and hardly training running.

But let’s face it, it’s fun to challenge yourself sometimes! Yea, picking up the pace hurts but toying around with different speeds becomes addicting…and once you get the ball rolling and see improvement that builds a wave of motivation momentum.

* Surges and Striders: if you’re coming off a large chunk of time where you’ve just been ‘putting in the miles’ start integrating pick-ups, or surges, into your runs. Just pick up the pace for a 150 meters or so and feel your legs get that faster turn-over. You can also add these in after your run with strides.

* Fartleks and Relaxed Intervals: unstructured workouts, or loosely structured ones, can feel liberating while still getting you working. If you’re not exactly training for an event, or have a long time out, start with fartleks and play around with varying the minutes on to minutes off. Do sets of one minute hard, then one minute easy; you could do a pyramid style fartlek where the hard minutes go 1:2:3:2:1; or invent your own combo.
track runner
* Break-down and Progression Runs: these are runs that just start out as an easy run but you gradually get faster over the distance and by the end (depending on the run) you could be running at or near a race pace. These runs are great training tools for those actually planning on racing an event because you can structure them so that the main chunk of the run is used as a recovery day but with the end, by including some race pace or faster running you can ‘sneak in’ extra intensity that won’t take that much out of you. Thus, you’ll get in some work without leaving you too depleted to perform well in your next actual workout. These runs can be fun because once you get in the groove and the pace starts to quicken, especially if you’re with a partner or group, those endorphins kick in and pushing it feels oddly exhilarating. Yea, it hurts, but in that good way.

The point is, even if you’re not out there still planning to race yourself all out or in quest of a PR, it IS still fun to do actual workouts, be it hill repeats, tempos, intervals, or just some loosely mapped out fartleks. If you’re not in training this is where you can just be creative and do things more on the fly.

Yes, putting in the miles and running for the pleasure of it (and the liberty to eat like a runner!) is totally awesome…but sometimes even a runner for life craves a little speed play. ;)

1) How would you define your running; do you run ‘to run’, run to race, or somewhere in between?

2) If you’re not racing for a team of have seasons, do you run many races yourself?

3) Do you enjoy mixing up your runs and workouts with speed play or adding hills? What do you like to do?

4) Do you see yourself as a ‘lifer’ when it comes to running?
YES! :)

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A Comic for Runners – Runner’s Strip: Twitter Addict

twitter cartoon

This one goes out to all you social media update-a-holics. ;)

In case you missed our first Runner’s Strip Comic and other fun cartoons, catch up HERE!

1) Do you use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, DailyMile or any other types of social media sites?
Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest…do feel free to follow me. ;)

2) Which sites do you use the most and how often do you update?
Facebook…such a time sucker! But I’m not one who updates every hour and goes crazy.

3) Do you find it hard to fall asleep the night before a big race or workout?
Nerves and excitement have a way of doing that to everyone, and I once heard that it’s the night before the night prior to your big race that really matters how much sleep you get…if you can make sense of that. Pretty much count on being a little antsy pre-race night so be extra diligent in the snooze department two nights out. ;)

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Diversify to Improve Your Running – Don’t limit yourself due to type-casting

Have you type cast yourself?Do you think of yourself as ONLY a long distance runner and wouldn’t go near a mile race with a ten foot pole? Do you think you’re only made up of fast twitch muscles and deem anything over a handful of laps around the track bordering on an ultra? Maybe you fall somewhere between the two, but it’s often VERY easy to stick yourself into a niche where you feel comfortable and come up with any excuse to NOT get out of it.


Do you coin yourself 'The Prankster'? ;)

Guilty. I own up to it, I detest anything resembling a sprint. I use the term loosely because I don’t think my 200′s could even accurately be described as such. I’d get more nervous if the next day’s workout was 10×200 versus 10×1000′s. I feel comfortable in the longer distances, like I can settle into a pace, maintain control, and tick off the laps. The slower build of pain versus the BAM in your face lactic acid onslaught from the first step.

Ironically the more you RELAX in the shorter sprints the faster you’ll go; I usually ended up trying too hard, tensing up, and shooting myself in the butt so to speak. If you look at the fastest sprinters their faces are completely relaxed and loose…they are flying and they make it look easy. It’s not, but they are relaxed.
Back to the point: stepping outside of the niche you’ve glued yourself into will help you in so many ways.

* Go short: If you’re a 10k and up runner you might balk at the idea of entering a mile or *gasp* even an 800 race. But, training for these shorter races will immensely help your longer distance, forte events. Think about it, if you can build your base speed, when you go back up to the 10k or marathon, the pace there will feel a lot ‘easier’ than before.

* Go longer: Opposite end of the spectrum; if you’ve never run more than 6 or 8 miles at a time…EVER, then training for a 10k or half-marathon (where your long runs would get into the double digits) will build your strength and endurance a great deal. When you go back down to a mile, or even 5k, you will be able to hold it together much better towards the end of the race because your overall strength (ie: base) is bigger.

* Ultras: Some ultra runners only do miles, miles, miles…at the same pace. That’s changing now as more are learning the benefits of speed play and that the long run is not the epitome workout that all should be focused on. The top dogs still enter races as short as a 10k, some even go to track races and run the mile. It all comes back to getting their turnovers and base speeds faster…it translates up.

Mental games: yes, it can be scary to pry yourself out of that niche and put yourself out there. Most likely you won’t be as dominant in the race as you may used to, that’s okay. It can take some swallowing of the egos but if you keep practicing and IMPROVING on your weaker events you will…well, improve.
girl runner
It’s easy as heck to hate something that you might stink at, but igniting the competitor in you will work to your advantage. Find some people who may be better in this department as you, relax, let them pull you along and do the pace-setting work…that’s okay. Let’s face it, come race day it’s nice to beat people and you’ll push yourself to get to that line. Even if it’s in a push to not get last…hey, embarrassment is a fine motivator, been there! :)

If you need a little case study from the top, look at some of our nation’s best distance runners. We’ll take for example the USA Olympic Marathon Trials…many of the runners there have PR’s in the 5k and 10k that rank amongst the leading National or World times too. Some of them still run the mile and 3k races as well, they don’t only stick to one, long event.

If you continually ignore your weaknesses they will just fester and stay weak. Instead, embrace them, push yourself in a new direction and keep it diversified. It doesn’t mean giving up your already strengths, but quite the opposite because in the end you’ll be making those even stronger too.

1) Do you type cast yourself? What do you see yourself as?
Totally…and I know it’s not good for me. All slow-twitch over here!

2) Do you avoid certain races or workouts? Why?
When I was racing, I would groan and hate whenever my coach would force me into a shorter race. I’d do it because I don’t like to argue, my coach knew best, but I just hate the short races.

3) Can you foresee perhaps challenging yourself to try a new race, workout, or set a goal targeting your weakness?

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A Bird’s Take on the Olympic Games…

London, England
A Tree Just Outside the Olympic Stadium

A mamma bird and a pappa bird sit in their nest. “Move over, Hal, your wing is in my side,” chirped an annoyed Lydia.
bird and rainbow
“Sorry, Dear,” a belittled Hal answered as he hopped outside the nest entirely and onto the branch. The look of a defeated husband just tossed outside of his bed house splayed across his face. Between them and the three eggs there really wasn’t all the much room in the nest at all these days.

“And what in the world is all that noise?!” shrieked Lydia. It was to be one of those mornings established Hal to himself.

“I was curious about all of the hulla-ba-lub myself,” remarked Hal.

“Well, don’t just sit there and dally the day away,” started Lydia, “they don’t come up with those stupid ‘the early bird gets the worm’ sayings for nothing, do they?”

Hal flit off the branch as instructed, secretly not all that displeased with the opportunity to get the he** out of the nest.

* * *

Three days later two little baby birds had emerged, one little egg remained, and the hulla-ba-lub had been upgraded to a melee.

“Feed me! Feed me!” the everconstant din from the twins’ mouths.

“Hal, what in the world is going on over there! This is driving me INSANE!!!” Lydia’s temper had been upgraded as well, Hal hadn’t found a word that really could fully describe her mood…it seemed no word could give this kind of mood justice.

“I’ve spent a lot of time watching, Dear,” Hal attempted to placate her today, “and I do have to say it’s been rather entertaining.”

“Entertaining is it?” Lydia seemed on the verge of being slightly interested or headed down the road of a volatile explosion.

Hal proceeded with caution, “Well, yes. It seems these bi-peds are having a contest of some sorts. The rules are a little wacky but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.”

“Do tell,” Lydia seemed to be on the side of interested.

“What they do?!” squeaked two chicks.

“Looks like they have rounds,” started in Hal. “Over there is where you start, way off in the grass fields over there. When one of the really big bi-peds has to find a rock. They chuck the rock as far as they can and try to grunt as loudly as possible. I assume the louder the grunt, the stronger the person, and the more points they get.”
strong girl
“But the ones who can’t find a rock to throw get a penalty and they are corralled over there to that red oval. This is their first shot to try and make back some points. They line they up on one of those straight-a-ways and a man fires a gun into the air. The gun gets fired once and they run the full length of that straight-a-way to get away. I assume the guy who makes it there last gets shot as punishment.”

“Humph,” Lydia prompts Hal to speed up.

“The ones who didn’t get there first or last get shuffled on to the next round. They go into the middle of the red oval and start doing jumps. They really look like a bunch of trained circus dogs, you know, we saw those come to town last year…what fun was that?! I really thought Fido…”


“Sorry, back on track. They jump into a sandy pit and get as dirty as possible and then they try and jump up over this beam thing. The funniest part is that in the end they try and fly…you know it’s sad really how pathetic those land walkers are. I feel bad for them, but at some point they really just have to accept they aren’t meant to fly.”

“How are they trying this time? I hope not as ridiculous as those metal birds, or those balloons! The big balloons are the best, I’d like to just pop one one day!” Lydia cackled laughed.

“They use this big long pole and hoist themselves into the air. It’s a pretty lame attempt as they don’t even really make it very far and land on a pillow.”

“See, they already knew they would fail.”

“I suppose. Well, by this point the bi-peds have been given lots of chances to try and win some kind of event. The person who wins an event of course doesn’t have to go through the humiliation of the next round. There are still a few pathetic ones that even after the throwing, gun dashing, hopping, and fly-trying are still coming up short.”

“Those must be some real losers,” remarks Lydia.

“Losers, losers, losers!” echo the twins.
track runners
“Losers indeed. They get punished though. The last round is where the bi-peds have to run around and around the red oval, some of them until they collapse.”

“They just fall down?” asks Lydia, a little glee in her voice.

“Maybe they are just dizzy from running in circles? I’m not totally sure, or maybe their weak little legs are tired.”

“But how do they find out who wins in that event?” asks Lydia.

“Aha, this one, well, I told you these bi-peds are a little kooky. The same guy from earlier shoots the gun, they make them run all these laps and suddenly one of them rings a bell…”

“Bell, bell, bell!” chant the twins.

“Well, the bell means that they have to run one more time around the red oval. That’s their last shot to try and make it around the red oval and they all seem to be pretty motivated to pick it up if they can…I even saw a few of them shove the other one with their featherless wings. Sometimes their skinny legs get tangled up and they fall…”

“Why are the ones running in circles so skinny?” asks Lydia.

“I think by this point going through all the rounds tires them out. Anyways, the bi-ped who makes it to the white line after that final lap wins and is safe.” finishes Hal.

“What happens to the rest of them?” asks Lydia, she is the most entertained Hal’s seen her in months.

“Well, they look pretty glum, I think they all get tossed into a pit of fire.” says Hal.

“Fire? Really?”

“Yea, they bring in this blazing torch at the beginning of this game thing. They keep it there burning in the corner I think as an incentive, or twisted reminder for the bi-peds to try their hardest. The losers must just get torched,” observes Hal.



Before Lydia has a chance to return a comment one of the rocks the bi-peds had been hurling goes long, much longer than any of the rest. It slams into the bottom of the tree. The third egg cracks open and a third chick pops out. He immediately starts screaming for food. Lydia starts screaming at Hal to get food. Hal flies off in search of more worms…he thinks to himself, “Oh well, sometimes it’s better outside the nest…maybe I’ll even get to see this big pit of fire.”

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More Great Core Moves: Why the core is all the rage and worth the face time

The core is all the rage. I know I’m constantly harping on how important core work is for runners…it will help improve your form, efficiency, reduce injury risks, and yea, a stronger middle looks good too. I’m hardly the only one and in the last few years the ‘core’ and core exercises have really taken off, if they were a celebrity they’d be dominating the Star and US Weekly rag tag rounds.

girl in paris

yea, look at me, I'm the Core and I'm just too cool like that.

Another core article caught my eye today over at Competitor.com, ‘Four Key Core Exercises for Runners’. I’m not going to lie, I’m sometimes a little hesitant to read these types of articles (more-so from general fitness magazines) because they tend to rehash the same exercises again and again or some of them are a bit watered down and would be too ‘easy’ for the consistent runner. But I give more weight to the Competitor and Running Times articles than I would say, Runner’s World or InShape for Her.

Yes, the exercises were ones that I’ve done or seen before BUT I actually like them and in fact do the plank on a multi-weekly basis. Again, you can read the article HERE but I’d like to share some tweaks or modifications to the exercises or build on them.

* Plank: okay, for beginners the standard, hold the downward facing plank (balance on forearms and toes) is great; just make sure you’re sucking in your stomach and keeping those muscles tight and engaged.
Make it harder: keep the same position but do leg lifts; start with a set of 10 lifts with each leg and build up to two or three sets.
Back and side planks: planks can be done facing upwards where you’re balancing on your heels and forearms, for this one make sure your butt isn’t sagging to the ground, you still want your body in alignment. For side planks it’s then balancing on your left forearm and outside of your left foot, keeping your body in a line and don’t let your hips sag; repeat with opposite side. I did a full plank workout HERE.

* Russian Twists: I actually really like this one and have recommended it to people before. They have it where you are sitting, balancing on your tail bone and with your feet slighting elevated off the ground. With the weight you then twist left to center to right and back to center.
Make it harder: I like doing the Lunging Russian Twist; standing up and holding a weight (10lbs to start), step out into a lunge with your right foot in front. After you drop into the lunge you’ll hold it there and twist to the right with the weight in your arm. Twist back to center and then step back out of the lunge. Repeat with the left foot in the lunge and then twist to the left. Repeat so you do a total of 20 lunges; start with one set and build up to two or three.

* V-sits: They talk about doing the ‘hollow rock’ in the article but I like this one more. Lie down flat on your back arms straight up behind your head and legs together. Raise both your legs and upper body up until you’re balaning on your tail bone and in a ‘V’ position. You’ll want to make sure your arms stay straight and even with your ears. Lower back down and repeat. This one is tricky and always makes me work because of the whole balance issue; but do the best you can and the learning curve is pretty quick, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll improve. Start with getting 10 to 15 done and build up to two or three sets. Here the emphasis is quality over quantity…10 (or even 5) perfect ones are better than 15 sloppy ones.

* Pilates 100: This one, again isn’t in the article, but is one of the staples of Pilates; start lying back just as the v-sit but this time your arms will be straight down at your sides. Raise your upper body and arms a few inches off the ground and and lift your legs up about a foot or 18 inches off the ground. Keep your legs together but in order to open up your hips, keep your heels together but roll your feet outward into a little ‘v’ shape. Contract your core and now what you’ll do is take your arms and pump them rapidly up and down at your sides. Raise and lower them only a few inches but really keep your core taught and engaged, keep your feet in the ‘v’ shape. Count out 100 little pumps with your arms and then lower back down to the mat. This looks super easy and you might not ‘feel’ like you’re working all the much during it but this move works the deep core muscles and if you do it right you’ll feel sore later.

Try to do core work two to three times a week; honestly it can be a super quick routine, I mean 10-15 minutes after you run or while you’re watching TV…we’ve all got 10 extra minutes, right?! :)

Well, I’ve given more face time to that spotlight hogging core, but it’s one fitness crazed celeb who I think is worth getting press…it’s not just a quickie Kim K hook-up or wedding.

1) What are some of your top core exercises?

2) Do you do core work regularly? If so, what are some of the benefits you’ve seen?

3) There are always fitness fads or particular topics that everyone seems to be talking about a lot; core work is one that I think merits it. What are some other topics or tips that you’ve seen a lot of lately and do you like/do/use/back them?
I’ve seen a lot of people doing these egg puff things, whipping them up like meringue toppings, and seasoning them differently so they are like faux-cookies or sweets. I haven’t tried them though…I think I’d still want a cookie. :)

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All About the Liquids: What to Drink and When and NUUN Hydration Review

Hydration is important for runners...any athletes and even for the average ‘joe’ and ‘janet’ for that matter. But fluids and proper hydration, electrolytes and other nutrients besides just plain water, is especially crucial for endurance athletes.
sunset runner
The conditions you are running in can make this even more of an issue but even if you’re running in the dead of winter and don’t even think you’re sweating all that much, you ARE. You’re still sweating but you may not come back dripping in sweat stains because the cold air sucked up that moisture before it was able to get you all nice and drippy.

There are different kinds of liquids with various amounts of nutrients and depending on what you’re aiming to replenish you need to pick accordingly.
Yes, water is water and we all need it to survive, but it doesn’t have any real nutritional value, there are no electrolytes, vitamins, or nutrients for energy…and if you drink too much of just straight water you can actually end up diluting your electrolyte balances (ie: potassium and sodium levels among others) and wind up with some serious issues.

Different Liquids With Different Purposes
* Water: No brainer, we all need water, don’t avoid it just make sure that you also get in the electrolytes you need too. Pee check! What color is your urine? Without becoming a toilet creeper you should check your pee and aim to get it as clear as possible..bright yellow is not a good sign.

* Electrolyte/Vitamin Waters: These are the waters, or low-calorie drinks, that tout having electrolytes in them. These are great sips throughout the day to make sure you’re not just diluting yourself of electrolyte levels by drinking too much straight water.
man running
* Sports Drinks: In years past Gatorade sort of monopolized the market here but Gatorade of years ago was mostly just sugar water and to an extent people really didn’t need ALL of that sugar. But, I’ll hand it to the brand because their newer product line is revamped and I’d say improved on the whole offering more ‘substance.’ With these drinks, make sure whatever you have has the electrolytes you’ll want and not just loaded with a ton of sugar which will just be empty calories.

* Protein Recovery Drinks:
There is a bit of a cross-over here between these and sports drinks but the difference is that with today’s advanced science there are LOADS of various endurance athlete targeted drinks. There are pre-workout, during, and post-workout variations; the first two are going to contain mostly fast-acting, quickly absorbed carbs for immediate energy but the post-workout ones you want to make sure contain adequate amounts of protein in addition to carbs to enhance your recovery. (HERE I did an article for Running Times that touches on what you want to look for in liquids depending on your workout; the nutritionist I spoke with really likes Generation UCANN and suggests it to many of her top athletes)

* Life Drinks: Here we’ve got your coffee, fruit drinks, soda’s…all that stuff. I’m not going to lie, I’d rather just EAT my calories and not drink them away…but coffee has been shown to improve workouts in some instances. Most fruit drinks you’re better off EATING the fruit because of all the added sugar, and soda, sorry, is just not that good for you and will dehydrate you.

Are you sick of putting that much thought into what you pour into your cup yet? Well, don’t be and bear with me because it’s important stuff ESPECIALLY if your training runs are long enough to warrant needing hydration along the way. Think runs over an hour and if you’re training for a marathon you want your hydration and energy plan down before the race. If you’re bonking, cramping, and feeling like you have no energy, one ‘obvious’ reason is that your fueling needs some tweaking…it can be tough to find the right strategy that works for you.
Now, I was contacted by NUUN Hydration to test out some of their products; they sent me two free flavor tubes to try and here is what my thoughts are and the low-down on NUUN. I’ve actually been wanting to try this stuff because I’d kept reading and hearing about it on other blogs and sites.

* Fall into the ‘enhanced waters’ category: NUUN is low in calories (less than 6 cal’s per tab, which makes 16 ounces) but it has all the important vitamins and electrolytes athletes will need without any added sugars.

* Quick and portable: What is actually cool about NUUN is that they come in little tablets which you drop into two cups of water and they start to fizz and dissolve…not going to lie there is the ‘fun, cool’ effect to watch.

* Taste: There are lots of flavors and I tried the Lemon-Lime and Orange flavors; I liked them because they are not overpoweringly sweet or strong but enough of a twist that it perks up that water.

* Best for: These would be best for people who don’t like to taste of just average water and need to get in their electrolytes. Tons of people pop that Crystal Light stuff, have the Sobe Lights or Vitamin Waters…I’d say NUUN would be a better pick because it will give you more nutrients and has less extraneous calories/sugars than Vitamin Water.

* Not for: If you’re running a marathon and need actual energy; because there aren’t any real carbs, protein, or calories in NUUN you’re going to want something with more substance if you’re running a long distance event or doing a marathon type workout. Here is where the various sports drinks (ie: UCANN, Gatorade) would be your better bet.

Overall: Like I said, if I’m going to drink something I want it to be DOING something for me and not just a waste of calories because I’d rather EAT me my calories. NUUN offers up essential micro-nutrients and electrolytes to balance out the water I drink. It tastes good and with 12 tabs in a tube it’s a decent bang for your buck.

Keep on sipping wisely runnerchicks and runnerdudes! :)

1) What kinds of liquids do you tend to drink? What are some of your favorite sports related drinks and how do you use them?

2) Have you tried NUUN, and if so what were your thoughts?

3) What do you look for in the drinks you get?

4) When it comes to ‘life drinks’ what kind of person are you? Are you a coffee addict, soda guzzler, reformed diet soda addict, or like me and usually opt to just eat more instead?? :)

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A Quick Comic for Runners- Runner’s Strip: Marathon Dad

Happy Sunday to all! What does Sunday mean? Well, if you answered chocolate chip pancakes and comics then at least I can deliver on one. I’m introducing my own quick little comic strip, Runner’s Strip, here for you guys that I hope you enjoy.
running comic
(Click Image for closer view)

If you’d like to check out a few other running related cartoons of posts past, feel free to revisit our Running Super Heros: The Kankled Avenger, The Cranky Hamstring, PreMONTaine, and Texas Girl, and

Happy runnings peeps, and here’s to devouring all the food in the house! :)

1) Do you often find you’ve got a belly that’s a beast and refuses to be satisfied? After which kinds of workouts do you tend to feel the hungriest after?
My stomach usually works on a bit of a lag time, right after hard workouts I’m not hungry but then later in the day it kicks in.

2) What’s your favorite pick for refuel?
Depends…I make sure to get in my ‘healified’ quota and then allow the treats to follow. :)

3) Food braggage…let’s hear it folks…tales of tables past. Your Runner vs. Food accomplishment so to speak.
I’m not entirely ashamed to admit I have eaten whole pizzas, a couple boxes of Pop-Tarts, and an Entemann’s coffee cake on various occasions…not all at once, different times. Not that I recommend it as nutritionally sound…

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Is What You See Really What You Get? The paradox of your reality versus actuality and being a ‘skinny’ runnerchick

How accurate is your version of yourself compared to what other people see you as? Going further I’m sure what other people would describe you as probably differs even between the person being asked.
running dream
I’ve got a runner’s build. I’m smaller than the ‘average’ woman but I don’t feel like I’m out of place small. I feel normal…whatever that is. Put me in a group of athletic, endurance-based women and I’d say I probably blend in.

But I’ve been out running on the road before and had someone yell at me from their car, “Stop running girl…go eat! You look like a praying mantis!” (on a side-note, praying mantis, really? I mean of all things to compare a skinny person to, that one threw me…haha.) I got annoy, pissed even and shouted back, “Fudge you, I could eat you under the table!” Which I’m sure is the honest to goodness truth. I get peeved because in our culture it seems taboo to make fun of a fat person, but it’s okay to hate on the skinnier folk? Just saying.

girl boxer

I would have liked to punch the dude in the face. :)

If I’m in the middle of pushing myself or doing a hard workout I’m not fooling myself into believing I look pretty. My form has gotten better, I did a LOT of work on it, but I’ll never be one of those people who can make it look effortless…like a machine. I consciously remind myself to relax, drop my shoulders, but I’m sure I look heinous and most likely with some kind of spit clinging to my cheek.

I’ve done tempo runs on the treadmill and I’m sure I’ve looked quite the sight busting my bum, praying that if I bump up the speed just a hair more I can sustain it and not be thrust off the back of the machine. My pounding feet probably echo in the gym, others who don’t ‘get’ the running thing probably think I’m just insane.

The thing is, at that point I really don’t care. Seriously, I’d rather run a few seconds faster on that stupid treadmill, risk the chance of being shot off the back, even if that means earning a ‘freak’ moniker. I do know that anyone who is a ‘runner runner’ would understand and probably not even bat an eye, as they are amidst their own workouts.

To the guy in the car, I’m fully aware I’m not an obese American woman, still smaller than ‘average’ whatever that is. I know I don’t have a chest, JLo from the Block (I know she’s since moved on past that old nickname but I like it) with her booty I am not…but my legs are strong, they are muscular. My arms are defined and not the old hummingbird wings of my pre-weight lifting days.
eating pop tarts
I’m fine with it. I also kind of like the look of shock on peoples’ face when the runnerchick IS able to eat them under the table. So eat that, praying mantis!

Disclaimer: of course there is a point of being unhealthily small and no one should feel pressured to go through unhealthy behaviors to look a certain way. At the root of it all, it’s about being happy in WHO you are, whatever that ends up looking like. I think sports/fitness can help with self-confidence.

Along the same lines of body image, SkinnyRunner did an interesting post today about Crystal Renn, a model who started out in runway but later admitted she could only maintain that frame due to an eating disorder. She then gained weight, became a plus-sized model, and a major advocate AGAINST traditional models and runway. Now, this same woman is back to a slighter self and on the cover of Sports Illustrated, which has led to a backlash amongst the plus-sized community. Interesting stuff to chew on and mull over.

Last note tied to the perception of ourselves and how it varies between who is looking at us…in the seriously now annoying craze of those meme picture frames with the black backdrop with various photo-cropped pictures of ‘how I see myself’, ‘how my mom sees me’, ‘how my co-workers see me’, etc…The Faster Bunny did a funny one on runners.

1) How would you say your perception of yourself may be different from how someone else would describe you? And WHO is that someone else, and how would that change depending on who that person is?

2) How do you define yourself or be happy with what/who you are? How has being athletic effected that if at all?
Running, or being active, really helped me be more secure with myself. More-so because I saw my body as a vessel to actually DO something rather than aesthetics alone. But I won’t lie, if I were to say, to gain 30 pounds I wouldn’t be happy…but that’s more because I wouldn’t be happy with myself, or feel comfortable with myself, not so much because of anything anyone else may say or think.

3) How much does what other people think or tell you really effect or matter to you?
Now I’d say I’m to the point where unless you are a close friend or family member, it doesn’t bug me. But I think that comes with age, when I was in high school it mattered to me a lot more.

4) We all have strengths and weaknesses…name one of each.
strength: loyal and self-motivated
weakness: I talk too much and have no fast twitch muscle fibers

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What Kind of Runner Are You? Trails, Tracks, Treadmills and Roads…Oh, My! (Part I)

When it comes to your choice of terrain, what kind of runner are you? Do you crave the speed of the track, the solitude of a long trail run, dodging car splash on the roads, or zoing out on the treadmill?
trail runner
I was sucked in forced to watch one of the episodes of The Bachelor (that Ben guy, am I the only one who finds him a bit of a scruffy version of Dax Shepard?) where they were in Park City, UT and he was saying how he’s an ‘outdoorsy’ guy. He likes to be out in the woods chopping trees, riding horseback, fishing, and such. All I could think was, “Dang, I would be sucking wind out there on any runs.” Then some flashbacks to some particularly gnarly runs in Park City followed that.

Trails can be really beautiful and fun to run on (not at altitude for me, thank you very much, unless you’re acclimated to it and used to living there) and they have a way of making the miles pass faster than you think…until you look down at your watch and realize that thanks to that climb the miles were technically pretty slow! :P

I’ve never really lived in a place where there were ample trails that were safe to run on year round. The thing with trails is you need to be really careful because if you’re not you’ll wind up hurt…or worse. I loved the quote World Class trail runner, Michael Wardian, gave me awhile back, “I remind myself not to zone out while outside and especially on the trails where a bad footfall can mean stitches and a new tooth.”

When to Dodge the Trails:

* Really rocky.One of the benefits of trail running is that it can be a much more forgiving surface than concrete IF it’s actually soft terrain. I’ve been to some trails where I was basically running on rocks and gravel which is not going to give your legs anything in the way of cushioning. On top of that the loose gravel stuff could set you up for a nasty fall or ankle twist.

* Slip and sliding…slick trails. In Oregon there were some beautiful trails but, hello, it’s Oregon and it rains a ton which means that the trails were really slick and slippery the vast majority of the time. On top of that if there is a lot of foliage…have you tried running on a bunch of wet leaves…it is your own slip and slide.

* Drastic uphill and downhill running.
Lots of uphill running will make you sore (which can be a good thing if you’re intending some harder work to build strength) BUT so will tons of downhill running. The additional pounding and force of each footfall thanks to gravity when running downhill is tremendous, it’s really hard on your quads, knees, and joints. So be careful if your route has a lot of downhill.

* Roots, twists, cougars, darkness, and the other stuff.Since we’re discussing safety it’s important to bring up the obvious factors here…you need to practice running safety regardless of where you’re going but if you’re going solo for a trail run be sure to tell people where you’re going and how long you plan to be out. No one wants to go out for a run and end up having a search party bring them home…and that could be the happy ending of that story.

road runner

Another benefit of trails is that they usually make for easy insta-pop-and-squat spots! ;)

That said, there are a myriad of benefits to trail running…and if I had more access to some trails I’d get out there more.

* Strength. Like I said, running hills will build your strength tremendously. That extra strength will translate to speed when you then run flats.

* Happier joints and injury prevention. Like I said if you get on a softer surface you can do much in the way of reducing the pounding on your legs. This is one reason lots of elite athletes will go to place where there are miles of soft trails…soft trail miles are ‘easier’ on the body and with the amount they are putting in that adds up to a world of difference.

* More supple joints. Having to navigate twists, turns, and uneven surfaces will strengthen the smaller muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the ankles and feet. This, if done gradually and smartly, (don’t go from no trail running to all trail running all at once or your feet won’t have time to gradually get stronger, they will just get hurt!) will make your ankles and feet stronger and less prone to a sudden pull or sprain down the road if you do step in a pothole.

* The mental factor. A change of scenery is always nice and like I said, if you get going on a good trail that long run can ‘feel’ shorter.

So, what kind of runner are you…if you’re a trail-a-holic now’s your chance to voice why they’ve stolen your heart! ;) This post got really long so I’m going to break it up into a series and spread the love of the track, roads, and treadmill in the next installments…mmmmk.

1) Do you like running trails, do you get a chance to run on them a lot?

2) If you had more access to trails would you take advantage of them? If not, why?

3) What are some things you need to be careful about when running trails?

4) What are some of the benefits of hitting up the trails?

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Performing to Your 100% Potential and Injury Risks

Is pushing yourself harder to get a 100% performance worth the extra risk of injury, or is ‘safer’ to back off in an attempt to lower your injury risk but wind up with a 90% performance?
girl on track
This is the question that I wrote about in an article at Competitor, ‘Is Squeezing 100% Out of Yourself Worth the Risk?’. I wanted to bring it up here and get some of your thoughts as well as be able to voice a bit of my own opinion.

The question was sparked initially by something Dathan Ritzenhein said when he was discussing his own injury-riddled past year. He was quick to point out that he isn’t necessarily ‘injury prone’ but being that he’s an elite athlete it’s his job to push himself to the limit. To straddle the fine line of just enough versus too much…sometimes you go too far over the line and wind up hurt.

Different people have different reactions to that philosophy; some will always preach that leaving more in the tank or taking the conservative route is the thing to do regardless. Others are totally in line with Dathan Ritzenhein as they are training that way all the time themselves; after all even if they backed off there is no guarantee that they still might end up hurt…valid point. Then there are tons of degrees between to two extremes.

I think what it comes down to is the individual, what they are training for, and how running realistically fits into their life.

runner graffiti

Your wall's been tagged by a runner gang! ;)

* Newbies and high school athletes have YEARS ahead of them and here is where I’d say the smarter thing to do is err on the side of ‘less is more’.

* Collegiate athletes too have years ahead of them but are in a different spot because often times there are big stakes on the line or other issues complicating matters. Their team is vying for a Championship title, they are on scholarship, their coach really wants the points…sometimes they have to race through an injury.

* Elite athletes in my opinion will be more in the position than anyone else to take more gambles than others. But their position is starkly different that ‘mortal runners’ because like Ritzenhein stated, it’s their job, it’s their livelihood AND they have a whole team working with them. Taking gambles is a little ‘safer’ being that they are able to tend to other forms of recovery and rehab the rest of the day. (ie: massage, ice baths, naps, etc.) They also have conditioned and calloused their bodies more than most and are in tune with them. Not that they don’t misread signals and make ‘I knew better than that’ mistakes like everyone does, after all they are only human.

* Mortal runners and competing runners. There are far more runners who compete but know they are not Olympics bound…still, a PR is a PR and comes with as much of a sense of reward and runner’s rush for anyone! So how do competing runners in this category play the odds?
1) Get perspective. If you have a coach, training partner, or third party who knows where you are training-wise, take advantage of them. Often times it’s easier to come up with a resolution if you’re not the actual one debating what to do.
2) Think long term. What is your ultimate goal or race? If this IS your big day maybe it’s worth risking it a bit more…but if you’ve got a whole season ahead of you maybe your decision should be different. Ask yourself, “What do I ultimately want to achieve; how will this decision or workout/race effect that?”
3) Gauge the pain. Be honest with yourself…you know ‘that’ kind of injury pain; sometimes the hardest thing to do is back off and not go harder but it’s the right thing to do. But if you’re just mentally in a blah mood because of a bad day, I think it’s at least smart to go out and start the run then take it from there.
olympic runners
I suppose that’s my reasoning behind it all; but I DO think that some athletes are able to handle different workloads than others or are able to handle more pounding without getting hurt than others. I think after a certain number of years all runners know about what mileage they can handle, then know when to push it and when it’s a little smarter to back off or cross-train instead.

1) What are your thoughts on this question?

2) How do you find the right balance or make decisions regarding training when it comes to workouts, backing off, or adjusting your plan?

3) What kind of mileage or workload do you know suits you best or keeps you sharp but now hurt?

4) What is your ultimate goal? It can be for the end of the season or years ahead…don’t be shy. :)

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