Time to Be Real

It’s time to be real. I mean, that’s why I started this blog in the first place.

Not that I haven’t been “real” up this point. I’ve been sharing information from my own experiences and from folks who know a heck of a lot more about running than I do. And that will continue.

But I don’t only want to share information. I want this to be a space where anyone who has questions, or doubts, or stories – about running, about simply moving, about life – can feel at home.

Five years ago, I didn’t know that I would love running and be able to do the things I do now. I knew I needed to move and exercise. I also knew from past experience that a gym membership alone wasn’t going to cut it for me.

When I made an attempt to run and saw that I could, my confidence absolutely soared. I went from feeling like a loser smoker to feeling like a badass runner! No, it didn’t happen with the first run. Not even close. As with most everything in life, there was (and still is) lots of trial and error, and sometimes baptism by fire! The point was that I could no longer tell myself I couldn’t do it. Because I had proven otherwise.

Really, I don’t expect everyone to love running. I certainly didn’t expect to love it. But it matters to me to share my stories because maybe, just maybe it will help someone else do more than they ever thought they could. Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves, and learning to push yourself beyond what you think you can do feels sooooo good!

My Diary

So I’m sharing my Diary with you. You’ll see ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, cheers and insecurities. I may not write an entry for every run, but I’ll at least share my Fitbit snapshots. With times and everything. To quote the great Scooby Doo, “Reeping it Real!” And I invite you to help keep it real with your comments.

Saturday, May 27

Yesterday is a great place to start. I met up with members of my Reno Tahoe Odyssey (RTO) team to do Leg 34. K, who organized the get-together, is one of the team’s fastest runners. And evidently she is not a morning person, because she planned it for 10 a.m., with the intent to enjoy post-run brunch at Peg’s, a favorite local restaurant. As it turned out only three of us showed up; K, E and myself. E is another of our team’s fastest runners. So I apologized in advance for potentially slowing them down; K offered to run my pace with me (which would have been painful for her, I think) and E joked he wasn’t out to set any records that day.

We had modified the leg for our purposes to include Peg’s as the finish point, and so as not to extend the run by too much more, K suggested we start at a different spot, the local high school. On the way to the high school, we re-evaluated and decided instead to start at the parking lot of a local shopping center. So while our intent was to run the 5.8-mile Leg 34, we ended up running our own version, sub-3 miles.

Which was just as well. K and E took off, leaving me in the dust. I had to chuckle because I am used to being one of the slower runners in the group. But as I approached the end of mile 1, I couldn’t understand why I started tiring so quickly. It could have been the heat of the day, though it wasn’t terribly hot and there was a nice breeze. Maybe it was the Charley horse that had been nagging me all morning – the one that had thrown me out of the bed the night before and still ached a bit…but strangely, it wasn’t hurting me while running. My breathing seemed heavier and I was burning energy quickly.

As I got about half a mile from our destination, I saw K running back to join me. I urged her to go on ahead and maybe reserve a table. I would be along eventually. She stayed with me and cheered me on, as good friends do, We sprinted the last 100 meters or so and I was spent. We did our stretches while we waited for a table, enjoyed our late breakfast, and parted ways.

When I got home, I checked my Fitbit app for my mile splits and learned why my energy depleted so quickly. I ran my first mile in 9:38. (my average time is around 10:30…okay, 11:00!) I must have subliminally planted the message in my own brain that I needed to try to keep up with K and E, and even as they disappeared over the horizon, tried to maintain a faster pace than I normally would.  Obviously I slowed way down in the second mile; partly to consult my map to be sure I was going the right direction. But it’s nice to know I’m capable of running that fast, even if it’s only for one mile!

Time to Be Real

Sunday, May 28

This morning Maddie, Milo and I joined up with the Sunday morning group at Reno Running Company. After I checked in, we set out on the 3-mile route. It was clear about halfway that it was really too hot for M&M to be running, and I stopped to give them some water. Maddie plopped down on the grass, which is a sure sign. We were literally 1.5 miles from where we started, so 3 miles was inevitable.

Some of my two-legged friends caught up to us and we started running with them…and poor little Milo got dragged on his little tush again! (At least this time it was only a couple of feet, at the most!) We took it easy the rest of the way, and ran in the shade when we could. M&M enjoyed lots of water and attention when we arrived back at the store! Here’s our post-run selfie.

Time to Be Real

Running with Dogs: Blessings and Wisdom

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Some of life’s greatest blessings come with four legs. Especially in the life of a runner. When running with friends, the more legs, the better, I say!!

Learning curve

I didn’t always run with my dogs. To be honest, in the beginning, I barely knew what I was doing. I was excited to realize that I could be a runner, and I just knew Maddie would love it, too.

So I took her with me on one of my first neighborhood runs. No sooner had we turned the first corner and another dog started chasing us. Maddie strained against the leash, trying to get at the alleged imposter. When she pulled, she yanked me off-balance, and I panicked. I turned around, took her straight back home and continued the run without her. In hindsight, I could have slowed to a walk and focused more on Maddie and less on myself. But I was focused on learning a running rhythm, and I didn’t have the confidence yet to train both of us!

We eventually got the hang of it and Maddie became my best running buddy. Then Milo joined our family, and we’ve become quite the trotting trio. It has taken some adjusting and adapting, but we seem to have the hang of it now, and it has become a major part of our lives together

Blessings and Wisdom

Here are some of the blessings and wisdom I have gained from running with my dogs:

They hold me accountable.

We don’t run every day (as of this writing), but we would if they had a say in the matter! They are ready to go the instant my feet hit the floor, and they expressly lay on the guilt when we don’t! I wouldn’t go so far as to say they sulk; it’s more the canine equivalent of “(sigh) it’s okay, don’t worry about little old me!” They are forgiving when I don’t run with them every day. Disappointed, but forgiving . (I’m lucky, though. My friend Bridget’s dog, Dolce, has a different way of dealing with disappointment; she steals and hides Bridget’s shoes in the backyard!

They teach me to keep trying until we find what works.

It was challenging to run with both of them at first. For awhile I took them out separately, but leaving Maddie caused her great anguish. While the distress described above is mostly passive, taking Milo and leaving her behind resulted in major sulking and scolding on her behalf! After all, running had been “our” thing for quite a while before Milo came along! How could I betray her in this way?!?

So I tried running with both of them. It was a lot of trial and error. Running with one on each side of me was a logistical nightmare. Keeping both them on one side was difficult with two leashes, as we all tried to go different directions and tripped over ourselves. Finally, a quick research trip to the pet store yielded a solution: an adjustable leash coupler.  Each end attaches to their collars, and the adjoining loop attaches to a leash. It works because Milo’s side can be extended, they are less likely to get tangled on a “short leash”, and they are practically forced to stay together. Thanks to the leash coupler, Milo was essentially trained by Maddie!

They teach me selflessness.

When I run with my dogs, the run isn’t just about me and my training anymore, it’s about making it a positive experience for all of us. I have to be aware of when they are getting thirsty and tired, or when they need to take care of “business”. There are times we’ll be running along and my mind will wander, then the next thing I know my body is jerked to the side of the road because Maddie can wait no longer to relieve herself. And poor little Milo; during one of his first outings with me and Maddie, he stopped to pop a squat, but we didn’t notice until we’d dragged him on his little tush for a good 15 feet!

A sure sign that they are tired is when they start to pant heavily, lag behind me, or when they simply plop down in the cool grass of our neighbor’s lawn.

Running with Dogs: Blessings and Wisdom

They teach me to run with purpose.

They are laser-focused, eyes and ears always on alert. This means my eyes and ears must be equally tuned in. I’ve stopped listening to music when I run with them. I have to see what they see, hopefully before they see it…because if they see that rabbit dash across the road before I do, or stop on a dime to investigate the waste in the road, we could be in trouble. So I have to be just as focused and prepared to steer us away from distractions and danger.

They don’t complain about distances, terrain, or speed.

I think they would keep running whenever, wherever, and as long as I wanted them to. But experts recommend that dogs need to acclimate to running just like humans do. We took it in smaller bites in the beginning: Maddie and I started out at about 2 miles and worked our way to about 6. I started Milo out just running down the block and back, then up to a mile, until he was just over a year old. These days, we average about 3 miles at a leisurely pace. This seems to work well for both of them, as Maddie is not getting any younger and Milo is not getting any taller! I’m also leery of taking them out onto the trails until they’ve had rattlesnake diversion training. When we do run on trails, I keep them on leash for their safety.

They teach me how to rest.

I mean, they really have this one down. We usually run early weekday mornings before I go to work. Often while I’m getting ready, I’ll realize they are not following me around as they usually do. Sure enough, I’ll find them in each of their favorite resting spots; Maddie under the coffee table, and Milo curled up in the corner of the coat closet. With their morning exercise and breakfast out of the way, they are settled in for R&R. They barely even notice when I leave for work!

The best part about having dogs as running buddies: they are always ready to go, and will always stay by my side. Do you run with your dogs? I’d love to hear about your adventures with your running buddies!

Running with Dogs: Blessings and Wisdom

Five Things to Love about Running

This week is my five-year Runniversary! On Mother’s Day 2012 I ran in my very first 5K, and life as I knew it has not been the same since. I’m happy to say I’ve never looked back

To commemorate five years as a runner, I’ve decided to share the top five reasons I love running:

1. I’m healthier at 50 than I was at 30.

Seriously! Cigarettes no longer have a place in my life or in our home. And okay… I may be carrying a few more pounds, but the truth is I’m within my healthy weight range and I do pay more attention to what I eat and drink. I definitely consume more water and fewer diet sodas throughout a given day. And I enjoy a much better quality and quantity of sleep.

2. Runners are some of the most generous people in the world.

While I started out running on my own, I quickly found the running community to be the most generous people I’ve met. They will encourage you, support you, cheer for you, give you great advice, stay by your side during the lows and celebrate with you during the highs.

3. Running is for the dogs.

Running is something I can share with my dogs; and the fact that I usually run with them in the mornings makes them extra happy to see me when I roll out of bed. It’s the ideal way to start my day, and sets them up for a lazy day of staying out of trouble!5 Things to Love about Running

4. Shoes.

Running gives me a great excuse to buy new shoes at least twice a year. What other pastime (other than retail therapy) actually encourages frequent shoe shopping. And where else could you get away with wearing those neon orange kicks?

5. Speaking of therapy…

Running gives you the opportunity to get “out of the box” and think things through. Lots of problems are worked out and ideas are born during a run. And you have the added bonus of knowing you’re doing something good for yourself. Running is something you can and should do at your own pace. As my friend Michael said, “Running does not judge us, rather it accepts us every time we go.”

Running continually surprises me; I’m always discovering something new to love about it, and something new about myself and what I am capable of doing. After that first 5K five years ago, I set a new goal to run a 5K race every month. I never dreamed that someday I’d ever run one half marathon, let alone achieve the goal of four half marathons per year.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through running, it’s “never say never”. Some things that sounded impossible five years ago don’t seem so far-fetched today. I can’t wait to see what lessons my 10-year Runniversary brings!

Solo or Group Running – which is better?

Which do most runners prefer –  solo or group running?

In posing this question to my friends, the answer proved to be a resounding “yes”!

“I need to run alone to listen to listen to the sounds in my head and to be free to listen to my body when it tells me either to push or to back off.” – Jim

“I like to train on my own- slap on my headphones and head out at my own pace, whether I’m pushing myself or not.” – Amber

At first, I figured running was a lone sport for the beginner. And honestly, as a newbie, I preferred it that way. It was all too new to me. I didn’t know how my body was going to react, and I sure didn’t want to hold anyone back. So I ran alone, earbuds in, music as loud as safely possible – because I didn’t want to run to the soundtrack of my own heavy breathing.

Fast forward to these days, when more often than not, I’m running with friends. Often we are all training for something, but we do use the time to socialize.

“I love to run with others. I get to share time, hear how life is for them and be inspired along the way. Social connection/ relationships are paramount to personal happiness and well-being.” – Meg

“I usually run/walk alone because I am slower than most.” – Deborah

It was at least a year before I started running and training with others. I still felt self-conscious about my own running. However, our running populace is quite diverse in age and experience, and I learned that running with groups can truly be helpful. We can share helpful advice, cheer one another along and tell each other how awesome we are!

For the first few years, I was really uptight about conversation during running. I really didn’t have the confidence in myself yet to try to do both.

I think I’ve finally learned to relax and just enjoy being out there running/jogging/walking with my friends and sharing the time together. We certainly don’t take it personally if one of us decides to run at his or her own pace for a bit.

“I enjoy being with my friends and doing something we love together. Also, with friends I usually have a tendency to push myself a little harder. As a woman I feel safer when I’m with others.” – Clara

I was anxious about this while training for a recent half marathon. My friend Jeff promised to run the race with me, and he meant the entire 13.1 miles.  I knew he liked to make conversation while running. I was afraid I would slow us both down trying not to be antisocial. As it turned out, we pushed each other along. I ended up with a personal best and had an extremely enjoyable 13.1 miles with my friend.

“I really like starting a run with my friends and talking with them, but towards the middle of the run I like the focus of being alone. Running with friends also pushes me to run harder, because I’m trying to keep up!” – Sarah

“I’d prefer to run in a group, because I am loathe to be the slowest in a formation and it motivates me to move faster.” – Alex

Solo or Group Running - which is better?
Donner’s Downfall (photo courtesy of Race 178)

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of both  experiences. I met up with a group to preview Leg 4 of the Reno Tahoe Odyssey. Nicknamed “Donner’s Downfall”, it’s one of the toughest legs of the 178-mile relay; 8 miles uphill, gaining an elevation of 1,500 feet. Our objective was to run for an hour, so that meant running as far as possible for 30 minutes, then turning around and heading back.

None of my regular running friends was able to make this run with me. So although there were a lot of people there, once we started running, I considered it a solo run. I made it about 2.5 miles up the mountain before turning around, and it was tough. The landscape was stunning. But I was really focused on getting as far as I could in the first 30 minutes.

When I turned around to run back down, I decided to remove my earbuds and enjoy feeling connected to my surroundings. And I did. The valley below me, other snow-capped peaks of the Sierras in the distance; the birds busily chatting amongst themselves, and the rush of the creek alongside the trail –  it was a beautiful experience and so indicative of the solo running experience. It gave me the opportunity to clear my head, enjoy nature in all its glory, and thank God for the beauty of it all and the ability to enjoy it in this way.

Solo or Group Running - which is better?
Enjoying the beauty and solitude of Donner’s Downfall

“I run solo to clear my head, work through real or imagined issues; I run with a buddy/buddies to be inspired or inspire.” – Jeff

That run was especially mellow after having run in a trail race the day before, Race days are so much fun, and obviously include many other people. I loved catching up with friends and meeting new people. It was great fun to start out the race together, spread out, and then cheer one another along as we passed.

And I can’t say enough about other runners. I had slowed to a walk to catch a few breaths before pushing the last quarter mile to the finish line. Another woman tapped me on the shoulder. She said,”I’ve been pacing you this entire race. We’re almost done!” And we ran across the finish line together. THAT is the spirit of the running community, and part of why I absolutely love being a part of it.

So there are most definitely things to appreciate about both the solo and the group run. I equally enjoy both scenarios and am most of all grateful to have the opportunity and the ability to do either, and both.

“Running with friends is very motivating. Running solo is good for the soul!” – Denise

How To Keep Running Healthy with Stretching and Core Workouts

 

So you’re getting out there and running/walking/ wogging a couple of times a week, are you? Good for you! Have you added stretching and core work to your exercise routine?

Hold up a minute, you exclaim. I’m running/walking/ wogging a couple of times a week, isn’t that enough?

Well, no.

One thing we runners are notorious for neglecting is our stretching. It’s easy to forget…and I’m not sure why…maybe we’re anxious to get out there to run; or ready to hit the shower when we finish. New runners as well as seasoned ones are guilty of forgetting to stretch. However, abnormal tightness in muscles and tendons can be the cause of various running injuries.

And core work? Well, your core what keeps your torso upright when you run. Strengthening your abs, back and chest also improves balance and helps your lower body work with your upper body.

“Flexibility and core strength are two of the biggest factors to keep any runner healthy and running strong,” Coach Lauren Evans explains*. Coach Lauren encourages her athletes to implement stretching and core exercises into their training one to three times weekly.

Here are some stretches from Coach Lauren for both before and after your run.

Before the run

Stretching is best when muscle fibers are warm. Stretching cold muscle can result in small tears of muscle fibers and fascia, which can lead to pain and stiffness.

The best stretching for cold muscles is dynamic stretching. An example of dynamic stretching, says Coach Lauren, is the Leg Swing.

Leg Swing

Flexion/Extension
Stand next to a wall, with your weight on your left leg and your right hand on the wall for balance. Swing your right leg forward as high up as you can, and then backward as far as you can. Swing 10 repetitions on each leg.

Cross Body Flexion/Abduction
Facing the wall, lean slightly forward with both hands on the wall and your weight on your left leg. Swing your right leg to the left in front of your body, pointing your toes upward as your foot reaches its farthest point of motion. Then swing your leg back to the right as far as comfortable, again pointing your toes up as your foot reaches its final point of movement. Swing 10 repetitions on each leg.

During or after the run

Static stretches after your run help your muscles to heal and restore them to resting length. Within the first 15 minutes or so after your run is best.

Deep lunge

This deep lunge is actually more of a range of motion stretch, and not a strength activity. Stand tall with both feet together (starting position). Keeping your back straight, lunge forward with the right foot approximately 1 to 1 1/2 yards. Your right thigh should be parallel with the ground, and your right lower leg vertical to the ground. Hold this position. Raise your left arm toward the sky, and perform a sideways lean toward your right leg, keeping your body upright. Hold this position. Do this for 5-10 repetitions, then repeat with your left leg.

Hamstring Stretch:

Lie on your back with your right foot extended in the air. Loop a towel or rope around the bottom of your foot and hold both ends. Pull gently and hold for 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat three times, then switch legs.

Traditional Calf Stretch:

Stand facing the wall. With one leg straight behind you and the front leg bent, push slightly against the wall and hold for 15 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat three times, then switch legs.

Lauren’s “Continuous Core”

Even more than stretching, one of a runner’s least favorite things to do is core exercise. But again, core strength is essential for running healthy.

Continuous Core is performing a core workout for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then going right into the next core exercise with no rest in between.

“Your core is constantly activated when you are running, without rest,” Coach Lauren points out, “so why would you get to rest during a core-specific workout?”

Start with a goal of 2 minutes of continuous core, then progress to 3, minute by minute all the way to a maximum of 12 minutes. “I like to keep a target of 6 to 8 minutes of continuous core three times per week with my athletes,” Coach Lauren added.

Here are some examples of core exercises that you can use in a “continuous core” workout:

  • Crunch
  • Crunch with legs straight up, reaching for toes
  • Bicycle
  • Reverse crunch
  • Side crunch
  • Front Plank
  • Side Plank
  • Supine Plank (tummy toward the sky)
  • Hold push-up position
  • Donkey kicks
  • Fire hydrants

Regular stretching and core work will help keep you running healthy and strong! If you are interested in a personalized plan or have any questions, please contact Coach Lauren. Her email is: lauren@fizioreno.com .

*Lauren Evans has been working in the fitness industry since 2009. She has coached 100+ athletes of all ability levels and helped them achieve their goals. She is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a personal trainer and is currently obtaining her Level 3 certification with USA Track & Field, preparing her to coach national/Olympic level athletes. Lauren and her husband, Ryan, are the owners of Fizio, a locally owned fitness center and athlete recovery lounge located at 400 Mill Street, Reno, NV. For more information about Fizio, please visit FizioReno.com or stop by for a free trial day.

How To Keep Running Healthy with Stretching and Core Workouts

The First 3 Steps: Committing To Your First 5K

So you’ve decided you want to try running. Your doctor has given you a clean bill of health, and the only thing left to do is commit to the effort.

What? Commit? Other than thinking maybe I should BE committed, what are you talking about?

It’s one thing to promise yourself you’re going to do something new. Here are three steps you can take to solidify your goal and help you follow through:

1. Sign up.

The 5K race (3.1 miles) is the most popular and achievable distance for newbie runners. And there are usually quite a few of them to choose from. Is there one that comes to mind immediately? Do a search online for 5K races in your area.

I had heard for years about a local race called Moms on the Run. It looked like a fun community event and it supported a great cause. So before I could talk myself out of it, I went online, registered and paid for my first 5k. There. I was committed, and now I had three months to get in shape enough to run 3.1 miles.

2. Say it out loud

There are psychological studies showing that if you hear or repeat the same message three times, you will start to believe it. I had made the commitment to myself and to Moms on the Run. But so far, it was still a secret known only to me and the race organizer. I needed to say it out loud. And while that is a scary thought at first, it is a necessary step to help you get out of your own way.

I decided to test it first at the water cooler. My coworkers’ reactions could not have been better. with no sign of judgment or doubt, and in fact a glimmer of respect! So I definitely chose the right people to “reveal” my plans to!

Telling my husband was a tad more difficult – but only because he likes to analyze and is known to point out flaws in an idea, which had been discouraging to me in the past. To his credit, he didn’t do that with this bit of news. I’m not sure he was convinced that I was serious, but he never found any flaws with this goal. Now he is one of my biggest cheerleaders.

When I told my mother, she was surprised. She was familiar with my adolescent lament that P.E. class should be optional, not required; and that forcing students to run around the track was cruel and unusual punishment. So her initial shock was warranted. But, I’m fortunate to have a mom who believed and taught me that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. As a matter of fact, she did HER first 5K a couple of years later, and now we sign up for races together whenever we can.

3. Start a plan.

Breathe a sigh of relief here; most 5K training plans don’t expect that you’ll start out running. In fact, most encourage walking in the beginning. It’s good to have a training plan that eases you into your distance so you don’t injure yourself. Find a race plan that fits you, your desired pace, and your schedule. Here’s a sample seven-week 5K training plan for beginners. I started out with a Zero to 5k training app on my iPhone; there are plenty of apps out there.

See? This commitment thing really isn’t so bad. Once you’ve taken these three steps, you’ll feel more attuned to your goal and you’ll be well on pace toward your first 5K!

Beginner 5K – 7-Week Training Plan

Congratulations on taking your first step to running a 5k! You can do it!  To get you started, here is a 7-week training plan written by Coach Lauren Evans.* +

BEGINNER 5k TRAINING PLAN LAUREN EVANS

The goals of this training plan are to:

  • get you fitter
  • reduce your chance of injury
  • keep it fun!

The main elements of this training plan are:

  • walking (W),
  • jogging (J), and
  • cross-training (XC), including activities such as bicycling, swimming, yoga or strength training, just to name a few.

W = Fast Walk (3.5 + MPH)
J = Jog.

With this plan, do not worry about your pace, just get used to jogging faster than walking pace.  Although it may look complicated at first, you will catch onto the variations in pace. You may also be happy to note that you are not expected to run right away.
*Lauren Evans has been working in the fitness industry since 2009. She has coached 100+ athletes of all ability levels and helped them achieve their goals. She is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a personal trainer and is currently obtaining her Level 3 certification with USA Track & Field, preparing her to coach national/Olympic level athletes.

Lauren and her husband, Ryan, are the owners of Fizio, a locally owned fitness center and athlete recovery lounge located at 400 Mill Street, Reno, NV. For more information about Fizio, please visit FizioReno.com or stop by for a free trial day. If you are interested in a personalized plan or have any questions, please contact Lauren. Her email is: lauren@fizioreno.com
+Please consult with your physician prior to beginning any training plan.

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