The Buddy System

So, I don’t run with people much these days. My stupid UC has sort of nailed me to the treadmills down at NYU. And when I do get the thumbs-up sign from my large intestines and get to run outside, I often have to stop during the first couple of miles anyway. Sucks.

But it wasn’t always that way and I miss the option of having a running buddy.

Yes, running is get-away time for me when I’m only focused on myself and don’t have to think/talk/fix anything I don’t want to for about an hour. I really enjoy this quiet time and cherish the energy I can put into my workout after coaching and pushing others through theirs.

But sometimes it’s nice to have company. And sometimes it’s fun to be with a friend. And the time always flies by when there’s someone running next to me.

Running with friends is fun. You can bring each other snacks, like PB & J sandwiches.

The other thing about a running buddy is accountability. Sure, one of you will want to back out of a run now and then, but you are far less likely to do so when your buddy will be waiting for you at dawn or after work. This applied to trips to the gym, spin, yoga and any other type of activity, too!

Tweety and I were doing yoga about once a week together before school took over for both of us. She’s wicked smart and up at Cornell now :) and we both have to focus, but it was great while it lasted! Rainbow & KP are my spinning buddies and I love that they are up for anything, despite their sometimes crazy schedules.

Love how all my favorite people came out to ride with me on Saturday! Especially this lady who ate a half-marathon for breakfast in Nashville two weeks ago. Yay, Sam! (totally stole this picture from Sam’s blog: checkmypulseblog.com)

Listen, this country has a serious problem with obesity. By 2030, 46% of Americans will be obese. Why not have Happy Hour at the gym or pounding pavement in the park instead of at the bar? I love a mojito every now and again, but I get so much more out of a good workout than I do out of a drunken night on the town.

Mmmmm…mojito. Mojitos are a sometimes treat, like Cookie Monster says.

Grab a friend. Hit the gym. Keep each other on track. You don’t have to do it alone! And if you don’t have any friends interested in getting their sweat on, perhaps you should seek out some new friends who have the same interests and priorities as you. Just a thought. Lululemon stores, running clubs and Twitter (!) are great places to meet new workout friends. You never know, you might just make a friend for life!

Now go out and run!

26.2 Every Month

More than anything else in the whole world, I like to help people change their lives. Not in big ways, mind you. I’ll leave that to Oprah. But in small ways, like exercising and changing health habits for the better.

In a perfect world, I could be with every single person who needs me to work them out and counsel them every day. Obviously, I can’t do that. I’m not Santa Claus, after all.

You thought you had problems (Image courtesy of geekartgallery.com)

So many people want to start a workout regimen and don’t know where to begin. Some people are on the extreme side of overweight and can’t just “go out and run”. Some people have never exercised before and would be clueless in a gym. Here is my advice for you Newbies out there who are starting from scratch.:

Walk.

Walking is just as good as running if you can’t run. It’s exercise, it’s a natural motion for your body, it’s weight-bearing and cardiovascular. It’s great! Here’s the catch, I want you to commit to walking a marathon every single month. You read that right: 26.2 miles every month for a year. Are you up for the challenge?

I bet you are.

You can walk one mile a day (taking one day off a week in the 30 & 31 day months).

Walk 2 miles every other day.

Walk 1 mile every other day and 2 miles on the weekend.

I don’t care how you do the math, but I want you to do it! Take your kids for a walk before or after dinner every night. Walk with your spouse and leave the kids at home for 1 mile every morning/night. Trade off walking time with your spouse so you can each have some quiet time. Do whatever it is you have to do, but DO IT NOW.

This athlete has one leg and is running. What's your excuse again? Oh yeah, you don't have one.

Figure it out. Start now. You can do this.

If you want to change your life and start exercising, it’s going to take commitment, hard work, and support. It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. While I was prepping for my procedure on Monday I watched the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. I was so moved by the people I saw in the film who decided that their life was worth living and they made the changes necessary to keep on living. It was inspiring. Watch it, it’s on Netflix Instant Steam.

26.2 every month for a year. Are you with me? Tell me you are and let’s get the show on the road.

Now go out and run–or walk!

Excuses, Excuses

People will throw out every excuse in the book to get out of a workout.

I don’t have time. I’m not really an athlete. I hate to sweat (clearly these people are not my friends until they ♥ sweat). I have bad knees. I’m tired. I don’t have time. I’m out of shape (seriously, I’ve heard this). I don’t like sports. I’m not looking to lose weight. It’s too expensive. I’m not good at <insert physical activity>. I hate going to the gym. I don’t want to bulk up. I don’t have time.

I am fortunate to have struggled with my weight at a young age. You read that right. Fortunate. Sure, I was always athletic looking, but once high school hit, I had to watch what I ate and work out twice as much as every other girl to maintain a healthy weight. I say that I was fortunate in this way because I learned younger than most girls that I had an average-to-slow metabolism and I couldn’t just run around and eat whatever I wanted. No sir. I had to run. This stayed with me and in my adulthood, I find that working out is not a chore for me the way it is for so many men and women my age who are struggling with their weight for the first time. I love exercising. I learned to love it through sports and getting involved at my college gym. I’m lucky.

So many people I meet are not so lucky. They were thin and fit their entire teenage and college years and, suddenly, when they are sitting behind a desk or having kids or simply experiencing the dip in metabolism that comes with being thirty-something, they’re panicking because they’re overweight. These are often the people who are making the excuses, but who need the most help.

Here’s the thing: I went running this morning and my workout (Yasso 800s) took me about an hour. I have a Physics exam tomorrow. I have Physics Lab tomorrow. I have class at 12:30. I have a blog to write. I have three lululemon athletica events in span of 10 days to run. I have clients to email. I have doctor’s appointments to make (begrudgingly). I have dinner to make. I have three clients to see tonight. I have, I have, I have…

…I have to run.

MAKE the time. It will not always happen organically. You have to devote time to planning and executing your plan to work out. That’s the simple fact of the matter. It’s not easy, but it is simple. And you may not always want to and you may not always feel like you had a great workout, but doing it puts a check in that box of “I took care of myself today.” No one else can do it for you. Do it now.

And now for the time when I will tear down every single one of your excuses one by one:

I don’t have time. I’m calling BS on this one. You have time for Modern Family. Watch it on the treadmill.

I’m not really an athlete. So what?

I hate to sweat. Get over it. It’s good for you.

I have bad knees. Swim, bike, elliptical, cross train, yoga…do I need to go on?

I’m tired. So am I.

I don’t have time. Make the time.

I’m out of shape. How do you presume to rectify this?

I don’t like sports. So don’t compete. It’s a hobby if you don’t compete.

I’m not looking to lose weight. Are you looking to have a long life? Good! Then you need to exercise.

It’s too expensive. So is a hospital stay. I run on my streets. I do yoga in my apartment. I lift at my school’s gym. I use resistance bands at home and 8 lb. weights. Not expensive as you think.

I’m not good at <insert physical activity>. And you won’t get any better unless you work at it.

I hate going to the gym. So don’t. Do an outdoors Boot Camp class. Do yoga at a studio. Ride in an indoor cycling studio and not a gym. I don’t care where you do it, but do something!

I don’t want to bulk up. Me neither.

I don’t have time. You’re a liar.

There you are. My favorite excuses debunked one by one. The key to getting yourself together is wanting to get yourself together. Until you want it for yourself, no one can force you to do it. Maybe you want it because you want to look better, maybe you’ve had a health scare, maybe you’re tired of being tired. Whatever it is, you have to want it.

I want it for you, so if I can help please don’t hesitate to ask. But you have to want it first and most.

Do you want it?

Then go out and run!

Getting Motivated And Staying Motivated

For most of us, exercising is a way to stay in shape. Vanity, pride and fear keep us going to the gym, hitting the road and trying that new workout that promises to burn 800 calories an hour (really?). I would argue that mere physical condition isn’t enough to keep runners going. In fact, if getting “in shape” is the reason people start running, it is almost never the reason that they keep running.

We runners are a different breed. Whether you are a 5K runner, a marathoner or an ultra-marathoner, you are a runner and you are different. We do grueling workouts under extreme weather conditions. We build our days, our diets and our social lives around our runs. We travel the world to race the same distance over and over again. We wake up early to pound the pavement or the treadmill.

Our sport is your sport’s punishment.

And we do it willingly.

And happily.

And we’ll do it again tomorrow.

But why do we run? Like I said, the first answer out of most people is “to stay in shape.” I get that. Me, too. But when we dig deeper, it is something else, isn’t it?

For me, it’s a challenge to do something I’ve done for 21 years and see if I can do it better and better every day. I run to prove to myself I can get faster, go farther if I dedicate myself to it. I run against only one person: me.

This is not unusual for most runners. The pros try to beat one another, sure, but we amateurs are out there running against only one person: ourselves. We are our own motivation to keep going day after day.

So how do you stay motivated when the only competition you have is the person in the mirror every morning?

#1. Run with people who are faster than you. I remember the exact moment when I was 14 and I passed the #3 girl on our varsity cross-country team. I had worked hard all season to get into shape and was always 6th or 7th (read: last on our team) but in this race and the ones after it, I was 4th and 3rd. I will never forget how those 6 women pushed me in our workouts to work hard and never give up.

#2. Find a race. Your marathon might be over, but that doesn’t mean your racing season has to be! You’re in probably the best shape of your life when you toe the line at a race you’ve trained 4-6 months to run, why leave it at the finish line? Find a 5k or a 10k to really race in a month or so and start tailoring your workouts to a shorter distance. It will allow you to recover from your long training runs, but keep you from diving headfirst into a training slump.

#3. Run for a charity. I’ve said it over and over again: running for someone or something else is far more fulfilling than just running for yourself. Believe me on this one and go out for a charity you hold near and dear to your heart.

#4. Set goals. I want to run a 7-minute mile. I want to run a sub-4 hour marathon. I want to beat my best 5k time. I want to run a mile without stopping. Set your goal. Map out a plan. Take the first steps out the door. Do it.

You can do anything you want to, you just have to be brave enough to TRY.

Motivation is not always an easy thing to find and it’s even harder to maintain. But if you are proactive about it, you can keep your motivation levels high throughout your training season and have some fun while you’re at it. Besides, if it isn’t fun anymore, why the hell would you still be doing it?

Now go out and run!

Whether you’re a runner or an athlete of a different kind, what keeps you going??

Q & A: Speedy Recovery Tricks

Q. I’m pooped after my long run! Should I take the next day off from working out and lounge around all day?

A. I’d advise against that. It’s counterintuitive, but you’ll actually recover faster from a brutal workout if you do a short, easy workout the next day. Remember the Shake Out Recovery Run? This is the time to do it. You might be a little sore when you start, but by gently moving your body and increasing the blood flow to your muscles, you are providing your muscles with the nutrients they need to rebuild and recover. Take the day after that off to rest and recoup. Maybe you use that easy run to catch up with a friend who’s a little slower or enjoy the scenery. Whatever you do, take it easy but get up and move!

Q. All I want after a hard workout is get into a hot shower and stay there. For hours. That’s cool, right?

A. You know what’s better? Suffering for juuuuuust a few more minutes (10-15, to be exact) in an ice bath and then sit in your hot, steamy shower for as long as your little heart desires. The thing about the ice bath is that it gets your body to chill out and not swell up. When you’re out there running for a while or killing it during a really tough run, your blood is a-pumpin’ and your body’s fluids are moving at a faster rate than normal. When you stop, your body takes a while to slow back down and you can build up fluid (edema) in your extremities (legs!!) which is seriously uncomfortable and hinders your recovery. Ice bath first, hot shower second.

Q. I don’t really need to stretch after a long run, right?

A. Wrong. Right after a run is when your muscles are the most warm and your joints are the most lubricated. Prime stretch time. As you get older (ahem, I am not old, just old-er), these problems become more apparent. You youngsters probably don’t feel creaky just yet, but wait a few years. You will. In order to promote muscular recovery and prevent injury YOU MUST STRETCH AFTER YOU RUN. Seriously, I just watched Spirit of the Marathon, a documentary film that follows various athletes through their marathon training leading up to the 2005 Chicago Marathon. Deena Kastor won that marathon and in the film she talks about the importance of stretching after a run. So much so that, despite her confessed “laziness”, she has her husband stretch her because she knows how crucial that component of training really is. Treat it like your workout: make the time for stretching.

Now go out and run!