Monthly Archives: January 2017

Appreciation

appreciation

Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to stop and really appreciate what we have right in front of us. It really hits us hard when we lose something we under appreciated.

Our health is one of the things most people take for granted. If we look around our immediate environment we’ll see others who are struggling with their health. We all have family members and friends who are dealing with some health condition that limits their ability to do some things.

I’m guilty of this same thing. There are a few circumstances where it always hits me though: race day and long runs, which in many ways are the same thing. Maybe it’s just the endorfins that make me stop, literally, and look around me realizing how lucky I am to be out in the mountains running.

I’m very conscious  of what I put into my  body and try to make good decisions about 90% of the time, but even this level of awareness hasn’t saved me from taking my health for granted.

It’s more than just our health that gives us the ability to run. Our friends and families give us the freedom and space to do our running thing. Our socioeconomic status gives us the ability to take the time off to run or not have to work two jobs. Running also takes a certain amount of financial means, not as much as other sports (cycling or triathlon), but shoes can get expensive even if you are not running in the top brands.

The condition of our country plays a role too. Can you imagine trying to be a runner in a country riddled with war? I thank my guardian angels I am able to run safely in the mountains, the city, and the neighborhoods near my home.

Another one is the availability of food and clean water. Running burns through a lot of calories and without enough food to eat on a daily basis would be difficult as would running without enough clean water.

Appreciate the gifts you have been given and don’t waste them. Work hard when you are out there and show your gratitude do those who support you in your efforts.

Pollution and Running

air-pollution

Aerobic activity is healthy and everyone should be doing it a few times a week, but what about all the air pollution? Running in air pollution has the potential to cause serious health issues.

I am fortunate to live in an area where the air pollution is generally low enough that there are minimal risks when running out doors. In the winter months, that changes. I live in a valley and the cold air traps the pollution down in the valley as shown in the picture above. Yuck!

I can see it in the air, a brownish yellow fog. I can smell it in the air, exhaust and dirt. I can feel it when I breathe, thick and irritating.

I cough up mucus. My nose is congested. My throat is sore.

Pollution consists of both fine particulate matter and ozone gases. Both are bad, but the particulate matter causes major problems because it settles in your lungs causing inflammation and irritation. It can also get into your bloodstream. When it gets into your blood vessels, it causes them to dilate blocking oxygen and blood from reaching your muscles. It also lowers your body’s ability to create a protein, which breaks up clots.

But what about running?

When you run you inhale more air, ten to twenty times as much air, and you pull it deep into your lungs. If you are breathing through your mouth, the air bypasses the natural filter of your nose. Which means, all that thick yellow fog is making itself at home in your lungs.

Those with asthma, diabetes, heart or lung conditions, or lower respiratory disease should avoid being out in the pollution and definitely should not be out exercising in it.

For the rest of us who are relatively healthy, you should think twice. Running in the pollution especially long runs, which put you out in the yellow fog for hours at a time, is probably not a good idea. It can damage your airways and increase your risk of developing asthma. Oh and there is the chance that it will increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease(heart attacks) and lung cancer too.

Experts in the air pollution area say don’t give up on exercising outdoors because the benefits to exercise outweigh the damage especially if you take some precautions.

So what do you do?

Monitor the air quality in your area. The internet is the best way to do this. Most areas have a website dedicated to reporting air quality and keep it updated by the hour.

Run indoors on a track or treadmill. I know it is not the most fun, but it’s better than cancer. On Sunday, I ran my second long run on the treadmill.

Run where the air is safe to breathe deeply. On Saturday, I went to a higher mountain valley to run where the air is clear. It was slightly colder than where I live, but at least I could breathe.

Reduce the time you are out there. If you must run outside, shorten your run and try to time it for when the pollution is at its lowest if possible.

Stay away from major roadways.

Take an extra rest day and hope it clears up the next day.

Finish Line Blues

blues

Wow! After months of training you’ve finally made it across the finish line of your first race. How do you feel?

Well, umm, what do I do now? Sure I have this finisher’s metal or something but…there’s this whole in my life that my training and my daydreaming about finishing filled. This is totally normal. Training may suck at first, but soon you learn to love it and you look forward to even the most grueling workouts. You enjoy the challenge and the runners high, wow, who would want to live without that.

As you approach the event you have been working towards, start looking beyond it. What are you going to do afterward. Is this the only race you are ever going to do? if not, you should find another one. If it is, then find something else physical to do. Losing those endorphins creates a drop in your mood that can last for days or even weeks.

Future plans don’t have to be running related either. There are other aspects of life set up family time or social events. Take a class in something you have always wanted to learn but haven’t had time to do.

Talk with other runners about it. Having someone validate your feelings and provide some guidance when you are down can help you start to pull yourself out of the dumps. Just knowing it’s normal can be enough to lift you a little.

Evaluate how the season or race went with an objective eye not critical. Bashing yourself for mistakes in training or during a race is not productive. Look at where you struggled and find ways that would help you improve in those aspects.

Running for me has never been about the races. It’s always been about the training. Races are just a new place to run and a staffed route (with amazing volunteers I might add). Even when I don’t have a race coming up, I maintain my running schedule, including some pretty high miles.

I like to run races, but if I can’t for some reason, I try to stay involved in the running community through volunteering at events.

If I’m injured that’s when the blues kick in, because it prevents me from running. How do I combat this, I cross train like a boss! I try to keep my mind off of it as much as I can, but also stay optimistic and realistic.

 

Winter Hydration

winter-water

Just because it’s cooler outside doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need to be hydrated. The body’s thirst response is reduced by up to 40% in the winter. When you get cold your blood vessels constrict slowing the blood flow to your extremities which is why your hands and feet typically get cold first.

In the winter we don’t always feel sweaty, but that doesn’t mean you’re not sweating. It means your clothing is doing its job. Winters in Utah are very dry, more try than the summers actually, because the water in the air is frozen. I have to put lotion on a few times throughout the day and my hair frizzes nearly every day. This dry frozen air can increase your chances of becoming dehydrated, so don’t neglect this critical aspect of your winter training.

Another contributing factor for winter dehydration is losing water through your lungs. The colder the air the more water vapor is present in your breath. You can see it when you exhale. It freezes and you can’t breath it back in.

The first step in maintaining your hydration is developing the habit of taking sips throughout your runs. Frequent small sips of water is easier on your body and reduces the risk of becoming dehydrated. If you wait until you want to guzzle the water, you have waited too long and are now trying to play catch-up, which is never a good place to be in.

Next is your clothing. Maintaining a comfortable body temperature allows you to have more stable water and electrolyte loss. Wear layers you can take off and put back on as needed.

Be aware of how much you are drinking. This is huge because many of us get in our zone and we don’t really pay attention to how much we are sweating or when the last time was we sipped on our water or how frequently we are doing so.

Winter hydrating can be a challenge if you run outside in temperatures below freezing. There are insulated handhelds and hydration packs (snowboarders and skiers use them). You may need to break up your run to keep your water from freezing or get a really nice friend who is willing to bring you water every so often.

If you are using a hydration pack and it’s not insulated make sure and blow the water out of the tube and mouth piece every time you take a sip. If you leave it in the tube, it will freeze leaving you with nothing to drink.

 

 

Creating Lasting Change

lasting-change

It’s resolution time!! January of every year most of us make resolutions about how to change our lives to make them better or to get into a better place  allowing us to do the things we really want to be doing.

The problem is after about six weeks we give up. We might drag it out for another two weeks, but ultimately the changes don’t hold, so how do we create lasting change?

First, start with your language. Resolution just has a negative connotation, even if it’s a positive word, it carries some heavy baggage because so many people give up. I use the word goal.

Second, don’t go into things at full throttle. If you are new to swimming, you don’t jump in the deep end. It’s the same with any other exercise program you begin as well as other areas of life. Go slow.

Third, don’t set the bar too high. Change takes time. You can’t expect to go from novice to expert overnight. That type of approach results in injury. Slow and steady wins the race. Learning to do something properly is more important than learning quickly.

Fourth, Forgive yourself for set backs, but hold your self accountable too. Beating yourself up for mistakes is not going to help you move forward. If you miss a day, it’s not the end of the line. Start fresh each day. You also know when you are making excuses. Excuses to not do something, are a dime a dozen. Find reasons to follow through.

Fifth, track your progress. Keep a chart and check off days that you have followed through. You can take it a step further by tracking improvements such as weigh lifted, pace, distance, or whatever it is you are working toward.

Sixth, celebrate success. Don’t go all crazy and eat a cake or something silly that could set you back in your goals. Try little rewards, like new socks, new shoe laces, a new headband. Anything to make you feel good about what you are doing.

Having a support person who has the same goal and is committed to reaching it, is very helpful in maintaining a commitment to change your life style.

Can’t Make it Up

extra-credit

Life isn’t like high school— you can’t make up the work. There’s really no credit recovery system in place. And there isn’t extra credit. Sorry.

This is why it is so important to catch waning motivation early, injuries, overtraining, and even boredom. When you miss a training session, sleep, or a meal (among other things in everyday life outside of training), you can’t go back and insert it. Your body just doesn’t work that way.

So what do you do if you miss a critical training session or don’t sleep well the days coming into a race? You press reset and move forward. Don’t look back and for god’s sake don’t try to “make it up” or get “extra credit.” The only thing you will get for your efforts is less. You’ll deplete your body and it won’t be ready for the next session, if you try to throw in an extra workout. You also run the risk of an unnecessary muscle strain or similar minor injury, especially, if you are a beginning runner or not used to doing two a day workouts.

Sleep—that precious recovery time a body needs (and my mind despises). If you lose it, it really is gone. Harvard Medical School actually did a study on this very issue click here for the study. The sleep foundation summed up the findings, “Even when you sleep an extra ten hours to compensate for sleeping only six hours a night for up to two weeks, your reaction times and ability to focus is worse than if you had pulled and all-nighter.”

Making up calories doesn’t sound reasonable to me unless you are trying to gain weight. If you’re maintaining or losing it’s counterproductive. Over eating at a meal, isn’t good for you. It can make you feel hungrier the next day, which sets you up for eating more the next day too. You eat to fuel your body when it needs fuel. You don’t overeat to replenish your body’s energy supply for work you did the day before.

So if you miss a training session, a meal, or sleep, move forward. Don’t criticize or berate yourself either, that doesn’t help anyone and can lead to less motivation and progress. Press reset and move on.

Burnout

burnout

I’m just sick of doing this over and over again. What do you do when this is what comes out of your mouth or echoes in your head before every run? Burnout is caused by repeating the same thing over and over, overworking your body at every training session, and stress.

Variety is important in every area of life you want to maintain a certain level of excitement about whatever it is you’re doing. If you run the same route, the same pace, the same time, the same distance, the same… you get the idea, eventually you just want to quite. It’s not fun anymore. Even if you do different workouts during the week, if you keep the same pattern it can lead to burnout. You have to mix it up more than that. Having a secondary sport is a great way to break things up. Try to pick something that is different from running. Running is a solitary sport for the most part, so picking something that is more social is going to keep you engaged in your training more. You can add an aerobics class or a team sport.

Overworking yourself every time you go out for a run kills motivation to run. You should absolutely work hard on your hard days, but you should have easy days too, where you leave the Garmin at home and connect with the reasons you started running in the first place. We all hear about how overtraining can cause injuries because your body is constantly taxed and doesn’t have the time to recover. But there is a mental side of it too, burnout. You become resentful of your running. It’s like any hobby, if you make it more of a job than something you do to relax and have fun, you’re going to hate it. It loses its value.

Stress in other areas of your life suck the life and desire out of other things you enjoy. If stress at work, with family, or with friends is becoming overwhelming taking a break from running for a few days or a week is not a bad thing. This may seem counter intuitive, but you’ll be glad you did and come back to it with new vigor. Just don’t take some much time off that you start losing the benefits you have gained through running. Make sure you have a good support system that can take on some of the things that are weighing you down. Maintaining your love of running includes taking care of other areas of your life.

Depression isn’t the same thing as burnout, but it’s something to look for if you are losing the love of things you enjoy. Check in with yourself and make sure you haven’t lost enjoyment in all the things you enjoy and that you’re not withdrawing from those that you love.

Keep your fire for running burning and don’t let it burn out.