We all laugh as we drive by the health club on New Year's Day, filled with people who have a two-week burst of motivation.
Or, we ARE one of those people.
Like Jim Gaffigan's bit on everyonehating McDonald's and no one copping to the fact that they eat there: Someone is going to the gym. Someone is setting up New Year's Resolutions. But of course we're laughing at "them."
Why are we waiting for New Year's?
But the calendar is an artificial construct, and let's face it: if you need a calendar to motivate you, your motivation is thin. Why would you set up your life around what the calendar says? Why not set your goals for your life around your life and what you want to do with it?
Be the one who starts early.
Why not start now? Now, in that sweet spot of the holidays when we're still overeating like heck, probably have a bit of vacation we're using, so we have a bit of extra time - why not use that time wisely?
Be the one who sticks with it.
The real benchmark for those who set goals for the New Year is whether or not they can stick with it. But most people don't, and the gym empties again and the cycle starts anew. We denigrate ourselves and set goals based on how much we suck at something. "I want to be less fat" or "My goal is to lose weight." That's motivating, isn't it? Oh man, I am guilty as charged on that one. But somehow I'm still reaching for goals. Somehow.
*takes a few minutes of self-examination*
Be good to yourself
"We're really bad at setting reasonable goals," Observes Amy Cuddy, A Social Psychologist at Harvard. I know I'm guilty of that too. Setting an audacious goal, thinking the audacity of it will motivate you - and it does, it motivates you to start. But somewhere in the middle you'll run into adversity and your big audacious goal gets farther away very quickly. Your goals have to be S.M.A.R.T., and you have to set yourself up for success. Cuddy recommends nudging yourself along with more reasonable goals more often.
Good luck... and Happy New Year!
Re-Run: My 30-Day Experiment to Fall Back in Love with Running
So I'm starting a training plan for 10k, the first of ANY training plan that I've followed. And one of the workouts is called a speed workout. That leads me to my follow up question: What the heck is a speed workout?
According to an article on competitor.com, "You don’t have to run fast in training—unless you want to run faster in races."
That's a relief. I have spent the last month or so running without any real "competitive" goal like this - but truly, I do have the idea of not being such a suckass runner sometime in the distant future.
So how does it work?
Hal Higdon's Intermediate plan includes some workouts that are nothing but speed runs. They are typically a 2-mile run where the focus is on running 400 meters at a good 5k speed for you. You do that eight times, nine times, ten times depending on the week with a bit of a walk or jog rest between them. It's really a bit of a shorter run, but the goal is to increase your speed. Wouldn't THAT be like an awesome thing!
For those of you who are new to the blog: I just ran thirty days in a row, just for the fun of it, to see if I could enjoy any part of running. Speed was not my goal, and good thing because my pace increased not at ALL for 30 days.
For a Speed run, the idea is to engage your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are woefully underutilized if you're slow as molasses like yours truly. Forcing yourself to go at a fast pace will help get those muscles working again and help you boogie on down the road a bit faster.
Another speed training workout technique is incorporating Fartleks, which I tried and failed miserably at in my first book. It's Swedish for "speed play," despite the hilarity my nine-year old finds in the name. It's not that funny, unless you start considering the word and it's context in giving yourself a little burst of energy to the next lamp post, mailbox, or sign. Think of Fartleks as quick-tooting your way down the sidewalk, if you will. Essentially, you run fast for a period, then jog or walk, rinse, repeat. Same concept as a speed workout, except it's not quite as scientific in the measurement of the distance.
So my first "organized" speed-run is today. I'll report later. First speed run?! How Pathetic is that?
Some really nice running blogs indexed over there! More to come.
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Nice infographic from Mizuno. They have an interactive version of this at Their site, Mizuno. My plugins made it awkward, but it looks like a neat representation of the data. The infographic:
"Stick to your knitting" is a wonderful old phrase. It's modern equivalent is something like "keep on keeping on."
You'll notice that my blog posts have been increasing lately. That's because I'm not writing a book, quite frankly. I'm stewing on my new one, so you get the so-called-benefit of blog posts on a more regular basis. Because everyone likes it when they're regular.
The blog posts, of course I mean.
When I go radio silent, or the posts trail off, that's a clue that I'm using my words elsewhere. The incredible David Thorne confessed to this recently - as readers, we want NEW stuff - so he stopped posting his witticisms on his site and focused them all into new stuff for his book. My all-time favorite is still Missing Missy. Some people have a whole 'nother gear of snark. Mad respect. Really, I am mad at him but respect him so much.
Today I ran a trail 10k - the "Seward Solstice." The course was ridiculous, practically the Warrior Dash in it's muddiness. The rain didn't help, but the start and finish of the THREE LAP course looked like a mud wrestling pit by the time I reached the finish. Mental note: if you finish sooner, you stay in front of the people who muck up the course. A note to the reader: try not to finish behind me because I am one of those people.
Seward Park, which in my 20 years in Seattle's environs I have magically avoided somehow, is a lovely park jutting out on a tiny peninsula into Lake Washington. On a dry day, I'm sure it's lovely, though the part of the trail we ran was ridiculously technical at times, carefully picking our way over logs on a narrow trail filled with roots and mud.
I think of knitting today, probably in part because by the time we finished the course we were soaked and caked with mud. Cold. Wet. And coveting warmth.
There was a whole lot of nature on the trail, and I think I'm wearing most of it.
Actually, I think that this 10k was harder in some ways than the half-marathon I ran in Seattle three weeks ago. Running laps will make you mental. The second lap is ho-hum but hard and the third lap is brutal. That and the hopping over, ducking under, skidding along at times on the mud makes me think that I'll feel this run in different muscles entirely. Not a bad thing, but boy was it challenging.
So why did I open with knitting? Because somewhere along the line I decided that I'm going to keep going with this running thing, despite overwhelming evidence that I am pretty terrible at it. Since running is a personal journey, sucking at a personal journey is a kind of affront to humanity. So like a good marriage we will stick with each other, running and I, through thick and thin, no matter how much I carouse around with weight training or yard work, and refuse to do the laundry.
So stick to your knitting, even if you are terrible at it.
Here's a guy who isn't terrible at it. David Babcock knit a full-length scarf with his hands while running the New York Marathon. He has the world record for longest scarf knit while running a marathon. What's most astonishing is not that he knits while running, not that he doesn't use needles. What's most astonishing to me is that there is a world record for the length of a scarf knitted while running a marathon. This is amazingly specific, isn't it? I imagine it's not a huge category for Guinness, but there you go, a guy who sticks to his knitting.
I'm not a hater, in fact I love reading people's inspirational/heart-wrenching/gut-check/hilarious/stupid blogs.
It's just that those are SO RARE.
Okay, I'm a hater. Of some things.
Here's what I think is "mailing it in" as a runner and as a writer.
If your blog filled solely with
...Then you might be a runblog redneck.
Here's an actual quotation from an actual blog post on the actual internet:
"...I’ll be at my parents’ house. I think that to get in my 12 miler, I may have to circle the town twice. Should be interesting."
No, it's not interesting. That was not at all interesting, and the rest of the post was just like it. Just because you put the word interesting somewhere in your blog did not make it interesting.
Caveat: of course it's okay to say stuff like that. Many of my sentences are normal. Like that one. Or that one. But not all your stuff should sound like that. When it does, you're in trouble.
Now I know that blogging isn't exactly curing cancer. Neither is writing. (Spoiler alert: only curing cancer is curing cancer, and that's tough to do even in today's day and age.) But there is a certain level of interest that we expect as readers. It's damnably difficult to maintain any kind of readership if your posts are like watching paint dry. On a webpage.
Not coincidentally, here is a game where you can watch paint dry. What's your high score? Mine is 2.
In all fairness, we gravitate towards what we want. If you want to see a vegetarian's healthy ways to get through the holiday using only soybean cookies, then hey, power to you. If you like reading how my ankle is holding up today and whether or not that hill seemed hard this time and what's my new PR for this course, well, power to you. If you actually like watching paint dry, well I suppose there is a japanese fetish chatroom dedicated to paint drying somewhere.
True story: On my first draft I typed watching "pain dry." Now there is almost definitely a japanese fetish chatroom dedicated to that. I'm not searching for it, and I'm not linking. You sickos find that stuff on your own time.
Call me old-fashioned. I like things that seem genuinely interesting, and which took more than your skinny legs and a laptop and 10 minutes to conceive of.
Well, what do you like you crotchety old Bastard?
Here's a funny lady:
And here's a blog which is pretty much solely about running that is witty and informative:
OMG I went through a lot of blogs to find those gems. A lot of really terrible stuff. A lot of dead links. A lot of boredom. A lot of people who think selfies are an art, and running selfies are necessary for everything they do. You're welcome.
And finally: I can hate all I want, but that doesn't change the world. If you're the "dress for success" runner and you get free swag to review and people lap it up and buy their lululemon size minus 4's and put them on because you recommended it and you're getting paid, then who gives a flip what that angry old man thinks? Respect. If you write a cookbook of Sweet Larry's 101 recipes for runners and go on the now-defunct Oprah Winfrey show(that would be a trick), then who's laughing now sucka?
I'm sort of anarchical that way. I included a recipe in my book. For cold oatmeal. Both because a) I actually like cold oatmeal and b) the whole idea of having a recipe in a book seemed absolutely silly, so that's how I wrote it. "How much oatmeal? I don't know. a bit. I'm not a chemist." That kinda thing. People like what they like, and if you like recipes you probably won't like my book. Whatevs. We carve our own place in the world. This post is about the carving, and what I think is "art," and what I think is drivel.
So now you know a bit more about me than I intended.
Oh hey, if this strikes a note of agreement, or maybe think I'm a butt-head and you need more butt-heads in your life(WHO DOESN'T), you can subscribe to this blog. it's on the right side.
Well, I'm certainly late to this party, aren't I?
Some years ago I jumped into the Vibram craze, which meant that I bought a pair of their five-fingered shoes at REI in Portland when I was there on business. They were a lovely white and green color, which means they are a delicious mottled brown and grey today - the color of things that always look dirty:
So after my grand experiment last month I decided "hey, I'm a real runner. Let's give these a go again!"
So I spent a few minutes massaging my toes into their respective places and put the velcro strap across, and away I went.
Funny thing about toes. You can't really wiggle them in the way you can with your fingers and gloves. You feel a bit special as you coax your toes apart and in position, as if putting gloves on a hand that is completely numb. Is that the hole for that toe? No idea. And toes aren't as long or flexible, and the pinky toe is definitely not cooperating. And it rolls a bit to one side, you know? So I gently push them into place and make sure they are as "even" as I can before I start.
And they feel great all of a sudden. Right outside my house is a slight uphill, and they feel great, bounding along on the balls of my feet. Barefoot running is a thing because it's natural. Not like shoes, which make a heel strike very comfortable for us. It's become my natural gait, hitting with my heel first. Lazy.
I find a reason to miss my shoes very quickly. Running downhill in Vibrams is hard as heck. I'm running down a sidewalk that I would normally hit heel-first in every stride, but that hurts like heck without the cushioning of a shoe. So I find myself leaning a bit more slightly forward than normal and trying to hit flatter on the bottom of my foot. Awwwwwkward.
Listen, running at 240 pounds has it's disadvantages.
Fortunately, when I get to the bottom of the first set of hills at the one-mile mark, it's uphill for a good spell. Yes, I just used "fortunately" and "uphill" in the same sentence. If I could run uphill in Vibrams and switch to shoes for downhill, ahhhh that would be awesome. Uphill running on a trail in Vibrams allows you to feel the earth between your toes, push off the ball of your foot, and experience the charge of uphill climbing in a way I haven't really felt.
I don't mind the rocks and sticks. You do have to be a tiny bit careful, because you can definitely feel the terrain more, so a misguided step that finds the corner of a buried rock sticking up is a big deal. I imagine that repeated runs would get you a bit tougher about that, but it's my first Vibrams run in ages(3+ years?) so I'm a bit squeamish about it.
Running on a trail downhill is almost as good. It's a very Tarzan-esque feeling, like you are able to commune with nature because your feet are so in-tune with the ground. It even helps capture that feeling of being a kid, running without boundaries.
And my time on this run is very strong, owing to that feeling. I don't recommend it on a road or sidewalk run, not for me, not yet. But running in Vibrams on the trail is like getting in touch with your spirit animal. I would like to say mine is a wolf, but my pacing is more like a sloth.
So I got a bit more in touch with my Vibram spirit-sloth today. #winning #spiritsloth
Update: Since I've run in my Vibrams, I continue to get in touch with my spirit-sloth. For two days my calves have been hamburger, like I did a couple hundred calf-raises at the gym. So I'm feeling very slothful. It's a different kind of workout apparently.
Not complaining. apparently I had weakass calves. Another few runs in Vibrams will fix that!
Don't we laugh, as parents, at this "medal for everyone" nonsense? Every child gets a medal, everyone's a winner. "When I was a kid, we had winners and losers." And we did. Learning to survive was as important as winning, and it's what we learned. In our age bracket, perhaps, there is more tolerance for failure for that reason. Today, "Everything is Awesome!" and everyone is rewarded for any accomplishment, however meager. Was a time when the coach awarded the top one or two players with a separate medal for achievement. Now, every player gets an award, everyone gets to speechify, and we celebrate mediocrity.
"Yay Brittany, good job playing soccer! I particularly enjoyed the time you were staring off into space as a defender blew by you and scored, but you had that one time when you made a good pass, so we'll call you 'Most thoughtful.' Here's your trophy and certificate!"
I know runners that subscribe to the opposite philosophy when it comes to themselves. They don't run a race unless there is a medal. "I'm not running that race. There's no medal." Actual quote. Not a medal for the top-place finishers, mind you: a medal for everyone. Isn't this the same thing? I had an exchange with someone on a running group yesterday who had their list of races for the year, and when I suggested they might run some distance on the Pacific Crest Trail, they e-looked at me like I was a weirdo. "Why would I run the Pacific Crest Trail when the Hot Chocolate 15k is coming up? They have a cool medal. You don't get a medal for running the PCT."
So what's the point of running? Medals? Arguably. It's nice to look back at our accomplishments, isn't it? To have a friendly and clinky reminder of what we've done, even if it's only a three mile race. Isn't that the laughable thing, what we scoff at for our children? Isn't this what we hate about society? A nice reward for very little effort.
So let's ask ourselves - what's wrong with celebrating our accomplishments? Nothing. I'm going to do a 180-degree turnaround on this. Give my kid a medal for sucking. I'm okay with that. His fragile little ego needs all the boosting it can get.
All three of my sons are incredible soccer players - like your kids -- so I'm obviously being facetious. About them sucking, not about the medals. Medals for everyone!
There's a larger point here, however. It's not that Wendell gets a medal for picking his nose. It's that we associate rewards with trying, and if you don't try, or you are rather mediocre, then maybe it shouldn't be celebrated in the same way. Do you know there are some people who jump in a race without registering for it so they can get the medal? And there are people who jump into the race somewhere along the way for the same reason? They're called bandits, and they are universally reviled. That's the essence of cheating. Getting without doing.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but ultimately medals are all about effort and pride. I kicked ass, I want something to show for it, something tangible so I can remember it and hold my precious in my hand, stroke it longingly, wear it in my old age as I become invisible to the world and sit in my cave. So precious...
*Cough* Gollum * Hack *
Let's try to remember that running is a solo sport, it's about challenging yourself. Testing your own mettle, seeing what you're made of. If you sucked, maybe you shouldn't get a medal. I ran my second half and finished in the bottom 5% of my age group. Impressive, no? and yet there my medal sits, staring at me. So precious.
How hard it is, to remember that the REASON we run - we do almost anything, really - is for ourselves, not for some petty trinket that sits inanimate, waiting for attention. The precious is tied to our history, but running is about experiencing the present and improving ourselves. We should all try to remember that.
Do you promise to remember that?
You swore on the precious! You promised!
To go along with my love for infographics and my burgeoning let's say "Like" for Running, an infographic on running's health effects. To me, the second-to-last benefit has been the most surprising, and important!
So my wife asks me
"Are you going to run today?"
I had run for each of the two previous days.
"No," I say proudly, "I'm giving myself a day to rest." But as soon as I said it I felt a strange remorse, like I was cheating. I know, it's weird. Who feels that way about running?
I ran every day in November. I have run every other day or so since, and I have definitely felt a sensation that I SHOULD be running on days I don't.
That's a new thing.
And suddenly, at the moment I recall saying "No," The Smiths play in my head like it's some awful goodbye to something that might represent love:
I guess I should go running? Derp.
Whatever my complicated emotions are about running, I'm not supposed to be emo about it. It doesn't represent an odd melancholy. Maybe that's just the mood I'm in. Running will fix that, that's the VERY interesting part of the story.
So I'll lace up and get out and keep the running faith today, with the other Pathetic runners. You darned right I will.
Have you ever felt this way about running?
(This story is old, but I know that it goes on.)
When we saw Dean Karnazes on November 30th this year, he made a comment about how, on days he DOESN'T run, he feels terrible. He runs so much that running has become his natural state.
I ran for 30 days consecutively, just a half hour a day or so. After the Half-marathon on November 30th I took a day off to rest HECK YES I DID. Since then I have been running every other day or so, like I used to, with an emphasis on "or so."
And I feel terrible. It's as if when you stop moving your body, your body develops an inertia you can feel. Suddenly, I'm an old man - not because I'm sore, but because I feel lethargic.
Don't get me wrong - when I run I get TIRED. I only run for about 23 minutes and then stop, like it's my own personal wall, past which only a walk break is possible. It's hard. I'm like Rocky, on mute. Silence and a lot of huffing and puffing.
It's a funny thing about working out, that it enervates you while it is making you tired, it invigorates you as it breaks you down.
I ran yesterday, a nice 3 mile loop in Discovery Park in Seattle. And now, all things considered, I'm running today. HECK YES I AM.
I thought that the hardest thing would be getting going on my experiment, getting it off the ground. It wasn't. I had a few days where I felt obligatory about it, like it was doing laundry. But I was motivated.
As it turns out, stopping was harder.
"Just as it’s hard to live with a saint, Markey finds it impossible to live with a wife who is a “real” runner. The only choice left to him is to follow her example by setting himself a 30-day challenge to see if he can also become a runner, an activity he loved when a child but forsook upon his discovery of the easier and swifter bicycle, and finally the automobile, as modes of travel. Markey’s first book, Re-Run: My 30-Day Experiment to Fall Back in Love With Running is set up like a textbook with tables of content and photographs, but avoids the requisite dryness with self-deprecating one-liners, clever social commentary, and insightful philosophy on just about any topic a reader can imagine. This author has a non-stop brain in a body that is loathe to keep up.
While extolling the virtues of running: improved health, weight loss, increased self-esteem, he laments its hype with commentary such as: Runner's high? This is a cruel joke they tell newbies so they'll keep running. They fool us into thinking we must just not 'get it'. The runner's high seems like the emperor's new clothes to me, something only the smart can see…Second wind? To me, that's like one of those political terms cooked up to make something sound better than it is, like death tax, or job creators…Let’s note here that second wind sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, like “military intelligence.” The term implies you had a first wind. That there was wind at all. I guess I’m running to try to experience the second wind before I experience my 'Last gasp.'
Markey gets through his 30-day experiment, huffing and puffing, but emerges a marathon runner. This is not a marathon read. It’s quick and easy, and along the way, the scenery is good, and the company is fun. In the long haul, he has created a 210-page metaphor for the attainment of any worthwhile goal, making Re-Run: My 30-Day Experiment to Fall Back in Love With Running a worthwhile read."
-Linda Lee Greene, author Guardians and Other Angels; co-author Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams
...placed 811th in the 2nd annual Totetum Shore 5k Fun walk/run, I had a sudden realization.
I might never win a race.
I am competitive by nature, and I find my self-talk during a run is often focused on doing more and better. Comedian Jim Gaffigan talks about it too: “when I’m working out I tell myself I’m going to do this every day. Then the next day I’m like ‘well, not EVERY day.’ Then the next day I’m like… ‘I’m happy with the way I look.’”
I watch my time, thinking about how I can run farther, faster, better. But I’m getting older, you know? Being competitive seems rather far-fetched. I am no longer at that place in my life, but my brain latches on to it, like it’s the only reason to run.
Re-Run: My 30-Day Experiment to Fall Back in Love with Running is available for pre-order on Kindle and will release on December 14th.
Available as an ebook and in print at Amazon. also available on iBooks, for the nook at Barnes and Noble(nook? who has a nook?!), and at Smashwords in pdf and epub formats.
Has not been translated (YET!)into tagalog, to my knowledge.
***** Five Star Reviews
"A fun and enjoyable read"
"A fun and fascinating read"
(Apparently "fun" comes up a lot)
- Amazon reviews