Sunday, September 27, 2015

Getting out of a Rut

 For the last few weeks, I've been in a rut. I haven't been running much, projects at home have been neglected, and my writing has moved close to a standstill.

We've all been there. Different things can set off a rut: illness, injury, stress. It doesn't matter what the cause is--the effects of a rut are similar. Reduced energy levels, feelings of lethargy, and decreased motivation.

Being in a rut in regards to working out can be especially difficult. The current rut I've found myself in stems from a change in schedule and season that often leads me to become more tired--especially after work--and a nagging injury that led me to greatly reduce my running.

Unfortunately, my rut also led me to spending more time sitting around and snacking, which means not only I am working out less, I'm also eating more--not a good combination for fitness.

After spending these few weeks in this rut, I decided it was time to stop being annoyed at myself for it and start doing something about it. I spent some time this weekend reading about ruts and what to do about them, and here are some things I came up with:
  1. Acknowledge and identify the problem. It's one thing to say I'm in a rut. It's another thing to identify the components. The components of my rut: lack of motivation, decrease in exercise, increase in unhealthy eating habits.
  2. Set priorities and goals. This is where I've been lacking. Most of my "goals" the last couple weeks have been negative as is, don't snack so much. This coming week I'm going to aim for one snack during the day and one after dinner, and to run or bike six days next week.
  3. Ask yourself, where do you want to be in a year? Answer the question with a positive statement. Focus on, what do you want for yourself, not, what do you want to stop doing? In a year from now, I want to be within five pounds of my best racing weight, and be working out consistently at least five days a week.
  4. Start now. It's so easy to tell ourselves: I'll start a healthy routine tomorrow, or next week, or when I'm feeling better. The problem is the future is never now. If you're always thinking of improving in the future, you never get down to the actual business of improving.
There are more ways to get out of a rut, but these seemed the most applicable. If you're stuck in a rut, don't wait. Get out of that thing now!

Run well.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Side Stitches

Have you ever had a near unbearable pain in your side while running? What do you call it? Side pain? Side stitch?
Image Credit:

No matter what you call it, side stitches hurt--I'm not talking about getting sewn up after a kidney transplant. A side stitch is an acute pain, which until recently has been mostly unexplained.

I, like many others, used to think it was caused by a spasm in the diaphragm muscles. It turns out that's not the case. Instead, it's believed to be caused by a tightening in the parietal peritoneum--a membrane that wraps around the body like a corset, connecting back muscles to the abdomen. Read more about it in, "Solving the Mystery of Side Stitches in Runners" from

During my training for the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon in 2010, I began to suffer from side stitches on nearly every run. Nothing I tried seemed to helped, but "Solving the Mystery of Side Stitches in Runners" gives some practical advice for avoided and dealing with side stitches. The following information definitely would have helped me out in 2010:
  • Eating and drinking a large amount within two hours of running correlates to side pain
  • Deep breathing when a side stitch hits has shown some success
  • Stretching the affected side or grabbing the affected side helps some runners
What will help for you? I have no idea. Now when I run, I occasionally stop to stretch my chest and back--mostly because of neck and back pain. I also haven't had a side stitch in about a year. Is the stretching and lack of side stitches related? Again, I have no idea.

If you suffer from side stitches and one of the above tips work for you, awesome. If not, keep trying. You are an experiment of one.

Run well.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Trail Running

View from a trail in Eagan, Minnesota
Running on trails is special. It's tranquil, peaceful, and good for the soul.

Research has shown that spending time in natural settings--green spaces--can reduce stress, boost levels of oxytocin, and increase your quality of life.

Read, "Forget Your Stress While You Run" from Runner's World if you want to know more about using running to reduce your stress. Here's an excerpt:
John Douillard, D.C., author of Body, Mind, and Sport, suggests running in an especially scenic place--a view of a beautiful vista will keep your mind from drifting off to stressful thoughts.
Spring along the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail
Test it out yourself. Go for a hike, bike ride, or run in a green space.  It could be a city park with lots of horticultural offerings, or a paved or unpaved trail through trees, grassland, or along a body of water. See if you feel more at peace afterward.

I can't think of a time I've run a trail and not felt fantastic afterward. Many times run on one of my normal paved routes through the suburbs and been tempted to cut a run short for no reason other than boredom.

Trails, however, have a way of luring me in. I think less about pace. I think less in general. Instead, I soak things in. Running water. Wildlife. A spring.

Even when I run with a friend as I did the other day, conversation often stops during shared experiences: tiptoeing around a section of trail thick with mud and water; a bird of prey perching on a stump next to the Minnesota River; and the natural sounds of birdsong, breeze through the cottonwoods, and running water.

These are things to be experienced.

Run well, and run a trail.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Shoe Lace Tying: You're doing it wrong!

Do your shoes come untied? Do they fit well? Do they feel great everywhere except the ankles? Are they tight somewhere they shouldn't be?

Before you give up on a shiny pair of running shoes, try some alternative lacing techniques.

Working at The Running Room, I've seen several people who've liked a pair of shoes except for one small aspect, usually that the shoes are too loose around the ankles. I've got some skinny ankles, and just recently I learned a lacing technique that's allowed me to use a couple different pairs of shoes I haven't used in the past.

If your shoes come untied, you might be tying them wrong. Watch to following video to make sure those shoe laces stay tied:

 If your shoes don't seem to fit quite right, watch the following tutorial to try out some alternative lacing techniques:

Run well this weekend!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My BFF Brit

I asked Brittany her permission to write this post, but I didn't tell her the title (or get permission to use the sweet pictures below). For the record, I call lots of people BFF whether I think we're going to be friends forever or not, but Brit and her husband Jared are definitely my BFFs.

Having pizza with Brit and Jared before watching the Chicago Marathon

Brittany was gracious enough to give me my first try at "coaching." She was hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and since I'd done it in 2011 and had read about two dozen running books between 2009 and 2011, I offered to help her by writing a training plan.

I used a lot of the workouts from "Run Faster from the 5k to the Half Marathon" and structured her training with the hope of keeping her healthy while maximizing her talent and work ethic.

I've coached a few athletes like Brit. They're different animals than a lot of Americans. They're motivated. They work hard. They are willing to take advice, give input into their training, and make changes based on feedback from others.

Thanksgiving, 2013 - working hard on cranberry sauce
I spend time with other athletes trying to motivate them. Running can be a drag, and if you don't like it or think it hurts, it's really going to be a drag. Fortunately, some of the athletes I started with trying to motivate become athletes like Brittany. When you get good at something, you tend to like it more and try harder.

In 2012, Brittany was following her training plan to a T. She was doing strength and core exercises. She was completing challenging workouts. Then, she blew it.

She got pregnant. Fortunately, her husband is a really cool guy, and I like kids, so I wasn't too upset about it.

Fast forward a little over three years. Brit's a mother of two twins, a pharmacist, and a runner. She just set a PR in the half marathon at the Women Rock Half Marathon. 

She's only been training on a structured plan for 6 weeks--she's stayed in shape through running, chasing around kids, and doing things like the Insanity Workout (I'm thinking of doing this one to get a beach body--wiry runner is so 1954) for three years. A few weeks from now, she'll almost certainly run a PR in the 10 mile.

So, thanks Brittany, for being my guinea pig for "coaching" my first athlete. Oh, and stay healthy and un-pregnant if you want to qualify for Boston in 2016.

Run well.

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