Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Motivation and Races

My last post on motivation gave some tips for getting and staying motivated over the holiday season. Though there are lots of great ways to get motivated, the best motivation for me has always been racing.

When I've got a race on the schedule, the first thing I do, sometimes even before I sign up, is write a training plan. Nothing gets me more motivated than looking at my training schedule and having a daily workout.

The prospect of completing your first 5k, half marathon, or marathon, or of running a new best time, may be the perfect motivator for you as well. Knowing that following that schedule gives you your best chance of doing your best might get you out the door better than anything else.

So, if you're looking to stay motivated, stay healthy, complete your first race, or run a new best time, consider signing up for a race. If you live in the Minneapolis area, check out my post on winter events if you want to do a race soon.

In my next post I'll share some of my favorite spring races, then highlight those races in individual posts.

Run well.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


With Thanksgiving come and gone and Christmas just around the corner, holiday weight gain looms large. Research suggests that Americans gain an average of one to five pounds over the holidays, which doesn't sound bad, except research also suggests that weight stays on.

You can avoid that weight gain, or at least burn those extra pounds off, by getting in some extra exercise. Sometimes the hardest part of running is getting out the door. If you're having trouble getting motivated to run, there's a lot you can do to get motivated and stay motivated.

Read, "The 12 Habits of Highly Motivated Runners" from Runner's World for some in-depth tips to get motivated. If running's not your thing, substitute running for any exercise. Here are some highlights from the article:
  • Run in the morning. I know it's hard--it's easy to hit that snooze button to grab another 20 minutes of sleep. Consider, however, that you're not really getting anything out of that short amount of sleep anyway. Resolve to go to bed a little earlier, and before you know it getting up early and getting out the door for a run will become routine. 
  • Speaking of routine, set one. Set a goal to run however many days a week that works with your schedule. I'd recommend at least three days to reap the cardiovascular and muscular benefits of running.
  • Run with others. Having a training partner means someone else is counting on you to get out for a run. Or, join a running club or training group. I always notice the miles tick by quicker when I've got someone to chat with.
I know motivation can be tough--especially in the Midwest where this time of year means shorter days. Running in the dark is definitely not as fun. Still, I've never felt bad about getting out for a run.

Run well.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Mental Health and Fitness - Part 2

In a previous post, I wrote on the many benefits of exercise in regards to mental health. Since then, I conducted further research on the benefits of mental health, and I wanted to share some of what I found.
Running usually puts a smile on my face

I have been diagnosed with both bipolar and generalized anxiety disorder. While I will most likely be on medication for bipolar for the rest of my life, there's a good chance I will be able stay off medication for my generalized anxiety disorder--a big positive considering the side effects of anxiety medications, one of which is a rebound effect that leads to even more anxiety.

Why will I be ale to stay off medication? Exercise. Studies have shown that exercise is as effective as medication in treating mild depression and anxiety. While this may not be true for all people, even if exercise is not effective in managing and preventing anxiety and depression, one will still reap the physical benefits of exercise. Read more in "Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress" from the Mayo Clinic.

So what's the key to using exercise to mitigate or prevent anxiety and depression? The first thing I'd suggest is setting some goals. A simple goal could be to exercise at least 20 minutes five times a week. Or, if you're feeling more motivated, 20 minutes every day. I'd suggest 20 minutes as the minimum, especially for cardiovascular benefits, but you could certainly do more or less (check out some shorter workouts here and here).

What works best for me is signing up for a race. Once I have a race on my schedule, I write myself at training plan, and that seems to work best for getting myself motivated.

The next step in using exercise to improve your mental health is making exercise work for your schedule. Take some time to look at your schedule and consider what you could cut out to make room for exercise. I would suggest cutting out some T.V. watching, surfing the internet, or other sedentary activity.

Once you've picked something to cut out, the final step in your exercise regiment is consistency. For some people, it works best to have a set time for exercise. I will say it's often harder to motivate yourself to exercise after work, but early mornings are also hard for some people as well. Even if you can't exercise at the same time every day, you could try to set up a weekly routine--something as simple as saying you're going to exercise certain days of the week.

So, to sum up, set a goal, make time to achieve that goal, and make exercise a part of your routine.

Run well.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Healthy Habits - Results

The healthy habits challenge is officially over, and based on the results from the poll on readers' favorite healthy habit, exercising regularly and eating fruits and veggies took first place. Two awesome healthy habits for sure.

The lucky winner will receive a prize of a custom training plan. Thanks to all the readers who participated in the challenge and voted in the poll. Remember: it's always a good time to start a healthy habit or break an unhealthy one.

Run well.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Healthy Habits Challenge

We're almost there. In four days I'll be running the PNC Bank Milwaukee Marathon. Four days from now will also mark the 66th day I've tried to limit myself to one bowl of cereal per day. Though I've missed that goal a couple times, I've done reasonably well.

Honestly, it's been difficult, and I don't know if I've really formed a habit yet. I still eat a bowl cereal every day, and the first thing my brain tells me when I've finished one bowl is to eat another bowl of cereal. Perhaps I need to give up cereal altogether for a few weeks to form a new healthy habit.

How are your healthy habits going? Several readers have responded with their healthy habits, and they've all been great. There's still time to vote for your favorite healthy habit. If you're having trouble voting with the poll above this post, shoot me a message with your vote and I can add it to the poll.

Run well.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Mental Health and Fitness - Part 1

General fitness is an excellent goal in and of itself. However, a healthy weight, a strong cardiovascular system, and strong bones and muscles are not the only benefits of an exercise regiment.

Physical fitness  also leads to mental fitness. In the U.S., around 19% of adults will be diagnosed with a mental illness in a given year, and around 4% will be severely limited in one or more life activities by a mental illness. Around 21% of youth 13 - 18 will be diagnosed with a mental illness within those six years (source: Mental Health by the Numbers, NAMI).

The other day, I published a post  on my other blog about my struggles and successes with bipolar. Besides bipolar, I've also have a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, and at times these illnesses have greatly reduced my ability to function. I have, however, maintained a reasonably normal life, and besides amazing support from family and friends, physical fitness has played a huge role in managing and preventing symptoms.

According to the Mayo Clinic, taking care of your physical needs is a major part of treating and preventing mental illness. Healthy eating, good sleep, and physical activity can help to both avoid mental illness and mitigate the symptoms.

Physical fitness, specifically running, has been a huge help in limiting symptoms of my bipolar. The high energy that accompanies mania and hypomania can be avoided or reduced by burning off energy through vigorous running and strength training.

The depressive cycles can also be managed and prevented. Running can release endocannabinoids into the brain, bringing on a feeling of well-being. The lack of motivation that often accompanies depression can also be improved by running. It's sometimes hard to get out the door for a run--especially when I'm feeling depressed. However, I usually notice an improvement in my mood and motivation following a run.

You don't have to suffer from a mental illness to reap the benefits of exercise. Exercise can also help manage stress, improve mood, and prevent the occurrence of mental illness. So, besides being physically healthy, exercise can also help you be mentally healthy.

Run well.

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