Running is one of those things that has always been there for me, it’s helped me solve problems and never let me down as long as I planned well. I spend a lot of time thinking and running allows me to do that while feeling this euphoric state of freedom, maybe that’s what I’m hooked on. Whatever it is, it’s definitely an activity I want to continue on some level for the rest of my life.
Through my thirteen years running, I’ve committed all these sins on in some way, shape or form, and sharing the lessons I’ve taken with you. Some good life lessons can be found in some of these also, don’t learn the hard way like I did!
Obsessing with running, or anything for that matter. Don’t get so obsessed with running that that is all you are doing to achieve fitness. Sure to become a great runner you must obviously run a lot, but it’s essential to balance running with other dimensions of fitness such as strength and flexibility. Oh, and you need rest, DO NOT skip rest days. While it may sound counterintuitive, resting is where you build up from all the breaking down running does to you.
Adding too many miles, too soon (another life lesson in disguise). Let’s face it running, is a tough sport and gravity is working against you and all of the precious joints in your body especially in places like your ankles and knees. The human body is amazing and can adapt to running many miles, but you have to have patience and give it time to adjust.
Avoiding the weight room like the plague, because you might put on muscle weight. Strong muscles help you sustain all of that running and keep you healthy or injury free. Sure you might gain some lean mass, but that’s just going to make you a more powerful force as your feet glide more effortlessly against the pavement.
Trying to outrun a poor diet. Sure running burns a ton of calories, but it’s not magic. On average running burns around 80 calories give or take based on your individual body weight, pace, and incline. Running longer and harder also increases your appetite which makes it easy to take in more calories than your burn, especially if you load up on junk food. Aim for a balanced diet, with indulgences in moderation. I approach this with the 80/20 rule of eating balanced most of the time and treating myself from once in a while to avoid deprivation. A balanced diet will also give you the nutrients you need to stay healthy as a runner and enjoy the sport more.
Running should not hurt. Yes, running is hard, and sometimes your muscles will be sore during and after running. However, it’s critical that you make sure you are not ever running through anything that just plain hurts. Even if the pain stops after mile one or two, you need to get to the root of what is causing that pain. When we run our bodies release a lot of neurotransmitters that act as pain relievers so in a sense you are under the influence of these and may think things are ok but could be putting yourself at risk for an overuse injury. Stop, rest, do some cross training, or get it checked out before you keep chasing running goals.
This has been one transformative year! I didn´t mean to leave the blog stranded this year, but 2018 kept throwing challenges my way. But I´m happy to report things are looking like they are finally making a turn for the better (fingers crossed)!
Where do I start! In February, which feels like years ago I successfully completed my first marathon. Yeah, a whole 26.effing 2 miles I conquered all on foot! The event I choose to take on was the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, CA. The setting was everything I love to set my eyes on like ocean waves, surfboards, and a VW bus show during packet pickup. What made it even better was being there with the people I love, my Mom, best friend, cousin and my love of 20 years Chad.
We were all enjoying our time in SoCal, especially since we came from temperatures ranging from zero to five degrees back in the "good life" state. Whoever thought that one up apparently didn't do that in February! The day before the race we did so much sightseeing, I had arrived at the starting line with tired legs. Something that is not recommended, but it happened. I remember being incredibly mind blown that I getting ready to do one of my favorite activities along the ocean in Surf City and it was the dead of Winter!
Since I was off to a rough start before the race started, I set my playlist to some chill beats to make sure I was taking a relaxed pace in the beginning. There were a few things stacked up against me such as tired legs, not fully acclimatized to the warmer weather, and there were a few mild hills. I was under the impression it was flat, but their definition of flat differed from my Midwest version of flat I had envisioned.
I cruised right along at turtle pace because I needed to finish this race. I had way too much training and travel invested not to. But I was also a bit troubled in my mind. Chad did not make it to the race that morning because he felt very ill. Knowing his health history I had been very concerned, but he insisted he was fine but could not make it. This was very sad and disappointing for both of us. He had been to most of my races, and he had been looking forward to hanging out in HB while I ran for as long as I had trained. He sent me encouraging texts through the run, and I also kept asking him how he was. He merely said hurting, but I´ll be fine and would send something encouraging like a good job! Or you got this!
It was a long journey home traveling with someone that is so ill. He was in such bad shape, the airline ticket agent gave us all TSA Precheck. But we did finally make it home, which meant off to the hospital where we found out he only had maybe 6 months but probably closer to 4 to live, and ended up being around 2. Looking back, it was one of the longest darkest 2 months I had ever spent.
But the good visits are fond memories and goodbyes will always hold a special place in my heart. I went to one of his paracentesis procedures, and as he was being wheeled around, he would tell the nurses I ran a marathon. He made it seem like it was a big deal, but I know the pain he endured by far exceeded my finishing a marathon in 6 hours.
A full marathon is no joke, it´s so far, such a long trip and words just cannot describe the feeling of crossing that finish line. But after hitting most of the aid stations for gels, and sports drinks along with a shot of beer around mile 22 or so from the tailgaters at the beach I finished! It´s kind of a shock when you reach the finish line, maybe you get an extra dose of endorphins that rush in once your body stops and mind processes you are done. I'm not sure what exactly happens but is so surreal like a massive, slowest yet fast rush you could ever feel. It's intense but very short-lived, although you do ride the afterglow endorphins aka "runners high" for a while longer.
The things a marathon and training will teach you will change your life forever. You get into a place in your mind where you are nothing, just a being floating across the earth with your feet. It´s a form of ego death if you will. Sadly but also grateful for this marathon timing that prepared me to deal with one of the most significant losses of and transitions of my life. Chad passed away on April 12th after a 7 year battle with liver disease and a struggle with addiction that nothing could change.
I wouldn’t wish this bittersweet marathon experience upon my worst enemy, but it's the cards I was dealt so I had no choice but to face the tragedy, survive and come out stronger counting my blessings.
What did this teach me?
1. Time passes quickly, cherish the present because soon all you will have is a memory.
2. Life knocks you down, but you'll stand up on a stronger foundation.
3. Change always happens, adapting is not easy but once accepted is the best thing for your peace of mind.
4. But there are some things you can never change.
5. Running a marathon will change you because you have so much time to yourself in training. It will not be easy but you will get through it, and it's the best feeling in the world!
I'd love to hear about your marathons, (running or non-running related) that changed you this year!
And I am going to be rolling out some new things on here to help you run further and stronger in races and life. Be sure to hit join so you don't miss out!
What a year 2017 has been! So much went wrong and so much went well, I’m exhausted after this year I am hopeful 2018 offers a different screenplay.
Without going into a ton of detail this year forced me to say goodbye to some exceptional individuals, go through a roller coaster ride that went through hell and back with a loved one, and even a clumsy running injury. Not an overuse injury, just tripped on my feet. I am hopeful since the last week has been pretty smooth that it will be a nice sail into 2018 and that the year brings more balance to contrast 2017's craziness.
It’s always so easy to fall into negative thoughts, and looking at the good things can quickly get sidelined and derail our days, months and even years. While there were so many times filled with trial and tribulation, it's important to reflect on the many good things that happened, so here are some things that did go in my favor during 2017.
I taught my first ever community education class about running. It was a good experience, and I'm reflecting on how to make this class even better the next time around. I was also able to complete the required continuing education classes just in the nick of time to recertify as an Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. I’m also excited to share the things I’ve learned from the American Council on Exercise Sports Conditioning Specialist Program.
However, education is only part of the equation when it comes to running, so I’ve also had an excellent opportunity to experiment with my training in trying to achieve some personal bests this year. I was able to run my heart out in 17 races in and around my hometown, and am incredibly grateful to the Platte River Fitness Series for putting on so many great events, so these opportunities are accessible to us in a small community. I was able to get some personal bests in the 5K, 10K and half marathon this year.
What I learned is that it takes time, consistency in training and a can-do mindset to achieve personal bests in running. And by consistency in running, I don't just mean run more. Of course, you will naturally spend the majority of training time running, but you can't neglect strength training that builds you up as a runner, balance and mobility work, flexibility and rest. I’m happy to have accomplished all of this without any overuse injuries, only one klutzy injury that was entirely preventable.
As I say adios to 2017, I look to moving on to bigger and better things for 2018. I will set out to try and finish 26.2 for the very first time. After this feat, I look forward to having more time to spend on creating content for Miles and Munchies and the ability to deliver online training running coaching programs. These will be individually tailored to help you be the best kind of runner you want to be. Whether that’s just starting to incorporate running into your fitness program, tackling a brand new distance or nailing a PR, Miles and Munchies will be able to get you there.
While the slight competitor in me loves to push to nail a PR, it's never worth it if you end up driving yourself to the point of losing the enjoyment of running. I want to help you find the balance that leads you to find joy in running. That's why the programs I develop are balanced to help you get better at running without overdoing it, mainly how to train smarter not harder.
Running has helped me overcome many obstacles in life over the 12 or so years we’ve spent together. If you can power through the initial tough part of starting anything new, make it a habit, and find flow, you will find bliss in running, and it can become your lifestyle. Sadly, so many people give up before they even get close to that point and I think it’s because they try too hard.
A common mistake a lot of people make when starting anything new or some type of change in their life is that they make too many changes all at once. This new lifestyle becomes very overwhelming because everything is so unfamiliar. It's just easier to go back to old ways and forget about the big picture.
So as you are setting out on new goals or resolutions in 2018, keep it simple at first. With a major goal such as losing 50 pounds, getting organized or running a marathon make sure you begin that journey with small steps. Start out with something simple like adding more fruits and veggies to your diet instead of completely overhauling your diet and eating a bunch of stuff you are not used to. Or decluttering a drawer versus trying to declutter your house all at once or alternating running with walking when you are first starting out. Chances of successfully meeting your goals are higher when you start out this way because once you have some success (no matter how small), you can continue to build on that one step at a time because you have some confidence that you can succeed.
So instead of diving into your goals with an all or nothing mindset, try changing your approach to make small changes that will have a lasting impact.
So cheers to saying goodbye to 2017 and ringing in a new year full of opportunities to be your best self!
Another small thing you can do to help you reach your running goals in 2018 is joining the e-mail list. You'll stay up to date and be the first to know when Miles and Munchies rolls out new programs and running tips.
I’ve been a slacker on blogging this summer and I am so sorry if you were looking for a June and July post. It's been summatime so I’ve been on the go and this year I found a new way to be out on the water. I picked up a SUP and am loving taking it out.
Apparently I’m not the only one because Stand up paddle boarding is working it’s way up to being the hottest way to stay fit across the country. And if you haven’t tried it yet here’s five reasons why you should grab a paddle and jump on a board.
Tips for Getting Started
Get comfortable with the fact that you might be taking a swim, but this time of year that can be a welcome time to cool off.
You can start training for the instability of water by standing up on an inverted Bosu.
Place the Bosu upside down next to something you can hold onto so you can get balanced. The easiest way to do this is find a smith machine and place the bar about chest level. Center the Bosu and place it about a couple of feet behind the bar, giving yourself enough space to grab onto the bar for support and step on the Bosu. Use the bar as you need to, but ultimately the goal here is to let go and completely balance on that Bosu.
Taking it to the Water
Start out lying prone (face down) on the board so you can get the feel of the water and waves. The fin on the bottom of the board, should be on the same side as your feet are. Position the paddle with the fin side towards your head and handle side by your feet.
When you feel ready, climb onto your hands and knees, get stable. Then crunch your knees towards your shoulders to bring your feet in and get them placed about shoulder width apart. Your hands are still on the board, almost like a downward dog. When you're feeling stable gradually begin bringing your torso up. Once you are standing, you’ll want to quickly start paddling and gain some momentum because that will help you stay balanced.
Once you get the hang of it, work on your paddling technique by taking long steady strokes, keeping the paddle near the side of the board. It also helps if you lean your body weight in towards the side of the board that you are paddling on. I like to paddle about 3-5 times on one side before I switch sides.
Don’t get discouraged, the type of board makes all the difference in how easy or challenging stand up paddleboarding is. The board I use is 25” wide 8’ tall and almost 3” thick and weighs 15 pounds. It’s portable and gives me a great workout!
Not quite ready to stand up. Try a plank on your board!
August 3rd is National Watermelon Day
Stay hydrated with watermelons! Since there are about about 92 percent water and soaked with nutrients you can't go wrong. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. There's even a modest amount of potassium and watermelon also contains L-citrulline, an amino acid that can curb musle sorness after a tough workout.
Fitness trackers have been out for a few years and it seems like almost everyone is sporting a gadget on their wrist. Ok, maybe not everyone but here’s a few facts about the humans sporting these little data collectors.
I finally joined the club, and have to admit I’m sporting one of these things for fitness optimization (now you can guess my age! haha) but the other very real reason was simply because I was in the market for a new watch. With my background, I’ve always been very skeptical about how accurate these sporty little wristbands could actually be. So, naturally I declined jumping on the Fitbit wagon like most of my friends have over the years. I couldn’t wrap my head around how this thing that pretty much flops around a person's wrist was going to get a heart rate, let alone an accurate one.
I think it’s great that people are wearing them to get on track with their health, but you have to be careful because they can only tell you so much at this point. Here’s the thing, I’m a data junkie in terms of HR documentation during training and in general. Maybe that’s what going to school for Exercise Science does to a person!? So I am excited about the things any tracker can help you keep track of like heart rate during training, sleep information, and the friendly vibration on your wrist reminding you that it’s time to move! when you’ve sat on your ass too long!
Which tracker did I choose? During my exercise physiology studies at the University of Nebraska Human Performance lab we always used Polar heart rate monitors and it’s no secret that Polar is reputable for accuracy in heart rate monitoring. So naturally, I was eyeing Polar products for the right tracker and it was worth the wait. I was looking for something that also would have a few features a smartwatch so ended up getting a Polar A360 and while it’s far from perfect, I’m pleased with my investment.
What about accuracy
First of all, what a fitness tracker won’t do is keep extremely accurate records. Yes, they will urge you to get up if you’ve been sitting on your bum too long but I did notice some discrepancy of about 10 beats per minute when sporting my chest rate heart rate monitor compared to the wrist based activity tracker. But hey, not bad for a watch! And the simple thing that will solve that so I have the accurate training records for my heart rate will be upgrading my chest strap to a model that can bluetooth into my activity tracker and the Polar flow app, which is great. But for now, I’ll just sport a couple of wrist devices like this.
The image on the left is my heart rate at rest within 3 beats. The image on the right was during exercise (running) but a second after when I stepped on the rails to snap the picture (sorry for the shaky picture). The difference is 11 beats.
The lack of accuracy is also going to affect calorie counts so if you’re counting calories in versus calories out, be careful. In fact, calories should be somewhat of a secondary thing you keep track of. Yes, if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain, you don’t want to take in more energy than you expend because that will create a weight gain but more importantly you should focus on macronutrients. Making sure you are getting enough protein, carbs and fat, but not too much. The ratios of those macros will change depending on your activity for the day. Nutrition gets complicated, so let’s just stop there for now.
For a better illustration of accuracy, check this article out from The New York Times, What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn’t See.
And as if it's not enough to track ourselves, what about our furry friends. There's much technology out today, it's hard keeping up on all of it but some if is really fun. I do enjoy being able to keep tabs on my slobbery hound dog and it keeps him safe.
A tracker for your dog!?
Yes, you can even get an activity tracker for your dog! I can even keep track of how active Ben is and how much sleep he gets, which happens to be a lot at 14 hours! It's interesting to look at but the real reason he has a tracker are for when he decides to let loose and hit the streets on his own. The picture on the right is a greeting card I spotted that is probably how he thinks when he gets busted and is in trouble!
What can activity tracking do for our behaviour?
Well even the activity tracker Ben has doesn't stop him from running away, but it does help us find him when he does dart off. Just as a fitness tracker on your wrist will not make you fit, but it can help you identify positive and negative patterns that can be changed over time and lead to one or more positive behaviour changes.
Simply providing that extra motivation to keep moving can be very beneficial. I like how my device reminds me to get up after so long and alerts me when I have met my activity goal for the day. Hey, who doesn’t like reaching goals. No matter how small they are invigorating to reach. Usually after I reach a goal, I’m like hey if I was able to accomplish that, what about trying this? And then the next goal with an action plan is developed. It can be a good cycle!
Three things a fitness tracker, or any health tracking app (even if you have to access it via the good ‘ol desktop computer) can help with:
Fitness trackers are great, but might not be for everyone. First of all, a tracker can be a great thing if you’re curious about how active you are through the day, navigate technology easily and don’t sweat the small stuff. You have to be able to look at the bigger picture when it comes to lifestyle balance, like not counting every, single calorie and seeing the macronutrient side of nutrition and knowing the numbers your tracker gives you aren’t 100% accurate. If you can agree with most of that stuff and are in the market for a watch that can do more for you then it’s great. For example, I can get all my phone notifications on my wrist which has come in very handy at times. It’s not something I use very often, but can be a nice feature if you’re on the go. One thing I'm a little bummed about is not being able to skip songs from it during my workouts.
As for exercise training, I still have to sport my chest strap and watch to get my heart rate for now, but have no regrets about finally making the move and purchasing a fitness tracker. It’s nice to see some heart rate data and running stats side by side. The model I selected does exactly what I need it to, and with another investment (of around 50 bucks) in the bluetooth chest strap it will be keeping track of data from my workouts, which will allow me to measure running progress and adjust my training accordingly. It’s also nice to have everything in one place with data that can even be exported into an excel sheet. Yes, I know features I’m excited about might not even phase you, which is totally fine. I've always been different-lol
Do you sport an activity tracker?
I’d bet I'll probably still be sporting mine in 6 months, but I guess we’ll see. Feel free to check in with me to find out in October. It would be interesting to find out why people who get activity trackers ditch them. Have you had one and no longer wearing it? I’d like to know why, so drop a line in the comment box.
Ok, now we’ve both been sitting too long so I’ll leave you all with this: It’s time to move!
Hey everyone! I hope you all had the merriest holidays and are kicking off 2016 with health and fitness in mind. It’s always refreshing for me to let go a little towards the end of the year and chill a little on the workouts, indulge in some tasty treats in moderation, of course and simply be merry! After kicking back for a bit, I feel ready to set some new goals and refreshed enough to feel like I can accomplish them.
So this year I’m setting a running goals and I know resistance training will help. I’m focusing on shaving some time off of my last half marathon in the mile high city.Running in a city with mountains in the backdrop always makes it worth the challenge of exercising in altitude, a challenge I just can’t get away from. I guess you could say I love to get high! Haha runner’s high that is. If you haven’t experienced anything but exhaustion and misery while exercising, keep at it because it does get better and before you know it you’ll be high on those endorphins too!
I’ve done a lot of endurance activities in the past, so nothing new here. The only difference might be that over the last couple of years I’ve always been so scattered for them. Almost deciding on participating just in the nick of time to start training. Or lining my events up back to back. Like the year I ran two half marathons with a little less than two weeks between the events. Finished, and I guess I could say well because I was never injured. But it really proved to me how much more effort you do put into workouts done at 5280 ft. elevation compared to 3025 ft. elevation, which is home. I ran the half at home at an easy pace because I wanted to take it easy knowing I had the other half to complete so soon. When I ran the second half in Denver, I’ll admit I stopped to snap a couple of pictures but really pushed it more. Interestingly enough, I ended up with the same time for both races 2:39. Definitely a proud to just have finished time and nothing else.
While deciding on participating in an event simply to finish is an excellent goal and wonderful thing to accomplish. This is especially true if you are new to exercise or if it’s what keeps you going. For me, it’s kept me going for almost 14 years. But this year I want to do something different and have set a time goal of 2:10 for the half in October.
what's my plan to accomplish that?
I’ve started off by using periodization and have mapped out the entire year in a calendar. From now until about March I’m working on building muscle and doing some cross training. So I’m running 1-2 times a week, lifting heavy to build muscle 3 times a week and cross training once a week and taking 1 day off . While cross training is beneficial for injury prevention, studies have shown it to only be 25% to 50% as effective as running to improve performance. So that’s why I’m doing my cross training during my hypertrophy (muscle gaining) stage which is now.
I’m ramping up my resistance plan to build muscles to support all of that running which will make it more efficient and faster. Here’s my muscle building plan: Feel free to use it if you wish.
If you're just starting out, the plan is fine to use but just start out with 3 sets of 12 reps and progress to 3 sets of 10 after 4-6 weeks, then 3 sets of 8 after another 4-6 weeks, then 3 sets of 6. Every 4-5 weeks take an “unload” week, where you don't’ lift as much or as heavy, believe it or not this will actually help you get fitter.
As your reps get smaller, the weights get heavier. You want to make sure you reach muscle fatigue by the end of the set while maintaining good form. I usually adjust 1-2 exercises with each progression. So for example, for my next progression I’m planning on doing Lat Pulldown to replace the cable row just for a change and make sure I get every muscle worked during this hypertrophy phase.
So one thing I know I really have to do some work in will be on nutrition. While I’m a pretty healthy eater in some sense cause I love to eat fruits and veggies I know I need to focus on macros. Protein, carbs and fats and getting the right ratios of it. I don’t care for meat and have been a full blown vegetarian for the past 7 years I know that getting enough protein has been a struggle for my active lifestyle. My performance has probably also reflected that as well.
I’m not saying you can’t get enough protein from plants and legumes to support lots of activity, because you can and many people do. However, over the last year I’ve embraced more of a plant obsessed flexitarian diet, added Vega Sport Protein shakes and really noticed a difference. My resolution is to really focus on meeting the protein macro, especially during this muscle building phase and keep carbs in check. They’ll be plenty of time to eat more carbs when I start to pick up the miles. Cause eating carbs is definitely a perk to running!
I’ve been training pretty hard for a race since July. I was so excited and feeling great about running the 10K in Denver at the Rock and Roll Marathon. I always like to test my limits in a higher altitude, because the scenery is so much better. I prepped my things the night before and laid my head to rest at a fairly decent time with an alarm set for 6am. I woke up at 4am and maybe it was a sign, I couldn’t get back to sleep until 5am and then my alarm went off at 6am. I felt a little groggy, but managed to get ready in the dark as much as I could without disturbing my fiance who wanted to sleep until the very last minute.
Time flew by that morning as I had breakfast and got ready, I guess I forgot to look at the clock most of the morning because by the time we had left it was 7:40 am. and I was planning on leaving around 7am. I knew this was really late, but figured the it would be ok. Well it wasn’t, because when I arrived at the start line they were tearing it down! I was devastated! On one hand it wasn’t the end of the world because I debated running this one due to time and financial commitments and then they announced the headliner band, Matisyahu. That changed my mind and I decided to commit to running a faster 10K instead of training to just finish a half marathon.
I had a great training season, getting my mileage up to 8 miles on long runs, hill work, intervals and an intense taper. I was ready to race! A couple of thoughts crossed my mind as I stumbled around in disbelief, I could stick around and pout about it or grab my paper map and get my miles in. I went with the second option. I had way too much energy in me to just hang out and I needed my runners high!
So I headed out and did the best to stay kind of on course without getting completely lost, which definitely impacted my time. I was pretty much balling under my shades, how did I let this happen!? I also heard someone holler at me that I was taking a short cut. Whatever! I wasn’t stopping until I hit 6 miles! I had finally found the race and ran the opposite direction for a while before jumping in and crossing the finish line. I ended up running close to a personal best but know I would’ve done much better if I wasn’t reading a map and stopping for traffic. It was somewhat rewarding, but not near as great as it would’ve been had I actually started and ran with other runners. But as my fiance always says, “there’s no future in the past”. So this experience taught me a few things about running and life.