I’m just an average woman that started running to get in shape, and after a while of toughing out the first miles, my “torture” became something I looked forward to. There's more to the finish than just knowing you knocked out some miles, there's also a feeling of elation that you get from your own body’s natural feel-good, pain-reducing meds like epinephrine and norepinephrine or adrenaline (1). That’s the rush you feel when you cross a finish line or even stop your watch when you're out on your own.
1. University of Montreal. "Why does running make us happy?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150831085456.htm>.
2. Heijnen, Saskia et al. “Neuromodulation of Aerobic Exercise-A Review.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 6 1890. 7 Jan. 2016, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01890
2018 was a very messy year, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that. As I reflect and think back to January of this year, I had an opportunity to attend a leadership workshop where our instructor had us set a one-word theme for the year. Running my first marathon was just a few short weeks away so naturally, the word fearless came to mind.
So as I made my way to the start line, with a head full of fears about so many things ranging from would I be able to finish? And also anticipating what kind of hell is this year going to put me through, knowing this could be a life-changing year. For more on that check out the blog post on my first marathon. But something so small as writing down that one word, kept it forefront when I needed it the most. In my mind, I switched gears, was so grateful to be in Surf City, put trust in all the hours I spent training for this very moment and fearlessly went for a 26.2-mile run.
When I did cross that finish line, I definitely felt like I could take on anything after that, but it still didn’t mean I wanted to. Life seemed unfair to be dealt this stack of cards. Why me? What will happen when we get back? Maybe this is the rock bottom anticipated before things turning entirely around for the better? Deep down, although deep down I knew better. When we returned I had to be fearless after I heard the news that my SO had maybe 4 to 6 months to live. I had already heard this once in 2011, so I was stuck between feeling like the last 7 years was a time debt that had reached its limit, or maybe he could pull out of it again, and there would be many years of greatness ahead. I always knew we were on borrowed time since 2011, and while his closest friends, family and myself wished he would have made changes to live healthier, it wasn't up to us. It would've had to be his decision alone. Think about it, how much success do you have with goals, when you pursue them for other people and put yourself on the back of the list?
Change happens from within on your terms
Sadly this was it, time to say goodbye forever and how could I ever find anything positive in having to do that? But I forced myself to and what I saw was very slim but mighty. In flipping my perspective of this situation, I did see some things to be grateful for such as actually being able to say goodbye. How many people lose loved ones suddenly, without that option? I was also glad I had a journey through marathon training first. All those miles help set your mind up to face life’s pain causing obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, it still sucks, hurts and is totally unfair if you ask me. But I’m learning to live with that, and am slowly evolving into a stronger person from it. Just like there are sore and tired muscles in training that you have to teach your mind how to deal with it to get faster or run longer.
The outcome of pain is
Reflecting on my running accomplishments, this year I successfully completed my first full marathon, then went on to PR (2:06) a half marathon in the middle of the year, was a no-show to a half marathon I had planned to run in October and committed one of the running sins for a half I ran in November. But how else would you run a race in Vegas, right!? I'm such a rebel, sometimes!
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.
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.
Never wear brand new sneaks to any major race of any distance if you are putting your body to the test, so if you’re traveling don’t forget your shoes! The event itself will be enough to leave you sore, and wearing a pair of kicks that hasn’t been broken in doesn’t do your feet any favors. I’m speaking from experience in my last race at the Rock N Roll Vegas half marathon. Last minute decided to wear the tye dye series shoes I picked up at the expo. I guess it was my idea of gambling and YOLO!
It was a painful run in sin city, but it wasn’t the first time my feet have suffered for a pair of shoes during a night out in the city. At least I came home with some bling!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Whether it’s a long run, speed work, or lifting weights you need to take the appropriate steps to recover. Your muscles will thank you and you’ll notice that you can get back to pushing yourself harder sooner by incorporating these simple things into a recovery routine.
Protein and Carbs
A few protein sources
¾ cup cottage cheese
3 cups yogurt
1 ½ to 1 ⅔ cup of dried beans or lentils (also a carb source)
Obvious, but often forgotten: Sleep & Hydration!
And when you're dehydrated exercise feels more difficult. This makes sense especially since the body is made up of around 60% water!
Run, recover and share!
If you would like to know more about running like proper form, best exercises to support it and more don't forget to join my list! I’ve been working on researching all things running and putting it all together in an e-book that will help keep you injury free and running mile after mile for years to come.
May is National Runners Month
So let's rewind a little, growing up I was never into fitness. Surprising, huh! I hated running and when given the option to skip PE a couple of days a week, if I learned how to play an instrument that’s what I chose to do. Looking back, today if I was given that option even though I love music I know I’d pick PE class and I blame a running habit for making me the fitness enthusiast I am today. Although, in a perfect world kids should get a healthy dose of both music & the arts with lots of physical activity.
10 Reasons Running is Badass
2. It can be enjoyed in solitude or among company, quiet or loud indoors or outdoors. It can be a sport for lots of different moods. Somedays I feel like cranking the tunes and zoning out or other days I like to head out with a friend. Nothing beats catching up and burning some calories at the same time. I'm also a deep thinker, so running gives me a place to do that without standing still.
Of course running outside is better, but if weather takes you indoors the treadmill doesn’t have to be the dreadmill with the right program! Hill climbs, intervals or sprints can be a recipe for a great treadmill workout that won’t leave you watching the clock.
3. Endorphins are involved in natural reward circuits, aid in pain management and possess morphine like effects. Scientists are still trying to find out exactly why the body produces them. What they have found is that they are produced in response to prolonged, continuous exercise. Let’s just be thankful the body does this, cause I’m sure this mechanism has helped all of us push through some pain and cross that finish line!
4. Endocannabinoids are what’s getting you that sweet runners high. Shown to be responsible for improvements in mood after moderate intensity aerobic exercise. In mice it has been shown that blocking the endocannabinoid receptors (but not endorphin receptors) inhibits the anti-pain and anti-anxiety/stress relief effect of running. Scientists also think that this is what signals endorphins to be released. That’s dope!
5. Cardiovascular benefits Keeps your heart healthy and strong. Also helps you keep fit so you can make it to the top of the stairs without getting winded or keep up with you kids that are running around with all this energy you wish you had. Start running and you’ll soon discover that energy boost I’m talking about!
6. Stronger Bones & Muscles We lose muscle mass and bone density as we age. Running can be a good way to counteract that. But it's not an excuse to completely ditch strength training!
7. Increase your longevity Running and exercise in general can be the fountain of youth at the cellular level by protecting telomere length. At the cellular level, telomeres are the part of cells related to aging. Our cells are constantly dividing to produce new cells that replace old worn ones. In this process, chromosomes carry all the information needed to generate new cells and telomeres protect that information. And as telomeres get too short to do their job, cells age and stop working right which is basically what aging is all about.
8. Helps you sleep How many times have you struggled to fall asleep? Running can help with that.
9. Race Swag/Post race parties Nothing is better than feeling great after a race, having some race swag to take home and a good excuse to enjoy a cold one before noon! Best Post-Race Bash: Bolderboulder
10. Finding common ground with many cause we’re in good company. In 2014 a whopping 18,750,000 runners crossed the finish line with 57% of that number being Women!
Ready to get started?
First, check your foot type and make sure you’ve got the right shoes for running! Here’s a link to a great guide to do that from Runner’s World
Now that you’ve handled that very important first step you may proceed. Please don’t skip this, trust me it will save you miles of misery in the long run.
Follow the guidelines below, aim to work on running every other day. You can still exercise in between those running days but stick to lower impact movements like biking, swimming or yoga.
You have to walk well before you can run
Gradually increase running time and decrease walking time as your body adjusts. Aim for reaching a 1:1 ratio, so 1 minute running, 1 minute walking. From here, try adding to the running time. So the next step up would be 1 minute 30 seconds of running, then when that becomes easier move up to 2 minutes and so on. Try to keep your “resting” at one minute or below. Work towards eventually reaching 20 minutes of steady running/jogging. If you're struggling to maintain 20 minutes try a slower pace. Think being able to say a complete sentence during your run, if you're struggling to get words out you're hitting your lactate threshold and your body is going to say STOP before you reach your goal.
Try a 5K Race
Listen to your body
If the pain doesn't get better in time, it may be a good idea to see a sports doc. Some people just have different mechanical structures and need to make a few adjustments before they can hit the road running. Once it's figured out nothing can stop them from becoming excellent runners! Sometimes it's as simple as doing a few extra exercises for muscle imbalances other times an shoe orthotic helps.
Learning to listen to your body and knowing when to stop is a very important for injury prevention in the long haul. Once you get into running and finish a race or two, you might catch the race bug, then be ready to add more and more distance which is great! But if you don’t know how to back off and keep pushing through, you run the risk of hurting yourself and having take some major time off from running. Something, that anyone who loves running (including myself) fears the most! To date, I’ve never sustained any form of major running injuries. I credit this to resistance training, good nutrition, the right shoes (and not wearing them too long), cross training from time to time and backing off as needed.
If you’ve thought about running I hope this helps you get started off on the right foot!
Raichlen, David A., et al. "Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity." European journal of applied physiology 113.4 (2013): 869-875.
Prabakaran, Sudhakaran. "Endocannabinoids mediate runner’s high." Sci. Signal. 8.401 (2015): ec322-ec322.
Heijnen, Saskia, et al. "Neuromodulation of Aerobic Exercise—A Review."Frontiers in psychology 6 (2015).
Ludlow, Andrew T., and Stephen M. Roth. "Physical activity and telomere biology: exploring the link with aging-related disease prevention." Journal of aging research 2011 (2011).
2015 State of the Sport-U.S. Race Trends http://www.runningusa.org/2015-state-of-sport-us-trends
Shammas, Masood A. "Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging." Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care 14.1 (2011): 28.
You have to build muscle
The Fat Burning setting on the cardio machine has been lying to you
But don’t forget that cardio completely, you just have to mix and match. Kinda like piecing together a great outfit!
Strength training is where it's at
Burn more calories after exercise
Be sure to mix up high intensity sessions in with lower intensity sessions, to lower injury risk and/or prevent overtraining syndrome.
Getting fit is the key to burning fat
- Lat Pulldown
- 45 Degree Incline Row
- Dumbbell Bent Over Row
- Dumbbell Shrug
- Cable Standing Rear Delt Row with rope
- Assisted chin up
- Concentration Curl
- Reverse Curl
- Cable Standing Fly
- Seated Calf Press on hip sled
- Dumbbell Incline Fly
- Seated Calf Raise
- Cable Bench Press
- Barbell Squats
- Front Dumbbell Raise
- Triceps Pushdown
- Toe Raises
- Barbell Lunge
- Leg Curl
- Leg Press (low foot placement for Quad emphasis)
- Stability Ball Leg Curl
- Leg Extension
- Cable Hip Adduction
- Dumbbell Hip Abduction
- Lying Scissors Kick
- Weighted Overhead Crunch on Ball
- Medicine Ball Oblique Twist
- 10 -15 Minute High intensity run at the end of Routine A (or later in the day)
- Three to four 400 meter (about 1/4 mile) sprints, resting 400 meters in between sprints at the end of Routine B (or later in the day)
- 20-30 Minute tempo run. Heart rate around 150-165.
- 3 to 4 mile LSD (long slow distance) run. Keeping heart rate between 130 bpm and 150.
REST and flexibility
Flexibility also means that I do the best I can to follow this plan, but sometimes other things get in the way, or I'm tired and can't finish so have to adjust accordingly. This doesn't happen very often, but when it does it's important to not let it get you down. Brush it off and figure out what went wrong. If I ever can't finish a workout, I look back on what I ate and usually figure out right away why I didn't get it done.
Learn from the bad training days and and give it your best the next day
Next month's post will go over some information about knee pain and running and a focus on nutrition since March is National Nutrition Month!
what's my plan to accomplish that?
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.
- Leg Press-Lower foot placement - Quads (targeted with lower foot placement)
- Cable Row -Back
- Dumbbell Biceps Curl - Biceps
- Leg Curl - Hamstrings
- Dumbbell Fly - Chest
- Barbell Squats - Glutes
- Side Dumbbell Raise - Deltoids (shoulders)
- Triceps Pushdown - Triceps
- Calf Raises - Calves
- Captain Chair Leg Raises - Abs
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!
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.
- Practice Gratitude- How many runners missed the start because of illness or injury. At least I was healthy and able to run my distance, I probably could've finished the half.
- Forget the small stuff-I wasted a lot of time that morning on small things that weren't necessary. Details can be good, but when when it starts to become clutter or noise simplify. Use checklists to stay organized and and focused on what you really need.
- Life is not perfect and that’s ok- When people decide they want to change their lifestyle to improve health, be more fit, feel and look better they often take an all or nothing approach. Put in the effort, but if you slip don’t beat yourself up over it, simply pick yourself up and get back on track by making the better choice next time.
- Attitude can make or break your day-Had I not been thankful for the many things that were awesome that day and focused only on what went wrong, my experience would’ve been miserable.
Exercise physiologist aka: fitness Geek, loves running and being adventures. marathon & sprint tri finisher. music and veggie fanatic
Nancy Flock is a wellness enthusiast that's crazy about running, veggies, animals and living life to the fullest.