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.
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.
- Build Core endurance- twist from the torso to move the board forward more than using your arms to pull for great alternative to side crunches.
- Burn calories-Researchers have found that this can be an effective form of cardio if done right. Like any exercise, you gotta get the hang of it with form before you can really crank it up and get that heart rate up. Find that study here.
- It gets you outdoors- Being outdoors can improve mood and mental clarity. It’s important to get in touch with nature as often as possible.
- It’s a great way to cross/strength train if you’re a runner-Once you get good at SUPing cardio benefits are coming your way.
- It’s fun and it simply feels amazing to be standing on water! The key to staying fit is by finding activities that you enjoy so much you don’t feel like it’s a drag to get moving!
Tips for Getting Started
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
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
- 1 in 10 Americans over 18 own an activity tracker
- In 2013, 68% of activity trackers sold were Fitbits
- Most users that fall into the 25-34 age range are primarily focused on fitness optimization
- Most users that fall into the 55-64 range are focused on improving overall health and extending their lives.
- Endeavour Partners’ research reveals that more than half of U.S. Consumers who have owned a modern activity tracker no longer use it.
- A third of U.S. consumers who have owned one stopped using the device within six months of receiving it.
What about accuracy
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?
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:
- Habit Formation: Developing new habits is a process and takes time. Fitness trackers can be a fun way to develop a new habit.
- Social Motivation: It’s easier than ever to connect to communities of people working towards the same goal on an app or even share with your tribe on social media.
- Goal Reinforcement: That whole thing I said earlier about reaching a goal, then moving on to bigger and better things! :)
Do you sport an activity tracker?
Ok, now we’ve both been sitting too long so I’ll leave you all with this: It’s time to move!
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.