One of the most powerful ways to enjoy running is to put your attention on it. While this may be surprising to some, the only path to running that is worth doing is through learning how to put awareness into it.
To that end, I'd like to share a basic body awareness meditation. Over time, I will share many of these, and they connect with articles I have written before on peak performance, including one on using the heart to make running wonderful.
So without further ado, here are some instructions to try at home and then explore in running.
Entering into February, we are now at the time honored point of the year where many of the 50 million or so Americans that entered into a diet as part of their New Year's Resolutions have given up. For whatever reason, it failed and left the individual in a complex, often disappointed but ultimately unique place. As primarily a whole person running coach, you might expect me to say: No! Don't give up! Keep trying to lose that weight!
But that's not what I say. And here's why.
This week I'd like to comment more on life in general rather than just running. I've realized my life flows much better if I admit that there are far more outside influences that impact me than I at least would have thought. There are the obvious- such as the company we keep, the weather, the degree of nature and green around us, and so on- but I'd like to focus on how the seasons turn us all upon their great wheel.
Questions around correct or ideal foot strike is something I get asked about a lot as a coach. Everyone wants to know if there is a correct foot strike. Unfortunately, the answer is both simple and complex. The simple answer is there isn't. Moreover, any coach that tells you to change your foot strike without taking the rest of your running style into consideration is someone to run away from, fast!
Why? Because your foot strike is actually very likely a symptom of your running style, not a cause. This means that if you try to change the foot strike, you are changing something that was actually preventing injury or at least reducing the negative impacts of whatever your body is not doing quite right.
Free radicals and antioxidants are terms that gets bandied about in our progressively more health conscious culture, but they are also one of those more misunderstood things. Marketers are always taking advantage of this, touting everything from Vitamin C supplements to the latest "super food" such as acai berries.
So today we are going to take a closer look at the science behind the hype. What are free radicals, exactly? How are they formed? What do we need to do about them in everyday life and if we are working out or even trying to get the dream performance out of our bodies?
We all know water is crucial for any body to function well, but why is it such a big deal? This article takes a look at water and exercise. We take a look at where we keep body within our bodies. Crucial functions of water are briefly explained. Sweating, electrolytes and the dangers of too much water are explored as well. Exciting right? This is where to come if you want to understand a little of the physiology of water in plain language.
Contrary to the popular wisdom that we are 70% water, the actual range is from about 40% to 70% of our body's mass, or about 42 liters. It makes up 65% to 75% of muscle mass and 10% of the fat mass. Because body fat has a low water percentage, those with more fat have a lower overall percentage of their body weight as water.
Today's topic centers around the potential training challenges for women in particular. We'll be taking a detailed look at what's known as the female athlete triad- what it is, how to catch it, and what to do about it.
Premenopausal women can face a triad of syndromes when they are training intensively while emphasizing weight loss. Studies involving female athletes in recent years have found a tendency to engage in disordered eating. These are often connected to menstrual irregularities (such as amenorrhea or cessation of menstrual flow). They are also linked with energy drain and osteoporosis.
The time has come to talk about food and exercise. For today, this means I shall elucidate what exercise physiology has learned about macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) and their role in the body for exercising. Macronutrients are characterized by having their ability to provide energy and significant storage in the body in one form or another.
Keep reading to get a deeper look into our body's need for macronutrients in exercise.
Working with my running group today, we were really struck by important it is to accept how we are feeling in the moment. This means both emotionally and physically. Some days are just harder than others, while some are just great, and others start out one way and end another. It can be dangerous to make a judgment on a day's run in the first half based on how things are in that portion, even if that assumption ends up being correct.
When managing a run there are many possibilities- indeed as many as there are in life. The variety of states we will find ourselves in is pretty immense, and its important to remember that the states aren't really that important.
How we relate to the state is the key.
Running from the heart is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding activities I know. Imagine, if you will, a run powered by the heart. The most basic level of this, accessible to anyone, is a run characterized by feelings of compassion and love. The advanced heart based runners live in a world where physical effort is powered by mindful focus on the heart- a world in which opening the heart directly results in running with greater ease and often faster paces.
So, how do we do this?
It may not be a sexy topic, but for any runner intent on improvement, injury prevention, or effective training of any kind, training logs are the way to go. One minute or less of jotting down each day's run can help prevent injuries, personalize training programs, track experiments, provide solace in tough times and satisfaction at other times.
So how do you best make use of training logs?
As a fitness professional with a background in therapy, I've found that its important to question the assumptions we make about weight and health. As part of this process, I am currently reading Body of Truth by Harriet Brown.
What I would like to share now is four important lies Brown addresses in her book. For more detail on these lies and the research both showing how the lies happened and what the truth is, go read her excellent book.
Today is a quickie, with a few big ideas. My topic: fear of failure.
You're a beginning runner, or even have been running for a while. But something doesn't seem quite right. Shouldn't this be more enjoyable? Shouldn't fitness be improving?
Don't worry, here are three basic tips to help immediately.
Runners face such an astonishingly high injury rate that running is classified as a high risk sport. I believe this is because everyone thinks they can run with little to no guidance from professionals. Unfortunately, the statistics are not in any runner's favor when it comes to such a belief.
What follows is a detailed injury prevention guide to begin to address this issue, taken from The Runner's Repair Manual, by Dr. Paul Weisenfield. The five most common running injuries are discussed and methods of evaluating, preventing, and addressing them are described. You can also learn more about these injuries here.
Just let go!
Did that annoy you a bit? Yeah, I thought so. It shows up way too often in some places, as if its a cure all and somehow easy to do. Upset? Just let go! Sad? Just let go! Disappointed?...you get the picture.
When the conversation doesn't get any more nuanced than that, then all I can think of is this MadTV sketch. So I think its time to take a look at this idea of "letting go".
I thought I'd share a great perspective I came across regarding the nature of motivation, courtesy of Bashar (you can find him on YouTube). In actuality, we are all highly motivated. We are motivated to choose what we perceive to be the closest to pleasure and the furthest from pain.
So what does this mean?
I often find myself answering the same questions when it comes to taking care of one's body and the best tools to do so. Unfortunately for me, I am not getting paid to tell you about these products. However, these are three tools every runner should have to help prevent injuries and stay loose.
One night in the fall of 2009, I laid down in my bed for the night. Rather than falling asleep, I found myself thinking about my desire to run and race well. As I relaxed deeper into my bed in my darkened room, I began to daydream. I recalled all the factors that created a burning desire within to run. I imagined short and long-term goals that sent my heart soaring with joy and excitement.
And I imagined myself running. Not the way I was running at the time, or had in the past, but in a completely new way. I imagined vividly, feeling with every sense and deeply feeling myself actually running. I imagined flying effortlessly across the earth, my arms pumping fluidly at a rate that was shocking to me. I saw my heart open wide, like a lion's yawn, to encompass the universe around me in ecstatic joy.
I felt my body wanting to tense and slow down even in this imagined scenario, but chose to just go with it, imagining with all my heart and my senses the way i truly wished to run- flying effortlessly in ecstatic joy at speeds no human has any right to go.
And then I fell asleep, and six months passed.
That night receded into my memory, fondly remembered but dim. And then one day I realized I was running exactly as I had imagined six months before.
Continuing and expanding off last week's post on Improving Self Talk in Running with NVC, I'm going to focus on how we can use "negative" emotions and self-talk as cues to get ourselves back on track. This is my biggest point today: "bad feelings" are really homing beacons designed to help us get back on track.
They are telling us we are not in harmony with ourselves, with who we really are and who we really want to be.
So I propose an approach to emotions that is very different from what our culture programs us to do with them. I propose we view our emotions as simply information. When we look at them we can discover what we need to know in order to get into harmony with what we want.
Nonviolent communication (NVC) is a fabulous system designed by Marshall B. Rosenberg to transform the thinking, language, and moralistic judgments that prevent high quality relationships with your self and others. I will focus today on how NVC can be used to get yourself out there and running in a motivated and psychologically healthy way, borrowing from the book of that name.
Barefoot running has become very popular over the last decade or so. The biggest proponents of the movement believe typical running shoes are the cause of the high rates of injury among runners and may even be limiting performance. Are they right?
To answer this question, I first took a look at what the research so far is saying, which you can find examples of here, here, here, and here.
You may not know it, but stretching is a really big deal for runners. What's worse is that advice on stretching can get pretty confusing. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there regarding the timing, purpose, and value of stretching (not to mention stretching versus dynamic warmups/warmdowns). I will hold off on a look at those positions and the research on that topic for another week.
But here's my take on stretching: if you are going for a run at an easy (conversational) and reasonably consistent pace you absolutely must stretch after a run.
Continue reading for a stretch routine I would highly recommend. This is a routine designed as a 15 minute yoga sequence. Following it in this order while taking note of the comments will help with both ease of remembering the sequence and greater safety while following it. Take extra time with the stretches you need the most, and ideally several deep breaths in each position means a minimum of 7-12 seconds.
I've been thinking a lot about motivation lately, and where it can come from especially when the going gets tough. I've been wondering how such motivation could be used to turn runs into the type of fabulous experience most runners only dream of having on a regular basis.
And in working with this over the last ten years I think I can make the following claim: the feelings and sensations we have when truly glowing about running can be captured effectively and used when running. And as a hook for a future article, this is also the case for peak experiences when running, as well as for discovering that outstanding inner runner.
I think I can best explain this as an exercise you can explore for yourself. I have many versions of this exercise, but here is a generic one designed to find, capture and use what makes the heart sing when it comes to running.
Exercise is a a pretty fabulous activity for improving the functioning of our bodies. It reduces stress, helps with weight loss, and can make other physical activities easier. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Exercise can also improve blood lipid profiles by lowering total cholesterol while elevating HDLs or the "good cholesterol". Resistance training can provide protection against sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass that accompanies aging), osteoporosis, and type II diabetes.
But what I'd like to focus on today are the long term effects of exercise training on bioenergetic pathways, myofibers, the pulmonary system, the cardiovascular system, and blood composition.
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