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February 2008

Open Mic Friday: Our Very Own Tom

Open_mic_friday Over the last few months we have met many new friends or learned more about some of our BRF's during the Open Mics.   As I was thinking about this week's post, I realize I had not reached out to an amazing runner and friend whom I see everyday - Tom.   He indulged me in answering a few questions about his running life.   

What got you started in running?

I loved playing basketball, but in high school I couldn’t make the team, so I went out for track and cross country, which gave me a chance to be rewarded for my own efforts.  We Tom_early_running_pic had an inspiring coach who helped us learn about getting the most out of training and how to race competitively.  My high school’s cross country team had a successful tradition and that’s where the fun and success was.  Example, our school of only 250 students filled five buses of fans to attend the district and state cross country meets.

Tell us about a unique running accomplishment.

In 2005 and 2006, I ran the Chicago Marathon in the exact same time down to the second, in 3:24:38.  When you think of all the factors that affect a performance—the course, the crowd, the tangents, the weather, stopping at all the water stations, and my fitness level—what are the chances of that?  I guess I’m consistent.

What is your most memorable running moment?

Finishing the Boston Marathon.  It took five tries to qualify. I kept my mind focused, paced myself and actually enjoyed the Newton Hills.  I bawled in the final mile thinking of my family and friends who had encouraged me throughout my running life.

What is the one piece of advice or running wisdom you live by and would offer to others?

The body can do amazing things.  I continue to be amazed by how many people can achieve their running goals by just trying and being persistent.  And the accomplishment of daily ordinary running can give us strength to get through our lives and struggles.

Who is your running hero/favorite runner?

From my younger years it was Frank Shorter.  He began the boom in running after winning the Olympic gold in the marathon.  My current heroes are Catherine Ndereba and Paula Radcliffe. Catherine has won four Boston Marathons, is a gracious athlete, and is dedicated to helping underprivileged girls with running in Kenya.  Paula has dominated the running world and she has astonished others with her comeback of multiple marathon wins after dropping out of the 2004 Olympic marathon.

What do you look forward to with running?

I have a wonderful wife, Mary, who is not a runner.  However, each of my kids—Laura, Daniel, and Elizabeth—have said they’d like to run a marathon some day, so I would be thrilled to watch them train for and complete a marathon or maybe run along with them.  Actually running any distance with them would be very special to me.

Tom_and_elizabeth

Tom and one of his Trophy Daughters, Elizabeth

...And if you are wondering, yes he IS as gracious and kind in person as the person you read in his posts.  And yes, even though he won't say it - he is one hell of a great runner and coach - just very humble.

If you are interested in writing a post or would be willing to answer a few questions for virtual interview for Open Mic Fridays, please drop me a note at amy@runnerslounge.com.   

Take It and Run Thursday: If I Knew Then...

Take_it_and_run_thursday Welcome to Take It and Run Thursday!

It's our way to bring together the knowledge of all of us ordinary runners.  It's the virtual equivalent to putting our virtual heads together.  Even though many of us aren't elite athletes, coaches or authors, it doesn't mean that we haven't earned a well deserved PhD in running.   Whether you are starting out, have 50 years of running under your belt or somewhere in between - all of us have lessons learned that make us wiser and better runners.  

Today's theme is .... If I Knew Then What I Know Now. 

It's quick and easy!   Just post your name and the title/topic of your post in the first spot and the link to your post in the second spot.     And then read and enjoy!

Next Week's Theme is ... Gear, Gadgets, and Equipment.    Have you gone Garmin?   Do you have a favorite shoe?  Tell us about the best hats, shirts, sunglasses, hydration systems, gear belts, heart monitors, treadmills - whatever it is that gets you through your training and races.

Click here for a list of great posts on "If I Knew Then..." - Lessons in Running.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

If only we had a crystal ball when we began running. 

Crystal_ball_2Would we have foreseen the enjoyment and success of our future running?  Would we have avoided the mistakes, injuries, disappointment, and setbacks?  What would we have done differently?

As runners, we're living, breathing storehouses of experience, expertise, and wisdom learned over many miles.  So Runners' Lounge invites runners everywhere to share their lessons learned over timeyour pearls of wisdom to pass along to other runners.  To get at your wisdom, consider about the following questions.  How might your answers to these help other runners?

  • What have you stubbornly resisted learning or trying?
  • What has led to breakthroughs in your running?
  • What lesson about running has taken you too long to figure out?
  • What 1 or 2 factors have made your running most successful and enjoyable?
  • What training or racing blunders have set you back?
  • What 1 or 2 pieces advice would you pass along to a beginning runner?
  • What advice would you pass along to a veteran runner whose stuck in a rut?
  • What has kept you from achieving your running goals?
  • What is one mistake that has made a significant difference in your running that would you like to reverse?

This isn't about regrets.  Instead it's about maximizing what everyone has learned and continues to learn about running.  Learning by trial and error is only useful up to a point.  And no runner wants to spend buckets of time figuring out how to get the most success and enjoyment out of running. 

We're looking forward to learning your most profound "If I Knew Then What I Know Now" wisdom on your posts, and hope you'll share it with other running enthusiasts on tomorrow's "Take-It-And-Run Thursday."

Ha!  Who needs a crystal ball with a community of runners to tap into?

Crystal Ball on Google Images

Want a Running Breakthrough? Assess your Running Routine

The theme for this week’s Take-It-And-Run Thursday is “If I knew then what I know now.”  Essentially, we’re tapping into the lessons we’ve learned about running—many of them the hard way.

Looking back is one of the most powerful ways we learn.  Amy and I heavily use assessment processes in our jobs to look back at project and business success—and sometimes not-so-successful business.  The most critical part of this approach is getting an accurate, meaningful picture of how we’re doing and why.  It’s no different for runners.  Without an accurate snapshot of how we’re doing and why, we often wallow in minimal improvement and diminished enjoyment of our running

Checklist_3 Assessing our running is often the most difficult part of getting better.  Improving as a runner isn't always about working harder.  As runners, many of us already have strong work ethics and are willing to apply strong efforts.  We demand that we run specific distances on particular days, and we generally meet the demands.  We prescribe a particular pace in a speed workout or pace run—and we do it.  Many of us are already hard working enough.

Instead, the hardest part for runners is objectively sizing up how our running is going.  Sure we have our running watch and the race clock to tell us how we’re doing. But I wonder if we take enough time to evaluate what’s happening with our running and the results we’re getting.  Matters we might want to assess include:

  • Is the number of days I run per week working for me?
  • How might I adjust my weekly mileage?
  • How much sameness is there to my running?
  • Are most runs comparable in distance, pace, comfort?
  • What is the quality of my recovery?
  • Is my training producing the race results I want
  • What might have lead to my sluggishness, illness, injuries, and disappointment?
  • If I were to try a new approach to improve my running this year, what would it be? More miles? Fewer miles? More stretching? Cross training? Heart rate training? Better nutrition?
  • What are the factors behind my string of successes and disappointments?
  • What am I doing in training that I can't achieve in a race?

Stepping back to size up our running is perhaps the most powerful and overlooked ways we can improve.  More than trying harder and running further, assessing our running is what truly leads to breakthroughs.  Running more will get some results.  Shifting our running mindsets and routines will often produce exponentially great results.

Assessing our running is one of the single-most overlooked processes to improve and more fully enjoy running.  The closer we get to understanding why we’re getting what we’re getting with our running routine and workouts, the more likely we will improve.  Assessing our running is one of the most challenging and enjoyable parts of being a runner.

With apologies to Socrates,

"The unexamined running life is not worth living."

Things I Figured Out The Hard Way

I have a nasty habit of continuing to make the same mistakes with my running many times Truth over instead of learning from my my missteps.   Which, of course, just frustrates me even more which leads to another blunder.  When we started blogging, I made a promise to myself to write down all the stupid things I did so I wouldn't forget them. 

True to my promise, as I have tripped over these laws and fumbled with my running over the last year, I have posted about it so I wouldn't forget the lessons I have learned.  In the process, I realized that instead of working against the natural order of things I need to work with the natural "laws" of running. 

In the spirit of "I wish I knew then, what I know now..." for Take It and Run Thursday, here is a recap of the natural laws I stumbled over in the last year:

7 Truths of Running   

Rules for Beginning Runners

Natural Law:  Overcoming Inertia - The only cure for a long break in running is just getting back out there.

Natural Law:  Manage Your Risks - Manage the "risks" of your running or they will manage you.

Natural Law:  The Same Thing - The same thing that got me into this injury is the same thing that will get me out.

Natural Law:  Your Gotta' Wanna - Your body runs the distance, but your mind wins the race.  You can't forget your 'gotta' wanna'.

Natural Law:  Smart Person, Stupid Runner - Our passion for running can result in stupid decisions from smart people.

Natural Law:  Change - You gotta' change your running to change your results.

Natural Law:  Running Weight - When you start training for an event, you first gain weight before you can take it off.

Natural Law:  Good Runs.  Not So Good Runs. - Good runs provide motivation.  Not so good runs provide learning.

Natural Law:  The First Mile - The first mile is always hard

The Rules to Becoming a Runner - Run Your Run.

In my best estimation, there are another 100 or so out there to be reminded of and write down.  It makes me look forward to another 50-70 years of running. 

Wow...all the things I still have yet to learn (and remember)....

Around the Lounge

One of the driving forces behind the construction of Runners' Lounge the community was the need of ordinary runners to store and find answers to their common running questions.  Not only did we want to bring together some of the great articles and resources we found helpful, but we wanted to give all runners a place to leave a tip or advice of something that has worked for them.

As we kick off this week's Take It and Run Thursday theme of If I Knew Then What I Know Now, I think it is only fitting to give you a quick tour of the Running Know How Section in the Lounge.

This "room" in the Lounge has three parts:

Articles.   Articles are the longer, more formal entries suggested by you and added by us.  Many of the first articles we added were from coaches, elites, or professionals in the sport and provided a more authoritative view on a topic as well as being inf022308_adviceormative.  We are thankful to many authors who gave us permission to post/republish their article.   More recently, we have also added posts from some of our favorite bloggers.  These are posts that are instant classics like Frayed Laces 7 Habits of Highly Effective Runners, Nat's 10 Commandments of Running, or RazzDoodle's 5 Stages of Treadmill Running.

We've only just begun to build.  As you see a great article or post out there, please drop us a note (joinus@runnerslounge.com) and let us know.  If the author agrees to republish it, we will add it to the articles.

Advice.   This section is built, managed and maintained by the Lounge community.  This is the spot that runners of all abilities drop off a tip, tidbit, advice, words of wisdom for other runners.  If you have ever come to that part of your running career where the light bulb goes on and you think - I really need to tell other runners "to do" or "to avoid" this thing - the advice section is where you leave it.  It doesn't need to be long or formal - just jot down a few lines in the "Add Advice".   

If you have ever said, "I wish I knew then what I know now..." - that is your cue to drop off that piece of advice in the Know How section.  There are 5 main categories:  Training, Racing, Staying Healthy, Keeping Motivated, and Gear, Gadgets, and Equipment.  And, don't forget the newest addition - Inspiration and Stories.

As an added bonus, your advice is automatically linked to your profile under "My Know How".  This allows you to remember what you have added and helps other runners like you pick up some quick tips as they connect with you through your profile.

Ask the Lounge.  If you need more immediate help or are looking for input on a very specific topic, start a thread in our forum and ask the Lounge a question.   

We hope you are enjoying the Lounge and welcome any feedback or ideas on how to make it even better.   

Open Mic Friday: Slow… the way to go?

Open_mic_friday

Welcome to Art Dinkin (aka in the Lounge as adinkin), who regularly authors a great financial planning blog, Moment on Money, but is also a runner in training for the best 20K on this planet - Dam to Dam.

You have to understand that I have never run more than 10 miles and even that run was unplanned. The longest I have ever set out to run was a 10K. The day I ran 10 miles I was feeling good and just kept running after I reached my four mile goal. Before I knew it, 10 miles had come and gone. So when Amy asked me if I was going to run the Dam to Dam this year, I really had to stop and consider if I should. On one hand, I want to run a marathon at least once in my life and figure the Des Moines Half Marathon would be a great stepping stone. If I could do a the Dam to Dam 20K in late spring, the additional .7 mile should be a piece of cake in October. On the other hand, could I really build up the miles? Am I really capable of running 12.4 miles mentally as well as physically? But Amy is a great running partner. We run and talk, talk and run. The time passes and so do the miles. If I am ever going to overcome these demons of distance, I can think of no one better to do it with. With more confidence in my voice than in my heart, I agreed to run Dam to Dam with her.

This past weekend was a huge running weekend for me.

It started with the Red Flannel Run on Saturday. You know it is going to be a special day1040  when you are a Certified Financial Planner TM practitioner and you pick up your race packet (during tax season) to discover your number is 1040. The Red Flannel is the unofficial start to the running season in Central Iowa. Some people may consider the Iowa weather in Mid-February a bit chilly, but this year the weather was great. There was snow on the ground but the course was clear, the wind reasonable, the sun was shinning and the temperature was in the high 20's at the start of the race. I had the opportunity to run with Amy and her husband Jim. I saw Tom at the start and at the finish. I know he ran too, but let's just say that he is "cursed with speed". In fact he is so fast, the camera could not even capture his image for our group picture!

Red_flannel_2

Left to Right: Me, Jim, and Amy

A few years ago (2005), I did a PR at the Red Flannel. The last ½ mile was hell. I knew I had a good time going but I was running on empty. I almost did not finish the run. This year was no where near my fastest run, but it may have been my best. We started slow and steadily increased the pace. As we turned the last corner towards the finish line I still had a lot of energy. Instead of pushing myself to finish, I picked up the pace and ran hard to the end. It felt great!

We woke up on Sunday to blizzard conditions and my 3 year old insisted that we get out of bed and shovel snow (even though it was still falling). When the driveway was cleared I couldn't think of any good reason not to go to the gym and do a long run on a treadmill. I set the pace at about 95% of a typical training run and had no problem knocking out 6 miles. After the run I rewarded myself with a nice sit in the steam room before heading home to shovel the driveway again.

Monday morning it was back to the routine. After some resistance training I set out to run 3 miles at my normal pace. About halfway through the run I thought I was going to have to quit early but instead of quitting, I just slowed down. I finished my three miles. The slowdown only added a bit more than a minute to my time but I was glad I chose to finish the run over running quickly.

3 days, 12 miles. For some runners, 12 miles would be a good day. For me, it was a great weekend.

I learned something about myself as a runner. It is better to run slowly, than to quit from going fast.

I'm beginning to think I may actually be able to finish the Dam to Dam. They just may have to time my run with a calendar. J

Take It And Run Thursday: Strength and Flexibility

Take_it_and_run_thursday Welcome to Take It and Run Thursday!

It's our way to bring together the knowledge of all of us ordinary runners.  It's the virtual equivalent to putting our virtual heads together.  Even though many of us aren't elite athletes, coaches or authors, it doesn't mean that we haven't earned a well deserved PhD in running.   Whether you are starting out, have 50 years of running under your belt or somewhere in between - all of us have lessons learned that make us wiser and better runners.  

Today's theme is .... Strength and Flexibility. 

It's quick and easy!   Just post your name and the title/topic of your post in the first spot and the link to your post in the second spot.     And then read and enjoy!

Next Week's Theme is ... If I Knew Then What I Know Now...    One of the Natural Laws of Running I live by is:  Good Runs Provide Motivation.  Not So Good Runs Provide Learning.  We take steps to earning our PhD in Running with each training run and every race.  Some lessons have happy endings while other runs teach us a bit more about the art and science of running.   Share your nugget of wisdom.

Click here for great posts on the topics of Strength and Flexibility.

Stretching for Runners: I'm a Believer

Should I stretch before or after I run?

How long should I hold a stretch?

What specific stretches should I do?

Does stretching really prevent injuries?

Dual_stretching_4 So much debate about stretching.   And I don’t understand why.  No wonder everyone from beginning to highly experienced runners are confused and disenchanted with stretching.

When it comes down to stretching, I think for many of us the bottom line is time.  It delays our shower and getting on with our daily routine and commitments.  Still, most runners who have consistently embraced stretching would likely admit that it is worthwhile. 

I stretch for several reasons:

  • Stretching leaves me feeling better—energized, more flexible, and more fit
  • Stretching improves how I recover from a run, reducing stiffness and soreness
  • Stretching impacts the quality of my next run and my ability to increase mileage more comfortably

So what stretching exercises are best? Easy.  The ones that fit your needs.  If your back is prone to tightness, stretch it.  Have a history of IT band problems? stretch it.  A running friend seems to have been born with tight calves, so he stretches his lower legs religiously

Eight basic stretches hit all the critical areas for runners. 

  • Hamstrings
  • Groin
  • Back
  • IT Bands
  • Calves
  • Achilles
  • Quads
  • Hips

I do the first four exercises on the floor; then move to the kitchen counter or a wall for the calves and quads and hips.  I stretch after running, holding all stretches for a count of about 25 - 30 second and repeat each.  Completing all eight stretches takes about 15 minutes or less after running.  These stretches work great in front of the TV if your family doesn’t mind the odor from your sweaty running.  Runners' World has a wide variety of articles and videos on stretching these muscles.

Stretching doesn’t bullet-proof our bodies.  However, through decades of running, I’ve never had a torn muscle, stress fracture, surgery, or any lay off that a week of rest couldn’t heal.

I believe stretching helps me get the most success and enjoyment from my running.

Dual stretching on Flickr by Flamed

Strength Training for Runners: Keep it Simple

The highest form of help anyone can give me is to simplify the complex.

Give me a a four-ingredient cookbook over an award-winning Martha Stewart gourmet recipe any day, and I'm happy.   

Cutting_edge_runnerIn Matt Fitzgerald’s book, The Cutting Edge Runner, he sifts through all the noise and myths about weight training and explains in no uncertain terms the true benefit of strength training for runners.  Thanks, Matt.  That’s exactly I want to know.  I don’t care about bulk, ripped sinewy muscles.  And I can achieve sex appeal by simply hanging out with my non-running friends—or by wearing my running clothes from the 80s.

All I want to know is how I can build the right kind of strength in the right muscles so they’ll enhance my daily running and occasional racing.  Thanks to Fitzgerald, I focus on three types of training that develop 1) strength, 2) power, and 3) muscle balance.

And the super cool news is we don’t need to focus on all three strength areas all the time.  We can prioritize and choose different components of strength training throughout our running seasons.  Below is the simplified outline of Fitzgerald's training that I'm currently using.

General Strength Workout

Purpose:  For hips, abdomen, back, chest, and shoulders

  • Squats
  • Wood chops
  • Calf raises
  • Reverse wood chops

Power Workout

Purpose:  Produces speed with the increased ability to exert a force on the ground with the foot and increased stride length.

  • Split squat leaps
  • Single arm dumbbell clean and press
  • Single leg box jumps
  • Power side lunges

Muscle Balance Workout

Purpose:  Increases efficient running form, and strengthens stabilizing muscles that if left underdeveloped can lead to injuries

  • Single leg squats
  • Morning dumbbell swings
  • Lower abdominal squeeze
  • Side step ups
  • Pillow balancing

We need to learn what many runners ignore: our leg muscles are forged with endurance, but not necessarily with strength.  And there is a big difference between endurance and strength; endurance is the ability to perform an action over and over and over.  Strength is the ability to perform a certain activity with increased capability.

I'm seeing solid results with the above simple strength program.  It's productive and time efficient.

By the way, Amy, I've also found a great four-ingredient recipe for some of the best cookies you've ever tasted. 

Move over Martha.  There's a lot to be said for simplicity.

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