Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Movement for Movement

It's all over the internet: pages and pages of well-designed, articulate sites that promote fitness, health, and nutrition. Loads of free, sensible advice and information. Example: FenrirFitness, a site that coordinates useful tweets with well written, highly useful articles. Another example: fytnessfanatik, where the links to Facebook are more predominant and the focus on fundraising for worthy causes such as multiple sclerosis is emphasized. Other sites such as prsfit offer highly professional training options from a convenient online perspective. The list goes on and on.

This is over and above the high volumes of excellent information you can get online from Runner's World and other fitness magazines.

Countless legions of people post their bios online, people who have conquered all sorts of physical and mental conditions and continue to triumph thanks to fitness regimes that they generously share with the world. So do some searching and see what you find; it's limitless.

Today's tip: wear proper gloves when you run. Frostbite is a real condition, and it can happen. Leave a little space at the tips of the fingers on the coldest days for warm air to collect and protect your fingertips.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Ghost in the Machine

We are muscle and sinew, tissue and bone, blood, sweat, and tears. Complex, extremely complex systems and parts operate these bodies of ours, complex beyond absolute understanding. Some of our physical malfunctions are pretty straightforward and easily explained. What isn't so simple is knowing how much time is needed to heal, what the most effective method of treatment is, when to say everything is back to normal. And often diagnosis is far too simplistic, misleading, or too convenient.

What I'm saying is that you may have cold symptoms but you learn from experience how far you can push through without taking time off from training. If you have a sore ankle, it may not be enough to stop you. You can certainly make mistakes, just as doctors can be off in their diagnoses.

To complicate matters, and as everyone knows, your mental state has an enormous effect not only on your approach to fitness and health but on your actual physical health. Mental and emotional stress, for example, greatly affect the healthy function of your body. It's almost like stereo feedback sometimes; is the mental angst causing the physical problems, or vice versa, and how do you stop the mad spiral?

Running helps to reduce stress. Reduced stress affects physical and mental health positively. Cardio health, muscle and bone strength... the list goes on and on. So even in complexity there are some pretty clear signs.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Basics: My Inviolable Rules for Beginner Marathoners

There are a lot of variables in how people approach running. You would think it would be simple. After all, this is one of the most fundamental of human activities and we’ve been doing it as a species ever since we spotted the first sabre tooth tiger staring at us after we fell out of a tree. However, like all other activities, you need to adhere to certain basic rules when you begin and then get fancy after you know what you’re doing. It’s all about learning your body’s abilities and testing its limits gradually. Your mind and spirit also improve exponentially, and stress, although it never disappears, is far more manageable when you run it off.

I want to point out some rules that I think are inviolable for the beginning runner to ensure that he or she successfully reaches a level at which he (or she) can make informed decisions that should not cause huge problems.
1.Go to your local running store (The Running Room is an excellent chain of stores in Canada). Get fitted for the correct running shoe for you. The salesperson will explain pronation, stability, and such terms related to how you step, and will give you the appropriate selection of shoes. This is critical; go for the highest quality shoe you can afford. Most expensive isn’t necessarily necessary, but I use the top of the line Nike (which I buy cheaper at Nike Factory Outlet).

2.Soccer shorts are for soccer, not for running marathons. Cotton is rotten. Microfibre is mandatory. The clothing you wear when running is also extremely important. Again, if you get outfitted at the Running Room you will be correctly attired. This, too, is critical.
3.Start reading Runners World. They have charts for mapping out your marathon training schedule. (The Running Room has that stuff too, excellent books, etc.) Learn tons. Read a lot; iRun and Canadian Running are two other excellent Canadian running magazines, and John Stanton, owner of the Running Room, has some excellent books out there as well. Adhere to a training schedule religiously for your first marathon at least. And don't neglect blogs such as Richard's blog for motivation and solid advice.

4.Join the free group running sessions at the running store if it fits your schedule. Join the training group that costs about $75 at the Running Room if you like training in groups and if it fits your schedule.
5.Pay close attention to your diet. Read everything that running publications say about nutrition. You need carbs, tons of them. Protein, less so. Eat fibre as though you were bovine. And drink water, lots of it; other drinks don’t matter, except that you want to drink Gatorade on runs to accustom your body to that form of carbs, and for energy on those runs.
6.Make sure you have a good crap early in the morning every day; make sure this happens like clockwork. Come race day, this is probably more important than anything else.

7.Stretch appropriately. It is possible to stretch too much. It is also possible to stretch too little. Either can cause painful injuries.
8.Stick with it. Run through pain, but don’t run through injury. Increase mileage gradually. Don’t expect to improve dramatically overnight; you WILL improve dramatically over time if you stick with it for years. It’s going to hurt sometimes, but once you get addicted to the high, you will find that quitting is really pretty much impossible.
9.Join to track your mileage. The other folks on that website will give you instant feedback and support. You will be awestricken and amazed.
10.Time your routes; depending on your geek level, go with expensive Garmin watches or the much less expensive Nike Plus or Adidas Coach stuff. More info is available at Running Room. It all works just fine, so take your pick. Hell, use a stop watch or just a simple watch if you like. This will, more than anything, get you to edge up that speed just a notch.
It’s all about acting on your impulses. See you on the road!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Try running with your arms crossed, or in some otherwise inflexible, unnatural position. Doesn't really work, does it? Everybody knows that, but you don't really think about what the rest of your body is doing above your waist when you run.

Finding balance in what you do does not mean standing still or steering as close to the perceived mainstream as possible. To me it means finding ways to achieve my goals that are fun, achievable, and sensible to me, and that have the most positive outcome short- and longterm for my family. One must always search for little ways to tweak habits and practices, and I take enormous pleasure in those eureka moments that result in great gains in whatever endeavour it may be. That's what makes my job so much fun.

Stupid and weakly considered criticisms should be dispensed with as quickly as possible. The people who propogate that kind of shit should be pushed to the periphery of your life at the very least, unless they're immediate family members, in which case intensive, relentless education must begin. Cultivate relationships with hardworking, energetic, good people, people who add value to your life in some way.

You have to consciously live the above mantra and avoid slipping into poor habits and unhelpful relationships. A running lifestyle puts that into focus; would you continue to spend time with a useless coach? Would you run with partners who drag you down, have no goals to work with, don't help you or refuse to be helped?