Posts Tagged 'running'

Variety Shows

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Switching things up is a key to peak performance in any arena — sports or entertainment, business or life.

The benefits of changing an established routine are manifold. When it comes to fitness, doing so is a necessity. The body is always searching for the most efficient way to perform a given activity.

In order to reach the sort of elite level we all seek (if only deep down), we have to unlock ourselves from the chains of a memorized — and therefore easier — program.

I have a hard time doing this.

I enjoy running. I get some miles in six days most weeks, testing my cardiorespiratory system and relieving stress, to a lesser extent. As much as I hate to admit it, such repetition can eventually do more harm than good.

I’ll get bored.

I’ll get injured.

Thankfully, I know better.

Yesterday, my brother, sister-in-law and I did our monthly measurements. This includes weight and waist-to-hip ratios, as usual, but I added another wrinkle for myself:

I decided to perform an experiment over the next four weeks and abandon distance running.

Early in the evening, I ran 1.56 miles in 9:38. Using math to project this across the traditional 2.4km test, I covered the appropriate distance in 9:12, averaging 6:08 per mile.

Why did I do this, you ask?

This set a baseline for me in terms of Maximal Aerobic Speed and VO2 max, a pair of intertwined indicators of a person’s ability to take in and distribute oxygen during exercise. Generally speaking, higher ratings equate to the ability go farther and faster.

I’m curious about improving fitness with less traditional endurance workouts, a concept I’ve read about but have yet to really attempt myself. I plan to use regiments based on building agility and speed while putting the heart to work. The idea is to create an all-around program built on the intervals I already use, substituting other exercises for out-and-out running to get the desired effect.

In short, I’m going to get back to basics.


Mountain climbers.



On April 10th, I’ll retest and see what variety shows.

Thread Barefoot

“How do you like them?”

“They’re great,” I reply, as they continue staring toward the floor.

“Doesn’t it hurt your feet to run in them?”

“Nope. I actually have much less pain now.”

I get a lot of quizzical looks.

As I go on to explain the differences switching to Vibram FiveFingers from traditional running shoes has made for my ankles, knees and lower back, most people I talk to keep their eyes locked on my toes.

I talk about the biomechanics of running as well as the structural integrity and strength of the human body. I’ve answered the same questions many times.

In the end, most shrug and say, “That makes sense.”

I bought my first pair of KSOs more than a year ago and will wear them for the rest of my running life.

The raving I do only scratches the surface of how much better it feels. I’ve covered hundreds of miles with minimal soreness (if any) in what had been problem areas, particularly my knees. The thin sole brings a sense of connection to whatever surface I’m on — I feel faster and more fluid.

The sensation has led me to wear my Puma soccer shoes around more often than anything else. Sure, I have some Nikes I throw on from time to time, but the low-profile of my Ligas comes closest to replicating natural movement.

I would even wear them if somebody puked in them.


There are two basic reasons making the switch has been beneficial:

1. In-born architecture
The feet are a marvel of engineering. Fully one quarter of the bones and about twenty percent of the muscles in the human body are at the end of the legs! Designed to disperse the weight of all the appendages and organs above, the feet handle tons of force with each step.

Modern running shoes have shifted most runners away from the strength of the foot: the arch. Due to heavy padding, most people strike the ground with the heel first, which puts the brakes on with each step and jars the body as far up as the lumbar spine.

Barefoot running emphasizes making contact closer to the ball of the foot, which — after some practice and strengthening — improves running efficiency.

2. Muscle tone
The support built into the average pair of sneakers diminishes the amount of work necessary for the body to maintain balance. Dozens of muscles work in concert to keep us upright, but locking them up in bulky shoes relieves the pressure on those proprioceptive — position-sensing — tissues and leads to weakness of ligaments and tendons. Conditions like plantar fascitis or fallen arches might result.

I can attest to the fact there are few more powerful wake-up calls than the first morning after running without the crutch of molded EVA underfoot. I limped around with sore calves for days.

That’s normal.

Muscles are supposed to ache when challenged in a new way.

With that in mind, I’d like to say barefoot running is for everyone.

The jury’s still out, though.

When something becomes a craze, it’s difficult to know what the long-term effects are. It takes years or decades to measure that effectively.

All I can say is it works for me.

All you can do is give it a try.

Find Your Pace for the Long Run

One of the most important things you learn while running is pace.

Somewhere on the knife edge between too fast and too slow is athletic nirvana. This fine balance allows you to perform at an optimum level, covering great distances in no time. The situation generates a peculiar feeling, a paradox in which you are certain of the energy being expended while simultaneously taking stride after effortless stride.

Every few days, I brush aside regimented intervals to play with my speed.

I go outside and fartlek.

Well, I do it in my own particular way. Instead of set periods for exertion and rest, I use the time to run as fast as I please. The focus shifts from pushing myself to the limits in favor of trusting my body to find the sweet spot I mentioned above.

My goal in each session, regardless of the training philosophy I employ, is to build my ability to handle miles upon miles. Whether in a 5K fun run or testing myself in a half marathon, I intend to be at my best.

The peak clip one person moves at is wholly different from everyone else.

I have a distinct memory from around ten years old in which I joined my grandparents for a morning walk at a nearby mall. In their early 70s at the time, Grandma and Grandpa E. zipped along the tiles like Olympic speed skaters, waving and greeting fellow regulars along the way.

“It’s really nice of you to let us old folks keep up,” Grandpa would say with a wry smile as Grandma moved her hands rhythmically from side to side for variety in her workout. Accustomed to sprinting around a soccer field, I was well out of my depth on their turf.

Trying to keep up with someone else is a questionable pursuit.

Sure, there are benefits to following another’s lead from time to time. It is helpful to witness “the right way” and set about emulating the example, but it’s important to remember you’re on a different path–regardless of how similar the destination.

The simple fact is this: you are you.

Making an effort to match someone else step for step discounts your value. It is a disguised way of buying into “I’m not good enough.”

Assimilate others’ methods into your own style, if you like.

Mix in useful characteristics to amplify your effectiveness.

Pump your legs and arms at your ideal rate.

You’ll be better in the long run.


The Productive Pause

The Fatigue Soliloquy

3 Reasons for a Short Run

The Productive Pause

I have to force myself not to run sometimes.

As I’ve redeveloped the habit of daily mileage over the last few weeks, I’ve realized an enforced break is a blessing and a curse. It’s important to take time to heal, to give the road a break from the stabbing of my feet and allow my ligaments and tendons to restore themselves.

What if the sidewalk is where I recover?

I went to bed early Sunday morning after completing the last final exam I’ll ever write in the first teaching job I ever had. Motivated to finish the task and therefore move forward with the next phase of preparing for my big move, I pushed on into the wee hours with little regard for sleep.

Sunday morning arrived and I felt gassed.

As is my custom, I set about doing some of my “small work”, the five- or ten-minute jobs that can add up at the end of the day. My energy waned and I left papers strewn about my floor awaiting grades or filing. I headed off to my other job and sleepwalked through several hours, certain a half-hour to myself jogging in the sun would do me good.

I craved the meditation of 160 strides per minute.

Alas, my desire to avoid overtraining took precedent and I continued slogging through the evening.

One of the best benefits of self-evaluation is learning what your spiritual reset button is.

Plowing through the rocky fields of your mind requires constant, time-consuming effort.

The necessity of rest is unavoidable.

Respect this fact and honor your intentions with a productive pause.

Stopping for a breather halts your progress, but that’s better than losing ground because you kept pushing forward.


The Gift from Above

The Fatigue Soliloquy

You Can Rebuild You

Top Posts, July 2010

It’s a few days late since the 31st of July fell on a Saturday, so I apologize.  Here are the most viewed posts for the past month:

5. 5 Steps to Your Best Apology

4. Running into God

3. Looking at Life from the Threshhold of Death

2. The Fear Soliloquy

1. 1 Difference Between “Trying” and “Doing”

The Gift from Above

“Please let it rain,” I whispered to myself as I walked to my car.

Knowing I was heading home to run–and having passed the better part of a week doing so in thick humidity–I welcomed the possibility of moisture from the heavens. Just the night before, I headed out after 9 PM and the temperature was still pushing 90°. The two days before that, the heat index had reached triple digits.

Noticing dark clouds in the southwestern sky, I humbly requested a break from the blast furnace.

You see, a few miles to myself has tremendous cleansing power. I imagine every runner would tell you the same, whether they head out in a group or alone. Something about the rhythmic motion calms the psychic seas and soothes physical tension.

Further, I find it difficult to believe there is someone out there without a concept of perfect conditions for their meditative mile. The personal nature of this exercise–a primitive dance with Mother Earth herself–invites each individual to find their own means to achieve the endorphin-laced nirvana known as “runner’s high”.

For me, a light rain and 70° temperatures is ideal.

The peaceful tympany of raindrops tapping gently against my skin and my surroundings amplifies the catharsis I seek when I leave the house. Thus, I felt a small measure of joy when I noticed the first spots on the pavement around three-quarters of a mile. Within a few dozen yards, a steady rain had set in.

I grinned at my answered prayer.

Soaked to the skin as I neared a mile and a half, I smiled and thought “I only meant a little,” and then pressed on to complete my four-plus mile course. A short time later, I passed a Methodist church on the familiar route to my favorite park with its sign flashing

Every good and perfect gift comes from above… James 1:17, NIV

I chuckled at this reply and contemplated how those words resonated beyond the pavement I was pounding and into my life as a whole. Strangely, I hearkened back to similar ideas from dissimilar works.

A snippet from Zen and the Art of Happiness reminded me that “every event that befalls you is absolutely the best possible thing that could occur–that there is no other event imaginable that could benefit you to any greater degree.” Then, my mind rolled delicately into the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, the infamous line that “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”

The unexpected downpour could be framed as an inconvenience or an opportunity.

A day is infinitely simpler when you admit it could be better, then set about to make the most of it anyway. So, I had a chance to test my fitness in air 20° cooler than normal, lacking oppressive sunshine overhead. My stride remained fast longer and, since my core body temperature had not been elevated by the heat, I was able to do so with relative respiratory ease.

How often do we take advantage of surprises?

I had asked for rain.

I got more than I bargained for.

It didn’t “kill me” and I derived a greater “benefit” from the “gift”.

A good lesson for how we all might approach the present.


Sorry, Life is Fair

3 Reasons for a Short Run

Running into God

Carpe Dormis

Rest is essential to peak performance.

The pace of modern life has bred a notion of constant effort to achieve results.

Eat on the run.

Sleep when you can.

Relax if you dare.

If you take a break, someone else will get ahead, right?


Your body and mind have finite resources. Pushing the limits and denying recovery invites total shut down.

Give yourself the opportunity for replenishment and rejuvenation.

Hit the sack early.

Go for a stroll in the park.

Take a vacation.

Time spent refueling your tanks is a great investment.

A tired brain has little creativity.

Uncoordinated and unfocused, it swings wildly at everything thrown its way. Sure, sometimes it smacks a lucky home run, but most of the time it hits a weak grounder if it makes contact at all.

Meeting demands under the weight of tremendous fatigue is inefficient and often ineffective. In this state of stress, every tissue from head to toe aches for time to cool down and rebuild.

Jump at the chance for a breather. Grab a few moments and reboot your system.

You’ll carry on better when you do.


3 Reasons for a Short Run

Sleep Dreams

The Power of Nothing

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