Sunday, October 25

Winter Running Program

One of the best things I've ever done in my endurance career was join a group program. I learned so much, was held accountable by others, and had a ton of fun. If you live in the surrounding Dallas-area and are looking for a more customized way to train (as opposed to downloading an online training program), consider joining me and others in this Winter Running Program.

Running season is upon us! Run happy, friends.

Thursday, May 14

Now What?

I realize I went radio silent after running Boston; turns out the chaos of life has inertia that's hard to stop. I fully plan to write a race re-cap, but for now, I figured I'd share this.

The following is a transcript of a speech I've given a couple of different times through Toastmasters. A video of the speech will be posted soon. 

Now What?

I've never really been big into video games. Even when I was younger my "gaming" -- I think is what they call it now -- was always kept pretty minimal. Although I will admit there's one game that will always hold a special place in my heart: Super Mario on Nintendo 64. For those that don't know, the premise of the game involved me, Mario, collecting stars in order to save Princess Peach from an evil turtle named Bowser. Oh c'mon, that doesn't sound awesome? With each star I got, the closer I came to saving Peach. And then one day, after months of diligence, hard work, overcoming adversity, and buff finger muscles you wouldn't even believe, I got the last star and saved the princess. The game was over, Mario and I did it!

As a kid, I was elated. Proud. Heck it felt like an achievement. I had just beaten Super Mario on Nintendo 64! And yet to this day, I can remember amidst all those happy feelings, this nagging sensation. This thought of: Wait, the game is just... over? I navigated through all those levels, achieved all those stars... and that's it? "Now what?" I thought.

As trivial as a Nintendo game may sound, I think there's an underlying theme that existed for nine-year-old me, and that I still think exists today for some of us as adults. This question of "Now what?" can be incredibly important for growth, achievement and personal development. But what I'd like to propose to you tonight is that the question, "Now What?", if asked too often or in the wrong context, can also be dangerous. Let me explain.

Thursday, April 16

Boston is Here!

Exactly four years ago I met with my coach at the time at a local Starbucks. It was there that I first said the following words out loud: "I want to run the Boston Marathon." My goodness gracious... four years ago. Can you believe that?

For those that have been following my quest to qualify for Boston, this weekend has been a long time coming, as Marathon Monday is just a few days away.

This week I've had several folks ask me:
  1. How are you feeling?
  2. Are you ready?
  3. Can we track you during the race?
I'll answer the last question first so that those that don't care how I'm feeling can close their browser and go about their day.

How to track me during the race: 

Simply text the my Bib Number (4835) to the number 234567 using your US mobile phone. You will then receive an sms text response confirming that you're following me. You’ll receive an alert each time I cross the following course markers:
  • 10K (6.2 miles)
  • Half-Marathon (13.1 miles)
  • 30K (18.6 miles)
  • 35K (21.7 miles)
  • 40K (24.8 miles)
  • Finish (26.2 miles)
My start time is approximately 10:00a local in Boston, approximately 9:00a CT. Let me know if you end up following; it'll be neat to feel some "virtual support"!

How I'm Feeling:

That about sums it up. I've written briefly about tapering before while training for the Houston Marathon. While I intend to go into more detail in a later post, here's what you need to know about tapering.

It's the point at which you allow your body to recover from typically the hardest work you've put in throughout all of training. Your body is used to a certain type of exercise and then all the sudden the workload decreases. Your body goes into repair-mode, which comes with a set of side effects. Some people get cranky, others feel hyper, giddy, or anxious. Because the body is repairing itself the legs can hurt, ache, and have a general sense of discomfort. You notice little pains that you hadn't noticed throughout training.

Because of all of this, runs during the taper typically don't feel as good. This has a psychological impact on athletes and often causes them to doubt their race-readiness. 

I've had just about all of these tapering symptoms, plus some emotional instances thrown in. Four years this has been on my mind, and it's here! I've had anxiety, doubts, and really bad runs lately. When people ask me how I'm feeling I typically respond with "crappy". But guess what... this overall sense of what some refer to as "Taper Madness", this undeniable crappy feeling that rears its' head, is 100% expected and natural. To feel crappy is a temporary part of the plan.

So, am I ready? 

You're damn right I'm ready. I'll see you on the other side!

Thursday, April 9

Amanda's Race Report

This is a guest post by Amanda on running, training, and the Dallas Rock'n Roll Half Marathon.

I never thought I would be on the other side of a half marathon and have positive feelings about it, because that isn't how I felt about my fist half. 

Amanda's finisher medal!
2013 was a big year for me; I started the year newly engaged, planning a wedding and a new job. My new coworkers were discussing signing up for a half marathon and my husband and I thought that would be great way to workout leading up to the wedding, as well as cross something of our bucket list. We were the only two that hadn't ran one before so we followed their lead, didn't think twice about which half marathon we signed up for or even the training plan. It was just running, seemed easy enough that the more you ran the easier it would be to hit that 13.1 mark. 

Looking back I can blame the fact that the race was in August in Texas, or that the course was 14 miles instead of 13.1, or that it wasn’t the most well executed event, but none of these measure up to the fact that I did not train properly to be successful for a half marathon. When I crossed that finish line I felt terrible and didn’t have the desire to run again. So when a year later the opportunity to work with Brian came up I almost passed on it, but with some encouragement from my husband and conversations with Brian I figured it wouldn’t kill me to try this again.

My training began with Brian and it was obvious from the beginning this was not anything like the training, or lack there of, I had done before. I thought it was too good to be true when Brian expressed that the training wasn’t going to be a huge time commitment, with most workouts being 30min. I caught myself doubting the lack of distance and time needed to workout. Brian had to reassure me that there was a method to the training in order to build my strength and endurance rather than just building up my mileage. So I tried to push out these thoughts and trust the coaching that was being provided.

When race day came along I found that anxiety resurfacing and I kept reflecting on my first half marathon experience. Brian was so supportive in the days leading up to the race and proactive in helping me curb my nervousness, but it seemed like I couldn’t shake the thought that this race wasn’t going to be a repeat. I tried to focus on my pace as I started the race to keep my mind occupied and I was able to keep it right where I had been during my most of my training runs. As I hit mile 7, mile 9, and then mile 11 the more and more people were giving up and walking and I still felt so good! I was so thankful for our hills training as we approached hills in the last couple of miles that I noticed people stopping and I was able to keep pushing through. Then when I saw the finish line I knew I was going to hit my goal, which was to finish the race without stopping, and with a smile on my face!

As I reflect on my experience with training and the half, I am grateful to have finished in a good place but more thankful that I have found a new hobby with running. What I cherish most about this experience is what running has brought to my life. Now I am able to leave the house and go for a 30-minute run without even thinking twice about it. It’s my time to completely unplug from everything in life and clear my head. I may not be the typical runner seeking a new PR but more of a runner seeking a better and healthier life. 

Friday, March 20

Race Tip #1: Curbing Pre-Race Anxiety

I've got a few clients and other friends that are running the Dallas Rock'n Roll Half Marathon this weekend. Many have asked me for some advice or last-minute tips as we approach the race. I've got plenty, but I wanted to share just a few that all relate to each other. They're simple, easy, but often overlooked. 

As you're in the corral about to start the race you'll likely have butterflies. Nervous energy. The same sort of anxious feeling you get before giving a speech or presentation. You may even have some element of doubt. "Am I ready?" "Did I fuel properly?" "Did I train enough?" This mind chatter is completely normal, but you have the ability to shut it off.

Here are three things I do in any race before the gun goes off to curb pre-race anxiety:

  1. Deep breathing -- closing your eyes and taking several deep breaths has been shown to be effective at reducing anxiety as it works to calm the fight or flight response; in through the nose, out through the mouth several times, and then...
  2. Express gratitude -- typically I'll say a prayer of thanksgiving for the ability to even be out at a race with thousands of others; considering so many people in this world don't have the means to do this sort of thing, we should be thankful that we're here! You'll be surprised how having a genuine appreciation for being there diffuses the anxiety and leads to a general feeling of happiness.
  3. Smile! -- speaking of happiness, smile! You've worked hard to get to where you're at, this is an important day, but it isn't your ultimate day. Remember the reason you do endurance sports: to stay healthy, to achieve a goal, and hopefully, to have FUN! 

Now, go out and do just that: have fun!

Wednesday, March 11

Allison's Race Report

This is a guest post by Allison on running, training, and the Cowtown Half Marathon.

History and Background

In 2012, I decided to register for the Nike Woman's Half Marathon because a close friend of mine had passed away from leukemia that year and the race raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Before this race, I did not run to stay in shape but for the mental sanity that it provided after a hard day. Although I ran often, I never took it seriously. When I signed up for this race I had no clue what I was doing. My training consisted of 3 mile runs every few days for a month or so before the race. I loved every minute of my first race. After finishing in 2 hours and 24 minutes (2:24) I wanted to get back out there and do it again.

In 2013, I signed up for my second race but this time followed a training plan that I had found online. The training plan consisted of 5 runs every week with one long run on the weekends that increased in distance every week. For my second race, I ran a 2:10. It was then that I decided to set a goal to break two hours. I signed up for the Dallas Half Marathon in December 2014 and followed the same training plan, never missing a run. I was determined to break two hours, but barely missed my goal, running it in 2:02.  I was excited that I had PR'd by 8 minutes but disappointed that I did not achieve my goal.


A week later, I met with Brian and he explained the science of training for a half marathon. He walked me through heart rate training and I learned that I had been living in "No Man's Land" -- running at an effort too high to build endurance yet too low to build speed. I was immediately hooked on the science of his training. I decided to sign up for the Cowtown Half Marathon on March 1st and began Brian's training plan. Every week, Brian sent me a personalized training plan that was customized to my goal, resources, and availability. He also checked in on the progress of each workout. At first, I was nervous because his workouts were nothing like the online training plans I had been doing. There were very few runs longer than 3 miles, and most required me to go slow. There was also a lot of focus on weights routines to build strength. Growing up as competitive swimmer, I was use to working out multiple hours a day. It was foreign to me that I could achieve the results I wanted with 30 minute workouts a day. 

A few weeks into our training, Brian and I met to work on drills to improve my form. This was a turning point in my training. Once my form was corrected I was able to run much more comfortably and confident. I started to get faster at the same level of effort! Soon after, we started to do hill workouts with DFW Tri Club.  It was fun to do tough workouts with an encouraging group. Finally, we added speed workouts to the training. These workouts made me tough, since each time I did them it was in the roughest conditions (freezing, or windy and hot!). These were important because when you are running a race, the person you are running for is yourself. It can be easy to talk yourself down and convince yourself it's not worth it and just give up.   

The Race!

When race weekend came around, I could not have felt more prepared and excited. Brian and I talked race strategy/plan, and wet set up my GPS watch to help me with pacing. When the race started it was surreal. I focused on the strategy to not start out too fast and to focus on my form. The first few miles felt very easy. I looked down at my watch and was a little ahead of pace but didn't think much of it. I kept focusing on my form and following the race plan. I knew there was a big hill at mile 9, and when I got there, I channeled my training and started focusing on my arms and cadence to power me up the hill. At mile 11, I looked down at my watch and had 24 minutes to run 2 miles in order to hit my goal. I realized I was not only going to hit my time but, but completely crush my goal. I couldn't stop smiling for the last 2 miles of the race. It was an amazing feeling and the best I have ever felt running 13.1 miles. I ran the Cowtown Half in 1:54.

I was a competitive athlete for the first 22 years of my life and this experience of training for the Cowtown Half Marathon was one of the most special things I have ever been through. I have never been more proud of my athletic accomplishments than I was that day. The training plan showed me that its not about how far you run or how many hours you workout, but it is about the quality of the training. He helped me focus on strength, speed, and endurance. The furthest I ran prior to the race was 6 miles but during the race I felt stronger than I had ever felt at mile 10.  

Smiles and a PR!
In the end...

While the training plan was fantastic and effective, the best thing about working with Brian was the support and encouragement that he constantly showed during the entire process. Every day, he checked in to see how I was doing. He adjusted the workouts based on my schedule and provided honest and timely feedback when I needed it. When workouts got tough, he was positive and extremely motivating during them. I dropped 8 minutes in less than 3 months and would not have been able to accomplish my goal without the training and support.

Tuesday, March 3

Lessons from Cowtown

This past weekend I (along with 6,500 other brave souls) ran the Cowtown Half Marathon in Forth Worth, Texas. I say "brave" considering what was supposed to be a five-race weekend (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ultra-Marathon) turned into only one race due to winter weather: snow, sleet, icy roads, etc. The race crew at Cowtown worked with city officials to provide a safe course for the Half Marathon folks, but there were still some sketchy parts.

Ever since becoming a coach I've had a heightened sense of awareness while working out, and even while hanging around other endurance athletes. I find myself constantly going into "coaching mode": analyzing my own situation or observing others' form, etc. I can't seem to turn it off!

Cowtown was no different, so what came from this race (besides sore legs) were some insights I thought I'd share. Insights I gleaned from being an athlete in "coaching mode" who raced a tough course with unique, wintry conditions.

Sunday, February 22

Spiced Beef and Collard Greens

This has become one of our go to dishes during the work week for a quick, healthy and delicious meal that often provides great lunch time left overs. An added perk is it's Whole30 compliant. We hope you enjoy!

Cook Time: 20 min.
Serves: 4

Sunday, February 8

Wednesday, January 28

Coconut Water

Between social media, a recent conversation with a client, product advertisements, and magazine articles, coconut water seems to be all the rage these days. I suppose this isn't a recent development, but all those touch points coming together at once is what spurred this post. Better late than never?

Jessie and I have written about the health benefits of coconut before: both coconut milk and coconut oil --  we are big fans! But what about coconut water? A few things to consider...
  • Electrolytes: coconut water is loaded with electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, etc. These are essential for hydration, which is why many will drink coconut water during or after a hard workout to replenish lost fluids.
  • Sugar Content: coconut water is also loaded with sugar (16g in 12oz depending on the brand), which is part of the reason we try to avoid it. 
  • Sugar Delivery: not only is the quantity of sugar something to be alarmed by, the velocity of delivery is kind of scary -- drinking sugar is typically never a great idea. We've written about this before on smoothies/juicing here.
  • Better than Gatorade? Natural sugars found in foods are always preferable over anything refined/processed. Assuming the coconut water brand you chose doesn't have added sugar or a ton of artificial preservatives, then it's probably better than Gatorade!
Bottom line: Context matters. If you're going to drink some coconut water on occasion after a long workout or when you were sweating a ton, fine. But to sip on it throughout the day because you think it's a health food, we'd advise against it.

What are your thoughts on coconut water? Share in the comments section below!

Tuesday, January 20

Triathletes: Good Exercisers

One of the common criticisms of triathlons is that anyone can do them, they’re merely the demonstration of peoples’ ability to get good at exercising, or as I’ve heard it put so elegantly once before: “Triathlons are nothing but glorified exercise.”

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, including me, and here it is: For those who think triathlons are nothing more than a form of ‘glorified exercise’, you have a huge case of glorified ignorance.

Michael Phelps, sorry, my man, but we’re going to revoke all of your gold medals and merely give you a sticker and a hug. You’re not one of the greatest Olympians of all-time, you’re just a ‘good exerciser.’ Lance Armstrong, instead of calling you a 7-time Tour de France Champion, we’ll just call you one of the best exercisers who ever lived.

OK, but in all seriousness, doesn’t it seem ridiculous to trivialize something like triathlons? Would you say soccer is merely getting good at kicking a ball? How about football is only becoming skilled at pushing people around? This concept of over-simplifying endurance sports isn’t fair, but I think I know where the criticism comes from. It comes from two angles…

First, would be the notion that anyone can do them. I can’t dispute this fact. Yes, anyone can do them. With the proper training and drive, and of course barring any extreme medical conditions, the overwhelming majority of the population could complete a triathlon. However, my rebuttal to that would be that that exact same population can also play soccer, baseball, volleyball, football or hockey. But are any of these less of a sport because of it? As a matter of fact, I’d take it a step further, and say that one random group of people, ceteris paribus, would have a harder time completing a triathlon, than playing an aforementioned sport, primarily because of the swimming component.

Like most things in life, there is a wide spectrum of skill levels. I could go out right now and join a co-ed recreational ice hockey league and play hockey, no question about it. I’d be horrible, but I could play. Then on the other side, you have the elite of the NHL – with quite a wide range of skills in between, no? Similarly, I could join a baseball league. Again, I wouldn’t be good, but I could play. Then you’ve got professionals in the MLB.

And finally, someone right now, right this very second, could do the bare minimum of training and make it through a sprint-distance triathlon. But then there are the elite professionals who complete full Iron Man Triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run) in around eight hours time, this means usually holding around a 6 minute-mile pace for a marathon, after the previous two disciplines.

My point is that OK, anyone can do a triathlon, but so what? Anyone can play basketball, but does that make it less legitimate?

Secondly (and far easier to identify) would be the concept of pride around the endurance sports arena. Most of everyone who’s done an endurance sport race (marathon, half marathon, triathlon, duathlon, etc.) has an enormous sense of pride after accomplishing it. I suppose to some, this is annoying, especially when coupled with their belief that anyone can do it. “Those 13.1, 26.2, 70.3, 140.6 and USAT stickers can get so old!” I can understand this. I can understand what a random person who doesn’t truly get what encompasses a triathlon is thinking: people are bragging about something that anyone can do. But my response would be: until you’ve done one, you have not a clue in the world. There is a sense of pride, in completing events that few have completed, there’s an emotional impact of joy from crossing a finish line, having worked hard to get to that point. This pride is something you simply can’t understand unless you try it for yourself.

Go ahead, I dare you. Plus, anyone can do it.

Monday, January 12

Eric's Race Report

This is a guest post by Eric on running, training and the Las Vegas Half Marathon.

After my first 5k at the age of 21, a distance that was a personal longest at the time, I felt myself becoming interested in running distances longer than regular two mile jogs. Ages 22-27 have now been spent running a variety of distances greater than 5k, including three half marathons.

Two themes have arisen during my running career so far: learn from mistakes and learn from others.

My mistakes came in the form of poor quality training, poor quality shoes which caused injury, and lack of sufficient hydration/nutrition on race weekends.

Sunday, January 4

Resolution Reminders

From the top of a mountain we hiked in Portugal!
It's that time again. The turn of the year gives us the opportunity to establish goals and mentally reset, start over, or reignite the motivation. It's resolution time! This means people will come out of the holiday food coma, shake off the cobwebs, and ramp up their diets and workouts.

Some will come out of the gates hard, committing to a strict eating regimen and an even stricter workout schedule. Some want to set PR's, others just want to look good poolside. While the efforts of these folks are valiant, they're often not sustainable. We've all seen the statistics -- a very small percentage of New Year's Resolutions are achieved. 

I realize you've seen scores of New Year's posts already, so I'll try not to belabor the point. While I can certainly understand the mindset of being "all-in" for 2015, or even kick-starting the year with some form of a program, allow me to bring up a few (perhaps inconvenient) reminders.

A resolution is not a plan

Resolving to make certain changes and accomplish certain goals is a great starting point. But the next step is to determine an actionable plan, one that is right for you. Consider outlining a daily/weekly routine, trying a program, joining an organization, or hiring a coach or trainer. 

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