Snakes, and Deer, and Turtles, OH MY!

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
–Robert Frost

Oh, how i have missed my trail runs lately. I have never, in the past, considered myself a “trail runner.” I have dabbled in trail running but always thought you are a completely different type of runner if you’re a trail runner. However, about a year ago, i started doing more regular trail runs and fell in love. There’s just nothing like getting on a trail and zoning out. I find that i’m looser and more comfortable when running. This is probably because i spend so much time watching my footing so i don’t trip. Keith and i were doing a lot of trail runs this summer and sometimes we would chat and sometimes we would just completely morph into the environment and run.

That was all fine and dandy until today! We decided to go to the Yellow Trails for about a 5 mile run. Our plan was to run in about 25 minutes and turn around and run back. Most of the trail (about 90%) is wooded and the other part is a grassy area that has a bit of a trail from people running on it. Well, as you can see from the picture above (which actually doesn’t do it justice), the “grassy” part is actually taller than me and completely overgrown.

Keith and i got through that part but were a little freaked out about ticks. We stopped on the other side for a quick tick check and then kept on running. I was leading and rounded a corner and saw a man standing a little ways ahead. I cleared my throat, thinking maybe he was just stopped to catch his breath. I also noticed a pile of something that he appeared to be looking at (i have bad eyes and, from a distance, thought it was a BIG pile of horse poop.) He didn’t move and as we got up to him, and considered just passing him, he pointed to the pile which wasn’t horse poop but a PILE OF SNAKES!!! Not lying! There was a Copperhead completely entangled with a King snake. They were in a fight (i guess).

Anyway, keith, this guy, and i all debated whether or not we could jump the snakes to continue our run. We were only at 1.7 miles but this is a very tight, single track trail. I quickly remembered that i’m a klutz and that the likelihood of me jumping too soon and landing on these snakes was entirely too high. We decided to turn around and run back to the car to get my phone so we could go back and take a picture.

We ran back to the car (yes, back to where we started), got the phone, and turned around to run back. We saw a couple of guys on the way who informed us of the snakes on the trail but we were on a mission to go back and get pictures. We ran and ran but couldn’t remember exactly where we saw them. I’m leading again and came around a turn and right on something in the middle of the trail, moving. My feet literally stopped where they were and i almost fell flat on my face. Heart attack! It was just a turtle though.

Finally, we see the spot where the stick was that we used to try to get them to move but the snakes are gone! OK, now we’re freaked out!! Where are they? As we’re standing there trying to figure out our next move, a pretty good sized deer ran by. Pretty cool- took our minds off the snakes for about half a millisecond. The snakes were nowhere to be seen. Back to the car we ran- and, yes, four times through the overgrown grass that was taller than me.

On to the car, no pictures of the snakes, deer, or turtle but lots of fun to be had! I highly recommend the trail for anyone looking for a nice, quiet run 😉

Push on!

You’re out for a run and you’re “scheduled” to run more than you’ve ever run before (or maybe just more than you’ve ever run in a long while). Are you able to do it? Yes! Are you able to do it without the will to push on? No!

Sometimes i feel like people driving by in their cars or those running by me in a race might think i have multiple personalities. If you pass me on the road and i appear to be talking to myself, i probably am. For whatever reason, moving past each new goal is a mental battle for me. I see this a lot with my runners too. If you’ve been doing 6 minute intervals and suddenly have to do 8 minute intervals, you immediately start to doubt your ability. This is normal but this is also when you have to start tapping into something other than your physical ability.

I remember last years Couch to 4 Miler- lots of brand-new runners who never would have ever dreamed they would run a half marathon. Many decided to give it a shot and training began. When we were running 4 miles, 5 miles seemed impossible. When running 10 miles, 11 miles seemed impossible. However, each time we pushed on through to that next level it made what we had just come from seem easy (well, maybe not easy, but feasible).

The key is figuring out what it takes to help you push on to that next level or goal. Sometimes a good song on my ipod is all i need but often times that’s not enough. I now find myself chanting little things to myself. Sometimes this is just going on in my head but, if i’m really struggling, you may hear me coaxing myself along. I had a horrible race a few months ago and spent the entire last mile repeating my favorite motto over and over (out loud so i’m sure people thought i was crazy!)- “you’re tougher than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can.” I didn’t finish very strong but i FINISHED. This is my current go-to when i start to doubt my ability on each new challenge and it seems to be working ok!

How do you push on through to that next level?

Lucky you!

So, i’m not sure how many of you check the blog, but, for those of you who do……it’s your lucky day!!

You are entitled to one (1) free personal training session. All you need to do is email me and let me know you are reading the blogs and i’ll schedule you for a session. Depending on who all i hear from, i’ll either schedule group or individual sessions.

Why? Because i want you people to read the blog posts! I’m always being asked various questions about strength training, nutrition, running, etc. so i try to sometimes post blogs that i actually think are beneficial to you! I also happen to think pretty highly of personal trainers 😉

Hint- i would check the blog periodically- you never know what you might find 🙂

*offer expires 8/6/10

How’s your form?

Running with the proper form is more difficult that you would think. Lots of people (non runners and naturally-good runners) seem to think that you should be able to go out and just run and the proper form will just happen. This isn’t necessarily the case. Unless you are a natural, you might have to work at your form a little bit.

I love this picture of Keith because he it shows great form. You can see the knee coming up a little in the front, the foot of the right leg is about to land directly under his body rather than way out in front and he’s pushing off with the toes of his left foot. It also makes him look like he’s going really fast 🙂 Nothing like a great action shot! Don’t just assume this comes natural to him either- he also works at it and has spent lots of runs working on his form.

Everyone, however, can have this form; you just have to know what you’re supposed to do and work at it. Here are some tips:

1. Land MIDFOOT- this is probably the hardest and most confusing for most. if you’re landing on your heel and rolling forward that probably means your leg is going way out in front of your body. this means you are over-striding and essentially throwing your foot out there as a brake. this will definitely slow you down. if you’re landing on your toes, you are not allowing your calves, shins, and achilles the opportunity to loosen up and will probably suffer from a case of shin splints. also, landing on your toes causes more bouncing so you are spending a lot of energy going up and down rather than forward. ***one of the best things you can do that will most likely cause you to naturally land on your midfoot is to do some speed strides- for 20 seconds or so, run at about 70 % of your max (it may feel like a sprint)- your legs and feet will naturally end up where they should be.
2. Avoid bouncing. when i first started running i would always complain that i felt like i wasn’t going forward. that’s probably because i was bouncing up and down. don’t picture me on a pogo stick- it’s not this obvious but it happens. one of the biggest reasons people do this is that they’re running slower than their body’s natural ability. to avoid bouncing, try a quicker foot turnover. count your footsteps for 60 seconds. now run another 60 seconds but try to have 5 more steps per foot in that time. see how that feels; eventually you’ll find your natural rhythm and you will run more forward; essentially faster.
3. Try to push off of your toes in the back. this doesn’t have to be exaggerated but it will help to propel you forward and it will also help you to engage your glutes. our glutes (aka- butt) are a large muscle and the more we can activate them in our runs, the better our run will be.
4. Keep your gaze ahead rather than down. try not to look down at your feet. this will cause you to hunch over which, in turn, is going to block your air flow from getting all the way down into your belly. if you concentrate on looking out ahead of you, you will naturally keep your spine more straight which will help you to breathe better and run more efficiently.
5. Keep your shoulders relaxed. concentrate on rolling your shoulders down your back.
6. Keep your hands relaxed. don’t squeeze your fists- this will cause your entire to body flench up.
7. Don’t allow your arms to swing across your body. you do NOT want your cross over your belly button to the opposite side. this will cause you to be less efficient and will likely cause some neck pain. they need to go forward and they need to hinge from the shoulders, not the elbows.

sometimes it take some specific drills to get your form down. maybe we can do some strides and form drills when everyone’s up for it! just let me know; i’m willing to do whatever it takes to help!

Believe in your coach, Believe in yourself

“Confidence is the most important quality in all athlete-coach relationships.”- Franz Stampfl

I really like this quote. It is extremely important for you to have confidence in your coach, but it’s just as important to have confidence in yourself. I think it’s a 2 part equation- first, you have to have confidence that your coach is giving you the tools you need to succeed and second, you have to have confidence in yourself that you can do it.

On the flip side, i must have complete confidence in all of you in order to get you to the end goal. This is the easy part. I spend all day, every day, training people and pushing people just a little outside their comfort zone. This isn’t always easy but this is the ONLY way you will see improvements in your fitness level. I think this is where my counseling background really comes in handy for me. I will never be the mean coach we see on tv. I will never berate you and scream and yell. I will, however, push you and encourage you to push yourself a little harder.

Running is simply not easy. I still struggle. I still remember what it was like when i couldn’t run more than a few minutes at a time. I still remember being embarrassed to go for runs because i didn’t want people in cars to think they might need to call 911 for me! Most importantly, I still remember the moment i decided i would stop giving myself excuses and put my all into it and become a runner. That’s when it all changed for me. It started to become more enjoyable and, at times, it even felt a little easier. Don’t get me wrong, i still have plenty of days when my body is telling me i can’t go a step further, but i really try to fight it mentally. Don’t say you can’t; just say you’re going to try your hardest and see where that takes you.

The body is an amazing thing. It feeds off of physical and mental stress. This is how is gets stronger. I’m going to quote a passage from a book i’m reading (Guide to Injury Prevention by Dagny Scott Barrios) and then i want to address a few things specifically. “Running injures the body. It causes tiny rips and tears in your muscle fibers; tendons and ligaments are traumatized by microtears and tugs; your glycogen gas tank, which provides fuel for the muscles, is depleted and near empty. You can’t see any of this but you can feel it in the form of soreness and join pain. Recovery… can undo this damage. When the healing is complete, something amazing has occurred: the body is now stronger than it was before and able to handle greater stress, which is to say more running. Repeat this process enough times and you experience a “training effect” in which your body is able to handle more stress, running.”

Basically, what this is saying is that you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to excel. If you always run the same amount or always stop the second you feel like you need to, you’re not giving your body the opportunity to get used to the stress and move past it. With that being said, you must do the proper things you need to do to recover- eat and drink properly, stretch, strength train if you have certain weakness, and rest if super sore or unusually fatigued.

When designing programs, whether it’s a running program or a strength training program, i always think about how i can move that person to the next level. It’s important to me for my clients / runners to see success. I will push a little hard when i think it’s manageable, but i will also back off when necessary. I will always push you a little outside your comfort zone because i believe in you! Now it’s time to start believing in yourself!

Perseverance

Perseverance- steady persistence in a course of action in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

I’m proud to say i don’t have to look at the Tour de France, Super Bowl, or any other televised athletic event to see examples of perseverance. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by great examples of it every day. Keith competed in his 20th triathlon today; Grayson (future brother-in-law) in his first. Runners in the Couch to 4 Miler group upped their running times today. People training for a Marathon had a long run of 8 miles. I’m truly humbled and impressed by all.

None of this would have happened without a little perseverance. Training can be excruciating and races can be discouraging. You have to have the persistence to push on through. It makes me think of the quote “pain is nothing compared to what it feels like to quit.” I know there were moments today that Keith, Grayson, runners in both the Couch to 4 Miler and Marathon groups all struggled. Everyone could have chosen to quit but, instead, pushed on through. Keith and i always say, regardless of how good or bad we do in a race or on a training day, we did better than everyone sitting at home on their couch.

There was once a time in my life when i was convinced there was no way i could ever be a runner. I would imagine many of the people training for the Cooper young 4 Miler are having the same thoughts that i used to have. I didn’t get where i am today without a lot of hard work but sometimes that hard work means just showing up for the run. You don’t have win races to be a runner; you just have to run to be a runner. Same goes for triathlons- you don’t have to win them; you just have to do them!

This has been a great week for me. Starting with running in the rain on Monday at our first training run to blistering heat on Thursday night and on to today knowing that many people I know, train, and love are pushing themselves a little outside their comfort zone couldn’t make me happier. I’m a lucky girl to have all these persistent (or sometimes just stubborn!) people in my life. These are my role models.

Sometimes i feel like people question why i do what i do- why are you a personal trainer and running coach when you had a career in counseling, a Masters in Social Work, and a year of Law School under your belt? The transition of how i got to where i am today is not all that exciting, however the fact that i am where i am is. I get to spend my days and nights surrounded by people who are persistent in excelling and making themselves better at something. What could be more gratifying?!

Trial by RAIN

well, there’s just nothing like Day 1 of Couch to 4 Miler training and it is raining cats and dogs! i am honestly not a sadistic kind of person; i really thought we were going to be able to beat the rain. i was WRONG!!

just yesterday i was bragging to keith about how organized i felt for this morning’s first run- all books made, spreadsheets done, emails sent, intake forms copies, running stuff out, and alarm set for 5 am. i didn’t even feel anxious last night. i was just excited and ready to get going. i read my latest edition of Runners World for a little while and finally went to sleep around 10:30- no stress.

cue the rain. i woke up from a pretty good sleep around 2 am and couldn’t believe my ears. Rain!?!? i did not plan for rain! it hasn’t rained in midtown in over a month and today it rains. i spent the next 3 hours completely stressing…and wondering how in the world keith could not be awake! finally, at 5, keith turned on the tv (i think he had been awake for a while but was afraid to talk to me) and it actually looked like it was clearing up and the next storm was staying above us so we decided to get a move on and get to the gym.

once again, i was feeling excited and didn’t let myself stress about what might be going through everyone else’s minds while also listening to the rain throughout the night. we pulled out of the garage and the rain was slowing down a little. we’re all good!

we got to the gym and i unlocked the door, turned off the alarm, flipped the switch for the lights….are you kidding me….no POWER?!?! of all days! i had all my pretty little books and spreadsheets and i couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face, much less all my stuff. again, trying not to let this get to me. it’s only one more obstacle i didn’t plan for. on the bright side, the rain was stopping and people were actually showing up! as you can probably tell, i like to plan and i like to follow that plan!

the group had a great attitude and we got started as quickly as possible so we could “beat the rain.” well, about 30 seconds in, here came the rain. everyone seemed to have the attitude of “i’m up, i’m here, i’m already wet, we might as well run” which was great. we were completely soaked but i think it was pretty fun too. i’m not much on icebreakers as i think these can often make people more uncomfortable, but i think running in the rain with a bunch of people you don’t know is one of the greatest icebreakers!!

i have a friend in the group whose wife i have known for many years. he emailed me the picture above and said he sent it to his wife when she asked how day 1 was, and said ‘just put running shoes on that little guy and you know how we all looked.’ today was definitely a wet run but one that is only going to make us better runners…..and i’m sure it won’t be our last wet run over the next 10 weeks!

last year i watched my group form friendships and bonds while out on many of these crazy runs and it just makes me excited to see that happening again. i have become great friends with so many of “my” runners and i love experiencing all of this stuff with everyone else, rather than all alone. even though i’ve been a runner for several years, i would have used today as an excuse to stay inside. instead, the groups have taught me that we’re in this together and that it can be fun even when you don’t plan out all the details!!