Big Girls Do Cry

There is no crying in running.  Right?  Actually, there just might be.  I can’t count how many times I have cried during or after a run.  This doesn’t make me weak or any less of a runner.  I’m just a really passionate person and I run with all that I have, physical and mental.  I’ve had all kinds of cries- sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, happy.  You name the emotion and I’ve probably had it on a run.  I’m not ashamed of it.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  These aren’t full fledged hissy fits but I don’t think there anything wrong with some tears here and there.

I distinctly remember my happy tears after my first marathon, my panicked tears when I sprained my ankle 5 days before a race, my pained tears on a 20 miler, my angry and frustrated tears when runs just didn’t go my way….even those tears during a race when I was in pain and Keith said, “oh no,  you can’t cry, you’ll get even more dehydrated.  You need to save your water!”  Ha!

It seems that we have someone who needs to shed a few tears at every run.  They’re always kind of embarrassed and apologetic but that’s completely unnecessary.  It often goes like this:  Me:  “How was your run?”  Runner:  “Terrible.  I cried at mile x.”  Oh well.  You cried.  You also pushed on and overcame whatever it was and lived to tell about it.  It seems that it wouldn’t be a group run if someone didn’t cry (and someone else didn’t fall 😉 ).

In the past week alone, I’ve seen happy tears, discouraged tears, and exhausted tears from the group.  What I’ve also seen is each of these people being proud to have accomplished that particular run that was put in front of them that day.   Running can be emotional because people are typically at their most vulnerable state during a run.  You start to let your guard down.  You  expect things of yourself you never once imagined. There’s absolutely no shame in being an emotional runner.  Just remember that under these tears, a stronger person may be growing.  Cry, stomp your feet, do whatever you need to do but NEVER give up.

Form Check

Lots of people ask me about form.  “Do I look like a runner?”  “Should I be more on my toes?”  “What should I do with my arms?”

The best thing is to try to be as natural as possible.  There are plenty of tips to listen to but, if something feels completely unnatural, don’t force yourself to adopt it.  Paula Radcliffe is one of the greatest female runners of all time and plenty of people critique her odd form.  It works for her though.

Of course, while remaining “natural”, there are some little changes you might be able to make that will make running a little more enjoyable.  You’ll learn who you are as a runner over time and what changes you might need to make.  I, for instance, know that when i get tired on a long run, I start to get sloppy.  My arms will cross my midline in a weird swing and my shoulders will start to hunch forward.  I make a conscious effort to keep my arms forward and my shoulders rolled down my back.  I also focus on not gripping anything too tightly.  It tends to make me tense up in my neck and I already battle neck pain so, again, I focus on staying loose.  I don’t, however, worry too much about my footfall.  I will do drills on occasion but I mostly do what feels good.

I came across a great article the other day with tips for form that I’d like to share:

3 Little Tips for Better Running Form by Jenny Hadfield

July 12, 2012 Runners World

When I took up golf earlier in my life, I took a lesson from a pro. Okay, it wasn’t exactly a pro, it was my father, who at that time in my life, I thought was the best golfer in the world.

He didn’t start with learning the power of my backswing, getting distance on my drive, or even hip rotation. He started me off with learning how to hold the club in my hands and make contact with the ball. Period.

Once I was able to hit the ball, he taught me the basic shots for putting, chipping, and driving. After graduating from there, I played my first nine holes, which eventually turned into 18, and then I got my first set of hand-me-down golf clubs with Mickey Mouse club covers.

I never would have been able to get through nine holes without knowing the fundamentals first. These primary skills allowed me to learn how to fine-tune my shots for distance and accuracy (which I’m still learning today).

My point is…running form develops in time, like your golf game, or a fine glass of wine. If you focus on the basics first, you’ll improve without being completely overwhelmed. When we try to focus on everything before it is time, confusion wins out and a lack of progress follows.

Perform a Head-to-Toe Inventory one or two times per run. Like learning how to hold the club and making contact with the ball, tuning into what your body is doing by performing an inventory, head to toe, will allow you to learn how your body is moving forward and bring awareness to your running style. Perform this inventory a few times during your run and let this simmer for several weeks.

Your head should be over your shoulders, eyes looking forward.

Neck and shoulders should be relaxed—tightness here is a huge energy suck.

Arms bent (don’t worry about the exact degree just yet) and swinging like a pendulum from your shoulder. Still confused?  Stand with your feet hip width apart and arms long and start swinging them. You’ll notice they follow a natural arc from your hip to your center line. Now bend your arms and keep swinging with relaxed shoulders—this is it!

Relax your hands—you’re not getting ready for a fight! If it helps, think of something delicate in your palm (bird, chip…)

Hips should be under the shoulders. Think of natural alignment from head to toes. Watch other runners for this one and you’ll see what I mean. If they are bent or slouched forward, they are out of alignment.

Your feet should land with short, quick strides under your hips.

Next—Focus on your feet. Once you learn how to run in alignment and with less tension with the head-to-toe inventory, the next step is to dial in your cadence, or the number of strides per minute. During the heart of your run, count the number of strides (or steps) your right foot takes in one minute. According to Coach Jack Daniels, the general rule of thumb for efficient running is 90 strides per minute for one foot, or 180 for both, but there is variance based on leg length. The key is in knowing what your cadence is, and if you’re in the 70s to low-80s, you’re likely trying to cover too much ground with each step—a common newbie mistake. If this is the case, practice running with shorter, quicker steps. One fun way is to run to a fast-paced song (e.g. “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley at 177 beats per minute [bpm], “Dancing with Myself” by Billy Idol at 177 bpm) or a zen-like 175-180 bpm mix from You can also learn via gadgets like PEAR Sports, Garmin, and others that offer cadence sensors that mount to your shoe. Like proper alignment, dialing in your cadence will have a profound effect on your energy management and efficiency down the road, but it will take time to learn.

Warm Up and Build Your Running Game Slowly. This may not seem like a form tip, but it certainly is, especially if you sit during the day and head out for your run post-work with your hips and hamstrings so tight you could play a tune on them. Invest at least three to five minutes in walking briskly and with purpose. Sprinkle in backwards walking to open your hips (be careful) and foam rolling if you are particularly tight in areas (hips, ITB, calves). A warmup is the gateway to better form, as it prepares your body to run optimally—like a practice swing before the go-to shot. [Read more on how to warm up for various races here.] Avoid going for 18 holes if you still need to learn how to run or you’re fresh into the running scene. Like all sports, investing the time in building the mechanics, fitness, and stamina will allow you to run stronger more quickly than jumping ahead. In many cases, form issues stem from a lack of foundation of miles and mechanics and can be easily resolved by a solid training plan and following steps one and two above.

Happy Trails.

Mantra in the Making

Everyone knows how crazy I am for mantra’s.  I came across this great article today and thought i would share:

The Magic of Mantras:  Think strong words. Repeat inspiring phrase. Run even better.

By Christie Aschwanden ; From the February 2011 issue of Runner’s World

Kristen Fryburg-Zaitz put in all the hard work expected of an elite distance runner. In preparation for the 2009 Chicago Marathon, she ran weekly long runs, tempo runs, and intervals, all at altitude in Boulder, Colorado. But despite arriving at the starting line in peak form, “I just didn’t believe in myself,” she says. Fryburg-Zaitz placed a disappointing 17th in 2:48:40, a full 11 minutes slower than she’d hoped. “I had so much doubt going into the race,” she says. “I realized that I’d defeated myself mentally before I’d even started.” So in April 2010, she sought the help of Stephen Walker, Ph.D., a sports psychologist in Boulder who taught her how to buoy her confidence. Walker’s secret weapon? Mantras.

To achieve your running goals, powerful legs and big lungs aren’t enough—you also need a strong head. Doubts and distractions can derail your attempts, but a well-chosen mantra can keep you calm and on target. “Repeating choice words whenever you need to focus helps direct your mind away from negative thoughts and toward a positive experience,” says Walker.

Indeed, the Sanskrit word “mantra” literally means “instrument for thinking.” As such, these short words or phrases have long been used to focus the mind in meditation, says David K. Ambuel, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.

Fryburg-Zaitz used a visual aid to remember her mantras. At the 2010 U.S. 20-K Championships, she lined up wearing a multicolored wristband. Yellow signaled control for the early miles. Red meant power, for the hills. Green represented compete, to focus on remaining with the group. Pink corresponded to run strong and blue was magnet—a cue to accelerate to the finish line. The colorcoding worked: Fryburg-Zaitz’s top-10 finish earned her a spot on the 2010 U.S. World Half-Marathon Championships team.

With Walker’s guidance, Fryburg-Zaitz chose wisely. An effective mantra addresses what you want to feel, not the adversity you’re trying to overcome, says Robert J. Bell, Ph.D., a certified consultant of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. In fact, when discomfort strikes, the worst thing you can do is embrace the pain, says Walker. “When you start thinking, Oh, this hurts, Oh, I have a side stitch, Oh, my legs are tired—those negative thoughts pile on,” he says. A good mantra diverts your mind from thoughts that reinforce the pain to thoughts that help you transcend it.

So what makes a good mantra? One that’s short, positive, instructive, and full of action words. Walker suggests preparing multiple mantras before a race tailored to various challenges. And don’t limit yourself to “real” words. A made-up word works for Tara Anderson, a 34-year-old runner in Boulder who recites, Lighter, softer, faster, relaxer. “I repeat it with each footstrike, and if I’m having a problem, I’ll repeat the relevant part until I’m in the flow,” she says. Her phrase helped her set a three-minute PR in a 10-K in 2009. Here’s how you, too, can wring some running magic out of a few well-chosen words.

Do As We Say
RW staffers and the words that carry them through

Starting out easy?
“Pass no one.”
—BART YASSO, Chief Running Officer

“Don’t listen. Don’t look. Just run.”

“Light and smooth.”
—MARK REMY, Executive Editor (Online)

Overcoming inclines…
“Claw the ground.”
—DAVID WILLEY, RW Editor-in-Chief

“Hills are my friend.”
—LORI ADAMS, Assistant Editor

“Just stay calm.”
—TISH HAMILTON, Executive Editor

Summoning a kick?
“The strong get stronger.”
—WARREN GREENE, Brand Editor

“Turn and burn.”
—NICK GALAC, Associate Photo Editor

“Run fast, go past.”

Conquering 26.2?
“One mile at a time.”
—AMBY BURFOOT, Editor at Large

“Fast or slow, it hurts just the same.”
—SEAN DOWNEY, Senior Editor

“Save it. Save it.”
—JENNIFER VAN ALLEN, Special Projects Editor

Fast Talk
Mantras that help elites reach peak performance

“This is what you came for.”
—SCOTT JUREK, running 165.7 miles en route to breaking the American 24-hour record in May 2010

“Define yourself.”
—DEENA KASTOR, while winning the Chicago Marathon in 2005 and becoming the first American to win a major marathon since 1994

“You’re tougher than the rest.”
—SARAH REINERSTEN, in a half-Ironman qualifier that would earn her a spot at the Ironman World Championship, where she became the first female leg amputee to finish the event

“Think strong, be strong, finish strong.”
—RENEE METIVIER BAILLIE, winning the 2010 USATF Indoor 3000 meters. She wrote the words on her hand.

“Make it or break it.”
—NCAA steeplechase champion JORDAN DESILETS in 2004, while breaking the four-minute barrier in the mile during his last collegiate race at that distance

“Be water.”
—The Bruce Lee mantra that Olympic middle-distance runner BOLOTA ASMEROM uses to feel smooth but full of force

Mantra Maker
How to put together your perfect phrase

Keep it short
Your mantra should be an affirmation, not a novel. “When you’re tired, you don’t want something elaborate,” says Stephen Walker. “It’s too hard to remember.” Keep it to five seconds or less.

Stay positive
Think of the problem you’re trying to counteract and turn it around. “If you’re feeling weak, your mantra should be I am strong,” says Walker.

Make it energetic
Your mantra should center on action verbs or strong adjectives, not abstract phrases, says Robert J. Bell. Look for words that convey energy, like “fast,” “strong,” or “power.”

Embed instructions
Use the mantra to remind yourself what you plan to do or how you want to feel as you’re running, says Walker. Now is the time; go for it. Or, Run relaxed. Finish strong.

Choose one word from each section below to create a motivational, get-it-done power chant.





Have a Twinkie


Lauri shared this blog post with me today and I just had to share it with all of you:

This is a really great post and I think speaks volumes to who all of us are as runners. None of us look perfect and I’m sure we have all battled that insecurity at one time or another.  I love to see other runners out on the road, in the trails, or on the track.  I don’t care if I know them or not, if they’re 300 lbs or 100 lbs, I’m always proud of that person for being out there.  What does a runner look like anyway?  They look like the person who is moving one foot in front of the other!  That is a runner.

I do think most runners are proud of other runners regardless of their shape or size. It’s the non-runners who don’t always understand.  So, to the person who yells “go have a Twinkie” out of their car window as they drive by, I will always know I’m doing something they just don’t have the courage to do.  And, I might just have that Twinkie 🙂