Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Resistance is Futile

If you've been active (running or otherwise) for any length of time, what I'm about to say is going to make sense.

Your body always wins and always gets what it wants.

Not (I repeat not) your brain.

Learning how to listen to your body over your brain takes time and commitment.  (Nerd Alert!) It's like a Jedi learning to quiet their mind to hear the voice of the Force speaking through them.

The whole thing is tricky because that blasted brain is so convincing sometimes.  You'll be in the middle of a run or workout and your brain will start to tell you that you've went hard enough or far enough or the effort has been good enough.  You'll hear your mind trying to convince the body that it's flat out crazy - maybe even bat s*** crazy, who knows?  The point I'm trying to make here is that if you're relying on your mind to be the judge and jury in the middle of activity, you may not always get the best advice.

Your body, on the other hand, is a collection of systems that can act as a check & balance against your mind only.  Sometimes your mind is right - there's no disputing that.  However, always remember you're nearly always able to do more than you think you are capable of. It's your body that will make your brain believe it.  For example:

Sore muscles after a series of hard workouts or getting going for the first time is like your body giving you the finger.  It's lodging its complaint against your decision making process.  A sharp, instant pain is like your body turning on the ambulance lights, asking you to pull off to the right and stop.  Your body nearly always knows what it needs, and it will tell you if you learn how to listen to it.  Or, said a different way, your body will always get what it wants.

Whether you want it to stop or not, it will.

This is a lesson I learned in January of 2012 after being sidelined for 3 weeks nursing a stress fracture.  I had been running in pain for the 6 weeks prior.  I chalked it up to new shoes and changing my gait.  My body was saying, too many miles too fast - chill out please.  I didn't listen.  So, my body gave out, my foot was broken, and I was forced to not do anything for weeks.  While I wasn't a fan of my body's solution to the problem, I did what I ultimately needed to do - critically look at my training, slow down, and rest.

Recovery and listening to your body is as important than the miles you log.

I have known so many runners that seemingly plateau in speed or keep dealing with the same injury (or worse) because they're unwilling to weave proper recovery into their routine.  What's tricky is that your brain can not only talk you out of working to your potential, it can also talk you into over-training, which is the quickest road to injury. (learn more here)

Resisting listening to the entirety of your body is completely useless.  Here are a couple of ideas to file away:

  • If you're just starting out, gear choices are key.  Find the right shoes, find whatever outdoor gear keeps you most comfortable, find routes that are familiar but introduce a little challenge to the body - your mind is a muscle that needs developed too, a little stress on the brain during a run never hurt anyone.
  • Pay attention to everything that happens pre, during and post run.  Time of day, how much did you eat, what did you eat, did you run on the street/sidewalk/trail/city/country/with people/by yourself - something as simple as the side of the road you run on can change your body's response to stress (most roads are crowned in the middle and the slope can change).
  • Recovery and how your body is responding to the stress is critical to getting your body to perform at its peak.  Celebrate the new milestones of time/pace/mileage when they come.  If you run with an mp3 player or iPod, go without every 3-4 runs with the specific intent of connecting with your body and how it's dealing with things.
Happy miles, friends - stay healthy and explore the connections you can develop between mind, body, and spirit.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Friends - its confession time.  I am competitive.  Super competitive. 

I am also, in many respects, lazy.  In my personal life, there are things I'll just flat out avoid if means I'm not inconvenienced. 

If you are competitive, I have a question:

Who are you trying to beat?

I remember in high school and college running competitively.  We always ran against the same schools or the same bunch of them.  After time, you knew who your competition was.  You knew the face of the person who you just wanted to beat.  You knew the folks, and frankly you knew the ones who were fun to beat.

I remember one guy for a neighboring high school I out-kicked one time.  He kicked too soon - I heard this primal roar approaching my shoulder - I kicked once he was even with me.  I beat him, and, long story short, he ended up diving for the line at the chute, hitting the ground, puking and rolling under a pickup truck parked near the chute.  Awesome.

While that was satisfying, the person I love to beat the most is me.  I love to the challenge of running farther or running faster than I have before.  Most runners would say that they love the run, they love to compete, but if there's anything that running teaches me - it's that I can be a better version of myself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's cold, and the treadmill isn't so bad -

Most runners I know would rather skip the treadmill and be outside.  I am also one of the 'most runners I know' - however, while 20 degrees and snow and ice aren't the worst things in the world, running in the bitterly cold temps pose much more risk to the body than taking chances on a fall on slippery terrain.  So, here are a few tidbits of information about treadmill running that may, in fact, improve your relationship with the dreaded machine.

  • First, pace running can help your body increase something called 'lactic acid threshold'.  Basically, your body stores excess energy as fat - common knowledge, I know.  However, that crampy, I feel like I'm going to puke, and 'running sucks' feeling is the point that your body is likely shifting the source of its fuel.  So, instead of burning fat for fuel, it starts to burn glucose - glucose is a fast source of energy and when it's being used, lactic acid is the byproduct (this is partially the reason one can run and run and run and never lose the fat off of their body - its because you're not burning it)  For those counting at home, lactic acid build-up equals cramps.  Treadmill?  Right - basically, if you know what speed/pace you start to get 'runner's suck' the treadmill can help to increase your body's threshold in tolerating lactic acid.  Find that pace, and run 5-15 seconds slower for 2/3's the distance of your longer runs.  Increase your mileage, the more steady state run mileage increases and the monotony of the treadmill's speed, can assist with that process greatly.  For those of you reading this that are training for longer race distances or increasing mileage, give it a try.
  • Second, treadmills force a runner to be creative.  Most runners, while often up for new route discovery, tend to run the same 3-5 routes all the time.  Treadmills can be awful for runs 25 minutes or longer.  But it is possible to do a nice speed workout on a treadmill.  Here's an easy one.  See if you can position yourself near a television.  Run for 5-7 minutes for a nice easy warm-up pace.  Once everything is nice and loose, increast your speed to roughly 80% of your max effort while the show is on.  Commercial time?  Slow the speed down to something about middle of the way between 80% of your max effort and your warm-up pace.  Show back on?  Ratchet it back up.  Do this for the duration of the show, and if it's a sitcom, you've ran at a very challenging pace for 23-25 minutes.  Not a bad way to trick your body into a little speedwork.
  • Lastly, many runners run with their iPod or other music device.  Music is awesome.  Some podcasts are equally awesome, and the treadmill is the best time (in my opinion) to use those devices.  If you can afford it, Nike+ makes some nice audio workouts that you can buy in the iTunes store.  I have two that I use.  One is a ramp-up mix about 42 minutes long that is all music by the Hives.  The other is Increase Your Speed. 
I am fully aware that some preparation and body awareness is implied in these kinds of approaches.  So here are few tips and sources of information. 

- On the average 7.5 mph on a treadmill will work out to an 8 min/mile pace.  8.0 mph is a 7:30 mile.  Most of you have an idea of your pace or PR and that can get you pointed in the right direction. 

- A GREAT resource is the McMillan Running Calculator.  This tool allows you to plug in some information and it will give you target paces for virtually every kind of run you may do - tempo, speed interval, steady state, long, recovery - you name it, its there. 

- Consider your goals for running.  Wellness?  Racing?  Distance? Stress Relief?  Whatever the case may be, learn about what your body is doing and how it works to reach your goals whether its losing inches from your waist, or beating that PR.  Dropping some cash on a device (or some devices) that can provide you with some analytics can really make a big difference.  I love my Garmin Forerunner 110.  My wife has a Mio heart rate monitor that she wears on her wrist.  There are a TON of calculators online to figure your target heart rate for fat burning or cardio (or where that metabolic shift from fat to glucose burning happens).  I am amazed at the number of runners head out with goals in mind, but no plan - it's kind of like taking your family on vacation, and just driving in the car.

Have fun, and keep warm!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Ryan's Running Like Crazy

It’s about time to introduce one of the bigger projects that I have undertaken more recently.  But first, some background –

Among the many blessings in my life, are family and friends.  And I think we all know how much support and love they offer.  There are also times when it becomes apparent when that support needs to be shared rather than received. 

So – “Ryan’s Running Like Crazy” is my attempt to show support for a dear friend.  The link to the Facebook event page is here.

I’m running a marathon – this one here – and during the training process, I’m raising financial support.  Pledges per mile and one time gifts – and several other supporting me while I’m supporting others – hopefully you’ll notice the link on the side of the page to learn more about the Stefanie Spielman Center for Breast Cancer Treatment and Research.  That’s where the dollars are going – in honor of my friend, Cathy.

Cathy is someone I’ve known for several years now, and I’ve always admired her fun-loving spirit.  That fun-loving spirit has remained undeterred since her cancer diagnosis just a few months ago.  She has been the beneficiary of world class care at the Spielman Center, and regularly reports about the environment there.  She finds it to be inspiring, uplifting, and truly a gift from God. 

It’s my pleasure to raise support for that Center and program and direct the proceeds in her honor.  I hope you’ll join with me.  If you do decide to pledge or give during this effort, please let me know, so that I’ll be able to track all of the support.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Race Schedule and Line-up

Another thing that will be in the scope of this blog will be racing schedules and actual reviews of the events.  I think a good way to start will be to outline what I know is on my 2013 calendar at this point:

Sam Costa Half Marathon - Carmel, IN 3/23
Carmel Marathon - Carmel, IN 4/20
Dances with Dirt 100K Relay - Gnaw Bone State Park, IN 5/11
Tough Mudder - Philadelphia, PA 6/1
Cleveland West Road Runners Fall Classic Half Marathon - Strongsville, OH 10/2013

That's what's up for now - I'm sure the list will grow from here :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gear List

While I have some ideas about what to put on this little blog, I at least wanted to give you an idea of what I'm using and having luck with in terms of gear.  Every runner is different - we all have different preferences, goals, foot types, temperature thresholds, injury history - you name it.  So, please understand this is not a list of what I think you SHOULD use, it's just what I use.

First - shoes:

After flirting with barefoot running about a year ago, it worked out that while barefoot isn't a good choice for me, that minimal differential shoes are a great choice.  While many offer a definition of 'minimal', I tend to lean toward shoes that have a 4mm offset or less (heel is 4mm higher than the forefoot).  For a frame of reference, most shoes reside at about a 12-14mm offset.  So, here's my choice:

Newton Distance:

Why are there two pictures here?  Well, I have both of these and rotate runs in them.  Why?  Because while I have found the Newton Distance to be the best shoe I've ever run in, they are freaking expensive and I want to maximize both pair.  I'm hoping for about 500 miles per shoe, and with 216 on one and roughly 50 on the other, there's plenty of life left in both sets of lugs.  I'm also fighting the temptation to out and out review both shoes - that will come later.

Tracking mechanism:

The Garmin Forerunner 110 is, for the money, the best 'watch' on the market.  Most running watches are loaded with features, and in most cases they are much more than 'watches'.  It is true that one can find a watch with more features, larger readout, etc, they can get pricey, and look a bit like a laptop on your wrist. I've found this little device to have enough functionality to be worth the $125 pricetag.


While I do have two Saucony 1/2 zip Sport-tops, I actually have 4 tops total in that style of different brands. I have found that for runs of any distance in temps between 20 and 40 degrees, I can be very comfortable with this as an outer layer and a compression base layer.  I prefer (in nearly every context) technical running gear to cotton or wool.  It's what I'm comfortable in and keeps me from going Andy Bernard.

I also do sport calf sleeves from time to time depending on the goal of the run and how much extra support my body is asking for.  I've had the best luck with CEP sleeves (a review of different brands is coming), and they are literally the only piece of gear that I thought were a gimmick, tried them out, and turns out they're not.  The science of shoes is well documented, and, frankly there's enough 'science' out there to make a case for literally every style of shoe.  I always thought that sleeve 'science' was sketchy, but the proof is in the pudding - or that is to say, how great my lower legs feel when I wear them versus not wearing them.  I have found that they are of the most benefit on runs of 10 miles or more, but I think anyone could benefit from them.

Finally, when I do listen to music on the road (which is about 30% of the time), I still stick with my trusty SanDisk Sansa mp3 player.  Why?  Because it runs on batteries.  Normal ones - and computer time is at a premium at my house and so are the charging areas.  So, for no other reason than that, I want to just put a regular AAA battery in my music player and go.

So, there's a list of the major pieces of gear that I use on a regular basis.  Believe me, I have more stuff :)  This is enough to get rolling.  

Have questions about your gear or anything worth sharing - please, comment away!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What does that even mean?

Got Some Legs, eh?  What does that even mean, and why use it for the title of a blog that involves such an odd spectrum of titles.  It's a double meaning - legs as in what many use for running, and the legs on a glass of wine:

See those drips, those are the legs of wine - anything with alcohol in it has them.  The more they stick around and the slower they run, the higher the alcohol content of the beverage.

I've had the experience to use many pieces of running gear, shared many experiences over both glasses of wine, pints of beer, and runs (both short and long).  You'll get a mix of things here.  Gear reviews, training updates, wines that are great, beers that are yummy, stuff we like (yes, there will be other contributors besides me) and other random things.

I'll be tracking my runs on the daily mile widget on the left side of the blog page.

Also the number of donuts I've earned ;)

Much more to come - should be fun :)