Friday, September 7, 2007

2 Well, what is this CT5K stuff anyhow?! 8-)


For those of you who are just tuning into my running blog & haven't started reading from the beginning, you might be wondering what this CT5K business is that I keep mentioning in my posts.

Well, before I get into that, I first want to publicly thank my fiancé for introducing me to the CT5K program. (There, see Erik, I DID finally give you props/kudos for this! 8-) ) He found out about the program while researching fitness/running programs on the web. And the rest, they say, is history. ;-)

The "Couch to 5K" running program (from the Cool Running website) is actually what CT5K actually stands for, when you see this abbreviation in my blog. Some people also refer to it as "C25K" -- I like to use the letter "T" instead because then it doesn't look like "Couch to 25K (!)," which I'm not exactly ready for just yet. 8-)

Just as the title suggests, it's a gradual fitness program that literally takes you from no running at all (i.e. couch potato!) to running a 5K. If you can begin by running for atleast 60 consecutive seconds at a time, then this is the program for you. 8-) To view more details on the program, please click here.

I highly recommend the program for first-time/beginner-level runners or even former runners who're trying to get back into running.

Of course, as a legal disclaimer, I will state for the record that you should consult a physician before starting any exercise routine, to see if it's appropriate for your current health condition & physical size &/or weight.

Some people who aren't quite ready to jump into the CT5K program often start out by first walking for a month, or however long they need, before moving to a higher level of fitness. Some people also repeat certain days or weeks of the CT5K program until they're ready to move onto to the next level; it's also common for people who've taken a brief hiatus from the program to backtrack to an earlier workout week in order to rebuild their fitness level. These are all perfectly fine & reasonable strategies to follow.

There's nothing wrong with taking it slow, as one of the biggest mistakes newbie runners often make is to start out too fast, or get too gung-ho & overdo the amount or frequency of their exercise, & then of course, completely peter out as a direct consequence. A better focus (& longterm goal) for beginners (& everyone else too for that matter!) is to incorporate fitness as a regular, consistent part of your life. Equally important to ensuring this continual, steady progress is the idea of setting realistic fitness goals, as well as realistic timeframes for achieving them.

You don't have to be blazing fast on the trail, & there's no need to compare yourself to others. It just needs to be happening! ;-) And you can make it happen by focusing on taking the first simple step. And I mean that quite literally. 8-)

For those trying to achieve a decent or even modicum amount of fitness, the goal is to be "steady like the tortoise," versus "fast like the hare." As the old adage goes, "Slow & steady wins the race."

"Be like me," said the tortoise to the newbie runner.

For beginners, your first goal should logically be to first achieve a basic level of fitness (i.e., perhaps a mile or 5K goal). Once you've reached that essential goal, then worry about increasing your distance or speed. Also please be aware that anytime you do decide to increase your distance, it's recommended that you slow your pace slightly to accommodate, before building back up to your original pace (that you did at the shorter distance).

Achieving fitness takes time (atleast 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week, to be exact ;-) ), dedication, & interest! Not everyone is meant to be a runner, nor does everyone enjoy the sport. So, if soccer, swimming, cycling, or field hockey's really your thing, then do that instead.

Also, it's important to do what you feel is right for you, and to start at the level of fitness that's appropriate for your body & your current physical condition. There are of course various factors to consider when starting a fitness program, & it's important to listen to what your body is telling you along the way, so you can gauge what you can realistically handle.

From many years of running experience, I can tell you that two of the most important things a beginning runner should focus on, aside from choosing the proper running apparel, is their running form & pace.

Since new runners might not be accustomed to what a proper "foot strike" looks like (i.e., how their foot hits the ground during the running motion), how far apart their stride should be, how to breathe properly, or how they should move their arms, etc., I will suggest a wonderful resource which talks about these very concepts.

Here's the article, for your reference:
First Steps, by Josh Clark (Don't be dissuaded by the title, which sounds more like a parental instruction manual about caring for newborn babies, than a beginner's guide to running -- The article is excellent!)

Also, for those interested in what they should be wearing for the first time out on the road, check out this article I wrote, which contains a useful video about proper running apparel, & also read this article from Cool Running. The advice in the second article (from Cool Running) is generally good, however, please take note, however, that I do diverge slightly from the writer's advice on one key point: I do NOT advise buying or wearing cotton running apparel of any sort, not even gloves! (I also just noticed the date of this article, which is from October 22, 1997; however, they still made non-cotton apparel back then, so there's still no excuse! 8-) )

Anyhow, here's the reason I advise you to wear non-cotton apparel: Cotton is a poor choice of fabrics for any runner, regardless of temperature. For one, it easily absorbs & retains moisture & tends to dry slowly. This is not good for running, nor most other sports. Any good running expert will tell you this.

Regardless of the weather, I guarantee you that you will much prefer the feeling of staying ventilated & dry in non-cotton running apparel. (By non-cotton apparel I mean high-tech synthetic or wool-based fabrics that have been specifically designed for running or high-impact fitness/sports.)

There is also a health safety reason: High-tech non-cotton fabrics that are designed to wick away the perspiration will protect you from chafing & getting sick (from being chilled & wet during or after your run). This is extremely important.

Here's the extreme example of this point: If you've ever watched Survivorman (on OLN or the Discovery Channel) or Bear Grylls: Man Vs. Wild (also on the Discovery Channel), these survivalist experts will also tell you that it's important for your body not to get too overheated or stay wet for too long, as it can pose a severe danger to your survival, especially in harsh environments & extreme weather conditions. The resulting post-perspiration chill is very dangerous & can often equate to death in extreme conditions.

Now, I know this might seem like I'm going a bit overboard, but my point is this: Even if you are not trying to cross the frozen tundra in the dead of winter, armed with only a pick-ax & a pack of Alaskan sled dogs, you still need to be concerned with how you go about braving the elements.

In the cold, hypothermia is a real issue. And likewise, hyperthermia, heat exhaustion, & heat stroke are real issues in the hotter weather.

The thing is to be smart & self-aware -- about how you dress, and when & where you exercise. And of course, please take precautions to stay adequately hydrated!

OK, that's all I have to write about "running for newbies," atleast for now. Hope this article helped you newbies & other people starting (or considering starting) your fitness journey.

I will leave you with an inspirational message:

Life may be short, but today is a new day. Let's all be good to ourselves & others, & forgive ourselves & others. Let's put aside our unproductive thoughts about our exercise pasts & other distractions (no beating ourselves up for what we did or what we didn't do, etc.), & think about where we are going, right this second.

Hopefully, you're going in the direction you want to be going. If not, it's never too late to turn around & go in the right direction. Whether that be fitness or any other thing you want in your life!

Think about what the most important priorities are to you in your life at this moment. Then align your actions with your priorities.

If you want to be here on this planet to enjoy your life for the longest time possible & try to live your life to the fullest, then take action to ensure you'll be around for another 10, 20, 30, 40, 50+ years & so on.

Make your own good health your top priority. If it isn't, then you probably need to put your own health needs first. This isn't a selfish thing to do, say, or think. Even if you have other people to care for, you still need to put your own health needs first, so you can have the energy, positive spirit, & uplifting state of mind to properly take care of others.

This is something you must do for yourself. It's so essential. Yet too many people ignore it. Yes, as incredulous as it may seem to some, many people choose to have bad health, not from unavoidable, unfortunate health problems that arose from situations out of their control, but out of their own choice not to take control, which is, after all, still a choice.

Well, you can just as easily choose to have good health. Start with the first step. Don't think about the next step. Just the first step.

Most of us are so very fortunate to have good health, or to have atleast started out with good health at some point in our lives. There are so many people who face unimaginable difficulties - cancers, diseases, & other serious ailments. Let's remember the reality of others' situations as well as our own; instead of being self-absorbed or over-dramatizing situations in our own daily life, let's think for a moment about how many people are struggling for good health, right this moment. I'm talking about people who are facing life-threatening illnesses, and other very large health challenges. Maybe you happen to personally know some of these people I am talking about.

I'm not saying this to get you down, but rather to inspire you to make the choice that others might be unable to make for themselves at this moment. By choosing health, we choose life.

Also, here's more incentive: A recent study showed that those people who exercised were around 50-60% more likely to lead happier lives than non-exercisers.

So like the Nike ad says, "Just do it." No more excuses, no more procrastination. There are so many reasons to just take the first step. It doesn't have to be a big step, only a step in the right direction.

Choose yourself, choose a better life. Say yes. Just take the first step.

So lace up those running shoes, grab your keys & your iPod or whatever else you need, and just walk out the door. You don't have to make promises to yourself about what you're going to do or how long far you'll go. Just take the first step.

That energy-sucking inertia vortex, commonly known as the family/living/TV-room couch (!), might be calling you. Don't listen.

You might say it's the hardest thing. Really? I think you are exaggerating.

Well, wrap your mind around this: What's so hard about the physical act of lacing up sneakers & walking out the door. You do it all the time. Every day, you get dressed & go out the door to go to work. You feed the cat, take out the garbage. Just make it another part of your day. The part that's just for you. Your time, to think, explore, reconnect with nature.

Grab a pal, or go by yourself. Just head out the door with no expectations & no pressure. Tell yourself that you love & value yourself, and right now, you're going to honor that love & commitment by investing just the next few minutes in yourself and your health. Put one foot in front of the other, & before you know it, you'll be out the door, smiling in the fresh air, & feeling good about moving your body.

You can do it!


Sled Dog Action Coalition said...

The Iditarod is terribly cruel to dogs. For the facts, visit the Sled Dog Action Coalition website, .

Here's a short list of what happens to the dogs during the Iditarod: death, paralysis, penile frostbite, bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons, vomiting, hypothermia, sprains, fur loss, broken teeth, torn footpads and anemia.

At least 133 dogs have died in the Iditarod. There is no official count of dog deaths available for the race's early years. In "WinterDance: the Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod," a nonfiction book, Gary Paulsen describes witnessing an Iditarod musher brutally kicking a dog to death during the race. He wrote, "All the time he was kicking the dog. Not with the imprecision of anger, the kicks, not kicks to match his rage but aimed, clinical vicious kicks. Kicks meant to hurt deeply, to cause serious injury. Kicks meant to kill."

Causes of death have also included strangulation in towlines, internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by a sled, liver injury, heart failure, and pneumonia. "Sudden death" and "external myopathy," a fatal condition in which a dog's muscles and organs deteriorate during extreme or prolonged exercise, have also occurred. The 1976 Iditarod winner, Jerry Riley, was accused of striking his dog with a snow hook (a large, sharp and heavy metal claw). In 1996, one of Rick Swenson's dogs died while he mushed his team through waist-deep water and ice. The Iditarod Trail Committee banned both mushers from the race but later reinstated them. In many states these incidents would be considered animal cruelty. Swenson is now on the Iditarod Board of Directors.

In the 2001 Iditarod, a sick dog was sent to a prison to be cared for by inmates and received no veterinary care. He was chained up in the cold and died. Another dog died by suffocating on his own vomit.

No one knows how many dogs die in training or after the race each year.

On average, 53 percent of the dogs who start the race do not make it across the finish line. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, of those who do cross, 81 percent have lung damage. A report published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine said that 61 percent of the dogs who finish the Iditarod have ulcers versus zero percent pre-race.

Tom Classen, retired Air Force colonel and Alaskan resident for over 40 years, tells us that the dogs are beaten into submission:

"They've had the hell beaten out of them." "You don't just whisper into their ears, ‘OK, stand there until I tell you to run like the devil.' They understand one thing: a beating. These dogs are beaten into submission the same way elephants are trained for a circus. The mushers will deny it. And you know what? They are all lying." -USA Today, March 3, 2000 in Jon Saraceno's column

Beatings and whippings are common. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "I heard one highly respected [sled dog] driver once state that "‘Alaskans like the kind of dog they can beat on.'" "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers...A whip is a very humane training tool."

During the 2007 Iditarod, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Brooks admitted to hitting his dogs with a wooden trail marker when they refused to run. The Iditarod Trail Committee suspended Brooks for two years, but only for the actions he admitted. By ignoring eyewitness accounts, the Iditarod encouraged animal abuse. When mushers know that eyewitness accounts will be disregarded, they are more likely to hurt their dogs and lie about it later.

Mushers believe in "culling" or killing unwanted dogs, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged or clubbed to death. "On-going cruelty is the law of many dog lots. Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses....." wrote Alaskan Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper (March, 2000).

Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens. Or dragging them to their death."

The Iditarod, with its history of abuse, could not be legally held in many states, because doing so would violate animal cruelty laws.

Iditarod administrators promote the race as a commemoration of sled dogs saving the children of Nome by bringing diphtheria serum from Anchorage in 1925. However, the co-founder of the Iditarod, Dorothy Page, said the race was not established to honor the sled drivers and dogs who carried the serum. In fact, 600 miles of this serum delivery was done by train and the other half was done by dogs running in relays, with no dog running over 100 miles. This isn't anything like the Iditarod.

The race has led to the proliferation of horrific dog kennels in which the dogs are treated very cruelly. Many kennels have over 100 dogs and some have as many as 200. It is standard for the dogs to spend their entire lives outside tethered to metal chains that can be as short as four feet long. In 1997 the United States Department of Agriculture determined that the tethering of dogs was inhumane and not in the animals' best interests. The chaining of dogs as a primary means of enclosure is prohibited in all cases where federal law applies. A dog who is permanently tethered is forced to urinate and defecate where he sleeps, which conflicts with his natural instinct to eliminate away from his living area.

Iditarod dogs are prisoners of abuse.

cyberpenguin said...

In response, I will say this: On a serious note, I don't believe in nor do I support cruelty to animals. I am an animal lover myself & currently live with 2 cats that we adopted from a shelter. Several members of my family volunteer in no-kill animal rescue facilities.

Of course, I think that what Michael Vick (& the others who worked for him) did was truly horrifying & deserves punishment.

People that know me would know that I have never raced across the Alaskan tundra, but rather, was giving an outlandish example to illustrate a point about the importance of staying ventilated & dry in extreme weather conditions. It was meant to be taken as a unrealistic & silly example, not a serious one, as most people I know are not about to go out the door to race in the Iditarod.

While I think Sleddogactioncoalition makes a good point about the Iditarod being exceptionally cruel to animals, I think this person seems to have missed the point of my casual comment.

I would advise this person to spend some time looking through the content of all of my blogs (especially my cooking blog,, to see how I use outlandish situations to illustrate points. I was not being serious in the least, & would appreciate the courtesy of this recognition.


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