Monday, October 10, 2011

2 A New Literary Partnership


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I'm excited to announce that I've recently joined forces with friend and athlete, Mauricio Sanchez, as a contributing writer for his wonderful website, Triathlon at 55, on the topics of sports and general nutrition for the endurance athlete. Here, Mauricio offers information relevant to the sports of running and triathloning, as well as his own personal reflections of his experiences, including his journey to become an Ironman competitor. At last count, he's completed one Ironman 140.6, two Ironman 70.3's, one Ironman 69.1 (the swim had been cancelled), three marathons, numerous half marathons, and countless short distance triathlons. And on top of that, Mauricio first began his training at the age of 52, having completed all of aforementioned events in the span of only 3 years. That's quite an impressive list of achievements in such a short amount of time, particularly for someone who'd progressively ramped up to 140.6 from scratch without any prior training. He's certainly been an inspiration to others, and through the formidable efforts of his fitness journey, proves the point that it's never too late to start exercising. :)

Mauricio's site is well-written, insightful, and inspirational. He has a straightforward and easy-going writing style, which makes his posts a pleasure to read. It's no wonder people are flocking to his site. :)

Here's Mauricio on his Steelhead bike,
looking very  focused and determined.
His latest post there is entitled, "About Being Fit vs. Being Healthy," which is written from the vantage point of personal experience, and touches upon some key points regarding the way in which we athletes regard our own health and fitness, particularly with respect to bridging the disconnect that is sometimes created between the two. In this article, he posits that a fit runner can still be unhealthy, and through his own story, illustrates how this situation can be reversed. He also raises pertinent questions that certainly merit attention as well as further examination. :) After all, what is fitness without health? In order to maximize our fitness potential and lead a long and fulfilling life, taking care of our own health has got to be part of the equation. The quality efforts we put into our workouts must be part of our own larger efforts to obtain long-term wellness, which inevitably will lead to an overall higher quality of life.

And of course, a major factor influencing both athletic performance and overall, long-term health is nutrition. :) The everyday choices we make about our food can, quite literally, change the course of our lives. By making a concerted effort to eat better and also educate ourselves about food and nutrition, we are stacking the cards in our favor in so many different ways. Food doesn't just affect our physical being, in terms of our physiology and biochemical makeup, it can also affect our moods, mental acuity, and overall cognitive abilities as well. Of course, exercise also has a significant impact upon these areas as well. Both good nutrition and regular exercise can be utilized as powerful preventative health measures,  promoting healthy organ function, increasing longevity, and protecting the body from disease and signs of aging. And when both are practiced regularly in conjunction with one another, the benefits to one's health and fitness levels are even greater. This is clearly the most effective way to net significant positive change.

Mauricio and I clearly share the same philosophy on the above issues, and so, for this reason, as well as many others, it would appear that our online collaboration is going to be an excellent fit on many different levels. As they say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that applies to shared knowledge as well. :) The opportunity to exchange ideas with Mauricio and his readers is an exciting prospect, as we will all hopefully grow from the experience of coming together and collectively sharing our experiences and knowledge. :)

In addition to offering nutrition tips and information for endurance athletes on this site, I'll also be posting easy-to-prepare recipes incorporating easy-to-find ingredients there, as well as general healthy meal and snack ideas, to help out the average endurance-training Joe or Josephina. :) In other words, life is busy enough, but it's typically even more of a challenge for endurance athletes, because training (and all of the planning and preparing for the training itself!) can take up a lot of time. And let's face it, time for most of us is already at a premium. Fitting in everything else around our training and work schedules can sometimes be a challenge; and so, the point of my articles there will be to provide useful, time-saving suggestions for endurance athletes to help make it easier for them to cook and eat healthfully, and all the while, achieve this without spending too much time in the kitchen. :)

I'd like to encourage you to visit Mauricio's website so you can get a better sense of his background and perspective, in order to see what his site is all about. To learn more about Mauricio and his athletic endeavors, please visit the "About Me" section (i.e., tab) of his site. Mauricio's also got a Facebook page for his website, which goes by the name of Mauricio's Triathlon / Running Blog. Feel free to "like" his page. He's just recently created it, so it'd be great if you could lend him your support. Thanks so much!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1 Thank You For the Mention!


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Just a quick post to say thank you to MSN Degree for listing See Corey Run as #5 on their "50 Top Blogs for Marathoners" list. I really appreciate the mention!

I see lots of friends on this list as well: Steve Runner of Pheppidations, Ann Brennan of Ann's Running Commentary, and Tim Wilson of 26.2 Quest, et al, as well as well-known luminaries like Dean Karnazes (Dean's Blog), Coach Jenny Hadfield (Active Expert: Coach Jenny Hadfield & Ask Coach Jenny), and popular blogs like RW's Daily and the like. Wow, thank you. It's great to be in such good company. :)


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

0 Race Training Strategies: Why Basic Readiness is Only the Beginning


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When it comes to race training, I believe that a runner can never be too well-prepared. :) To race your best, your body and mind need to be in peak condition, and that takes a carefully constructed, well thought-out, long-range plan. Conversely, a person who races without proper preparation, no matter what the distance, is simply courting folly. Underprepare and you're just asking for it. It's almost as if karma's just winding up its baseball bat to smack you right in the tush. :) You can't hurry along your race training either, or you're bound to find injury along the way.

Even if you are going to race a 5K distance, you still need to put in the adequate time to prepare. Sure, if you've already racked up a significant amount of weekly and daily mileage that well exceeds the 5K distance and includes regular speedwork sessions, then sure, a 5K race will clearly require less prep time because you've already been continuously preparing. :)

Sure, we've all heard people say, "Yeah, but it's only a 5K. It'll be a piece of cake." Yeah, sure you might be able to easily cover the distance, but is that your only goal? ;) Underestimation and ego are the two prideful underminers that'll getcha every time. So if you want to do your best, please kindly tell them to take a hike. :) In terms of pacing, a 5K is nothing to sniff at. Since it's such a quick race, it can actually be one of the more challenging distances to pace, believe it or not.

Also, I don't subscribe to the philosophy that it's somehow OK to barely give oneself enough time to get up to the racing distance before entering a race. Is that really wise?! I don't know about you, but I want to be able to comfortably cover the distance (or get very near to it, if it's a marathon distance) before racing it. Plus, as all experienced runners surely already know, it takes time to build stamina and speed, and this means you've got to have enough time to fit in runs of varying lengths and types -- speedwork intervals on the track, hillwork, tempo runs, long slow distance (i.e., recovery runs), etc. --  into your regular training regimen. Bluntly put, the level of focus and effort that runners put into maintaining a diverse and comprehensive training regimen is the difference between casual runners and those who take their training more seriously. :)

Regardless of one's attitude towards one's training, why add unnecessary time pressure? Isn't it better to give yourself some options and breathing room in case things don't go as planned? You never know what's going to happen in the several weeks of training leading up to the race. So, if you need to regroup or change course, it's good to have the extra time to do so. If you keep your race training timeline realistic and give yourself this extra wiggle room, it's basically the equivalent of building "release valves" into your training. This way, you'll be more likely to avoid overtraining, not to mention that it'll also be a heck of a lot easier to stay motivated and on track with your training program. As runners, our minds and bodies generally tend to respond better (and adapt more readily) to a training program's long-term parameters when we've set a challenging but flexible course.

Want to prime your body for optimal racing performance? Then stack the cards in your favor by doing all of the obvious things that you know will lead to success: For starters, fuel and hydrate properly at the correct times and in the proper amounts and ratios. Get enough sleep and give your body adequate time for rest and recovery. Diversify your training runs and cross-train (i.e., cycling, swimming, hiking, yoga, strength training), etc., etc. Keep up on the latest news and research to stay in the loop, learn new tips and techniques, and get the most out of your training. And when it comes to planning your "training timeline," give yourself adequate time to train, not only to reach the racing distance, but to exceed it. Of course, I'm not suggesting that you run 26.2+ miles as your long run in order to prepare for a marathon. Unless you're an ultrarunner who regularly runs 26.2 miles as a training distance for 50Ks and up, I wouldn't recommend this tactic for racing distances over 13.1 miles. :)

However, for 5K and 10K races, this "double-distance" training methodology for your long runs is certainly a feasible strategy. Of course, this mileage building is done gradually, over an extended period of time. For 5K and 10K races, I'll typically make sure that I can run twice that distance before I race it. And when I do 10-milers and half marathons, I've been known to prepare by running up to 16 miles for my long runs. When I've done these types of long runs in combination with other kinds of workouts (hillwork, speedwork, tempo runs, lifting, core work, etc.), it really makes a HUGE difference in my performance. Of course, none of this is really all that surprising. A runner who works out in a more comprehensive fashion --  i.e., in a way that specifically addresses both stamina and speed and also simulates racing conditions (weather acclimation, etc.) -- is clearly going to be better prepared when race day rolls around.

I know there are a few coaches who might think that it's unnecessary to exceed the racing distance in one's training (within reason), but based on my findings, (which include discussions with other running coaches on this topic), it seems there are many more running coaches who agree with my approach/training philosophy than disagree with it. And to be honest, I'm not so concerned about consensus because the results speak for themselves. :)

It's fairly logical reasoning if you think about it: If you get to the point where you can run a 10K at a decent clip, then you should be able to run a 5K a whole lot faster. Pace prediction calculators follow the same exact logic. Of course, the actual results also depend greatly upon the diversity of one's training. When the body is continually tested with varied workouts, so that the muscles, heart, and mind don't have time to get too comfortable (i.e., complacent), the body's physical conditioning is bound to improve. :) Of course rest and recovery are essential to this process as well, and alternating effort with rest is really the only way to go if you want to proceed safely and still improve.

There's also an often overlooked psychological benefit to this approach as well; when we're well prepared, we feel more confident about our racing capabilities and that lends itself to the same mental outlook on race day as well. After all, our racing day mindset is heavily influenced by everything we've done to prepare up until the moment the starting gun goes off.

Friday, July 22, 2011

5 The Car: A Runner's Mobile Preparedness Unit :)


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Can we say "hot"?! Phew! It's certainly been a heatwave lately. In fact, I write this, it's just reached 100°F here in DC, with a heat index of 115°F!

Of course, as the mercury keeps rising, it becomes all the more important to be prepared for summer running. And what better way than to properly stock your car with essential items and turn it into a "mobile preparedness" unit. :) Aside from equipping your car with all of the obvious general "survival" essentials -- umbrellas, a GPS unit, a first-aid kit and an emergency car repair kit containing jumper cables, tools, a funnel, a blanket, flares, and a spare tire, etc. -- there are a few items that we runners will most likely want to keep in our cars for those days when those merciless rays of sunshine begin to beat down upon us, threatening to melt us into a sizable puddle right there and then on the trail. ;) So, to help keep you cool, calm, and collected this summer, I thought I'd share some of my strategies with you so that you can adequately outfit your car for your summer running needs.

As everyone knows, on a hot day, the coolest part of a car is usually the trunk. That's why I keep my runner's "to-go" kit there. If I'm running in a park, I'll usually find the most shaded spot, i.e., under a tree or roof overhang, and then park my car underneath it. Next, I'll put my car window shades into place. When it's 103°F outside, every little bit of strategizing helps to keep your car as cool as possible. :)

As for the runner's "to-go" kit itself, I'd recommend drawing up a list and referring to it when you run out of an essential item and it's time to restock. And if you do this the right way, you'll be prepared for almost anything. After all, you don't need to be Boy Scout to understand the significance of their motto. ;) Just consider the consequences of the converse situation: "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail." And as we runners know, both short-term and long-term preparedness is especially important to ensure the success of our training efforts.

Of course, a lot of what we do to prepare not only happens in our day-to-day training, but also in our pre-run prep. For starters, if we're smart, we stay hydrated all day long, and eat nutritious balanced meals at regular intervals. Again, a day in the life of a runner is always about strategy, strategy, strategy.

Most runners lead busy lives and are on tight (and hopefully, well-coordinated!) schedules, so if we want to fit in our workouts, time is of the essence. We have to be time-conscious and prepare in advance; otherwise, we won't have enough time to accomplish our running (and life!) goals. And this also means that we typically only have a finite amount of time to get ready. Of course, a lot of what needs to be done isn't exactly rocket science. ;) It's easy enough to lay our running clothes out the night before, fill our water bottles and put them in the fridge, pack our keys, money, ID, and gels into our hydration belt, charge our iPods or Garmins, pack our gym bags, put together our race day bag, etc. It just takes a bit of forethought. And when it comes to "maracations" and local racing events, many of us also rely upon tried and true checklists to make sure we have everything we'll need before race day.

However, for as prepared as we runners tend to be, sometimes things don't go according to plan, and we need a backup plan. That's where a well-stocked car comes in handy. :) Those running-related items we've had the foresight to pack in our vehicles can be indispensable.

For example, take Exhibit A: Since it's getting hotter, many afternoon and evening runners have now become morning runners by necessity. (For many of us who fall into this category, this conversion is often painful and very often done begrudgingly. Haha!) And, if you're not exactly a morning person (like me!), then not only does it take more effort to be prepared and get out the door in a timely fashion (LOL!) but the sleepiness factor can often interfere with "normal brain operations." ;) In other words, it can easily induce a state of forgetfulness. Thankfully, I haven't had to resort to calling the locksmith after a run. Not yet anyhow. ;) (Fingers crossed!) Then's there are the physical effects: A sleepy "morning brain" often translates into a slow-moving body, and yes, sometimes even a little bit of klutziness. Hopefully, none of you have issues with walking into walls. ;)

Also, for us "morning runner converts," there's the issue of training our bodies to go to bed on time. In the interim phase of this "conversion," it's not uncommon for us to oversleep. Regardless of your preferred running time, you might've had the unnerving experience of forgetting to turn on your alarm clock the night before. ;) Of course, for all other seasons, sleeping in a little bit might be of little consequence. However, when summer rolls around, especially with the extreme summers we've been having here lately, then of course, that's an altogether different story. ;) Woe unto those of us who are forced to run outside in much hotter weather than we'd originally intended.

(Some people might say, "But what about running indoors?" Well, as for the dreadmill option, I'd personally rather propell myself forward with my own self-controlled "force field," versus getting sore joints from being pulled forward by a barely cushioned rolling belt with such unnatural, herky-jerky motions. Plus, dreadmills are mind-numbingly boring to run on, not to mention that they don't come packaged with natural scenery. ;) So, no thank you. It's outdoors or bust, baby! And anyhow, if you take the proper precautions and gradually acclimate yourself to the changes, the experience of running in the heat will most likely be an productive exercise, because if you keep at it, it will inevitably toughen you up. ;) After all, if you want to be ready to race in it, you've got to train in it, right?)

And in such extreme heat, even those of us who get up and run at the crack of dawn aren't necessarily guaranteed cooler running temperatures. Case in point: By 5 am today, it had already reached 82°F here!

And since we've got to get our run in for the day, bailing really isn't an option. And lately, neither is waiting for nightfall. Around here, it's still been in 90's after the sun goes down. Not to mention, there's the obvious security and safety issues that often go hand-in-hand with night running. So, morning it is, even if we oversleep a bit and have to pay a rather scorching price. ;)

So, as a result, now we'll need to "call in for reinforcements" to prepare for the hotter weather: more water, a running visor &/or sunglasses, sunscreen/sunblock, etc. The works. :) And that takes more time. Precious time that we might not have. So, not only do we now also have to even less time to workout, but we also have less time to prepare for our workouts. ;)

When this happens, we all know the drill: We go through the mental checklist. Do we have everything we need? And if not, do we have enough time to quickly do all of these things right now? ;) It's not long before we're frantically rushing around, assembling our running apparel, accessories and gear, and then rushing out the door. But then we start thinking, "Did I forget something?" ;)

Of course, rushing around often results in forgetting to bring necessary items with us for our runs. And sometimes we don't even realize we've forgotten something until we've already reached the trail. Lol. Things like our sunglasses or gels. Or, maybe we forgot to apply sunscreen/sunblock before we left the house. However, all of these scenarios can easily be fixed or prevented from happening in the future by using your car as your "backup" plan. The solution is simple: Keep spares of these all-important items in your car. On days when your life feels a bit more chaotic, a well-stocked car can become a runner's saving grace. Or put another way, car =  survival mechanism. :)

Now consider Exhibit B. Yes, let's pretend that we're once again dealing with the results of another one of our potential screw-ups. Oops. ;)Well, OK, let's face it, no one is perfect. Maybe we've hydrated or eaten too close to our run but there's no porta-potty in sight. Or, as was the case a few days ago, the porta potty at the trailhead ran out of TP. Uh-oh. There was no way to predict that one. ;) Again, that one's easily fixable: Keep a roll of TP in your car. Then you can just tuck a few sheets into your pocket or hydration belt. Problem solved. :)

I could go on and mention a few more scenarios, but I think that, by now, you probably get the idea. ;) So now, as a fitting end to this post, I'd like to provide a list of some of these practical "backup" items and some related notes to help you better plan and organize various running necessities for your car.

The Runner's To-Go Kit -- Essential Items to Keep in Your Car:

For the trunk:
(1) Car organizer for your runner's "to-go" kit: This can be as simple as a cardboard box or a sturdy zippered nylon bag with multiple dividers or compartments. If you need to organize smaller items, shoe boxes and sturdy, structured plastic containers will also work.
(2) Roll of TP, preferably kept in a large resealable plastic bag to keep it sanitary. (A tissue box is also a must-have, but that can be kept in the general car interior for all-purpose use.)
(3) Roll of paper towels: If you eat a post-run banana, you might get some of that mush on your hands. ;)
(4) 24-pack of water bottles or gallon water jugs: That way, you'll never be without water, even post-run. Even with the 100°F days we've been having lately, I'm happy to report that the plastic water bottles currently being stashed away in the trunk of my car still haven't melted yet. So far, so good. ;)
(5) Pre-run energy snacks: For example, a banana and unsalted raw/organic almonds: If I'm in a rush and I haven't gotten the chance to eat something before running, I'll sometimes eat these before I run. Of course, I'm fully aware that it's not really ideal to eat less than 1 1/2 - 2 hours before a run, but if your energy is low, sometimes a "runner's gotta do what a runner's gotta do." ;) Also, I sometimes will grab these before I head out the door. The almonds don't upset my stomach, and the banana doesn't seem to cause cramping on the trail, at least not for me anyhow. Of course, do whatever works for you.
(6) Post-run recovery snacks: For example, a banana, which, as most runners already know, makes for a great post-run recovery food. It replenishes electrolytes (potassium), etc. Also, salted almonds are good for replenishing lost sodium after a run, helping to repair/develop muscle fibers, and sustaining one's energy and blood sugar level when coupled with carbs. This category would also include spare recovery gels/drinks as well. The heat might denature them in time, so probably best not to keep them in the trunk for an eternity. ;)
(7) A running-related tool for muscle relaxation/stretching &/or to relieve soreness, or pain: For example, "The Stick" or a foam roller. It's rather convenient to have this one in your car for obvious reasons. ;)
(8) Night gear: Mesh reflective vest or, (even better for the hot weather!), a reflective safety belt or strap(s), head lamp, infrared night vision goggles, etc. Just kidding about that last one. LOL.
(9) Necessary items for women: Elastic hairbands, emergency stash of feminine products, etc.
(10) Mini anti-chafing stick: Self-explanatory. Especially vital for pre-run prep on those days when you forget to apply it before leaving the house. ;)
(11) Towel: Use it to dry off or to keep your car seat clean. ;) After all, if it's really hot and you've turned into a complete sweat bucket, you might not want to perspire all over your car. ;)
(12) Post-run change of clothes: If it's really hot, and you don't want to get into your car with your clothes sticking to both you and the seat, a change of clothes is always nice to have on hand. Plus, if you forget #11, at least you won't mess up your car seat. ;)
(13) Pepper spray: I make a point of keeping mine in my hydration pack, but if you can't fit yours in there, you could also keep yours in your car until you're ready to hit the trail. I love the version I have, the Sptifire, which has a handy key ring and is miniaturized for personal use.
(14) Sunblock &/or sunscreen: Again, it's probably not a great idea to keep these items in the car for a lengthy period of time (due to denaturation caused by extreme outdoor heat and a relatively short shelf-life, i.e., 2 years), but they're great to have on hand if you should forget to apply before a run or need to reapply after your run.

For the glove box compartment:
(1) Scissors: You might need to open or cut through something, whether running-related or not. ;)
(2) Post-run, non-perishable recovery protein: My go-to snack is salted, roasted almonds (made without additives or oil): Almonds make an excellent recovery food. Plus, they contain Omega-3's. The protein helps rebuild muscle and of course, the salt is great for replacing lost sodium. I like to keep them in the glove box as opposed to the trunk because, when it's really hot outside, chances are, I'll soon be hopping into the car, cranking up the AC. :)
(3) Pain relief medicine: Because you never know when you'll need it. Examples: ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol tablets, etc. These items are frequently runners' go-to remedies. :) This way you can quell any dyspepsia, discomfort, or throbbing aches and pains now instead of waiting until you get home. ;) To save space, use a small pill dispenser.
(4) Spare pair of UV protection sunglasses and accompanying sports sunglass retainer: That way, you'll have an extra pair for running if you should forget to put them on before you leave the house. If your car is newer, chances are you might already have a separate compartment for storing these, which is even better than storing them in your glove box compartment or clipping them to your car's sun visor.

So, let's see: Did I miss anything? If you think I've left out any crucial "runner's auto essentials," or have some new and clever organizational ideas or tips to help outfit cars for runners, please let me know and I'll consider adding them to the above list.

Hope you find these ideas helpful!

Happy summer running! Stay safe and cool. :)

-Corey 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2 Announcing The Rock It! Running Nutritional Plan


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When you pull open a sports nutrition book, do you typically find a practical how-to guide with corresponding recipes? In my experience, usually not. :) Additionally, a lot of sports nutrition books I've read are frankly dry and sometimes read like a bio-chemistry textbook. For a runner's purpose, this is not typically what we really want in a sports nutrition book. Sure, if you're so inclined, it's great to understand the principles behind sports nutrition -- the "whys" of it all, explanations of ATP and its effects, and a long list of chemical compounds and nutrients contained in each food and their positive (or, in some cases, negative) effects on the body. Who knows, maybe you're naturally curious about this or are studying for a degree in biochem, (sports) nutrition, or exercise physiology. However, what most runners are really seeking are the practical applications of this knowledge, i.e., the hows. As in, how do I apply these principles to my daily life and diet?

Well, if you've been searching for a book that answers this question, you're in luck. :) In my upcoming cookbook for athletes, I will be providing exactly that. In the appendix section, I will be outlining practical guidelines for a runner's nutritional plan that is rich in the nutrients that we runners/endurance athletes need most. For example, as runners, we need to stay properly hydrated and eat foods and drink liquids that will be effective for recovery as well as keep our joints strong and our hearts, lungs, and muscles in top shape; and in the book, I will be listing foods that naturally provide the corresponding nutrients as part of our diet. As a logical follow-up, there will also be a practical schematic showing how to incorporate these foods into our daily diet, with corresponding recipes that fulfill these nutritional requirements.

I've called this nutritional plan the Rock It! Running Nutritional Plan, named after my running and wellness company. :-D

Yes, some of you know that I actually have a company focused on these initiatives, even though I've never really mentioned it here before, aside from placing one or two small and barely noticeable links on this blog. ;) Generally speaking, I've tried to keep the two entities/blogs separate, as this particular blog's primary purpose is to provide training and (sports) nutrition-related information. Of course, my cookbook IS a resource, like any other, and so that's why I'm mentioning it here, as I might mention any other books I think would be useful to the readers of this blog. :-D

Additionally, some of you might even know that I write books as part of my company's running and wellness initiative. :) As mentioned in the previous post, I've recently finished a chapter called "Fit Foods," which will be part of Brett Stewart's book, "7 Weeks to Ripped." Yes, that Brett Stewart. :) The one who wrote "7 Weeks to 50 Pull-ups." :-D

You'll notice that I don't use the word "diet" to describe my healthy eating program, but instead use the word "nutritional plan." That's because the connotation of the word "diet" is one with which I fundamentally disagree, as I'm not talking about a fool-hardy scheme to lose weight quickly. ;) My nutritional plan is a balanced and healthy nutritional plan focused on whole (i.e., unprocessed!) foods rich in nutrients and low in fat and refined sugar.

To my mind, the word "diet" has been perverted from its original (literal) meaning, i.e., the denotation, which, first and foremost, is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as either (a) food and drink regularly provided or consumed; (b) habitual nourishment; or (c) the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason. You'll note that these are the first THREE definitions, and that there's only ONE reference to diet as (d) a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight. And, at that it's the very last definition. Well, GOOD. It's the last and the least, and I'd love to see the word restored to its original meaning. :-D

My cookbook will, of course, only be addressing the first three. :) In so far as definition (c) is concerned, the book will provide meal plan examples for vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike.

I believe that a cookbook for runners has GOT to address the essential foods that benefit them the most in terms of athletic performance, nutritional value, and overall health. After all, we put a lot of effort into our training and pay careful attention to technique and strategy to get the most out of our sessions, so why shouldn't we do the same when it comes to the food that we eat?

Monday, July 4, 2011

0 Update: This Blog Has a New Domain Name, SeeCoreyRun.com


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Woo-hoooo! I'm happy to announce that my new domains, http://seecoreyrun.com and http://cookingwithcorey.info are now LIVE! 

Current subscribers, please note that there's no need to resubscribe to these blogs. Your subscriptions will seamlessly carry on as before.

And, if you should perchance go to the old blogspot addresses, they will automatically forward to the new ones.

Now, the URLs are much easier to remember, shorter, and a lot faster to type. :) That'll probably make a lot of you even happier. :-D

If you're a new visitor to this site, I encourage you to check out the companion site, http://cookingwithcorey.info, which provides healthy gourmet recipes geared towards athletes and those living healthy, active lifestyles. The two sites are really meant to be utilized together, as complements to each another, because they form two parts of a greater whole. After all, running is only part of the equation. To perform to the best of our athletic abilities, we also need to put quality fuel in the tank. :)

-C

P.S. Just so you know, I've got a humor piece in the works about running with pets. Don't know when I'll be able to get to it, as the cookbook and other businesses projects are currently taking up most of my time.

Speaking of which, I should probably also announce that one of these projects is a collaboration with Brett Stewart (author of "7 Weeks to 50 Pull-ups") et al for the upcoming book, "7 Weeks to Ripped," which shows you how to achieve total body fitness using bodyweight exercises and "games" targeted at improving speed, flexibility, endurance and strength. My contribution is a chapter called "Fit Foods," in which I'll be debunking (sports) nutrition myths and providing a few healthy gourmet recipes geared towards overall health and total body fitness.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

3 What's to Come


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Hi Everybody,

Corey's Creamilicious Corn Chowder
I know it's been kind of quiet here lately, but that's because I've been hard at work on my upcoming healthy gourmet cookbook. For those of you who might not be aware, I'm writing a cookbook of more than 250 original recipes that's geared towards endurance athletes. I believe that this community could use some more exciting recipes, ones that truly enhance our athletic performance, and at the same time, more than satisfy our taste buds. :) Of course, anyone who's into living a healthy lifestyle can benefit from the foods used in this cookbook. Almost every superfood imaginable in going to be in this cookbook. :)

Also, instead of doing the "white bread" thing, which frankly is a tad bit staid and boring ;), I've decided that the cookbook will encompass cuisines from all over the world, to make cooking not only healthy, but also more of an exciting adventure as well.

   
Coconut Sticky Black Rice
Pudding with Poached Asian Pears
It's also a really practical book as well. Instead of being "just a coffee table book" with lots of exposition and pretty pictures (although there will be lots of "pretty pictures" in it to whet the appetite ;) ), it'll get down to business and provide what athletes are really seeking in a cookbook -- i.e., recipes, and a practical schematic of how to use those recipes to their best advantage in their training. There'll also be a sports nutrition section in the appendix, for those people who'd like more practical information on various related topics -- i.e., foods to eat during training, and when to eat them, foods to avoid, etc. This isn't going to be a biochem textbook or a detailed primer on vitamins and minerals, people. From what you've told me, that's not what you want in a cookbook to enhance your health and boost your athletic performance, and frankly, it's not what I want either. :)

I don't know about you, but since we all lead busy lives, I'd rather just open up a cookbook and start cooking. When it comes to cookbooks in general, I know I'm probably never going to read those extensive forwards or long stories about how people got interested in cooking, etc. (If they were made into separate books, maybe I'd reconsider, but I don't think that's what a cookbook should really be about.) And many of you told me the same exact thing. See, I listen to what you have to say, as I want this cookbook to be truly useful to you.

Most of you have limited time to cook, so I've also taken that into consideration as well. There are a lot of easy-to-make recipes as well as what I like to call "weekend project" recipes for those of you who just want to cook as a fun weekend activity to do either by yourself, or with friends &/or family.

When it comes to cookbook writing, I'm about about skipping past the fluff and giving people detailed but useful information that helps them in the kitchen and maximizes their chance of recipe success. :) Anything on top of that is clutter, er, I mean extra material. ;) If it doesn't contribute to helping you make a recipe, or help you gauge the best foods for your training, then why put it in a cookbook? That's just my cookbook writing philosophy. As you can see, it's a very practical outlook, one that helps you to get where you're going, quite literally. :)

  
Rosemary-Kalamata Olive Bread
Anyhow, I'm really trying hard to finish this cookbook, as several people keep asking about it. "When's it going to be ready?" is the most common question I get these days. :) It's coming, it's coming, as soon as humanly possible. I promise! Since I'm doing everything myself -- creating and writing the recipes, the photography, the cooking, the story-telling/anecdotes, the sports nutrition section, etc. -- the process takes a lot longer than people might imagine. The staging, food styling, and photography alone can take well over an hour, depending on how complex the shot is. Then there's the recipe creation, writing, and testing, as well as the rewrites/editing of the cookbook content itself, etc. I won't bore you with the rest. ;)

Spicy Turkey Burgers with Roasted Red
Pepper Salsa & Sweet Pickle Relish
Also, I think it's important to put my best efforts into the book, and if that takes a little longer than others would imagine or expect, then I'd rather put in the proper time to produce a quality result, which is of course, what people who are interested in purchasing the cookbook would want anyhow. :)

In the meanwhile, you're welcome to check out (or follow!) my recipe blog, Cooking with Corey, which has many examples of the types of recipes that'll be in the cookbook. That way, you can get a mini preview, if you will. Please note that there will be several recipes that will only be available in the cookbook. Also, not all recipes from the blog will appear in the cookbook, only the ones that I think will be most advantageous or interesting to endurance athletes.

You can browse the blog's recipes by dish type or cuisine category by clicking on any of the alphabetized entries in the tag cloud, or by expanding the blog archive and viewing the recipes in numerical order. Or, use the search bar to search for a particular recipe.

Insalata Caprese con Finocchio e Olive
(Capresian Salad with Fennel & Olives)
The blog also contains a lot of useful information on nutrition as well.

I hope that you will enjoy making the recipes on the blog. If you do make any of the recipes, please let me know how they turned out for you by leaving a comment on the blog, or by tweeting your replies to me. Your constructive feedback is always welcome.

   
Oven-Baked Kale Chips,
Six Different  Ways
As many of you already know, I'm also up for recipe requests, provided that they fall within healthy gourmet parameters, and it's something that I'd be up for cooking. ;) Additionally, I am happy to answer questions you might have about the recipes themselves, and upon request, am also happy to provide information or tips regarding cooking, baking, food, (sports) nutrition, etc., as time allows.

Apricot Rugelach
I believe in producing inspired content, and blogging only when I've got something to say that I think will be truly helpful to others or will hopefully inspire people who read this blog. Also, there has to be time for blogging here, which has been hard to come by lately. (The recipe blog does get updated regularly, but that's only because those efforts contribute to the completion of the cookbook. ;) )

So, hang in there. I've got several ideas for running-related articles to post. And when I can find the time to post them, I will certainly do so. :)

Thanks for your patience and for continuing to follow this blog.

Happy Running,
Corey

P.S. Below are some more sample recipes from the blog/cookbook. Click on any of the photos to go to the corresponding recipe(s), and also to see a larger photo of the dish. :)


Salmon Tikka Masala
Pumpkin Pancakes with Strawberry 
Sauce
Greek Chicken Made with Feta, 
Olives, Oregano, & Roasted 
Lemons
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Feta-Potato-Leek Casserole
 with Fresh Greens
Pollo alla Milanese con Salsa 
Cremoso di Primavera 
(Milanese-Style Chicken in a 
Creamy, Springtime Sauce
Homemade Apricot-Nut Energy Bars
Pineapple-Ginger Stir-fry


Zesty Zaatar Chicken

Saturday, April 2, 2011

5 Back to Basics: The Humbling & Enlightening Experience of Starting Over From Scratch


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I'd like to dedicate this post to a number of runner friends who are, at present, trying to make a comeback from injury or other setbacks. I know how much of a challenging struggle that can be, and so, I'm writing this post for you and for anyone else who's making the transition from rest and recuperation back to regular exercise. I hope this post encourages you to hang in there and keep going, regardless of the obstacles you might be facing right now. Keep at it and stay strong!

Anyone who's ever been out of commission from running for more than just a few weeks knows that starting over from scratch is never easy. Those months of languishing away doing little to nothing -- perhaps while we were recuperating from injury or illness, or as we reawakened to the realization that we'd let other priorities &/or the stress in our lives overtake our schedules and assume the placeholder of where our running and other physical exercise used to be -- can take a toll on our physical and mental well-being; and that, in and of itself, can make it doubly difficult to get started again. And, if we're not doing any kind of physical activity for fitness maintenance -- i.e., strength training, cross training, walking, etc. -- it can sometimes take often two cranes and a wrecking ball to get us moving again. ;)

Of course, the opposite is also true. Once we get going, and then set our course, we're typically good to go. It's the whole "bodies-in-rest-stay-at-rest, bodies-in-motion-stay-in-motion, unless-an-external-force-is-applied" thing. ;) Thank you, Newton. Your First Law of Motion is aptly named and applies to running (and physical fitness in general) on multiple levels. :) You'll note that this law is also sometimes referred to as the "law of inertia." Go figure. ;)

In the early stages of "exercise reentry," the idea of exercise typically has to be continually injected into one's brain and being, and continually reinforced with conscious application. As most of us surely know, it's crucial to gain (and sustain!) momentum in the early stages. In the beginning, there's typically more resistance when we change our state, from one of inertia to one of movement, so more force needs to be applied. Again, it's back to Newton's First Law of Motion and all of that. ;)

It might be difficult to get going again but of course, it's not impossible. Here's a motivational thought: Think of the alternative. :) Every day spent moving, even if it's not running, is a day in the right direction. Hey, even walking up stairs or mowing the lawn counts. Instead of thinking self-defeatist thoughts, think of what you can do to change the situation. Just because it's something small doesn't mean it's not worth doing. Even if you're not able to run at the moment, maybe you can do some of other form of exercise (strength training, swimming, cycling/spinning, physical therapy, etc.) to keep your body and your spirits in good shape. :)

So how does a person get started again, after being away from exercise for so long?! First, it starts with setting intention. A lot of the time the process is spurred on by something or someone inspirational. Or, it could just be that we've had enough of the way things are currently going, and have finally made up our minds that today is the day that we start anew. It's easy enough to intellectualize the process, but until we've set the intention and followed it up with the corresponding action, no matter how small, we can't begin the journey of getting back to the selves we know that we can be. And, we know that it's possible to become these better versions of ourselves, because we were once there.

The image of our former fit selves, even if they're tucked away in the recesses of our minds, can be a powerful motivational image, if we harness it in the proper way. A useful technique is to access the image of this former fit self and visualize yourself in your mind's eye as being that self now. Look in the mirror and superimpose this image onto the one you are currently seeing. ;) Try to remember how you looked and how you felt. Chances are that once you've implanted this image in your brain once again, you'll then be able to see this image as an imminent possibility instead of a hazy memory. ;) And, in turn, you'll then be more likely to take the steps to make it a reality once more. :) After all, your reality is what you make it.

One of the good things about returning to running is that we have memories of what we've already accomplished. Instead of comparing ourselves to who and what we were back then and then thinking, "Oh, it's such a long road back," or "Look at what I was doing then then but am not doing now," which is unconstructive and borders on self-immolation, we need to look at it in a different way. How about viewing the situation in the following way: "Gee, look at everything I learned and accomplished, and all the wonderful memories I have of running in various places, or the friendships I made with other runners while running and racing. Plus, I've gained a certain wisdom from these experiences, and no one can take that, nor any of my achievements, away from me. They are mine to keep, forever."

Our pre-existing history isn't a curse. It's a blessing. Even adversity can be a friend in disguise, if you know how to put it to work for you.

For so many of us, exercise is very often the lynch pin that holds our life balance in check. And if that should disappears for a time, it sometimes feels like it can set the rest of our world slightly off-kilter. This can be particularly difficult for many of us during periods of injury and illness, because regular running and fitness are the devices we've come to rely upon. The fact of the matter is that, via our gradual development of this behavioral pattern over time, we'd become used to running, and then suddenly we found ourselves used to not running. How did we get here? Well, it didn't happen overnight. We stopped at some point, for one reason or another, and now we just have to rebuild our mileage and fitness levels. Of course, that doesn't happen overnight either. ;) So, this means that we have to consciously table our expectations in keeping with our current state of fitness and once again remember what it was like when we first began to train from scratch.

Then, for those of us in the midst of our exercise hiatus, there's also the painful knowledge that we were burning a ton of extra calories and now we're not. ;) So, then we have to make some adjustments like curbing our eating, etc., whereas before, exercise wasn't just a calorie-burner keeping the whole process (and our waistlines!) in check, but also frequently helped to curb our appetites. (OK, well, personally speaking, that might only be true to a point, i.e., typically for distances under 14 miles. Over that, and I get so hungry, it's a little scary. At that point, perhaps I should issue a safety advisory to keep all limbs out of reach. ;) That is, when I haven't fallen into deep sleep during a post-half-marathon distance nap. ;) Fellow half-marathoners and marathoners, you know exactly what I'm talking about here.) There's no doubt about it, exercise just makes everything better.

Of course, the trick is making the mental and physical transition back to this state of being. You need to get to the place where both your mind and body are in forward motion. As for which one will get you out the door faster, most us have found that it's kind of a "chicken and egg" deal. :) One starts the engine of the other, and then each reinforces the other after that engine (you!) gets going. How you choose to start that engine is up to you, but if you really need a hand, here are some suggestions to help you get back into the swing of things:

(1) Visualize yourself running and achieving your exercise goals: Do the visualization steps described above. Imagine yourself running, and remember how good it felt when you were out there just doing your thing. Let your mind run through a catalogue of your best running and racing moments. If that doesn't inspire you to run, or if it's too painful to think of the past because you're comparing it to the present (!), then think of the future possibilities. Imagine yourself running &/or racing again. Literally, put yourself in the moment and visualize all of the details.

(2)  Write down your plan for success: Make a list of finite but achievable short-term exercise-related goals, and put them in a place where you'll see them and thus, be continually reminded of what you need to do. Better yet, keep track of them in an organizational system like Toodledo, in which you can not only track your goals, but also list tasks that are directly tied into these goals. Even something as simple as scheduling your exercise on a calendar can help.

(3) Start small but dream big: Write down your dreams, but also make immediate plans for right now. When it's time to go for a run, lace up your shoes without any expectations, and just see what happens. I often do this when I'm tired &/or not feeling very inspired to go out for a run for one reason or another. Read my motivational article, "Fooling Ourselves into Running" for more tips on how to motivate yourself out the door and beyond. Usually, once I get dressed for a run and grab my keys, (provided I don't lay on the couch or the bed or get wrapped into the computer ;) ), the rest of the process tends to unfold quite naturally. The key is to prepare to exercise first, then worry about the actual exercise once you've gotten past this step. :) If you break down any task into its most basic components, then it won't seem so impossibly daunting. Or, put another way, instead of overwhelming yourself with the massiveness of the entire progression of your path back to fitness and the prospects that this entails, underwhelm yourself by focusing on doing just one simple, easy thing. You'll be surprised at how well this works. You're not being lazy or a slacker by doing this. You're just focusing on the step that's immediately in front of your face. Literally. ;) The act of underwhelming yourself, at least at first, is a serious strategy for success. When you underwhelm yourself, you underpromise and then shock the hell out of yourself when you see what you can actually do once you've gotten past the mental road blocks. In fact, as you go through the process, you'll end up achieving a lot more this way. Quite ironic, isn't it?! :)

(4) When it comes to taking action, silence is golden: Don't talk about what you're going to do before you do it. The number one killer of exercise is talking about it beforehand. I'm completely serious. Personally, nothing makes me want to revolt against exercise more than talking about it before I do it. Talking about it sets up weighty, pressure-inducing expectations before the exercise actually happens, and if you got the gist of what I was talking about in tip #3, then you know where that leads. ;) Again, set the intention in your mind, keep quiet about it during the action phase, and then you can blab about the glory of your achievement after you've worked out. ;) To quote the visionary, wise words of the Nike campaign, "Just do it." Less flapping of the lips leads to more flapping of the arms and legs. :) Trust me on this.....

(5) Log/track your miles and goals: Join an exercise logging/social media site like DailyMile, and bookmark it or place a link on your desktop so that you see it every day. :) Plus, DailyMile has an added benefit, because its got the social component, which is highly motivational. There are ton of people who are actively logging their workouts there. So, that means there'll be lots of cheerleaders to help you get going and sustain your momentum. :) And of course, it also feels good to do the same for others. There's definitely been a certain mass convergence of people there, and, as an early member of the site, it's great to see that so many people have joined the site since its modest beginnings. If you join up there, I'll make you a deal: If you need a little push, just let me know, and I'll gladly give you some motivation to get you started in the right direction. :) I love seeing people return to exercise. Nothing makes me happier seeing other runners succeed!

The bottom line is this: When you log your workouts, you are making yourself accountable. And when that behavior is coupled with online and IRL interactions with other runners, you are further building upon the base of your intentions to get and stay fit. When it comes to staying motivated to exercise, there's definitely strength in numbers. So use these numbers to your advantage, by keeping yourself connected to the exercise world. Lots of people are already there, you just have to re-engage with that world. :) Doing so will reinforce your will to exercise. When you gravitate towards individuals who lead healthy lifestyles, you'll find yourself making a conscious choice to follow in a similar vein. Just by being around other like-minded individuals who are heading in a similar direction, you'll get inspiration to keep going. Watching their progress will spur on yours. By staying connected to the exercise world, you are also elevating exercise to a more prominent place in your life. You are keeping it in the forefront of your mind and thus, making it a higher priority.

(6) Celebrate your successes: Set incentives for yourself to achieve your goals, either in the form of rewards (i.e., a massage, new running gear or clothes, an island getaway, etc.) or celebrations, reveling in your achievements however you like after reaching each milestone. I find that making a gradated milestones checklist is particularly effective. (Mine encompass both racing distances and goal PRs, as well as other types of quantitative markers. I tend to reserve the majority of the qualitative markers for the goal-setting process.)

(7) Recognize what motivates you and go with what works for you: Some people are more internally motivated (Ding, ding, ding!) while others work best when someone else gives them a push. Ultimately, just as with running itself, there's got to be some self-propulsion involved in the motivational process. :) In order for you to make true, lasting progress, you have to want your goals and dreams more than others want them for you. ;) Most times, people just need a push to get started or to get over some of the humps and bumps of the process. I find that a combination of both internal and external motivators works best for me, but of course, do whatever works for you.

(8) Use adversity and failure to achieve greater things: No matter how talented or hard-working we runners are, there's always room for improvement. Analyze what's not working as a means of improving your running, but avoid unnecessary dwelling on your shortcomings, setbacks, or failures, as well as falling into the "pity-fest" trap. ;) It's a good idea to constantly think to yourself, "Is what I'm currently doing or thinking helping me? Is there a way I can do those things better or more effectively?" Also, look around you and engage with others: Watch what others are doing, &/or consult people in the know for a second opinion. Learn from others failures and setbacks, and ask them what they did to get to the next level of their training. Visit online forums or ask people in your running club. Read/subscribe other runners' and running coaches' blogs, and consult reliable, informationally-sound publications like "Runner's World." Or, hire a running coach. :)

(9) Follow your instincts: Yeah, that's an obvious one, but that doesn't mean it's not important. This one's a cardinal rule of exercise. Don't let others pressure you into racing before you feel you're ready. You can run faster and farther, but don't be in a rush to do either. Training itself is not a race; it's a gradual process. Each building block is there for a reason. Skip one and you'll typically find yourself in a world of hurt, literally. ;) When it comes to working out, there are no shortcuts. We all have to put in the work. Work at your own pace and listen to your body.

(10) Get an exercise buddy (or buddies): Some people need a little kick in the pants every now and then to get (or keep) them going, and that's perfectly OK. And there are times when we all just need a little push to keep us growing and improving. So, if you're seeking support, growth, or motivation, run with others. Make friends with other runners at your local running club; it's a great place to find running partners. Also, you can find running partners at sites like DailyMile, PacePal, and such. Also, keep in mind that motivational running buddies can also be found online. Whether IRL or virtual, what's important is that you stay action-focused and keep each other accountable.

(11) Join Twitter and make friends with other runners there: Twitter's a great place to meet and connect with other runners. It's also a great source of information about running and other related topics. This sort of online engagement with people and resources has become a huge motivator for so many people, and if you use Twitter and other social media in a sane and targeted way, you too can get a whole lot out of it as well. I've made a ton of friends there, and have solidified friendships via race tweet-ups and other Twitter-initiated events. :)

(12) Be strategic about your use of fitness-centric social media sites: if you sign up for online health-and-fitness-centric communities, only pick ones that you think you'll truly use and that will provide the most benefit to you in the long-term. And, after you make these choices, make your activities there action-oriented. Otherwise, they won't be as effective as motivational tools. (Then, it'll just be another exercise in information overload; and it's very important to not get overwhelmed, particularly in the early stages of restarting your training.) I personally concentrate most of my social media microblogging activities in three central places: Twitter, Facebook, and DailyMile. And when I'm racing, I also tend to frequent Athlinks, Cool Running, Active.com, and SignMeUp.com as well. (Blogging in the traditional sense is, of course, considered to be completely separate from these activities.) I do participate in other social media sites and forums on occasion, but these days, I'm so busy that the time I do spend in social media has to be meted out in very focused, planned ways. Those of us who use social media on a regular basis know that we've got to be vigilant about keeping our activities in those spaces in check. It's all too easy to get sucked into the social media vortex, and then end up feeling like we don't know what hit us. ;) As long as we remember that we are in control our own social media usage, and not the other way around, we can utilize these tools to our advantage. What I now try to do is this: When I do have time for social media, I'll allocate certain times for prime usage, typically for a finite time in the mornings and then, if there's time, I'll check it once again in the evenings. I try to do "maintenance" activities when I can, but social media has to fit into my existing life and schedule versus overwhelming it. ;) Also, I tend to segment my usage: A certain portion of that social media time is used for online business activities and another portion is allocated specifically for social purposes. Sometimes the two overlap, but primarily, I've now got to the point where I try to go into these activities with a clear purpose in mind, and if need be, I set (either a mental or actual) timer for these activities. ;) That way, there's time to do what I need and want to do, but that time doesn't get away from me.

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Whatever stage of the "exercise relaunching" process you're currently going through, and whatever state of mind and physical being you're in right now, know this: No matter how hard it might seem at the outset, if you just put one foot in front of the other, your situation is bound to improve. The first challenge is overcoming the inertia of your mind and body. Kick those unproductive thoughts in the tush, and tell them where to stick it. Use your past triumphs and fond memories of running as an incentive to get back to running, versus letting them be a mental road block. If you take the first step and keep looking to the next milestone or mini-goal immediately before you, you will get there. Now go out there and take no prisoners. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3 You Know You're A Runner When.... Hey, I Resemble That Remark! :)


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Yeah, we've all seen those "You Know You're a Runner When...." types of posts on Facebook, but I thought I'd make up my own brief list and post it here. After all of the serious posts, this blog could use an injection of levity. :)

You know you're a runner when:
(1) You're constantly doing laundry, and over half of it is running clothes. :)
(2) You wear your hair in a ponytail more than you wear it down. (OK, that applies mostly to women with long hair. And I guess it could apply to some guys as well. ;) )
(3) You have been known to joke with fellow runners, "Street clothes? What are they?"
(4) Your toenails have an extremely short lifespan. You're never quite sure how long they'll be sticking around. ;)
(5) Due to #4, the idea of wearing sandals horrifies you. :)
(6) Most of your friends are runners.
(7) Your vacations have turned into "maracations." :)
(8) You've dedicated an entire room (or wing of your house!) to the display of your race medals, bibs, and other running memorabilia.
(9) You never have enough room for your running clothes. They are spilling out of your drawers & closets, threatening to burst forth like floodwaters through a dam. Pretty soon, you're going to have to get another dresser or wardrobe, or get rid of some of your street clothes to accommodate. It's either that, or you might have to kick your son out of his bedroom. ;) Yeah, maybe he can sleep in the garage or the laundry room. LOL!
(10) You've inspired many of your friends and family members to become runners. :)
(11) You spend a lot of time strategizing how you're going to get into those particularly popular races that always seem to fill up within the first 30 seconds after registration opens.
(12) You find yourself spending lots of time on mileage logging sites like DailyMile, etc.
(13) Your friends have now started calling you "the Imelda Marcus of running shoes." ;)
(14) You've plastered your car with several running-related bumper stickers, including those oval decals that proudly display to the world that you've mastered various racing distances, i.e.,  "13.1," "26.2," "50k," "39.3," "100k," "100," "150," etc. If you're posting them on your back window, I really hope that they're transparent stickers. Otherwise, you won't be able to see out of there. ;)
(15) Napping after long distance runs has become an extracurricular activity.
(16) You have considered moving to Mammoth Lakes, CA, or Colorado Springs, CO. :)
(17) You now have a separate category for racing expenditures in your annual household budget.
(18) You've accidentally fallen asleep with your Garmin still strapped to your wrist. ;)
(19) Your holiday wishlists consist exclusively of running apparel, gadgets, & other running-related gear.
(20) While reading this list, you found yourself nodding your head repeatedly and thinking, "Does Corey know me or WHAT?!" Hahaha.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

4 Running: It's Not Just A Tool For the Mind, It's the Whole Toolkit :)


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After I get back from a run, my head is always filled with ideas. That's something I love about running. It oils the mental mechanisms of the mind. As everyone already knows, the mental benefits of running are considerable.

There are days when I might start off my run with my head in a rather immediate or finite mental zone. Maybe I'm thinking whatever just happened five seconds ago or five hours ago, or perhaps I'm mulling over the day's work or am focusing on some of the more mundane tasks I've got to do after my run. Everybody cycles through that kind of stuff in their mind whenever it becomes necessary to do so. ;) (I don't particularly like dwelling on this sort of stuff any longer than necessary, and would rather just figure out a plan and executive it, without too much fussing over minor details. The point is to just get the boring diurnal tasks done so one can spend time on the more interesting stuff. :) The task-oriented mindset is not an eternal state of being. Play is equally as important as work, and furthermore, is actually linked to enhanced mental productivity. So there. LOL.)

And then, as I run, my mind gradually floats away from the less temporal stuff and towards the big picture stuff. As you can probably tell, I'm an "internal runner." That's my natural state of being, although for track workouts, interval training, and races I'll suddenly switch gears and become more "external," because I need to pay attention more to what's going on around me. ;) I'll admit that I love to just "space out" on the trail, which is why I'll usually gravitate towards long, continuous paths with zero traffic. This is not to say that I'm not body-aware or a complete spacezoid while running (I'm not making a habit of tripping over my face or bumping into walls just yet ;) ), but rather that I just like letting my mind wander while I run. However, it's not a futile exercise; it's part of the creative process. If I let my brain go with the flow, its natural progression will often pay huge dividends. I especially love long distance runs (i.e., 14+ miles) for this very reason. Long distance runs provide the necessary space, both literally and metaphorically speaking, for contemplation. The running mind not only dwells in the here and now, but also floats off into the territory of one's dreams and how to make them possible. The mind moves forward with the body.


When the gears and pistons of the brain are in full swing, that's when some really cool stuff can happen. :) Possibilities open up, obstacles are removed, and new pathways of thought are suddenly made clear to us. Or, put another way, the pathways of running clear the pathways of the mind. :) And I mean this both figuratively, as in our perceptions and ideas, and literally, as in the neural pathways of our brains. But I'm getting ahead of myself. More on that later. First, the philosophical stuff, and then I'll get into the science of it all. :)

Simply put, I love what running for what it does for my mind just as much as what it does for my body. In truth, I almost love it more for its mental benefits. It's one of the biggest reasons I run. I need the solace and contemplative space of running. And really, who, amongst us runners, doesn't? ;)

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During today's run, a rather philosophical thought popped into my brain: "With running, every step is an affirmation of life." That might sound corny or hokey, but nonetheless, it's very true. When you think about all of the stuff a person goes through in their lifetime, whether good or bad or somewhere in between, running helps to keep a person going. Every step we take says to the rest of the world, "Yes, I am actively partaking in life, and am part of this world." Running is like a best friend that's there for you, to support you in your triumphs as well as in your time of need. Whether a person is cognizant or it or not, running really does help a person through everything they go through in their life. Sure, it might not provide the answer to all of life's questions and problems, but it often gives a person the necessary perspective to "break on through to the other side."

Speaking of which, I've quite literally had many a breakthrough moment during my runs. On the trail, I've often figured out solutions to challenging or difficult problems or have come up with some new and exciting ideas (in both the business and personal spheres of my life). Often, these ideas are either philosophical or creative in nature, or revolve around people and communications, i.e., practical ideas to help people (family, friends, the running community at large, etc.). These ideas can be either concrete or abstract, quantitative or qualitative, or a combination of all of the above. It doesn't really matter much to me, as long as the ideas keep coming. :) Running also provides the necessary inspiration for my writing and other creative endeavors. I guess you could say that it frequently acts as my muse. :) MercuryNike, and Atalanta might not have gotten credit for inspiring people in the same way as the various Greek deities of the arts (Calliope, TerpsichoreEuterpeThalia, and Melpomene, etc.), but they are nonetheless the muses of many, many runners. :)

Of course, it feels great to have these running "epiphanies." Honestly, I just don't know what I'd do if I didn't have running. It not only makes the body better, it makes the mind better too. Of course, there are scientific studies backing up all of these statements. I'm not just making them up. ;) Almost everyone's heard all about the mental and physical benefits of exercise and running ad naseum by now anyhow, whether they be runners or not. ;) However, when it comes to the science of exercise, there's a lot that we're still discovering. In fact, as of late, there's been a lot of highly dynamic and pioneering research on these topics, particularly in the area of neuroscience, in terms of how exercise alters our brain chemistry. The findings are absolutely fascinating, and many of them are truly groundbreaking. 

Sure, exercise changes us physically, but recent findings provide even more conclusive evidence on exactly how tightly our mental and physical states are linked. I've always believed that the two were linked on a neurochemical level anyhow --- it's been a key axiom of mine for many years -- but of course it's always nice to see completely new, concrete scientific evidence that reinforces this premise and also deepens our understanding of this ever-evolving mind-body connection. More and more, with every new scientific discovery, we see how much of a role our body's biochemistry plays in that connection. It's the foundation upon which so much else in our lives is based.

Let's address the scientific implications of why this is so: Neural pathways dictate how information travels through the nervous system. They are the gatekeepers, deciding which neurochemicals, and how much of them, will pass through the synapses of the nervous system, which of course, includes the brain (i.e., the command and control center ;) ). By engaging in aerobic physical exercise (like running :-D ), it's possible for people to enhance and strengthen these neural pathways, and in doing so, alter their own brain chemistry in pronounced and positive ways. Sounds pretty radical, eh?! This of course is good news, but let's break that down even further: Did you know that, even in old age, that the brain is capable of growing new neurons and altering its own neural pathways and associations? It can even repair damaged neural pathways, which is particularly important as we age, since our brains start to lose nerve tissue, beginning at age 30. The good news is that aerobic exercise helps reverse this nerve tissue loss. Yes, there's hope for us aging runners yet. :)

Isn't that cool?! I really like the idea that exercise can quite literally alter the mind on a molecular level, in terms of both brain structure and function, and furthermore, has the power to do so at any stage of our lives. The implications of these findings are huge. This means that if we keep exercising both our brains and bodies that our brains will retain the ability to grow and adapt throughout our lifetimes. We have the capacity for learning new things during the entire span of our lives. We can fight the tides of rigidity and complacency that many people have previously assumed to be a natural part of aging. ;)  See, we don't have to be a stereotype in our golden years. :) Yes, I'll tell you right now that I plan to be the cheeky grey-haired one driving the Ferrari. "Where's the beef," my foot. ;)

Aerobic exercise stimulates nerve growth, reinforces existing neural connections, and with the help of the neurotropin BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), also fosters the creation of new brain cells in the dentate gyrus (located in the hippocampus). The dentate gyrus is one of the few regions of the mature brain in which neurogenesis (i.e., the creation of new neurons) takes place, and at that, it's got a much higher rate of neurogenesis than other areas of the brain that are similarly active in this capacity. Increased neurogenesis is associated with improved spatial memory and may also play a role in preventing &/or ameliorating stress and depression. This probably explains why a lot of runners have improved memory and moods, higher levels of creativity, as well as faster reaction times to external stimuli.

But there's more:  Researchers have found that aerobic physical exercise improves the flow of blood oxygen to the brain, which, in turn, increases the body's level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), i.e., the nourishing proteins that promote neuron creation and survival, and also reduces beta-amyloid plaques, the neurotoxic peptides commonly found in Alzheimer's patients that initiate the oxidation processes of harmful, brain-bound free radicals.


BDNF can generate new neurons as well as protect existing ones against damage and stress. It increases neuron production and promotes synaptic plasticity, i.e., the ability of neurons to modify the strength and efficiency of neural signal transmission across the synapses. (Synaptic plasticity allows neurons to modify their behaviors in response to neural activity.) BDNF enhances these synaptic transmissions, causing the brain’s neurons to branch out and find new pathways to connect and communicate with each other. Not surprisingly, BDNF is most active in the hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrain -- the areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, and higher thinking. To connect the dots back to exercise, just think about it this way: If you run, you'll have elevated levels of BDNF in your body, the equivalent of RAM and OS upgrades for your brain. :)

Conversely, studies have shown that most age-related memory loss is simply a result of mental and physical inactivity. However, the good news is that this is a factor that we can do something about. In one particular study, sedentary people significantly improved their cognitive skills (executive function, spatial tasks, reaction times, quantitative skills, etc.) after only four months of consecutive aerobic exercise. Not only that, but the brain itself then becomes better able to adapt and rewire itself to accommodate new challenges. :)

Not coincidentally, the delivery of oxygen and glucose via the bloodstream also notably improves upon consistent aerobic exercise. Of course, oxygen and glucose are two vital components directly tied to one's neurological health: When the blood is better able to transport oxygen and glucose to the brain, this translates into improved mental focus and alertness. The body and brain becomes more efficient "processing" mechanisms. Of course, this partially explains why a person's mind is sharper after a workout. :) And now consider what happens when a runner has gotten to the stage where they've gotten incredibly fit. Not only do the pieces seem to snap into place on a physical level, but chances are that this runner is also making mental strides as well as physical ones. :) A regular runner's body is a finely tuned, well-honed machine. Yet another reason to run. :)

The body and the brain both need continual stimulation for maintenance and growth. And nowhere is this more self-evident than at the biochemical level: Neurons literally need to be "exercised." :) To quote scientist Carrolee Barlow, a thought leader in the field of neuroscience, "Running appears to 'rescue' many of these (brain) cells that would otherwise die." In other words, run for more brain cells. :)

BDNF also boosts serotonin production and related serotonergic signaling, which in turn, stimulates BDNF expression. :) Yes, that reciprocal relationship is one big loop o' happiness. ;) And exercise is the trigger. Guess that not surprising considering that studies have shown aerobic exercise directly boosts BDNF and serotonin production.  No wonder aerobic exercise is credited for its mood-enhancing properties. :)

In other words, a regular runner is not only more likely to be in a better mood than most non-exercising humans, but will probably also be more amenable to learning and better able to retain what they learn. :) So, if you want to maintain or improve your mental acuity, just keep (or start) running. :)

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