Monday, December 31, 2012

2 Coach Corey's Corner: Effective Strategies for Achieving Your New Year's Health & Exercise Goals, Part 1


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As this year comes to a close and we look forward to the start of a new year, it's only natural to think about what we want to accomplish in 2013. And not surprisingly, many of those goals are health and exercise related. :)

For those of us who've already integrated regular exercise and healthy living into our existing life patterns, this means we're simply renewing our commitment to our ongoing exercise and eating plans, while setting even more ambitious goals to reach along the way. We might need to tweak our plans here and there, but for the most part, we know what we need to accomplish and how to do it. And then we just do it, because we've already got the ball rolling. Now, we just need to make sure that it's still rolling in the proper direction. ;)

For those of us who are still trying to establish these healthy patterns, this is the time to start anew, to make a brand new commitment to our health, and to set our lives upon a different course. For people who are entering the world of fitness and healthy eating, perhaps for the very first time, this is a period of discovery; there are a lot of new things to learn -- not just about nutrition, exercise, eating, etc., and how to incorporate this new knowledge into their own lives, but also about themselves and what they are capable of doing.

This is also the time to reexamine the goals and plans from the previous year, particularly the ones we didn't quite get off the ground, and figure out how to make them happen. :) This is the year, we tell ourselves. This is the year we're really going to make those goals happen. This is the year we're going to significantly change our lives for the better.

Sure, all of that sounds really grand and oh-so-motivating and inspirational, but of course, it's not what we say about our goals that matters, but rather what we do about them. :) In truth, all of our lofty goals are just theory and speculation until we begin taking steps towards making them a reality. This is exactly why this article is entitled, "Effective Strategies for Achieving Your New Year's Health & Exercise Goals." :) You'll note that the title includes the word "goals," and not "New Year Resolutions." That's precisely because the point is NOT to forget them soon after you make them. ;)

If we're only crowing about our goals for show, either to delude -- er, I mean convince ;) -- others or worse, ourselves, then our earnest proclamations of our intentions are nothing more than empty words. So, let's not kid ourselves this time around. Instead of simply vowing once again to accomplish the same exact things we'd promised ourselves we'd do in previous years but have still barely even started, let's actually achieve what we set out to do this time. Let's live in reality, evaluate the lessons of the past and apply them to the present, so we can have a healthy future. :)

One of the reasons people fail to achieve their goals is that they set goals so big and lofty that they become completely overwhelmed by them. Or, they set out to do too much too soon. Or, they give up too soon. :) However, this doesn't have to be you this year. You can be smarter than that. You can turn your failures on their head by changing the way you look at them. Instead of getting lost or mired in them, which will only hold you back, use them as opportunities to grow and learn, and to build character and resilience. And then incorporate these lessons into your "instruction set." (Alert, geek reference. ;) ) In truth, your own life is really a guidebook if you know where to look for the lessons. :-D

This time, give yourself a realistic time frame in which to achieve your goals. Be flexible and reevaluate your course of action when significant factors change your time frame, goals, or the outcomes themselves. Learn how to roll with change. Only take on as many goals and tasks at a time as you can reasonably manage, and learn to push back and say "no" when it all gets to be too overwhelming. Be kind to yourself and others when you fail, and don't give up when you meet the first obstacle. All of these qualities are part of the M.O. of a decent and successful person, whether in life or in sports.

Regardless of what you set out to accomplish, one thing is certain: You will most likely encounter resistance or face failures at various points along your way. So, instead of being surprised and thrown off by obstacles, expect them as part of the path towards your goals. Allow them to be part of the learning process (i.e., your growth curve), and you'll be able to roll with the punches a lot more easily. How else do you think people grow and learn? :) Advancement comes when we allow our internal fortitude to become bigger than our obstacles.

In fact, those who struggle the most to reach their goals often learn and improve the most as well. So if you really, really want it, don't expect it to come easily. Expect to work hard, on a regular basis. If you want the bragging rights, you've got to put in the blood, sweat, and tears. :) Any truly worthwhile goal is worth the work it takes to accomplish it.

Also, on that note, don't expect miracles to happen overnight. Significant change comes not necessarily through singular bold action, but through small, steadfast steps done regularly/consistently over time. After all, a big achievement is just a stack of little ones piled on top of one another. :)

So how do we ensure that this really will be the year we succeed?! The answer is simple: by setting goal-specific directives in motion. And that's what part 2 of this article will cover. :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

0 Martial Arts and Running: Balancing the Yin with the Yang :)


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As I mentioned in previous post, I'm now enrolled as a student at a martial arts school, in addition to my other exercise activities. I'm currently taking (Northern Shaolin) kung fu and t'ai chi there, and at some point, will probably also toss in a kickboxing class here and there. After some trial and error, I've had to shift my schedule around a bit, but now think I've found the perfect balance to fit everything in. I was originally going to lift on my off-days from martial arts and running, but as I soon discovered, that wasn't feasible. After doing lifting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and then doing martial arts and running in between, I noticed that, not only was I dead tired, which of course wouldn't be permanent [it takes time to acclimate to a completely different form of exercise (i.e., martial arts) than I'm used to doing], but my muscles were staging an out-and-out coup that only a fool would ignore.

Kung fu, in particular, develops strength (among other attributes), and of course, so does lifting. This means that, as I soon realized, I was actually doing back-to-back full-body strength training workouts from Monday-Friday, which is definitely not a good idea. Full-body strength workouts should be done every other day to allow your muscles time to recover, repair, and rebuild. And by following a workout schedule such as the one outlined above, I wasn't giving my muscles (particularly my lower body, triceps, and core) any recovery time at all. Well, there was hardly any recovery time, since I only took one day off (Sunday).

So, I decided to lift immediately after my martial arts classes instead. My muscles were already warm, and it was actually a heck of a lot easier to lift after class than on the days in between. And so, I switched my strength training days to Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and decided I'd run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays instead. On Friday, I also do a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout while I'm at the gym, but doing back-to-back cardio isn't as much of a concern.

Things started off well, and I began by keeping to my 6-days-a-week workout schedule. However, I've noticed that there are days in which I'm still fairly tired and sometimes just not in the mood to run, so on these days I'll motivate myself to exercise by doing other fitness activities. I'll hike, walk, cycle, etc. I clearly love to run, but lately, I just seem to be gravitating to other things. My runs, when they do happen, are typically fairly short (2-3 miles) right now. Once April rolls around (i.e., after The Athlete's Cookbook fitness photoshoot wraps), I'll shift back into serious race training mode. Or, at least that's the plan right now. :)

In truth, lifting is a bit boring, but it gets the job done. Plus, between that, the kung fu, and the 7 Weeks to 10 Pounds of Muscle nutrition plan I'm now following, I can really see some significant improvements -- my lean muscle mass is increasing and I'm getting stronger all over, and of course, that'll pay big dividends when it's time to go out for a run. :)

It's interesting to compare all of the activities, because what I'm getting out of each of them is so very different. And I'm not just talking about the obvious physical fitness benefits either. However, there is some overlap. In some ways, long distance running combines some of the feelings I get from both kung fu and t'ai chi, but at different phases of the run itself. For example, I feel really energized after kung fu, like I could take on the world. That's the feeling I often get from running, i.e., the "runner's high." However, when I run, that euphoric feeling almost always comes during the run, whereas in kung fu class, I notice that this feeling happens most commonly after class. That's why it's so easy to go and lift after kung fu class. My energy levels skyrocket and I feel like the Energizer Bunny. :) Boing, boing, boing! It's honestly hard to stop. :)

There's also this factor: I'm naturally a night person, so it probably doesn't help that kung fu class gets out at 8:30 pm. However, a lot of us typically stay a half hour later or more to work on our forms some more, stretch, &/or do more bodyweight exercises. And then of course, we also chat a bit afterwards too. :) So, in reality, I get out of class closer to 9 pm, or if I chat with other students, sometimes it can be even later. ;) So, by the time I get to the gym it's often closer to 9:45 or 10 pm. Then, I lift for an hour and get back around 11 pm or if I'm really time-conscious, then sometimes a bit before. Sometimes the lifting calms me down and other times, I'm still wired afterwards. I've been trying to get to bed before midnight, and lately, I've been so tired, that it's usually not very hard to do that. :)

As for t'ai chi, it does share some common elements with running, in terms of its meditative qualities and aftereffects. It's considered to be an internal martial art, (except for the chen style of t'ai chi, which is more external). It still requires strength, balance, and coordination, like kung fu, but unlike kung fu, its movements are very slow and controlled. It gives me a feeling of inner calm, but I also feel alert and energized in a gentle sort of way. Or, in Chinese terms, t'ai chi helps to build, well, chi (qi). :-D Qi (or chi) is the Chinese word for "life force." Basically, it's energy, but there's actually a whole lot more to it than that. Qi can be a pervasive force that not just flows through one's body but also connects all sorts of life forms to each other. In fact, if your hands are red after doing t'ai chi, then it is said that are producing and circulating qi. Your blood is certainly circulating at any rate. :) Also, various martial arts forms can produce qi, not just t'ai chi.

The feeling I get after doing t'ai chi is somewhat similar to the feeling I get either during or after a long distance run, in that it's that calm, rhythmic, meditative state where you almost forget that you are moving. The big difference is that running is a natural motion, whereas some of the movements in t'ai chi are not, or at least not at first, and take years of practice before you can attain a certain level of flow. The foot, arm, and torso positions, the various stances -- they all take a lot of practice to learn and master. Even so, there are times in both activities when I turn inwards (I'm a very internal runner by nature anyhow) and will just exist in the moment. Running requires a natural presence of mind, just like t'ai chi. This is why I like running on trails. Not too many traffic crossing involved, so you can just experience the run on so many different levels -- mentally, physically, spiritually, etc. But you can still be aware of your environment at the same time. Sure, you are breathing and putting in effort, but through it all, your mind is just there, almost in a suspended state. You're just letting your thoughts flow and on some days, when you're having a really good run, your body also seems to almost floating along too, just doing its thing. This is also where peace and joy are often found. (Geez, now I sound like a Christmas carol. Lol.)

To my mind, all of these activities really enhance each other in so many different ways.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

0 Looking Back to Look Forward: A Really Honest Post, Part 3


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OK, this is the last in a 3-part series of posts about social media and the running community. (If you didn't catch the first two posts, click here and here to view parts 1 and 2, respectively.) After reading the first two, this one will seem a heck of a lot shorter in comparison. :)

So, now that I've reflected upon the state of the blogosphere as it applies to the development and historical timeline of the online community, as well as my own personal experiences as a participant in that sphere, it's time to look forward.

What will happen to blogging as social media evolves? Will it still hold a relevant place amongst all the other competing forms? As humans seem to have a never-ending, inner need for storytelling and sharing information, I can't see blogging going away any time soon, even if it no longer holds the same place in the consciousness of the Internet.  Sure, it doesn't have the same sense of immediacy as other types of social media like Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, but it has something else going for it: You don't have to reduce your thoughts to a soundbyte. :) Blogging allows for complexity as well as a more complete array and depth of thought. And that's something you can't get from Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. :)

Of course, this very human need to share and tell stories applies to the world of running as well. Many, if not most, runners seek to connect with other runners, either on a person-to-person level, or to commune with their thoughts. As we read, we put ourselves in their shoes, go through the motions as they experience trials and triumphs in their training, compare notes, and/or gain insights that help us see things we might've not otherwise have noticed. Simply put, we blog and read other runners' blogs because we are human. Because we are motivated not only to share, but also to discover new facts, updates, and revelations, both through others' words and our own as we write.

Sometimes writers, through their perceptive observations and their eloquence, are able to give voice to the the thoughts and feelings about similar running-related experiences we've always wanted to say, but just haven't as yet been able to find the words. That can be a very powerful moment, which has the ability to not only move us but also inspire us as well. Many of our experiences that we write about are universal and yet somehow also remain distinct.

As we share our stories about our running journey and the information we learn along the way, we provide a framework for a collective of knowledge and wisdom, and we pass all of that along to other runners through blogging. We read to seek what motivates other runners, what makes them tick, and to learn how they went about accomplishing their goals and dreams, so that we too can find a pathway to do the same.

The future of blogging is much like our own: no one can be quite sure what the future will hold except for the new paths through uncharted territory that we create for ourselves. :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

0 Looking Back to Look Forward: A Really Honest Post, Part 2


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This is a continuation of the previous post about much things have changed over the years with regard to those of us who first started blogging about running way back when (i.e., around 2007 or so):

To give you an idea of how much things had changed from the start, I'll use my blog as an example: At one point, my readership ballooned to over 550 readers. Several people wrote positive reviews of it, graced it with a plethora of awards (it made several "best blog" and "top blog" lists, ranking as high as #5 on some lists), and then the PR companies came calling. Would I be interested in interviewing elite athletes? Would I review or promote their products, etc., etc.? I said no to the product promotion offers (I was adamant about maintaining an independent voice) and turned down almost all of the product review offers save one, but did say yes to interviewing two elite athletes. The latter was truly what I was interested in doing; I wanted to speak with these amazing athletes to find out what they were truly like and discover what made them tick.

As for the product review requests, the fact of the matter was I was so busy that I just didn't have the time to take them on, and in some cases, simply lacked the interest. In truth, I don't exactly love writing product reviews, and especially not at the behest of others. I prefer to do what I want and review products freely, without incentives or prompting. And, if I do accept a request to review a product, companies need to know that no amount of incentives (i.e., read "swag") is going to sway me. For me, it comes down to preserving the integrity of this blog and my own personal integrity as well. I will not be bought or sold. People who say that everyone has a price apparently haven't yet met the likes of me. :)

And then there were the interviews with Meb Keflezighi and Dean Karnazes: although I had almost no experience interviewing people, save a brief interview with Blaine Moore and an interview I'd conducted back in college, I didn't really think about that factor much at the time I'd said "yes." :) I was so over the moon to be granted such extraordinary opportunities that I focused upon other aspects: I did my best to learn everything I could about these athletes and prepare questions that would yield insightful answers. During the interviews, I tried very hard to calm my nerves and simply focus upon the experience and let our interactions unfold as naturally as possible. However, the truth is that, due to my inexperience and nervousness, my alto speaking voice felt like it'd been raised by about two octaves and then sped up to hyperwarp speed; and I just couldn't seem to get control of some verbal tics I never even knew that I had. ;) I tried my best to be myself and do what I do best -- inject humor and levity into situations, even ones in which I felt highly uncomfortable. You see, humor makes people relax and not be so self-conscious. It takes the edge off for both the interviewer and the interviewee. Some people use alcohol as a social lubricant; I use humor. :)

My first interview with Meb wasn't so bad. In fact, it actually went pretty well, all things considered. Sure, I was nervous and the interview was far from perfect, but I could live with the results. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience: Meb was very friendly, liked to laugh, and we had a good rapport. And that was also reflected in the positive feedback others had given me with regard to the interview.

My second interview with Dean Karnazes went a bit differently, mostly due to the fact that, for some reason, I was even more nervous than when I did my previous interview with Meb. Please understand, this had nothing to do with Dean himself: Dean was friendly and had a good sense of humor. He clearly had a lot of experience in front of the camera and was very used to being interviewed. And of course, it was great to get the chance to speak with him. You'd think I would've relaxed more this time, especially given that I'd already gotten one interview with an elite athlete under my belt. However, that wasn't the case at all, and here's why: I was unexpectedly thrown by the video format of the interview itself. You see, I made the mistake of assuming that it would be similar to the previous interview I'd done with Meb, i.e., a two-way video feed showing both of our faces. In fact, before the interview began, I'd inquired about the mode of video telecommunication, but didn't think to ask if the video feed would be one-way or two. However, during the technical setup process, only seconds before the camera began to roll, I saw from the live feed that his face and the face of the Motorola rep would be the only ones that people would see. Viewers would only hear my voice, and that was all they'd have to go by. So all that time I'd spent trying to memorize the questions I'd so carefully prepared -- in order to maintain eye contact on camera instead of looking down too often at my printed notes -- had been for naught. Looking back on it, that time probably would've been better spent taking deep breaths and thinking more about my approach. ;)

I tried to regain composure before the recording began, but to me, it felt like my on-air voice had somehow become tinny, unnatural, and completely foreign to me, like someone had stolen my voice and replaced it with someone else's. What was going on?! Where was my usual spark?! What the heck had happened?!

Also, just the fact that it wouldn't be a two-way feed made the interview feel different, and in truth, a bit more awkward, like there was more of a sense of distance and inequality about it. In contrast, the Meb interview had felt cozy, like two people just having a casual conversation. Sure, Meb peppered our conversation with a few mentions of his sponsor (i.e., Subway) -- that was to be expected -- but the format still felt comfortable to me. For Dean's interview, I understood that the format would be more "corporate," because I knew that both the Motorola rep and Dean would be present, but what I didn't expect was the stark differences created by the video format itself.

Then I saw the footage, which only confirmed my fears: I cringed once while watching it, and then after it'd finished, cringed a second time upon realizing that I would have to post it on YouTube. ;) In fact, not long after I'd posted it, some really nasty person wrote, "Shut UP!" in the comments, and so I'd deleted the comment and then turned off the commenting for video posts after that. It didn't help that I was already feeling rather raw and a bit unsteady about the interview itself, and this person's attempt to make me feel even worse about the video only compounded how I'd already felt about my own "vocal performance" in the video myself. ;)

However, when people try to tear you down, you can do one of two things: you can either stew in it and lose confidence in your abilities or get over it and try to improve your skill set. I chose the latter option. As someone once said, "You pinch yourself, get a grip on reality, and then move on." Really, these sorts of situations test you to see how strong you really are on the inside. Are you going to buckle or are you going to get up and show how strong you really are? As runners, we all know something about that. We know a lot about developing mental toughness and perseverance, whatever obstacles might come our way.

Of course, I'm not going to pretend that that unhelpful comment didn't initially sting -- after all, I'm not a robot -- but I told myself that this person didn't know the real me or what I was capable of doing, nor did they have my best interests at heart. That person's sole intent was clearly to inflict hurt, and really, in the final analysis, their remarks had nothing to do with me. It was really all about that unhappy person and their desire to take their frustrations out on others, no doubt due to the lack of positive feelings they'd internalized about themselves. As my mother always says, "Consider the source." And so I did. :) Thankfully, there were others who could see past the cracks and squeaks in my voice to the content of the interview itself; a few people had told me that they'd learned something and one person added that I'd asked some insightful questions as well. So, I licked my wounds and felt grateful for their support. :) (Commenters need to remember that there are always people behind social media content. Your words have great power to hurt or to heal, so be conscious of your intent and use them wisely.)

Also, there was something else about the Motorola interview footage that didn't sit right with me: The initial portion in which I'd briefly introduced myself had been almost entirely cut out, including my mention of my then recent contribution to one of Brett Stewart's 7 Weeks to Fitness books. I understood why they did it -- maybe they'd edited for time or because they wanted to keep the focus on their product -- but frankly, it was such a small segment of the footage and didn't really take away from the interview that they could've just left it in. A lot of times, vehicles like this are understood to be cross-promotional to some extent. Sure, the big corporation gets most of the airtime for their product, but it's often understood that, as a courtesy, you will be allowed to briefly mention your own endeavors. That particular editing decision also quite literally made the interview feel like a one-way feed in more ways than one. ;) At any rate, it was certainly an eye-opening experience.

I get that, from their point of view, the thrust of the interview was primarily to promote a Motorola product, and my interview with Dean was just the icing on the cake. However, when companies deal with bloggers and other figures in the social media sphere, the (unwritten) etiquette isn't the same as a face-to-face interview or standard business interaction. You don't excise our identities in order to press your agenda via our blogs; you make them part of the narrative.

The internet has become The Great Equalizer, and it's profoundly changed the way that businesses interact with their social media "constituents." And the hoi polloi is largely responsible for that paradigm shift. We, the People, have become the great democratizing force behind the internet, and businesses are now expected to not only be transparent and well-versed in the social media culture but also real and approachable in their interactions. Also, as part of the social media culture, we know that, as "constituents," our voices carry power because we can project them across the internet; they are no longer limited to just our own small corners of the world. The smart companies know how to listen to the meaning behind our words; they understand that they need to pay attention to us, and that now, as a collective force, we, as social media constituents, have more power than ever to make or break their business. So, if you want your business to not just survive but thrive, you'll need to learn how to navigate the waters of social media and how to treat its constituents with the proper respect and consideration: acknowledge our presence, talk to us as equals, respect our intelligence, own up to problems versus trying to brush them under the carpet, and when you fall short of the mark, do your best to make amends. This is what we expect from you. We also expected it before the existence of social media, but apparently now that we're all online and can now be heard across the internet, some of you are finally starting to take us more seriously. ;) Smart businesses are the ones who are continually paying attention, learning, and adapting to their environment, and that now includes the social media environment as well.

I realize that many companies are still learning how to interact in social media; some are still trying to gain what could best be described as "social media cultural literacy," while others seem to have gotten the basics down but are still trying to figure out how to finesse the finer points. My intent in mentioning the above isn't to shame or embarrass any particular company, but rather to share my perspective and insights to help them learn from the experience. I know I sure did. If this post helps just one business see things from a social media constituent's perspective, then that'll be satisfaction enough.

For the record, I think it's important that you know that I'd previously been advised not to reveal a lot of the above, as if revealing my true feelings about the above experiences would somehow make me "less than" in the eyes of others. However, I wholeheartedly disagree. First of all, honesty requires courage, and there's a certain release and freedom that comes with it. Furthermore, integrity comes from an internal place and not from focusing upon what others think. I think that honesty actually enhances one's image in the minds of those who matter most to you rather than detracting from it. Note that I said "those who matter most to you," and not "the entire world." :) I'm talking about those people whom you respect and trust. And if others should judge you or change their opinions of you after you share honestly and openly with them, then those people were never really meant to be your true friends or supporters in the first place. Deep down inside, I think that people with character, wisdom, and grounding in their own identity know that, from a larger, long-term perspective, image is truly not as important as substance, even if image does matter in the short-term to many in our often image-obsessed society. And second, the other lesson is that it's OK to share your struggles and failures; we can all learn from each other by communing with each other on this very real and human level.

(Since I'm not done sharing my observations about social media and the running community, those thoughts will be continued in the form of yet another blog post. So, to be continued.... Yes, again. :) )

Monday, December 17, 2012

1 Looking Back to Look Forward: A Really Honest Post, Part 1


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Occasionally, this blog gets personal. A lot of times it's introspective. And over the years, it's changed a lot. Maybe that's because I've changed a lot right along with it. It's also morphed back and forth in terms of its primary purpose. It started as a personal log of my journey to get back to running and ultimately train for a marathon, but then later changed into a primarily informational blog, which, not so coincidentally, happened around the same time I began coaching. And now, it seems to have become more of a hybrid of both.

One of the reasons that this happened has to do with the changes in the blogging world itself, and my level of comfort with these changes. First, we started out as a relatively small community of blogging runners. (To clarify, this was back in 2007.) In my particular circle of blogging runners, we used to frequently comment on each other's walls, and it didn't take long before those comments turned into extended conversations. It was only until later that most of that conversation moved onto Twitter. Bonds of friendship formed and most of us still keep in touch. In fact, almost all of the people from that core group are Facebook friends with each other as well.

Then, the social media microcosm grew, and suddenly our cozy little community of blogging and tweeting runners wasn't so small anymore. By this time, more and more people started blogging and also paying attention to blogs as a whole. And along with that expanded consciousness of blogging came more visibility for our blogs and related endeavors. More people had begun to find out about our blogs and pay attention to what I and other runner friends were writing. It was surreal. You would think that most bloggers would look upon this as a good development, because it would mean more recognition and visibility for their blogs. However, in truth, it's a mixed bag. Sure, the attention can feel great, but at times it can also be a bit overwhelming, weighty, and uncomfortable too. My blog had started out as a place where like-minded runners could converse with each other -- we already understood each other and more or less had a shared frame of reference -- but when the blogging world expanded and others began visiting my blog, that began to change as well. There were times during that period when I felt like my message was being completely misunderstood and honestly, it was very frustrating to have to continually clarify what I'd meant, whereas I hadn't had to do that much before.

I honestly didn't know how to react to all of the above-mentioned changes, and wasn't alone in that regard either. Many of us had mixed feelings about how visible we'd suddenly become, particularly in the context of the rapid evolution of not just blogging, but all of social media. This wasn't uncommon. Would we evolve along with these changes? How would our protected, tightly knit, and now, ever-expanding, community of blogging runners fair? Would we shine in the spotlight or cocoon? Would we still have the time to stay connected with each other, especially now that there were so many different social media channels in which to participate? It was a bit overwhelming and there was a sense that a person could get lost (or perhaps even submerged) by it all. Then, blogging gradually began to fade into the background a bit, due to its competition with so many other, new and emerging forms of social media.

And then something weird happened: we'd all started off as "regular people," but then some of our blogger friends' public profiles began to expand and loom large. And then other people's perceptions of us also began to change. Had some of us become truly a larger-than-life presence on the internet or was that just a delusion invented by other people?! I remember a few people saying to me, "Wow, you're almost famous now," to which I had to laugh. It sure didn't feel that way; I'm just a regular person, so why were some of my IRL and online friends saying otherwise? Is that really how they saw me now?! It felt absurd and ridiculous. Internet "rockstar" status seems like such a silly concept, an artifice really, not to mention that this title seems like it should really be reserved for people whose blogs actually have a zillion followers and then graduate to network TV. ;) Given how I feel about celebrity and its effects upon those who "rise to the top," I wasn't about to fall into the trap of thinking that I'd somehow become famous, nor would I be following up that act by allowing myself to pulled into a self-delusional vortex of idiotic and egotistical behavior that often goes along with it. ;) And even for those people who are famous, why do we as a society attach so much significance to it?! I don't care how famous people are or have become; they are just human beings like the rest of us. Furthermore, no matter what people's perceptions might be, humility, above all, is a quality that keeps us real and connected. And if I ever did become truly "famous," I'm very happy that I have friends who would still think of me in the same way and also give me the ego check I'd so richly deserve should things ever get out of hand. ;) The bottom line is that your contributions to society matter more than how other people perceive you.

I will say this: As a general rule, we runners tend to be a humble lot, even the famous ones. In fact, even though many in our small circle of blogging runner friends have now gone on to become prominent and well-respected voices/presences in the running community -- for example, Steve Speirs, Blaine Moore, Jenn Gill, and Tim Wilson, to name just a few -- they are all still humble, decent people who have kept the core of who they are intact.

(To be continued.....)

Monday, December 10, 2012

0 New Blog Series: Coach Corey's Corner


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Hello All,

I've decided to start a new series on this blog called "Coach Corey's Corner," in which I'll provide some quick tips to help you improve your running. Each post will contain short, digestible bits of information. This'll be done for two purposes: First, most people probably don't have the time to read long posts anyhow, save some spare moments on the weekend, and second, I just don't have the time right now to write them. Lol. At least this way, I can continue to provide some germane content here when I can find the time. :)

So here goes:

If you want to improve your overall race training performance for long distances, be sure to include the following essential types of runs in your training regimen:

(1) long slow distance (for endurance and stamina)
(2) anaerobic threshold runs (to fight off lactic acid buildup) (i.e., tempo runs)
(3) interval training runs (to improve VO2 max) (i.e., fartleks)
(4) short repetition runs (to improve form and leg speed)
(5) easy recovery runs (to flush out waste build-up and allow for top effort on hard days)

To cover multiple training elements from the above list, incorporate hill repeats into your workout program. Hill repeats will improve leg strength, aerobic capacity, and fatigue resistance.

And don't forget strength training for all of the major muscle groups; it's common for runners to neglect this essential element in their training, but if you build it into your training schedule, it'll make you a better runner. Before you begin your strength training exercises, it's very important to do an aerobic warm-up first (i.e., 10-15 minutes at your target heart rate) and then do a warm stretch immediately after your strength training session. And, last but certainly not least, be sure to strengthen both sides of the body equally.

OK, that's all folks. Have a great week!
-C

Thursday, December 6, 2012

0 A New Endeavor: Journeying into the World of Martial Arts


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As I'd mentioned earlier today, I've decided to enroll at a Chinese martial arts school, where I'll be taking kung fu, t'ai chi, and kickboxing/MMA. And as I said before, while I love running and all of the other physical fitness activities I do, martial arts give me something that the other activities don't. They fulfill a need in me that I can't exactly put into words. Peace of mind, stress relief, spiritual satisfaction, a calm, more detached but aware state of mind -- call it what you want, but it feels fantastic.

Martial arts require years of mastery, and for some reason, that really appeals to me. What can I say?! I'm very persistent and like a long-term challenge. :) Easy rewards are typically short-lived, but something you have to work for with every fiber of your being, well, now that's extremely satisfying.

There's so much to it as well. The martial arts world is an extremely rich, diverse and complex world that actually encompasses many different "worlds" within it. Each school or style is like its own culture unto itself. (There are five major styles of t'ai chi, each with its own unique lineage, etc.) It's multilayered on so many different levels. It's not just about developing self-defense techniques or following systems. It's also about mastery, community, and self-development. In fact, the word "kung fu" in Chinese ((功夫) actually means any study or practice that requires a great deal of time, patience, and energy to master. It's the compound of two words, which roughly translate to the "achievement of man."

The choreographed forms of various fight sequences are like a beautiful but deadly dance. I could watch people do these sequences for hours. It's simply mesmerizing. And when you start learning kung fu, you begin to truly appreciate how hard all of these sequences actually are to master. :) I have a great deal of respect for those who excel in these activities!

Martial arts also encompass an incredible amount of history and philosophy, and you really have to immerse yourself in all of that to get the full experience of it all. Right now, I am but a young grasshopper, just taking it all in. :)

The master of the school where I'm going to enroll (tonight, in fact) encourages his students to do all of the activities offered there to become a more well-rounded student. Soft/internal styles (like the yang style of t'ai chi) complement hard/external styles (like kung fu and MMA), just as yin complements yang. :) Each activity develops a different set of primary skills, but there's a lot of overlap in many of the movements and techniques that you learn, which also helps to reinforce what you learn and ingrain the movements in your mind and kinetic memory. They each have complementary elements. What you learn in t'ai chi is applicable to both kung fu and kickboxing, and vice versa, although the mental and physical fitness benefits you gain and the various skills you develop are slightly different for each. For example, from what I can tell through a newbie's eyes, guarding stance looks like it's pretty much the same in both kickboxing and kung fu. Also, kung fu and t'ai chi draw from each other as well; many of the movements I practiced in t'ai chi are similar to kung fu, except that, in kung fu, they are performed with a lot more speed and (some rather explosive!) power.

If it isn't clear by now, I've absolutely fallen in LOVE with martial arts! :)

0 A Day in the Life, Penguin-Style


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I know it's been like five eons since my last post, but there's been a lot going on over the past year or so, and by a lot, I mean an insane amount of "a lot." :)

As some of you might already know, I've been writing a bunch of books with the 7 Weeks to Fitness crew for a while now and it's been an absolute blast! These books are largely collaborative efforts that join together like-minded fitness professionals who share a healthy, measured, common-sense approach to nutrition and fitness. We all have different insights and areas of expertise, and so it's been a great experience filled with both sharing and learning. They are a great bunch of guys, and I'm really enjoying working with all of them!

Most recently, we've wrapped The Vegan Athlete, by Ben Greene and Brett Stewart, which is currently available for purchase, while the other books are currently in varying stages of completion (i.e., 7 Weeks to 10 Lbs. of Muscle, Paleo Fitness, etc.). (7 Weeks to 10 Lbs. of Muscle is currently available for preorder.) I've written recipes and meal plans (and for the first two books, some sports nutrition content as well) that are tailored specifically to each book's point of view, and these of course, all go hand in hand with the exercise programs in each book. The next book on the list is The Athlete's Cookbook, which will be written by Brett Stewart and myself. For that one, we'll also be modeling exercises for the book, so that requires a lot of hours of lifting in the gym. :) I'm still running, albeit shorter distances, mostly because, with all of the other stuff I do, in terms of both personal and business activities, I have to manage my time with laser-like precision. :) And also, right now, given my current, short-term goals, the strength training has GOT to take precedence. Almost everything in my life is scheduled right now in order to carve out for some precious, much-needed free time. :) Quite ironic, eh?!

For me, exercising serves multiple, highly essential functions, and now, more than ever. On a practical level, it's helping me get ready for the shoot, but on a purely mental level, it helps me structure the rest of my day, not to mention it's great for stress relief. And it also helps to keep me super-organized as well. On a personal level, it's also a way to carve out time that's just for myself.

Coupled with that, I've decided to enroll at a Chinese martial arts school, where I'll be taking kung fu, t'ai chi, and kickboxing/MMA. Yes, I'm probably certifiably insane for trying to juggle all of this, but my reasoning is this: Martial arts gives me something that the other activities don't. They fulfill a need in me that I can't exactly put into words. Peace of mind, stress relief, spiritual satisfaction, a calm, more detached but aware state of mind -- call it what you want, but it feels fantastic.

So right now, with all of the above activities, that means that I'm currently working out 6 days a week, and sometimes more than once in a day. Even though that might sound insane to some people (and to others, maybe not so much!), I need to do this right now in order to get to the proverbial finish line. I have a lot of ambitious goals I want to achieve this year and in the short-term, only have about 4 months to prep for the shoot. Maybe it's a bit of overkill, but I want to look like I was chiseled out of stone for those pictures. :) Plus, I'm going to be standing next to some pretty fit people, and that motivates me to get even more fit. That being said, I'm not a vain person, but book photos are permanent. :) Plus, as they say, the camera adds 10 pounds, and in photos, those ten pounds typically don't read as muscle. ;) And furthermore, why not strive to be at your very best, regardless?!

If you'd like to see just how nuts my workout schedule has become, below is a sample weekly exercise schedule. :) Now, before you look at this schedule, please consider that, just like most normal people, there are other things that I need to get done, and they all need to be able to fit into my schedule. For example, I also am trying to run a business, write books, cook and write recipes and stage food photo shoots for those books, get stuff done around the house, run errands, and take care of other beings in my household, all done while simultaneously attempting to maintain a social life. I'm not superwoman. :) And so, not surprisingly, sometimes something has to give, and often, especially as of late, that "something" has been my social life. ;) Maybe that's why it's moved online for the most part these days, but that's only temporary given my schedule. Also, notice that blogging wasn't on that list, although I do post recipes on Cooking with Corey on a fairly regular basis, that is, as I create/make/photograph them for the books I'm writing. Two birds, one stone, etc., etc. :) However, blogging is honestly not a priority right now, nor can it be. (There are only has so many hours in a day, and a good night's sleep is essential for effective "life management.") Then there's also social media "maintenance" to conduct in both business and personal spheres. Please understand, I'm not complaining about any of this. I'm just giving you a peek into my crazy-busy world. Sure, it's my choice to be this busy right now, so again, I'm not asking for anyone's sympathy. :) And even though I'm flapping my little flippers as fast as I can, I'm actually enjoying it, strangely enough. Maybe I could stand to be a little less busy right now, but for the time-being, that's how it goes.

Like most people, I can't spend my entire day working out every day, although that actually sounds pretty nice. :) In-person coaching does afford some additional exercise - i.e., running with clients, so that's a bonus right there. (However, you won't see those activities on the below schedule, of course, to preserve client privacy.)

Now where was I? Ah yes, my workout schedule. So, here's it is:

Monday & Wednesday: 15-minute cardio warmup on stationary bike at THR (target heart rate) + 15-20 minutes circuit weight training (varies depending upon time constraints). OR, on Monday, substitute 1-hour kickboxing (class) to mix it up and prevent weightlifting burnout). (I'm doing heavy weights, low reps to build muscle mass, 10 pounds of it, to be exact. :) I've already gained a few pounds of muscle thus far and getting ever closer that goal.

Tuesday & Thursday: 30-60 minute run at a brisk pace (includes warm-up & cool-down walks) + 1 hr. kung fu (class).

Friday: 30-minute HIIT workout on stationary bike + 15-20 minutes circuit weight training (varies depending upon time constraints).

Saturday: 30-60 minute run at a brisk pace (includes warm-up & cool-down walks) + 1 1/2 hours t'ai chi (class).

Sunday: Rest, if I feel like it, OR jump rope, then kickbox (i.e., practice with Erik at home), and then run 30-60 minutes at a brisk pace (includes warm-up & cool-down walks).

OK, that's all folks. It was nice to take a bit of a breather and share some updates with you. This post went on a bit longer than originally intended, so it's back to work I go! If I don't post again until the new year, (which given my schedule, is very likely - Lol!), then I'd like to wish all of you "a Very Happy Holidays!" now. :)

Best wishes for health and happiness,
-Corey

Monday, December 3, 2012

0 Cherry Blossom Registration is Now Open: On Your Mark, Get Set, GO! :)


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Most of you who are interested in entering the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler probably already know this, but just in case, the lottery for this race is now OPEN and will close on December 14.

For those of you who haven't run this race before, I can tell you from past experience that online registration process is usually a frenzied madhouse and seems to get crazier with every passing year. So, if you want your lottery entry to be received well before the cut-off date, I suggest you enter the lottery NOW, and here's the reason why: Their servers tend to get really busy during this period, so you may have to try multiple times just to submit your lottery entry. If you don't win a place in the lottery, you can still run the race if you run it for charity.

The 2009 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.
Here are just some things to be aware of if you are running it: The race is crazy-crowded and people can easily lose each other. So, be sure to establish very specific, distinct meeting points with your party for both before and after the race. Also, if possible, keep your mobile phone somewhere on your person during the race; you'll be glad that you did, especially should you have trouble finding each other after the race. :) Also, watch out for flying and fallen cups: racers tend to throw their cups everywhere onto the road, which amounts to literally thousands of cups (!), so any water stop can quickly turn into an obstacle course. ;) Also, don't forget to check out the race expo: I remember it being fun.

I ran the race back in 2009, and a lot of things have changed since then: First of all, back then, there was no lottery. I remember sitting in front of the computer an hour before registration began, with my web browser already opened to the race registration page. With one hand poised on my mouse and another on my keyboard, I was all set to register the SECOND it officially opened. I remember thinking that the race registration process was just as much of a race as the actual race itself. Lol. With each passing year, the pool of people vying for entries kept getting larger and larger, and so much so, that the registration process soon became a bit too unwieldy. This, of course, is probably why they decided to change over to the lottery system.

The race tents (2009).
I seem to recall that the year I registered, available race registration slots filled up in a mere hour or less, but maybe I'm not remembering that correctly. (The mind tends to exaggerate memories sometimes when looking back.) In fact, there were so many people trying to register at once that the servers actually crashed in the middle of the registration process. So, even though I'd already entered my credit card number and had pressed the "submit" button, my registration didn't go through. At first, I was crestfallen. Then, I got an idea. Undeterred by what had happened, I called their event office's number only minutes afterward and told one of the staff members what had happened to see if anything could be done about it. The lady who'd answered the phone was very nice about it; she told me that since I'd already submitted the registration during the server crash that they would honor my registration and still count it as an officially accepted entry. She then sent me a special paper registration form to complete the process. YES!!!! I was so ecstatic and relieved. I was also really happy that they took me at my word. Guess they could tell I was an honest person over the phone. :)

The 2010 medal. Pretty design, if somewhat odd shape.
I personally prefer round or symmetrical medals, but
overall, it's not a bad looking medal. It'd be even
prettier if it was included as part of the registration fee. :)
Back in 2009, if I remember correctly, you could upgrade from a cotton tee to a tech tee for an additional fee. That hasn't changed. In fact, I still have my tech tee from that year. It's rather nice and I still enjoy wearing it. This race is not only popular, but it's special in a way that's hard to describe. So, if you're lucky enough to get into this race, the tee shirt will bring back memories of your race day experiences and the glow of accomplishment you felt after completing it, and so is something you'll most likely wear with fondness and pride. :) Of course, the nostalgia factor always adds meaning to a race day tee shirt. It's not just a tee shirt from some race you ran. Well, it is, but it isn't. Runners, you know what I mean. :) Some races stand out in a runner's mind and for me, this was one of them.

Here's another change: There was no medal back in 2009, like there is now. However, this time, both the tech tee and the medal are add-on costs to your $40 registration fee. Upgrade fees for tech tees are standard for most races, but in my opinion, the cost of a medal should really be included in the race registration fee, like most races seem to do these days. Most people I know really enjoy receiving a medal after a race, whereas to some, the regular cotton tee shirt is often not as important, but regardless, no one wants to feel like they're being nickeled and dimed, even if in fact, they are. Lol.

The 2011 medal.
I understand that races have become about making money to a large extent, but I also think there should be a better way of handling this aspect. Runners have become accustomed to paying more (a lot more!) for major races these days. However, if we know that we're getting good value for our race day fee, and even better, if some part of that fee is also going to charity, that can help to take some of the sting out of the fee a bit.

And then there's this:  No matter how large or crowded the race, it's up to the race director to set the tone of a race via its policies and treatment of its participants and volunteers. These things are important; runners will remember how they felt about the race from registration to the finish line to the after-party and beyond, and that feeling can affect their decision as to whether they'll want to return or not. Sure, there will always be runners clamoring to get into a major race in spite of those factors, but I still think it matters, regardless. Even though the Cherry Blossom is now even more popular than ever, I still remember the pleasant, kind, and helpful demeanor of the lady I spoke with on the telephone that day back in 2009. I greatly appreciated her willingness to help resolve the situation. It matters.

Here's the 2012 medal celebrating the race's
40th anniversary. Nice, isn't it?! Now THIS is
medal I might consider paying a little
extra for . :) Or better yet, for future races, they
could offer a standard medal as part of the
usual registration fee, and then offer something
extra snazzy like this for an additional fee.
The communal feeling of a race is also matters as well. While many of us run races to compete, best our previous times, &/or just simply feel that sense of accomplishment of crossing over the finish line, those aren't the only reasons that most of us race. We run races to feel part of, and when the opportunity arises, contribute to, something larger than just ourselves. And if race organizers can find a way to reinforce this feeling by creating a welcoming atmosphere and a sense of community, this is what will keep people coming back for more. When you run a race, you literally become part of the throng of humanity; and when race organizers imbue a race with unifying, uplifting messages, that can be an even more powerful experience.

Then, there's also the energy of the people at the race as well -- the volunteers, the racers, the crowds. Sure, the race itself is a bit chaotic and crazy-crowded, and there might be times when you may start to feel like you're being herded like cattle in your race "corrals," but you can literally feel the visceral energy of the crowds at this race --  it's indescribably fantastic! They are also super-supportive along the route -- loud cheers, signs, and cow bells, etc. -- and the runners are also very nice to each other as well. For example: The year I ran it, I remember one racer's shoe flying off in the middle of the race and immediately, without any hesitation, a few racers stopped running and came over to help.

The race is also super fun. People dress up in some hilarious costumes and wear funny t-shirts too. It's not uncommon for people to joke around with each other while they're running. It's just a fun race atmosphere, plain and simple.

I think that all of the above reasons are why runners want to race this particular race.

So, good luck to those of you who are trying to get into this race! I hope your race day experience will be a good one, just like mine! :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2 Penguin in Motion :)


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A digital stock image from my new photography business,
Cyberpenguin Studios. (All rights reserved.)
Hello All,

There's been so much going on lately! For the last several months, I 've been hard at work, entrenched in book writing and other projects, so that's why you haven't heard from me in a while. :) In addition to these projects, I've just recently started yet another new business, Cyberpenguin Studios, (yes, that makes a total of four businesses thus far), as a commercial portal for my digital stock photography. Things are just a tad bit busy to say the least. ;)

As mentioned in a previous post, I've now also taken on a relatively "new" role as a contributing writer on sports nutrition topics at my friend Mauricio's excellent blog, Triathlon at 55. Not too long ago, I posted an article there entitled, Healthy Eating: Some Tips for Staying on Track & Strengthening Your Resolve :). It's taken me a while to find the time to post there (or really anywhere!), but somehow I finally managed to do it. :)

As some of you might know, my general blogging 'policy' is to only blog when I feel I have something of substance to say. I don't believe in writing fluff posts, and would rather wait a while to post than post something of little consequence. Sure, that's probably cost me some readers, and I can understand why, but frankly, writing isn't something that can be cajoled or forced. So, in order to write something worth sharing with others, the impetus for writing blog posts of this nature essentially can't be external or artificial. As a blogger, once you start feeling beholden to others or succumb to implicit pressures (i.e., feeling like you "have to blog or else you'll lose readers") as a reason or motivation for blogging, it's probably best to quit while you're ahead. :) Of course, book-writing is a different beast entirely, as there are usually publisher's deadlines to meet, but that's another subject altogether.

That being said, there are a lot of "blog to-do's" on my list, which I'll hopefully get around to doing sometime in the near future, once I can find more than a few minutes to post. :) I'm not sure if I'd mentioned this previously, but I'd conducted an interview with Dean Karnazes several months ago, and when I get the chance, I'll post the link to that video, along with some reflections of the interview and a review of the MOTOACTV device that he uses in his training. There are also a few other article ideas I've got in store, but for now, I'm only going to mention the one, as that post is priority #1. :)

So, even though I haven't been a regular poster here as of late, thank you to those of you who've stuck around here for the long haul. :) I hope you are all doing well and having a great training season!

-C

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