Archive for April, 2012

Several personal bests this week and the week isn’t even over.

First of all, I ran a 5K on Wednesday. Not an official 5K, mind you, but 3.11+ miles consecutively. I did it in about 45 minutes. I ran about 1.5 miles consecutively at around a 13 minute pace. To some that might not sound all that great, but for me that was fantastic. My usual pace is around a 17 minute mile (running at around a 10 minute pace followed by walking at about a 20 minute pace with more walking than running). My inner monologue went something like this:

Ok, just a little bit farther. Man my shins are doing great today. Why is everyone running faster than me? That doesn’t matter. Here comes a hill. Speed up and get it over with. Feeling good. I should keep going. Pet the dog. That’s a cute dog. Here comes the stretch. I miss playing baseball. I remember when I was that age. Watch out for the stroller. Almost there. Seriously?!?! A zombie chase NOW? You’ve got to be kidding me! On a hill when I’m already tired! Not gonna catch me this time. Whew, that sucked but it felt good. Slowing down a bit, but I can still do it. No need to walk when I feel like I can run. Aaaannnd there. That’s the longest I’ve run in one stretch before. New record. Feels good. I can do better than that. I bet I can make a full lap without stopping…

It went on like that. Lots of ADHD mental comments and lots of looking for landmarks to run to for little goals. Lamp post here. Mile marker there. Catch up to the lady and the tiny dog… You get the picture.

So, my second accomplishment was perseverance. My shins hurt at first, a bit like they usually did, but I ran through it. Little accomplishments felt good so I kept on going. Eventually the shins stopped hurting and I got more of a warm ache out of them. That lasted on and off through the run. I made a point of speeding up on the hills and my shins ached more at the top, but it was totally worth it. While it was a personal best for me, Fitocracy seemed to think it wasn’t worth as many points as my usual elliptical run. If I relied on a computer to pat me on the back I’d be waiting a long time.

Finally, I did a lot of zombie evading this week. I’m really enjoying the Zombies, Run! app for my phone and I’m happy with the update that uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to monitor your speed, thus allowing for zombie chases with exercise equipment (before it was only through GPS). I take them seriously, especially on the elliptical. When I hear zombies approaching, I make a point to run a lot faster on the elliptical, especially since the elliptical seems like a walk in the park (pun intended) to my other running. I’ve been playing around with hill settings and resistance and have essentially turned my time on the elliptical into strength training for legs. I’m trying to find a good match between resistance and pace to mimic my usual run as close as I can.

In closing, I’m feeling good about this goal. I’m nearly 3 weeks done and I’ve lost 8 lbs (prolly more once I weigh in on Sunday). I have 3 goals going on RunKeeper: 1) lose 20 lbs by Dec 1st, 2) complete a 5 mile run by July 31st, and 3) run 100 miles by July 9th. I’m making good progress on all 3.

Sending a good luck shout out to friend and fellow runner Bethney who is running a half marathon tomorrow. She’s been quite inspirational to me, even if I haven’t told her so personally.

Good luck Bethney!!!


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What music do you listen to when you run? What motivates you? I want to add to my Zombie Running Tunes playlist, so let me hear what you listen to (feel free to post a reply on FB since this gets published there and that’s prolly how a number of you got to reading this now).

A friend of mine led me to a runner’s site with several interesting articles (see my blogroll for a link to No Meat Athlete). Two of the articles are particularly pertinent to me and I thought I would take a moment to share.

10 Best Running Songs Ever

I know most of these and have a few on CD already. I tend to like rock music or something with a bit of a driving beat. Guitar is fun too and I’m giving serious thought to tracking down my Joe Satriani CDs to add them to iTunes. I’ve had good luck with my music so far. Certain songs have played at just the right time to motivate me. I’m sure there’s some research out there to support how motivating music is to exercise, but I’m too lazy (ha!) to track it down right now.

How to Avoid Shin Splints and Stress Fractures

As you likely know by now, I’m currently plagued with shin pain. I ran the elliptical today, rather than run in the gorgeous weather outside, because my shins started whining while I was at work. The elliptical is a good way for me to have a low impact (i.e., no footstrike) variable intensity workout and still get in my 30 minutes.

Anyway, this article gives some good tips on how to minimize shin pain from experience. Listed are 6 tips, of which I already do 3 regularly (the three that are the least effective, according to the author). I run on a paved track at the park when I’m not on the elliptical or treadmill. Perhaps I should consider running on the grass by the track for a little while and see how that goes. My only concern is that it is a less consistent surface, but hey, I’ve been running for a few months, so what do I know.

Minimizing hard workouts is something I started doing more regularly more recently. Being gung ho about exercising can make you ignore little things like safety and overworking your body. It is doubly important for me to pay attention to this since I’m committed to doing daily exercising, rather than taking a day off here and there.

As for pacing, that’s something I plan on starting as soon as I get back to running (prolly tomorrow or Saturday). It makes sense, but it might be a while before I can really run at that pace. I’m mostly going for run far, not too fast, rest occasionally.

Which is a great segue to food. I am trying to eat more healthily by cutting my portions down, eating snacks, and trying to eat stuff that’s food. Maggie turned me on to a simple phrase by Michael Pollan: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. He has talked about these “food rules” just about everywhere. If you didn’t already notice, I tried to adopt a similar idea to my running (more succinctly written above than in my last post). I don’t see the point in dieting by complicated rules and paying close attention to caloric intake. Too much hassle. Seven words is enough for me. He does go into more detail, like what constitutes food, but the gist is in those 7 words.

I am making steady progress on my goal. I’ve been getting encouragement and tips from friends on Facebook and from lots of people on Fitocracy. I’m feeling a lot better about stretching and have learned a few more exercises. I’ve also lengthened each exercise and/or added a rep to my stretch routine. It’s amazing what a difference a few more seconds makes.

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Week One

I have finished my first week of consecutive running. I have a bit of a system down now and it is looking more and more like a routine. I’ve been running with both Zombies, Run! and RunKeeper apps going simultaneously. Zombies runs for the game content and music (it’s quite motivational and fun) and RunKeeper tracks my stats (which you can see on my “Running” page by clicking on the tab at the top of my blog’s homepage).

Some things I’ve noticed this week are as follows. My shins are not happy with me, but I have learned a few extra stretches to calm them. I’m also taking aspirin before my runs (instead of after) and I’m icing them after my post-run stretch for about 5 minutes. It seems to be the foot strike that fires them up, as they don’t bother me at all on the elliptical. I ran 1/3 mile before walking today. That’s about as far as I can go before the shins become almost unbearable. I’m new to all of this so I’m not sure where the line between pain and injury is drawn. I feel like my calves and shins are getting stronger, but there are times after running, and occasionally in the mornings out of bed, that they ache. I’m calling it an adjustment period and plan to go on my way.

I’ve also noticed that I can run longer and harder on the elliptical than on foot. My legs don’t tire as quickly and I can keep my heart rate up for longer periods of time. Running outside is my primary goal, especially with the weather so nice, but I think I can make good use of the elliptical as a way to “rest” my shins a bit while still getting a good cardio workout.

Setting my own pace is crucial. I am not competing with anyone directly, which is admittedly an opportunity for me to slack off, but I am adamant about improving from week to week and I’ll be damned if those zombies catch me! While my runs are currently a combination of short bursts of running with longer periods of walking recovery, I am working on increasing the frequency and length of my runs. Right now I consider everything to be practice. This month is a baseline. Whatever happens happens since I am just starting back up and letting my body adjust to this change. Since I’m already doing burst running, I might break out the ol’ Couch to 10K app and add a bit of structure in the weeks to come. For now, my goal is very simple: Run as often as I can for as long as I can stopping only when I need to.

Even now I’m looking ahead to future challenges. I want to run a 5K and a 10K and some day a half and full marathon. At this point I am confident I could finish a 5K if I entered one tomorrow, but I want to be able to run most of it, so that is still a future milestone. Reading posts on Fitocracy and other runner blogs I know I will need to consider nutrition, pacing, and other long-distance running strategies. For now though, I’m happy to run 1.5-3 miles a day. That puts me at running a marathon (26.2 miles) in just over 2 weeks (!). I will see progress as my average weekly mileage goes up and my average weekly pace goes down.

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So I got this app for my phone called Zombies, Run! It tracks my distance, speed, etc like most other running apps (e.g., Runkeeper and Nike+) and it also lets you listen to music while you run, like most other running apps.

But it motivates you in a way no other app does. Because it has zombies.

Interspersed with music is a story talking about survivors in a town (which is actually a bit of an interactive game where you gather supplies and take care of your town). They communicate with you on the “radio” and give you objectives. They also let you know when zombies are on your trail. The app uses GPS to monitor if you’re running fast enough to escape the zombies. If they catch you, you drop your supplies.

They haven’t caught me.

Lots of fun and a good combination with my Zombie Running playlist that includes: Cage the Elephant, Incubus, Kings of Leon, OK Go, Paramore, Phoenix, Red Hot Chili Peppers, some choice Reel Big Fish, Rise Against, and a bit of Barenaked Ladies (ok, The Vanity Project & Brother Creeggan) and 311 thrown in for flavor.

I’m 1/90 on my running challenge. More updates this week.

EDIT: I added a page at the top to track my running progress. Yes, I’m tracking it on Runkeeper and Fitocracy, but not everyone sees that progress, so I wanted to share it with as many people as I can.

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It takes the average person 90 days to implement a new habit. I talk about this process twice a week in the Biofeedback Clinic at work. We talk about stress management, relaxation training, breathing retraining, anger management, etc. “Skills not pills.” That sort of thing.

Research suggests that it takes about 3 months of consecutive effort to change a habit and/or replace it with something new. Research also says that we can change our brains and grow new neurons. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is a good way to do this. Meditation is also. Exercise programs do 90 days (P90, etc.). Alcoholics Anonymous has a 90 meetings in 90 days program. This stuff works people.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not going to quote research here or provide links or references. I don’t feel like finding such things at the moment and my supervisor wouldn’t have built a career and a government funded program around something that didn’t have research support. Trust me on this one.

I have yet again fallen off the wagon, which is funny, because I was never really on a wagon so much as running down the street–literally. I started up P90 again and failed to be consistent. I have been mostly consistent with running on a weekly basis, but I got shin splints a couple weeks back and decided to rest up, which has made it hard to start back up again.

My strategy for running has been wildly variable. Some days I run for distance, other days for duration, and still others for speed. It mostly seemed like I was doing so on a whim, though I fed myself some logical exercisey reason that sounded like I knew what I was talking about. All it really did was add to my inconsistency.

And so, I submit to you here today my very simple plan to get back to being consistent…and staying that way:

Starting Monday, April 9th, I will run 30 minutes each day, for 90 consecutive days. My only rules are that I will run a minimum of 30 minutes each day. I can run outside, on the treadmill, on the elliptical, or whatever, but I have to do 30 minutes. It is tough to find an hour to run, this much I have found. Or at least it is easy to say an hour is too much of a commitment. Regardless, 30 minutes a day for 90 days. I met my last running goal, but it took me a lot longer to do than I had intended. I think this one is straightforward enough to work.

So that’s that. I will update a bit more regularly to keep my progress public and to hold myself accountable. It will also encourage me to write on my blog more, which I’ve been sorely neglecting. Which sucks really, since I had intended for the blog to be a way to communicate to everyone at home (read: friends and family) to know what I’m up to and how I’m progressing on lots of different things. That being said, here is a quick update on the things from my last post from January (/facepalm):

  • Update on my workout and running progress
See above.
  • Update on post docs
Struck out so far. Looking at other options and jobs. Post on this in the future.
  • Update on internship experience
Going well. One more month on my current rotations and ~5 months total left. Post on this in the future.
  • A post about living in PA
Wow. I need to get going on this. I also need to get out of the house.
  • Update on my dissertation
In denial. Don’t wanna talk about it. Future post.
  • Fantasy Football season post
Won some and lost some. If you’re really interested in this, comment below and I’ll post about it later.
  • Prolly a rant in there somewhere
You bet.
  • A post about food/cooking

Actually, I do want to post about this. I have been cooking a bit more lately. Expect a future post.

That’s all. Wish me well for my 90 day challenge. Let me know if you want to play along. Feel free to check in and follow my progress. I’m also posting on Runkeeper and Fitocracy. Message me on Facebook if you want to know my username(s), or click on links as they get posted to Facebook to follow my progress.

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