5 Ways To Keep Your Runs Interesting

Cheers to another day my friends! I have gotten a few messages from folks who have started running recently who are struggling to stay motivated in their new journey. It’s new to them and what is still fresh in their heads is how much they have always hated running. Further, if they haven’t run a race yet, they may not have had the opportunity to witness the positive enthusiasm that running can bring to keep them motivated during their workouts. So this morning I thought I would share some ways that can keep running interesting. For me I can’t say that running is ever boring for me, even after all these years. Maybe the reason it isn’t boring is because I call upon some of these every now and then to “keep things interesting”! Here are just a few of those!

Run with headphones. Whether they are wired or bluetooth, running with headphones is a game changer. I have a few playlists that I fire up when I go for my runs. For me it’s 90’s alternative since that’s what I was listening to in high school when I first picked up running years ago and quite frankly, I still love those tunes too! But I have a few other playlists too, like some old school hip hop and another with latin vibes. But music isn’t the only thing you can listen to. Podcasts have become favorites of runners, or maybe even a newscast. All of these can and will make your run go by a lot faster!

Some songs from my 90’s/Alternative Rock Playlist

Mix Up Your Running Routes This is one that I like to do a lot. Let’s be honest here, if you are running the same route over and over again, this will get boring. I always say that running can lead you to be a sightseer whether it’s when your travelling or even in your own neighborhood. Take a look at your runs, if you’re doing the same ones over and over again, mix them up please or consider changing the length of your runs if you must use the same routes.

Track Your Runs. There are a number of running apps out on the market today that track your runs from your phone by use of GPS. I am a fan of Map My Fitness & Strava, but I must say that Strava is quickly becoming my favorite. These apps have information that keeps me wanting to come back and run again and again. One of the reasons Strava is becoming my favorite is because of all the info they give you out of just one run. They will calculate portions of your run and compare them to similar portions you have run before and tell you how you compared to those. Further Strava is quickly becoming another community but solely made up of runners, which means you can follow your friends and compare how you do. I always say numbers can tell a story and Strava’s stats tell you your story while keeping you motivated. Map My Fitness is always coming up with challenges to keep you motivated and thats part of the reason I continue to use them as well as Strava!

Just a few of the stats from Strava that keep my running interesting!

Run With A Group. This is something that I personally had not tried until this week. I’ve always run alone in my neighborhood but since creating a facebook group for the United NYC Half Marathon, I’ve met a lot of runners online in preparing for that race. Some who live close to me, and when I say close I mean New York City (lol), expressed interest in running as a group to prepare for our race in March together. I ran with the group for the first time this week. We had 6 people in the running group and it was an awesome experience. I’ve always heard that group running is fantastic but it was hard to vouch for that without a group to run with. I highly recommend that if you need a change a pace in your running, find a group or even just a friend and go for a run with them. While your chatting away, those miles will trickle by with ease!

Good chats, good friends and good running within a group!

Mix Up The Type Of Runs You Do. Running doesn’t always have to be about going out and running the same distance. As I mentioned up above, the same route can get boring but also the same type of run can get boring. I always like to get a track workout into my routine if not once a week, at least every other week. This allows me to do intervals on the track which in turn help me build my speed. Hopefully most people have a community or high school track near by that they can have access to. If so, I encourage a track work out! Other times, I like to go find a decent sized hill by me and just run up that hill 10-20 times. This will no doubt challenge you but it will be different from your usual run. Plus hill work will make you a stronger runner in general and that is always a plus when running a race! Tempo runs are also a good way to mix things up. Tempo runs involve running portions of a long run much faster than other portions. For example on a 5 mile run, running miles 1,3 & 5 easy but cranking it up for miles 2 & 4. These are just some ways you can mix up the type of runs you do.

When you look at the above, in my opinion, running can indeed be fun! Like with any other task if you do the same thing over and over again you will naturally lose interest. I’ll update this from time to time when I find new ways to keep running interesting. Want to be updated – follow my blog!! lol

Have a great Thursday everyone!

Well It Is Official..

After 4 years of entering the lottery and hearing nothing back, yesterday I got the message I had been waiting for. I finally got accepted to run the TCS New York City Marathon! Yes, I eventually got into this race because I ran 9 races last year and volunteered for one through the New York Road Runners “9+1” program. Yes, I had a hunch that I was running this race this coming November. But there is nothing in the world like absolute confirmation. I was very worried since I ran my 9th race for them last October and had not heard anything since then. I was sure that they would keep their word but hey, you never know right? I can put to rest any doubts on this. God willing I can stay healthy and complete this race. As a runner, its been something I have wanted to do my entire life! While I need the time to train for it, I also wish November was already here!

Before I start my training for the marathon, I do have plenty of races still to complete. the competitive side of me will want to go all out during these other races but I have to remember that this will be a long road of preparation for November. There will be so much planning and training that will go into this. I know I will need the assistance and patience of my family along the way to deal with long training runs and crazy thoughts as I go thru this. But I can’t wait to see how this all has turns out.

Is anyone else about to run their first full marathon this year? If so, is it NYC or is it another? For those who have run marathons before, do you remember your first? Any great stories? Do share in the comments below!

Have a great week everyone!!

Listening To Your Body

Happy hump day my friends!

I am a firm believer that in order to reach any of your predetermined goals, you will have to push your body to do things that it never has before. Sometimes that means forcing it to do things that may not be natural or may even hurt a little. You all know the old saying, “No pain, no gain” right?

A good challenge for yourself whatever your level of running is, can always be a good thing. For those starting out it can be just running a mile without walking. For more advanced runners it could be breaking 2 hours for a half marathon and so on.

Since the beginning of 2018, I have pushed myself to gradually increase my mileage as I prepare for the 2018 United NYC Half Marathon. My goal for that half marathon is to run my personal best which would be under 1 hour and 51 minutes. A great day would be to break 1 hour and 50 minutes! In the midst of doing that, as many of you have read, it has been frigid in New York City. In my mind, I know what pace I will have to run at the half marathon in order to meet my goals. I also know that right now given the weather in New York City, it’s difficult for me to run that pace. Icy conditions, wind and more layers of clothes than I prefer, are just making that pace close to impossible.

As is the reaction for most people in cold air, my breathing in the cold weather is not optimal. Further, the turnover in my legs right now is just doesn’t happen as fast. There is truth in the fact that the cold air does drop the temperature in your legs slightly lower to the point where the blood does not circulate as fast and they tend to feel a lot more sluggish than in warmer temps. Maybe its that or maybe its mental or maybe it’s the tights I am wearing but I am definitely feeling slower in this cold during my training runs. I’ve come to accept that this will have a direct impact on my pace in this weather and to be honest, that is perfectly fine! For me, right now, there is no need to push the body and risk injury my pulling a muscle. A couple of weeks ago, I felt soreness in my calf when I tried to go full tilt. No need to risk a calf injury. Instead I can focus on increasing my distance which is what I have been doing.

My pace isn’t as fast in this cold – but its ok!

 

The alternative to listening to your body is listening to that bad alter ego of yours that tells you to sit it out and do nothing. We definitely do not want to listen to that! Take pride in stepping up to the challenges or goals that you would like to achieve but listen to your body. The road to your goals is yours alone and if you have to alter the process a bit because your body is telling you something that is perfectly fine.

My wife recently took up running in the past 6 months. She has never been much of a runner as she is asthmatic. In doing some reading on her behalf I found that asthmatics can run, they obviously have to watch their breathing and try to avoid cold air. Her near term goals are to run a 10k and she is working towards this still. But I told her that there is no rush to get there. At times her breathing has been hampered in the cold. At times her knee has bothered her. All things to take seriously and to obviously listen to the body. Still that doesn’t mean its time to go back to the couch. She’s altered her running workouts to work on cardio at the gym on the elliptical and has focused on working her core and some strength training also. When your body talks back, it isn’t the end of the world. Just listen to it. Cooperate with your body by altering your workouts, maybe take an off day or two and your body will reward you in return!

There will be obstacles in every road no matter who you are or what level you are at. No one is immune to them.  How you handle them will determine your outcome. So if your body talks back to you don’t get discouraged – it happens to all of us!

Stay positive and keep moving towards those goals!

Stay focused no matter what obstacles may come!

New Year, New Goals, New Lesson Learned

Happy New Years to everyone out there!

The new year is here! If you were looking to put a resolution in play, well now is the time! I know I have been preaching that for some time and I am hoping that many of you will take me up on a change to get up off the couch and to start running. If not running, then something better than sitting on the couch! I will get into the New Year’s resolution thing however another day!

For me the new year will not bring about too much change in terms of a workout routine. However, that doesn’t mean that the learning stops. On day one of the New Year I already learned a valuable lesson and I was kicking myself when I realized it. On New Year’s day the gym that I belong to, Lifetime Fitness, had a themed “Commitment Day” for its members. For me, that is another way to get people to make a New Year’s Resolution. To commemorate the commitment day, they encouraged their members to run in a 5k run. It wasn’t considered a race because they didn’t time it. Running geeks like myself of course, chose to time it.

The temperatures of course were very frigid as New York City may never see above freezing ever again. I am convinced that my Christmas decorations may stay on my lawn til March because they are frozen in the ground. The mercury was at 11 degrees this morning at race time with a windchill of 0, zero, zilch, nada. My gym, in an effort to promote all of their classes and programs, had a wacky idea to do a pre-race warm up in the gym that consisted of an obstacle course of sorts. There were close to 100 runners this morning and I think everyone of them in unison told the gym instructors that they did not want to do a pre-race obstacle course? in the gym. Who wants to work up a sweat and then step out in 0 degrees? Helloooo???

When we assembled in the gym and gave them our gracious response of “No thank you”, we were whisked outdoors to the starting line. By the time I put on my hat, gloves and fired up my music and GPS, they were starting the race. Off the racers went and I hit start on my Strava app. As I did that, I dropped one of my gloves. After picking it up, I put my phone away and set on my way to try to keep up with the lead pack. The cold didn’t bother me too much on this race. I wore three thin layers, the bottom one being an Under Armor cold weather shell, tights, hat and gloves. I was fine with just that.

After settling into a comfortable pace and listening for my first mile split, I realized that I forgot to start my Under Armor Map My Fitness App. That’t the app that tells me my splits in my headphones after each mile. That’s the one reason that even though I have discovered Strava, I still use the UA Map My Fitness app. To my knowledge I do not believe that Strava does that as well, but if they do, someone please tell me how to activate that! Pissed off now that I couldn’t find out my splits, I decided oh well, its not really a race, its just commitment day. That’s when I realized that there were only 6-7 people ahead of me in the race. Aaaannnddd just like that, this became a race!

In a 5k there really is no time to pace yourself. The more I run 5k’s the more I realize that you are pretty much running hard almost the entire time. In the process of making this a race, I ended up tweaking another calf in the last mile of the race and had to slow up a bit. I managed to finish 5th overall in the race. Mark those words because I will not finish better than 5th l year!

If my calf had not started to bother me, I might have finished third. First and second were well out of reach so my calf made no difference there. Crossing the finish line in 5th, I was eager to see my time, since I was not getting my splits from the Under Armor app. I took my phone out of my running arm band and Strava looked back at me with nothing, zilch, nada. Seems as if when I dropped my glove at the start of the race, I actually didn’t start my Strava app either. Pissed off is not even the word. I was pacing back and forth at the finish line like a mad man. 3.1 miles out the window and quite possibly a PR out the window. Although I don’t know if this time would have counted since it was not officially timed.

When it was all said and done, I looked on the bright side. I woke up on New Year’s without a hangover, I ran a 5k on new year’s day to start off the year on the right foot, and I got a medal for my troubles. Two valuable lessons however were learned. Never start a race without switching on my Map My Fitness app an never start a race without switching on and ASSURING that Strava is on. I don’t care how many seconds I lose at the start, not having your run tracked might be the most frustrating feeling in the world! Oh well at least the lesson was learned on the first of the year! Hopefully never to be repeated again!

As the weather continues to remain cold, I have to say I am getting used to this cold weather running. Anything north of 30 may be a heat wave for me! If you are from the east coast, how are you getting along with the cold weather? No matter where you are from, how was your New Year’s?

75 days til the United NYC Half for anyone running that!

This Is Your Journey

Good day friends! Time to get over that hump, its Wednesday! These days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the reactions I get from people when we discuss my running. Of course there is always the comments like “dude you are crazy” or “running is just boring for me”. Those are to be expected. Then there are those that claim not to have the time or will blame something else for them to avoid running all together. Then there is the bunch that confuse me with the following comment: “I’m not fast enough, so why bother”.

When I hear that comment, or something similar, it’s like a punch in the gut. My first reaction is to say, “you know you are right, I’m going to stop running because I’m not fast enough either”.

There are tons of people faster than me. So I wonder, why compare yourself to anyone at all? This is your own journey. It’s my journey also. My journey will be completely different from yours. There may be some similarities but at the end it’s customized to you and me.

My journey three years ago started when I was holding onto my daughter’s stroller to use it as a walker in Disney World because excess weight had given me bad plantar fasciitis and the pain caused me to hold onto the stroller, just to walk! My journey started when I got home from Disney. Lose the weight with exercise. I took small steps. Walking, jogging, stopping even during my running as my foot got thru the discomfort. Time on my watch didn’t matter. What mattered was dropping the weight.

When the weight started to go down, the satisfaction of a walk or a jog felt so euphoric. It was like a drug. An exercise high if you will. I never wanted to give this drug up. Walks became jogs and jogs became runs. Never since HS did I ever think I would run as much as I do now, however that journey has led me here.

Going back to the concept of being fast enough, did it matter how fast I was going to walk around my block three years ago when I started my journey 40 pounds heavier? Not at all. My eyes were set on losing that weight. My daughter was 5 at the time. Dad wasn’t about to be slowed down at this age because of some excess weight and ankle issues. When you put all of this into perspective, ask yourself instead, ‘are you fast enough to make the decision to do something better for yourself before too much time passes or before its too late?’ That’s where the question lies. That’s where you question ‘your speed’. Never mind how far others are running or how fast they are running it. They aren’t on your journey. Only you are!

Further what awaits you once you decide to take on ‘your journey’ is a transformation into a better version of yourself than ever before. For many, the physical aspects of your journey will bring you a healthier, stronger and more fit self. However that’s not the only transformation you will see. I talked about that ‘fitness high’. Oh its real…it is very real! Runners can tell you about their ‘runner’s high’ also. For me it is a feeling like no other and it isn’t one that I feel only when I run fast or I set a personal best at a distance. I feel it every time I run. You may not feel it initially but it always comes around! How I wish more people would experience this – but they don’t because mentally they have put up a road block that won’t allow them this euphoria.

Now that I’ve explained why time doesn’t make a difference, I hope I have been able to push some of you out there to stop doubting and questioning yourselves! Sometimes the mind is our worst enemy. Ironically enough, just yesterday I spent the whole day thinking of a quote that a great American Olympic distance runner, Kara Goucher, said back in 2013. I will leave you with a graphic of that quote below and implore you to start your own journey now!!

Monday Motivation – Starting A Run Plan!

Good Morning blog world! It’s a Monday and the sun is out! Sure there is snow on the ground but let’s not allow that to foil our plans. If you have been thinking about getting a running workout started, let’s not let the weather steer you wrong. If you are ever going to take one word from me take this. The hardest part of the whole process is taking that first step out of the door. Once you are out there your body will adjust and that cold weather that you were concerned with won’t be much of a concern.

Now that you have taken my word on that, here are some simple steps that I recommend new runners keep in mind as they get acclimated to the whole process. These are steps that I myself followed a few years back when I started  running again. Like many of you, my schedule is busy. Once you have a job, a family, children, friends and whatever else, it gets hard to get into a routine. I totally get it. But that doesn’t mean all hope has to be lost. If I can get it done, I know you all can get it done!

  • Before you take a step running wise, commit to yourself that this is YOUR journey. You don’t have to run at anyone’s pace or beat any certain times. This journey is yours and you are the master of your goals!
  • Once you have committed to my first point above, do set a goal for yourself. It can be as simple as running a mile without stopping or it could be running a 5k. It’s not easy to recommend a standard goal because everyone has different capabilities and fitness levels. Therefor I will say this, in general, your goal should challenge you but should also be something attainable. Set a reasonable time frame for your goal of somewhere between 1-2 months. Need a race to run?  Check my race calendar on my blog here! (sorry NYC area only!)
  • Here is the most important part in my opinion, particularly for busy folks. Schedule your workouts! People starting to run say “I think I will try and run 3-4 times a week”. Three to four times a week is great but saying just that, leaves things too open ended. Instead of saying 3-4 times per week, schedule those 3-4 times per week and tell your family and/or friends about your scheduling so that you don’t run into scheduling conflicts with your workouts. This may sound funny, but when I schedule my workouts, I set aside time slots and send calendar invites to my wife so that the time is blocked out on her calendar so that she doesn’t try and have me run errands or handle the kids during those times. Too often we “say” we will run but then “something” comes up! I found scheduling workouts to be very effective to meeting your goals!
  • If you have a mobile device download one of the well known running apps that exists. Two of my favorites are Map My Fitness by Under Armour and Strava. These apps run with the use of the GPS on your mobile device and can track your runs as well as the times and splits. I know I previously said not to worry about running a certain time, but tracking your own workouts will help you monitor your progress. These apps are free to use and both have premium options to add on. Basic tracking of your workouts is free. Don’t have a mobile device? Pick up an inexpensive stop watch on Amazon and log your runs in a small running diary of sorts.
  • Another very important tip that many people over look is stretching. I know we are pressed for time, but please please please do not by pass your stretching. If you are short on time, shorten your run but get your stretching in. Five minutes of stretching will go a long way especially if you are new to running. Remember, your muscles are new to this do. The last thing you want to do it build up the motivation to start a running plan and then get injured. Here are some key stretches that I do myself before I start a run.

Running Stretches

  • When running, run at a pace where you can hold a conversation. If you are running and you are out of breath and cannot hold a conversation, then you are starting out too fast. I have mentioned to many beginners that the number one thing to focus on at the beginning is your breathing. Never mind your legs or pace or anything else. If you lose your breathing tempo, everything else will follow suit.
  • As hard as it may be, don’t think of running as a bad thing. So many people never see it thru but the feeling at the end of meeting your goals when running is euphoric. For many it is a feeling that not many other daily things can bring.

I will leave the ‘starting out” tips at that for now as I don’t want to bombard beginners too much. As always if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to me!

Experienced runners, have any tips for new runners starting out? Share them in the comments section!

Have a great week everyone!!

Frozen Friday

New York City has some snow in its forecast! I cannot tell you how bummed I am about that. I’ve never talked about snow before but I despise it. Of course when I was younger I loved snow but in my older age, and now that I am a runner, I despise it. Kudos to those that run when there is actual snow on the ground. Not me! I just won’t do it. It’s not that I can’t. I’ve given it a try but I am not a fan of running in wet shoes in general. Add in the icy feel of snow and that makes matters even worse and it also makes my hate for snow even greater! Lurking in the back of my mind is the “home owner” in me that knows I have to get out and clean the snow when it falls. Which reminds me, I haven’t even powered up my snow blower yet for this season (SMH). Cross your fingers for me and pray that it starts if I need to crank it up! Yeah you can say I am just a little bit bitter about the snow!

Finally got on Strava this week!

It is looking like I will have to get my fix of running on the treadmill this weekend. I was hoping to get out and try the Strava app this weekend which I just finally downloaded onto my phone only this week! I had been running with Under Armour’s Map My Fitness app and I believe you can use both simultaneously. Initially I didn’t want to give up on Map My Fitness because I have so many runs logged on there that I didn’t want to lose my history of those runs. For now I will likely continue to use both but I have been told that there is a way I can transfer my runs over from Map My Fitness to Strava. That will be one of my “to-do’s” this weekend. If it works, why did I wait so long to download Strava? My reason for finally download it was because apparently there is a nice running community in NYC on the Strava app. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am a big fan of the running community in general and the more runners I can be around, even if it is on an app, the better! For those of you that use either of these apps, which do you like better and why?

Snow was on the ground for last year’s United NYC Half!

Looking at my race calendar on this site, it looks like there are two pretty big races occurring this weekend, and Central Park will be the location for both! On Saturday, the New York Road Runners will be holding the Ted Corbitt 15k run starting at 8:30 AM. The race honors the late Ted Corbitt (aka “the Father of long distance running) who was the first president of the New York Road Runners Club and the first African American to compete in an Olympic marathon competition. The race is sold out so there should be a great crowd on hand. There will likely be several runners on hand trying to complete their “9+1” requirement for the 2018 NYC Marathon so it does not surprise me that this race is sold out. Sending some positive thoughts to all you running the race and hoping that no snow falls before or during your race!

On Sunday, the good folks over at NYC Runs take over Central Park for the NYC Runs Big Apple Half Marathon. Start time for this race is 9am. This looks like the last half marathon in the NYC area for 2017 so if you really want to get that half marathon PR in before 2017 runs out, this is your last chance! As of this posting, spots are still available for this race so head on over and register! Personal note on NYC Runs, I still haven’t run any of their races. A small goal of mine for 2018 will be to finally give them some of my money!

That is all for this Friday and this week my friends! Enjoy the weekend and keep those positive thoughts in your head to fuel you towards your goals!

CAT