Archive | September, 2011

5 Ways to Bid Good-Bye to Boring Runs

19 Sep

There are two reactions I always get when someone finds out that I’m a runner.

Reaction 1: “I could never do that.” (Not true, btw; everyone can do this!)

Reaction 2: “Running is so boring. How do you stay entertained?”

Well, let me tell you.

Back in the day, as a cross country runner in high school, we were minimalists when it came to training. You might wear a running watch to keep your time, but other than that, we didn’t rely on Camelpacks for water (and yes, I grew up running every day at 3 p.m. August-November in 100+ degree heat on Arizona canals) or music from iPods. Our running soundtrack included the sounds of our own breath and the crunching of gravel.

College came and I no longer had my training crew. Off on my own, I decided to give music a whirl.

It was amazing what it did for my running.

In the times that I started to drag, a fun song would come on and suddenly I was ready to run a few more miles. I felt more relaxed and less inclined to think about the things in my life that tended to stress me out and drain me (and also derail my run. Running is, after all, 90% mental, right?)

So, what’s the best way to incorporate music into your run? Here are a few fun ideas to get you going:

1. Tailor Your Running Mix. We all know about play lists, especially if we’re i-Whatever fans. Sit down and have some fun by putting together an eclectic mix of your favorite, upbeat songs. Try to keep them at a moderate tempo unless you’re going aiming to rival Speedy Gonzalez.

2. Play the Music Game. While out for a run, use music to add small speed intervals. When an energizing song comes on that perks you up, go with it. Kick up your speed a notch, look for a landmark in front of you (a sign, rock, etc) and run to that point and then revert back to your tempo speed once you reach it.

3. Switch it Up. Eventually we all get bored with the mix of songs we have on our i-Whatevers. Find another running friend or music enthusiast and ask them to put together their favorite mix of songs on a CD for you. Upload it to your i-Whatev and enjoy a fresh hodgepodge to change up your running soundtrack. (I once did this with a friend before a marathon and every mile was a new surprise!)

4. Get into Gear. I’m not a techie and stick with the basics (as you’ve likely noted by the picture above). If you have a bulkier i-Whatever or smarty-pants phone, get a special armband or other holder to keep your music player in line. Be forewarned: Do not add an armband to your routine right before a race or you will likely experience chafe-city, and believe me, it’s not fun.

5. Keep it Safe. If you choose to add music, always keep it to a background level. Not only will your ears thank you later on in life, but you’ll also be able to remain alert. You should still be able to hear small sounds behind you, cars nearby, etc. If you ever find yourself “surprised” by a person or car, odds are good that you need to adjust your volume. Ladies: if you run with music when it’s dark out, take an ear bud out so you can be extra alert.

We all have our preferences when it comes to running. Sometimes we need to take a break from distractions and leave our i-Whatevers at home. Other times, it’s a great thing to incorporate music as a fun distraction to liven up and re-energize your running routine. So jump online and find that old Madonna song or download the latest poppy tune. Your next run might be your best yet!

My Affair

7 Sep

Credit: YogaFuture.com

I’ll admit it: I’m having an affair.

No, definitely not the extramarital kind.

If you know me, you know that running has always been there for me. Me and running, well, we’re just like peas and carrots. Pork chops and applesauce. Peanut butter and jelly. But, I have to admit, I just needed a break…and I craved a little adventure.

Enter hot yoga.

Last year around this time, I tried out bikram yoga for the first time and discovered a whole new world. Now, for runners, this seems completely out of our typical “zone.” I mean, we pound our bodies hard and we might stretch our muscles a bit, but if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s maybe a few minutes before and after a good run, if that.

With its deep-breathing techniques, muscle-isolating stretching and toning exercises and plenty of time to simply quiet the mind, I’d argue that yoga (bikram, hot or any other form) is the PERFECT companion to running.

My experience led me to Hot Yoga Ahwatukee where a good friend of mine teaches hot yoga. So what’s hot yoga like? Here’s just a quick snapshot of my experience:

5:15 a.m. I arrive at the studio, stow my flip flops and personal belongings in the locker room and wander into the 105-degree heated room. I try to position my bright pink mat under a fan. Cooler maybe?

5:30 a.m. sharp. My friend quietly enters the room and invites the 15 or so of us to stand in mountain pose at the top of our mat, encouraging us to relax and stare at ourselves in the mirror, correct anything and set our “intention” for our practice. Mine? Stick through it and stay in the moment.

Our first few minutes are devoted to simply breathing in deeply through our nose for several counts and then releasing that breath through our mouths, squeezing every bit out that we can. I’m amazed at how it impacts my breathing, which has honestly always been one of the most challenging parts of running. (As weird as that sounds.)

5:45 a.m. – 6:45 a.m.

We do flow yoga poses that I can’t even begin to get into (I am, after all, an amateur), but I notice the deep breathing through the nose, the bend, twist and stretch loosen my always-tight IT band and hamstring. Bingo–running benefit!

After 75 minutes of class, about 32 ounces of sweat and one water bottle later, class is over and I feel relaxed–my shoulders aren’t trying to stay near my ears; my steps feel even and I feel strong. Perfect way to start my day.

Honestly, if I had all the money in the world, the practice of hot yoga would ALWAYS be part of my running routine. Unfortunately, this affair is a little more costly than my wallet can bear, unless another Groupon decides to surface. :)

So, whether you’re a runner, an exercise fiend or sports nut of any kind, I highly recommend trying out yoga, if not to relax your mind and bring extra peace, but to release some of the tightness we tend to build up in our hips, legs and other major muscle groups.

Running, I promise I’ll get back to you in full force soon. My Groupon for my yoga affair ends later this week.

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