Thursday, February 25, 2016

Goal Check Up!

O Dark Thirty Strength Training

Remember those SMART goals I wrote about a few weeks ago in Women's Running Magazine? Now is the time to check our progress on them. If you haven’t mapped out a plan for achieving the goals, this is a perfect time to do so. 
Getting the hang of it

Some of my own personal goals for the year are to: 
  • Be able to do ONE unassisted pull-up by the end of August. Earlier would be better.
  • Run a ten-minute mile by the end of May. I haven’t been able to run a 10-minute mile ever. In fact, my fastest mile was 10:34, and that was while playing varsity sports in high school.
  • Plank for over a minute. Planks—nuff said.
  • Complete a Tough Mudder event in early May and not look like a bumbling fool—well actually I don’t really mind looking crazy. I just want to finish!
  • Run a 5:30 or better for the NYC Marathon this November.
Read more about how I broke one of these goals down in the SMART WAY in Women's Running Magazine

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Running Summit

I am PSYCHED to be a part of the Connect Run Club's online Running Summit on February 24th at 10:30AM EST.

Just to give you an idea of what VERY COOL people with whom I have the honor of keeping company, here are a few names that you might be familiar with:

John Bingham-Author of The Accidental Athlete and No Need for Speed
Jeff Galloway-Creator of the Galloway walk-run method
Hal Higdon-Olympian and creator of the Hal Higdon training plans
Travis Macy-Author of The Ultra Mindset
Amby Burfoot-Editor at Large at Runner's World Magazine

And many more awesome running personalities will be available to answer your questions in real time. How exciting is that???
If you haven't had a chance to listen my original interview with the Connect Run Club folks, here it is. It holds a special place in my heart since it was the first podcast/radio interview I was asked to do after the Runner's World piece on me was published.

The Running Summit is free during the live interviews and will be available the following 48 hours. Then, if you would like to listen to any/all of the interviews afterwards you can buy an all-access pass HERE.

I hope you will join and submit some interesting questions about running and life for me to answer on Wednesday! Looking forward to hearing from everyone!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Let's Talk Running Shoes

Only some of the shoes that I own. All of the above are mentioned down below.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a woman who reached out to me and told me about her experience going into a running store with the intention of getting a good pair of running shoes so that she could START her love affair with the sport. She hadn't even really begun her running journey yet.

She musters up the confidence to enter the store where she is then ignored. When she finally speaks with an employee and asks for help with finding an appropriate shoe, she is spoken to in a condescending tone and ultimately leaves the store with no shoes and a waning desire to even start her running journey.

Has this ever happened to you?

I have a few of my own stories that are similar--like the time I walked into a general shoe store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and asked to try on some running shoes. This was back in the mid nineties, before zero drop, minimal, Vibram Five Finger, and motion control shoes were even a thing.You either got a pair of ugly cross trainers with jet propulsion things on the bottom or whatever pair of running shoes that happened to be on sale.

I was feeling good after having picked up my first paycheck from my summer apprenticeship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had seen those folks running in the park, around the reservoir and on the bridle paths. I left work excited to buy my first pair of non-hand-me-down Nikes or (shoes that weren't some iteration of LA Gear.)

I walked into the store and went straight to the wall that housed the athletic shoes. An associate came over and asked if I needed help. I nodded and asked if I could try on some running shoes. How many miles are you running? I don't one or two a day?

He snickered.

I wish I could say that I turned around and stomped out of the store, or that I had some witty and excoriating retort to his obvious disdain of my (to him) non-existent mileage. But I didn't. I really needed some running shoes and despite this guy's condescending attitude I was going to by some. I got some blue and white Reeboks that I would use for the next two years, through my sophomore year in college. I was seventeen, just about to start college and at that point I didn't realize that it would be just one of many daily indignities that I would experience as a runner because I didn't fit into that young man's perception of runner.

ANYWAY, I didn't realize this post was going to go there, but it got me thinking about the shit I absolutely will not tolerate these days.

You need some running shoes? Go into a running store and tell the associates you would like to get fitted for an appropriate running shoe for someone who--

  • would like to start a running habit
  • is 10 years into running and would like to try a new style
  • on her fourth marathon
  • training for a triathlon
  • is getting back into running after having a baby
  • wants to get back to health and wellness
  • whatever your reason is--it's valid

You'll tell them you would also like to get your gait analyzed so that you don't inadvertently injure myself.

Hopefully, by YOU framing your store visit specifically, you'll get the service you need and want.
This is not to condone any sales associate's poor behavior as they are in the business of customer service. I DO condone letting them know you mean business, and that you have come to acquire the items you need for your health and wellness.

Here's what should happen when you get fitted:
  • They'll ask you a couple of questions about how many miles you do per week----if it's none yet,  let them know.
  • They also might ask if you run on trails, on the road, or on the treadmill mostly.
  • You'll have to take off your current shoes --(this is where the fun begins.)
  • The associate might get an imprint or print of your foot to determine whether or not you have a low arch, medium arch, or high arch. This will help them figure out what type of shoes to bring out.
  • They'll bring out a few pairs of shoes in a variety of styles--maximal cushion (the ones that look like clown shoes--Hokas, Altras, some Nikes etc), minimal cushion (Merrells, New Balance, etc), ones that have a medium thick sole, or ones that looked like some alien dropped off their latest shoe experiment (Newtons and Skoras)
  • You'll then be asked if you want to also try on a pair of socks (there will either be a variety or whatever the store is trying to upsell.) Then you'll try on a bunch of shoes and then either run on the store treadmill (and get a video of it!), outside the shopping center, or around a small track drawn onto the floor (that's always fun.)

Here's where you have to be completely honest with yourself, asking the following
  1. Are the shoes comfortable?
  2. Is there any place on your foot that is rubbing against anywhere in the shoe?
  3. Are your feet moving around too much? Is there enough space to wiggle your toes?
  4. How do the bottoms of your feet feel? Anything getting sore, like your arches?
  5. Does the insole they're trying to sell you make you feel like you're running a marathon on a Serta Perfect mattress or that old mattress at your grandaunts' house that has one too coils sticking out?
  6. Do the shoes make you feel good?
  7. If you're into looks and fashion--do they match or enhance your own personal style? (I have to say that at the ripe old age of 40, I have finally developed a personal style--but only in running clothes. Other clothes, like work clothes I don't really care about...)
  8. Am I willing to spend upwards of 150 for a good pair of shoes that will last? (Note: If you shop around, you may be able to find an earlier, cheaper version of the shoe that you have just tried on. Good shoes may cost a lot of money. But there is hope on Amazon, Zappos, Running Warehouse, Backcountry, and Sierra Trading Post...)
When I was just restarting my running habit, I had a pair of New Balance something or other that were probably not even running shoes. I suffered from really bad Plantar Fasciitis from a combination of 1.Wearing the wrong shoe 2. Wearing the wrong size (they were a 12 and I wear a size 11, but hey, they were on sale at Nordstrom Rack) 3. Landing on my heel--a habit that I have worked to modify (and the last time I had PF was in 2008)

I would suggest that after you establish what shoe is the right type for you, buy two different pairs so that you can swap them every other day. I get that they are expensive. You are making an investment in yourself by purchasing the right kind of shoe. Trust me.

I hope the short reviews below are helpful to you as you either chose running shoes for the first time, or need a change in your current shoes. Let me know what you think!

Here are some of MY past and current favorites:

Asics Gel Kayano
Personally, I've only worn the men's version of the Gel Kayanos and I have never been disappointed. There is something about them that seem more sturdy--perhaps the construction of the shoe is just, um sturdier. The Kayano will give lots of support and stability for the most flat-footed amongst us. Heavy but cushioned. Great for a first half or full--or a year of 5Ks and 10Ks.
Pearl Izumi M2

Mizuno Wave Inspire
I haven't worn Mizunos since my last Marine Corps Marathon, but I remember them being very comfortable, and quite well suited for a heavier runner like myself. There is support, breathability, and ample cushioning in shoes that don't look and feel like Doc Martens on steroids. I also think they're quite stylish.

Pearl Izumi M2, and Trail M2
These may be by current favorites. I've only been running in these for two weeks, but man oh man do they light my fire. They are light, do not have bells and whistles, are sleek, and supremely comfortable for this big-footed gal. I also love the PI Trail M2s. I wore them for the third 15.5 mile loop of my latest ultra, the Javelina Hundred 100K. My feet were swollen and hurting from having done the first 31 miles in a more minimalist pair of shoes and they were exactly what I needed.

Hoka Stinson, Stinson Trail
Hoka Stinson 3, Skirt Sports skirt, tights,
Khaleesi jacket, Nathan handheld, Swiftwick
socks Merrell buff.
I love the Hoka Stinson. They are max cushion shoes that may take some getting used to, but they are supremely comfortable--that is, unless you have a really wide foot. They run a little narrower than most shoes. If you have a bunion, you may want to reconsider Hokas and maybe go for another shoe that has a wider toebox. I did my first mountain ultra (35 miles on an uphill both ways course) and finished with no foot pain. I was able to walk without a problem (footwise--not leg and other-parts-of-the-body-wise) the day after. I was sold on them after that!

Altra Olympus
So many shoes, so little time...I also am in love with the Altra Olympus. These are shoes that take a period of maybe a couple of weeks to get used to. They are zero drop, meaning that they force you to land on your forefoot/midfoot thereby placing a little more stress on the calf muscles than you are probably used to. These may not be the shoes to start out with, unless
you already land on your mid- or fore-foot.

Altra Olympus 2.0, TNF Capris, Nathan Pack, Swiftwick Socks
Adidas Energy Boost
I bought these on a whim after I realized that I didn't have any road shoes in NYC while visiting my family. I was surprised by the light weight, comfort, and sock-like fit of the shoe. The toe box is simultaneously snug and roomy. The sole offers cushioning but not so much that it hampers your stride. The ride on the concrete sidewalks of Brooklyn felt easy and effortless. I would not use these on a gravel road or trail (unless it is a well groomed one with no branches or rocks) but they are perfect for your urban runs.
Adidas Energy Boost, Under Armour tights,
Adidas tank, Swiftwick Socks, Nathan Vapor Cloud pack

Merrell All Out Charge Trail 
Merrell All Out Charge, Skirt Sports GTD Tights
I was a little skeptical about these shoes when they first arrived in the mail. They looked too small and I thought, well I'm going to have to send these back. But alas! They fit, and comfortably so. The toebox is actually large enough for my Flintstone feet, and I can even wiggle the toes around with no discomfort. I've run trails, dirt roads, and pavement with these and they are also very comfy. The lugs on the bottom don't get in the way of a smooth ride on the road, but they help you maintain an upright position (NOT FALLING) even on highly technical trail. (Full disclosure: I am a Merrell Ambassador. I truly love these shoes.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

If you were a middle schooler....

Last week, I had an opportunity to speak to a wonderful group of middle schoolers at the Latin School of Chicago. I told them a little of my history, plus a story that included a bit about a day that some kids in my middle school program called National Butt Day.

I won't tell you the story now, but it included someone in my grade calling me a fat bitch on a crowded subway train in New York. In short, I told the students this story because I wanted to let them know that as stinging and hurtful as that comment was, I managed to move on from it.

I didn't let it ruin my person-hood or my humanity. I had a pretty solid understanding of who I was by then, and again--although it was painful to have someone call me that--I grew up to be a fairly confident, self-loving and respecting person.

Before I left, however, I posed this question on my public Facebook Page "Fatgirlrunning":

If you were a middle school student, what message on body image would you appreciate the most?

 I have to say that I really enjoyed the multitude of truly awesome messages that people wish they had heard as middle schoolers. I wanted to share some of those responses:

Everyone looks different. It's what makes us special and unique. Embrace your uniqueness!

 Be thankful every day that you have a body that works. You will also look back in 20 years and wish you could tell yourself how beautiful you really were. I know I wish I could. Focus on the beautiful things about yourself.

You are a perfect YOU!

Do what makes you feel good and listen to yourself.

Eat to nourish your body.

Love YOUR's ok to be different.

That the words we say to ourselves are important. Positive self-talk is part of being healthy.

You are beautiful and you have every right to feel that way. Do not ever give away your power!     

That right now your body is going through so many changes it can be overwhelming. But it just means you are transitioning from a child into a young lady that will grow into a wonderful strong woman. Focus in what makes you happy and remember always be kind and uplifting to one another.

Don't judge yourself based on other people's comments about you. People who criticize are often the ones that have the lowest self-image. Compliment others and it will always make you feel good. If you love yourself, you will be a positive role model for someone else. 

Being healthy and beautiful for that matter doesn't mean conforming to one specific body type. 
-Tribe Called Curl