Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Give Yourself the Gift of Strength

Getting gifts for folks is hard. Nobody really wants a talking toaster. "Rye? I love rye! Give me that rye! Nom nom nom. Just kidding. I'm not really eating your bread. Here you are. Toasted to perfection! Please love me."

Something most people do want is to be fit, to be healthy, to be attractive. Unfortunately you can't exactly put that in a box and hand it to them. "This is exactly what I wanted! I was so tired of being fat!"

I mean, you could get them a three month gym membership. But they'd likely flip the card over several times hoping it's actually a three month Netflix membership. Then they'd fake a smile and say, "thanks, I'll totally never use this. Good job throwing away money and making me feel shitty about myself."
"I can't believe we actually used that gym membership."
But, you can give yourself that gift. And you don't even have to wait for the holidays. You can give it to yourself today. You can give it to yourself right now. Sure, it won't give you the kind of instant gratification that a hamburger or a new TV would. But it's a gift you will thank yourself for - for the rest of your life.

But we're all addicted to that instant gratification. Cheap treats. Fast rewards. We want it NOW. We don't want to have to work for it. We don't want to put in all the effort to get something months later. Nobody would buy new pants if they couldn't wear them for six months. "In half a year, I'm going to look awesome!"

That last quote was supposed to be a joke referring to the pants. But it's totally true when it comes to exercise. If you start a new routine, and stick with it, you will look awesome in six months. Sitting right now, reading this, just pretend that six months ago you had started doing something new. right now you would be pretty good at that thing. You would notice a big difference in yourself. If you had started it six months ago, you'd be reaping those rewards and thanking yourself right now.

"Well six minutes ago I ate a bug and I'm still thanking myself."
But it's never too late to start. Unless you're 90 and have to have all your food pureed first, you still have plenty of time. People often have an excuse to wait. "I'll start once I have more free time." "I'll start when it gets nice out." "I'll start when I can afford fancy pink running shoes." "I'll start after I've defeated this tentacled monster from beyond the cosmos."

There's always something. I don't know if these folks actually believe that at some point in the arbitrary future, they will suddenly want to work hard on a daily basis. More likely it's because they don't actually want to spend hours every day sweating and aching, but will pretend like they do. "Yes, I absolutely would love to get up while it's still dark and work out despite my whole body feeling broken. That sounds really lovely. I'll start as soon as I've finished binge watching Orange is the New Black. Also there's all this ice cream I have to finish. But seriously, right after that."

No. It will never happen. If you're not willing to start right now, then you never will. I mean, I still don't "want" to get up at 6am every morning to do deadlifts. I don't "want" to run after work when it's dark and it's raining. I don't "want" to go to the gym on a Saturday some time in between pancakes and beer. But I also don't have any legitimate excuses not to. Any time I make an excuse, I'm always dead honest with myself:

- "I won't do it right now because I'm a lazy piece of shit."

- "I won't do it right now because I'm totally willing to settle for mediocrity."

- "I'd rather stay in bed, even though I'm not actually going to get any more sleep and really I just f@*king suck at life."

The old me was totally OK with sucking at life.
When I put it like that to myself, I just go and do it. What difference does it make? If I don't exercise, I'll just do nothing instead. There's a zero percent chance that I'll do something else meaningful. Actually, there is a difference. The difference is that if I don't get up and exercise, I'll be weaker. Physically weaker. Weaker willed. Weaker in spirit.

I gave myself the gift of being strong. It's a gift that grows better every day, and that I'm increasingly thankful for every day. This is one gift I have no plan on exchanging. And it's one that anybody who wants it can have. Kind of hard to pass up when you think of it that way, eh?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holidays = More Time to Exercise!

For a lot of folks, the holidays are a time to relax and eat a ton of food. I can be compassionate and understanding here. And usually I am. Not this time.

Most people are corpulent slackers.

No matter how much they complain about being busy and tired all the time, they spend a lot of their evenings and weekends on the couch. And they eat whatever the heck they want whenever they want. And for the vast majority of them, it shows (and I used "vast" as a double entendre there).

Don't worry, I used to be corpulent too.

Don't get me wrong. Most of us are totally burned out. Work, family, Fox News, and all the other bullshit in our lives just nukes our energy. But you know what recharges you and makes you feel awesome? Exercise!

I know, most people are thinking, "wait, I'm already exhausted. How in balls am I going to run or go to the gym?" These are the same people who are looking forward to a few days off work so they can sit on the couch, um, more, and eat more food, because it's the holidays and that's what "everyone" does so there's no guilt. Do you know what I'm going to do on the holidays? I'm going to exercise a ton, because I'll have plenty of time and sufficient sleep (for a change).

I'll also eat and rest, but there's plenty of time for that. It doesn't have to be the only thing I do. Considering that I squeeze every spare moment I have during the work week to lift and run, the holidays will feel luxurious. And because I already have a powerful routine of working out every day, it won't be hard to do it during the holiday break. If anything it'll be easier.

And even though I said that pigging out during the holidays is "guilt free", it's not really. A lot of these same sloths will then make a New Year's "resolution" to hit the gym, or the Pilates DVD, or that dusty gazelle in the corner, and to lose that holiday weight. 0% of these people will succeed.

You don't need motivation. You don't need energy. Many people believe they do, which is why they crap out after a couple of weeks into their resolution. It's why most folks don't exercise after work. They think they need motivation or energy or time or whatever. You don't need any of those things. Seriously.

You don't need motivation or energy. Just terror.

If your car breaks, it doesn't matter if you're the president's personal assistant. You will have no problem finding the "time" to go fix your car. If you get a call from the school that your kid has developed purple spots, it doesn't matter if you have a massive project deadline. That kid will be in your car in 15 minutes or less. You're not "motivated" to fix your car. You don't have the "energy" to deal with a sick kid. And you definitely don't have the "time" for either of those things.

And yet, magically, those things get done.

Exercise is like that. It's a thing that has to be done. So it gets done. The end.

The holidays aren't any different for me. There's nothing special about that time of the year. Well, actually, there is. I have more time in which to exercise. That's awesome. I have a baseline amount I exercise normally. 6 days of deadlifts per week. About 50 miles of running per week. Two upper body weight lifting sessions per week. About 20 miles of walking. And karate. Those are things I don't have a choice about doing, like going to work. But during the holidays, I'll have the time, energy, and motivation to do more than just what I "have" to do. Isn't that great?

Schedule today: Walk, lift, break bricks, run

You think I'm insane. Fine. Even fellow runners and lifters often think I'm insane. I'm not broken. I'm not filling a sad empty life with exercise (I have a lot of social engagements I have to juggle with my already full schedule). I'm not going to crack my body in half any second. I used to get injured all the time, when I exercised only sporadically. Now my body is made of steel and granite.

See? Social engagements. Ahem.

People who need a resolution or motivation to work out or eat healthy are going to fail. People who just want to do it are going to fail. People who impulse buy a special exercise program or pretty new sweat pants are going to fail. If exercise is anything less than something you have to do, you won't keep doing it.

That's just how it is. Humans are lazy. You will never want to work out. Your body will never give you extra energy. Your mind won't get suddenly motivated. This may seem defeating. But the fact is, you can start running, lifting, or doing whatever right now. You can just get up and do it. There is literally nothing stopping you except you.

And if you're a maniac like me, you're looking forward to the holiday break because it'll give you even more time in which to beat yourself up. Woo!

"Alright, you've got me psyched up. I'm just gonna go for it!"

Friday, December 11, 2015

Running with a Watch

Some people don't like to wear a watch when they run. They prefer to soar like a wild eagle, unencumbered by bulky technology. They prefer to run by feel, rather than having an obnoxious wrist robot beeping, "you're running slower than a turtle that just had tacos." Tacos make you gassy.

Not me. When I run without my watch, I feel like I'm supposed to enjoy the run for the sake of itself. Like I can just ignore the fact that my legs are about to explode and that my stomach is full of tacos with extra beans. I like having all those stats at my finger tips, telling me exactly how much I do or don't suck.

Here is a thing in big letters to get you excited so you read the rest of this article.

Plus, if I don't run with my watch, how am I supposed to share every single run with the world? I know all of my friends are secretly deeply impressed that I ran 11 miles despite staying up, like, an hour later than usual the night before. "How does that maniac do it?!"

I don't wear a watch throughout the day (see above about wild eagles). But when I hit the pavement, it suddenly becomes a necessity. I'd sooner run without shorts. Although that would be a short-lived run.

"I'm a wild eagle."

In any event, there are a bunch of stats the watch offers. And despite the fact that I didn't advertise it in the title, surprise! This is a list article. Here's some of the data fields you can usually access, and how I personally like to use them.

Time Elapsed

I rarely check the total elapsed time. Sometimes I want to figure out what time it is, and I'll add the elapsed time to my start time to figure it out. I can probably press a button to just SEE what time it is, but I'm too paranoid that I'll screw something up. Of course, I usually forget when I started, other than that it was really cold and I really didn't feel like running.

The only other time I may look at the elapsed time is if I'm running a race and trying to get under a certain time or to set a PR. I'm not going to knock a minute of my last mile, but I may be able to knock off a couple seconds. Also, if I'm running a marathon, it's nice to check the elapsed time at the halfway point to see if I'm on track with my goal time.

But on most of my training runs, I don't look at the elapsed time.


This is another thing I don't look at. Checking out the total distance I've run is usually depressing. It reminds me how little I've run and how much I still have left. I prefer to chunk up my runs into minigoals: one mile, a certain landmark, etc. Looking at my total distance makes me feel like I only have one goal: to finish. And usually that's really far away.

When I look at the time, I at least can see the seconds ticking by and feel like I'm making progress. But with the distance, you can look at your watch, look back up to avoid crashing into a street sign, and not have the distance change at all in that time. It makes you feel like you're running zero miles per hour (which is not that far off for some of my runs...). And if you obsessively look at your watch as often as I do, that distance will usually only creep up by tiny fractions, which also makes it feel like you'll be running for the rest of your life.

So no, I don't like to see my distance.

I don't want to know how far I've run.
Just give me something pretty to look at.


The regular pace data field sucks. I don't know what algorithm the watch uses to figure this out, but it's usually useless. If I actually need the information - for example if I'm doing intervals and need to go a certain speed, or I just crested a hill, or I'm sprinting the last bit of a race - the pace catches up too late to matter. I much prefer the lap pace (below).

Heart Rate

This is my favorite field. I like to see how close my heart is to exploding. Or at the very least, to gauge my level of effort. Sometimes a run will feel harder than what your heart rate indicates, and occasionally (= rarely) easier. But as a general rule this is a good indicator.

When it comes to training runs, I use my heart rate to determine if I'm on track with my training goal. If I'm doing intervals or other speed work, then I usually want it really high. If I'm doing a long run, I'll want it lower, so I don't burn out too soon. It takes some experience to figure out where your heart rate should be for different types of runs, but once you get used to it, it becomes a really useful metric. I'm not going to give you a bunch of math or charts here. Just do a few runs and figure it out intuitively.

For me, where the heart rate data really shines is on race day. I have a pretty solid idea of where my heart rate should be at for any given distance: In the 150 range for marathons, 160 range for half marathons, and around 170 for shorter races. And it's not uncommon for it to hit about 185 for my epic sprint finish. Of course, you have to first to get comfortable with the heart rate data via your training runs. Don't buy a watch and wear it the first time on a race. That will screw you up.

The heart rate is also useful on hills. I try not to slow down on hills (when I'm racing). This naturally causes my heart rate to climb. However, it's at the top that I focus in on it. It's not uncommon to slow down a bit at the top of a hill to catch your breath. I use my heart rate here to make sure that it doesn't drop TOO much at the top. I know that my heart rate will drop in any case, so I try to push through the pain at the top of the hill and maintain my pace as closely as possible. Watching my heart rate insures that I don't go too fast up the hill, or too slow once I'm at the top.

Also, if I zone out due to pretty scenery, or get distracted by a group of runners (perhaps with nice butts) or some other obstacle, I'll glance at my heart rate to make sure that I haven't lost track of my pace. It's easy to get excited and speed up too much, or to zone out and slow down to a more comfortable pace. Racing isn't about comfort! It's about kicking ass! But not too much ass. You don't want to fall on your face after the first mile.

My heart rate says 200 but I'm still alive!


Lap Time

This is another field I like. As with the overall time, I don't want to look at this too often. But this is a good indicator of how far into a given mile I am. I prefer using the lap time over the lap distance because of the reasons I mentioned above under distance. Distance is discouraging, but doing rough math using the lap time abstracts it for me.

This is also an important field if you're doing interval work where you're trying to hit very specific times per interval. You can use the button on your watch to end the lap and start the next lap. At least my watch is cool enough to have this feature.

By default, my watch laps every mile. If I'm running a race, I use the lap time to make sure I'm on track with my pace. For example in a 5K, I may want a fast first mile, a slower "recovery" mile on the second one, and then a lightning fast sprint for the third mile. And with longer races, I want to make sure I'm not running too fast early on. Burning out at the end of a marathon sucks.

And I want to make sure to finish the
marathon so I can have beer after!!

Photo Cr. Pixie

Lap Pace

I like this field too. The lap time above is useful for determining your mile pace towards the end of the mile, but early on, it's hard to tell. But the lap pace will give you a pretty accurate pace after about a tenth of a mile.

If you're
doing speed work, you want to watch this field closely to make sure you're not going too fast or too slow. Just keep in mind that it takes a few seconds for the lap pace to "catch up" to any change your make. So if you're running a little too slow, and then pick up your pace, it's possible to overcompensate and get too fast of a lap time.
It may be nice to get an extra fast lap time, but you'll suffer towards the end of your speed workout.

This is
also a nice field if you're trying to maintain even splits on your long runs. The reason to do this is to prepare you for races, where you need to keep your pace right on the razor edge of fast enough but not too fast.

And sometimes, if I'm out for a casual run, and I see that my pace is, say, 8:04, I'll speed up before the end of the mile just so I can get that sub 8 min/mile split. But that's just my big fat ego. It is very big. And very fat.

Other fields

There are plenty of other data fields to pick from as well, like cadence, calories burned, elevation, etc. I don't care about any of these during the run. I prefer to look at them after the run is done.

I've never been terribly obsessive about my cadence (steps/minute). It's only very recently that I've started paying attention to it (thanks largely to Geoffrey). But even though I want to have a decently high cadence, I don't worry about it enough to want to see it during my run. However, if you're making a big effort to work on your cadence, this may be worth displaying.

Geoffrey is full of knowledge. Knowledge and booze.

Calories burned? What the heck am I going to do with that info during a run? It's not like I'm carrying a bag of french fries and eating one every time I burn 10 calories. The only reason i would do that is for the bewildered expressions from onlookers. If seeing your calorie count go up is motivating for you, then go for it. Otherwise there's much for valuable information to display in the limited space on your watch.

Elevation? "Oh, I've only climbed 400 feet. Let me find another mountain." No. Maybe if you're following the guidance of a training coach, and they're OCD about you hitting an exact elevation on your hill workouts. But even then, just plan out your run ahead of time.

There are other fields I don't even know about. I just looked online and saw that there is a "power" field. I guess maybe if I was a robot I would care. And then of course there are many variations of the fields I mentioned above. Feel free to experiment with your watch to find your favorites.

On my Garmin, I have two screens. The one I use the most has heart rate, lap time, and lap pace. The other screen, which I almost never look at, has overall time, overall distance, and average pace. But this was just the default screen the watch came with. And I took all of 3 seconds to learn how to use my watch. So for now it stays.

Monday, December 7, 2015

You Don't Need Energy

Whatever you make your body do, it will do. It prefers to be lazy. If you let it be lazy, it will absolutely take advantage of that. And it will thank you! Feed it ice cream and your body will f^&king love you.

However, the more you do, the more you will find yourself capable of doing. You do not need energy. You only need will.

You only need will.

Your body is amazing. It is powerful. It is designed so that in a pinch, you can outrun a dinosaur. You can lift up a boulder. You can punch a sabertooth tiger in the face. But why wait for a life-threatening emergency to test your limits? You can punch through those limits every single day.

You have to convince your body every day that it needs to go to its max and beyond. You have to trick it. Because there's no way it's going to say, "oh hey, by the way, I can totally run marathons and bench press small cars." No. Your body is going to say, "oh, couch? Yes. I love the couch. Couch is the best."

"Couch is the best."

You can't wait for your body to tell you that it's OK to run. Or that it's OK to lift. Or that it's OK to destroy it with brutally hard work. It will never tell you that's OK. You have to tell your body what you want it to do. You have to decide. And then your body will say, "well, I don't see a sabertooth tiger anywhere, but I trust you."

I discover this every day when I run. I discover this every day when I do my deadlift challenge. I'm exhausted. I haven't gotten enough sleep. My body is complaining - loudly - that it just wants to chill out. But I refuse to give in. And when I start exercising, my body gives me the strength. That strength is there, it's always there. But if you never use it, you won't ever know that it's there.

All that it takes is a decision. Decide what you want to do. Don't worry about whether your body can or can't handle it. It can. It so can. But if you honestly don't believe that your body is capable of much more than you assume, you will never know. It will never feel that you can step out the door and run for hours. It will never feel that you can step up to the weights and make them airborne. It will never feel like you can conquer any and all of life's challenges.

You have to force your body to do what it's forced to do. It sucks but that's the truth. Whatever you want to accomplish, you have to dive into the deepest end and go for it. You can't dip your toe in. You can't wade into the shallow end and see how it feels. You just have to dive in head first. It's only at that point your body says, "holy shit! We're going to die if I don't do this! OK here we go!"

You're dying a little bit every day. But it takes a LOT to actually kill you. And the weird thing is, by pushing yourself where your body thinks you might die, it makes you more alive. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. It's the only way you get to experience life to the maximum. It's the only way to make yourself strong. Otherwise you will slowly and quietly die. That's a waste.

Because on that last day your body will say, "hey, why didn't you do all that stuff you wanted to do?"

"I didn't think I could," you'll reply.

"Oh, well, you totally could have. I would've been fine."

"Why didn't you tell me that?"

"Because I'm an asshole."

"Ignore this blog. Your body isn't capable of shit."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

8 Running Routes: Pros and Cons

A lot of runners will tell you that you enter a sort of meditative state when you run for a long time. This is true..... sometimes.

Sometimes, a run is just BORING.

You spend the whole time dreaming about how much food you will eat when you get home. On Saturday I ran 8 miles. The whole time I was fantasizing about the Grape Nuts I was going to eat afterwards. Grape Nuts! I kept thinking, "I'll slice up some bananas in there. Oh, and raisins! And chocolate chips! What else can I put in this cereal? Do I even need the cereal part?"

However, it is possible to make runs more fun and engaging. One way to do this is to change your route. Below are eight different types of runs that will hopefully keep you from going insane and day dreaming about dry cereal.

1. Out and Back

An Out and Back run is one where you run half the distance, and then run back the same way. Pretty simple, huh?

  • For me personally, I mentally only have to run half the distance. For example if I'm planning an 8 mile run, I tell myself that I only have to run 4 miles. Then once I hit 4 miles, I have no choice but to turn around and run back. Ha, brain! I tricked you! Seriously though, this works.
  • Mapping out the run is really simple. In fact, you can just go outside and start running in any direction, and then turn around when you hit half the distance. I'm lazy, so this appeals to me.
  • You can more easily adjust for how hilly you want the run, since you're only planning for half the distance. And if you run UP a big hill, you get to run back down on your way back. And you can even yell "wooo" the whole way down. This entertains passing drivers. Or scares them. I'm not sure which.
  • For the second half of the run, your brain knows you're running towards home. This often makes you run faster. No really. 
  • Among all the runs, this one will get you the farthest from your starting point. This is a problem if you bonk and can't run back, especially if you didn't bring your phone. I often don't carry my phone with me, because I'm stupid. Every time I hit the halfway point of my out-and-back, I always think, "ok, here comes the broken leg."
  • There's less change in scenery. You're going to pass by all the same spots twice. So this can make things staid. "Oh look, there's that grocery store again. And there's that homeless guy out front, staring at me forlornly." The way to get around this is to be totally oblivious to your surroundings, like I usually am. No, this is not safe.
  • Counter to the last pro above, for the FIRST half of this run, you're running AWAY from home, and away from tortilla chips and salsa. This makes your brain sad. Oh so sad.
Guess I better get used to this view.

2. Loop

This is a run that starts and ends at your house. It may not look like a perfect loop. More likely it'll look like a malformed eggplant, or a can opener that doesn't open cans.


  • You're not usually too far from your starting point, so if you get hurt or tired, you can cut the run short. Like a wuss.
  • Assuming you planned the run out right, you don't have to take any detours or double back. You just follow the loop, and when you get home, you're done! Being done is the best.
  • If you're running counterclockwise, you can run against traffic the whole time, and avoid having to cross as many streets. Yay safety! Do people even use clocks anymore? Do folks still know what "counterclockwise" means?


  • It may not always be possible to plan a route of a specific distance that fits into a neat loop. If you're OK with the distance being imprecise, this is fine. I planned on doing 6 or 7 miles on Monday and ended up doing 8. Oops!
  • There are only so many loops you can do around your house before you run out. So they can get repetitive, unless you mix them up with the other routes on this list.
You ran without me, so I found a way to keep myself busy.

3. Weaving

This means running back and forth on a bunch of streets. You may cross a lot of the same streets, or even run the same street more than once. This run will often look like a blocky zig-zag on your map, or perhaps like a deranged toddler took a crayon to your wall.

  • This run usually covers a small area. This means you can often stay close to home, and more easily avoid high traffic areas or hills (if you desire). Also, you get to pretend you're stalking someone's house. If that's fun for you. Ahem.
  • You can easily add some weaving to the beginning or end of any other style of run to add some distance.
  • This is a great run for speed workouts. You run fast and just turn when you have to, staying in a small area and avoiding traffic. You can even plan ahead so that the blocks you run roughly correspond to the distance of your intervals (if you're doing interval training).
  • I'm sure you're very familiar with your neighborhood, and running up and down those streets is not terribly interesting. And you inevitably cringe when you approach that one house with the pitbull on steroids. I love pitbulls, but seriously: Stop giving them drugs!
  • Even though it feels fast running down a short block, when you look at your watch, you realize you've only covered a third of a mile. This means a lot of weaving. On the plus side, you don't notice this much on speed workouts, as you're much more focused on your pace.
  •  I mentioned under the pros that you can add this to another run (say a loop) to add distance. However, after having already run 8 miles and being so close to home, it can be really tough to turn down some random street just to add mileage. Yuck! If you know your loop isn't long enough, plan ahead and add the weaving in the beginning.
Maybe I should've paid more attention to the turns I took.
Photo Cr. CG Photography

4. Trail

Technically, the runs above could be road or trail. But I mention this here separately in case you're primarily a road runner. Running trails is quite different than running on roads, and is an easy way to add variety to your week.


  • Trails usually are much prettier than roads, with lots of turns and hills and what not. This keeps you quite engaged the whole time, making the run feel much shorter and more fun. Just don't run in to the waterfall.
  • You're often alone on trails, with no traffic or obnoxious dogs or other people. This gives you plenty of time to relax, think about things, or just enjoy your surroundings. You can even talk to yourself without anyone else knowing what a lunatic you are.
  • A trail can often be easier on the feet, if it's mostly grass, earth, or pine needles. Although if it has a lot of turns or hills, you risk injury in other ways.


  • Trails can often be "technical", meaning that they have a lot of turns, hills, and obstacles. This makes the chance of injury much higher, especially if there are wet leaves or snow or something else. Run carefully! At least calling a trail "technical" makes you sound, like, really athletic.
  • Related to the point above, running on a trail is slower than running on a road. You won't notice that it's slower, because it's more engaging, but when you look at your pace at the end, you may be disappointed. Don't look to set any records here!
  • If you do get injured - and it's more likely on a trail than on a road - finding help is a lot harder. You may find yourself limping or dragging your broken body a few miles before you hit civilization. Try not to get eaten by a bear!
If you decide to run on a trail, be careful, and - as Scar would say - be prepared!

OK, maybe this is a bit too technical.

5. Track

A track workout is just that: Running on a track. The ones nearest you are usually school tracks, so make sure to find out first when they're available to the public.


  • Zero mapping or planning ahead of time. You show up, run your laps, hit your distance, and go home. Home to sweet sweet whiskey.
  • Ideal for speed workouts. Tracks make it super easy to do intervals or other speed work. Even if you're not using a watch, you can just run two laps to hit an 800K. Or run a million laps and hit 250,000 miles. So easy!
  • Springy surface makes you faster and reduces injury. Always a nice benefit. Just watch out for that one stupid bench that always seems to get left out.

  • Literally zero change in scenery. Boring city. Unless you're doing speed work or something else that engages you the whole time, a track workout can be an epic snooze-fest.
  • You usually have to drive to a track. This takes some extra time and scheduling. With a road run, you can literally step out of your house and be running, even if you don't have much time to spare.
  • Getting kicked out by the football team. Happens. You sneak in, see that nobody's using it, and then start running. 20 minutes later, 8 minivans of kids and coaches show up and start hurling balls at you. Eep!
Just this. A lot.

6. Destination

A destination run involves driving to an interesting location and running there. This could be when you're already driving somewhere for vacation or some other reason. Or it could be a drive to the state forest half an hour away.


  • You get to run in a brand new place for the first time ever. It stays interesting the whole time. "I've never seen that particular pine cone! Wow!" This is pretty much the only pro. However, it's a big one, and makes for a really fun run, especially if you're lucky enough to have a beach or some other beautiful location within driving distance of you. No, Walmart is not a "destination".

  • You have to drive to get there. Duh. But if you already have to drive somewhere (or fly!), then you may as well go for as many runs as you can in a new place!
  • Planning for a specific distance or type of run (eg. tempo) can be challenging. You may end up taking a lot of random turns and getting lost, or staring at the map on your phone while you run (which is dangerous). Take a look at a map ahead of time, and be OK with not hitting your exact goal. Better yet, be OK with getting lost and running a few extra miles. Worst case you can turn around and go back the way you came.
  • You often can't call a friend to pick you if you get lost or hurt. Although you can still call a taxi if you need to. Of course the easy solution is travel with a friend or loved one! Assuming you have friends, you weirdo.

Ultimately all destinations lead to this.

7. Race

This is why you train! A race is typically a destination run, unless it's local. But in any case it will usually be different than the training runs you're used to.

  • It's a race!! Do I really need to go into the list of reasons why this is awesome? Races are super fun, you get to run with a ton of other people, and you'll run faster than pretty much any other time that you run.
  • If you fall down, there's a ton of people who can help you immediately. This is the only time you don't have to worry about getting stuck alone.
  • Seriously, races are super fun. Even if you're one of those solitary runners who's like, "I just do it for me, man. Screw races," or you think you're too slow to race, do it anyway! They can help keep you motivated to improve.

  • You have to get up stupidly early.
  • You have to pack all your shit and make sure not to forget anything.
  • You have to take a lot of poops.
  • You get really nervous right beforehand.
  • More pooping.
Seriously though, the "cons" just make it more fun. Doooo it. Here's the only real con to racing:
  • They smash your wallet. I love racing, but it's expensive. Plan ahead and make sure to budget carefully. But hey, free shirts!
Seriously though, you can't forget anything.

8. Treadmill

Treadmills suck.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

You Don't Need Motivation

Getting up every morning at 6am to do deadlifts never becomes easy. Running 8 miles after a long day of work every day is not super great. Going to the gym on the weekend when all you want to do is rest after a long week is gross.

But I still do all those things. Every day, every week, every month. And I plan to continue doing them until I die.

Oh sure, you get an endorphin rush when you lift or run. You get to forget about the world for a while. You get to feel superhuman. Those are awesome feelings. But that only happens after the first few sets, or the first few miles. When you're standing there, in the cold, in the dark, eyes drooping, body aching, it's hard to think about how good it WILL feel. All you want to do is go back to bed, or lounge on the couch with a beer and TV.

"What the heck? Where are the endorphins?"

I know, I feel it every time before I exercise.

I can't hang around and wait for motivation to strike. Because it never does. Motivation is what you get after you've spent six months on the couch with beer and TV, and you see an ad on TV for the local gym. That lasts for maybe two weeks. Motivation is what you get when you see how easy it is to create a site on blogger. That doesn't last long either. Motivation happens on that perfect Spring day. That lasts until it gets too hot.

Motivation is good for doing occasional big things. I live in a pig sty, but I sometimes get motivated to clean my disgusting room. I slack off at work as much as the next guy, but I get motivated by big interesting projects. But if there's something you want to start doing and - more importantly - to keep doing, you can't depend on motivation. It bails on you when things get tough.

"Eventually I'll get the motivation to get up. Just not now."

This is when routine swoops in and saves your butt. Routine may not sound heroic, but trust me, it's awesome. Routine is the reason you haven't been fired from your job yet. Routine is the reason your kids are still alive (and you for that matter). Routine is the reason you don't randomly run out of gas on the highway. Routine is something you do without having to think about it.

Thinking sucks. Thinking gets you into trouble.

If at any point I actually stopped to think about why I do everything I do, I'd probably say to myself, "well I don't need ripped abs, and I was plenty happy before without them." If I stopped to think I would say, "man, sleeping in is really great, and missing one day of exercise won't make a difference in the long run." If I stopped to think, I would say, "I could relax, eat ice cream, binge watch my favorite shows with a glass of wine, and just enjoy the heck out of all the nice things in life."

Do you see where thinking can get me in trouble? Doubt, insecurity, second-guessing, fear, and all those other stupid feelings come from thinking. I think at work. I think when I write. I think when I take photos. But when it comes to exercise, I just GO. I just DO. The only thought is to decide exactly when I should put on the pot of coffee.

"I just go go go!"

At some point I decided that I wanted to be strong. I decided that I wanted to be fit. I decided that I wanted to be better than I was. I made those decisions for good reasons. I don't need to go back and reevaluate them. I don't need to doubt them. I just have to act on them, every day. Every. Single. Day. Without thinking about them. Without requiring motivation. But going purely on routine. I did deadlifts yesterday morning. I did deadlifts the morning before. And the morning before that.

Ironically (and I'm sure I'm using that word wrong), I didn't do deadlifts this morning like I usually would. But that's because I'm running a 5K tomorrow and I really want to get under 20 minutes. That was a logical decision. It wasn't because I'm lazy. Otherwise I haven't missed a single day of deadlifts in 42 days. And tomorrow, when I kill that race, I will see WHY I work so hard. It will be a huge reward for all of my persistence. And a reminder as to why I do it.

The hardest part is getting into a routine in the first place. It can take a couple weeks or even a month to form a new habit. That's why deciding to lift once a week isn't enough. Running only when it's nice out, or you have time to spare, doesn't cut it. Picking up a new hobby or project without a plan for when you'll practice it is a guarantee of failure. Folks who are successful at starting their own business are successful because their business is numero uno and nothing will get in the way of their success. Anything you want to start doing, if you feel it's valuable to you and worth your time and energy, you have to treat the same way. Otherwise don't even bother.

If you KIND of want to get into shape, you'll fail. If you think it would be "nice", you'll fail. If you don't have a solid plan for carrying it through, you'll fail. If it doesn't because a huge and super important part of your life, you'll fail. I don't care if you just want to pick up juggling. If you don't plan on juggling every single day, then don't even waste the time doing it on the first day. Seriously, don't.

"Wait, so now you're telling me not to bother?"

Think about the thing you want to do. Is it something that's important enough to you that you're willing to dedicate a portion of your life to it every single day? If the answer is no, then throw it away. Clearly you don't want it badly enough. It would just be a waste of your time and energy, and would leave you feeling bad about your failure. That accomplishes nothing. I want to feel good about myself. I want to be successful. I only pick things that are super important to me, and I treat them as such. I don't need motivation. I don't need to think. I just start doing it, and keep doing it, until I die.

Got it?

Friday, November 13, 2015

You Do Too Much

Sometimes when I tell a friend that I'm sore, or tired, or that 85% of my body hurts, they tell me, "maybe you exercise too much." Or they say, "you should exercise less." Or even possibly, "you're insane, I'm surprised you're still alive!"

I know I'm insane.

And I get that they're just trying to be helpful. To them, I am doing too much. In the context of their lives, running 40-50 miles a week, doing deadlifts 6 days a week, doing upper body workouts twice a week, walking 20 miles a week, teaching karate, and doing all the other shit I do is about 100 times too much shit. But I don't plan on slowing down.

If I complained about work, they wouldn't say, "maybe you should work less." I mean, I wish that was an option. To tell my boss I just don't "feel" like coming in, and eating ice cream all day instead. If a friend complained about their kids, I wouldn't tell them, "maybe you should drop a couple of them off at the pet rescue." I mean, I might say that, because I'm an asshole. But it would be, um, funny?

It's because - much like going to work or keeping the kids alive - exercising isn't a choice for me. It's something I have to do. It can't be a choice. Because if it was, I could "choose" not to do it. As soon as working out twice a day becomes something I can do or not do, it becomes a question of motivation. Do I want to get up before dawn to pick up 400 pounds? No, of course not. But I have to. And that's just how simple it is. It doesn't matter how lazy I am.

Laziness is seriously great though. Give it a shot.

So telling me I should do less isn't helpful. If I say I'm tired, I'm just making conversation. You can say, "that sucks." Or even just, "uhuh." That would be totally fine.

I usually try not to talk about running or lifting or kilt-wearing. But they're pretty big parts of my life, and occasionally they'll pop out of my mouth. I mean, not physically. It would be weird if I opened my mouth and a kilt fell out. "How do you breath?!" You'd say. Good question.

But with people I trust and talk to often, they know what I've got going on. Eventually we get tired of talking about trucks or puppies or the inevitable zombie apocalypse. They'll say, "speaking of the walking dead, what have you been up to lately?" Sometimes I'll say, "oh nothing, I'm a lazy douche." But sometimes I'll say, "I ran 8 miles in the dark while it was raining." And it's as if I'd just said, "I went into a room full of rabid chipmunks just for shits." It's just as crazy.

At least I was well prepared for those chipmunks.
Photo Cr. Marc Ryan

I try to motivate folks to improve themselves. And if I had lost just a couple of pounds, or only ran a couple times a week, they might think, hey, that's not too bad. Maybe I'll try that! But when they look at me and I portray this image that if you exercise, you have to give up your whole life for it, it's probably an anti-motivator. Which kind of sucks.

I try not to give unsolicited advice, because it usually pisses people off. So mostly I try to set an example. But I'm a pretty manic example. I can't wear a t-shirt that says, "do 10% of what I do, and that'll be plenty!" I mean, I could, but I think it would just make me look like a bigger asshole. Like wearing a shirt that says, "I'm so awesome; look at how awesome I am."

In any case, if you're reading this, anything you do beyond what you're currently doing is great. You don't have to go from running 5 miles to 50 miles. Going from 5 miles to 6 miles is fantastic. And honestly, that's how I got to where I am. I didn't suddenly wake up, see the face of the Great Old Ones, and have my mind snap. No. I was a fat lazy schlub who would pick up a canister of potato crisps and eat the whole thing on my drive home. And it was amazing.

It's taken me a long time to get to where I am, and a lot of incremental steps. I still look at potato chips and drool. I'm not superhuman. But if you haven't seen the entire course of my journey, you'd probably think that I was some kind of pain-loving lunatic.

Nope, I'm fine. I'm a pain-loving lunatic.
Photo Cr. Frank Romero

I am, but only because I trained myself to be. So if you want to get stronger, faster, or leaner, just start. Start anywhere. Just start. And build up from there. Make yourself awesome. And if I say, "yeah, my lower back feels like a truck ran over me," just reply, "uhuh."

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lose Weight and Keep it Off for Two Years

Today I got a badge from Lose It! for having logged my meals every day for 104 weeks, or 2 years exactly. I was about 218 pounds before I started. This morning I was 174 pounds. The lowest I've ever gotten is 168 pounds.

Lose It! is a cheat code for life.

As far as I'm concerned, it magically makes you lose weight. Oh sure, there's some effort in there somewhere. But really, it's never been a struggle for me. Whenever I need to shed a few pounds, I just set the app to lose weight, and magically I lose weight. Currently I'm maintaining my weight, and even trying to put a little on for my 80 Day Deadlift Challenge. But after that challenge, if I feel a bit heavy, I'll dump a couple pounds. I do love those ripped abs!

I'm a math nerd, so calorie counting appeals to me. It's like a game. I realize not everyone's brain works the same as my crazy mind. So it's probably not for all folks. But despite that, hopefully some of the things I learned will be of benefit to you.

Measuring spoons and cups are your friends. Early on you want to measure everything you can. Over time though, you will get an intuition for how many calories something has. Anything that has a barcode, scan it! Anything that comes in a package is easy to enter into the app.  Just try not to do it while driving. One because it's dangerous, I suppose. But also your phone just moves around too much and it's pretty much impossible. But the fact that I know that just goes to show how obsessive I am about entering my calories as soon as I eat.

Restaurant meals, and anything you cook for yourself, are probably the hardest to enter. This mostly takes practice. Sometimes it's easiest to just enter the individual ingredients, if you know them. Many chain restaurants will have their foods right in the App. Otherwise you will just have to give it the best shot you can. If you're off by a little bit, it's fine. It all averages out in the end.

However, the toughest part is being totally honest. It can be tempting to guess low, so that you can eat a bit more. But this totally defeats the point. Sometimes you WILL go over budget. But that's the beauty of the app, you can just eat less the next day. And sometimes you eat under your budget, and can pig out later in the week. Awesome!

Just line them up. I have the calories to spare.

But one of the greatest benefits of the app, I've found, is that it really motivates me to exercise. Running for the sake of running is hard. But when I get to enter that run and see how many more calories I have available, it's super great! You get rewarded every single time you work out. If I know I'm going to have a big dinner with friends, I just make sure to run first, and pow, I'm set for the night. Or I can run 10 miles and then have a big greasy lunch, with french fries, beer, and just all of the bad things.

And that's something else. You don't have to change what you eat if you don't want to. You can eat pizza and ice cream and french fries and still lose weight, as long as you're within your budget. Of course, eating healthy is smart. And you'll find that a big salad will fill you up with far fewer calories. But it's your choice if you want to eat healthy or be, just, the biggest pig. In general though, using the app every day makes you much more aware of what you're putting in your body. Even if I snack on a handful of grapes, or a piece of candy, I'll throw that in there. Nothing is free.

Diets are bullshit. The reason diets work is because they restrict what you eat. There's nothing magical about kale, or protein, or smoothies, or protein kale smoothies. Anybody who tells you, "eat this and weight will fall off you... literally fall off you in disgusting slimy globs," is lying. Especially if they say that second half. But in any case, there's no "super" foods. Our bodies have been evolving for millenia to make use of anything and everything you put in them. Some folks eat nothing except seal meat and ice. Some folks get by and just root vegetables and grasshoppers. Whatever. Our bodies are like, "gimme gimme gimme, I don't care."

Feed us anything! We don't care!

Of course, if you're on a diet and it's working for you, then great! But if your diet says, "no bread", and you freaking love bread, it's going to be hard to keep at it. A diet is pointless if you only do it for a couple months. Which is what usually happens. The vast majority of folks who go on diets give up and gain all their weight back. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to change your lifestyle. Permanently.

Lose It! is finally what did it for me. I discovered it at exactly the moment when I realized that I had suddenly become fat. Of course, it wasn't actually sudden, but it sure felt like it. Our brains are great at deceiving us. You have to be brutally honest with yourself, both about where you are and where you want to go. If I ever quit, I would die. I love the results though. They're powerfully motivating.

I eat what I want, and have the comfort of knowing exactly when to stop. I exercise a lot, and have the joy of getting to eat even more afterwards. And I don't have to be paranoid about the weight "creeping" back on like the sneaky bastard that it is. I weigh myself every single morning. I look at a cool line graph every single morning. I know exactly where I am. My brain can't lie to me anymore. It might say, "c'mon, it's just one cheesecake, just eat it you wimp." And I'll point at my app and say, "no." I don't do this out loud. Pointing at your phone and saying "no" is weird to the people around you. You get my point though.

I'm not making any money talking about this app on my blog. I mean, I wish I was. And if some other company came out with an app called Really Lose It! and gave me money to pretend to use it and pretend that I lost 100 pounds on it, I totally would. I would photoshop a before pic of me that's like 500 pounds. And then say I lost all that weight in a week. I would lie to you for profit. But that's never going to happen. So you can trust that everything I write is bullshit free! Broke people are honest people!