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If Running is Boring, Maybe It’s You.

While there are many good reasons to run with other runners, I would like to look at the benefits of running alone. Now, I have it on good authority from a number of non-runners that running is boring. They may think that, but they don’t know it, because they never tried it.

Just how boring is it to be with you? Aren’t you interesting? Don’t you have any novel thoughts or insights? One of the advantages to running (alone) is being alone with your thoughts. You can think like you run, following an established course, or just let your thoughts roam freely and see where they go.

If you do this running thing long enough you may reach the point where your running is more at ease. You may eventually experience the zen-like state of non-effort combined with non-thought. This can be very therapeutic beyond the act of exercise, much like a meditation for both body and mind. You are now roaming the world like a free spirit, looking for beauty everywhere – and often finding it.

You may come to realize that the same route looks different every day – in subtle ways. You will realize that the world itself isn’t boring – you are. Well,  only if you so choose.

Want to know what’s way more boring than running? Watching TV.

Who wants to watch other people do interesting and exciting things when you could be doing them yourself? I would rather play basketball than watch it, even if I’m not very good at it. Instead of watching other people travelling through Ireland why not go there and experience it for yourself? Not enough time or money? I see. Well, go for a run. It’s a free way to travel – trade in some couch time for an adventure.

While you are enjoying the aspects of an outer world you have never seen, don’t pass up the chance to explore your inner world as well. An entire universe awaits you. Get to know yourself. Many sages throughout history have proposed this to be the essential goal in life.

Just Forget Your Second Wind

Athletes who are competing strenuously in an endurance event have been know to experience something referred to as the second wind. For example, a runner is participating in a 10 kilometer road race. After thirty or forty minutes they seem to have come to the end of their endurance. Their legs are wobbly and there is a feeling of being out of gas. If the runner persists in their effort they may notice, after ten minutes of agony, a resurrgance of energy.

I will not go into all the theories or explanations for the second-wind phenomena, except to explain on my own terms what is the cause, how it can be overcome, and how it has nothing to do with breathing.


The energy your body expends in physical effort comes from glycogen stored in your muscles and liver. At least this is the energy source at the outset – enough for thirty to sixty minutes of strenuous effort and readily available. When an inexperienced or out-of-shape runner goes past this point for the first time the effects will seem strange and awful.

When your glycogen stores run low, your body will switch to an alternate energy source – burning fat. This energy source is not so readily available, and if your body is not used to this switching-over process, it may not happen very quickly either . Hence, the runner experiences a lack of energy for a few, very long minutes, then slowly it comes back. They may have had to walk for a little while, but that second wind eventually did kick in.

As the athlete gets in better shape, and repeats this process of switching from glycogen to fat-burning, the switch becomes less noticeable and more efficient. You no longer need that second-wind and you now know it has nothing to do with breathing or lung capacity.

Dealing With Dogs

If you are a runner, hiker, or biker you will encounter dogs along the way. With a better understanding of dogs and some tactics to deal with them you can finish your workout safely.

Dogs are territorial. If someone approaches their yard they will bark and growl by instinct. It’s important to keep this in mind, they are wired to be aggressive no matter the odds.

Their barking may a response to fear – on their part or yours. There’s no need to scare them any further, do what you can to placate them. Run on the other side of the street or just don’t engage them. But always keep an eye on them.

The signs of an angry dog are:

  • Ears back
  • Tail not wagging
  • Teeth bared

The signs of a happy dog are:

  • Ears out
  • Tail wagging side-to-side
  • No teeth

To befriend a dog, stand still or crouch. Your manner and voice should be non-threatening. Say something soothing. Put out the back of your hand well below their face. Curl your fingers into a fist. Let them smell you.

Here  are some dog situations and what to do in each case.

Dog is tied up or fenced in.  Leave them alone. They can’t hurt you, it is their instinct to bark and growl. Just keep going.

Dog is loose. Keep your eye on them, even after you have gone by. Let them know you see them. Stay calm, don’t look nervous. They can sense it.

Country dogs or wild dogs.  Carry a rock in each hand while you run. One the size of a golf ball is not too heavy, but will hurt. In a pinch you can bluff a dog by picking up an imaginary rock and throwing it.

The dog is attacking. Yell “No”! Keep a foot between their teeth and you. Kick them in the nose or face.

Little yapper attack.  Don’t ignore them. They have sharp little teeth and if they break the skin you get to go get a tetanus booster and have the dog checked for rabies.

Big dog attack.  Don’t run away, face them. Kick them hard in the face or anywhere you can land a hard, painful kick. This works for Dobermans, German Shepherds, Great Danes and Mastiffs. You will seldom have to kick them more than once, if at all.

Wild boars or tigers.  Start looking for the nearest tree.

What You Need to Run in the Cold

It’s important to have a good attitude when running in the cold. Think of it as an adventure or a challenge. Try to have fun – have you ever run in a blinding blizzard? Try 40 below zero – I did. It made me a better runner and a stronger person.

What you will hopefully find is that it’s easy to run in the cold, especially if you have the right gear. Most of this gear is not expensive and you may already have some of it in your closet. So let’s start at the top and work our way down.

Half the heat is pouring out of your head when it’s cold, so headgear is imperative. Just don’t overdo it. A simple stocking hat combined with something to cover your face is more than adequate. A balaclava will combine as both or maybe you have a windmask if you’re into skiing. In a pinch a bandana tied around your neck and pulled up over your nose works great. As you run, your breath will freeze the bandana and it will not only stay up by itself but act as a marvelous windbreak.

For your torso, start with a long or short sleeved undershirt that is dry wicking in nature. In other words, not a cotton t-shirt. A Cool-Max type of shirt works great, or any other shirt that won’t accumulate sweat as you pour on the miles. Avoid thick fleece tops, they will be too warm. A good rule of thumb is you should be cold the first five minutes of the run, the rest of the run should be quite comfortable. If you wear fleece, you will be comfortable at the beginning of the run and way too uncomfortable for the rest of it.

A thin fleece or wool top will go over the shirt. It’s ability to wick moisture through is far more important than it’s warming capabilities. Trust me, when you top this with a nylon windbreaker jacket, staying warm won’t be a problem.

Gloves should also be minimal, windproof, and breathable. Mittens are a little warmer than gloves, all other things being equal. I have some thin glove liners and GoreTex mittens. With the options to wear the one, the other, or both you can be comfortable over a very wide temperature range.

Your legs need the least amount of warming, since they’re doing most of the work and they’re the biggest muscles. Try a pair of tights or thin running pants covered by a pair of nylon windbreaker pants. Again, avoid fleece. In real cold weather wear another pair of shorts over the tights but under the windbreaker.

Your feet are not likely to get cold, but a pair of wool socks are far more comfortable than cotton because of their ability to wick away moisture and still stay warm. Don’t wear socks that are too thick for your shoes or you will lose any insulation and probably screw up your stride as well.

You don’t need special shoes to run in the winter. Maybe get a pair that’s less ventilated and has good traction for snow and ice.

Now that you’re all dressed up, let’s head outside. Before we blast off, however, you may want to adjust your running to the conditions.

First of all, don’t get too hot and sweat like crazy, which is the likeliest scenario if you’re new to winter running. Your first priority should be to sweat as little as possible. You should be a bit cold the first five or ten minutes of your run. From then on you should be comfortable for the duration, even if you run for two hours at five minute pace.

If you get too warm you can make a number of adjustments. Unzip your torso underlayer first, then the jacket, if need be. Maybe put the gloves in your pockets and just wear the liners. Pull down the face mask whenever possible or pull your stocking hat up a bit.

With a little experimenting and patience with the above gear, you should find yourself able to run comfortably from 20 degrees above down to 40 degrees below zero and never mind the wind chill.

You will also want to adjust your running style when the conditions are cold and slippery. First of all, shorten your stride and avoid any snapping action of the hamstrings or calves. Your workouts should be focused on long, slow distance and endurance.

Also watch for slippery stretches and slow down for them. You may need to find new running routes for the winter where you have a minimum of ice, snow, and cars.

Go easy on your muscles. Spend a bit more time (at least ten minutes) warming up before shifting your run into high gear.

And now for the best part – you’re done. Now take a long hot shower or sit in the hot tub for an hour. Be sure and do lots of stretching after you run. Hot pads are not just for old guys, they are quite useful for warming up the big muscles hours after you have finished your run.

Stay flexible, stay warm, stay injury-free.

Why You’re Not Going to the Gym – And How to Fix That

You approach exercise with a certain trepidation and lack of commitment. You can’t seem to get started and there’s just not enough time allotted for a workout once you do make it out the door. There are a million reasons not to even bother, while the one or two reasons why you think you should be exercising are buried somewhere in the back of your mind.

You should realize that laziness is a big factor here. Laziness and fear. Fear of what, I don’t know – pain, I suppose, maybe embarrassment.. You don’t know what to do and there’s a definite vibe I don’t belong here. To a large degree, you just don’t want to be bothered with the whole thing. In like fashion, you don’t assume responsibility for the predicament you are in, where you are overweight and in poor health.

So here’s what you need to do.

  • Realize that you are in poor shape and something needs to be done. Quit kidding yourself. C’mon.
  • Take entire responsibility for being in this predicament. Don’t blame the people who feed you, don’t blame your schedule, don’t blame the needs of your family. It’s no one’s fault but your own.
  • Make up your mind to do something about it. You’re not a wimp or a crybaby – you’re tougher than this. Now you’re going to do something about it and there will be no bailing out.
  • Nothing can stop you now. A commitment has been made. There will be no excuses, dammit. Maybe you will be late for that meeting, the kids might have to eat a little later. Well, the world won’t end. Schedules are going to have to change and be flexible. More importantly, you’re going to have to be flexible and change.
  • You are limited in what you can do, especially when starting out in a new endeavor. The whole trick is to start out with small, but consistent  efforts. It is the consistency that is crucial at this point in your training, not the amount of effort. You are trying to start a new habit and the only way that happens is through repetition. Many repetiions. Try to do your thing twenty times, in the shortest time period possible. If you do something twenty times, it will stick. I guarantee it.
  • Now that you’ve started, get into it. Try to improve your skill level or your strength or your endurance. Spend more time with your new thing. Find more ways to enjoy it. Find some crazy workout music that makes you feel younger. Find other people to tag along with.
  • Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. You’re out there now, you belong there. You’re going to improve, slowly, but surely. Maybe you’re a total, overweight beginner, but that beats anyone sitting on a couch right now.
  • Every sport has it’s own mystique, so it’s time to find it, to experience it. There is a turning point where you will begin to enjoy your sport and look forward to your next outing. This will take  time and commitment, but you have both of those now. It will come.
  • Be proficient at something. It’s the greatest feeling, to be good at something. Do it before life passes you by. And no, it isn’t too late – you’re still alive aren’t you?
  • Enjoy the benefits. Now you have more energy and are sleeping better. Certain foods are no longer appealing and you’re eating better. You have a more positive outlook and feel like a kid again. How the hell did you ever let that go?

These are the voices that should be going on inside your head, especially when you are down on yourself, struggling and confused. Quit fighting yourself and get up.

Have a sincere discussion with yourself. You are both the coach and the athlete. Coach yourself.

Instead of talking yourself out of it, talk yourself into it.