Monday, January 31, 2011

Intelligence is Bliss

Found out from my sister that my lives-at-his-mom’s-but-is-also-going-to-college-so-go-easy-on-him nephew has a girlfriend. Serious girlfriend. A whole 2 months serious. So serious that she spends more time at my sister’s house than my nephew does.

She’s 19, tiny, very sweet, well-pierced, more than a little tattooed, and very good for the boy. She’s also in the National Guard and headed to Iraq in a week.

My sister’s taking the happy couple out for dinner before the pierced one ships out. Seeing as how she’s the one going to a sand-blown baking-hot corner of hell, she gets to pick the restaurant.

Her favorite restaurant is Olive Garden.

Did that make you chuckle a little? Me too. “Silly girl...”, I thought.

In the past year I’ve had the pleasure of dining in some of the best restaurants in the country. I savor every second of every meal... the first smell, the first bite, the textures, the complexity, the genius of a well-crafted recipe. I’ve had food that's so good, it almost makes me cry. I’ve also had checks at the end of those meals that almost make me pass out. Totally worth it.

I’ve had wines that taste like what heaven would taste like if it existed. And was made of wine. I can close my eyes and feel the luxurious, almost chewy Kuleto Danielli cabernet, like it’s still covering the roof of my mouth like a very tasty coat of paint. I remember the feeling of awe when I first tasted Stag’s Leap Cask 23, never thinking something so delicious, and lovely, and perfectly drinkable could come from a glass.

I loved these wines so much that now I get wines delivered to me from these vineyards, a few times a year, through ridiculously complex measures, and for an equally ridiculous price. When the charge hits, I cringe. Yet when the box arrives, I scurry for a knife, as eager to open it as any Christmas present. More, actually. I don't care for Christmas, much. These great wines have driven me to hunt for more wines, wines that are also great, for wholly different reasons, but expensive in the usual way.

I remember when I thought Corona was a great beer. That was before I took the leap, and some recommendations from friends like BiHo, Dafforn, and Marty, and tried some craft beers. Ok, a lot of craft beers. Who knew that what most people call beer is actually carbonated clydesdale urine. You didn't think they kept those horses around just for the parades and Super Bowl commercials, did you?

Knowing what pleasures are out there, and finding some of those that you truly treasure, is a great gift.

It’s also a curse.

I refuse to think about how much money I’ve spent on all of that fabulous food and insanely great wine. On the rare occasions I buy a 6-pack of beer I like, I try not to notice that I could get a case of “making love in a canoe” beer for the same price.

If only I had never tried those things, life would be easier.

The nephew’s girlfriend will be thrilled to be at Olive Garden. When the food comes, I’m sure she’ll giggle with delight. She’ll “Oooh” and “Ahhh” and make yummy noises over the salad and the pasta and the breadsticks and leave totally satisfied, and thankful for the chance to enjoy such a fulfilling meal.

People with simple tastes may be missing out on some things. They may not know the difference between what they like, and what they are supposed to like. But they may not care. They’ve set themselves up with a simple life, with simple pleasures, and simple rewards. It’s easy. They’re happy. That’s all that counts.

Low expectations are easy to satisfy.

For the last month, I’ve been facing the pain of unsatisfied expectations. And it blows.

No, Brockway didn’t plug their taps into the back end of a Bud Light truck. And the wine is still making it’s round-a-bout trips to my basement rack.

My problem is that I’ve been unable to run. For a month.

I realize that to most people, that's no big deal. If would be no big deal to me either, if I didn’t know what I was missing. If I were a couch sweet potato, I wouldn’t care that my legs have lost that first bit of bounce. I wouldn't notice that my temper is shorter, and my patience thinner, and my mood darker. I would be content to take root in front of the TV as my mind and body wasted away.

This nagging scourge in my heel would be nothing more than a reason to walk less, park closer, take the elevator.

But no. I'm a runner. I know what it’s like to scream down a street, feet barely touching the ground, wind whistling in my ears, mailboxes going past in an ever quickening rhythm, until I hit my finish line, heart pounding, lungs heaving, with a giant smile plastered on my face beaming the pleasure and deep satisfaction of hauling ass.

I’ve been out on a trail, miles from another human, with a million trees around me, and a thin dirt line stretched out before me, beckoning, daring me to continue. I’ve felt the dirt give ever-so-slightly as I zip through a tight turn around a tree. I’ve felt weightless on a descent, my legs churning as fast as they can, each foot just meeting the ground in time to keep gravity from sucking me, face first, to the bottom.

I’ve sat in a chair, having run hours before, still feeling the warmth in my legs. I’ve walked around the office with the relaxed, easy stride that strong, flexible, well-used legs give you.

I’ve been in bed, totally at rest, totally relaxed, totally ready for sleep. My run that day has left me tired, but fulfilled. My head is clear, my mind at peace and looking forward to tomorrow’s run.

Just like true love, really great food, excellent beer, fine wine, and running will spoil you. Once you have experienced these things, once they are in your life, you know their value. You know their beauty. And you know that without them, you wouldn’t be totally you.

I’m a “better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” kinda guy, but not everyone’s up for that.

Look before you leap. Think before you step up to that restaurant you've always wondered about, the next rung up the dining ladder. Don’t experiment with “fancy” beers unless you are willing to pay the tab. And don’t buy any wine you can’t afford, or the ones you can afford will just piss you off.

And don’t take up running lightly. You may just find yourself wanting, needing to do it every day, and missing it terribly when you can’t.

Good running,

Image from here, me, and here, and me again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stir crazy

Know that feeling when you’ve spent too much time in your house? That feeling where you want to be anywhere but where you are. The longer you stay where you are the more you don’t want to be there?

That’s how I feel. Except it’s not my house, it’s my body.

It’s been over 3 weeks since I’ve run, and the runner inside me is dying to get out.

It’s driving me crazy.

The first week wasn’t bad at all. I was off work and was able to lounge around, a lot.

The second week was interesting. Back at work, the habit, the compulsion to run, would spring to life a couple times a day, especially at lunch. But, it was more entertaining than anything else... “Hmmm, isn’t that weird how I have nothing to do at lunch besides eat lunch?”, “I feel totally naked walking into work without my running bag.”, “Freezing rain? Pfffft, what do I care.” Stuff like that.

Since then, my body has been in outright rebellion. I don’t sleep well. I’m thirsty all the time. I pee, all the time. I’m moody. I’m always hungry.

Essentially, I’m in withdrawal.

My body got used to having a regular hit of endorphins. Without it, the days dull, the senses numb, and the mind slow.

My legs miss their daily workout. They twitch and flinch and cry out for a long, steady, sweaty run and a chance to drop the hammer the last mile.

So why don’t you run, doofus?

Good question, but please don’t call me “doofus”.

The problem is my heel. My left heel. The problem heel.

As the streak drew to a close, and the prospect of time off went from a far-off concept to a reality, I let myself get sucked into a chase. A mileage chase. A stupid, mileage chase.

I’ve said it before...mileage goals are stupid. It’s too easy to over run yourself when you have a number in your sights. You start counting the miles and stop listening to your body.

Even when you know better.

And I do know better. But I did it anyway. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

But wait, there’s more. Thanks to my lovely date with frostbite, I’d switched to conventional running shoes that were very close to my unconventional running shoes. But, there was a difference. They were forcing me to work a couple muscles that hadn’t been worked in while. Those muscles would have been totally cool with that, had I not also piled on so many stupid miles.

Even so, I thought that with a week off, maybe two, it’d be good as new. I thought wrong. Doing nothing for two weeks made it only slightly better than it would have been having run every day for two weeks. Now, I’m stretching, strengthening, icing, yoga-ing, and doing my best to be patient.

So, I still haven’t run yet. It’s killing me. I have big plans for this year, running wise, and I don’t want to spend the year nursing my heal just because I was too eager to get back on the road.

To take ourselves to new heights, we need to be fit; physically, mentally, and emotionally. We need to resist that urge to do something just because we don't like doing nothing, even when nothing is the best thing we can be doing. Blasting out ill-prepared, or ill-equipped, usually doesn’t end well. It’s better to reach the top a little later than planned, than not at all.

The good time hasn’t been wasted. Actually, it’s been very productive, if you measure productivity by the number of Battlestar Galactica episodes watched.

Netflix, ice pack, Napa Cab...I’m set for the evening.

Good running.

Photo from here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Going Long - When the Going Gets Tough

This week, I’m talking, ok, not really talking... writing, typing actually, about things I learned last year, the year I ran and wrote every day, about setting and achieving long term goals.

So far, we’ve talked about... uhm... let’s see... there was setting good goals, uh... having a good plan... and ways to keep you plugging away at that plan.

If you missed any of those, go ahead a click the links and catch up. I’ve got all day... just wake me when you get back...

... Ahh! Don’t touch the snake! It has cooties!!!

(wipes drool from chin, rubs eyes)

Oh, sorry. I was having that dream again... freaks me out every time...

Ok, back to work... this time we talk about how to manage your plan under the every day pressure from the rest of your life.

6) Make your goal a priority

It’s so easy to let your day get away from you. We're all busy. We've all got people and responsibilities pulling us in different directions. The day can zip by so, so fast. And it’s so, so easy to let all of that stuff rationalize why you don’t get your run in.

There were days when I’d look at my schedule and scratch my head. “When can I possibly squeeze in a run.” Somedays, it had to be done at O-dark-thirty, or it wasn't going to happen. Most days I wasn't awake at O-dark-thirty, so I had to make sure I had clean (enough) gear to take for a lunch run, and pack a lunch.

I’m telling right now, if you just tell yourself "I'll get a run in today." it has maybe a 50% chance of happening. You need to make an appointment with your run. Plan ahead, set a time, and make it stick. Make it as important as any other meeting or appointment you have that day.

7) Be flexible

The problem is, unless you're P-Diddy Puff-Daddy Snoopie Von PopStar, the world doesn’t run on your schedule. To make things work, to keep on track, you need to be creative, well prepared, and flexible.

Way too many times when I knew the only time I could get a run in was during lunch, around 11:00am a lunch meeting would drop out of the sky. That's an Oh-sh!t, Code Blue, What-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do moment.

If you’re hit with an unavoidable disruption, have a backup plan, or at least be ready to improvise.

I kept spare running gear in my car. I called it my “disaster readiness kit”. It was crappy shoes, bad socks, baggy shorts, and an old race shirt I hadn’t worn in years. But in a pinch, it would have sufficed for a mile or two. I never had to use that kit, but it was close a few times. I did run at 10:30pm once. That was calling it a little too close, but it was better than running in those dreadful "disaster" shorts.

When the world takes a dump on your day, don’t let that be an excuse. Think if it as a challenge. Show that day that you aren’t to be messed with. See what else in your day can be shifted. Take a conference call while running. Run in the airport. If all else fails, you can always run at night.

8) The moment of truth

Some days, you will not want to run. This happened to me, a lot, last year, but there was one morning in particular that stands out. It was cold and yucky outside. It was warm and cozy in my bed. I was scheduled to run a race downtown. All I wanted at that moment was to go back to bed.

This, or something very much like it, will happen to you. I promise. And more than once.

It’s these moments of truth where you either give in, or you don’t. It is a decision. And it’s a difficult decision, because everything in your present is telling you to stay in bed, or not run, or skip your workout, or blow off the race. Your instincts are telling you to stay put.

But we're human. We're sentient beings. We set goals to get us to a better version of us. And it's that better version of us that needs to push that sleepy wuzzy out of the way and take over the decision making authority. That person knows that though it might feel good to stay in bed, for a little while, we’ll feel like crap once we do fall out of bed, realizing that we’ve let ourselves down.

When you’re facing that moment of truth, imagine yourself in the future, 2 ways. The first, the future version of you who failed to meet your goal. The second, the future version of you who succeeded. Is being that second version worth getting out of bed for? Is staying in bed worth becoming that first version?

The moment of truth is when you decide between doing what feels good, or is easy, or comfortable, now, and what you know will make you feel even better, later.

Good now, or great later.

9) Be compassionate with yourself

There will probably be a time when you miss a scheduled run. Despite all of your planning and flexibility and prioritization, things just don’t work out.

If you get injured, or sick, or just have a bad streak, that's ok. When you're better, ease back into it, and get yourself back on track. Don't let any setback become an excuse to quit.

An online buddy of mine, Chris, started a running streak a couple years ago. His goal was 1000 days in a row. He made it 364 days. I am not making this up. 364 days. On day 365 he had the flu so bad he couldn’t run even a mile.

After coming so f-in close to running a year straight, it would have been totally understandable if Chris had thrown his hands up and declared “Screw that! I'm taking up golf!” But he didn’t. As soon as he was well, he started again... at 1.

Today, his streak is still alive. He’s over 740 days and going strong.

The goal is just that, a goal. It’s the process of trying to achieve that goal that changes you, challenges you, and makes you stronger. And maybe thinner. It's the days you fight off your inner wimp, the days you do something you never thought you could do, the days when you think back at who you were when you started and wonder how you could have ever settled for that... those days add character, and give you glimpses of how great you can be.

...aaaaaannnnd scene.

Here endeth the Go Long series. I encourage you above-average-looking readers to share your goals, and any other hints that you find useful, in the comments below.

Next week, back to the usual nonsense.

Good running,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Going Long - The Hard Part

Over the last couple and next few days, I’m spewing out tips on how to set and achieve long term goals by sharing some of the things that I learned last year while I was running and writing, every day. Literally, every day in 2010.

If you missed the last couple days, no worries. You can catch up easy. All we didi was learned how to set non-stupid goals, and what a good plan to accomplish those goals looks like. Go ahead, click the links, read up. We'll just talk amongst ourselves...

... oh man, that's the funniest thing I've ever... Oh, hey! You're back. Cool...

Ok... where are we? Oh yeah...

We have a good goal, and a plan to get us there. Excellent.

I guess we’re done.

Oh, wait... I forgot, we’re human.

As humans, we have a tendency to get distracted by life. We can lose motivation. We can stumble.

Let’s see what we can do to work through this damn humanness.

People like, and, frankly, some of us need, frequent gratification. We aren’t very good at relentless pursuit of anything that’s good for us. We need the occasional spoon full of sugar. Hence...

3) Milestones

Like Reese’s Pieces for E.T., sprinkle a few intermediate goals in your plan. These should be significant accomplishments that show progress toward your goal, not just days on the calendar. For example, for our 5K race goal, a milestone might be reaching an accumulated total of 10 miles for your training, or running 2 miles non-stop, or not missing a scheduled run for 2 weeks.

The best part about having milestones is that they are to be celebrated. Go straight to the pub, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, do not even shower. Schedule a massage, or indulge in a pint of Chunky-Monkey.

The particulars of the milestones, and their rewards, don’t matter, except to you. They will help keep you motivated and focused. Pick milestones that you will feel good about reaching and that progressively lead you to your goal, and a reward that you will look forward to, one that will pull you along, as you close in on the milestone.

4) Blab!

Don’t you hate it when you set a goal and you don’t quite accomplish it? Man that’s awful, right? Happens though... all the time. We just lose motivation. Lose focus.

Know what would make it 1000 times worse? What if you told tons of people what your goal was and then you failed? Oh man, that would really suck!

Well, that’s why you tell tons of people what your goal is.

Tell your family, friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, dog, neighbor’s dog, mail carrier, barista, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, MySpace - whoa... you’re still on MySpace? How’s the weather in 2003? - your barber/stylist, the “genius” at the Genius Bar, the cop who pulls you over, the cop who books you, the cop you let’s you out on bail, the dude who bailed you out... geez, tell everyone what your trying to do.

Recruit these people onto your team to keep you accountable, motivated, focused, and energized.

The day I decided to try to run every day, I sent an email to everyone who I thought would know who the email was from, telling them what I was going to try to do. I can't tell you how many times last year someone asked me "Did you get your run in yet?" It was great to know that they were interested and to have their support.

And most importantly, I knew that if I quit, if I missed a day, I would have to explain it, over, and over. And over. And over. And I’ve have to relive that humiliation over, and over, and over.

That, my friends, is motivation.

5) Post your progress

An important part of recruiting your fans is giving them a way to track your progress. It should be easy, and convenient for them to tell that you are, indeed, right on track so they can give you a high-five, or fist bump, or pat on the touche, whichever is appropriate.

And it also needs to be easy and convenient for them to tell if you’ve started to waver, so they can give you a gentle nudge, or a firm talking to, or a kick in the ass, whichever is appropriate.

Me, I started this blog. You can start a blog, too. It's crazy easy. (I use Blogger.)

I remember one day I forgot to include my mileage at the bottom of my blog post. It wasn’t 5 minutes before I got an email, pointing out my error, and making sure I had just forgotten to include it, and not forgotten to run.

You can also do like my friend Rob who put a progress chart on the fridge at home for the whole family to see. Now he’ll get nagged by his kids if he falls behind.

Draw a graph, or running total chart, or United Way style thermometer, anything that makes it obvious where you are, where you should be, and what your goal is. Tape it up somewhere where people will see it. Give them the information they need to support you, and to keep you on track, and they will.

Ok, that's enough for today...more to come... next time I’ll talk about what making your plan work in the real world. Meanwhile, drop a few milestones in your plan, send out that blabbing email, and decide how you’re going to broadcast your progress.

Good running,

Monday, January 10, 2011

Going long - Have a Plan

Over the next few days I’m trying to pay back you dear readers for following my antics last year with tips on how to achieve your long term goals by sharing some of the things that I learned last year. You know, 2010... the year I ran and wrote every day... yeah, there you go.

If you’re coming in in the middle, no sweat, you only missed one day. You can jump to the start... ready... set... jump.

Hey, you’re back. That was fast...

Ok, so we’ve set good goals, now what.

2) Have a Plan

Goals don’t just magically happen. Those are called "miracles". Goals take effort.

You're here.

You want to be there.

If you don’t have a plan, you aren't gonna get there.

When I decided I would run every day in 2010, one of the first things I did was think of all of the things that might cause me to miss a day. Injury, sickness, travel, darkness, forgetting my gear, just plain forgetting to run.  Then, I listed ways to keep each of those from stopping me from my goal. Then, I implemented them.

The first thing I did was buy a head lamp so I could run in the dark. That was easy. But, I know myself, and I knew that the biggest threat to my goal was my own absent mindedness. So, I devoted a single bag to hold all of my running essentials that I could take anywhere. If I wasn't using it, it was in the bag. No forgetting my watch or hunting for my phone carrier while I'm trying to get out the door in the morning.

I also used the bag as a failsafe reminder. When I got home from work, if I'd run already, the bag went on a door handle. If I hadn't it went on the bed. If I tried to go to bed without running, I'd see bag, freak out, and get a quick run in. I know, genius, right?

I set rules as to what counted as a run, and what didn't, and mapped out routes close to home and work that met the minimum requirements and would be runnable no matter what the weather was like.

Those are just a few of the things I did to prepare myself for the year before it even started. Without taking a few minutes to think through a plan, I wouldn't have been nearly as prepared.

Let's start a plan for our goal...

First, write your goal down, perhaps at the top of a piece of paper, and think about what you need to have, and what you need to do, to accomplish your goal. Perhaps you could create a list.

Let's try it and see what happens... Write down your goal...

"I want to run a 5-K race before June 30th."

That’s great. Excellent start.

Now I suppose you could just go about your business until around June 15th, sign-up for a 5K, and suffer through it, brute force style. If you did that, you would be a douche. And you wouldn't, or at least you shouldn't, be proud of that "accomplishment". What would you have "accomplished", aside from a heart attack, stroke, shredded hamstrings, and/or a really awful looking finish line photo?

Instead, let’s actually train for this 5K. That’s really kinda the point, right? The race is symbolic, a reward for being committed to a regular training program, and presumably a springboard to even loftier goals.

The miracle that is Google will cough up 17-kajillion 5K training programs. Here are some good examples: this one, and this one, and this one.

Pick one that seems doable and looks like it fits your style. Then print-it and stick it on the wall by your desk, or on the mirror in your bathroom, or on the fridge, somewhere where you will see it, often.  Maybe put a highlighter on a string next to it so you can mark your progress.

You might then pop over to Google Maps and map out some routes that you could use for training runs, ones that are close to home, or work, or both. You could also search for any group runs that you could join to liven up your training.

Next, ask the Google-gods for one more favor... links to some local 5K races. Try searching for "5K" and the name of your city and state. Look for a 5K that's roughly the same number of weeks out as your training plan is long. When in doubt, give yourself an extra week or two of training. If you can’t find a 5K, you may be in Antarctica. If you don’t think you’re in Antarctica, drop me a note and I’ll help you find some races. Eventually, you’ll find one.

When you do find one, sign-up.

Don’t wait, do it now. Procrastination is the devils waiting room.

Wait... that didn't make sense. Regardless, putting off any steps in your plan just put you behind and give you an excuse to feel sorry for yourself and maybe quit. Every day you should do something, anything, that moves you closer to your goal.

Sign-up. Now! I mean it! Put your money on the virtual barrelhead.

Good. Now, wait patiently for you confirmation email. Should only take a minute or two... refresh... Hey, look, J.Crew is having a sale!... sorry... refresh... ah, there it is. You're in! Write the date of your race at the bottom of your training program. Oh come on, that's your goal, not your weight... write it big, and in red.

Next go get some shoes, if you don’t have any. Go to a running store. No back talk. A real running store.

Finally, deep breath... aaaaaannnnd... start your training.

Your plan is your path from where you are to where you want to be. Own it, respect it, make it a priority, and stick to it.

The toughest part of any run is the first step. The toughest part of anything worthwhile is summoning up the courage to start. At least with a plan, you'll know you're going in the right direction.

More soon... until next time, take a few minutes and write out your plan. Remember, it doesn't have to be about running. If you have insight, or if you're stuck, head to the comment section.

Good running,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Going long - Don't set stupid goals

Ok, running every day, for a year, isn't for everyone. Really, it isn't for 99.999387% of everyone. Give or take.

But committing to longterm fitness goals is a good idea, for just about everyone. Everybody knows that. And pretty much everybody's made some sort of promise to themselves to get into better shape at one time or another.

And how many of us realize those goals? How many of us keep those promises for even a month?

Yeah, not many.

Why? What's the problem? Are we stupid? Of course we aren't. Everyone else might be, but DR365 readers are above average intelligence. It's a fact. Says so right here on the internet.

Are we lazy? No, I don't think so. We're all scurrying around doing all kinds of stuff. We aren't popping bonbons on the chaise-lounge all day. Not every day.

Are we drunks? Maybe a couple are, but that doesn't explain the rest of us.

I think that we are sincere when we make our goals. We really do intend to see them through. Or at least we really want to see them through.

We just have no idea how to turn them into reality. We don't know how to plan, or how to stick to the plan. Or what to do when the plan hits the fan.

If there's anything I got out of last year, aside from frostbite, some wicked chafing, and stern looks from fountain security guards, it's a pile of hints for sticking to your long term fitness goals.

As a service to you above average looking readers who have suffered through a year of my nonsense, over the next few days I'm gonna share what I learned last year about sticking to goals, in the form of hints, perhaps in the popular numerical list form. I could hurl it all into one post, I suppose, but no one likes long-ass blog posts.

As I work through this stuff, I'm going to talk about goals in terms of running, because it's easy to type, and it is a running blog, but you can apply these hints to just about any type of goal... really.

Here, the first one's free. Keeps 'em coming back for more...:

1) Don’t set stupid goals.

The best way to set yourself up for failure is to define a goal that you can’t achieve. The second best way is to set a goal that involves you doing something you hate doing.

Late in 2009 my aspiration was to not feel like crap. I felt like crap, mentally, physically, emotionally, and I didn't want to feel like crap any more. "I want to feel less like crap." is not a goal. But it was something I wanted to strive for.

While out on a run, I was thinking about how little I'd been running the last couple years, and how stupid that was because running always made me feel good, about a lot of things, and I enjoyed it. I was also thinking about how I'd spent the last two years putting what I wanted, what I needed, what was good for me, at such a low priority, that it never got done. I was doing for everyone but me.

I knew that the first step toward a less crappy feeling place was breaking that habit of putting myself last. I needed to make a habit of doing something for myself, every day. I know at that moment that I would run every day in 2010. And that's how my goal was born. That easy.

The best goals are first and foremost tied to something you strive for, and something you enjoy, or at least can have fun while doing.

For example, you may want to get into better shape. “I want to develop a long term fitness plan” is not a goal, however, at least not a good one. It’s an aspiration, and a good one. But it’s too big to be a goal.

I’m don’t want to get all Project Mangery, but I am going to steal one of their nerdy principles...Set a SMART goals.

Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. S.M.A.R.T. Get it? Those Project Managers, their a clever bunch.

Let’s break these down...

“I want to get into better shape.” is not specific.
"I want to start running." is not specific.
"I want to run in a 5K race." is specific.

It's also measurable. Your goal needs to be a line in the sand. This side, you’ve met your goal, that side, you haven’t. Either you run the race, or you don't.

Your goal needs to be something attainable, something realistic. I would love to learn to fly this year. Not gonna happen, no matter how hard I flap my arms. I also couldn't run 5 miles a day every day for a year. Maybe 1 mile, but not 5. If you haven’t been running, don’t think you’re going to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year.

Set a goal that is within reach, but it does need to be a little bit of a reach. It needs to be something that you’ll be proud of when you accomplish it. It does not need to be something that any one else will be impressed with, but you need to be proud of it.

Going from not running to entering and running a 5K is attainable, and it is a great accomplishment. It takes dedication, endurance, and strong character.

Relevant goals, if you achieve them, move you closer to where you want to be. If your long term goal is to be more physically fit, then don’t set a goal to read all of the Harry Potter books.

Running a 5K race is relevant. So far, so good.

Good goals are time-bound. Oops. Ok, we need to give ourselves a time limit, otherwise we’ll never get there. "I want to run a 5-K race before June 30th." is time-bound.

It’s also a SMART goal.

But no matter how SMART your goal is, if the process of attaining it isn't fun, or enriching, or rewarding, or at least makes you feel good, then don't bother. You might need to get a little creative, but try to pick a goal that you'll enjoy reaching. Goal setting is about finding a better version of you, not punishment.

Some of you may think running is punishment. It can be. But it can also be very fun, and very enriching, and it always makes me feel better. If you've already decided it's going to suck, you're right, it will. If you take the attitude that running is going to be fun, you'll find ways to make it fun.

Crap. Look how long this post is. You probably need to get back to work, right? Sorry.

More soon, and I’ll try to keep it brief... briefer... brief. In the meantime, check your goals to see if they’re SMART, too.

Good running,

Friday, January 7, 2011

Finger-warming genius

Ever see a product that perfectly meets one of your quirky needs that you thought only you cared about? I have. Just now.

The quirky need is the ability to use my iPhone when I'm out on a run, to take a picture, answer a call, respond to a text, use the new Photon Torpedo app to destroy a treadmill.

Ok, not that quirky, but try it in the winter. Invariably I end up pulling my glove off, or at least freeing a thumb, with my teeth.

Let me tell you something... sweaty running gloves don't taste very good.

If I'm out snapping pictures for a winter photo safari, it's cumbersome, at best.

But today, as I was clicking through one of the nerdy blogs I follow... conductive-fabric miracle...

(Angels sing.) (Clouds part.) (Beam of light shines down from the sky onto...)

AglovesTouch Screen Gloves for cold weather use. 

Brilliant! This is what that lump of goo between our ears is supposed to me doing... applying "lightweight, soft, warm, stretchy and slightly fuzzy" technology for the betterment of mankind.

They must be great gloves. Look at the smile on this girl's face...

Don't ask why she's wearing a bikini and gloves...
just look at the smile, please.

No, I'm not a spokesperson. No, I'm not getting compensated in anyway. I will, however, be ordering a pair for running and a pair for when I'm not running. You may order your own here.

Good running,

PS - Still not running, yet. Getting close.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Running is not exercise

Ok, first... really weird not starting a post with "Day XXX -". I did not run yesterday, nor today. I am still alive, but it is... again, weird.

Been stretching, and resting, and thinking about comes next. I'm open to suggestions.

Truth is, I missed writing more than running. But in another day or two, my body will go into running withdrawal and I will turn from the happy-go-lucky Doug to the snippy-grouchy Doug who needs a run. So we've got that to look forward to. It's an addiction I'm ok with.

With the idea that (hopefully) some of you above average looking readers out there have at least thought about picking up the running habit, I wanted to hammer home a point while I was thinking about it.

It's one that I've made before, but worth repeating.

Don't think of running as exercise. It is not a way to lose weight. Sure, you may lose weight once you start. Runners are the healthiest people out there.

But running simply to lose weight is, in a word, miserable. Your body needs to change, a lot, to go from a sedentary lifestyle to becoming a runner, and it takes a few weeks.

If you're anxious to lose weight, you're probably going to push it too hard, run too often, run too far, and it will suck. You will hurt. You will not like it.

If you want to lose weight, cut back your calories and hop on an exercise bike, or an elliptical, or hell, even a soul-sucking treadmill.

Running isn't about burning calories. It's about connecting with the primal need to run that is in all of us. As kids, we all ran, everywhere. Our parents had to tell us not to run.

It's also about living a more-or-less healthy lifestyle. Not because it's cool. Not to fit into a pair of jeans. Because it makes us feel good. And occasionally superior. It's good for out hearts, our minds, and our souls.

The path to becoming a runner doesn't have to be hard, and it shouldn't hurt. But it's a long path, that starts here and hopefully ends way out there at 85 or 90 years old. So be patient. Don't judge your progress by how much you weigh, or how far you went, but on how you feel.

If you do it right, you'll feel great. And that's something worth getting addicted to.

Good running,

P.S. Out of habit, typed "Numbers: ", then realized that the number would have been "0.0", so backspaced. Again, a little weird, but we'll get used to it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 366 - Somebody stop him!

Yeah, I ran today.

It's the first day of a New Year, and there's really no better way to start a new year than to get up at 7:00am and park downtown and run in a big circle with a bunch of likewise hungover people.

This was the least energetic gaggle of runners I've ever seen. It looked like a funeral, except there were fewer people smiling, and most of them were wearing spandex.

Looking around the crowd, it didn't look like there were too many "resolvers". But I know you're out there. And hopefully, some of you have decided to give the lifestyle that is running a try.

So... here's my prescription for new, or returning runners.

  1. Don't run everyday. That's just stupid. Trust me on that one. If you run one day, don't run again until you aren't the least bit sore from the last run. To start, for the first few weeks at least, run no more than every other day.
  2. When you run, follow this workout plan... start with a slightly fast walk for 5 minutes. Then, if you feel like it, run/trot/jog easily. Very easy. If you don't feel like it, then just walk. That's totally cool. If you did run for a bit, then run until you start to feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. Then, walk until you are fully recovered. Then, you can run some more if you want, again, until you feel uncomfortable, then walk again. Do this for say 15-20 minutes, and then give yourself a 5 minute walking cool down.
  3. Whenever possible, run with a running buddy.
  4. Do not use a treadmill. Treadmills suck. They suck the fun out of running. You don't need a TV. You don't want to be distracted. You want to be listening to your body. Go outside. You'll be fine, I promise.
  5. Rinse and repeat.
That's it. No time goals. No distance goals.

Just listen to your body. Run when your body is up for it. And when you do run, let your body tell you when it's ready to run and when it needs a rest.

Be patient. Your body needs to make some changes to be able to run. If it hurts, stop. When you feel better, start back. But don't quit.

Before you know it, the running sections of your workout will get longer, and the walking/recovery parts will get shorter, and then, one day, you're running the whole way. And then, then you can start increasing your workouts past 20 minutes.

Easy peasy.

Go forth! Let loose the runner that's been hibernating inside you.

This runner is taking tomorrow off.

Good running,

P.S. Big thanks to all of you above average looking readers who gave me a generous virtual pat on the back. And a HUGE thanks to Deb the GF, Deb the sister, David, Marty, Nora, and Jolisa for sharing a pint of celebratory goodness with me yesterday. Special thanks to my kids for their support in the form of not burning the house down, to the GF for a year of patience, support, courtesy laughs, and $11, and to Emma for the amazing card. And look, thanks to my sibs, there actually is a trophy!

Trophy/Snow Globe/Music Box/Awesome

Numbers: 2.0 miles on the streets of downtown Indy