Try smiling up that hill and other tips to help you stick to an exercise routine

These days this is what you see when you enter my bedroom. I've been rotating my Brooks Ghost 9s as I get ready for race day on Sunday, and I don't want them to get all claustrophobic and stuffy in my closet. I'd wear those LLBean slippers everywhere if I could

These days this is what you see when you enter my bedroom. I've been rotating my Brooks Ghost 9s as I get ready for race day on Sunday, and I don't want them to get all claustrophobic and stuffy in my closet. I'd wear those LLBean slippers everywhere if I could

I was doing my last long training run yesterday before next Sunday's Marines Corps Marathon, and Micki, my running partner, headed back early because she had a family commitment. When she got home she sent me a text to let me know she tried consciously smiling as she was running up one of the hills, and it helped.

This may seem like such a small thing, but it takes focus and energy away from the negative to instruct your face to smile. I will definitely try this. 

Micki knows I'm always up for suggestions and support, and her text reminded me of a Facebook post I had seen a day or two before. One of my favorite former bosses, who’s abundantly caring and supportive of hundreds of employees over the years, posted that he doesn’t need the latest computer home assistant to tell him to turn off the lights.

“I need an Alexa to tell me to put down that Snickers bar and get off my lazy butt.”

A genuine cry for help, right? No matter how hard you push yourself you always feel better after exercising, so let’s find a way to get ourselves out there!

Here are a few of my go-to hacks

Register for a race or walk. I’m registered for the Marines Corps Marathon on October 22. Am I ready? Who knows but that’s not the point. If you’re signing up for the first time, make it a friendly race, maybe a 5K (a little more than 3 miles) that supports a cause you care about or one that promises beer at the finish. Or just have fun saying "5K" as if you use the very je ne sais quoi Metric system all the time. But check out the race cut off and make sure there’s plenty of time for you to take a reasonably leisurely pace. After you sign up, tell everyone you know and talk about your training, the race, and your worries. A lot. Now that you’re a finisher, go order that 3.1 decal for your bumper and you’ll be right up there with the big boys. Don't know how to find a race? Try the Runner's World race finder or here.

Make a training calendar. You don't have to be a professional athlete, heck you don't have to be an athlete, to have one, but you've got everything else on your calendar so why not make this one a recurring appointment? Talk to everyone about your training calendar. That way there’s a good chance at least one person will ask you about your swim or your run or your barre class and you’ll be able to share every detail. If you have a trainer or a sports doc or a physical therapist, that’s an easy one, but don’t rule out the checker at the grocery store. As in, “I’ve just finished a swim and am making Snappy Peanut Butter Energy Bites, can you tell?” RunnersConnect has tons of ideas on how to start a training calendar.

Use a fitness app to track your workouts and friend everyone you know. I use MapMyFitness (for activity) and MyFitnessPal (for nutrition) — these two work together — and I get live notifications whenever my “friends” or family members log a workout. That way if you're tempted to miss a workout and you get your friend's notification you might feel that little nudge to head out to the trail after work.

Get extroverted. Even if you’re an introvert. It’s great to have an exercise partner, but since this is not always possible or feasible, you can feed off the mojo of random people exercising around you. Whether you’re out for a run on a trail or in the neighborhood or at the gym, make sure your body language is just a little friendly. I’ve noticed even a slight wave or a hello from a passing runner pushes me to go a little farther. At the gym, take the treadmill next to someone else and turn and say hello. Guaranteed even if that person is deep into a TV show, he or she will snap off those earbuds and chat for a second or two before saying something supportive like, “Have a good workout.” Find out if your personality is sabotaging your fitness goals. Then you can figure out what to do about it.

Regress. As in the opposite of pro-gress. I was introduced to the idea of “regression” as it relates to exercise when Kevin McGuinness, my Washington, D.C., physical therapist began suggesting ways I could make changes to an exercise or even my exercise routine in order to rehab my hamstring injury. For example, reducing mileage, load, or reps or even squatting on a chair as opposed to squatting. Basically there’s more than one way to regress so live it up.

Get new gear. I'll just say it straight out. This is absolutely one of the best parts about exercising, and I've got a rolling dresser in my closet just for my workout clothes. Maybe go out and get a different pair of running shoes or spring for a pair of Balega Ultra Light No-Show socks or a game-changer pair of goggles. It doesn’t have to be something you truly need but should be something techy and super snazzy. Talk to everyone about your new gear, why you ordered it, where you got it, what they think about it. If it’s an item you ordered online, track the delivery progress and when the package arrives, Instagram the hell out of it. And if you're an outlet shopper or a bargain hunter, OMG, you can score big time at Nordstrom Rack, Marshall's, TJ Maxx, and even some online retailers. Check out Jimmy Jazz and Jack Rabbit.

Talk about it. When I returned from my first marathon in Jamaica and was reading up on different approaches to recovery I came across a suggestion that it is overwhelmingly therapeutic to talk about the experience. In excruciating detail. After you go for a run make sure you tell someone about it. Don’t wait for someone to ask you. Grab a kindred spirit and say, “Do you want to hear about my run?” And then be sure to ask your co-workers, friends, and family about their workouts. You might be opening the floodgates but it’s worth it if you get to talk about you for even 5 minutes. An added bonus is you might learn something clutch.

Hydrate. I know I am so bad at this. But especially if you work in an office and in winter when the air is dry, we know we feel better when we drink more water. Everything works better in your body when it's hydrated - your muscles and even your brain. I use a citrus juicer to squeeze the juice of one lemon into a large shaker and add a handful of fresh mint leaves and a teaspoon of agave before filling the whole thing with water and ice. I take this with me to work and save it for the afternoon when I feel like crawling under my desk. Berries and cucumbers are great in there, too. In the shaker, I mean, not under the desk.

Have fun. There are a lot of people out there having fun exercising and you should be one of them. It’s not like there’s a finite amount of fun available. Everyone can have some. You’re at work all day and hopefully you love your job but you can love exercising, too. Figure out what aspect of exercise makes you smile, even if it just means quality one-on-one time with yourself, because when you’re approaching your edge and sweating like crazy as you climb that hill, I know for a fact there’s a little smile in there.
 

"There is no joy without gratitude"

"There is no joy without gratitude"

Two Sundays ago I crashed after running 18 miles as part of my Marines Corps Marathon training and was trying to nap.

I limped downstairs into the kitchen and told Bob my legs were twitchy.

"I'm so exhausted but can't fall asleep."

"Have a shot of Old Bushmills," Bob said.

"A real shot." 

It was 2 o'clock.

"No sipping."

I poured myself a glass of whiskey and drank it. In one shot. 

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Marines Corps Marathon training update

Marines Corps Marathon training update

JSYK I'm 6 weeks away from the Marines Corps Marathon (MCM) on October 22. This will be my second marathon ever and my first MCM.

Back at the 24-week mark I shared my proposed 20-week training plan with Kevin and Zach and both expressed the same perspective. Even though I've been running for 3 years, I chose a RunnersConnect training plan for beginners in order to ease in slowly.

Still, Kevin especially was worried about my committing to any training plan while I was still dealing with my typical issues - hamstring strain and glute pain. Both of these are overuse injuries, Kevin pointed out, so diving into even a mildly rigorous running schedule before these are completely healed just didn't make sense to him. Zach, too, worried about this. Remember I have hamstring and glute soreness after simple body-weight squats. Forget about kettle balls.

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Harder, better, faster, stronger: And now, smarter

Harder, better, faster, stronger: And now, smarter

I always found it ridiculous that high schoolers who never played sports thought the football team was made up of dumb jocks especially when many players ended up at our best colleges and universities.

Where did the stereotype of the dumb jock come from?

Just watch a professional soccer game or Major League Baseball or any Olympic event and think about how much stuff the players are pouring into their brains before, during, and after the games. Ok some of these athletes might make stupid decisions off the field in their personal lives, but these have nothing to do with smarts.

So I'm not surprised to read about another study showing that exercise is good for your brain.

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Cherry Blossom 10 Miler 2017: Call It Love and Devotion

"We need to head home early so this one can get into bed," Bob gestured at me as he told our friends at a Vassar event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture last Saturday night that we'd need to duck out.

"She's got an early race tomorrow."

It was true, I did need to be up by 4:30 am Sunday morning, but it's not like I'm a professional or even competitive athlete. I've been running and doing these races for 3 years, and this idea always crosses my mind.

But still.

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Rock n Roll Half Marathon, Washington, D.C., 2017: The Good Ol' Days

Rock n Roll Half Marathon, Washington, D.C., 2017: The Good Ol' Days

"Girl, go faster. We're late for brunch."

Among the many political signs at last Saturday's half marathon was this one, my favorite, because whenever anybody asks me about my experience as a runner, I always say that I'm a 50-something who wanted to go to lunch but went for a run instead.

We were lined up at the start when a group of three women around my age asked me if I would take their picture. Through the lens of the iPhone camera I could see one of them wanted to be at brunch instead of shivering on 14th Street and about to run 13.1 miles in 26 degree weather.

"Have you done this before?" I asked.

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Where it began

Where it began

By last Thursday afternoon I was feeling the effects of the upper body workout I did with Zach Schumaker, my trainer, on Wednesday night. My pecs were so inflamed and sore I wasn't 100 percent convinced I wasn't having a heart attack. In general I welcome delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) because it means I'm placing stress on my muscles, allowing them to adapt.

But then of course I'm forced to change up my training. So on Friday, instead of cross training on the elliptical or swimming, I did walking intervals on the treadmill at a 12 percent incline; no stress on the upper body but I got my heart rate up high enough to feel great getting ready for work and throughout the day.

I was planning to do a long swim Saturday morning but still felt sore. A year ago I would have pushed through but if I've learned anything through all of this it's the value of deloading. So instead, with my head still on my pillow, I smiled.

I'll do an easy run.

It wasn't the run that made me smile, although I enjoy these shakeout runs.

It was the bagel. With peanut butter.

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But I do I do

But I do I do

"Welcome to my year of aging youthfully."

This is what I typed in response to one of the birthday wishers on my Facebook timeline on Wednesday. (Remember when we called it a "Wall"?)

"You are finding the key to aging backwards," my childhood friend Debbie Levine Herman wrote.

(I fully embrace the world of Facebook. I view it as a gigantic community bulletin board and LOVE seeing posts no matter how trivial or silly and count on them to keep me up to date period.)

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But, oh, I got stamina

But, oh, I got stamina

Why it matters what I tell myself when I run

I reconnected over the summer with a woman I first met when I was living outside San Francisco and our daughters had become friends. We were having coffee in Palo Alto late one afternoon when she told me she had lupus. 

The subject came up because she was apologizing for meeting me in her workout clothes as she was just coming from the gym.

Really? Everyone in Palo Alto looks like they're in exercise clothes.

She told me that one of the ways she copes with bouts of extreme pain in her joints is by exercising regularly.

This memory popped into my head a few weeks ago as I woke up after sleeping nearly 12 hours. The last of my Thanksgiving guests had left late on that Saturday, and I practically passed out within minutes.

My plan had been to do a longish run that Sunday morning, but when I stepped out of bed, my sides and lower back were so sore and stiff that I nearly crept down the stairs to make myself a cup of coffee.

I assumed I had suffered a sleeping injury by being in bed so long.

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Any minute you will cross that line

Any minute you will cross that line

There is always something to be positive about.

Always.

Election Day is here and these last few weeks have been like trudging in the mud. Everywhere you go, everyone you talk to, people are uncomfortable with how this election is making them feel. About their country, about the world, about their communities, about themselves.

The New York Times new column Meditation for Real Life could not have appeared in our feeds at a more opportune moment.

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Parks Half Marathon, Sept. 11, 2016 - Open up the champagne, pop!

There are those runs you know are gonna be hard, and you head into them as if you're about to do battle.

But when you finish you feel all the more celebratory.

That's where I am with this morning's Parks Half Marathon, which meanders through Montgomery County's gorgeous parks.

At packet pick up yesterday at RnJ Sports in Rockville I overheard a woman tell her friend that although there were 2,500 people registered for the race, 20 percent probably won't show up. 

"Because of the weather?" I jumped in. 

"For whatever," she said. "Just because." 

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When life gets in the way, yeah

When life gets in the way, yeah

Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.

This popped into my head after I instinctively extended my arm to help a woman, probably in her late 50s, as she walked from her car into a theater in Warsaw, Indiana, a few weeks ago.

We were standing on a slight incline steps from the entrance.  A bus pulled up and began to unload. I was seeing the 2 pm matinee of "Grease" at Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts with my close friend Carmelita Watkinson, and it was a gorgeous day. We were there to see her awesome and talented son Sean play the role of Danny Zuko.

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Magical mystery ride

Magical mystery ride

"If you don't believe in yourself, why should anyone else believe in you?"

"You have to love yourself before you can expect another person to love you."

These phrases were etched into my being years ago, but in the past couple of weeks I've had a bit of an epiphany.

I used my early morning walks to catch up on podcasts after my finger surgery when I could not run or swim or bike and zoomed in on an interesting connection from one podcast to the other.

Sometimes it makes sense to hang back and let someone else have confidence in you. 

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As long as I can feel the beat

As long as I can feel the beat

“Will this affect your exercising?”

My cousin Jonathan was hosting his annual summer barbeque for the Washington Belkins. While most of my family members are still in New York, there’s a respectable number in Washington as well as in Florida.

It was a little more than 24 hours after Dr. David Moss, a hand surgeon, removed one of the joints from my right ring finger and fused the bones together with 3 wires.

 “Yes,” I started to say, “more than I anticipated.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Jonathan’s mother, Leslee, was visiting for a few days. Stanley, Jonathan’s father, died not too long ago.  He was a celebrated master chef, and Jon himself does an awesome spread year after year.

“It’s ok. Thanks for asking."

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Cape Henlopen Triathlon, June 12, 2016: I can turn it on

Cape Henlopen Triathlon, June 12, 2016: I can turn it on

"I hope it's not her."

After my swim coach Terrence Oakley completed Sunday's Cape Henlopen Triathlon and was waiting with my family for me to cross the finish, he told Mia that when he heard the announcement that a woman was missing her wetsuit, he was worried that woman might be me.

It was just before the National Anthem that I discovered that my wetsuit had disappeared. I looked everywhere around my then-tidy transition area, but it was 100 percent gone.

And I was 200 percent certain that I brought it with me.

My voice was trembling as I let the crew member with the microphone know that I was looking for my wetsuit. I knew there was a slim chance that the suit would turn up before the race start. Already many athletes had begun the 1/2 mile walk to the beach. Only a few people would hear the announcement.

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Go crazy, punch a higher floor

Go crazy, punch a higher floor

Terrence: There are so many inefficiencies in your stroke.
Me:
Terrence: That’s a good thing! It just means there are so many areas where you can improve! What you can change!!

Ironman Terrence Oakley, my new swim coach, had been walking along the side of the pool and observing me as I swam 200 yards. It was our first session working together.

I committed to competing in the Cape Henlopen Triathlon on June 12 with my triathlete friend from work, and even though I finished the swim portion of the Bethany Beach Triathlon last fall, I still have major fear issues related to swimming in the ocean. I thought a coach might help.

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Invite the Whole World to Play: Meet Gini Fellows

Invite the Whole World to Play: Meet Gini Fellows

“You’re continuing to grow.”

Actually, no, I’m not, and wouldn’t that be wonderful, but I know what she meant.

Jamie Dodge is my new running coach at RunnersConnect, and in our initial meet and greet we were talking about how ridiculous I feel sometimes about training hard and doing races.  I had just joined RunnersConnect, an incredibly supportive online community of 600 runners of all ages, coaches, a team doctor, and a team nutritionist.

I had a great experience with my first running coach, Ann Alyanak at the RunSMART Project, who got me across the finish line at the Reggae Marathon in Negril in December, and it was a natural progression for me to join RunnersConnect as I began to understand how my personality can impact my fitness goals.

 

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Coastal Delaware Running Festival Half Marathon: Give into Low Tide

Coastal Delaware Running Festival Half Marathon: Give into Low Tide

Here’s the thing about doing races.

Running is hard. "Easy runs" always appear on my training calendar, but they’re never easy.

Whether I’m sprinting and doing intervals or going easy or going long, running is always hard.

So signing up for races keeps me motivated. It’s just that simple.

Because although running only gets easier but never easy, like anything else, the more you expose yourself to difficult or uncomfortable things, the less difficult or uncomfortable they become.

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Take it all in your stride

Take it all in your stride

I’m in the habit of checking myself out, body part by body part, when I wake up in the morning.

Ok I’m checking out the status of the ring of fat around my abdomen I’m working hard to crush but mostly I do this so I can decide how much time I’ll need to warm up before running.  If it’s a swim day, I just make a mental note of what’s achy or crunchy and figure I’ll sort it out in the pool.

If I don’t self-assess in the morning I usually regret it. 

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