PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Shaming Yourself. Seriously.]

Vern and daughter running on the beach in Thailand.

Shaming Yourself! is the third article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series about helping you get the most out of your self during physical exercise.

This is a series on motivating yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking or running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

Some psychologists say that “shoulding on yourself”, saying “I should have…” is not a good strategy to go through life. But, this is different. This is shaming yourself, it can result in pushing yourself harder during exercise.

How it works is this…

At some point during a run or a bike ride, I might notice that I’m in a comfortable spot and just sort of going through the motions. I feel good, there’s no injury that’s holding me back. It’s just that the body and mind can get to this equilibrium state that is just too comfortable. If you don’t notice it you might go through a whole hour like that. If you really are clue-less you could go through a whole month of runs like that.

Running in an equilibrium state is OK and you’ll still benefit over the course of doing it. But, why not push it if you’re feeling really comfortable?  For myself, when I notice I’m feeling really good, relaxed, and steady I start to compare myself to other runners – usually older people or kids. Here’s the way it happened the other day.

I was on the second time up the 1,237 steps at the temple. The first time was amazing, I ran up 1,000 of the steps and walked about 200. There are some steps that are too steep to run safely and a fall might mean serious injuries. So I ran up in groups of 50, 70, 100, 80 steps and stopped to catch my breath after each run. I was doing 4 steps a second and by the time I did 80 of them I needed a breather. It was like interval training. I haven’t done it before but it went really well. I was surprised I had the energy to run up them like that.

Then, at the top I was even more surprised that I felt good. My legs were pumped up more than they’d ever been after climbing the steps. I went quickly to the bottom and re-assessed. Yep, still feel great. I started up again at a slow pace. My thinking was, “If I can just do one more up-down that’d be my hardest workout on the steps in 6 months.” Well, I went mindlessly up to step 500 when I realized. You’re way too comfortable. You ran these steps last time – can’t you run them again?

My mind doubted I could.

I shamed myself. My self-talk went something like this…

Man, you’re climbing these steps slower than some middle-aged Thai women do it. What the hell Vern? It was true – I’d seen some 40-year-old women go up faster in certain sections than I was going. You’ve been up this thing 270+ times, you can’t pick up the overall pace and go faster than this? I realized I was too comfortable during the first 500 steps and just happy to go up and down at a slow, meaningless pace.


Run up the next 60 steps to that next level.  You’re a *$$&@! (bad word for wimp) if you don’t. Did you come here to exercise or coast through the last 30 minutes up and down?

I ran up the next 60 steps and stopped to catch my breath. The next group was only 45 steps. Run up the next 45 and see how you feel – hell, you just ran up 1,000 of them, what’s 45 more?

I ran up the next 45 and caught my breath. By then my heart was going strong, my legs were pumped and I felt really good. I kicked myself into high-gear again after the first 500 slow paced steps and now I was ready to see how far I could push it again. I ran up the next 85 steps. Caught my breath. Ran up the next 120. Caught my breath… and so on. I ran up the rest of the steps (737) except the 40 dangerous ones.

It was an awesome, awesome day on the steps. Twice up and I ran up 1,700 out of 2,474 of them.

I sometimes catch myself going at a pace that a grandmother could hold. Sure it’s after I’ve already done something intense and that I felt great about, but still… the idea that any old woman or little kid could run at the pace I am, climb steps at the pace I am, cycle at the pace I am is totally unacceptable for any amount of time. I shame myself into kicking it up a few notches. Almost always this puts my body into a state where I can really push myself further, much further than the mind had resigned itself to.

Try shaming yourself! It works!

Best of Life!

Vern

My PUSHING YOURSELF Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Delaying Gratification]

Boy not thinking of delaying gratification as he pushes himself to run on the beach in the heat.

Delaying Gratification is the fifth article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series which is designed to help you get the most possible benefit out of your exercise session.

My PUSHING YOURSELF Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking/running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

Delaying gratification is something I use whenever I feel really strong and I know my exercise session is going to be a heroic effort. You know those days when you feel on top of the world as you start exercising and it doesn’t get worse – it just gets better? So you push, and it still feels great. You push more – still great.

I use this technique of delaying any gratification I allow myself to feel on days just like this so I can keep the level of effort high and stretching out as long as possible.

What this means is – I don’t let myself feel happy about what I’ve already accomplished. I stay level-headed and rational about it. I recognize that I’ve done well so far, but I concern myself more with the next push and what it will entail than focusing on the how great the effort I’ve already made was.

In this way I’m able to stop the mind from saying, “Ok, good enough! Wow, that was great… let’s take it easy and call it a day. We did a good job.”

On those days when I have an abundance of energy, strength, and endurance I want to get everything possible out of my session. This happened on the steps about three weeks ago. I usually have my notebook computer, battery, charger, camera, phone, some shirts and sweatpants as shock padding for the notebook, water and a carton of milk for the mangy dog that’s at the top of the hill some days. On occasion I have a kilogram of rambutan too – if you haven’t ever tried rambutan fruit you must see if the asian market in your city has some. It’s the most delicious fruit in the world…  I digress.

So I’m usually on the steps with a backpack that weighs ten to thirteen pounds. I can go up the stairs with the backpack twice with no problem, but I’ve only done the steps three times if I didn’t have the bag with me. On this day I had the bag but I felt good at the top the first time. I went down to the bottom and I still felt good – so I went up again. I rested about ten minutes and went back down. I still felt great. I had some time so I thought, ahhh, do it again. I did it the third time and I STILL felt good but had run out of time.

I don’t think I would have gone a fourth time anyway, better to do 3x a few more sessions before I try four times up and down. The problem with steps is that it’s easy to pull a muscle going more than twice. Usually it happens on the way down I notice a little twinge of pain in my foot or behind my knee cap.

The reason I was able to do three times that day (3,711 steps up and 3,711 down) is because I didn’t let myself feel the satisfaction of doing it the first or second time. Even after the third time when I thought I might give it a go the fourth time I still hadn’t let myself feel good about the effort yet. Once I feel good about what I’ve done I notice that I’m less inclined to push myself much more.

Delay the gratification by not letting yourself feel the satisfaction that is due until you are completely done with the session. Then – bathe yourself in compliments for pushing it so hard!

Best of Life!

Vern

My PUSHING YOURSELF Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

Pushing Past Cancer

Alfred in Thailand

I doubt there is a person reading this that hasn’t been affected by cancer. You may not have it, but you’ve been affected by it. You have older relatives, friends, family members that either have it, or had it. It is probably impossible that you don’t know anyone that had cancer.

I know someone, a good friend that I’ve written about here at this site and others, that was recently re-diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes. He had it once, kicked it (they said), and now it’s back full-force and trying to kick my friend’s ass.

My friend is turning 76 years old in about ten days.

He is one of the most amazing guys on the planet. I’ve never had role models. I’ve never had someone I wanted to be like. This guy is like the father I never had. He’s like the coach I never had. He is incredibly inspiring to me. He motivates me to go beyond what I’ve ever done before because his determination, his internal fortitude is mind blowing to me.

His name is Alfred. He’s from the United Kingdom.

At 70 years old I saw him climbing the outdoor staircase up the side of a hill in Thailand that I was climbing almost daily. It’s 280 meters vertical and the steps are not the 7-inch steps you see in a skyscraper, there are some of those, but the average step height is about 9-inches. None of the steps are average though, so they vary between 5-inches and 22-inches high.

On the day I first remember seeing Alfred climbing, it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit that day, as it was nearly every day. The sun was blazing down on us as I poured sweat. He was only lightly sweating. We were at step 1057 when we stopped for a few seconds to talk. He told me he’d been climbing there for years. I couldn’t guess how old he was at the time, I thought somewhere around 60. His bright grey hair said otherwise, but his body was so fit and his disposition so full of life, I couldn’t have guessed he was in his 70’s.

I started to climb the steps around the time he said he was there and I ran into him often. We met there at times and climbed together. He could hold a steady pace the entire way up, and was climbing it in 15-16 minute pace regularly. He frequently ran up the section from step 840 to 925. Not bad, right?

After meeting him a couple times he said something that totally blew my mind.

He’d climbed, on a whim, four times in a row after having nothing for breakfast and sparse liquids. He had just felt like climbing, and quickly knocked out four climbs in a row in the heat of the mid-morning sun!

Though I knew him somewhat well at that point, I didn’t know how to take what he’d told me. Was this guy totally out of his gourd that he thinks I’m going to believe that BS?

I had done twice up the stairs a couple of times. I thought that was enough for me. I didn’t see any point in attempting to go three times up. Two was an excellent workout and it took me about 30 minutes of climbing and 18 minutes of running down the steps to do it. Even today, if I climb twice (up and down) in an hour, I feel like I did something worthwhile.

Here was this guy, seventy, telling me he went up 4 times with little water and no breakfast or preparation – just on a whim?

I pretended to believe him. But, it plagued me all day.

Was this guy a bullshitter? He sure didn’t seem like it. I tend to know people within a few minutes of meeting them. Alfred seemed like a very straight up guy. Four times?

So, the challenge was set. He’d done four times in 3h 30m. I had to somehow find it in myself to beat that time, or maybe to go even more times than that. I was only in my early forties. I had done triathlons and races of all sorts in my twenties, but for more than a decade I hadn’t really pushed myself very much. Alfred was forcing me to up my game, just by being there. Just by me knowing him and hearing that he was capable of such an astounding feat.

I ramped up my training and set my focus on four times. I completed it after a couple weeks. It was very difficult to do. I was excited to tell him that I’d done it. He seemed a bit surprised I could do it. He started talking about doing a vertical mile on the steps. I thought for sure we already had. Turns out we had to go 6 times to reach a vertical mile. WOW.

Anyway, and so it went. Alfred was really into walking long distances as well. At times he’d climb the stairs up the hill and then the same day walk 10 kilometers (6.2) miles or more along the beach near where he lived. A couple years ago he entered a 12-hour walk-race in Malacca, Malaysia. Out of 300+ participants he came in 43rd overall and was the 16th person to reach 50 kilometers! The guy is an animal!

Then he came down with cancer. He took chemo for a few months and the doctors proclaimed him CURED! Well, they must have missed the huge tumor in his stomach, because shortly afterward another doctor found it.

As I write this, Alfred is on a flight back home to England to be treated by a doctor there. He’ll have some rounds of chemotherapy again and this time he’ll come out clean and stay clean. That’s what I’m betting on.

Facing cancer is something that I am already sure I will have to endure. I am prepared for it. I know what I’ll do. I know how I’ll go about it. I’ve done some research in the past, and I’ve already got a plan for when it all goes down. It just seems wise to prepare for it now because it hits so many people and they’re thrown into a tailspin. Some crash and burn. I won’t. I’ll fight it and kill it.

The mindset one needs to fight something that is living inside and trying to take nutrition from organs essential for life, is on a different level than most of us have reached.

I tell myself I have terminal cancer daily. I don’t, far as I know, but I tell myself this so I don’t waste time. The most important resource we can optimize – is time. We do so by being aware of it, and filling it with things that help us and others. Time marches on, but we can march along with it, completing everything we set our minds to. If we can plan most of our day and accomplish it, we’ve used time to the best of our ability. I think most people across the globe plan about 50% of their day. The rest is left up to whatever influences fight for, and win-over, our attention. TV is a mind cancer. Talk Radio is another type of mind cancer. Porn, games, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, chat… all of it is cancer that steals time from us.

That which steals our time away is the worst kind of cancer – isn’t it?

So when cancer comes calling, have a plan for it. My plan is to continue living life as I am living it now. I’ll exercise daily. I’ll run until I have to bike. I’ll bike until I have to swim. I’ll swim until I have to walk. I’ll walk until I have to sit in a chair and twirl my arms in circles. I’ll twirl until I have to rotate my hands or raise my fingers up and down.

I’ll do whatever is possible with the time I have. I’ll radically change my diet. I might drink juice only for months or years, to get the advantage. I’ll dive headfirst into researching the latest news on the issue and focus my whole being on beating the hell out of it.

If in the end, I lose the battle – such is life. All we can do is give it our best shot. I think many people don’t even give it their best shot. You know, there are people walking around with cancer that are still eating fried foods, junk foods, smoking, drinking, and not exercising. Some with cancer are still filling their heads with TV, talk, and chat that means nothing to them or anyone else. They are ignoring the problem, not fighting it with every bit of energy they possess.

I have to say, sadly, that when Alfred was diagnosed with cancer the second time, there was a hopelessness in his face. I saw it. I felt it. He never said it, but there was definitely a change in his mindset the second time. It hurt me to see it, and I did my best to help him maintain a positive outlook on it.

Today I said goodbye to my friend Alfred at the front of my home before he drove to the airport. I do hope he switches gears and goes into fight-mode. His body has shriveled up quite a bit. He has shrunk in stature. His face looks older and more serious. He told me on the phone a couple times that his body is falling apart. The pain in his back and stomach are crippling.  He looks 75 now. On the outside he looks beaten. I’ve never seen him look like that. But it isn’t the outside that matters.

I know on the inside he is not beaten. His mind is stronger than this. His love of life is stronger than this. Cancer cannot beat his mind, unless he lets it win. I do hope he finds the motivation to kick cancer in the ass this second time too.

Alfred, if you’re reading this –

Kick cancer right in the mouth! Kick it for your son. Kick it for your daughter. Kick it for the friends you have here in Thailand and the life-long friends you have in England. Kick cancer in the head for all the people you inspired while climbing the mountain in stifling heat and humidity.

Don’t forget to kick it a couple of times for me too!

Kick it to destroy it, not just beat it back. Kick it to eliminate it without another chance of regrowth. Kick it like you mean it this time. Kick it to show yourself that you are what you have been for so many years. Spinal meningitus couldn’t bring you down. Depression couldn’t bring you down. The suck of life couldn’t bring you down.

You’ve kicked all of this in the past. It’s time to kick harder than you ever have before. Kick until you’re consumed by it. Kick until you’re inside-out. Kick until cancer tires of your fight.

You are still full of fight. I hope you realize that soon my friend…

Best of Life!

Vern
Find me at Twitter HERE >

27 Reasons I Love to Go Running [Don’t miss #12, 13, 27]

Boy getting out the door to start exercising, no matter what

27 Reasons I love to Go Running…

1. It’s a reward for sitting in the house at the computer for 8-10 hours or doing other things I don’t really want to do. Yes, I said REWARD! If you run just enough to make it fun and don’t run when it’s not fun – then it’s always fun – yes?

2. See wildlife! Over the years I’ve seen (Hawaii, Thailand, Florida, Pennsylvania):

  • Snakes! Thailand has a lot of snakes.
  • Big red, white and blue woodpeckers!
  • Centipedes and millipedes and all manners of crawling insects, some of which go “crunch” under my feet – accidentally.
  • Lizards that change color, and flying lizards, water monitors (7+ feet), Tokay Geckos squawking.
  • Flying insects – some of which get sucked into my mouth and chest if I’m not paying attention to keep my mouth 80% closed!
  • There are these cicada type things in Thailand that make the whole park scream at 6 p.m. every night in the Summer.
  • A large eastern diamondback rattlesnake crossing the road  – it was as thick around as my 15-16 inch neck!
  • Deer, hippos, bear, leopards, peacocks, and vultures (I ran through a small zoo regularly in Thailand that was connected to the park!)

3. I saw 38 guys in dresses running through downtown Honolulu once… It was a run sponsored by the Honolulu Hash House Harriers Hawaii (H5). I can’t remember if I had one on too, but if I did it was something dashing and sophisticated, yet slutty and with a drastically plunging neckline!

4. Speaking of the Hash House Harriers, once on a run at the top of Tantalus mountain on Oahu I was off the trail and on what I figured to be the correct trail… I was running down a small stream full of rocks… turns out I didn’t have much time to catch myself before flying (literally) over a 1,700 feet cliff off the edge of the mountain! Talk about a RUSH!

Petzl – NAO+ Headlamp with BlueTooth

5. I know I’m in the top 1% of the general population by running 3-5 times every week. I like doing as many things as possible to be a 1 percenter!

6. I’m 48 and I can still run. When I was 20, I thought 40 would bring death, or at least no more exercise. I didn’t know anyone that was running at 40 yrs. old. I run because I can still do it – and it makes me think that “The Body” hasn’t changed much. I feel like I’m in my teens when I run, especially during one of those “flow runs” where it’s effortless and fast.

Competition brings out the best performance in us.

7. It gives me a rush when I run. Not only as I’m doing it, but afterward too. I have this light-headed feeling that lasts for an hour or sometimes more after I’ve finished. I joke that I’m a worthless endorphin addicted junkie for the period of time following my runs. I cannot talk to anyone and make sense. Nor do I feel like talking. I can’t rationalize at all, nor do math of any kind. I’m not creative in the least, and writing after I run is a horror show. I’m on some kind of mind-chemical high, and it’s legal and it’s OK!

8. It’s the only time I can have sopping wet pants in public and it’s socially alright. People are OK with that, even in a mall. At least they don’t say anything.

9. I can practice “no-mind” or a mind without thought while I run. It’s one of the few physical activities I can do it with. (See my other site Jhana8.com).

10. I have time to myself. Nobody on the phone. Nobody on chat. No computer to check email, to read blogs, or to get frustrated at! It’s one activity that I do alone. I don’t understand running with someone except the Hasher group, which isn’t serious running at all. They call it, “A drinking club with a running problem.”

11. I can be completely alone out in public if I want to. I can run through the woods, up a mountain, or on an old country road. There is such a peace about running where nobody else is.

12. Unexpected experience. I was running around a golf course around midnight, as I like to do occasionally, and I heard the most BLOOD-CURDLING scream. It froze me right there like ice. I could not move. I was questioning whether it really happened as it made no sense at all to suddenly hear this piercing scream right in front of me – and there was nothing there. I stood rock solid for more than just a couple minutes. I was looking with my eyes, but I was too afraid to move my head. It was a scream as if a banshee had just escaped from hell right in front of my face. As I had scanned the entire area in front of me and found no reason for it, and was about to doubt my sanity, I started to look upwards a bit. Then a bit more. I saw what must have been the noisemakers, but to this day I don’t know if they can make this noise. There were two very large owls on the high-power lines about 30 feet above. Does anyone know, can an OWL make a scream like a demon possessed? I might have to Wiki that.

13. More unexpected ‘adult’ experience. More than once I’ve had women come out on the porch or second-floor balcony without a top on, when I ran in the early morning before 7 a.m.! GOOD MORNING TAMPA! (happened a lot there)

14. Running through the rain when it’s warm reminds me of being a little kid and going out specifically because it IS raining outside, just to play.

15. Running through the rain when it’s cold reminds me of Air Force basic training, which wasn’t all THAT bad an experience. I think that is probably another 1 percenter experience.

16. I love to sweat. In my mind it means I’ve done something positive. I think growing up I heard many adults say – “Go sweat a little bit, it’s good for you!” I feel good when I start sweating because I’m doing something physical too. Like I’m pushing myself to do something that the body wouldn’t do on its own. I’m showing the body that the mind is in control. If it says “RUN!”, the body runs. I like how that works.

17. I can wear my comfy Nike socks and running shoes. This might not seem like a big deal to you, but living in Florida, Thailand, and Hawaii flip-flops (slippahs, Hawaiians say) are the standard. But, when I run, I can wear the most comfortable shoes I have!

18. I can FARTLEK to my heart’s content. Huh? Yes, you read that right. Fartlek running is a bit like well, running however you want. There are no expectations before you go – except varying the speed of your typical run. You might do some slow running on the street and then move to a track for some sprints, then head out into the woods and back to the track for some steps at the stadium. You might do some short 50 yard sprints in the middle of your run through the woods. You might do some pushes to 95% and see how long you can stand it. You might skip or run backward sometimes. It’s a German word for “have fun” or something. Ok, I won’t be lazy, I’ll Wiki it for you. Ok, it means, ‘speed play’ in Swedish, not German. And it can be any exercise that, while doing it puts stress mainly on the aerobic system. The intensity of the exercise varies – and is basically up to you. It’s a bouncing between the aerobic and anaerobic systems. I don’t know why it’s called fartlek, but I do enjoy fartlekking all over the place when I run, I’ll tell you that.

19. When I’m in a running program it gives me energy all the time. When I’m not running for a few weeks I feel lazy and tired much of the time. Running keeps the energy levels up.

20. It puts me in a good mood. I’m consistently more positive than I already am. I might think that I’m my same old self when I’m not in steady running mode. Then, I’ll go out and run and I realize – wow, I was missing something. There’s a definite difference when I compare “Vern not running” vs. “Vern in running mode going every other day”. A substantial difference.

21. I love to push myself. Though I run mostly by myself, I love to push myself during the run if I’m feeling good. I might crank up the pace and challenge myself to hold that pace until I get to a certain landmark. That might be 200 yards ahead if I’m flying, or it might be 2 miles away if I’m running 80-85%+ of maximum rate. I am my own best motivator. There is little that motivates me externally. I’m ruthless with myself at times, pushing myself to run when I don’t want to run. Pushing myself to run faster up hills, never slower. Pushing myself to hold a 2/2 breathing pattern until I need to slow down to make up the oxygen deficit that is being created from the sustained push. It’s fulfilling to do little challenges throughout each run!

Petzl – NAO+ Headlamp with BlueTooth

22. I run so I can eat a little more of what I like to eat. I love pizza and other bread and pasta products. Because I run, I can eat more of these things than maybe the average person with my same metabolism. I will do nearly anything to be able to eat more pizza. In Thailand when I stayed in a small village in the countryside I would drive an hour each way on the motorcycle to go to the next biggest town to get some pizza! It was a must, not an “extra”.

23. I run because if others see me running, some will also realize that they can do it too. I wish more people would run. When I go to the main park in any town, especially in Honolulu and I see less than 200 people running around the park at night and maybe another 200 running through the streets of Honolulu, I don’t feel so good about mankind. Here we are, probably 70% of us have the physical capability to run and 90% have the capability to walk – and yet less than 1% run and less than 5% walk as exercise on a recurring basis. WHY? I want the world to run because then people will be happier, more secure about themselves. They’ll be more confident and happier and I’ll get to interact with a happier and more well-adjusted populace. Put on your running shoes people!

24. It’s a part of my life and who “Vern” is. When I stop for any length of time, I don’t feel like me anymore. I’ve run my whole life, so when I stop – it’s like I’m just not “being me”. It’s like I must do it to keep being me.

25. It erases all stress for the time I’m running. It’s impossible to feel stressed as I’m running. I don’t know why, the endorphins I guess?

26. I run because I can play fantasy games of passing my competition. I visualize passing successful people. I pass them one by one and yet I always leave some of the top people ahead of me so I can get them next time or next time. I like to have someone that I’m trying to beat ahead of me and I just can’t get to them for a while. Eventually, I pass them all and I’m the winner. I’m always the winner in my mind.

27. The number one reason for why I run is that it makes me feel powerful and in control of my body and my mind. It gives me confidence, strength and energy, and sense of balance. I feel like I’m a much better business person and friendly person. I feel like I’m being proactive and a go-getter by running when others are sitting on the couch watching television. I feel like I have more patience to deal with others and also with myself. I have a lot of frustration at things that don’t go smoothly. Computers for instance. After I run it gives me a better perspective on life and things aren’t as serious anymore.

Best of Life!

Vern

PS: When I’m in Hawaii the most amazing run is along the Ala Wai canal at about 9 pm. with the moon rising over Diamond Head Volcano. Wow.

Why do you run?

Post your reasons in the comments section below!

[Boy running image from Woodleywonderworks at Flickr]

What is Your Resting Heart Rate? 34?

Invariably when I go to the doctor and a nurse takes my blood pressure and pulse, they start looking at me like I'm in a medical emergency. SIR, ARE YOU DIZZY, SIT BACK IN YOUR SEAT! It happens all the time. My heart rate is low, but my blood pressure makes them wonder if I'm alive. Yep, STILL CRANKING!
Invariably when I go to the doctor and a nurse takes my blood pressure and pulse, they start looking at me like I’m in a medical emergency. SIR, ARE YOU DIZZY, SIT BACK IN YOUR SEAT! It happens all the time. My heart rate is low, but my blood pressure makes them wonder if I’m alive. Yep, STILL CRANKING!

I am a fan of low heart rates. I know it’s weird – right?

Miguel Indurain before the Tour de France started some years ago, had a resting heart rate of 36 beats per minute I think it was.

My lowest ever was 38 bpm, but once I was measuring it and I was in the low 30’s. I got excited and it jumped up. Go figure, right?

Today I’m 48 years old and my usual resting (sitting) pulse during the day as I work, writing on the computer, is around 46 beats per minute.

My lowest recently has been about 42. Recently I got this 43 and that was pretty cool. It was just before 6 a.m. and I was still laying down.

I use pulse to assess in part whether I’m rested and how much I’m able to push myself that day as I run, climb, bike, or whatever exercise it is I have planned.

You’ve probably heard of Kilian Jornet, if you’re a runner. Especially a trail runner. Kilian is at the top of his game, and top of the world for running up mountains. His resting heart rate is 34 bpm.

Outrageous – right!?

Running 21 Miles for the First Time Ever

Runner - Ao Nang Beach, Thailand

Just about a month ago I talked about running fifteen miles for the first time ever. Then, ten days ago I did another fifteen-mile run. Felt better the second time. Yesterday, I was close to not running at all. I wasn’t looking forward to running in the rain and cold (74°F). That is very cold for where I am in Thailand.

I couldn’t even decide that I was definitely going to run yesterday. I had planned a long run. I was hoping to get over to the mountain trail for an attempt at three times up and down, something I’ve never done. The couple days of solid rain put me off though because as it turned out my wife had the car and I was stuck with the motorbike in the rain.

That meant I had to go to the park to run. That meant, since a hard day was planned, I had to do at least 12 miles. Or so. If I got 12 miles done, I’d be happy. Thing was, it was so damn cold that I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. Anyway, long story short, because the video shows most of what went into my decision to go work out, I went to the park in the pouring rain to see what happened.

I walked around a couple laps of the 1.25 km loop to loosen up. I was in no real mood to run until that point. The decision to run was a rather, ahhh, WTH, might as well run if I’m walking sort of thing. Once running I slowly got my entire body soaking wet. There were puddles completely across the path. The grassy areas I thought were  drier than the puddles turned out to be worse, with mud – sucking me deeper and making the effort three times as hard as if I’d just stayed on the wet path.

The first ten miles went by like nothing. I had one small Gatorade up to that point. Usually I’d have had two, but as I said, it was cold and wet and I really wasn’t sweating much – only when I put on the rain poncho in the very hard downpours and I was chilled to the bone did I sweat like mad because the plastic trapped the heat.

Splashing in Puddle

[Photo copyright Jesse Millan at Flickr]

I grabbed my other Gatorade and stretched my hamstrings a bit, my calves a bit, hoping to avoid the tightness behind my knees which stopped me from going further on my first fifteen mile run, and kept going.

If you’ve never run long distances before, I hope my description of it helps you to do the same. It’s daunting to think about running twenty miles when previously you’ve only run under fifteen miles. I may have run up to fifteen when I was seventeen years old, but I honestly don’t remember. I didn’t keep track of my one really long run as a teen, but maybe I came close to fifteen that day.

A month ago was my first fifteen mile run since then. Then, ten days ago I did another fifteen mile run. Yesterday, doing twenty, I thought I could have done the full marathon distance. Problem was I ran out of time, and I hadn’t been eating anything to fuel me the next six miles. I just didn’t think I had it in me before I started, so I didn’t consider bringing food and salt with me to the park. This is the third time this has happened, so I’ll be bringing salt and food in preparation for all long runs in the future!

There is something that happens as you run beyond ten miles, if you’re properly hydrated and have put in some base runs of six miles most days of the week. You can run beyond ten. Maybe well beyond.

My base mileage has been low – averaging around 3-4 miles per day when looked at over the month. I tend to do six to ten miles when I can, and that’s usually a few times a week. I have been ill over the past couple weeks and wasn’t sure I was ready to do a real long run, but that’s the thing about long distance, slow running – you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re out there and doing it.

Running slow is so much easier than running near max effort. When you run enough miles in preparation, running slow over twenty miles is almost like sleepwalking. I mean, it isn’t, I’m exaggerating, but, it isn’t much different from walking. Once you’re at the point where you can have 3-3 breathing as you run long distance, you can maintain that for a long time until something starts hurting and you have to fix it.

So, that’s the state I was in after fifteen miles. I was just sort of mindlessly bumbling along the flat loop and getting rained on by inches of rain. I gave up trying to avoid the puddles after the second lap and just smashed through them.

Smashing through the puddles is great for a few reasons:

1. There is a floating feeling for a brief instant if you hit flat footed in at least 3 inches of water. That is a nice change for the feet that have been pounding asphalt for a couple hours already.

2. It cools the feet down a bit.

3. You no longer have to waste energy trying to figure out how to dance around them, you just run straight through and save some energy.

4. It feels carefree and fun, like it did when you were a little kid.

For three hours there wasn’t even one person at the park exercising. That’s strange because usually there are a couple to a few hundred others. Then a guy came with an umbrella and did two laps. Running in the rain gives you absolute solitude!

So here is a bit about what it feels like running from 15-21 miles.

Breathing is 3 steps in during an in-breath, and 3 steps for the outbreath. If it gets into 2-3 or 3-2 or 2-2 then I’m going too fast and I slow it down. Breathing is easy and smooth, and the least of my worries. Strength to run is also, the least of my worries because at such slow speeds it near enough to walking that it isn’t an issue at all.

The issue as you’re running long distance is monitoring the pain. That’s what I do the entire time. I make myself aware of any pain and I see if it changes – getting worse or better. That’s it. That’s long distance running. If the pain gets worse, I try to make it less. If it gets better, I try to continue whatever I was doing.

At various times during the long run yesterday I had pain:

  • in outer band of R knee
  • on top of L knee
  • in L quad
  • in L adductor
  • in head – slight headache appeared to be coming on during part of the run
  • in R bicep – from a pull that happened doing something non-running related
  • in both calves as they threatened to cramp
  • in arches of both feet as they too threatened to cramp

One thing you’re going to face, no matter what shoes you wear, is foot pain. For me, besides the occasional cramp in the arch, it’s just a dull pain that builds up very gradually over the miles. At twenty miles I wish I had another pair of shoes. I don’t know why I haven’t gone in search of another pair of shoes that are better suited to running on the hard asphalt, but I haven’t. I have suffered three times now, and not looking forward to suffering much past twenty miles without some decent shoes.

At the moment, and for the past couple years, I’ve run on the roads in the Nike Free 7.0 v3 I think they are. Maybe v2. They are minimalist, very flexible, very light, and have a 7 mm drop. During my long runs I’ve worn Nike Free’s and had no problem with blisters at all, even during heavy rain.

Nike Free 7.0 v2 Blue Shoes

Apparently what I need to help foot pain, if all the hype is to be believed, are Hoka One One’s. If you’ve never watched David Bowie in moonboots, you probably have never seen anything like Hoka shoes before. They have a massive foam pad that soaks up the energy of your feet slapping the road tens of thousands of times during a long run. Apparently their extra foam costs heaps of extra dollars. I just found them priced around $150 USD. I paid half that for my Nike Free’s.

Michael Arnstein highly recommends Hoka One One for ultra runs on the street AND the trails here. He says ‘running down hills in them is like running on wet sponges.’ He ran the Leadville 100 mile race in them.

Hoka One One Blue yellow Shoes

Still, there is no way in hell I’m paying $150 because the shoe has extra foam. Foam costs about 3c a pound. What are we – stupid?

I’ll have to research today to find an alternative. As Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Saucony, Asics and some other companies see Hoka’s success, they’ll also start making something similar. Price will be much less and again I’ll be able to pay just $75 to $100 for 3¢ of foam, 20¢ of rubber, and a nickel of nylon cloth.

Funny, we’ve come full circle with minimalism vs. maximalism. On the technical mountain trail I run in New Balance Minimus with a 4mm drop. They are excellent for that trail, but little else. I’ve noticed my foot strength has improved considerably and I no longer roll my ankles like I used to be plagued with.

So you can see, long distance running is basically pain management. If all the above came at the same time – I’d either stop for a while or stop the run entirely. Thing is, they come on one at a time, or in groups of 2-3 sometimes. When pain comes like that, it’s manageable. You can get through it.

There’s something about running long distances that’s great to realize. You need not run the entire thing. You can walk. People in marathons and ultra-distance runs – walk sometimes. It’s OK. It’s necessary sometimes. Don’t feel bad about it. You’re not cheating. Just walk if you need to. A short walk can do wonders, rejuvenating the body and giving you a boost that allows you to go further.

Something else to think about… nutrition. Besides fueling up with Gatorade or your carb drink of choice, eat something if you’re planning to run over an hour. Dates are great, and my favorite food for eating while I run over a couple hours. They are packed with calories and they digest pretty easily if you have some liquid with them.

Coke or some other soda will crank you up like nothing else when you need a kick in the pants. I had a red Fanta with ice from a vendor at the side of the road as I ran. Then, an hour later, a coke with ice. Both times, just ten minutes after drinking them, I felt great. I had energy, and after stopping to buy the drinks my body had a slight rest, so I got the benefit of that too.

I’ve read countless stories from some of the great ultra-runners grabbing a coke during a race and it’s like having a shot of adrenaline for them. The effect is astounding, especially when you don’t typically drink the stuff. I don’t.

Michael Arnstein, one of the world’s premier ultra-runners, told his wife to begin eating within twenty minutes of beginning a long run. Apparently it’s that important to keep a steady stream of calories coming in.

Some people run listening to music. I haven’t tried that yet. I think that would take me away from monitoring the pain too much and I might miss something that is gradually getting worse. Then, when it’s too late, it knocks me out of the run. That wouldn’t be ideal.

Some people think and solve life’s problems while running big mileage. I cannot think unless I’m walking. Not sure, but there is a brain-short somewhere in my head that stops all ability to think about life while I’m running. I can only do a few things… 1) meditate. 2) manage pain 3) think about food.

What about you? Can you think when you run? What about after 15-20 miles – can you still think?

If you have anything to share about running long distances for the first time – tips, or whatever you want to share – comment!

Surfing Tropical Rainforest Trails

Trail Surfing
Here’s something you don’t hear about every day. Well, I don’t think you’ve ever heard of it before now.

If you haven’t already read a lot of articles I’ve written at this site, you might not know, but I have this thing about creating mindgames that make ultra-running, and other endurance exercises like long stair climbs up the side of a mountain, easier.

Since I’ve recently been running longer distances – my mind has been churning out these new running techniques that help athletes push harder and faster. Today, I don’t know how it came about really, but I came up with a new way to look at trail running that makes it even more fun than it was before.

Trail Surfing!

I write about surfing the trail below, or you can just scroll down to the bottom of this page and see the video I did about it right after it happened. The video is probably easier to understand.

I was running up my favorite mountain here in Krabi, Thailand… well, wait, truthfully? It’s my only mountain around here to run up unless I want to run up a paved road in a remote park where I was accosted by a Thai guy grabbing my genitals as he rode by on a motorbike. But, that’s a different story. I will tell that one, but let me get back to this.

I wasn’t feeling well for the first five minutes. It’s a slow climb over the first part and still, I just wasn’t into it. I’ve been ill for the past couple weeks, so I figured OK, no problem, I just won’t run as much today. I definitely didn’t feel like pushing up the 500 meter high climb, but I didn’t feel horrible yet.

Then I got dizzy. Bummer. So, I slowed down even more and guessed I’d hit the peak in about 50 minutes. I figured no worries, I’d just aim for that time because there was no way I’d be running anything like my usual 36 minutes.

Though my head wasn’t right, my legs were not weak and my breathing wasn’t bad, I was just dizzy and felt out of it mentally a bit. I decided to do what ultra-runner recluse Micah True suggested in the “Born to Run” book I read a couple years ago. Here’s the quote…

“Don’t fight the trail. Take what it gives you … Think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a sh*t how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one — you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

It’s brilliant. I’ve used this technique many times over the years and I have had some great results. Micah was obviously someone who was in his head quite a bit. He lived alone in some remote part of Mexico for years before anyone found him. I sometimes wonder what other mindgames he used to help himself go further and faster. Unfortunately, we’ll never know because he passed away in April of 2012.

 

So this morning as I ran, I began focusing on running easy, light and smooth. As I do, I notice the usual, just like he claimed – I get faster without feeling like I’m expending more energy or effort to do so. In this case I wasn’t well and yet I was still able to go much faster than I had hoped to. What happened was, the dizziness abated and I was able to really focus on easy, light, and smooth (ELS).

After just a few minutes of this, my breathing became even better. My legs had strength and power in reserve. Finally, my dizziness went away and my mind cleared up. I was excited about the positive changes, and yet I was just enjoying a nice climb up the trail and decided not to push it.

Then, after maybe ten minutes, this idea popped into my head as I was running ELS that was odd, but I let it germinate there until it grew into a full blown mindgame. I began to imagine that I was surfing up the mountain on a surfboard. I didn’t have an actual board, but the feeling was the same as when I surfed in Hawaii. I surfed and bodyboarded for a couple of thousand hours in the amazing waves around the Hawaiian Islands years ago. It’s my favorite physical thing to do.

Anyway, maybe I was missing my wave-riding days and my mind just churned this up. I began looking at the dirt trail as a liquid wave. I picked my line and ran as ESL as possible, which made me feel like climbing the mountain wasn’t even difficult. The mind is such an amazing thing. When focused on some game that takes it away from monitoring the pain of the body during a hard effort, the effort becomes considerably less difficult. Sometimes it goes away entirely.

So I was surfing UP the mountain. I know, it sounds odd, right? I think better to watch the video below so you can understand more clearly how I went about it. I probably explained it better there than I could explain it in words here now, ten hours after the fact.

If you’re still reading, I’ll tell you one more twist on the whole thing. After I ran like I was surfing for a while, and about one kilometer from the top of the hill, I added another element to the game. I pictured that I was riding a virtual surfboard about eight feet long.

The result was that it made me run even more smoothly. Why? Because I had to think more and plan my footsteps to move me in a smoother line. You know an eight foot surfboard cannot turn sharply, so I could only curve long turns. That meant I had to plan it out more so I could carve a smoother line.

The whole experience of surfing up the rainforest trail was pretty phenomenal. I love when these ideas just pop into my head.

At the top of the trail I shot that video that I put below. Then I was eager to try surfing down the mountain! I figured it would be so smooth and really feel even better than it did surfing up.

Though I felt good, I still didn’t want to push hard on the way down. I just wanted to go ESL and surf the trail gently, enjoying the experience more than anything. So as I started out I imagined I was on a board carving my way down the technical path.

I didn’t really go over how technical this trail is. It’s very technical. On a scale of 10, I’d give it an 8. It’s ridiculously full of roots and rocks. So, while coming down I found it harder to get into a good rhythm, but I did notice that I was going smoother than I ever had before. I pushed a little bit. I cranked it up another notch even. I was going as fast as I could and still maintaining my smooth flow as I surfed down the trail.

As a result of using this really efficient style of running, at the bottom I wasn’t all that surprised to find out I had crushed my previous fastest known time (FKT) on the descent by over a minute. As I considered that, it became more astonishing because I honestly wasn’t really running very fast. I wasn’t pushing that hard. I was going about 80% of maximum effort.

Try trail surfing and let me know what you think. I know this is the third time I’ve said it, but, watch the video below to get a better idea what exactly the technique I used was. Feel free to change it as you like, the way I did it might not be the way you do it. Experiment with it. I think it’s a powerful technique. At least it’s a good starting point you can use to create some game of your own that works for you.

I’d love to hear from you if you try it – feel free to share positive or negative experiences.

Best of Life to You!

Vern

 

Trail Surfing Technique Video:

[Cool trail surfing photo at top by Justin Jensen at Flickr]

Leading Cause of Running Injuries?

Runner’s World recently surveyed ninety-five runners with an average of 5.5 years of running experience and 35 kilometers (22 miles) of running per week. Survey respondents were asked what they thought the most frequent cause of injuries were among runners.

Here are their results, and I weigh in below.

  • not stretching (31 people)
  • excessive training (28)
  • wearing the wrong shoes for foot type (22)
  • inadequate/unbalanced diet (20)
  • not warming up (20)
  • lack of strength (19)
  • not respecting the body’s limits (18)
  • no professional supervision (17)

See full article here.

I think I have a pretty good handle on what the cause of my own injuries are, and I have a decent guess at what causes most other runner’s injuries. I’ve been a runner since I was six years old. I’ve had scores of injuries over the years. Most commonly I’ve had calf and groin muscle pulls followed closely by twisted, torqued, sprained ankles.

My own muscle injuries are almost always the result of pushing far too hard, too soon. My joint, ligament and tendon injuries are usually the result of hard trail running and not paying attention enough to the technical terrain.

I stretch very little, and guess what? I had many more injuries when I was young and stretching often, than I do now in my late forties. I push quite hard still, and I think not stretching has actually helped me considerably in avoiding injuries. I’m pretty sure of it. Sure enough that I don’t do any stretching except touching my toes sometimes just to see if I can. I can’t!

I think most other people that injure themselves while running do so also because the body is not ready for the effort they’re forcing on it. Slowly ramping up the miles is important to new runners, and I consider someone running for five years rather new. Mileage cannot be added in chunks. Adding it very slowly is the best way to go about it. I have to tell myself that often when I feel great on a run and I want to add another five miles or so, when I know I’m not ready for it.

What do YOU THINK? What are most of your running injuries the result of?

Best of Luck and Life,

Vern

Training for My First Ultra Marathon – 50 kilometers

I set a goal at the beginning of the month that was a bit optimistic, maybe doable, but I’ve already revised the goal and added another month to it so I don’t leap forward in my usual gung-ho style and hurt myself. I’d like to really ramp up my running over the next year and don’t need any major injuries.

I want to run my first Ultra-Marathon of 50 KM by the end of October.

Some Background

  • I played soccer from 7 years old until 18.
  • I raced (running) competively, bicycled competitively, and ran triathlons and biathlons competitively for a total of maybe 10 years after high school. I’m 48 years old now.
  • Until recently I hadn’t run past 15 miles. The other week I ran 16 miles and it felt great up until that point. Great, meaning I was able to keep going and push through the pain without too much trouble. At the sixteenth mile the soft tissue behind my knees hurt too much to continue.
  • How do I make myself run 15+ miles?
  • I don’t stretch. I need to stretch a bit because after 15 miles I think my legs were feeling much too tight.
  • I’ve done mostly short trail runs and step climbing sessions of 40 minutes to 2.5 hours over the past 10 years. Running started in earnest about 2 years ago after stopping riding my bike.

So, after listening to Sage Canaday’s video about periodization training I decided to go on a 9 day cycle, like he does. I’ll do a hard workout – quality workout he calls them – and then take 2 easy days, then another hard workout, 2 days, etc. I’ll do 3 difficult days during the 9 day cycle, and 5 days easy, possibly 4 easy depending how difficult my long run is to complete.

Here’s the breakdown for this week:

  • 9/16  – easy 6-7 miles
  • 9/17 – fast run up mountain trail for 700 meters elevation gain and 11.5 kilometers. This is a lactic acid threshold run for 90% of the run. Involves some power-hiking up steep sections.
  • 9/18 – easy 6-7 miles
  • 9/19 – easy 6-7 miles
  • 9/20 – lactate threshold / tempo run with 1 minute rests between 1.25 km laps around the park (flat – no elevation gain).
  • 9/21 – easy 6-7 miles
  • 9/22 – easy 6-7 miles
  • 9/23 – long run of 12-20 miles – depending how I feel.
  • 9/24 – rest, nothing
  • 9/25 – easy 5-6 miles
  • 9/26 – fast run up mountain trail like above.
  • Repeat, adding couple miles during each week to the easy runs to increase overall mileage.

We’ll see how this plan goes. Ideally I’ll remain uninjured and be able to complete my goal in late October of running my first 50 kilometer ultra-marathon. I’ll do this around our local park. It’s flat and will hopefully be a cool day!

Have YOU run an ultra yet? How did you go about ramping up training to help you get to 50 kilometers or more? Accepting advice…!