Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Runner Vs. Runner's Ego

It was the last mile of the 5K race. It was my first year running, so I still was not really sure how to properly pace myself, so I would compare the way I was breathing with the way people around me were breathing to gauge how I was doing. I was passing another runner, I listened to his breath, ragged and gasping, mine was rapid, but still smooth so I figured I was OK for now. I started catching up with another runner, from several yards back I could hear him breathing and I knew he was really struggling. I could see that he was slowing down.

He turned his head to look over his shoulder. Apparently he heard me coming. When he saw me catching up to him a look of bold determination came into his eyes, he turned his head forward again, tucked his head and shoulders down, took a deep, labored breath and pushed. I maintained my pace. His push didn't last long, he faltered, actually stumbled a bit, then slowed down even more than before and I passed him.

I had a friend who decided he hated running. Whenever he finished with a run his legs were sore, he couldn't catch his breath, and he just felt like garbage. It turned out, he was looking at mile paces his friends were posting on facebook and was basically racing them on every run.

The thing I tell new runner's about this is, "Don't let your ego plan your run."

It is easier said than done. I was faster in my first year of running than I am now. This makes me want to run faster than I should be running on my training runs. So I have had to let go of how fast I ran before, and run the pace I need to run now.

Whether it is a run, a weight training session, a martial arts class, or a zumba class, it is important to get one's own workout and not try to keep up with someone else's workout. Not only does this keep the workout at an appropriate level, it also leads to being more at peace with one's body.

It exercises the body and the mind all at once.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Following the Call

I guess I abandoned my college education when I chose a career path. I studied psychology and music in college, and now I work as a personal trainer and a martial arts instructor. This big change wasn't accidental, and it definitely was not to pursue fame and riches.

When I started teaching kung fu, I approached it as if mastering kung fu were the destination. Eventually I realized it was not the destination, but the vehicle used to get to the destination. This change of perspective was a major point in my life. No longer was I teaching so that my students would get the martial art right, but so that the art could help them get themselves right. The goal was no longer to master a martial art, but to master the self through martial arts study.

I realized that I am at my best when I am on a mission. I believe that I am here for a purpose, I believe you are too, and everyone else as well, some of us just don't know it yet.

I started looking at needs and how I could fill them. Sure I could teach someone how to break an attacker's arm, but what about teaching them to never be in a situation in which they would need to break someone's arm? It is like the difference between heart surgery after a heart attack, and teaching fitness and diet so that one may never need the heart surgery.

I came to this thought. The things people need that I can help them practice are different than the obvious things we practice in martial arts. The things I really needed to be teaching were self esteem, self efficacy, physical health and fitness, good eating habits, compassion for others, compassion for the self, and the list could go on and on.

I started  prodding around looking for the right path for me to teach these things, trying to figure out where I fit within this new perspective I had. I decided that through teaching kung fu and fitness, I could reach down to the core lessons that I really think are important.

Start at the center, improve the self, then work outward. By teaching physical fitness, or kung fu, the body is strengthened, and the lessons learned physically can be applied to the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of self care. As a person gains ability and confidence, the ripples they make start to spread out to others. They set an example and perhaps others will follow. It extends out to friends and family, then into the community, and outward into the world.

First I lit a candle to light my own way. A few followed me. This was good.

I learned I needed to allow people to use my candle to light their own. More light, more leaders, more people could find a path. This was better.

So light a candle and pass it on.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Are You Strange?

It seems that I forget, since I have a lot of people around me who value and enjoy fitness, I forget that the things I enjoy are considered strange to a lot of people.

Some people express amazement when they find out I just did a 7 mile run. They really don't know what to say when I tell them I've done as much as 14. Fourteen miles as a longest run doesn't even get me ready to run a marathon, but to some it seems otherworldly. They react in disbelief when I tell them I'm training for a Half Ironman triathlon. People are in shock that I can run 11 miles in sandals that are just a piece of rubber with a string attached.

While I am proud of these things, and I was among those in disbelief just a few years ago, I have come to realize that we as a society have set the bar pretty low.

Things that at certain points in history were considered normal activity levels for a day are now unbelievable.
Things that we once had to do to survive are now unthinkable. Things that most of us should be able to do are considered above and beyond human capacity.

So I challenge you now, to start redefining impossible. Realize the power within you, take it step by step and move forward. Challenge yourself, do something you didn't think you could. Get up out of that chair and go for a walk, over time, turn the walk into a jog, then a run. Enter a 5K, a half marathon.

Lift a weight, then a heavier one, work your way up. Explore the power within you, become stronger, fitter, healthier. Get hooked on health, get your high from sweat and hard work. Change your perspective.

You don't have to become a marathoner, you don't have to do what my brother did. He got rid of his car, bought a bike, and lost 130 pounds. He biked to my house recently for a visit, 150 miles in one day, but you don't have to do that, just get up, walk fast enough that you breathe a little harder, do it for 30 minutes, 5 days per week.

Do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones, do it and change the way you see the world. I've run half marathons, that doesn't make me amazing, it just brings me a little closer to the way we were designed to be. We weren't meant to ride around in cars and eat food handed to us from a window.

Get up, move, eat healthy foods. Just get up and decide to be a little strange.

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”               --Muhammad Ali

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Save Your Sole: Run Barefoot -- Part Four

Barefoot or not, this is important.

Run with your whole body.

Since you run with your whole body, strengthen your whole body.

I'll skip the legs, because it is obvious that running is a leg exercise. I'll work my way up from there.


You've got to have strong hip abductors and adductors. These are the muscles that move your legs away from the midline and towards the midline of the body. While running, as these muscles fatigue, they lose their ability to stabilize the legs. As a result, side to side movement can occur. When the goal is to propel oneself forward, side to side movement is undesirable (obviously).


Weak core muscles can be a real pain in the back. Strong core muscles hold the spine in a neutral position while running, if the spine comes out of position, the jarring motion of running can cause pain and injury to the back.

Upper back

Strong upper back muscles help maintain good running form which is necessary for running economy, speed, and endurance.


Arms drive the running movement, if you doubt this, glue your hands to your side and run. Strengthen your arms so they don't wear out early.


A weak neck causes lots of head bobbing, pain and injury follow, as well as loss of running economy.

Running strengthens and builds endurance more in the prime movers of the running motion. As a result, many runners have imbalances between those muscles and all the other muscles that have supportive roles in running. It is important that we take the time to strengthen the rest of the body as well.

Part Three
Part Two
Part One