30 Days of Gratitude – Day #5, Yes Doctor


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I revisit my post from Saturday where I talked about the importance of regularly seeing your doctor. Some of the comments made me grateful for something else:

Day #5 – Great Luck With Doctors Who Care

Now don’t get me wrong – we’ve had some lousy doctors over the years, including one who seemed to regard Lisa as a test subject rather than an actual person, and a pediatrician so distracted by her own life that she totally missed diagnosing our son who when he was 2.5 ended up at the doctor’s office 5 times in 7 days before being admitted to the hospital!

In my response to one of the comments I said I could have had a ‘#0’ assumption:

“Having a trusted professional who knows you and what you do makes a huge difference.”

It is totally true. And by and large we have had some excellent medical professionals who have actually cared about our health and wellness.

I look at Dr Heinser, back in Massachusetts before we moved as perhaps the best of all of our doctors. He never ignored our concerns, always took the time to ask questions and listen to the answers, and went out of his way to be sure we were OK.

I have mentioned that he ordered non-standard thyroid tests on my for my last physical before moving to New York. I wanted to make sure to use up the residual healthcare from my previous job … and I am glad I did. What I took as ‘post layoff blues’ was actually the beginning of my thyroid crashing.

And while our first primary care doctor here in NY was ‘good’, she was also very busy with a young family and pared her hours back until she left to be at home full time. As it turns out, that was best for both Lisa and I – we got different doctors this time, but both of them are excellent and have really worked for our health these past couple of years.

The other day Lisa reminded me of other factors that are non-doctor:
– The “Gilderoy Lockehart Effect” (yes, too much Harry Potter on ABC Family last month!) – the doctor who is so busy and frazzled that unless you are a top priority they have no mindspace for you and each meeting feels like the first. Her allergist was like that – when he was doing her nasal surgery and other things it was all very social and familiar, but earlier this year dealing with her worsening allergies … well, never going back THERE again.
– Learning to navigate the system in place at the office: basically there are people in place to keep you away from the doctor unless necessary, which can be annoying if you are the doctor. Last year when Lisa was really sick she saw all sorts of non-doctors before finally getting into the doctor, who was annoyed – and was glad to finally deal with the problems.
– Dealing with insurance: last year we ended up with hundreds of dollars in extra testing charges because the lab on the bottom floor of our doctor’s off is affiliated with the hospital rather than the doctor, meaning the charge structure was different. Fortunately that was changed, so my bill for this year’s round of tests? $12.

And of course, I have to make sure you know where I got that title reference …


Have you had one great doctor in your life?

Six Things Saturday – Reasons to Go See a Doctor (even if you’re healthy)



Hi again friends! Thanks for all of the great comments and kind remarks on my last posts!

My last post a few Sundays ago was pretty random and reaffirmed a few things for me:
– Almost no one watches the videos … or at least no one comments
– There are only so many random topics people can absorb in one post
– Titles really don’t matter.

Why do I mention that? Because:
– there were no comments about either video (ok, mamaSalt came in late to mention the Panda 🙂 )
– Most of the comments were about one or maybe two items
– My title was only marginally related to the post I actually published!

ANYWAY, here is one subject I meant to talk about but never got there – going to the doctor as a critical thing to do every year.

My annual physical was originally scheduled for late August, then they had to reschedule, then I forgot to do my blood work so I had to reschedule, and it finally happened in early October. Because of my hypothyroidism I make it a point to get to the doctor … and also because of my age, family history and so on.

Also, I included these pictures with this post for two reasons: because it is Halloween (duh) and because these are the people I want to be with for a long time. The picture below is a #TBT to Halloween 2004, a time when the boys were 8 and 6.5 and Lisa and I were just in our late 30s.

The top picture is from the National Honor Society induction this week, where our younger son was inducted and older son reaffirmed for membership. It was a great proud moment, and a reminder I want to be around for a long time to experience many more.


1. Make Sure Everything is OK / Prevention

I mean, this seems obvious – but it is also the reason many people avoid going! I have heard many people say ‘I don’t want to go to the doctor – I am fine and every time I go they find something!’ By going to a doctor regularly you can get a better idea of how your health is at the moment, and by checking in you gain more perspective on how you feel when things are good (or not).

Also, do not underestimate the human ability to adapt – we get used to just about anything, and it is not until we feel better that we realize how bad we felt!

2. Learn Your Numbers

Our bodies are unique systems, so it isn’t surprising that we will have some tests where we run high and others where we are low. Some of these numbers mean something important by themself, others only in conjunction with different tests. More than ever it is critical to be informed and in control of our own health, and the first part of this is knowing how we function when ‘normal’.

3. Establish a Relationship with Your Doctor

When I walked into my doctor’s office … well, really, when she came in, she already knew my lab results, had seen me running pretty much everywhere in the last year, knew what to be looking for on my results and the things we needed to discuss for now and for the next year.

Why is that important? Because rather than trying to start from ground zero, we already have solid basis of understanding of my health, her approach, and how to interact. That way when we have to address an issue she will know how I normally handle things and can factor that into her approach.

4. Establish a Tracking History

Two years ago when I was still losing weight my potassium was on the low end of normal, but still in range. I can now admit that I was still restricting my intake (while running 50+ weeks … moron), but had I seen a new doctor or not had a history it wouldn’t have flagged anything – because it was still in the normal range. It was only through looking at my history that she noticed it was low – and since I love bananas and sweet potatoes and other sources of potassium, and had lost a ton of weight … she just gently told me a banana every morning would be a great thing.

The same is true for everything else – we spent a lot of time this year going through my numbers and how they showed the impact of my healthy eating on everything going on in my body. Between my thyroid issues and getting me into the cardiologist last year due to family history, she has carte blanche to order loads of bloodwork for me … and does.

5. Put Your Running/Eating in Context

It was a bit of a joke when I went to the cardiologist last year and they put me on the incline treadmill to get my heart rate up for the stress test – because my resting heart rate was around 50 and they couldn’t seem to get it much over 100. They laughed because I was the longest test either of them had ever seen because it took so long – which was directly attributable to my endurance running.

Same with my blood work and eating – by looking at all of my numbers in terms of cholesterol and other criteria, the doctor could tell that I was eating good stuff – and also getting enough of it, even if she still wanted to make sure I didn’t lose any more weight.

But by the same token if you were not eating well or overtraining or otherwise not taking proper care, and had convinced yourself that everything was fine … maybe a visit to the doctor could help you realize otherwise. I have said it before, but I believe that two of the big reasons for injuries with many run-bloggers are over-training and improper fueling.

6. More Thoughts on ‘Your Numbers’

I can’t reiterate enough the importance of knowing your numbers – it is easy to think that the pants don’t fit because they shrank, or that because your blood pressure and cholesterol were fine 10 years ago that you don’t need to stress over what you eat and so on … but it isn’t true. There are many things that happen over the course of our lives that change the biochemical systems inside our body – women have even more stuff going on with natural hormonal changes throughout their lives!

Our bodies evolve over time, often slowly enough that we can’t tell the difference easily – which makes it even more important to establish a relationship with a doctor and their office, get yourself checked out regularly, and know how your habits impact your health.

What are your thoughts on doctor visits and knowing your health numbers?

Oh, and because next Tuesday is mid-term elections, here is a tool WordPress provides to help with voting info:

How Quickly We Question Our Running Mojo!



Subtitle: what an amazing run I had this morning!

I am always quick to question my Thyroid – after all, it pretty much totally failed on me just 7 years ago. So whenever I am cold, tired, irratable, or whatever … I think ‘uh oh – thyroid’. Lisa has been concerned recently that my meds might need adjusting, and my bloodwork is due, so it has been on our minds.

One key thing about Hypothyroidism – when your meds are out of balance you tend to get lethargic.

Yesterday I had an awful run – perhaps my worst run of 2014. I spent the whole thing ready to cash it in, and I was assuming that indeed my running mojo was shot. Doom and gloom. As Harold said – I was the bug. So naturally I began to question literally EVERYTHING … um, yeah, by now I should know better. But fortunately I got a grip on myself and decided to look back at the previous week of workouts.

Here are the last several days:

Friday: It was in the 40s at 4AM, but I was evergized – rushed to get out the door, and I ran 11.1 miles in long shirt, tights and light gloves. It was a great run and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday: My long run came late in the day after a relaxing morning and a bunch of around-the-house work. I decided to do hill work and distance – had a snack before I left and filled my water bottle with ice and G2 and off I went. My goals were basic – hills and more than 15 miles. I ended up doing 18.4 miles, which was just awesome – I wasn’t totally wasted at the end, but it got cloudy and was already getting dark by 8PM and I wasn’t dressed in reflective gear, so I cut off the extra loops I had planned and got home.

Sunday: ‘Rest Day’ … which translated to 7.4 miles on the S-Health app and an additional 3.2 tracked on my Polar Loop when my phone was charging. This also included about 5 hours of driving, picking up Danny’s girlfriend at Cornell on the way to Syracuse, lugging stuff around, the usual stress associated with spending hundreds of dollars per kid on back-to-school clothes, and so on. Early morning, late night, driving in the rain … exhausted.

Monday: After brunch Lisa had to go to work and the kids wanted some time to just hang out with Danny’s girlfriend, and she also had to go back to her house to grab some things to bring back to Cornell. So that gave me a couple of hours, and I hopped right out and went for my run. The goal was … well, just a generic long run, my usual ‘half marathon ready’ default. But … wow, was it hot and humid! It started very cloudy and breezy, but cleared up as I ran and the sun was just beating on me. I ran 16.5 miles … but it was a ‘slog’ for a large part of it!

Tuesday: As I said before – this was awful! It was 75F with 95% humidity – at 4AM! From the start it was a struggle – I kept waiting for things to ‘click’. They never did … in fact, it just got worse and worse. I wanted to walk, wanted to go home, wanted to cry. It was all I could do to get past 5 miles. I cannot remember the last time a run felt so bad … well, actually I can – it was April 2012, I weighed at least 275lbs and was just restarting my running.

Wednesday: We slept with the windows open and I could feel the nice cool air with low-humidity – it was 60F and dry. I woke up feeling great – but stressed out about my awful run on Tuesday. I laced up and headed out early … and from the first strides it was like magic had returned. I ended up doing about 10.75 miles, and I could easily have continued … I really felt great. My last half mile I sprinted and looked at my Garmin and was SO close to the 6’s … but couldn’t get below 7:05 pace. Which, for me, is still freaking amazing! I finished up by breaking 3 minutes for a plank … first time ever!

What Did I Learn?
Major ‘duh’ moment – I have heard so many times people question their mojo when they’ve had a bad day or week … and I remind them that there is a natural ebb and flow, and that we should never place too much emphasis on a single run. And yet I allowed myself to take the feeling from a couple of runs and have it dictate how I felt overall.

I also allowed concern with my Thyroid to impact how I put those bad days into context. It was like I was carrying the couple of days to an illogical end of not running anymore and being fat. Even if my thyroid meds need to be tweaked, it is a minor thing and there is no reason it should impact my running.

And finally, I need to realize that I don’t take rest days – and sometimes that is just not a good thing. I mean, in theory I DO take rest days – but looking at the ‘rest days’ I have taken over the last month, I have (a) done college tours including 7 hour drives each way (b) gone on ‘advanced’ hikes of two different gorges (c) spent 4 hours kayaking and (d) had a long day of shopping including more than 10 miles of walking. Am I REALLY surprised that I ended up exhausted?

When was the last time YOU felt like you lost your running mojo?

Habits ‘Emotionally Intelligent’ People Use To Maximize Happiness

Diagram of emotional intelligence

My happiness is one of the core items in my life, and something I work hard to maintain. I do it in my marriage, family life, relationships with others, job, and my personal interests such as music, running and healthy eating. And it seems that since my anniversary I have been reflecting on the good fortunes in my life.

Have you ever heard the term ’emotional intelligence’? It refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. There was a cool article last week about things successful people will NOT do, and it all ties into emotional intelligence. How do you build your emotional intelligence? Here are four key ways:

1.Perceiving Emotions: For some this is simple, for others a lifelong struggle.
2.Reasoning With Emotions: We all have emotional responses to things, but using those reactions to prioritize our decisions is another thing.
3.Understanding Emotions: just knowing that someone is frustrated isn’t enough, we need to place those feelings into context, to determine WHY someone is feeling that way.
4.Managing Emotions: I have talked about my ‘response tree’ approach before – (a) does it merit an emotional reaction (b) is anger the correct response and (c) is your response in proportion to the action.

So what does this have to do with running and healthy living? Everything and nothing – because it has to do with life, and running is very much a part of our lives. So here we go – I have adapted the list to fit into what I see as its application to running.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When I talked about running this past weekend, it was like a declaration of independence – my joy for running is purely due to my love for the sport; my joy of a mostly Paleo & Vegan diet is based on my enjoyment of those foods.

If your joy is based on where you place in a race or how you compare to others, you are no longer in control of your own happiness. It is SO important to remember that no matter what others think of you or how they are doing, self-worth ALWAYS comes from within.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Forget

I had what I should view as a pretty decent summer of running last year – I was regularly topping 60 miles per week, hitting doubles at least once a week, came within 2 minutes of a PR in a marathon in the pouring rain where the path turned to mud and there was more than 6000ft of elevation change, then hit a nearly 10 minute PR in my next marathon. I mean, why shouldn’t I be happy?!?

But I wasn’t happy because my pace control was atrocious! So I took my November half-marathon, and dedicated it to maintaining a flat pace – and not only did it work, I STILL got a PR! During 2014 one of my continued goals is pace control – running by feel, running flat, knowing what my easy, moderate and hard paces feel like, and so on.

The context around this in the business article was more about forgiving but not forgetting. It is important that we do that with ourselves – learn from mistakes, but forgive ourselves for making them.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Die in the Fight

‘Live to fight another day’ is the saying, or in our case ‘live to run another day’! How does this apply? Be smart in your runs – don’t push yourself to injury, don’t get dangerously dehydrated or under-fueled.

I have long said that we need to approach all of our running like a marathon: know when to push, and when to back off, when to keep running and when to rest and recover?

One of my biggest ‘do something stupid’ moments was dieting and restricting while heading into my first half marathon … and totally crashing near the end and finishing in rough shape. I made it – and have never forgotten and never made that mistake again! That one race changed my ‘food is fuel’ view forever!

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Prioritize Perfection

When you read most race reports, or run summaries, or how people are doing with their eating – you will hear that things are ‘solid’ or ‘really good’ or things like that. Seldom do you hear people talk about ‘perfection’ – because as runners we’ve had enough ups and downs to realize that it doesn’t exist.

Yet when we look at others (back to the first item on the list, right?) we often see a ‘perfect form’ or a perfect runner … WRONG! They are no more perfect than the rest of us! They might be after, have more endurance, be more agile, or whatever … but perfect? No.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Live in the Past

I have mentioned several races where I didn’t meet my expectations – and in each case I set up a way to take the power away from those events so I could remember them fondly. I learned from those mistakes, and they are in the past now.

If you let your past mistakes and failures dictate your reality, you will be limiting what you can do and where you can do in life. Don’t let that happen – leave your mistakes behind.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Dwell on Problems

You only have so much focus and mental energy to go around, so if you are dwelling on the past you have no time for the present or future. Sure we need to learn, but lessons are small and easy to carry through life. Let the past teach us things about how to shape our future, but then leave it behind.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Hang Around Negative People

There is a distinct difference between frustrated but motivated people, and negative people. One set will voice frustrations at people or situations but ultimately want to move on to a more positive place … negative people find solace in the swamp of negativity.

There are negative people everywhere, and they will destroy you – your running, your eating, your life. Sure you want people around you to provide reality checks and keep you grounded, but not a self-serving complainer.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Hold Grudges

Did you know that holding grudges is a stress response, so recalling the grudge actually causes the stress to resurface. That is just not good for you no matter how you look at things.

So what grudges do you have? Relationships are a clear one, but also races, foods that are triggers, other runners who beat you before, touchy subjects with people close to you and so on. While you shouldn’t forget things we learn, it is important to let go of the stress and regain control.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Say Yes Unless They Really Want To

In business and in life, inability to say no leads to stress and burnout – with eating it causes failure to maintain goals, and with running it gets your hurt. I look at the example of the Corning Glassfest 8k run compared to the Catharine Valley Half Marathon – I knew I wouldn’t run either, but didn’t want to give up the 8K. That caused me to be stressed and irritable. With the half-marathon, I decided long before and as a result was totally open to enjoy the day.

So whether it is saying no to a race, saying yes to a rest day, or no to some food you’d rather not eat – be polite, but firm. You will thank yourself!

Emotional Intelligence and Eating Disorders, Running, and Dealing With It All

One of the reasons I decided to post about this was that there has been study in recent years (a couple are here and here) about the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and things like body dissatisfaction show that as dissatisfaction increases, emotional intelligence decreases.

A great article looks at translating Emotional Intelligence back into actions, and the quote: “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

As for runners, according to a study from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport “Findings lend support to the notion that trait emotional intelligence associates with adaptive psychological states, suggesting that it may be a key individual difference that explains why some athletes respond to repeated bouts of hard exercise better than others.”

In other words, the better you can deal with the emotional aspects of your life, the better you can handle the ups and downs of being a runner.

How is YOUR Emotional Intelligence?

Take Care Thursday – Supplements Suck and are Ruining Your Workout!


Just a quick note, when you read this we will be on the road at the crack of dawn cheading out for another round of college tours! The posts for the next couple of days are all set, but I will be mostly offline.

OK, do I have your attention? I’m sure the moment I suggested something negative about supplements some people got their defenses up and were ready to attack. Lighten Up Francis! Here are two important things:

1. I don’t think supplements are crap.
2. And I don’t think they are ruining your workout.

BUT … I DO think that supplements are a natural extension of our ‘fix it with a pill’ culture, and also our ‘diet cult’ mindset. As such, we should always be suspicious of ‘do everything’ supplements – like the ones that claim to prevent injury, fix injury, or speed recovery without any real mechanistic evidence.

I wrote an early blog post about how all of the latest research really comes back to a simple conclusion: the best course of action is getting everything you need through eating well.

It is funny, I have been drafting this for a (long) while, but the great post at Shh…Fit Happens and the follow-up really pushed me to finish it. So … here goes!

Here are three thoughts:

1. Sometimes you NEED supplements

One of the main reasons I don’t think all supplements are crap is a lifetime of bloodwork with my wife. Lisa has always been borderline anemic regardless of diet, had issues with calcium and Vitamin D absorption, and also a number of vitamin and mineral deficiencies that are apparently not unexpected given her ‘hormonal place in life’.

Also, these past few months we have been working on her diet because of allergies and intolerance issues. She has apple allergies and severe tree fruit intolerances. She also has allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, including coconuts. And dairy intolerance, soy difficulties, gluten intolerance, and also difficulty with things like avacado. And several more. This makes getting proper nutrition a challenge – fortunately eggs, meats, greens and most veggies, and potatoes work pretty well for her.

As a result of all this, she needs her vitamins and supplements every day – and can see a direct impact when she doesn’t take them. For her – and many others – her need for supplements is as real as my need for Synthroid to help supplement my non-functioning thyroid.

2. You Should ALWAYS Be Wary of Supplements

There are a few main reasons I think you should never just ‘take a supplement’ without a reason:
Regulation – there is none. Period. ‘Natural’ and other terms thrown around are ‘weasel words’, because there is no enforcement.
Lack of studies – not only are there generally inadequate studies for supplements, those that are published are all too often PR blasts from companies making the products. Look at all of the blog reviews in our own community for things like Energy Bits and Vega and so on. None of us are qualified as an expert opinion on these things, yet a Google search will show loads of hits on blog posts about them, meaning people looking for information about these supplements will very often get a link to a blog post based on a sponsored review … rather than an objective study.
Hidden dangers – due to the lack of regulation and lacking studies, it is nearly impossible to quantitatively KNOW what potential ingredients and side-effects are in some supplements.

I love this quote:

“Supplements are good for when you’re deficient. In fact, very few people actually need to take supplements. Diet provides a much better balance of micronutrients,”

3. Supplements and Exercise

One of the biggest things I read about on running and ‘healthy living’ blogs is how people take supplements for a variety of reasons: recovery, healing, fueling, and so on. Again, there ARE valid reasons for some people taking some supplements … in general most people do not need them, and are at best getting a placebo effect.

There was an interesting article at the New York Times that looks at thepotentially harmful effects of vitamins on your workout.

“More mitochondria, especially in muscle cells, means more energy and, by and large, better health and fitness. The creation of new mitochondria is, in fact, generally held to be one of the most important effects of exercise.

But the volunteers who had consumed the antioxidants had significantly lower levels of the markers related to mitochondrial creation.”

On the other hand, the supplements did not improve performance in comparison with a placebo, so why bother with them, Dr. Paulsen asked. “Personally, I would avoid high dosages” of antioxidants while training, he said. The science on the topic may not be complete, but the intimation of the recent studies is that by downing the supplements, “you risk losing some of the benefits of exercise.”

Again, this is FAR from conclusive, but is a reminder that the ‘well, it can’t hurt’ mentality might not be true! This reminder is also noted in a Health.com article.

4. Other thoughts

There are loads of articles around about supplements in general and their impact on exercise. There are a couple of articles, one at Men’s Health and the other at Examiner that look at the possiblility of moving to an all-supplement diet … which they use a lot of words to basically say ‘um … no’, noting:

Nutrients in foods do not work alone in isolation, instead they work together as a powerhouse team in what’s called synergy.

And some other things …

Potential Side-Effects of the Popular Supplement Glutamine, and another one here

“Although there is no evidence that glutamine causes kidney damage, people with kidney disease should not take glutamine.”

“And if you are prone to seizures then you should ask your doctor before taking glutamine. It appears that a lot of anti-seizure medicines work by blocking glutamate (what our body metabolizes glutamine into) stimulation in the brain.”

Dr Oz (I know) on Getting Vitamins from Supplements rather than food

Situation: You hate the taste of most veggies and can barely choke down broccoli.

You Think: I’ll just get those nutrients from supplements – it’s the same thing.

The Truth: To get all of the healthy, disease-fighting benefits from vegetables, it’s always best to eat the real deal rather than a pop a pill. A recent study from Oregon State University found that an important phytochemical in broccoli and other similar veggies is poorly absorbed and much less beneficial when taken in supplement form. When it comes to these crunchy vegetables – as the song goes – ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

Simple statement about supplements vs food

Why use a supplement when you can get all of these amino acids from the real deal—whole, unprocessed foods?

And finally … from WebMD

“Most people don’t realize there’s no real advantage to taking more than the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, and they don’t recognize there may be disadvantages,” Dwyer says.


For me the most important message I want people to ask themselves is WHY? Why am I taking this supplement? Why is my diet unable to deliver these compounds? Why does my body not absorb these minerals through my food?

We each have a unique chemical processing plant called our body, and like any incredibly complex system there are unique features that are hard to model and understand – I cite my wife and I as examples of two very differently functioning systems that are subect to nearly the same inputs on a daily basis yet respond very differently. Therefore it is simple for me as a non-medical person to say ‘just because it works for Meb doesn’t mean it will work for you.’

BUT … if it works for you, THAT is what matters.

So What Do YOU Think About Supplements?

Take Care Tuesday – The Other Side of the Finish Line, My ‘9 Loves’


Image source

Last week I posted about non-running members, and while the comments here were all very positive … that is because we are all runners. It is the very nature of our somewhat insular community that we would share some common thoughts – and this would naturally include running, healthy pursuits and more. However, ourside of the blog … I got feedback. Feedback from a variety of sources, that was uniform – and uniformly different from the comments.

Feedback is good – it is a reminder that our perspective is incomplete. Running is inherently a personal endeavour, a selfish solo sport. That doesn’t make us selfish for running, because the health benefits make us better in so many ways – it just means that like pretty much any exercise, the focus is on us. Which means we aren’t necessarily objective about the greater impact of our activities – and so we need to listen when we are told “you have no idea what it is like to be waiting on the other side of the finish line.”

So let’s take a look at some other thoughts:

Thoughts from the Other Side of the Barrier

1. It is NEVER ‘Just a Run’ – sure you can get hurt stepping into the shower, but running presents unique challenges. All this winter I ran in some incredibly dangerous conditions – sub-zero temperatures with strong winds, days school was cancelled, unplowed roads and so on. In summer, there is heat exhaustion and dehydration to content with as well! Sometimes we say we’re going for 5-6 miles and end up doing 9-10 (that isn’t just me, right?) and our family wonders where we are. Things a runner might call ‘a challenge’, their supporters think of as ‘scary’ or ‘stupid’.

The longer the distance, the greater the chance of things happening, the greater the worry.

2. The Fear of the Medical Tent – this past year at the Wineglass Marathon was brutal. Not only were the temperatures over 80F and humid, it had already cooled down in our area so no one was ready for it! As a result I passed two people loading into ambulances, had a police officer ask about another collapsed runner, saw more people vomiting than usual, people really hating it, and so on.

But while I saw that from the road, all my wife and kids saw was the people in awful shape finishing before me, including one who collapsed and had to be carried off less than 100 yards before the finish – and an overflowing medical tent. The uncertainty is incredibly hard for those waiting for loved ones.

3. By The Side of the Road, Somewhere – pretty much every week this year there has been something on Facebook about a runner or biker who was hit or side-swiped or otherwise run off the road. And despite having ‘Find my phone’ and so on, it can be nerve-wracking when our loved ones head out the door, and don’t really know exactly when they’ll be home, and so on.

4. Running a Marathon? 3-4 Hours Means 2 – 3 Days! – last summer when I did the PA Grand Canyon, getting the packet was the day before, and the hours were about noon to 6, meaning that with the 1+ hour drive it ripped apart THAT day, then the race day is pretty much entirely consumed. And if you are traveling further then you might end up with two nights in a hotel.

And suddenly we see how a nice little morning run and cheap shoes twice a year can transform into something that takes up entire weekends and costs thousands of dollars per year between race fees, lodging, transportation, supplies, equipment and so on.

5. Fear of Injury – runners worry about injuries, but so do their loved ones for a few reasons: the obvious concern about any injury, knowing how much the inability to run will impact the person’s life, and the ‘stupid factor’.

There are some of my friends here who will laugh at that – but I can cite more than a couple of people who have ended up re-injured or hurt their recovery by being over-zealous, and at least one I am pretty sure did it but never fessed up.

6. More Than Just You – again, the risk you take, the chance of injury, and so on … they don’t happen in a vacuum. If you are hurt or hit by a car or suffer a heart attack, you are unable to be there for loved ones, your job, your kids, and so on. And while you can certainly get an injury doing anything, doing an endurance sport where you push your body like a marathon adds to the risk, and it is always worth considering the risk/reward in the context of all the others impacted by your life.

The bottom line? While running is a solo activity, it is very much a ‘team sport’. I am very lucky to have an amazing team to support me and call me out on all of the stupid crap I do … and I really try to listen to the feedback. As runners, that is what we need to do – be thankful for the love in our lives, appreciative of the support, and reflective of all the worry and concern these people have for us. And we should listen.

10 Day You Challenge

Day Two: Nine Loves

1. Lisa – I have been with Lisa for more years than I have been without her, and I cannot imagine a day where I am not connected to her. I get a little ‘eye-folly’ when everyone is a ‘soul mate’ … but all I know is I am very happy, have a great life, and feel incredibly fortunate.

2. Danny – Danny is a reflection of me in very many ways, but he also has elements of Lisa and is very much his own individual. I keep signing up for NaNoWriMo to write a novel, but the reality is Danny can jot off something for a creative writing assignment in 30 minutes that is better than anything I have ever written. He has great artistic vision, is funny and talented in many ways, and has a big heart. Oh, and I have to mention that in his room now he has CDs from both Miles Davis and Pat Metheny.

3. Chris – As Danny reflects me, so does Chris reflect Lisa. But he also brings in much of my musical passion and a sense of style and flair all his own. He is gifted musically and as a chef, but also in so many other ways. His photographic vision stuns me as someone who is a total hack, and his open heart and love for the downtrodden always inspire me.

4. Our pets – we have two dogs, two cats and two fish. We take in pets are parts of the family, not ‘things’ – they are our babies, and didn’t stop being so when we had kids. Our dogs are Norfolk Terriers, scrappy little beasts who are so full of joy; we have one cat who is 13 with cancer we got as a kitten, and who continues to terrorize the neighborhood … the other was dumped on us ‘to watch for a few weeks’ – three years ago. She was abused and neglected and is slowly adapting to love and togetherness.

5. Running – Yeah, no surprise here.

6. My job – I am very fortunate that I have had three really great jobs of the five (really four and one 3-month contract) I’ve had since starting my professional career. One got me started, the second allowed me to flourish, and at Corning I am growing and developing and experiencing the breadth of stuff the company does – and making a difference.

7. Music (making & listening) – I have a deep and intense of love of music. Listening to something I love has a profound impact … but nothing compares to the feeling of making my own music. For several years I have put my music on the back burner, noodling with guitar and keyboard – but this past month resurrecting my studio has been completely amazing. Listening to stuff I had been working on before energizes and transports me, and starting to do new stuff makes time evaporate!

8. Food – I might have a ‘complicated’ relationship with eating, but I love food. And really in the last year I cannot name any time I have had ‘food regrets’ like I have always had throughout my life. Yet I have baked cakes, eaten scones and gobs of ice cream, many glasses of wine and so on. I had called this approach ‘intentional eating’, and it has been the best thing I have ever done for my eating – I eat what I want and ‘own it’, but what I want is almost exclusively ‘good fuel’.

9. Technology – not just stuff like computer devices … just technology. Old telephones intrigued me as a kid, then programming, games, circuit boards, lasers, computer devices of all types. I used to joke that I interfaced better with machines than with people, not really true, but it was always a natural connection for me.

Bonus. My Blog Friends! – I am fortunate to have ‘internet friends’ I have known for almost 20 years now who I have never met in person but connect with at least annually. I also remain in occasional contact with a few folks from sites I’ve written for through the years, but mostly not.

Yet over the last few years things have changed: I have become genuine friends with the editors at Gear Diary – there is an annual ‘GearFest’ at one of the co-owner’s lake house which is a blast, and one of the editors and her wife were amazingly supportive taking me in and cooking me dinner one night while I was with my brother after his heart attack. Now I have made some excellent connections through blogging – people I consider genuine friends who I would love to actually meet someday, but regardless I am made better by knowing them. Thanks to all of you.

So what do YOU love?

Take Care Tuesday – Your Health Matters, Don’t Take it for Granted!


A year ago yesterday I posted the following on Facebook:

Asking for thoughts and prayers for my brother John Anderson, recovering from a very serious heart attack … yesterday morning he had the heart attack while at the gym, and fortunately they have a nurse on staff and the person next to him was a doctor. but it was a massive heart attack. He woke up briefly tonight, which was a very good sign, but he has a long road ahead.

The picture at the top is from this past Christmas – so you can be assured there was a happy ending! But when I wrote that, my brother had suffered a major heart attack, and had yet to really regain consciousness. It was slow going, and even now he has to deal with a new reality in how he goes about his life – but he is here, with his kids, friends and family.

It took a while for him to understand and accept how serious things were, even though he’d already had one heart attack (a minor one in 2006) and even as they implanted a defibrillator in his chest!

At that point I decided it was really time to get a full cardiac workup – not just because of my brother, but because I was the only one left in my immediate family who hadn’t had serious heart issues. My dad had a very serious heart attack at 45, and now with my brother having two at 43 and 49 – it was time for me at 47 to get myself checked.

The wonderful thing is that although there is that great saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ – that isn’t how our health care system works. Think about it – between co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance and so on, the up-front costs are enough to keep healthy people from ever getting routine checkups. Then there is the ability to get anything beyond a routine checkup … fortunately I have a good relationship with my primary doctor, and she made sure I was able to get into a cardiologist in the same practice.

I wrote about this before, but basically where my brother got all the bad genes – cholesterol, blood pressure, etc – I got all the good ones. And aside from my thyroid my heart and cardio-vascular system is in great shape.

My message? Take care of your health – make figuring out your risks a priority, even when it is more money than you want to spend. Especially when you are younger – during your 20s and 30s you might still feel indestructible, but these are the years where a history can build. Learn your numbers, where your body is strong and weak, what you need to watch and what you don’t and so on. You don’t want to be feeling lousy when you need to know what is ‘normal’ for you and have no idea.

Take care of your health – eat reasonably well, stay active, keep to a healthy weight (and more and more research says weighing a bit too much is better than weighing to little), and keep a regular set of checkups. And know your family history of risks and make sure your doctor is aware of them. Do everything you can to make sure you are around for as long as possible with the ones you love.

Happy Tuesday!

Six Things Saturday #IV – Running in the Land of Reality

Never Going to Burn Off Crazy

Image Source

Another week has come and gone, and there is no end to the cold weather … or the great running articles. Actually what I am talking about this week is a combination of new and old – some new things combined with a couple of drafts I’ve had sitting around since last year that I have stripped down. Do you ever do that? So let’s get right to it!

1. Dealing with Our Natural Limitations As Runners

I already mentioned the excellent posts by Amanda and Harold in my Tuesday post this week, but there is a quote that has stuck with me:

it will not change who I am and the limitations that I have as a runner.

What he was talking about was contrasting the reality of our own physical strengths and weaknesses with the blogs that seem to promote the idea that with the right food, right workout plan, right book, playlist or whatever we can suddenly become an elite runner.

So many runners get involved with the sport with dreams of running a marathon or competing to qualify for the Boston Marathon or some other lofty goal – then grab on to a plan they read somewhere and go gangbusters, and eventually run into the reality of their own potential. Maybe they are not overly fast, maybe long distances are not their forte, or perhaps they are able to reach their potential.

But wherever they land, it is based on based on their ability rather than some blog post or ‘essential tip’ from RW or Competitor or Greatist. And as we age, our body eventually reaches a point of decline. Those are all realities … and while finding the right online resource or hooking up with a coach can help maximize our potential or minimize certain negative impacts, it cannot change our physical reality.

2. Another Runner Killed Tragedy

Any time I read about the death of anyone, it is tragic – there is never a right time, a right place, any way to prepare. But I will admit that there are some cases – children and young parents in particular – that really strike a chord. Also, with how much I run and how often I am on the roads when cars go by and I see people distracted, speeding being aggressive or whatever … every time I hear about a runner being killed, it feels like a part of my extended family has been lost.

So when I read this post at Jessica’s blog about how a 31-year old single mother of two was struck and killed last week … it was very saddening. There is also a fund set up for the daughters which has nearly $90,000 of support already. It is unclear the status of the father of the girls.

It is yet another tragic reminder of (a) how important it is to maximize your safety when running and (b) there is absolutely no way to be ‘risk free’.

Today is a ‘Run for Jaime’, so if you DO go out today, post about it on Twitter using #runforjaime

3. Rotating Shoes Lowers Risk of Injury

One of the drafts I have had sitting around since I started the blog was about a NIH study that noted how rotating running shoes could reduce the risk of injury. The report, titled Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk?, was the first of its kind and noted that (statistical elements removed):

The adjusted Cox regression analysis revealed that the parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was a protective factor , while previous injury was a risk factor. Additionally, increased mean session distance and increased weekly volume of other sports were associated with lower RRI risk.

So what that tells us is that rotating shoes lowers risk of injury, whereas previous injury raises the risk. Also interesting is that running MORE is correlated with lower risk, as is more general sports activity. You can also read coverage of this study at Runner’s World.

This week at RunBlogger, Pete linked to a blog post at Running Research Junkie that covered a new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. I will use the same quote as Pete:

“This was a prospective cohort study in which the runners that were recruited recorded training related data. They compared the training data between the group that got an injury and the group that did not.

What they found was:

those that ran more than 2hrs a week were at a lower risk for injury
parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was protective
the week-to-week absolute change in distance was protective
a previous injury was a risk factor (which pretty much every study has also shown)
I don’t have much of a critique of the study as what we know is just based on the abstract above, but nothing jumps out at me at this stage as being an issue.”

The researchers in both studies concluded that different shoes distribute the impact forces of running differently, which then lessens focused strain on any particular area.

So what do you think? Do you rotate shoes? I have never been good about this, but have known for a while that it is a good idea … but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

4. Tapering Pros and ? Cons ?

It wasn’t until just before my first half-marathon that I’d even HEARD of tapering, let alone done it! What IS tapering? It is a reduction in activity level leading up to an event such as a marathon, with the goal of getting the body to the best possible state to run a race.

Most people have some sort of training plan for a marathon or half-marathon that involves a build-up of weekly mileage and a change in your diet to better fuel your workouts and recovery periods. Recovery was another thing I never really knew about – that it was AFTER the workout your body built the muscle based on your activity. Which is why the importance of ‘recovery foods’ is touted so often.

Over the last two years I have learned that while training we are building up fatigue levels, to the point where many experts say you are better off running two semi-long 2-hour runs on consecutive days than an extra-long single day run because of how the body deals with the chronic fatigue and recovery.

So with week after week of constantly increasing mileage, you are continuing to create fatigue in your muscles but not giving them time to fully recover. This can only continue for so long until you either plateau or hurt yourself. This is where tapering comes into play!

You can find loads of resources about the benefits of tapering such as at Active.com, Competitor and MapMyFitness.

So I was surprised to read some posts on blogs proclaiming that tapering was useless or even bad. It didn’t make sense – until I looked and saw they were all one-person anecdotes based on a single race (I got a PR without tapering … therefore tapering is bad; or I had a crappy race … tapering is bad). The general advice is that – yes, you should taper if you have put in the considerable effort and mileage of most training plans (>30 miles/week for marathon training).

During taper we are looking at a compromise between glycogen storage/fresh nervous system (benefits of tapering), and the loss of aerobic fitness (drawbacks of tapering). For those preparing for a marathon using a typical training plan, tapering for two weeks before the race will provide a clear benefit. For somebody who does NOT run a whole lot of mileage tapering could cause enough of a drop of aerobic fitness that it is not compensated in other areas.

And that distinction makes sense – because like all things there is no absolute truth, and since athletes heading into a half or full marathon come from an incredible range of training programs, it is impossible for a one-size fits all solution to work. In fact, Greg McMillan had an article several years ago talking about ‘peaking’ rather than tapering, which talked about NOT reducing the number of days you run but dropping your volume. Other articles talk about how over-tapering (7 days no running or any sort of exercise) can leave you feeling leg-heavy and rubbery, and under-tapering can have you feeling fresh at the start but quickly fatigue over the first half of the race.

So what is YOUR tapering strategy?

5. Weight and Health

One of the more surprising recent findings in health studies is that the conventional wisdom of being overweight putting us at increased health risks might not be true at all, as summarized at Greatist:

Perfect health is a complete myth. We all exist on a spectrum from the most to least healthy among us, and these designations are affected by a huge range of factors, from genetics, to nutrition, to fitness, to socioeconomics. There is no conclusive proof that simply being overweight means that a person’s health is in trouble.

I’m going to be honest – I think the article is pretty lousy, meandering (I’m one to talk) and unfocused. The biggest criticism is of the use of BMI as a singular health metric, and really the entire thing could be replaced with a recommendation to ditch BMI and “Do you eat well? Do you exercise regularly? These questions are more important than the number on the scale, which is sometimes nothing more than a distraction.”

A few other cool health-related reads? There is one over at Greatist with 89 ‘swaps’ that could change your life. Here is one I keep saying I am going to do … eventually (should be a 2014 goal for me):

14. Foam rolling for static stretching. Need to get the knots out? Try using a foam roller instead of sitting and stretching to the toes. It’s almost like a personal massage.

Also at Greatist there is an article about 5 reasons to see a doctor even if you are healthy. This is something I STRONGLY recommend – you might be in your 20s and great health now, but if you don’t know how your numbers tend to run, you will have no basis for comparison later on … and since ‘normal’ is a fairly broad range, you DO want to know your numbers:

Feeling indestructible can lead young adults to overlook important components of health and wellness. Taking the time up-front to build a health portfolio with a physician acts as a safety net and helps to ensure that patients are able to accrue the benefits of wellness across a lifetime.

Do you see your doctor regularly? If not, please make it a priority!

6. The ‘Forbidden’ Shirt

As I seem to say every week, I love all of the blogs I discover and what I learn from them. Last week there was a post at Tripping the Kenyans called The Forbidden Shirt, which talks about whether or not you should wear the shirt for a race AT that race.

I remember my first few races where we got shirts, and I would ALWAYS put on the race shirt. I thought along the same lines as the position noted in the article:

You may think I’m crazy and wondering “Why shouldn’t someone wear the shirt given to them specifically for that race?”

I looked at it this way: getting a shirt is part of the sign-up fee, getting a medal is for finishing. But what if a race gives shirts but no medals (I’ve had several of those)? I had never thought about that …

But as he notes, for veteran runners things are simpler and more clear-cut:

And this “forbidden shirt” rule is one that numerous veteran runners told me before my very first race.

It’s a commonly held belief amongst runners that wearing the shirt for a particular race when you actually run that race is bad luck.


Because you haven’t crossed the finish line yet. You haven’t earned it.

To do this is to risk offending the running gods and have them punish you with a bad finish time, runner’s trots or even the dreaded DNF.

So that is the thought – anything related to your current race needs to be earned by completing the race. It sort of makes sense, even if I think it is a little bit of an over-thought. From now on, you can be sure I won’t wear the ‘forbidden shirt’, but I will definitely be looking around to see who does!

Bonus. Running in Space

OK, a friend on Google+ forwarded this great post at Gizmodo, which highlighted a Tweet from the International Space Station:

Ran for ~1 orbit today. 12 miles on the treadmill while the station travelled more than 25,000 miles. I’ve now run around the world.

Happy Saturday! Did you find any cool running links to share?

Take Care Tuesday – Share Love For Better Health

You know it is love when someone will touch you after 26.2 miles in July!

You know it is love when someone will touch you after 26.2 miles in July!

It is Valentine’s Day Week, so the greeting card companies are working overtime and flower and candy makers have loaded up the stores and jewelers are shining up their goods, hoping that you will buy as much of this stuff as possible as a way to show a special someone just how much you love them.

But while those things are wonderful tokens we can GIVE to someone we love, it is important to note that things are NOT love.

So for this week, a reminder to take care of love – take care of those you love, take care of your relationships, and take care of yourself and remember you are loved and worth loving.

Why is this important? Because for many couples, Valentine’s Day is the most stressful day of the year. There are so many expectations piled upon us by the media and friends and family and others we see around spending loads of money on a very ‘thing’-focused day. While we all know it is a ‘manufactured’ holiday, we also feel the constant pressure to demonstrate our love. The result? Stress.

And as most of us know, stress is directly linked to health issues, such as:
– Physical illness:
– Heart disease:
– Obesity:
– Depression:

That is all pretty depressing for a Valentine’s Day thought … but that isn’t my intention. Instead of stressing about spending loads of money on your spouse or significant other – or stressing because you DON’T have a significant other or hoping they will ‘put a ring on it’ or stressing because you think that SHE hopes … well, you get the picture.

But instead of all that stress … try LOVE. Because while STRESS is bad for you health, LOVE is GREAT for your health! In my ‘Monday Musings’ I chose hugs over kisses. Here is some info on how hugs and holding hands help our health:

Hugging and holding hands. According to a study reported to the American Psychosomatic Society, hugs can do a world of wonders. It was found that holding hands with a partner for 10 minutes or sharing a brief hug can “greatly reduce the harmful physical effects of stress” such as their heart rate and blood pressure. Such touches lowered the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that aid the pleasure centers in our brain.

Not that I have anything against kisses, but for me hugs are so inclusive – they include hugging your lover, your friends, your parents and siblings, and your children and pets. There are articles about health benefits and also the beauty benefits of love.

For ourselves, we’ve had many years of spending too much money, years of dinners with the kids, and more recently just enjoyable low-stress days together celebrating our love – while our kids begin to deal with all of the stress!

Of course, there are plenty of articles about how sex is good for you mentally and physically as well, but I will leave those exercises to the reader. 😉

But the problem is that for many Valentine’s Day is incredibly stressful because it can feel terribly lonely if you don’t have a significant other … yet there are plenty of resources to help you there as well. For me, the most important thing to remember is this:

You cannot fully love someone else until you love yourself. So on Valentine’s Day remember that YOU are important, YOU are worth loving and that YOU are beautiful. Not only is it true, it is good for your health!

‘Pre-Hab’ to Prevent Injuries!

Running Injury Prevention

Too many of my running blogger friends have suffered injuries this year, though I am happy to say that almost all of them are well on the road to recovery and getting back to running. In pretty much every case, the blog leading up to the injury detailed workouts, plans, upcoming races and so on … and quickly transitioned to research about the injury and what was required to heal properly.

The expectation – which is being borne out based on my reading – is that these blogs will transition quickly back to running activities once the injury and recovery are in the past. That isn’t a bad thing – it is runners focusing on running. But is how much we miss running and our rush to get back out there setting us up for the NEXT injury?

That is where an article at RunnersConnect comes in, talking about ‘pre-hab’ to prevent injuries. Here is the intro:

Anyone who has ever had a running injury (and let’s face it that probably includes most of you) will be familiar with receiving a list of strengthening exercises designed to help get you back to 100%. Most therapists will tell you (myself included) that the runners who recover the quickest tend to be those who find/make time to do their rehab exercises.

Unfortunately, once runners are back on the road, that’s when the strengthening exercises normally stop.

Basically what the article is saying is that by keeping the strength training elements in our routine (that were so important during rehab) we will do a better job of preventing NEW injuries!

Strength training can reduce sports injuries to less than a third and overuse injuries by almost 50%.

I make no small point that I have been very lucky to have run for so many years without serious injury. I also admit to never being very good about cross-training or doing other exercises to limit my risk of injury. This past year I started doing some bodyweight exercises from BMax, but once the weather warmed up I pretty much just went back to running.

So my question for everyone out there … now that you are healthy, what are YOU doing to prevent your next injury?