Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Avoiding the Fat Tax

     My cousin Jimmy, who I've written about before, had an idea that would help the family stay in shape this year. Make it a competition and put some money on it!  Our family and group of friends are all pretty competitive, to say the least so this is right up our alley.  Here is how it all started. I get an email in December from Jimmy asking my thoughts on joining a group challenge. Twelve workouts each month for 2014.  If you don't workout twelve times in a month then you pay $20 into a pot.  Next month same thing.  Take this all the way through December.  At the end of the year those who didn't pay in any month get to split the pot.

     I got this.  The first thing I do is check my average number of workouts on RunKeeper for 2013. This is a piece of cake. Easy money, I say.  As usual, after a new challenge, the emails begins.  And they start growing, and growing, and growing!  It seems everyone has a lot to say on the subject, and it all adds to the fun. 

     Fast forward to late January.  There are thirteen in the group, the challenge is working great, everyone is chatting and sending encouraging messages through RunKeeper, the group is engaged and improving each day!  After all of this positivity and brotherhood tell me how I am stuck on eight with less than a week to go!  Sadly, that is after I added moving and playing soccer with my son as two of my workouts!  This is horrible. Sister in law has over thirty at this point as she is cranking out two-a-days. I am in dead last and risking paying to the pot in the first month. Let me remind you that if you have to pay any month you do not share in the year-end spoils. Luckily, my schedule opened up and I got thirteen to avoid the "fat tax".  This is an encouraging and tough group.  They are serious about their challenges.  I realize now that without this group I would not have met my goal. 

     Here's the take-away... Give yourself a reason to stay consistent. A good challenge and comraderie work for me like nothing else.  If you are stuck in a rut then give this a try.  It is a lit of fun and there is a universal hated to giving away your money.  It seems that group encouragement has a powerful effect on developing healthy habits. 

     Thanks to the dozen that kept me moving last month.  It has been fun and you helped me get out of bed for those early morning runs.

Happy running y'all!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Just one minute

     Have you fathers noticed how your racing times diminish as your family grows? In my circle of friends it seems that the dads tend to add one minute to their 10K time for each kid they have. Granted, this was tested on only two people (me being one of them) but it makes sense.

     Jimmy, my younger cousin by marriage, and a great example of a good family man, competitor, and all-around good guy asked me to write about how I find time to train while balancing the demands of my job, marriage, and son. This is a good question as it is a complicated act.

     First, it helps if you begin your mid-life crisis like I did. The thought of your upcoming demise is a great motivator. I also need to have a reason to train. A post on my blog JustRegularRunner talks about how runners should put an event on the calendar to stay focused. These are my main motivating factors that keep me training hard all year.

     Second, I have to treat my body a little differently than I did just five years ago. I take vitamins, rest more between run days, drink more water, choose bagels over donuts, you know…the basics. The main difference between the single guys and the married dads is the need for us dads to give up something in order to have time to exercise. There is no way around this. There are only so many hours in the day so do what you enjoy, but make sure some of that time is devoted to exercising. There is family time, and there is everything else; work, eating, traffic, and a little time left to sleep. Where does the running fit in? I run before the kid gets up or during my lunch break so as not to interfere with the daily schedule. This is just my way to stay healthy while still being present at home, but it also explains why I walk around sleepy all the time. Now that I think of it I’ve never met a runner that did not drink coffee!

     Finally, I could be successful only with my wife being on board. She and I are supportive of each other’s goals. This means we may need to take on additional responsibilities managing the house at times while the other is training or competing. Keep this understanding balanced and you will see how flexible your partner will be when it is your turn. My son sees his mom playing tennis and his dad running so he associates having fun with playing sports. He used to love sitting in the stroller while I ran, but now he wants to run too! I take him to the track (or to the Olympics as he calls it) and we race a few laps. He even started doing some long jumping in the sand pit. I’d give up a chance to run anytime in order to see him at the “Olympics”, and you bet I am happy to add that minute to my next 10K. What you give up is your choice, but I feel that I receive so much more than I sacrifice.

Original post found on Drop that zero and get with the hero

Morning run motivation

     Morning runs have been too far and in between for someone who calls himself a runner.  I always feel guilty when I skip a morning run.  Why am I such a slacker? The odd thing is that I enjoy running in the morning, I just don't like getting out of bed! 
     This year I am working toward transitioning my schedule to wake up early, put on the running shoes, and hit the road before the sun comes up.  So far it has been a struggle, but instead of dwelling on all the instances when I over snoozed this year (which is in the double digits) I am going to stay positive and celebrate the sunsets that I have captured.
     Thanks Jimmy for making running fun this year!  Your challenge has helped tremendously. 
Coronado Island
Balboa Park
     Happy running y'all!

Group Motivation

        Today, while running my usual loop around Town Lake in downtown Austin, I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  As it happened, it was a balmy, 75-degree day outside so naturally Zilker Park was packed with all sorts of people taking advantage of the pleasant weather.  As you can imagine, this influx of pedestrians created quite the traffic jam on the jogging trails.  As I made my way around the lake, I saw more than just the usual joggers and bikers.  The sunny weather had attracted entire families, many of whom clearly were not at all acquainted with jogging trail protocol, wading around slowly in giant packs that took up more than half the trail!  As I continued along my route, I was forced to constantly speed up or slow down, veer left or right and occasionally even come to a complete halt as I faced the seemingly endless swarm of Austinites!   

            The main reason I like to jog around Town Lake is that by surrounding myself with other people I am typically more motivated to push myself to do better.  While, today, I was disappointed that I was being forced to abandon any semblance of a “steady” pace I felt that I was receiving additional motivation from all the extra people I was zigging and zagging past.  Still, I assumed that my overall time would suffer from all the stopping and going.  Much to my surprise, however, this was not the case!  In fact, my time improved by about 2 ½ minutes!  How could this be?

   The answer:  Group motivation. 

Sure, every now and then, I had to slow down; occasionally even leaping off the trail to dodge an especially large group of walkers.  However, with every person I passed I felt a renewed sense of motivation.  You see, when you speed up to pass someone, especially another runner or, on the rare occasion, a biker you are obliged to maintain that pace until you are a safe distance ahead of the person.  There’s nothing more embarrassing than running out of gas right after passing someone and then having to watch them pass you a minute or two later!  Today, I must’ve passed 200 runners!  Each person I passed acted like a turbo boost chevron in Mario Kart Racing, propelling me forward with a quick burst of speed, which I maintained for at least 100 yards.  Since I was constantly passing so many people today, I wound up running at an overall accelerated pace, thus resulting in a much faster time!

While I still have a lot of respect for the discipline required by those who choose to exercise alone I think that the benefits of group motivation are too real to pass up.  At the start of 2014, I entered into a pact with a handful of family members and friends in which we were to hold each other accountable for completing a set amount of exercises per month for the entire year.  January has gone very well so far and I think it’s fair to say that the majority of participants are experiencing the benefits of group motivation on a weekly basis!  I have also, resumed my outdoor, Bootcamp classes in which I exercise with a group of about 10-20 people for an hour, Monday through Thursday.  Bootcamp is made up of people of all different ages and abilities and I strive to keep up with the class’ leaders.  Seeing the incredibly fit 60-year old woman next to me pushing through the workout gives me the extra motivation required to bust out those last 5 pushups, which I more than likely would’ve skipped had I been working out on my own at home or the gym.

Anyway, I think, by now, I‘ve made my point: There’s power in numbers.  We alone decide whether we are going to exercise for the day, eat right, and get a full night’s sleep.  However, it’s only with the assistance of a friend’s encouraging words or by challenging ourselves to match another jogger’s gait that we are able to push ourselves beyond our own predetermined limits and take our fitness to the next level!
Guest Blogger: Thomas Wilder