Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vacation Runs

I've been looking back at my running year, and as I mentioned I'm pleased with the results. I reached my goal of 1,000 km and had a good time. There was, of course, some challenges- seriously my right ankle was really giving me grief all summer long. Plus a few other aches and pains, but that's the lot of these things.

What I noticed was the number of times I went running out of town. When I had some vacation or had to attend meetings, I was able to put some running in and had a good time doing it. It started in Ottawa in February. I checked the conditions, it was horrible as was most of last winter. Got it in.

In June, I was up in Mississauga for a conference and I brought my running gear. Got a run in.

The most fun was the two runs I got when I was in Reykjavik for a 10 day vacation. It was something else to visit a different country and put some runs in.

What is great about running, is that it becomes an opportunity to see a new place. Usually you stick with the tourist area but when you run, you get into the residences and the commercial areas. Although I can say, it's always good to bring a map with you, just sayin'.

One place I wanted to run, but wasn't able to make the time was Washington DC. It's an amazing city and there are a lot of runners out and about, obviously a strong running community.

When packing a pair of running shoes, shorts and a couple of technical tee's or a layer or two, depending on the weather, is all you need to get out and do a good run. A map of the city that can be folding and stuck in the shorts or pants makes for a good resource and will help you figure out where to run next. Even if you may be limited in luggage space, it's not going to take up any room at all. What I enjoyed about running in Reykjavik is that I was able to go through a number of neighbourhoods and see how things are in that part of the world. Plus Iceland has next to no pollution, so you're breathing clean air- which is always a treat for a runner. With the fact that many smartphones have a gps capability, then with the right running program, you can have a map to keep as a constant record.

With all the resources one can find online, you don't even have to plan a route, but can find what's the most popular near where you are staying and run where the locals run. If you are concerned with personal safety, then this can be a strategy, as it's popular there are probably runners always around. As well, a popular run with be close to things such as coffee shops, stores and other places for resources, safety and relaxation. Plus a gas station will mean a bathroom. Let's face it, that's important.

Make sure you bring your phone, both to call for help, call for directions, use for GPS and also to take a photograph or two.

In other news, I purchased a GPS watch today. One of my Christmas gifts was a gift card and I found one that was within my price range and had good reviews.

Now I have to wait for it to arrive at a local store and it will be on my wrist. I want one that I can upload information to my account. I'm looking forward to wearing and using it on my runs and walks, plus anything elelse I might do in the course of a day.

I've signed up for the 100 days of running from

The rules are simple:
We'll be running at least ONE mile for 100 days in 2015, starting January 1st. This is not a running streak ... You have to run 100 days until the end of 2015. 4 SIMPLE RULES FOR THIS CHALLENGE: #1 NEVER GO 3 DAYS WITHOUT RUNNING #2 RUN AT LEAST 3 DAYS A WEEK #3 NEVER MISS A MONDAY #4 NEVER GIVE UP!
Look it up and give it a try.

To conclude this post, I want to wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Attaining Goals

This is almost a two-parter 'looking back at 2014 from all the graphs and Google Sheets.

A couple of weeks ago I managed to put in 100 runs. I realize that the number of times represents a lot of pounding of the pavement, and there would be those who would go on and comment how it's all hurting me and offer to sell me a course of exercises that would achieve the same result and not bring the pain.

I would go on but this is not a rant, it's sort of a report.

One Hundred time;, for many, that's not much, I follow people who log that many in the first four months of the year, but I look at where I've been and what I'm doing now. I went over one chart I have and it seemed I was barely at 200 miles before I decided to get going with the running and all that good exercise.

Total distance, as I write this 628 miles or 1,011.35 kilometers. This was my goal at the beginning of 2014 and I'm so happy I attained and surpassed. On the day I reached 1,000 km, I went back to the map to calculate where that took place. As it was, just down the street. Again that represents a lot of pavement on the feet, and a couple of pairs of shoes along the way. I started the year with Reebok RealFlex and ended with Saucony. This might have been the greatest change in the past year. I'm am a Reebok's runner. I have done all my running in Reebok, so getting a new company on my feet was a tremendous change. If I can divulge, at first I wasn't sure about the shoes. They felt 'odd', don't ask me to explain, they just did. Might have simply been some bias happening. After about a month, I did get used to them and have enjoyed wearing them.

I've already purchased a new shoe for some time this year, it is Reebok, I couldn't resist the 50% off the price, plus there were some good reviews. I'll write more when I get them on my feet and try them out. From the first wear, they feel very nice and light. I have to think about my first pair of shoes, I'm sure they were probably double if not triple the weight of my Saucony's. I guess I should ask myself would I return to Saucony? Yes I probably would.

I should say more about my distance, I look at the chart, my longest distance was over 11 miles. Approaching the magic 13.1 miles. Perhaps this year? For that distance, I've listened to a lot of podcasts and a few audiobooks. For the most part, the podcasts have been from the TWIT network. Been a fan of Leo Laporte since the days of TechTV. As for books, a number of fiction and non-fiction. I enjoyed listening to Hatching Twitter, a look at the start of Twitter. All I can say, the Borgia's have nothing on these guys. Backstabbing, betrayal, all there in 140 characters- plus a lot more, it is a book after all. Been good to keep up to date with what is going on. Another book I thoroughly enjoyed was As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. If you are a fan of the movie, and admit it you are. Come on, are you going to sit there and say that you can't finish the line: "Hello, my name is....". Yes you can. Find it, and listen, its narrated by the author Cary Elwes, who of course, played Westly. He gives the first person account of the production and all that went on. It also features comments by Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin. It's great and if you aren't laughing or at least smiling in places, there is something wrong with you. So when I'm wearing an audio devise while running, you can be assured that I'm probably not listening to music.

I decided to check some vital statistics, in 13 months I've managed to lost 10 lbs. I have never made it a goal to lose weight, but it has happened. It's been good to do that, and enjoy all the other benefits. Although I keep having to buy a new belt every six months or so, and some of my pants are so baggy. Such a problem to have.

I've learned to enjoy wearing compression socks, wear them all the time when I run. They do work.

One More Mile is one of my favourite websites.

Was it all good? No, like all things, there was the positives and negatives. The good runs and the bad ones. Few times I thought I'd quit and others when I couldn't wait for the next run. By 'quit', I mean stop right then and there, hobble back home and put my feet up never to do THAT again.

That was 2014.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Diversity in Combination

I posted the last time my thoughts of a particular exercise program. It's the previous one and it seems the creator spent most of his time informing everyone how horrible cardio-vascular exercise is for the body and person.

As I state, I only lost weight when I took up running. Running has been a great way to lose weight. No matter what some want to think it's not boring. Running outside means there always something to see. Right now, it's quite grey and dull, but at night, there's always the lights of Christmas.

One point that should be brought forward is the importance of diversity in exercise. A good exercise program should include cardio, strength and resistance training and anything else that can be considered exercise. Working in this way means all muscles are used and you're not getting into a rut with one form of exercise. I recall reading one point that suggests that runners should always include some sort of resistance training since you need muscles. What's the point of running a half marathon if you can't lift a bag of groceries out of the back of a car?

The great realization is there is so much one can do, so many styles and workout patterns that there is no reason to get stuck in one type only. Make it a point of discovery.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Running is the New Cheeseburger

I get a number of emails and newsletter from various exercise sites and individuals. From running to yoga to kettle bells, I get some interesting points of views and information. They are usually good and are sources of suggestions and ideas.

A week or so ago, I received one with this challenging title "Never do this exercise". The letter contained this:

Paul, If you've ever wasted hours per week exercising for NO results, then you probably made this common mistake... You need to know the TRUTH about the one exercise that you must NEVER, ever do again. ==> Discover the #1 exercise to never do In today’s article, by my friend Craig Ballantyne (Men’s Health contributor and fat-loss expert), you'll discover the exercise that stops your fat loss dead in its tracks. Plus, you'll discover a revolutionary new approach that takes just minutes to melt away belly fat and eliminates all the scary side effects of the one exercise you should never do again.

The worst type of exercise, according to the article is cardio. Yes, all that time you spend on the treadmill, eliptical, stationary bike and running is useless. In fact, more then useless but dangerous. In fact he gives 4 facts that prove how terrible cardiovascular exercise is for you. Although I note he keeps talking about boring treadmill exercise. I don't know anyone who would disagree with that statement. It's not referred to as the "Dreadmill" for nothing. The four facts are:

  • Cardio makes you fat
  • Cardio damages your heart, joints and muscles (a.k.a. cardio will kill you)
  • Cardio makes your body age faster
  • Cardio makes you fat, old, ugly and unhappy
  • The best exercise is the one touted by the author of the article and if you want to know more then take advantage of the money saving offer and purchase the program for $49.00.

    Oh where to begin. Let's consider the first one, yeah the one reason why I hate watching the Boston Marathon on television is the sight of all those fat dumpy people running for 26.2 miles. All that jiggly body fat, yuck. Really? I have said in a previous blog I'm not a doctor, but I look at the test subject I have spent the most time with and that is me. Three years ago I weighted 192 lbs, when I was on Prednesone I probably pushed the scale to over 200 lbs. I now weight 160.5 lbs. I went to the doctor a couple of days ago and can verify the weight. What changed in the last three years? A couple of things, first of all I have cut snacks out of my diet, not totally since I still enjoy my two cookies with my evening tea. But things like chips and pop, I've cut way down. No real reason, just haven't been interested. I eat more fruits and vegetable, and drink more water. The last difference is I run more. I've always run but before it was only the nice weather and rarely over 5 km. Now I run year around and I have lost weight. From what I can tell with my clothes, the fat around my waist has more disappeared rather then developed. Also I've been told I don't eat as much as I used to, which disproves one of the points raised in the article. I'm not starving after I run, I eat enough, am full and go on my way. Then there is my Cholesterol count,I was always hovering at the line of being high-normal to high as in 'start taking these pills'. During the same period, my levels have decreased.

    In the article, the author goes way back to the first run from Marathon to Athens and how that killed the guy. Some have suggested the story is a bit of an add-on. Then there's Jim Fixx. As we know, Jim Fixx died when he was 52 of a massive heart attack when he was out running. From that point alone you would say that running did nothing for him and probably killed him. Now this is where the story gets interesting, Fixx didn't start running until he was 36. Before that moment, he was overweight, had a stressful job and life and was a heavy smoker. One other point, his father died when he was 43. His cause of death? Heart attack. So Fixx may have had a genetic disposition to heart issues, plus his lifestyle before 36 did not to alleviate the possibility. If you look at it, by running, he gained an extra 9 years of life. Some have suggested that he used running as his solution for everything and didn't even bother to go to the Doctor. One wonders if he had proper check-ups then maybe the condition that killed him would not have happened. Still, to simply digest the numbers, by running he did increase his lifespan by the order of 20%. That isn't a bad increase in life expectancy.

    Then there is all the joint and muscle problems. There is an increase in people looking for help with pain and injuries to joints etc, doctors call it 'boomeritis', since it affects members of the baby boomer generation. Let me deflate a myth, baby boomers are not that healthy. We think we are, but in reality we are not, if there is more people of baby boomer age seeking help its because there is simply more of us. Besides after 50-60 years of regular life, joints are giong to hurt. But as for muscle degeneration, seriously? I suppose you can't see the muscle for all the fat.

    Apparently if you do cardio exercise, you will look older. You get that gaunt look, and you will look horrible. It's all those free radicals attacking your organs and skin. Makes you look horrible. All those ugly runners. Yuck.

    Fat, Old, in pain and unhappy. This is because cardio is boring. As you run on the treadmill, like has this person never heard of running outside, you will be bored, because it's boring. You will feel a slave because you are working so hard and instead of losing, you gain, and you become unsexy and you will scare small children and then you die. No wonder you're unhappy. Yes the treadmill is boring, as far as I'm concerned, the most boring exercise is doing lengths in a pool. Mind numbing. You see it's boring. Boring, boring, boring. Good solution is to try his wonderful plan, because its intense, its high energy, its short time wise. You will lose fat, get sexy, have an exciting life, look years younger- all for $47.00 if you act today.

    So if I had only known, instead of running and losing weight, I could have eaten cheeseburgers and had the same experience. I didn't spend the $47.00 and I'm suffering with loss of weight, increased energy and a generally good bill of health.

    Tuesday, December 9, 2014

    Hills and Planks

    As you can see, I did the Santa Shuffle and enjoyed the Finisher's Medal at the end. Okay I also enjoyed the Hot Chocolate that was available. It was a good race, I thought the course used was a good one. It was 2 laps of 2.6 km. It started out on a trail and then sidewalk, which was nice and flat and kind of boring. And then we reached the Silver Lake area. That's when it got very interesting and had some very nice climbs.
    Some very solid climbing, enough of a climb that it could have affected a person's time. I don't want to brag, but I managed a negative split on the run, 14:30 first lap, 14:20 the second one. Needless to say I was very happy with the result. However, this is not the purpose of today's blog. As I was doing the climb and even managing to pass other runners, I thought to myself: "this is why I do planks and hills". I saw a poster that has this message:
    Hills are not easy, no matter what the grade. Certainly the steeper the greater the challenge, but no matter what, a hill gives a better workout. It is easy to assume a hill has to be some big honkin' sucker that leaves you stopping to put your lungs back into your chest, but any hill work does something to you and helps with the running. I came across this article, and it says it all. Hills help. Hills develop the muscles. Hills give stamina. Then there are planks. From what I've gathered, planks are controversial. There are some who praise them as a wonderful exercise to do if you're a runner, and others state they don't do anything for runners.

    I'm not an expert and I can only share what I've experienced and how I feel about planks. As I consider my running, I can only say I feel it has helped. Before I was a bad posture runner, my shoulders were curved, my back was not straight and I probably used more energy then I should by my posture. I know when I did any hill work, I would slump into myself, and again waste energy fighting my posture. That is the problem with bad posture and running, you waste so much energy trying to get around. The posture becomes the problem. The reason, the core is not strong enough. Without a strong core, too much energy is being wasted fighting the posture.

    Now when I consider my posture, I notice I don't have the rounded shoulders over hunched over back. I also notice that when I straighten myself up to run up a hill, there is more power. My arms swing without limitation. In other words, I don't feel I'm fighting myself when I run. I wouldn't use words or phrases such as 'graceful' and 'seemingly without exertion' to describe my running style, but I do feel that extra energy being used. I'm not fighting my posture any more. At least that's what I feel when I run. I'm not claiming any scientific study or truth in what I write, but my experience has changed as I run.

    Perhaps the key is found in the phrase, I'm not fighting my posture any more. As the core is made stronger the posture does change and I'm able to use the energy to push forward or push up. A straighter posture seems to work through all parts of the running experience, either on the straight or on the hills.

    I give no scientific data or explanation to any of this, all I know is, my core is stronger and that has helped my running experience. I will continue to do Wall Planks.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    Fun Runs and Races

    Two true stories: I had been running for a couple of years when I was discussing running and the reasons for doing it. I was asked what got me interested, and I said: " I turned 40 and started my mid-life crisis. I couldn't afford a red Corvette so I took up running". As I said it another person, who I have great respect walked past and said: "that's the saddest story I've ever heard."

    Second story, I was walking through a sports store and saw a notice for a fun run in a nearby community. It was 5 km and featured among other things, free t-shirt and a bag of apples, it was an apple festival.

    I had no idea what to do, so I bought myself some new 'running shoes', and started running/walking. I started about a month or two before the race and began practicing. I think I went to the library and found a couple of books on running, quickly read the suggestions and tried to follow the advice. On race day, I showed and dressed totally wrong. It was a cool morning and I dressed to be warm. Yes as you can believe, that was the worst thing to do, I learned the whole 'dress so you're cool in the parking lot', the hard way. I wore the t-shirt I got with my registration, under a wind jacket. At the water station, I took a bottle of water instead of a cup of water. Then I ran the rest of the race holding onto the bottle, taking sips as I needed. Then I took the wind jacket off and when I did a small hill, I had to walk. Everything that could be done wrong with a race I did, and yet I managed to finish with a time of 31'32". I did the race again over the next two years and began to learn some lessons. I kept training and one way was to run longer and further. Over the next few years, I managed to cut my time down to 27'27".

    Since then, I've done a number of 5 km fun runs and races. Usually it's been that distance. From Peach runs, to Color Runs and then to running away from Zombies. It's all been good. I've also done a few 8 km runs, which is a very good distance and then a couple of 10 km races. I did a 10 km this year and had one of my best race performances, I didn't win any medal, but had a super time doing it.

    Why run? Why race? I think it's the best way to motivate and to gauge how the training is going. The first race I've done established in my mind, the benchmark on how I do with each race. The goal for the 5 km is always to be a sub-30 minutes. I'm pleased to look back and know that I've been successful in breaking that goal. Of course, there's also the t-shirts and occassional medal, either a finishing one or one for doing well in my age group. I do have a first place medal, and yes I was the only one in my age catagory. I've learned from every race- things I did wrong, where I need to change my training.

    A new race becomes my motivation. I have a goal to run strong and run fast in that race. I think one reason why I like running a 5 km is that I can have a simple strategy, just run as fast and as far as I can. My best race, is a 5 km, it took place in Windsor, which in some ways isn't fair, since it's quite flat and so climbing is never an issue. I always make sure I have enough to have a good kick at the end. It feels good to take the last 100 meters and give it all I got. I do keep a record and I like when there's a chip time. There's nothing like going online and seeing your name and results. Especially if I've done well in comparison to others in my age group.

    Another race I've enjoyed is the color runs. There's something about having colours thrown all over you at various stations that makes its a fun experience. It's all so colourful and great.

    I write this with another race coming up. I'm doing one of the Santa Shuffle this weekend. It's another 5 km, and while there's no real clock, I will be using the GPS on my phone and keeping a record of how I do. I've run a couple of times in the park and I know it's a good place to run. It's fun and I should keep that in my mind, and I will, until the race begins.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    November Running

    A few years ago, before I got serious with my running, I always felt it was important to run at least once every month. So this would mean once the weather turned cold and the snow began to fall, I would make sure to at least get in one run. Of course, this would mean I would only pick the best of the month and I felt I was really doing something. The rest of the month would be at the gym on the treadmill. Usually at the time I would walk for about 30 minutes.

    Then I made that change in my life and decided to become a serious runner.

    This meant I would be an all-season runner. Not only would running take place in the nicer times of year, but I would have to start considering running in less then favourable conditions, in particular cold weather. I still don't run in the rain, but that has more to do with a philosophy of creature comfort then anything else.

    I'm writing this because it seems winter has not only come early, it's also going to rear its very ugly head a few more times before the Winter Solstice. What I've learned is, just like everything else, running in the winter means a whole different style of running.

    There are three concerns when it comes to winter running.

  • Surface Conditions
  • Less Daylight
  • Weather Conditions

    You can say, makes sense and 'of course'. For the first condition, the problem is snow and ice. While the City I live has ordinances for clearing sidewalks, it seems to be left up to interpretation. Plus if the run day is right after a storm, then you've still got problems. I'm trying to think of what's the worse, ice or snow. I think it has to be ice, since the whole slipping concerns. Snow is more of a problem in that it messes with the flow of your running. I've come to realize that running in snow means a slower speed. Traction and just trying to get through it causes the slowdowns.

    The days get shorter, that means a run that starts with some sun, and that's rare because the late fall/winter is a time of more clouds than sun. Compound with it the fact that it could snow at any time and the snow could be light flakes or a snow storm. Surface problems, darkness and weather makes it a strong challenge.

    Sort of touched this the last point, plus there's those great cold temperatures.

    Here's what I've learned when dealing with these conditions.

    Surface- the need is flexibility. Understand that I may not be able to run all the way on the sidewalk and this might mean a few detours onto the road or the other side, if the walkways look better. There are times when the road is just as bad, and the only clear spots are more in the middle of the road. For obvious reason, I would only run in the middle on very quiet residential roads. Otherwise I stay as close to the edge as possible. This also means being even more aware of cars then ever before. It's always easier for me to see them, then for drivers to see me. More then any other time of year, its important to keep eyes forward and looking for problems. I've also taken to wearing spikes on my shoes, they do give more grip and help with running on the ever changing conditions of winter.

    Less Daylight -I have my reflector vest. It's bright orange and has reflector tape on it. May not look pretty but I running to be seen and not to make a fashion statement. I've always felt running means not really caring what I wear. I haven't tried any lights yet. Perhaps later this winter.

    Weather Conditions- everything depends upon this point. In the winter, more then any time of year the weather can be volatile. Yes it could be sunny but then the clouds roll in, the winds pick up and a storm hits. Plus the temperatures begin to drop and can be nasty. There's that old adage that says 'dress so you're cool in the parking lot', never a problem in the winter. With the 'winter from hell' we had last year, staying cool, not the problem, getting warm was the issue. The simple way to deal with running in cold weather is layers. I'm not going to say you can't wear enough because you can. Usually doubling up or a triple layer is sufficient. Also it's important to remember that when cold the body doesn't pump as much blood to the extremities as usual. Now for us men, that word 'extremity' can refer to all sorts of body parts. So double up and keep the boys happy. Just sayin'. One problem I do have is covering the mouth and nose. Since I wear glasses, one problem is lenses fogging up or freezing up. I'm still working on that one, I've tried different things and have a new thing to wear around the mouth. As for a hat, I have a toque that says "This seemed like a good idea three months ago". Still hold true. Wearing a jacket is good, since zipper can act as a temperature regulator. Getting too warm, just unzip a bit. Also weather conditions means flexibility. Once I had planned to do my usual 10k, weather was sunny and very very cold. Between the cold, the frosty and icy glasses, I just got 5km in, and a warning from family to never do that again.

    Winter running can pleasant. Plus being able to run when the conditions are not that good does enhance your stud score, not usually with loved ones because they have long dismissed you as crazy. It can be good to run when its cold, it does get you outside and will help with attitude. Plus with all the food that we eat at this time of year, it helps control the diet.

    So yes I will be outside running.

  • Saturday, November 22, 2014

    My Second Yoga Class

    Had some time this morning and decided to take advantage of the Yoga Class available at the World Gym.

    Most of my Yoga has been online to this point, either on Skimble or through Yoga Download. So it was an experience to attend a class. This isn't my first one, I went to one over the summer. I must say it was a very enjoyable experience. The teacher told us it was going to be a class that would be centred more on the abs then any other part. This was true after the warm-up session. Did a few different planks. Good things I do a lot of planks each day, because it was a challenge. Most of them time it was a combination of full, elbow, dolphin and downward facing dog.

    Another part of the workout was crunches, I even got a few ideas for crunches I can incorporate into my daily work-out. Just on the learning process, it was worth the time it took to drive.

    It ended with a period of relaxation in the savasana pose. As we were in the pose, there was a inspirational reading and the chiming of bells.

    It was a good time.

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    Why I do, what I do ( My Motivation)

    I think it was late March or early April that I made a decision about my mornings. Before that I had a simple routine of waking up, having breakfast, watching the news and then getting ready for work. Probably like almost everybody else. Then all those articles came out about the health risks of sitting for prolonged periods. Quite scary stuff and yet that's the way I was going. Sure I did have a few times a week of exercise but still there was the pattern of sitting at home, going to work and sitting behind a desk and then coming home to sit around until bed time.

    This was not a healthy pattern of life, if the numbers are to be believed. That's when I realized I didn't need to watch the news every morning.

    Being a member of the Skimble website, I looked around to determine if I could put together a morning workout program.

    I did and I have.

    At first I would be about 5-6 different programs and now I'm up to about 45 minutes and 11 different workouts.

    My routine contain kettlebell, variation of push-ups, wall sits, crunches and planks.

    Planks are good because they strengthen the core. There is such a great variety of planks that one will never get bored. I'm especially enjoying the Wall Plank. Wall Planks are cool.

    Now I've made the commitment of doing the workout programs at least 5 mornings a week.

    Has it helped?

    I believe it has, I find it easier to wake up in the morning and it does get my heart pumping. At this time of year it's important to do something, since the weather is such a demotivator. Plus any exercise is good exercise.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    New Blog-First Post

    Welcome to my first post on this blog. This is not my first blog but this will be my first one with a narrower focus. I've called it "miles and mats", since I'm going to focus on running, exercise and yoga. Which is what I do with some of my spare time. I'm going to write about the things I've learned, the programs I use and the joys and challenges of these things. I can write about the races I've done, the people I've met and the gear I bought. There is also the way the Internet is impacting running, exercise and yoga- from my point of view, of course. Also anything else that interests me. So thanks for reading. I hope I won't bore you.