Sunday, February 28, 2010

Baring My Sole

When I was a kid, I used to run barefoot all summer long around my uncles’ farms in Western North Dakota. The sharp, orange scoria rock that lines all the country roads and driveways in that area didn’t seem to bother me or my feet at all. Now, years later, I can barely run to the mailbox barefooted, over a smooth, rocky surface without wincing in pain. That explains the uneasiness I felt as I sat in the doctor’s office last week reading a Time Life article on the phenomenon of barefoot running. The author wrote about the hype in recent months, following the publication of Christopher McDougall's best seller, Born to Run. He also described his own personal experiment with barefoot running.

The idea of running with nothing on my feet during an actual workout is pretty scary to me, I have to confessbut I’d be lying if I said it didn’t intrigue me a little bit, too.

From what I’ve read, barefoot running appears to be more of a trend than a practice based on scientific research. Scan the internet or check your local library, and you’ll find dozens of people writing books, articles & opinion papers on the topic. Most promise that hitting the road shoeless is a more natural way to run (and who’s going to argue with that?).

Here are the biomechanics in a very small nut shell:
When you are not wearing shoes, you run differently. In general, barefoot runners tend to strike the ground on the ball of the foot (closer to the front of the foot, near the toes) and are in contact with the ground for shorter period of time during each stride. This is contrary to those in shoes, who are oftentimes heel-strikers with the back of their foot contacting the ground first, bringing their foot through a full range of motion before leaving the ground.

Advocates for barefoot running believe the change in gait and stride associated with not wearing shoes reduces chronic injury and may actually make you a faster, possibly more efficient, runner. Unfortunately, there isn’t much evidence, from a research or clinical standpoint, to support such claims.

If you are thinking about running barefoot, one internet source stresses the importance of starting out slowly, running or walking barefoot only for short distances at first. This will encourage a natural thickening of the soles of your feet. Once you have “toughened up” your feet, you can add longer distances and rougher Terrain to your workouts. This concept, alone, is enough to make me cringe and lace my shoes up even tighter! I’m a girl and I’ll admit, I’m self-conscience about almost every part of my body, but this is especially true when it comes to my feet! Sure, my self-image may be skewed and irrational at times, but the unchallenged (not even by my husband) truth is … I have ugly feet! So, I’m sure you can understand my hesitation to jump feet first into something that promises to make them even uglier! I’ve been hiding behind cute running shoes for years, so I think I’m going to need a little more evidence or will need to conduct my own personal experiment (on someone else, of course) before I am willing to retire the tennies. How about you?

Barefoot with my first "running buddy" and lil' sis, Caryn!

Vibram Five Finger socks? shoes? hmmm....
Totally unrelated: My newest running buddy, Ashley, is training overseas for her first marathon.  Currently in Istanbul, Turkey, she is running the Berlin, Germany 1/2 marathon next month.  Stop by her blog to cheer her on and be sure to tell her you're a "Running Buddy," too!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

W-H-I-T-E was I thinking...

...when I bought these shoes?

That was over 6 months ago and they are still white! They are still white because I almost never wear them. And, I almost never wear them because they are so white! You see the pattern. To justify my behavior, I blame the shoes for being too white to wear or the weather outside for being too yucky to wear white shoes in. But, after Dave’s last comment on the “Excuse Giveaway” post last week, I decided to examine myself a little. I immediately found myself asking ‘Why do I buy things and then “save” them, indefinitely?’ I mean, really, why am I so afraid to use my own stuff?  I’m not a pack-rat or anything like that (in fact, I hate clutter!), but I do hold onto “special” things for way too long…gift cards (until they expire), candles (waiting for the perfect occasion to light them), nice clothes (until they don’t fit me), soap (until the scent has faded) and now white running shoes (apparently, for when dirt no longer exists!). In a sense, my “saving” is actually becoming wasteful and probably even depriving me of joy. It’s a problem, and I’m guessing that with just a little bit of therapy, I would understand why I do this. But, since I’m too cheap, I mean too chicken, I mean BOTH, to seek therapy, I’ve decided to look the problem square in the face, confess it to the entire blog-world, and try to solve it myself. My solution… Baby Steps (would calling them Baby Running Steps be too corny?).

In order to grow or better ourselves as individuals, I know it’s important to get out of our own comfort zone every now and again. Part of my comfort zone involves, keeping things for ‘just the right time,’ but never actually using them. My plans to remedy this:

Baby step #1: Wear my new running shoes, rain or shine, starting yesterday (I ran 7 miles in them…it felt good, too!).

Baby step #2: Light the lilac candle that my mother-in-law gave me for an occasion too long ago to remember, and give something I’m “just hanging onto” to someone else this week.

Baby step #3: Let my husband use the restaurant gift card he received as a gift for Christmas at his discretion (or at least show him where I hid it).

The baby steps could go on and on. They're just simple, little actions that will hopefully help make me more aware of my behavior and help me to change a little (or at least stop annoying my family so much). Are there baby steps you could be taking, or small attainable goals you could set for yourself that would instigate a change that in turn would make you a better person? It could be running/exercise related or it might be completely random (like mine!).

Saint Augustine said, “If you want to attain to what you are not yet, then you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.”

So, what was I thinking when I bought these shoes? I think I was thinking, “I like white.” And you know what? I was right!

Totally unrelated:  Did you notice the new “cheer” gadget on the blog?  If you’re training for anything (race, hike, walk, swim, bike, etc…), comment and let me know so I can post it and we can all cheer for you. Sorry I’m so obnoxiously encouraging!  I'm baby-stepping, I promise.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Steven, I almost took offense to your comment, because I feel like I smile a lot when I'm running. But, then I remembered, I only smile when I'm running with one of my RUNNING BUDDIES!

Thank you for all the comments. All the excuses were so much fun to read. They made me smile and nod a lot! Dave, I disqualified you from the giveaway for adding your last comment because it was directed at me, and that's just not called, you donated the gift card!

Steven, please email me your address at, so I can send you the prize.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Good Excuse...FOR A GIVEAWAY!!

Maybe the excuse that “my dog ate my homework” worked in high school, but when it comes to missing a workout, I’m not so sure man’s best friend should be blamed.

Let’s be honest, we all make excuses (albeit, some more legitimate than others). It’s human nature. If we can’t, won’t, or don’t work out, we have to ease our guilt-ridden minds in some way and sometimes that can lead to some very interesting stretches of the imagination.

So, I’m curious. What’s your “go-to” excuse? Don’t worry, you won’t be judged. In fact, I’ll come clean right now with my own choice rationale for missing a workout. I simply tell myself that I’ll do twice as much tomorrow. There, problem solved and the mind-easing effects are pretty much immediate! Granted, I probably have an estimated 300 hours of workout time to make up for all the times I’ve used that doozey and not followed through, but that’s beside the point, I think.

Okay, I’m eagerly awaiting your comments, pen in hand! No, I’m not going to write them all down for future reference in the case of an exercise excuse emergency (even though it may have crossed my mind, for just a second or two). I’m going to write your names down and put them in a hat for a chance to win a $20 gift card to Foot Locker (but can also be used at Champs Sports or Foot Action). Who knows, it might come in handy if Fido ever really does get ahold of your shoes!

Become a follower of Running Buddies and/or subscribe to post emails and get entered a second and/or third time. The winner will be announced on the blog Wednesday night, so be sure to check back to see if you've won (and to peruse all the great excuses!).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Value of Variety

Now most runners I know are, at their core, creatures of habit. You may not think that this applies to you until maybe you start remembering how you like to have particular foods before/during/after a run, or always wear the same outfit on race day, or tend toward a certain training route you could run in your sleep blindfolded.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that one of the reasons I have stuck with running as my primary (and often only) form of exercise was because I liked the routine. I enjoyed the steady progress made over time, the motivation that came from a relatively set training schedule, and the obligatory goal attached to it. I also have always enjoyed partaking in a chocolate milk reward at the end of each long run.

However, something happened over time. Monotony. The activity I had once loved over most others was starting to feel like an obligation rather than a privilege. How did this happen? I personally believe I allowed my focus to become too predictable and too narrow- other activities were forsaken because running took priority and the outcome of training was allowed to dictate the importance of the process before it.

The fix? V a r i e T y, STAT!

In fact, my goal for this year and beyond is to become more well-rounded... when it comes to activities, not body shape! Although I admit, there's already been a bit of that as well.

Cross-training is probably the most obvious answer and its value is well known. For instance, activities such as hiking, swimming or biking can be used to challenge different muscle groups and provide a lower-impact cardio benefit. Also, exercises that strengthen and stabilize your core like yoga and pilates have been shown to be beneficial in improving performance and preventing injury. Above all, cross-training provides a surefire remedy to the exercise doldrums and can allow you to expand your exercise social circle. Which brings us to...

Running buddies (of course)! One of the reasons we love to run with others is that they bring variety to multiple aspects of a run- the pace we may take on, the route we choose to run, the conversation topics that happen to come up. Talking about running with others also helps to be able to see the value of exercise from different perspectives, which in turn, helps us to not take it for granted. It is during these conversations that I am often inspired to evaluate what it is that keeps me running, which leads me to...

Goals! One of the best things I have done over the last several months was to focus my attention away from time goals and toward goals that were more fulfilling to me long-term. For example, helping others to train for races and seeking out fun and unique race experiences. One of my goals this year is to help organize or, at minimum, participate in a charity run. Not to mention my ultimate running goal (gulp): entering and completing a 50-mile ultra marathon- where the challenge is to conquer the course, not the clock.

Variety can come in simpler, smaller fixes as well, that can be just as important for motivation- a new playlist to listen to, a new running route, or a new pair of shoes.

If anyone else has ideas on how they have added variety to their running or workouts, please feel free to share. I'm always looking to keep it interesting and mix it up!

... except when it comes to the chocolate milk. That's perfect just the way it is.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Salmon, Brown Rice & Roasted Vegetables

Here is a very basic yet very tasty dinner with very little ingredients. Not a salmon lover? try it with Halibut.

Salmon, Brown Rice & Roasted Vegetables

4 Salmon Fillet (3.5 oz each)
Brown Rice (made according to package)
1 Zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Yellow Squash, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Small Onion, cut in large chunks
Olive oil
Lemon juice (optional)
Parsley (optional)

1) Set oven to 350 degrees

2) On a cookie sheet (foil lined), sprinkle Salmon with salt, pepper, lemon juice & parsley

3) In a baking dish, place cut zucchini, yellow squash and onion - drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper (hint: you want the amount of each vege and onion to all be proportionate to each other)

4) Cook Salmon & Vegetables for about 30 mins or until done (Salmon will be flakey & veges will be soft) - stiring veges half way through cooking.

5) Cook Brown Rice according to package directions (I use a rice maker and it takes aprox. 20 mins) - after cooking, lightly sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Serving size: 4

MIX IT UP: Want a change in flavor for the Salmon? Substitute the salt with Truffle Salt! This adds a very unique and yummy flavor. Truffle Salt also works well on Halibut!

Truffles are wild mushrooms (not chocolate. sorry!) and can be very rare/hard to find, which adds to its hefty price tag. Truffle salt can be found in specialty health food stores such as Whole Foods and costs about $10 for a small 3.5 oz jar. However, a little goes a long way so the jar will last you a while! P.s. truffle salt can be used in many other recipes.

NUTRI-TIPS: Why am I eating that?

Salmon: contains heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, is high in protein, helps promote healthy skin, joints & eyes, and helps prevent diseases like heart disease and cancer. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least one serving (3.5 oz) of salmon at least 2 times a week.

Brown Rice: contains Fiber! Brown rice is simply white rice that has not been removed of all of its nutrients (think of white rice as simply 'bleached' brown rice).

Zucchini & Yellow Squash: high in vitamin C

Olive oil: helps in heart health (controlling cholesterol levels), contains Vitamin E and antioxidants. There are a few varieties of olive oil you can use (I belive the variety you want to use is based on the temperature of what you will be cooking). If you are just starting to use olive oil I would just stick with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (it has the most nutrients). I use extra virgin olive oil for almost all of my cooking.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

When did gray sweat pants go out of style?

I’ve never been accused of having much fashion sense. I’m not proud of this and I blame it, at least in part, on having grown up in a tiny Podunk town in Eastern Montana, where Kmart was the only department store within 50 miles(I’m not knocking Kmart or small towns, I’m just not entirely sure they did me much justice in the style department. In fact, it might be an interesting study to see if there is a correlation between the effects of a flashing blue light on the overall development of one’s ability to make a good fashion choice). Anyway, with that being said, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I also possess an all-encompassing lack of “running fashion sense.” Oh yes, "running fashion sense" is an actual thing (I was surprised, too!). People actually dress the part of “getting sweaty.” In fact, I believe this is a serious trend that is sweeping the nation, in case you hadn’t noticed all those cute runners on the road these days dressed to the “T”. As for me, I usually just throw on whatever clothes are handy and ‘comfortable’ and it is almost always a very last minute decision. My lack of style while exercising doesn’t really bother me and I know it is not a necessity to becoming a good runner; but, sometimes I wonder if it might be a good idea for me to leave my house for a run having put a little more thought into my overall attire. If I were to do this, maybe my husband would wave goodbye to me and shake his head out of pride and disbelief at the incredible, self-motivated woman he married, who, in his opinion, looks really good in yoga pants (that’s HIS hypothetical opinion, people! Not mine!). As of now, he usually shakes his head due to the fact that I don’t match, I’m wearing his sweat pants… a few sizes too baggy, and the Nike swoosh on my headband is upside down.

So, what do you think about “running fashion sense?” Are we buying into corporations that tell us that we need to look a certain way while working out? Or are the corporations actually trying to make us feel better about ourselves, so we’ll want to work out (in turn, spending $50 on running shorts)? I’m sort of guessing that the answer to these questions could quite possibly coincide with an individual’s own personal level of shame. And, I guess that’s fine, too.

The Italian Stallion wore Converse and gray sweats, why can't I?

BTW! Be sure to check the blog next Sunday. Running Buddies is having it's first giveaway!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Finding My Motivation

I'm sitting here trying to motivate myself to go run on the treadmill. So, I decided that maybe writing about it will be far, no luck!

Out of all the places to run the treadmill is the worse. Its the one place where you can run really far yet literally go nowhere! How discouraging!

Maybe, I'll try 'tricking' myself by finding reasons why I need to run:

1) I'm running a 15k in 2 months and don't want to be sucking wind at mile 3 (and have my sister, husband and friends leaving me in the dust!)

2) See #1 - it really should be the only motivation I should need!...but since its not, proceed to #3

3) I've been meaning to rediscover my 'power song' anyway. You know, that song that is suppose to pump you up and get you moving no matter how tired you become mid-run (or in my case, pre-run)

4) I just ate a HUGE Lunner (lunch/dinner) and maybe running will not make me feel so FULL

5) Its my opportunity to catch up on MTV's Real World. Afterall, seeing other peoples drama always makes me appreciate my life more!

To be honest, it's #5 that is making me look forward to my run! LOL. On Demand, here I come!

Clearly I need some motivation help!! MTV won't always be there for me but My Running Buddies will be, right!? How do you find your Motivation?