Affordable Valentine’s Day Gifts for Runners

Gift Ideas In Various Categories

Valentine’s is less than a week away! Whether it be a small treat for yourself, because you deserve a reward for all your hard training, or a thoughtful gesture for another beloved runner in your life, here are a few affordable Valentine’s Day gift ideas for runners.

These gift ideas are split into categories; sentimental, fun and unexpected, run smart, eat like a runner cookbooks, and gifts for recovery. Additionally, each item listed is something that I currently use or have, or an item that I just thought was list worthy. At the bottom of the gift list, are a few links with discount codes from my affiliate sponsors that you can freely use to help knock off a few bucks towards something else you may have your eye on.

I decided to post all of these ideas thru Amazon links, since the weather hasn’t been exactly inviting outside. Who doesn’t love Amazon Prime delivering direct to your door, or your favorite runner, in two days?! So go ahead stay cozy indoors and take a look while you sip away on a warm cup of tea.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you choose to buy through my links, but at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting my blog endeavors while I get to share with some of the products I use and love.  Please ready my disclaimer for more information.

Sentimental Gifts

Awe, for me?!…you shouldn’t have! Maybe one of these ideas could be dropped as a subtle hint to your beloved by sharing this via Facebook or Twitter. Link buttons to do so are at the very bottom of the post. 😉

Fun & Unexpected Gifts

Some of the best gifts are the kind that strike up conversation. My favorite unexpected gift here is the Trump mug. Haha!

Run Smart Gifts

Why not put a small kit together of a few of these gift idea items and present it like a runner’s Valentines Day themed basket?

Eat Like a Runner Cookbooks

Gifts for Recovery

Affiliate Discount Codes & Coupons

Finish Line

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Reframing the Running Brain

Extreme winter weather conditions seems to be the derailing for so many runner’s across the U.S. lately. I’m constantly asking myself, how can I overcome adversity in life and sometimes what I realize is that the conclusions I come to, overlap into my running as well. I’ve discovered or rather, re-discovered, a couple of tactics and ways for “Reframing the Running Brain” that I think have been working for me. I”ll share them with you and maybe they’ll work for you too.

Reframing Tactics

Keep a Gratefulness Journal

There are some daily small measures that I’ve implemented into my life, to help me approach the negativity and drama of winter. The first tactic is keeping a journal. I’ve come and gone from journaling over the years and have used a journal for different reasons.

During some periods of my life, I kept a journal to write about feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, sorrow, trepidation and anxiety. It was a safe place for catharsis. Like running, journaling allowed me to work thru my feelings and make peace with them.

I recently returned to journaling in a different fashion. Now, I use it more to document my and my families life. Each day that I journal I also include a list of things that I’m grateful for. Psychologically this has helped me to reframe my brain and mentality in seeking out the positive in my life versus the negative.

In terms of running, I used to refer to the treadmill as the “dreadmill”. I was so locked on the glass half empty perspective of not being able to run outside. But in my attempts to reframe my negative brain, I realized I had adopted an entitlement which I hated about myself. I reflected back on the days when the kids were much younger and too little to leave home by themselves, or when my husband used to travel all the time and I was a single acting parent. I used to feel so trapped when I couldn’t get out to run.

Needless to say, the day I invested in a treadmill was quite celebratory and I was so grateful. Somewhere though along the way, I must’ve started taking the treadmill and it’s convenience for granted. Shamefully, I realized this once this winters snowpocalypse took over. I really paused on this a few weeks back and since I’ve been able to change my perspective, the winter weather debaucling my runs has seemed less impactful or dramatic.

Relentless Optimism Enables Gritty Character

Negative Truth vs. Positive Lies

A long time ago, I once heard or read somewhere about a coaching or training tactic of telling yourself a positive lie instead of accepting negative truth. I’ve tried this and I’m not sure my brain make-up buys into it. Perhaps I’m too much of a realist?

But what I can offer as a spin on this tactic is to simply acknowledge whatever adversity or negative thought you may be having and counter it with something positive instead. This can be incredibly challenging, especially when the adverse thing is something like weather which is out of our control.

It has seemed to be a more manageable approach for me to compartmentalize the things in my life that I can control and the things that I can’t. With the things that I can’t control (i.e. weather) I try and accept it. And then ask myself what response I can control and how I will adapt my response to it?

Past, Present, Future

This is where the relentless optimism and gritty character attributes come to play. While I may not be able to control short term hurdles or the things in the present situation, I can choose how to respond to it and the type of energy I am going to allow myself to spend on it. This mentality has helped me foster a positive mindset and hope for what my future has in store.

Pain and discomfort, at least in psychological terms, seem to me to have a relativity. When I am feeling self pity and stuck in emotional mud, I try and remember the cliche yet brutally truthful statement that “it could always be worse”. Even if a person hasn’t been exposed to extreme hardships or something “worse” to compare to from their previous life experiences, the ability to empathize with someone else’s hardships is an opportunity to put your own life into perspective. And really, the point is….you still have your life, so make the best and the most of it!

A Grit Mentality Can Callous You

My obsession with the psychology of grit and having a gritty mentality, applies perfectly to this year’s winter weather. Will the shock factor lose it’s value when you brace yourself for the worst?

I’ll admit that I’ve gotten soft over the years in many ways. But, I also think that our society has become soft as well. Maybe it’s just human nature to find better and smarter ways of avoiding discomfort? Although, just because we have the ability to be smarter and more comfortable doesn’t mean we’re not going to continually be put to the test.

It’s possible that there’s a little bit of spiteful character make-up in me that wants to disprove to myself what I can or can’t handle. I don’t want to be a wimp! I don’t want to be a soft or weak person!! And I DON’T WANT TO LET MOTHER NATURE GET THE BEST OF ME!!!!!

I’ve convinced myself time and time again, what I am capable of, the tenacity of what I can handle, and that I have the ability to choose to cultivate this mentality. And so do you!!

Monday’s Running Motivation

Here are a couple of motivational tidbits to help you maintain perspective with your running.

GRIT Talks Campaign & The RMC Podcast

The first bone I can offer to throw you, is the second part of a two part podcast interview I did a week or so ago. To catch you up and give you context read this blog post – “How One Gritty Ultra Runner Gives Back thru Girls On the Run“.

Part Two of this interview – Ep. 15 – GRIT Talks with Kelly Teeselink, (listen thru one of the platform links on the RMC Podcast & Music Playlists tab at the top of this page), is a great testament to a runner who shares her personal journey with running and within a few of the 100 mile races she’s done.

“Is this something you could do? And, do you want to do this hard thing? If this is something you want to do and accomplish, then you can do it!!”

– Kelly Teeselink, 100 Mile Trail & Ultra Runner

Gun Runners on Netflix

Since, I’ve found some treadmill time lately, I’ve been entertaining myself thru the miles with motivational videos and documentaries. One documentary that gave me total perspective on what to be grateful for in life and with the opportunity to run was a Netflix Documentary called “Gun Runners”

This documentary resonated with me from the perspective that my life is relatively easy. To complain about weather conditions or being stuck on the treadmill seems trivial. Running is easily accessible for me, and has been more of a privileged hobby. Not the case with a few of the runners from Kenya, who were highlighted in this documentary.

In addition to giving me a self check, this documentary also re-enforced the reward of one runner chasing a dream and the GRIT it took to finally achieve it. Sometimes going after goals and finally achieving them takes years. Years of being exposed to people telling you it’s not the right thing, or life’s demands weaseling into the way, or attempt after attempt of coming up just shy.

At the very least, I don’t ever want to look back and be mad at myself for not trying.

How One Gritty Ultra Runner Gives Back thru Girls on the Run

I’m super excited and inspired by today’s Motivational Monday’s highlight runner! This amazing ultra runner and inspirational woman happened to be representing the Girls on the Run program, at the Iowa Running Company’s Ladies Night, which I guest spoke at almost two weeks ago now. Her name is Kelly Teeselink and man oh man, is she the real deal! I was personally so inspired by her that I asked her if she’d be open to sharing her story and allowing me to interview her for my RMC Podcast. It didn’t take much coercing and since she was so pleasantly wiling, today I give you “How One Gritty Ultra Runner Gives Back thru Girls on the Run”, a two part podcast and GRIT campaign highlight.

Part 1 – Spreading Girls On the Run Education

I was so grateful to be part of an evening (the Iowa Running Co. Ladies Night) and event, where 100% of the proceeds got paid forward to the Girls on the Run Program. Even better yet, Kelly and I made a fun running connection and as always I went home that evening inspired by another runner’s story.

Kelly’s story is unique and dynamically rounded with her leadership and involvement with Girls on the Run (GOTR) but, also because she has progressed now to the 100 mile ultra distance. She attributes part of her ultra running success to the confidence she gained thru learning that body image has no relevance to the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment gained from running. This is part of what stoked her initial passion to become a GOTR coach and to try to positively influence girls at a much younger age with the same realization.

On a side note, some of you that have been my blessed loyal followers, already know that last fall I ran the Chicago Marathon for the Girls on the Run Charity. Here are a few of those blog posts, leading up to the marathon.

Thru out the process last fall, I discovered that not enough people knew about the Girls on the Run program. So I was very happy to interview Kelly and help her not only share her story, but also use my platform to help educate others about the Girls on the Run Program.

Girls On the Run Is Much More Than Just Running

Kelly elaborates on the other character building aspects of the GOTR program. In fact, she states, “It is NOT to develop competitive runners!” The program is more so to help build confidence in young girls, teach mechanisms for blocking out negative self talk, and how to not only accept yourself but how to accept the best in others.

We both agreed, that we wished there were some equivalent program around for us as young girls.

Part 2 – GRIT Talk with Kelly Teeselink

Hopefully by now, you have discovered the RMC Podcast and subscribed to it, so that you don’t miss out on any upcoming episodes. I decided to split my interview with Kelly into two parts. Part 1 – Episode 13, being dedicated to Girls on the Run. And Part 2 – Episode 14, being dedicated to asking Kelly some of her thoughts and personal experiences with GRIT.

I’m very fascinated with the sport psychology and principles behind the GRIT mentality for runners. I truly believe that if we can get more runner’s to adopt this mindset, they may be able to strive for new, harder, or more challenging goals. A few general questions that I posed to Kelly were;

  • What is your definition of GRIT?
  • Do you have specific people, athletes, or runners, that you think of as gritty?
  • Does you think that runner’s GRIT is innate and instinctive or can it be learned and developed as a culture or lifestyle?
  • Would you consider someone with GRIT, or even yourself, as being an obsessive person? (I’m eager to debunk the association general society carries with the extreme distance)
  • When and how did you gain or grow your grit?
  • What is it internally that makes you continue to pursue your passion or interest in running? Thru out training or during an 100 mile race?
  • If GRIT and self control are related, how have you been tested to prove this? (the ability to resist temptation)
  • What do you think you possesses that allows you to have the ability to sustain hard efforts for a long duration of time?
  • How would you advise others on how to become GRITTY or grow their own grit?

Kelly will be the first of many I hope to interview this year for my podcast and GRIT campaign. You can find links for listening or subscribing, to several podcast hosting platforms via the RMC Podcast tab at the top of this page. Stay tuned and enjoy!!!

Cold Weather Running – Should We? Or Shouldn’t We?

It seems like for the past week, social media feeds have been lighting up with bandwagon posts about the extremely cold and snowy weather conditions. Some runners were posting shocking pics of themselves braving the elements while dawning ice crusted eyelashes and facial hair. Almost as if the pictures themselves were self declared Instagram bragging rights. Other runners seemed to resort to warmer running environments and the ever mundane “dreadmill”. Seeing all of this and then considering my own history of cold weather running, forced me to take a step back and objectively pose the question of should we, or shouldn’t we, be going outdoors to run during “arctic blasts” and “polar vortexes”

Frostbite Risk Within Minutes

It seems to just come with the territory of being a runner, that we simply must prove to ourselves how tenacious we can be. Ain’t nothin’ stopping us from our run! Right?!? I will attest to there being some truth to the fact that if you have the right gear (wool socks, moisture wicking layers, thermal tights, etc.) that you can actually find winter running quiet comfortable and enjoyable. But should we do a self check and let there be more intelligent reasoning overriding our sheer desire to get outside and move? And certainly be more willing to put our running egos on the back burner when the cold weather becomes extreme and safety becomes an incredibly concerning reality.

The poor weather men on our local news station, had to be the unfortunate bearers of bad news. As I was eating my morning oatmeal this last Wednesday, I overheard them warning that a person could suffer from frostbite within as little as five to ten minutes exposure. Take a look at the following Wind Chill Chart per the National Weather Service website. The severity is shown in progression from the lightest color blue to the dark purple and correlates to a cross referring chart between actual temperature and wind in miles per hour. For me personally, I’ve always felt the cold running barrier fall between -10 to -20 wind chill. But after reading a few articles regarding the effects of such extremes on our upper respiratory health, I’m thinking otherwise.

The Dangers of Breathing the Arctic Air

Even with all the right gear, and every exposed inch of skin covered you are risking other cold weather factors like breathing all that arctic air into your lungs. My google searches laid out a few of the physiological risks of prolonged cold air exposure, and threat to our nasal passages, mucous system, and lungs.

When the arctic air passes thru our noses, it causes the tissue lining of our noses to swell and capillaries to open as an effort from our bodies to heat the cold air we breathe in. But when too much blood enters the capillaries we sometimes end up with nasal congestion.

The mucous system also tends to go on over drive and will thickens through dehydration and inflammation. And allegedly the inflammation and dehydration that’s caused can even lead to asthma.

As a third line of defense (after the nose and mucous system) against breathing the cold air, the lungs often respond by releasing histamine and other inflammatory mediators. If you’re someone who already battles asthma or upper respiratory strains, this can reportedly lead to wheezing.

“On average, a human breathes 1,100 times per hour, with each breath measuring about one liter in volume and requiring humidification to keep the lungs and airway from drying. When inhaled air is cold, the body works to heat the air to 98°F and humidify it to 100%. This extra work represents a significant effort and heat loss to the body.”

– coldavenger.com

This linked article titled “The impact of cold on the respiratory tract and its consequences to respiratory health” was fascinating to me as I was making the evaluation of the risk vs. reward of venturing outside during the extremes for a run.

Reframing the Winter Running Mindset

The purpose of this article is simply to share with you the information that I discovered, and that now has me second guessing what I’ll risk in order to maintain my sanity. I’ve decided not to join the Instagram masses with posts of ice cycles hanging from my nose. I did suffer from walking pneumonia one year after running thru the harsh temperatures all winter long. And the following year had a horrible bout of laryngitis and bronchitis, I believe which resulted from the same stupidity.

Don’t get me wrong, this Mama bear would be very grumpy if she wasn’t able to log any miles but what I’m trying to reframe my mentality with are these principles;

  • If I have any slight cold or runny nose and the wind chills are sub zero, I’m hopping on the treadmill.
  • Learning to be more grateful for my treadmill and not hate on it. Could always be worse right?!
  • When I do run outside during the winter months, I try and cover my nose and mouth.

I’ll leave you with these various affiliate links to some runner’s balaclavas. If you choose to run outside, at least be smart and cover your nose and mouth to prevent breathing the cold air produced mucous and dry air into your lungs. Stay safe and run smart my friends!!

  • These links are affiliate links. Which means I receive a small percentage commission off of any purchase made thru them, in order to support this blog and my RMC podcast. Thank you!

Why Walnuts Are Great for Runners

I stumbled across a little golden nugget of information recently while reading some old continuing education materials left over from a con ed class called ‘Inflammation, Chronic Illness and the Brain’, which I had taken towards the end of a 20 year bout of being a massage therapist (I’m now retired). One of the resource materials that was a take away from that class was a home study piece regarding the Mediterranean Diet as an approach to better health. Most of the information in it was very general and what I would call “sleeper” material, but I did stumble across one particular Mediterranean Diet food category, that being walnuts, which I thought was enlightening and potentially beneficial to us runners. I thought I’d share what I found out with you and “Why Walnuts Are Great for Runners”.

Awe Nuts!

So, it’s no new news that nuts are a great dietary staple for athletes. Not only are they a rich source of calories but include nutrients that can’t be found in refined food. They contain ingredients like manganese, copper, magnesium, and vitamin B. They also contain specific phytochemicals (proven to help prevent disease) like resveratrol. Resveratrol is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols. They’re thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage.

Experts have even said that including nuts in your recovery fueling after a run, will provide healthy fats and protein for rebuilding muscle. Throw that in with some pretzels and you’ve got a great balance for a carb and protein filled re-fueling snack.

Additionally nuts also act as a great protein and fueling source for vegetarian or plant based runners. But why are walnuts, specifically great for runners?!

The Benefits of Walnuts & Why Walnuts Are Great for Runners

Within the continuing eduction material I was reading on Mediterranean Diet, there was annotation specifically towards a landmark study on walnuts being found to reverse the impairment of endothelial function. The researchers doing the study found out that consuming walnuts prevents the release of the inflammatory substance, nitric oxide, which is a vasorelaxant. And that the walnut itself has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.

In a nutshell (pun intended), it allows our runner’s bodies to heal and recover faster after we run because of it’s ability to reduce inflammation. Which also means reducing delayed onset muscle soreness otherwise known as DOMS. But that’s not the only benefit for us runners.

Walnuts are considered to be an Omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid) source, which is something our bodies don’t naturally produce. It’s a nutrient that has many benefits to the human body but for runner’s specifically it includes being necessary for some functions to enable us being healthy runners like;

  • Formation of healthy cell membranes
  • Development and functioning of the nervous system
  • Proper thyroid and adrenal activity
  • Hormone production
  • Helps regulation of blood pressure, liver function, immune and inflammatory responses

All Things in Moderation

One caution tho to eating any nuts, let alone walnuts, is that since they do include high fat content, maybe don’t go overboard to the extreme and start eating walnuts with every meal or for every snack.

What is a healthy amount to include in your daily diet? According to doctors and dietitians, a handful (about an ounce) daily is enough to give you benefit without overdoing it.

10 Ways to Include Walnuts in Your Diet

  1. Chopped and sprinkled on top of salads
  2. Thrown in with a trail mix or with pretzels.
  3. As a snack after being roasted in the oven for just a few minutes. My daughter discovered using just a teeny bit of coconut oil and cinnamon gives them more of a treat type flavor. This also makes the house smell A-MAZING!
  4. Baked into banana bread or other types of breads
  5. Used in Giddy-Up Energy Bites ( a recipe taken from Shalane Flanagan’s cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow.
  6. To add crunch and texture to the ‘Carolina Tarragon Chicken Salad’ recipe on pg. 92 of the same Run Fast, Eat Slow.
  7. Included in Basil Walnut Pesto Recipe like this one from Culinary Hill (click on text link for recipe).
  8. As a topper to your morning oatmeal.
  9. Used as the base for this Vegan Taco Meat recipe from the Minimalist Baker.
  10. Thrown into a smoothie for added nutrients.

Hard Questions Every Runner Should Ask Themselves

Last week, a local running shoe store hosted a ‘Ladies Night’ for about 30 local female runners. It was the second time that the owners of the store were gracious enough to invite me as a guest speaker for the repeat event. I’ll admit that, it’s always been much easier for me to hide behind my writing and that I”m still learning how to be comfortable with public speaking. However in the spirit of having a growth mindset, and in doing whatever I can to help support, inspire, or motivate other runners, I spent some time reflecting on how I could just be honest and be me and yet be helpful to others too. With this driving force I realized there are some “Hard Questions Every Runner Should Ask Themselves”.

Intentions & Focus

I might be accused of spending too much time on the roads and alone with my thoughts, but I’ve always felt the desire to identify a greater purpose for myself. Since the beginning of this blog website and my RMC podcast, my sole intention has always been to simply support any and all runners in whatever fashion that I can. Sometimes that means, sharing motivation and inspirational stories from other runners I meet or read about. Sometimes, it means sharing bits and pieces of my own knowledge and experiences pertaining to running. Whatever it is that I’m posting, it’s always been with the same intention and focus. I love running! Running has been my saving grace, as well as my sanctuary and life support thru out the years and I want to support other runners!

I’ve come to realize over the years of my own running and thru the coaching that I’ve done, that there is a delicate and multi faceted balance to being a runner. Of course there is all of the training and performance related aspects. Aspects that permeate into the science of running, and the constant quest of obtaining information to become your best and fastest running self. But, there are also other less trackable pencil on paper aspects like how much passion, motivation, and grit play into a runners story.

It is these latter aspects that can sometimes explain the unexplainable when it comes to what makes a person do what they do, or endure what they might’ve thought unimaginable. And it’s been proven to me time and time again , to be aspects that once defined, they can have incredible power for a runner.

Finding Your Why, Time and Time Again

Before the ‘Ladies Night’, I had identified with myself that women paid to be a part of the evening because they have an interest in running and chose to come for some runner’s bucket filling. And since I struggle a bit with public speaking, it seemed logical to just approach the evening by sharing my own story and how I found my ‘why’ with running with the hopes of encouraging other runners to contemplate and identify their own ‘why’.

My ‘why’ has been defined to me several times thru out my life but also still continues to evolve and redefine itself. When I was a young girl, my ‘why’ was because running made me feel empowered, strong and helped me find my identity. After I had children and ironically struggled with the bitter lack of feeling empowered and strong as a mother, I discovered a new ‘why’. I lost my own mother when I was 15 and felt very lost and confused. In search for answers and comfort thru out that time in my life, my ‘why’ was completely re -ingrained and somewhat re-defined. Running helped me feel balance, and find inner peace within my life. Ironically running brought me full circle back to feeling like a better mother.

However, thru out the journey I’ve traveled thus far with running and naturally increasing the frequency and length of time that I spent running, I’ve progressed thru many soul searching miles to the marathon distance. The marathon distance has given me some very proud moments, such as qualifying to run the Boston Marathon several times, but coincidentally the same proud moments have been some of the ones that have made me do the most serious self checks. Read “How to Be a Zen Runner”.

The point I was trying to convey thru my own humbling journey with running and stories with how I keep being forced to come back to my finding my ‘why’, was that I truly believe that if you can find your ‘why’, then you will always be able to fall back on the basis to where you passion lies.

Own Your ‘Why’

Everyone’s ‘why’ can be different. For me it has been to find peace within myself, feel and remind myself how strong and empowered I can be, and to maintain balance within my life. For other’s it might be to deal with forms of addiction, loss, manage weight, achieve general health and wellness, bond with others, etc. The myriad of reasons why people run aren’t what’s important necessarily. But identifying the reason itself can be grounding to your running and give your running purpose.

The difficulty of asking yourself your ‘why’ or identifying it can be cathartic in some ways even. Maybe that makes running a form of self therapy? Once, you find and figure out your why just own it. It’s who you are, good or bad, and solely up to you to define.

This reminds me of an Instagram post that I posted a few weeks back.

Hopefully you’re all still going after those 2019 New Year’s Resolutions and Goals and you haven’t faded in your quest. I have seen people’s passion for running and motivation taken to another level once they’ve been able to identify their ‘why’. Perhaps you will too!!

4 Ways to Deal With the Runner’s 4-Letter ‘S’ Word

We’ve all heard it!  That dreaded runner’s four letter “s” word – “SHIN” splints.  Otherwise known in the medical world as medial tibial stress syndrome.  Most runners know it as annoying and aggravating pain felt along the front of your lower leg, along the shin bone and between the knee and ankle.

Not that it should ever be a goal to run yourself into the ground for, but for many runners suffering from shin splints has been a right of passage to recognizing the value of learning to run consistently or train with a smart progression.

If you’ve had shin splints before, don’t feel ashamed.  It’s an injury that many of us have experienced and suffered with.  YOU are not alone!! And yet for so many of us, the shin splints creep up on us like a hooded ninja in the night.  Perhaps we thought we were super-human and could tackle mileage volumes that our bodies weren’t prepped and ready for yet.  Or, maybe we were ambushed because of a genetic anatomical discrepancy like low arches in the feet. Maybe it’s sheerly a matter of too much hard surface pounding or uneven surface running and the excessive force to the lower leg muscles has caused inflammation.

Here are a few common mistakes you can avoid to prevent the onset of shin splints, some symptoms to recognize that you may already be traveling down the road towards shin splints, as well as ‘4 Ways to Deal With the Runner’s 4-Letter ‘S’ Word’.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are a few common mistakes that many runners make, that end up sending them down the wrong path towards shin splints.

  • Mistake #1 – Progressing mileage volume or intensity before their physiologically ready.  A good general rule of thumb for weekly mileage volume progression is 10% rule. Also, don’t add in too much too soon.  For example; if you’re beginning to implement speed type workouts like tempo runs, hill fartleks, goal race pace or track work, then be patient and only implement after a solid 4-6 weeks of base running and foundational work.  Also, no need to implement more than 1 day/week to start with.
  • Mistake #2 – Not warming up prior to running OR cooling down and stretching after.  Don’t forget to sweep the corners and take time to do the little things. You may be time crunched to fit in your run, but in the end taking 5-10 minutes pre run to warm-up with some dynamic stretching, lunge matrix and leg swings, and post run with some longer held static stretching or even foam rolling to release tension from the muscles in the legs and connective tissues, can save you from sidelining your runs all together due to injury.
  • Mistake #3 – Foregoing strength work.  Our entire bodies act as a kinetic chain.  Meaning all the segments and joints of our body are connected musculoskeletally with and thru-out movement.  The movements and motions of running involve the action of one joint and perpetuating to the next stemming all the way from the head, neck and shoulders to the ankle.  If there are any weaknesses along the way thru the core, hips, legs, etc. then your entire chain gets thrown off, and that’s when predisposition to injury occurs. Insert – shin splints.
  • Mistake #4 – Running in old or ill fitting shoes.  Another general rule of thumb, replace your running shoes every 300-400 miles at a minimum  Also, be sure that the shoe you choose to run in is appropriate for your body type and gait.  For example; If you have the tendency to pronate (roll in at the ankles), you may need more of a stability support shoe.  Or if you have low lying arches, you may require a shoe with substantial arch support or even inserts. Most specialty running shoe stores can analyze your gait and fit you accordingly.

Signs and Symptoms and What You Should Do

If you’re feeling any achiness in the front part of your lower leg or pain that develops during your run, then you may be hearing the whispers and early signs of shin splints.  Runners with shin splints have also felt pain and tenderness on the inner shin area. And to top it off you may notice Inflammation and swelling might also be present or be experiencing numbness and weakness in the feet.  

If your internal sirens are going off and imaginary red flags being waved around in your mind, then here are 4 Ways to Deal with the Runner’s 4-Letter ‘S’ Word.

  1. RICE – REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION!  Listen to your body.  Take a few days off or even a week or two if needed.  Implement cross training, swimming, or non impact activities ONLY if it doesn’t cause pain.  The shin splints aren’t going to heal on their own if you keep maintaining the root of the cause.
    1. ICE – As with any inflammation response, icing the area is key.  This will also help promote cell rejuvenation and healing. Key – ice for 15-20 min. Max and wait 45 minutes minimum before repeating the process.  Tip/Trick – freeze water in a water bottle or Dixie cup, and then use it as an ice massage tool to run along the area.
    2. COMPRESSION – use compression bandages, or compression socks/sleeves to help alleviate swelling and pain with the shin splints.  Compression will also help promote circulation and healing cell regeneration.
    3. ELEVATION – similar benefits to compression and icing.  Elevation will help eliminate inflammation and promote circulation.  Not to mention then it means you’re staying off your feet and legs.
  2. Take It Easy Tonto! – Once your shin splints are completely healed, return to running slowly.  This can even mean beginning back with a run walk strategy. Remember patience is key with progression and building of mileage / intensity!  You don’t want to end up back in the same spot you started.
  3. Work on strength and flexibility in the hips and ankles – Weak hips and ankles are common kinetic chain contributors to shin splints.  For hip strength try a 3-4 minute lunge matrix and leg swings prior to running. Here is a lunge matrix video link and personal favorite; https://youtu.be/b5qqxitcKfo.  For ankle strength, try imagining your toe as a writing utensil in sand and spelling out the letters of the alphabet.  Also, good ankle strengthening during dynamic warm-ups might include duck walks (walking on heels with toes pointed up) and tip toe walking for 20 yards each.
    1. – Maintain flexibility within the ankle and surrounding connective muscles and tissues.  Stretch the calf and achilles with a straight leg wall push for 20 sec. Add in a slight bend in the straight leg for another 20 seconds in order to reach underlying calf muscles and deeper into the achilles tendon. OR, stand on the edge of a step and let the heels dip down below the level of the toes and the step itself.  These are called Heel Raisers and can also be used as an strengthening exercise by returning from the dip and elevating all the way up on tip-toes.
  4. Stay on soft even surfaces!  You’ll want to avoid jumping back into any hilly running or pavement pounding when you return to running.  Maybe now is your time to get one with nature and go explore a pea gravel trail or off road surface. Enjoy the serenity and surroundings!!

Good luck with your recovery and return to running.  Remember to be patient and to “sweep the corners” once you get back in the saddle!

*I am not a doctor and this blog post should by no means replace medical advice by your own physician. If you are in significant pain or suspect you may have a more serious injury, I strongly advice you seek proper medical advice and care.

Why Kara Goucher is Still My Hero Even After a Houston Marathon DNF

Let me think,…when did I first become a fan of Kara’s? Must’ve been somewhere around 2008 when she first caught my attention after winning the USATF Championships and Olympic Trials out in Oregon, in the 5000m and placing 2nd in the 10,000m race behind Shalane Flanagan (another favorite distance Queen). My fandom grew when she stepped up to the marathon distance and placed 3rd at her debut race in NYC. Then went onto continued throw downs in the half and full marathon distances and even to represent the American women at the 2012 Summer Olympics Marathon. I was so happy to support her return to the marathon distance after some career heartbreak and rough roads with injuries, at yesterday morning’s Houston Chevron Marathon. Although the race panned out a little differently then I”m sure she had hoped with a DNF (did not finish) and drop out around mile 19, Kara is still my Hero!

The Houston Marathon Quick and Dirty

I”m not going to spend any significant time with a marathon recap. In a nutshell, reports say that it was cold, with freezing temperatures approximately 30-40 degrees. Not ideal for someone with say a history of a torn hamstring (insert Kara). There were some repeat medaling from previous elite competitors and some road race rookies that shocked everyone with their performances, such as Jim Walmsley who was known a bit more in the trail running realm. And, Congrats to all who ran and finished! However, for Kara it was a long awaited step back to the marathon distance that will live to be told another day.

Kara, battled a stint from marathoning with a torn hamstring and some illness since 2015. In the following year we all rooted for her to make the 2016 cut for what would’ve been her third Olympics, although she came up just shy with a fourth place finish. And then after that, it seemed like she took a step back to pour herself into other adversaries of her life. Until yesterday’s return to the distance for Kara.

In retrospect Kara’s post race Tweet, explained to all of her fans that it was the old hammie that decided not to cooperate on the cold morning. And that it was the nagging voice of pain from it that had her seizing up around mile 19. My heart breaks for her and I was overwhelmed with empathy. But then I got ruminating on the woman Kara has become over the years and the strength she has proven time and time again to the world. Hopefully after she takes time to mourn her race, she’ll do some uplifting ruminating as well.

Why Kara is Still My Hero Even After a Houston Marathon DNF

Kara has been and continues to be someone easy to relate to. I don’t mean that I think I’m a professional or elite level runner by any means. What I mean is, she has always been seemingly candid and honest and transparent about her struggles as a runner, as a mom, and within the world she continually tries to morally define for herself within running.

As a fellow 40 year old runner and mom, she has given me a belief system to put weight on that it is still possible to balance having a child and training for your goals without sacrifice. While training for the 2016 Olympic Marathon qualifier she logged up to 120 miles per week, and yet still talked in interviews of rallying herself to “gallop, hop and play” with her son Colt. She’s verbalized how her own relationship with running and the pressure or anxiety for results that she used to obsess over, all gets put into perspective when she thinks about what really matters to her,…her son.

Her strength was proven and tested when she confronted the world with such driving moral principles of keeping the sport “clean” and just hoping that her son can grow up to still believe in the sport. It must not have been easy to break away from such a powerhouse as Nike and Coach Alberto Salazar, especially as an elite high profile athlete.

And if the “grit” (my favorite mantra) of what it has taken for her to keep going after her running goals and get back in the ring at this stage in the game, wasn’t already enough to lend respect to, she has also written her own book, and been the host of half a decade of women’s running retreats in Boulder, Colorado.

Live to Tell Another Day

It’s promising to hear that Kara has not waned from thinking about the future and her possibilities. Will it be to try an ultra or perhaps a trail race? One thing I know is for certain, she will not stop setting new goals for herself. And this in itself is enlightening to think about what could be next after the marathon? She’s still got my attention and I can’t wait to see what’s next!!

My Winter Running Off-Season Report

I realized that it’s been awhile since I’ve updated you all on my own running. Just like the middle and high school kids I coach, I refer to the winter running months for myself as the off-season as well. Seems like a good time to get back to the roots of running wellness as well as re-setting intentions towards addressing my weaknesses.

My Three Main Weaknesses

I have a lot of weaknesses, but the three main running ones I try and focus on thru the “off-season” are strength, flexibility, and cross training. I’m sure you’re asking, “Wait, shouldn’t we focus on these three components ALL the time? Including during competition season?!” The answer is of course, YES! Let me elaborate.

Strength

When I’m in season, meaning actively training for a specific target race(s), then I”m usually pretty specific with my strength focus being on prime or assistive running movement muscles. I”m doing lots of lunges, core work, and hip strengthening work. But during the winter, I tend to focus more on the entire body and more of my upper body. I’m doing some pilates style stretching and strengthening work after most all runs, but also do weighted exercises twice a week.

My theory behind doing more weighted work in the off-season is to build the muscle fiber size/density and capillary blood supply so that when the season rolls around the foundation is set for me to push higher volumes of metabolic waste (aka lactic acid) thru. I have a little mental picture in my head of tunnels that supply each muscle the blood supply and traveling route for all affiliated components good and bad . The larger the tunnel ratio or more quantities of tunnels, the easier the muscles can be asked demanding things.

I”m hoping this has and will help with my spring running economy and neuromuscular coordination. Plus, I’m getting old and am realizing I have to work harder to maintain muscle mass and the other side concern of bone density.

Flexibility

My second main weakness,…flexibility! Man alive, I can’t tell you how much flexibility I’ve lost since before my 20’s. First world problems for the running masses right?! I grew up a classical ballet dancer for 17 years and then studied martial arts for about another 6-7. A weird amalgamation for a running background, except I’m assuming the flexibility that came with each those crafts helped with the any running efficiency I may have had during the same time frame.

With this said, I’ve noticed a massive decline in flexibility both since I’ve stopped the ballet and martial arts stuff but more so with age and with the increase in mileage over the last 5-10 years. In fact, my lower back feels it the most and I’ve resolved to the fact that age and the slow decline of collagen elasticity has been the cause of some full on hobbling episodes.

Insert runner’s yoga. I’m somehow delusional or able to renew my faith in my body during the off-season when I make more of an effort to slow down and stretch. I’ve always been a stretcher after each and every run and have not had any major running injuries (knock on wood) I think because of my attention to it. But it’s the off-season when I really get back to feeling Gumby like. Oh so good Gumby like!

Cross Training

After fall marathons and cross country season, I drop back in mileage a bit and just try and let my body rejuvenate before the whole cycle starts again for spring races. This year that means only about 25-30 miles per week and 4-5 days of running.

Instead, on the other 2-3 days per week I’ve been enjoying an elliptical or biking on my trainer if I’m stuck indoors. My oldest daughter also introduced me to indoor rock climbing and bouldering, which has been super fun and I constantly find myself wondering when I’ll be able to climb/boulder again.

If I’m able to still be outdoors to cross train, I like to hike and snow shoe if there’s enough snow on the ground.

Additionally, I’m hoping to add a water rower and reformer to my workout room arsenal in the near future. I’ve grown into a new appreciation for low or no impact activities. The water rower will be great low impact strength and aerobic conditioning, especially for the quadriceps and upper legs as well as for the upper body strength. And the reformer should be a great distance runner compliment to strengthening and stretching long lean muscle fiber, while not letting my body discriminate physical weaknesses on one side of my body or the other while combating gravity.

Do What Works For You

My off-season recipe is constantly evolving and changing. Some of it has changed over time as youth slowly slips away. And yet some of it has changed, simply because I’ve changed and evolved as a runner.

Ten or fifteen years ago, I would try and just run 5-6 days per week and was happy with nothing less then 3-4 miles with a stretch being 7-9 miles. I didn’t always have a half or full marathon on the calendar and mainly just ran 5k’s for fun.

Now days it seems like, unless I”m in cross country season or I’m running with my husband or one of my kids, I tend to not even put on my running shoes unless I know I can get in 5-6 miles. And a good off-season long run sits at around 7-8 miles or up to 90 minutes. Of course in-season long runs take me up to the marathon distance and maybe someday even ultra distances.

I’ve found that the longer distances I run and race that the balance and yin vs. yang of the season’s becomes more relevant to my mental and physical balance.

BUT, this is just what has worked for me…I think? Do what works for you and don’t let something trivial like pictures that other runner’s post on Instagram of their Garmin stats dictate your run. If you find yourself influenced or Instagram peer pressured, you could run your way right into over training or injury. If it’s your off-season, do what your body and mind need most. Run your own path!!

Runner’s Monday Motivation Guest Post

Hi ya’ll! It’s officially 14 days after the New Year and that means that tomorrow will officially be two weeks into any New Year’s Resolutions or goals you may have identified for yourself. Which means you’ve only got 52 more days, according to behavioral scientist claims of 66 days before making anything become a habit. To help you hang in there and keep your eye on the prize I collaborated with a fellow runner from halfway across the globe to bring you today’s blog post and “Runner’s Monday Motivation“.

Guest Blog Post from Australia

A few weeks back I was reminded that running can connect people so randomly and evidently from halfway across the world. A fellow Australian runner by the name of Nicole Stirling, had reached out to me after reading my blog post called 6 Tips for Setting 2019 Running Goals.

Nicole, had been revamping her own “goals” from the usual runner’s targets of new PR’s or longer distances and focused more on consistency with her running. I do believe there is a huge lesson to be learned from her story as well. So, here is her story for your Monday Motivation with a prefatory self Bio from Nicole.

Bio: 

Nicole Stirling is an avid runner and the author of 366 Days of Running blog. Nicole started running in her 20s to get fit and lose a little weight. But her start was rocky; she ran irregularly and was prone to injury. To address her consistency, Nicole set herself a challenge: to run a minimum 3kms every day for 366 days. And she achieved her running streak!

Since then, Nicole has run 12 marathons, 9 half marathons and explored the US, Europe and Asia through running tours and races. She’s heading to Italy, Slovenia and Croatia later in the year to run a marathon and trails on a group tour. 

Link: www.366daysofrunning.com 

This is the author of 366daysofrunning.com blog – Nicole Stirling.

How running 3kms every day for 366 days was life changing – By Nicole Stirling

It was in 2011 that I signed up for my first half marathon. I gave myself plenty of time to train but I didn’t use that time wisely. I naively believed I could squeeze four months of training into two weeks and run the half marathon easily. All I did was run myself into an injury; shin splints! 

When race day arrived, I couldn’t hide the pain as I shuffled the few hundred metres from my hotel to the start line. But I wasn’t participating. I was there to support my friends and fellow runners. I was a spectator to the race I’d signed up for. When the gun fired, I fought back tears watching the pack leave me behind. 

This was an invaluable lesson for me in the importance of running consistently and regularly.  

How I became consistent

There I was an inconsistent runner who only had myself to blame for my injury. All I could do was wait for my shin splints to heal before I could run (and race) again. During the downtime, I planned. I knew I couldn’t repeat this mistake. I set myself a goal of a running streak. I was determined to run 3kms every day of 2012. That was 366 days of fitness. For me, that’s roughly 20 minutes of running plus another 10 minutes to put on my gear and running shoes. I needed only 2% of each day to make this goal happen. For those days where I needed a rest, I’d walk 6kms instead of running. 

This was a goal I was positive I could achieve. 

The benefits of running regularly

Like all fitness activities, running consistently has many, many benefits. Consistent running has been known to:

  • Prepare the body and mind for the effort required to push your limits: Have you noticed how regular running becomes easier and easier as time passes? It’s because your body and mind are being trained to know what to expect ahead of each run. As your training increases so too does your body and mind’s ability to accept longer runs. When it’s time to push your boundaries and achieve new limits it’s not nearly as tough because of the prep work that has been invested. 
  • Increase your body’s ability to recover quickly: In November 2012, 11 months into my challenge, I underwent surgery that required me to fast the few days prior and stay overnight in hospital. At my post-surgery appointment, my doctor was surprised and pleased to hear that I had returned to walking the day after my surgery. It was a very, very slow walk but I was out there still getting it done. And I was back to a slow jog within 2 weeks. My doctor was impressed with how quickly my body had recovered and put this down to the previous 11 months of daily running.
  • Take the pain out of race day by spreading it across training runs: I look at race day as 100% pain without training. Regular training runs steadily chip away and reduce race day pain. Consider it this way: instead of 1 day of pain and suffering, it’s spread across 4 months of training runs. It sounds terrible, but it makes race day far more enjoyable!
  • Reduce the risk of injury: Don’t I know this one! Running ad-hoc caused me shin splints which resulted in a DNS on race day. And as my massage therapist has pointed out, when I only run 2-3 times per week, my calves end up rock hard. I squeal when she touches them. I’ve found that by running regularly I reduce my injuries and any soreness and pain. 
  • Improve your mindset: Whether it is the running, sunshine or fresh air, getting some exercise in always resets my mind.I take my frustrations and problems to the pavement and usually finish happier and with solutions. I also use running as an opportunity to focus on the positives and to work through what I’m most grateful for. I find that a positive mindset helps improve my running performance too.

3 things I learned from running 3kms every day for a year

1. I can do anything! 

I learned that anything is possible including running 366 days in a row. I didn’t doubt myself, although I did sometimes question why I’d set such a long challenge. And I did have naysayers who said I couldn’t possibly achieve this goal because life always gets in the way of things we want. But instead of getting upset, I used their comments to feed my determination. 

And I did it! I ran 3kms every day for 366 days (actually, I went on to run a further 3kms the very next day!) and didn’t I just feel on top of the world. This challenge taught me that if I set my mind to a task then I can make it happen. I’ve carried that lesson with me into new jobs, a new home and 12 marathons!

2. To be organised

The distance I set for my goal wasn’t particularly difficult but finding time each day was often challenging. On one occasion, I had a 6 am flight from Sydney to Auckland. That day I woke at 2 am to fit my 3km run into the day and applied my makeup at the airport. A few months later, after driving 12 hours from Sydney to the Gold Coast, I found myself running 3kms at 11:30 pm. 

This challenge taught me organisation skills I don’t believe I had before. While out for a 3km run I was thinking ahead to the next day’s schedule. Where would I fit 3kms in? My preference was always to run in the morning but sometimes that wasn’t possible. I always knew at least 24 hours ahead when and where I’d be running next.

3. To prioritise myself

Self-care seems selfish but it’s vital to allot yourself some solo, reflection time each day to be your best self. I’m extremely open with my family, friends and colleagues about how I will be a crazy person if I don’t get a run in. And that has a little to do with needing the sense of achievement I get after each run and opportunity to work through any problems and just generally feel grateful for my life.

This challenge taught me that I have a right (and an obligation) to prioritise my own needs each day AND that I can find the time in what often seems like a busy schedule. 

In summary, a running streak can be a life changing experience. It’s also a great way to teach yourself to run regularly and to learn a lot about yourself along the way. 

http://www.366daysofrunning.com

Special Thanks to Nicole

I’ve always been a believer and supporter of sharing personal stories and the power of motivation and learning tools that can be drawn from it. Special thanks goes to Nicole Stirling for sharing her story to motivate others and to teach the importance of consistency.

In reciprocative collaboration, I will follow up her story with some simple tools to help address the reasonings, symptoms, and preventative measures related to the dreaded shin splints that so many runners like Nicole, suffer from.

Keep Em Coming People!!

Would you like to contribute and be able to inspire others with your own sources of motivation? Perhaps you’d like to submit a guest post as well? Don’t be shy! I love hearing from you all and so will others!! I encourage you to submit your Runner’s Monday Motivation material thru the short form below. Or reach out and contact me with your guest post ideas and submissions thru the Comment & Contact page located at the top of this post.

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