The Plan

The Plan

So, have you been working out? Or are you still struggling to get into a good routine? I will confess, I’ve been struggling. Not with sticking to my workout schedule; but rather sticking to my blogging schedule! Thankfully I started a workout routine just after Thanksgiving and it’s now a habit. It’s that with everything going on in our country and the world, I’ve found it a little difficult to sit down this week to write about training. It seems at times, trivial. I remembered however, that we need to workout to keep our stress levels manageable – regardless of where you stand on the issues.

So I don’t want to let you down if you’ve come here looking for motivation. If you haven’t gotten going yet, not to worry. Do not throw in the towel on your goals because you didn’t exactly stick to your New Year’s resolution. That’s what I hate about New Year’s Resolutions. Too often people feel it’s all or nothing. Every day is a new day, so if you haven’t started yet, you still can. If you have, good for you!

The best way to get into a routine, is to have a plan. Let’s start there. Creating and/or following a training plan provides easy to follow step by step instructions. You wouldn’t prepare a holiday meal without a menu and recipes, would you? You wouldn’t manage a big project at work without planning it out first either. You’d probably create a timeline, too. That’s exactly where to start with a training plan.

If you are new to running or getting back after a long break or injury, start slowly.  For me, this is a building year. My ultimate goal is a Boston Marathon Qualifying Time at the NJ Marathon next year. This year, I have a spring goal race and a fall goal race. Both Half Marathons. So right now, I’m only looking at the spring goal. Your goal should be determined by your previous experience, current training/fitness level, how much time you have to dedicate to training, and how much time you have until the goal race. Will you have enough time for the appropriate amount of training? And a training rule worth sticking to is the 10% rule. Meaning that each week, you shouldn’t add more than 10% on to what you did last week.

Designing my training plan, I work backwards. Goal race is April 30. The 16-week training plan began the 2nd week in January. It involves a weekly long run designed to gradually build my endurance for the distance of my goal race, a speed session, and a “threshold” run or two (that’s a run of about 85-90% of max heart rate or “comfortably hard”), and a recovery (slower) run.  I typically only run 4 days a week. And there is value in recovery and rest days! I also cross train – for me, swimming. I also try to working in a few sessions of Pilates, yoga and/or strength training each week. Maintaining core strength and flexibility is a key factor in preventing injuries, as is doing a solid warm-up at the beginning of each work-out and a stretching routine afterwards.

I’ve been running for over 20 years. I am a certified running coach and I’ve worked with a coach. I know what, in theory, works. I also know through years of trial and error what specifically works for me. So where do you, as a beginner or novice, go for a training plan for your specific goal race? If you are a beginner, you should look no further than a local “beginner to finisher” or “couch to 5k” program. First, as a beginner, I strongly urge you not to tackle a first race longer than a 5k. A beginner group will give you the organized plan, the benefits of having a coach, and the company of others. To find a group near you, Google “beginner run group” to see what comes up or leave a comment below and I will try to help. If you’re a walker who is new to running, you might find some helpful tips in this article, published recently on Sparkpeople.com, in which I am quoted: 9 Real-World Tips from Walkers Who Became Runners.

If you’ve already run your first race and are ready to work on increasing speed or distance, there are a ton of books out there, as well an abundance of online resources, including apps. Hal Higdon is probably one of the most popular and well respected (www.halhigdon.com). His training plans offer something for every distance and every level. Runner’s World (runnersworld.com) besides offering lots of useful information in their monthly publication also has training plans designed to meet a specific goal like weight loss, maintaining fitness, tackling a new distance or faster time. Lastly, (but of course not at all least of the options), hire a coach. A coach provides the accountability, and real-time feedback that you can’t get from a book, website or app. A coach can also make adjustments throughout your training based on how you are responding. To find a certified coach visit Road Runners Club of America or USA Track & Field websites.

Regardless of what plan you use, sticking to it builds discipline and focus…and certainly a sense of accomplishment, which will boost self-esteem.  Exercising clears the head and relieves stress. I would add that getting outside for a run (rather than the treadmill all winter), if you can, is best. I have found lately that running on the treadmill at the gym in front of the morning news might elevate my heart rate a little too much.

img_5691Saddle River County Park, Dunkerhook Area, Paramus, New Jersey. January 2017.

Hell hath no fury

Hell hath no fury

The alarm went off at 3:15 a.m. yesterday morning. While I didn’t exactly jump from my bed with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning, I was up and moving quickly, dressing and gathering items carefully laid out the night before. Perhaps more surprisingly, about 15 minutes later, my teenage daughter was moving too. Usually only an early flight – or for me, a big race! – would have us rising so early. But this day there was no flight to an exotic vacation. There was no marathon – not even a  training run. But this day, we were about to make history.

A little after 4 a.m. the dog had been walked and fed and we were out the door and on the road heading south. Two hours later I began to sense what was about to happen…in the dark on the southern tip of the New Jersey Turnpike…a swiftly moving  concentrated glow of tail lights for miles. It was just passed six. Peace and understanding, friendship and solidarity, cooperation and patience…from the long lines for the ladies room at rest stops in Maryland to enormous crowds on the streets of Washington. It was the Women’s March on Washington. Originally, concieved in response to the November election, it ultimately had less to do with the 45th President, and was more about sending a message to all American law makers that women – as we have a history of doing – will not be silent when something needs to be done. The issues aren’t new. They are many of the same issues women have fought for before.

“Hell hath no fury” is an interpreted line based on a quotation from The Mourning Bride, a play by William Congreve, which reads in full “Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d / Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.” (Wikipedia)

Women have demonstrated that we are a force possible of making powerful change.  Real change has occurred because of pissed off women who got fed up and rallied a movement. Women like Bernice Sandler who’s rejection for a professor’s position and being told it was because “you come on too strong for a woman,” led to Title IX prohibiting sex discrimination in education (1972). Women like “Jane Roe,” an unmarried woman who wanted to safely and legally end her pregnancy that led to the Supreme Court ruling recognizing for the first time that the constitutional right to privacy “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” (Roe v. Wade, 1973).  Women like Candy Lightner, who after the death of her 13-year-old daughter at the hands of a drunk driver (1980) founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving ultimately cutting drunk driving deaths in half since its founding. Women like Nancy Goodman Brinker who founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in her sister’s memory (1982)  because she felt her outcome might have been better if patients knew more about cancer and its treatment.

It was not only these courageous women, but the 100s of 1000s of women (and men) who supported their efforts after they took that first brave step. Because of these movements girls and young woman have opportunities to learn leadership skills and cooperation from team sports that we now take for granted. Women can manage their healthcare and family planning in a manner they and this physician feel is best (prior to Roe v. Wade, 17% of deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth were the result of illegal abortions). Almost 15,000 fewer Americans are killed each year by drunk drivers than in 1980 and the breast cancer mortality rate has decreased 37%.

Yesterday was about seeing to it that we don’t lose what so many before us have achieved. It was about honoring our values as women and Americans, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves, immigrants, people of all faiths, races, and sexual orientation or gender identity; by protecting rights and protecting our planet. We will be victorious. We always are. Because we are stong. Because we are powerful. Because we are courageous. And because we are not alone.

The most powerful moment yesterday for me came after we returned home. Looking through everyone’s social media posts about the March, I was struck by a link to a New York Times piece showing pictures from all the marches around the world posted with the message, “Scroll through all of them then see if your eyes are dry by the end. Nothing like this since Vietnam or No Nukes.” He was right. I cried. It was like after 9-11. I finally broke down during that emotional week while watching a news broadcast showing the outpouring of support from around the world. We weren’t alone.

I sunk into my bed around 10 p.m. after 5 hours on my feet and logging 8 miles, bookended by a total of 9 hours driving back and forth. I was grateful for the time with my girl and that we shared this moment in history knowing too this was only the beginning. I coach my clients on the importance of honoring our values. I hope I am also setting a good example for my daughter. It’s okay to get pissed off. As long as you turn it into action.

After a good nights sleep, today it was back to training. I ran 12 miles. With a lot on my mind.

img_5720Washington, D.C. January 21, 2017.

The Power of Endorphins

The Power of Endorphins

Back in late November I was feeling really down. I just chalked it up to the time of year. It was just starting to get cold, the days were getting progressively shorter, and I was gearing up for another holiday season without a number of the people who had been around my table for so many holiday feasts of the past. So it was understandable. I was having trouble focusing at work, was neglecting my house, and didn’t feel like doing much of anything. Depression. And I felt stuck.

Yup. I’m a coach. I help clients get un-stuck all the time and was having trouble helping myself. I’m about as good at being my own coach as I am at French braiding my own hair. Thankfully I too have a coach. The first thing we talked about is how I felt over-whelmed by everything. That’s never a good place to be because collectively everything is more than you can handle. It needs to be broken down into manageable pieces. My coach asked me, what’s one thing that you want to take aim at?

She asked me about my running. I said I was running sporadically and that wasn’t it because trying to fit more runs into my schedule right then would just cause me more stress. I didn’t have the time I told her. So we agreed I’d aim at getting something accomplished at work. That would make me feel better, right? Well yeah, it did. Sort of. But a funny thing happened. The Monday  after Thanksgiving, I signed up for a 6am Pilates class. I went to bed a little earlier the night before and resisted the urge to go back to bed when the alarm went off and made it to the class. The next day it wasn’t as hard to get up and I went to the gym to run on the treadmill. Getting up to run in the cold and dark was asking too much, but the treadmill was an okay compromise. Just a slow 3 miles. I ran 4 days that week and took two Pilates classes! By the the next week the endorphins were starting to kick in. Getting up wasn’t as much of a struggle and my mood was starting to elevate!

Never underestimate the power of endorphins! Suddenly I was looking at everything more positively. I was thinking clearer about everything. Just that simple mood boost helped change my perspective; made everything else feel more manageable. It wasn’t really the time of year, it was my lack of exercise! When I looked back at my training log and saw how long it had been since I was running consistently, it was no wonder I had been feeling the way I had. So if you need to take aim at something, start with exercise. Even just the American Heart Association’s recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. Commit to walking a mile every morning before work. And that’s where you need to start if you want to run, whether you’re new to the sport or have been on the sidelines for a long time.

Starting an exercise plan is always hard at first. I’ve been getting up 6 days a week for over a month now to either run or do some sort of strength training or swimming (my go to cross training). It’s still hard. And as I work muscles that have been goofing off for months, I’m sore. If you’re feeling it, don’t give up! Focus on the good. Do you feel stronger? Are the endorphins helping to make you more awake and alive? Do you feel more focused? It takes a lot of discipline and drive at first, but then it starts to feel natural. It’s just getting over that hump.

I’m feeling pretty up! I’m ready for the new year ahead. I noticed that it’s not completely dark out when I leave work now, and this week in New Jersey the thermometer hit 65! This weekend’s schedule includes my first double digit long run since October. Thank god for endorphins! Are you feeling ’em?

img_3073Saddle River County Park, Glen Rock, New Jersey. January 2016.

Reset for a New Year

Reset for a New Year

When I published my first blog a year ago, I said, “as much as my blog is going to be about fundraising and non-profit management, it’s going to be about how I bring who I am as a runner into every day, and every project; how I approach work and life pretty much the same way I approach a run.” That’s who I was then. Professionally I’m still a fundraiser, but by the end of July, I had redefined “cause” in “cause coach” from a charity I was trying to help to being who I was…”the cause coach: giving rise to action.” Running remains the constant.

The blog this year is going to be true to my personal mission of giving rise to action; helping you achieve your goals whether that is running a big race, transitioning to a new chapter in your life, or simply surviving each new – often unpredictable – day. We’ll look at how we can best honor our values, explore different perspectives, and on some days we’ll just appreciate being. Together we will strive for wellness; better health physically and mentally.

I will be continuing on my journey and will share what I’m learning from you…as a life coach, running coach, and fellow human. The first lesson is patience. I was pleased when a coaching client decided last fall after 15 plus years of running that they would finally commit to tackling a marathon – in 2018!  I have also seen friends in my running club post about marathon aspirations two or more years out. It was a good reminder for me on the importance of planning and preparation; the need to get our bodies, minds and spirits ready to go the distance (and I’m not just talking about running here, but life).

If you’ve been following along you know I have missed a Boston Marathon qualifying time in my last three attempts. Since my last marathon in May, I have also become a bit of a slug (at least by my own standards). I had thought maybe I’d try again this spring, but decided I had other priorities. Fall wasn’t entirely out of the question, although in the end, when I sketched out my race calendar for this year, the marathon didn’t make the cut.  Inspired by smart runners, I intellegently decided to wait until spring 2018. In the 16 months between then and now, I am going to be strategic in how I approach my training and I’m going to share…so think about it. You in? Want to train with me?

The blog and the training plan are now reset for the New Year. For the next 69 weeks – as I count down to my daughter’s 18th birthday and high school graduation and I build my business – I’m going to use a running goal to keep my sanity. So tell me, you in? Its okay if you just want to walk.

img_3164Darlington County Park, Mahwah, New Jersey. January 2016.