So You Want to Win a Medal?

When I first started running, I loved running in big events. There’s a special feeling about being part of an event with thousands of other people. I would get caught up in the energy of the crowd and get pulled along to the finish line. I enjoyed the anonymity of the big events.

I think I enjoyed the big events because I was never alone, I was always part of a pack. Normally I don’t mind being alone. But when you’re running in a race and you suddenly find yourself alone, you know that you’re either the leader or you’ve fallen off the main pack and in danger of coming in last. When you’re a slow runner, like me, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that there are a couple of hundred people who share your pace and a couple of hundred more who are slower than you. There’s never a danger of coming in last.

Naturally, I would also run smaller local events to fill up my race calendar. These races had between 75 to 250 racers, usually. Most of the time, I managed to stay in the back of the pack only rarely finding myself alone in that dreaded place between the slow runners and the fast walkers.

And then it happened. I won an age group prize in one of those small local races. It didn’t matter that there were only 5 women in my age group. It happened again the next year. Suddenly, I found myself seeking out small local races. Big races still had their place in my race calendar but small races were the place to be.

Of course, I didn’t win or place often – just enough to keep me interested – every other year or so. Kind of like the slot machines in Vegas – you win enough to keep you hopeful that the next pull will be the jackpot pull.

While the energy of big events can be uplifting, the odds of winning, placing, or showing in a smaller local race are much higher. And that’s motivation that will take you beyond race day!

Happy running!

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There Ought to Be a Law!

How many times have you said that? Or heard someone say that? There are newspaper columns, blogs, even a film or two around that theme. And yet . . .

Sometimes you find that there is a law already in place but it’s simply not followed nor enforced. A great example of this is a California law about not using a mobile phone while driving. You can be on the phone while you’re driving if you’re using a hands-free device like a headset, a bluetooth earpiece, or a speakerphone. And yet . . .

Sit at an intersection in any city in California and count the number of people who are talking on their cell phone without using a hands-free device. Or the number of people – I love seeing this – who are obviously using the speakerphone feature of their cell phone but are holding the cell phone up to their mouths. You’ve seen them – they look like they’re about to take a bite out of their cell phone, which defeats the whole purpose of using the speakerphone to be in compliance with the law. And yet . . .

If it’s the law, then why are people still doing it?

The next time you find yourself saying, “There ought to be a law about that,” take a moment to realize that there may already be a law. It’s just that people don’t care about the law enough to follow it or enforce it.

The thought processor churns on . . .

Name Change

I changed the name of my blog this morning from “Mutterings, Mumblings, and Musings” to “Confessions of a Treadmill Runner.” It came to me overnight and I think it more accurately describes what I’m trying to do here.

We’ll see how this sticks and make more adjustments as needed.

Happy running!

5-1/2 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Treadmill

In the running community, the treadmill is often called the “dreadmill” as most runners prefer to run outdoors. But don’t let that put you off from using a treadmill. There are many advantages to having a treadmill or having access to a treadmill, including being able to do a cardio workout regardless or the weather and being able to control your workout. Here are 5.5 ways for you to get the most out of a treadmill.

1 ~ Safety
Safety is the most important thing on a treadmill and being safe on a treadmill will ensure that you get the most out of using it. Make sure you know how to stop the treadmill if anything happens. Most treadmills come with an emergency stop clip. If you are new to using a treadmill, don’t be ashamed to use this clip even if no one else in the gym is using it. It’s better to be safe than sorry. The emergency stop clip is simple to use – just attach the clip to your clothing and make sure that the magnet end of this device is installed correctly on the treadmill. The treadmill will not start if magnet is not connected.

When you start the treadmill, start it at a slow speed and gradually increase it to your desired speed. You may see some treadmill users stand on the footpads on either side of the belt, crank up the speed, and then jump onto the belt. This is not the recommended way to get on a treadmill because it’s not the safest way to get started. With a treadmill, think of safety first.

2 ~ Incline
Increasing the incline on your treadmill is one of the easiest ways to make your workout tougher and more like you’re running or walking outdoors. When you’re indoors, you don’t have to deal with wind resistance. The treadmill also helps you a little bit because the belt is moving beneath your feet and each step doesn’t take as much effort as it would if you were outside. Setting the treadmill’s incline to at least 1% will help compensate for the lack of wind resistance and the moving belt. Once you’re comfortable at 1% for your regular workouts, consider increasing the incline to 1.5% or even 2%.

Changing the treadmill’s incline during your workout will challenge you and keep things interesting. A simple incline workout might look like this – jog for 10 minutes at 1% to warm-up, run for 3 minutes at 5%, jog for 2 minutes at 2% to recover, run for 3 minutes at 5%, jog for 2 minutes at 2% to recover, run for 3 minutes at 5%, jog for 2 minutes at 2% to recover, jog for 5 minutes at 1% to cool-down.

3 ~ Speed
Playing with the speed is another way to get the best out of a treadmill. Some people hop on a treadmill and do the same workout each time. While the consistency is great, your body will get used to a workout if you do the same thing over and over again. To challenge both your body and your mind, incorporate short bursts of speed into your workout. You don’t have to increase the speed by too much or for too long to get a benefit. A simple speed workout to try is 20/40 – after a warm-up, simply increase your speed for 20 seconds, recover for 40 seconds, repeat for as many times as you can, and then return to your normal pace for the rest of the workout.

4 ~ Consistency
Being consistent about using your treadmill will ensure that you get the best results. Bad weather, not enough light, unsafe or unfamiliar neighborhoods – these excuses are no longer relevant if you have a treadmill. Even injury isn’t as much of an excuse because a treadmill offers a softer impact than running or walking outside and most doctors will recommend rehab on a treadmill. So if you have no excuses, your cardio workouts will be more consistent and you will see results.

5 ~ Reading and Movie Lists
The treadmill is a great place to catch up on your reading or your movie watching, things you can’t do if you’re running or walking outside. I don’t recommend actually reading a book or a magazine while you’re on the treadmill because if you do, you will likely be working out at a lower intensity and using the hand rails for support, which detracts from your workout. However, you can listen to audiobooks. If you have a Kindle, there is an audio function that will read your book out loud to you. You can learn another language while you’re on the treadmill by listening to language CDs or MP3s.

If you have an iPad, a tablet, or a smartphone, you can watch videos while you’re on the treadmill. You can set your treadmill up in front of a television and watch while you work out – this could be a great motivational tool if you tell yourself that you can only watch a certain show or movie if you’re using the treadmill. Some treadmills have built-in televisions and most gyms set up their treadmills and other cardio equipment in front of banks of televisions.

5.5 ~ With Apologies to Nike – Just Use It!
The best way to get the best out of a treadmill is to just use it. Hop on your treadmill on a regular basis, use the speed and incline to make your workout interesting, and listen to audiobooks or watch movies to prevent boredom. Just use it!

Happy Running!

Age Has Its Advantages

Sunday I ran my first race of 2011. It was a small local 5k/10k event in its second year and I was entered in the 5k run. There were about 200 people participating in both events plus a 3k kids run. I had no expectations even though 2010 was a very good running year for me. Especially compared to 2009, which was a bad year marked with injury (a back strain from bell ringing in Thailand) and illness (a lung infection that took 3 months to diagnose and 6 more months to fully recover from) with very few races run.

I just wanted to finish well, with a smile on my face. The course was quite hilly so I figured that I wasn’t going to be setting a PR that day. So I was very surprised when I saw the clock as I was approaching the finish line. I glanced down at my watch and saw that it was showing the same time as the timing clock! Given the hills in the course, I was very pleased.

As I walked around cooling off and drinking water, I noticed the medals on the scorer’s table. That’s when I started wondering if my time was good enough for an age group prize. After all, my birthday in December pushed me into a whole new age category. And perhaps my 5k time was good enough to place in my new age group. In the end, I convinced myself that there were plenty of faster runners in my age group, decided not to wait for the awards ceremony, and headed home for a shower and breakfast.

For the rest of the day I had a nagging feeling that I had won an age group prize. I couldn’t stop thinking that being older had to have its rewards.

When the official results were finally posted, I was not disappointed. I took second place in my age group. Getting older does have its advantages. If I had run this race before December, I would have been in another age group altogether and I wouldn’t have even made the top five in that age group for women. But the difference of one birthday was enough to push me all the way up to second place in my new age group.

I can’t wait for my next age group bump!

Happy running!

Running Fashion – VPL

I received the February 2011 issue of Runner’s World on Monday and was intrigued at the thought of an article reviewing underwear. That’s right. An entire article – complete with pictures and tester testimonials – about underwear. I’ve read articles reviewing running shoes, cold weather running gear, sports bras, hydration gear, energy gels, and energy bars. But I’ve never read an article that reviewed running underwear.

Color me naive but I had no idea that there was special underwear for running. Underwear is underwear, isn’t it? Grab the nearest clean pair and you’re good to go, right?

Apparently not! There’s underwear that helps wick sweat away, underwear made with silver fiber to help reduce odor-causing bacteria, underwear made out of wool to keep everything toasty, and more. Who knew that underwear was such an important consideration when getting ready for a run?

The reviews on women’s underwear made me chuckle at first. However, as I thought a bit more about it, I cringed because one thing that all the reviews contained was whether the undies gave the user a visible panty line (or VPL for those that enjoy acronyms). And I thought, “Really?! When a woman goes out for a run, does she really think about whether she has VPL or not?”

I’ve always thought that runners are pretty unassuming and down-to-earth people. The kind of people who throw on their running clothes, grab their electronic gadgets, and go. People who are more concerned with comfort than sartorial splendor. People who are more worried about chafing than chic-ness. No stopping at the full-length mirror on the way out the door. No preening. No wondering if the running outfit makes them look fat. No worrying about whether their panty lines are showing.

But then I remembered the whole shorts versus skort debate that raged a couple of years ago and realized that to some runners, fashion is part of their running identity. For some runners, a good run includes looking good while they’re running. For some runners, wearing a color-matched outfit is as important as fueling properly before, during, and after a run. I know that when I feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, it makes a difference in my performance – whether I’m running or at the office.

At the end of the day, the important thing isn’t what you wore for your run, it’s that you went for your run. So, if you’ve been putting off running because you’re worried about VPL in your running tights, you no longer have an excuse.

Happy running!

Post A Week 2011

One of my goals for 2011 is to write 100 words each day. The purpose of that goal is to get me in the writing habit. When I set that goal, I truly meant 100 words each day, not writing 300 words one day and 400 words another day to total 700 words in one week. The point is to get into the habit of writing every day.

The WordPress challenges – Post a Day and Post a Week – are a perfect way for me to build a blogging habit. I’ve signed up for the Post a Week challenge, which means that I will post at least once a week to this blog.

It won’t be easy. Even writing this short post wasn’t easy because I was worried about flow and format, punctuation and grammar. But I’m up to the challenge and I hope that at the end of the year, this blog will have at least 52 posts, one for each week of the year.

Mutter, mumble, and muse on!