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Walking and running from Florence to Pisa in six weeks. Go!

Struggling with how to kick start your new year's workout plan? Join the 100 days challenge, or for some extra motivation, join us on Nike+ and walk - or run - from Florence to Pisa! Airfare to Italy not included.

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Why do you run?

We all need a little inspiration, and as I think about gift giving this time of year, I considered that two of the best running things I ever received were from that running stronghold, Nike.  Back before they were making great inroads with footwear, they were marketing heavily to women in the apparel line, and they had a shirt that I purchased which I proudly wore until it became far too small for me.  Today, my mother wears it – and simply put, it says, in adorable purple script, that “Running is cheaper than therapy”.  Yep. I enjoyed that.

It was followed by a little clock – the kind of paper clock with hand-turned dials that you see when the pharmacy has closed for lunch or the doctor is on a break.  On the back, it had 12 lines of precious text about one topic:  Gone Running.  (Somewhere on this site, the copy still exists.)

It’s in that tribute that I provide the following bit of inspiration – mostly for myself.  I hurt my knee in January and have been mostly walking and sulking since then, trying to get back into a groove without doing further damage.  But last week I decided that even if I just walk – ONLY walk – or, maybe even walk with the occasional 30 second interval, I think I could be happy as a clam.  Because it’s not the speed or the pace that has ever mattered – it’s what happens when I lace up my shoes and get out there.  And that doesn’t change, regardless of the pace I run.

This, this is why I run.

Why do YOU run?  Share in the comments, on FB, or even on Twitter – you can find me @plusrunner.

See you on the path.

Thankful

ImageFull of thanks.  That’s the season that’s come upon us (as Americans) and it’s one that never seems to get old.  Everywhere we turn, there’s an uptick in the spirit of the holidays, the chance to spend time with family and friends, and the feeling that comes from the comfort of a cool breeze met with layers of down. 

I love this season, when typically, as a large runner, I find it easier going.  The wind cools me down on long runs, and while others struggle with the temperatures, I used to grudgingly but proudly layer up and go out for 5, 6, or 10 miles with friends.  

Looking back on the last ten years, I am amazed to find that the vast majority of my Saturday mornings were spent with good friends, running in weather that most people found inhumane.  Dark, windy mornings on Chicago’s lakefront are nothing to take lightly, and we didn’t.  We wore our warm tights, our ear warmers, our winter socks, and our windproof jackets.  We started our run right from the store – no casual warm-up for the first half mile on those mornings. 

And we caught up.  We found out who’d had dates.  Who was behind in their Thursday night TV.  We knew about the terrible bosses, the sick mothers, the holiday drama, and the one night stands.  We knew too, that it was always better with our friends, this group of warriors, who hung onto Saturdays like the lifeline they always were. 

Many of us have moved on to other cities, other races, other sports, other lives.  It’s fair to say that Saturday mornings aren’t quite the same – but somehow, no matter when I lace up, I feel the presence of the people who run, no matter where they land – Karachi or South Beach, London or Indy, West Loop or Washington.  

So in this season of thanks, I add mine to the runners who inspired me to get moving, keep moving, and miss moving.   I’ll see you again soon.

We are all role models: The Plus Runner video project.

Nathan Sorrell is a 12 year old boy who has expanded the definition of courage. Nathan is not alone. He is supported by millions of men and women who are fit and active, overweight or not. -And yet, for most Americans, Nathan was a surprise. People think there are no role models for overweight athletes. They're wrong.

We are all those role models. Let's inspire a few more folks to join us.

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Get outside. Hiking clothes for the plus explorers.

Hiking and exploring the outdoors is a great way to get active and get inspired. For plus athletes, finding great apparel makes the journey easier and increase the likelihood that when Mother Nature acts up, you'll be able to weather the storm and keep going. Here, a few options for the journey, and a lesson in how to find the best gear yourself.

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If I were Queen?

We often think that life would be grand if we were in charge. I draw on my inner Queen to ponder the ways in which the world would be different if a Plus Runner held all the power.

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Back in the paddle again

It’s frequently said that the hardest step we must take to improve our health is the first one.  It’s the step up off the couch and out the door; away from the unhealthy food and towards the good stuff; and into a void that is frequently neither comfortable nor easy.  And yet, with a courage and determination that is bottomless, we do it.  But let us be clear: it is the first step (repeated, for most of us, every day) that is the hardest.

Do you look this happy when you head out for a workout? Nah. Me either. But races are a different thing

Exercise, they say, is habit forming.  But for most of us, a lifetime of bad habits are teasers, tempting us back to the easy way out.  I thought of this tonight as I got ready to head for a swim at the local rec center.  I had set myself up well today to get moving – my stuff was set aside this morning before I left the house because last night, I was at work too late to hit the gym.

So today, at my front door, were my goggles, flip flops, watch, swim cap, bathing suit, towel, and a bag.  When I left this morning, I left them there, rather than shoving them in my bag, only to have to change out of pantyhose and a dress at the gym.  That dog won’t hunt, and I knew it.  But I left work at a reasonable hour tonight, made a light dinner, did some more work at home, and at 8:00, headed to the pool.  I swam 800 meters in about 25 minutes (which included a warm up and cool down) and I shimmied into my lycra and headed home.

And yet.  The hardest step I took was walking away from work and getting out the door.

So what got me there tonight?  Three things, and if you, too struggle to stay committed to your plan, I encourage you to consider them:

1. I told at least 4 people today that I was swimming tonight.  I’m the kind of person who likes to be held accountable.  So when I tell someone I’m going swimming, you can be DAMN sure tomorrow I’m going to want to brag about it.  And right now, I’m happy to do so – because I have a race in September, and I’m making sure that I’m going to be ready.  Plus, I’m loving the endorphins of being back in training, and sharing that feeling makes me feel good.

2. My scale is inching slowly upward.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I have never been a scale hopper.  I dont’ do it.  And yet, I notice that the number is inching up, and not in a good way.  I have decided that the time for intervention is NOW and I’m not messing around.  It’s got me motivated.

3. I have a race in September.  On my birthday.  It’s an Olympic distance triathlon, and I’m not messing around with this one.  It’s in downtown London, and I am counting on the city being mostly gridlocked for 6 weeks leading into the race; so I’m getting a head start and a good, solid base before I have to get creative about training.  It’s got me focused in a way that I NEVER am without a goal.

So if I’m not the only one challenged by putting one foot in front of the other, I’ll just reiterate a few tips:

1. Tell people what you’re going to do.  Do it.  Then tell someone you did it.  The accountability (and, sometimes, the “atta girl”) will not only keep you honest, but it will help improve your pride in yourself (and give others a chance to be impressed, too!).

2. Find a metric that matters to you, and watch it.  Maybe for you, it’s not Lbs. Maybe it’s your cholesterol, or the number of drinks you have every day, or the number of cigarettes.  Find one that matters, and build it into whatever you’re trying to change.  Need help?  GET IT.

3. Sign up for a race.  I know, I know, I’ve said this before.  But honestly, if you don’t have a race on your calendar that challenges you, what exactly are you waiting for?  I heartily advocate for signing up for at least one “A” race (your BIG event); “B” race (a build-up or fall-back race”) and a few testers every season. They keep you honest and the shiny medals are good for picking up hot men.  Or something like that.

So that’s it from this side of the pond this evening.  I know, it’s not too much in the wisdom category, but hey, at least there was a workout today, right?

 

See you on the path!

 

A Plus Runner’s Guide to Finishing Last

What do you do when you're faced with the prospect of coming in last? How do you handle it? What keeps you focused, and how do you keep going? A bit of experience, and a bit of guidance, and a bit of running math.

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Reader Q&A: Start me up…

From the first 5k to the Olympic track – it’s safe to say I had no idea when I started that running would become so important to my life!

It’s been a great month for questions, and I thought I’d take the chance to pluck one from our Q&A page (thanks, Wendie!) and answer it for today’s blog.

“I would like to know what it was like for you when you started running – what kept you motivated and how you worked through feelings of being bored (if you get bored) while running. I would like to know what your original running plan was, the pace you worked through it and how long it took you to get to your first race.”

Thanks for the question, Wendie.  When I read it, I was out of breath, just thinking about what it was like! I think what started me running (regularly) was a feeling that I wanted to be able to keep up with a new group of friends i had found.  They were playing softball, and football, and ultimate frisbee, and I was a recovering law student who literally couldn’t stay vertical on a softball field while chasing a slow grounder to center.

I talked to one friend, then another, then another, and we agreed to train for a 5k about 10 weeks out.  I was helped immensely by running with a kind, patient, incredibly awesome friend who had been running for awhile – Kristin found a 5k training program for us, and, running with three of my friends, we took to the streets 3 days a week (at a minimum).

I won’t lie.  I sucked wind for those 10 weeks.  We built up the way the program said we should, but my friends were lighter than me, and they just didn’t have to work so hard.  But they went slowly (for me) and ran with me the whole time.  They were amazing.  And the biggest gift they gave me was to carry the conversational weight while we ran – distracting me from the distance and keeping me entertained.  With only 1 or 2 miles to go every time we went out, I eventually was able to talk a bit too.  That felt good.

Staying motivated was easier with a race in mind – we paid early, and a few weeks in, we recruited even more friends to join us.  Suddenly, we were meeting one night a week (I think it was only one), 7 or 8 of us (most who had never, ever considered doing this) traipsing around North Center in Chicago in a simple grid pattern, knocking out our miles and having a ball.  Yes, I was generally at the back – but no one ever got left behind.

So, I would say that thanks to friends, there really wasn’t much chance to be bored.  That, plus I had quite a bit going on in my life, means that I really enjoyed the time to think. And, a nice side effect of running was that I was getting to know Chicago’s neighborhoods – something i hadn’t spent a lot of time to do.  I loved to check out the view from the sidewalk – looking two stories up to check out the different crown work on the buildings I passed.  I find even today, I have the same approach – keeping my eyes towards the horizon to see what’s out there…

And as for training plans and pace, I have a note out to one of my old friends, asking her to confirm – but my recollection is that we used a light, building up training plan – we built up very slowly, going from 1/2 mile and up in minor increments, over 10-12 weeks.  And to the best of my recollection, we didn’t run/walk – we just ran, flat out.

As for pacing, I started running at 245 pounds, and I think by the time I was doing our race, I was down to about 220 (I’m 5’9″).  I was running with faster people – so most of my training runs were “4″ on an effort scale of 1-5, with “5″ being all out – not the way I’d train today, to be sure.  That said, it made me faster, and I ran about a 13:30 pace for that race and the others that year.

As for training plans, there’s a lot of options out there, but I would recommend anything from coach Jenny Hadfield; you can also purchase the plans via Walk Jog Run as an app for the iPhone for only $4.99. And there are loads of free plans out there – lots of people like Couch to 5k (commonly known as C25k) – my friend Scott just finished his race using that plan – and one other option is to take something that you know is a healthy plan to get there, too – presumably, something like this one from Girls on the Run St. Louis might work (though I worry it’s only 6 weeks!).

In my experience, stretching it out to 10-12 weeks is safer, and helps you avoid the shin splint problem you’re having.  Your body needs time to recover on this stuff – and a serious increase in mileage (more than 10% per week) puts you in prime spot for trouble.  So stretch it out if you can.

All of that aside, race day was pretty cool. And today, 13 years later, I can still picture in my mind, those fun training runs (and the side stitches, and the sweating, and the lack of O2!) with my friends.  They’re cherished memories for me – and to the extent you can add some humans to your journey, they’re the best motivators you can find.

Good luck and keep us posted on the journey!

Sallie

Selecting plus-size triathlon apparel for racing and training – the Spring 2012 guide for Athenas

Triathlete apparel for plus sized athletes has come a long way but still requires some patience and skill to find the perfect racing and training kit. Here, for spring 2012, a few choice recommendations from the Plus Runner on the pieces that will take you through spring and summer training, and racing all season long - and a guide to finding your own pieces with minimal hassle and maximum reward for the seasons ahead.

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