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Posts tagged ‘strength’

Everything Changes

Lately, Mario and I have been reading quite a few books on Buddhism. And interestingly enough, as I have moved from a more traditional approach to weight training to calisthenics, I have found quite a few people, mainly Al Kavadlo, who have been greatly influenced by Buddhism. At first glance, it may be difficult to see how Buddhism and fitness are anywhere closely to being related.  But, in fact, they very much are. Allow me to explain…

We just finished watching Peaceful Warrior, and it’s kind of like The Karate Kid with a little more depth. “Socrates” (the Mr. Miyagi of the film), forces Dan, the main character, to embrace  some key principles of Buddhism, which in turn help him to find himself as a person and as a gymnast. To relate this to running, I’d like to share three key points of the film that can help us  as athletes, to find peace, even when things are a little rough.

1) Be present. In this very moment. Right now. It’s not about the run tomorrow, the race next week, or how many miles are left in the marathon you just started. When you fail to focus on the present, you miss everything else going on around you. Perhaps one of my favorite lines from the movie is “There is never nothing going on. There are no ordinary moments.” Be present and really pay attention. There is no point in worrying about a workout that may or may not happen.

2) It’s about the journey. The journey is what brings us happiness. Not the end result. When we reach our end goal, more times than not, we still want more. From my own experience, I find this very much to be true. It was always a dream of mine to qualify for Boston. I’ve done it, twice, and I still want more. I once read the following: “If you aren’t happy with what you have, what makes you think you’ll be happier with more?”. Enjoy the journey and be happy with where you are right now.

3) Everything changes. In the past few months, I’ve had quite a few reminders of this one. From the marriage of good friends to the loss of loved ones, nothing is permanent. With respect to running, my own fitness level has declined quite a bit from the beginning of the summer. Sure, it’s not what I had envisioned going into Chicago but this is where I am right now and that’s okay. Just as I am not 100% right now, I won’t always be this way. Everything is constantly changing and when we can come to terms with this, we will not let the setbacks define us. Instead, they will help us along our way. It’s all part of the journey.

I really enjoyed the Peaceful Warrior and if you are looking for a good movie, it’s available on Netflix for instant streaming. Here is the trailer:

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: Chicago is next Sunday. Here are my stats from my last long run this morning. I look forward to a fun race and hanging out with good friends after I cross the finish line. No expectations, but if you want to follow me along the course, my bib number is 7328 and you can sign up here for runner tracking.

The Road Less Traveled

For a long time now, I’ve considered myself a runner. Pretty much everybody knows this about me. But I call myself a runner at the sake of what? Tendonitis? Strained hip flexors? Stress fractures? Hips that pop enough to make me think I’m well on my way to arthritis? These are all ailments that I’ve suffered from, and last Saturday after my 15 mile run and the really painful tendonitis that followed the next day, I was finally able to say out loud, I’m tired of hurting.

You see running has been such a mental and physical addiction for me for a long time. But unfortunately, I’ve never really been able to step back and ask the very important question why? Why do these injuries always follow me? Sometimes I think I have it figured out. One day yoga will become my new friend, or I’ll focus on an improved arm swing, or I’ll spend so much time in the pigeon pose that I think my body is actually healed. Wrong. These stretches and small adjustments do not answer the fundamental question of why? Why am I weak? Where? How does my form break down after X amount of mileage? What starts to compensate for what? What role do strong back, shoulder, hip, leg, an abs play in my running? How capable are my muscles of handling the stress of running so much?

If you’ve ever heard the expression you have to learn to crawl before you can walk, this is the point where I am right now.  I’m starting from scratch. And here’s how…

Yesterday, while doing some research on unilateral exercises, I came across this guy…

al kavadlo

Al Kavadlo. If I had to describe him, I would simple say pure beast. And not beast like he’s so big with all his big muscles. I’m talking a beast of pure strength with the ultimate level of functional fitness. One of the most interesting things about Kavadlo’s approach to training is he uses nothing but his body weight to develop his incredible level of fitness. No barbells, no dumbbells, no kettlebells. Just a park with some bars and his own weight. For some reason, this really resonates with me and it has provided me with a new insight to strength training… a much more functional approach. As I get back to the basics, I will take on Mr. Kavadlo’s philosophy to fitness. (You can actually read it here.)

The second resource I will be using to help me build myself back up from ground zero is a book my cousin suggested to me a few months ago, Becoming a Supple Leopard. The way Dan described it to me was a book that teaches you the importance of learning to stand properly, sit properly, engage your core, etc. And when I saw it at Barnes and Noble today, I quickly learned it was practically an encyclopedia of knowledge on biomechanics, how to correct your form, how to discover your weaknesses, how to use training as a diagnostic tool, and how to get your body to be the machine it was made to be.  I only had time to read the introduction, but it made me realize one very important fact. With my rate of injuries and how I push myself for the sake of miles and workouts, my body is ticking time bomb that can not continue this way.  I have run my body into a myriad of imbalances and weaknesses that need to be corrected before I can really focus on my running goals. Here is a resource to help me get there.

Of course this is not the road that I would like to be headed down right now. However, the fact of the matter remains the same. My  body is not functioning the way it was designed to. It’s off balance. It’s weak. The muscles are tight and the tendons are swollen. Yes, I’m still planning to run Chicago in October but I have no time goal. I’m just excited to be going. One month later I’ll be running the Las Vegas Marathon for the Multiple Myeloma Foundation (check it out here!), and I’m planning to register for Boston 2014 on September 13.  But again, my goals are not about time right now. They are about getting my body back to a place of balance and strength.

And I am happy to report that two days of intense body weight exercises, my back has discovered muscles it never knew existed. 🙂 This could be fun.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


P.S. This was the inspiration for the title. You really should watch it. It’ll make you smile, I promise.


There is something about competitive sports that I really enjoy. Yesterday, while watching the beginning of the ACC championship game, I actually got emotional. (Someone is making a few amazing commercials.) The drive, the determination, the hard work, the absolute strength that those athletes show is absolutely amazing. I still remember a few years ago watching the Boston Celtics play the Miami Heat when Rondo dislocated his elbow. He kept playing and continued to put forth his absolute best, 100%. There is something indescribable about watching an athlete (or anyone else for that matter)  give it their all. It warms my heart.

Today during hot yoga, I had a revelation. I finally realized that what I thought was the genuine quality of competitiveness, is actually the flaw of comparison. I made a point to place my mat in the front corner right next to the heat vents. I didn’t want to  be distracted by looking at how much better someone else was than me, or how much better I was than someone else. However, when I found myself looking to see if anyone else had a better dancer pose than me, I finally started to see my problem. Then when the instructor said we could come out of camel pose whenever we were ready and my initial thought was I want to be the last one coming out of camel pose, I came to understand that this is a serious problem.  Really Tracie? Why are you competing/comparing yourself with the sweaty stranger across the room who you don’t even know? Why are you getting your value from how much better (or worse) you are than someone else? Shouldn’t it be more like you held camel pose for as long as you could today and that’s all that matters?

Over our delicious paleo dinner tonight, I shared my thoughts with Mario. I then came to realize a few more things… I have a fabulous older sister who I love dearly. She is one of my best friends and she is one of the most giving people I know. Growing up, however, I always followed in her footsteps and did all of the same things she did. I took a lot of the same AP/Honors classes, took the same dance classes, was a member of the same dance team, etc. I was pretty decent at all of those things, but I was never as good my sister. I’m 99.9% sure I spent my childhood years comparing myself to her accomplishments. On the flip side, I loved to play basketball, rollerblade, play tennis (or at least act like I could), go hiking, ride my bike, or anything else that required being outdoors. (I have no doubt in my mind that my poor neighbor hated when I called her every single day to come out and play.) I never followed through (as a younger Tracie)  with the things that excited me the most and therefore, I don’t think I’ve ever really understood what I do well, other than by comparing myself to others.

I know I’m a good runner but I compare my times with the other local 29 year olds. I know I’m good at yoga (thanks to all those years of dance), but I’m often times too busy comparing myself to someone else to appreciate the fact I’m trying my hardest in that 100 degree room. Whenever I get beside anybody on any cardio machine at the gym, my goal is always to go faster and harder. I get my value by comparison. Not good.

My point is that perhaps I have done well with my running because I want to be near the local fast runners. But if I can just let go of comparing myself to them, maybe I’ll be able to find my best and not my best in comparison to… I need to give it my all and not just enough to be better than someone else. As Mario reminded me tonight – coaches always tell their athletes to give it 100%. It doesn’t matter the outcome. It matters that they give it 100%. Recognize your flaws and improve upon them. I mean isn’t that what Michael Jordan did?

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Recovery Update: I’m reading Chrissie Wellington’s book and it’s keeping me happy and focused. Hot yoga is helping with that too. 🙂


I saw this video a few weeks ago but only recently decided to try the actual exercise. After giving Mario specific instructions on how to help me, I successfully completed three before breaking out into a serious sweat. I think I eventually completed 10 but there may have been a break or two. 😉 It hurts.

Try it for yourself:

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: Well I ran 7 miles today. It was another regular run day, while I wait on my hips to get back to normal. Aerobically the run was very easy but my bones still feel sore from all the readjusting I’ve been doing to myself. (I feel like I’m my own chiropractor.) Stats are here.

Muscle Cramps

A few weekends ago after a long run, Mario and I were headed out on a date. As he was putting on his shoes, I heard “Owww, owwwwwww, OW!”. His foot was cramping. Clearly, I felt badly for him and I tried really hard not to laugh. (Muscle cramps in of themselves are no laughing matter, but his reaction really cracked me up.)

I found this article about the top ten sports nutrition myths. One of the myths is cramping comes from dehydration. According to the article:

The idea that exercise-related muscle cramps are caused by dehydration and/or electrolyte depletion originated from a single flawed study conducted almost a century ago. More recent science has clearly shown that there is no correlation between dehydration levels and risk of cramping.

Instead, muscle cramping appears to be a symptom of a type of neuromuscular fatigue that is caused by unaccustomed exertion (this is why muscle cramping occurs almost exclusively in races) and occurs in athletes who have some sort of innate susceptibility to cramping. Drinking more fluid and consuming more electrolytes have not been shown to reduce cramping risk in susceptible athletes in races, with the exception of one study showing that sodium-loading before prolonged exercise delayed the onset of cramping.

Mario doesn’t typically run during the week and then will come run 15+ miles with me on a Saturday. I think that might explain his cramping.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: Not much to say other than my left hip/leg are feeling better every day and I’m still on the verge of losing my mind. I want to be outside so badly!

Back Hypers

Other than running a whole lot, my coach has me doing general strength exercises. Last week he sent me a list of what those exercises include and I knew all of them except one – the back hyper.

The back hyper is an exercise that works the lower back as well as the mid and upper back. As a runner, a strong lower back is important because running involves repetitive, constant impact as you move forward. When your feet hit the ground one after another, your feet, knees, hips and, ultimately, your back are subject to absorbing impact. If you’re a distance runner, this means your back and back muscles are subject to long time periods of exposure. (Rachel Nall).  Read more

Upper Body Strength

Saturday I got in an awesome 21 miler. The weather was great, my  mind was right, and the only downer was learning that the marathon course is even hillier than I originally thought. Let’s just say that while running along the course, there were several signs that warned of the many steep slopes ahead. After running through one tunnel, I turned right and just stopped. You want me to run up that? I couldn’t believe this course is being promoted as flatter than the previous course, but nevertheless, this is not a PR course. Instead it is like an obstacle course, or at least that is how I like to think about it. I guess every race is different. Read more