Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Soapbox: Fitness Apps Are Great, But...

Fitness and nutrition apps are a great way to keep track of your exercise and eating, but be careful with the nutrition info they provide. More than not, they set caloric goals way too low to sustain yoru activity level. The best advice and guidance will come from a nutritionist or a registered dietition.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Taking That Leap

I wanted to be an architect like Mr. Brady.

This morning I Facebook messaged with a friend who was telling me he was miserable in his current job. I told him to think about what was worse, being safe in his current job but miserable, or (albeit scary) taking a leap of faith and make a change and do what he really wanted to do. It made me reflect on my own past decisions.

When someone asked me as a kid what I wanted to do when I grew up, I'd usually say I wanted to be an architect. I think that was because "Mr. Brady" the dad on my favorite TV show "The Brady Bunch" (this was the 70s) was an architect. I didn't really know what that was, but it sounded cool.


My early art. Not great, but I really enjoyed drawing, It was
my escape. Probably haven't drawn anything in 20 years.
Of course I didn't become an architect, but dreaming about it was fun. As a kid, I was always making something. My poor dad. While other fathers were in the sports section of Roses (Wal-Mart of the 70s) picking out a glove, ball, or bat, my dad was in the crafts section waiting for me to pick out the next whatever I was going to make. I never had any formal art training. Never even took art in high school, but on my own, I drew. I drew a lot. Mostly pen and ink and colored pencil. I was never secure enough in my talent to take an art class or to take it in school. Ironically, kind of like sports at the time. I was scared to put myself out there.

Then all of the sudden I'm getting ready to graduate from High School and I'm expected to have a career in mind.  I really had no idea. I was accepted into App State, NCSU, and UNC-Chapel Hill. Not exactly sure why, but I chose App State. I was thinking I was going to go into "art" not knowing what that really was or meant. There's one thing about me that has always been and will always be and that is that I might not know what I want, but I definitely know what I don't want.

My first few days at App were not very good. Now keep in mind, I had really only been away from home by myself once. I was a preacher's kid and while I wasn't really sheltered I was a very naive kid. Looking back I'm pretty proud of that naivete because it really let me be a kid. Problem was that at that point in my life that naivete didn't prepare me for the first couple days of college life having drunk kids fall into my room and lots of other not-so-appropriate-things being thrown in my face full force in concentrated form on day one. Scared the heck out of me. I called home and without much detail, I told my parents that ASU just wasn't for me. My Dad, said, "Well, let me come up there tomorrow, we'll talk about it, and then we'll decide what to do." Dad arrived the next day like he promised. But when he got there, I had my room emptied and my car packed. We headed home. LOL! Like I said, I may not know what I want, but I know what I don't want. Still true today.

So coming home, my Dad said I had to have a plan. And so I did. Because school had already started, I couldn't just go to NCSU or UNC even though I had been accepted. I had to reapply. So that semester, I took evening classes at UNC while awaiting my re-acceptance status for the second semester at UNC or NCSU. I heard from NCSU first so, I headed to Raleigh with the idea I'd be a business major. First two semesters were great, then in my third semester, when I took my first "real" business class (some kind of statistics class), I thought "holy crap!" Decided then-and-there that the business route was not for me (kind of ironic since today, I'm a small business owner). I transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill as an Education major.

A letter from a student in my last 5th grade class.
Wow! She'd be about 31 now....I feel old. 
I had finally found my niche. I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in Intermediate Education and began my career as a 5th grade teacher in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. I really loved what I did. After eight years, I had an opportunity to go into educational publishing with a company based in Greensboro, NC. It was scary, to move from teaching into a more corporate setting, but it was a great blend of teaching, creating, and big business. My first leap of faith.

I was in publishing for 13 years. Loved what I did. Had worked my way from writer/editor, to Senor Editor of Intermediate Books, to  Book Development Manager, to Curriculum Manager. I got to travel some and really loved what I was doing. I thought I'd be in publishing until retirement. Then the bottom fell out of the economy in 2009 and 1/3 of the company I worked for was let go. I was a part of that 1/3. Funny how the ones with the most experience and longevity are the first to go during times like that.  Insult to injury, the company held me to a non-compete and I was not able to work in my field for 18 months. I could have fought it, but instead I took it as a sign to do what I really loved doing....running and fitness. Leap of faith #2.

So in 2009, back to school I went getting my diploma in fitness training from the National Personal Training Institute in Raleigh, my personal training certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, and coaching certifications from RRCA for marathon training and USA-TF for track and short distance running.

In 2010, I leased a 400 sq ft office space in Greeensboro, NC with (no money and no clients) and opened RunnerDude's Fitness. Leap of Faith #3. Scared to death, but excited beyond belief, I began my journey as RunnerDude. Best decision of my life. In the past seven years, that 400 sq ft has grown to 3000 sq ft and that zero client list has grow to me working with over 600 running and fitness clients. I've helped hundreds of runners reach their running goals from running for the first time to qualifying for Boston. I've crafted RunnerDude's Blog into one of the top rated running blogs in the country, being read in over 90 countries and  over 1.5 million page views, giving me the opportunity to interview running greats like Olympians Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Nick Symmonds, and Jeff Galloway as well as Runner's World's Bart Yasso.
Evolution of a Dude
Is it still scary? Heck yeah, but I love what I do. All though I didn't know it at the time, all of those life "stepping stones" helped create the person I am today. Many my age are talking about upcoming retirement, but I feel like I've just started. I'll probably be coaching runners from my hoveround on the greenway when I'm 90. :-)

Change is hard, but to grow as an individual, you need change. Your change may not be a huge career change, but whatever change comes your way, embrace it, it may bring amazing things your way. Are you due for a leap of faith?

Monday, March 6, 2017

RunnerDude Shoe Review: Hoka Bondi 5

If you've been following me on social media the past year, you may recall, that I've had quite the time finding a long run shoe that worked for me. My long run shoe of choice had been the Hoka Huaka. Then last year Hoka discontinued the shoe and I was lost. A runner without a shoe. Because I put so many miles on my feet and metatarsal issues in both feet, I can't just wear any shoe. Yes, I have very persnickety feet. So when Omega Sports (our local sports store) asked if I'd give the Hoka Bondi 5 a try, I said,YES!

Actually several years back just before starting to wear the Hoka Huaka, I had tried the Bondi. I'm not sure what number it would have been. At the time, however, that version of the Bondi didn't feel as good to me as the Huaka, so I went with the Huaka. The Bondi 5, however it nothing like the version I had tired on all those years back. If you are a runner who wore the Huaka and are familiar with the shoe, the Bondi 5 in my opinion, is a close match. The Bondi is a little wider than the Huaka and thus feel a little more stable upon foot landing. 

After logging several short runs and several moderate distance runs in the Bondi 5, I'm pleasantly pleased with my experience in the shoe. 

To back up a bit, if you're not familiar with Hoka running shoes, they are known in the industry as a provider of maximalist shoes. Around 2009-2010, with the publishing of the book, Born to Run, the barefoot and minimalist shoe running craze began. Like myself, many runners really wanted to experience the more natural running form of barefoot running or minimalist shoes, but just were not able to run with the lack of cushioning that goes with barefoot and minimalist running. I mentioned earlier that I have metatarsal issues and I also have a neuroma in both feet. As a result, I have to wear custom orthodics and a metatarsal pad in my shoes in order to run without pain. I can run a marathon in my running shoes no problem, but trying to walk across the floor barefoot can be very painful. 

The great thing about the whole barefoot running craze is the information that it revealed about natural running form. But get this.... natural running form can be achieved wearing running shoes. The problem is that traditional running shoes with a heel-to-toe drop of 12-13mm tends to promote more of a heel-strike foot landing, while natural running advocates for more of a midfoot (flat foot) or forefoot foot landing underneath your center of mass. As a result, many running shoe companies have begun lowering their heel-to-toe drop to 8mm and below in many of their standard running shoes. Problem in lowering the heel is that sometimes cushioning can be lost. 

So, enters Hoka. Hoka has engineered several different lines of what are now known as maximalist shoes which have a low heel-to-toe drop (shoes in their various lines range from 2mm to 6mm verses 12mm in a standard running shoe). Other running shoe companies also provide shoes in the same heel-drop range, but what sets Hoka apart is the stack of the shoe. Stack refers to the thickness of the shoe's sole. Stack height isn't heel height. Stack height refers to the amount of material between your foot and the ground for the entire length of the shoe. Maximalist shoes typically have around a stack height of 30mm or more. Remember that Hoka shoes heel-to-to drop ranges from 2-6mm. So the incline from from the 30mm  is at most only 6mm. Very little increased heel height. Basically, Hoka's are a low profile shoe similar to a minimalist shoe, but instead of very little between you and the road, there is a lot between you and the road.
What does this mean? Well, it means you can more easily achieve a midfoot (flatfoot) or forefoot landing) without losing the cushioning. Maximalist shoes have saved my feet tremendously on long runs. 

The most important thing that a runner has to keep in mind when switching to a maximalist shoe (and it's actually the same thing if they were considering a minimalist shoe), is that whenever you change to a shoe that is very different from the shoe you are currently wearing, you need to ease into using the shoe. DO NOT go out and run 10 miles your first run in a maximalist shoe with a lower heel-to-toe drop. You will use muscles differently in a maximalist shoe and you need to allow time for your body to acclimate. To start,  run just a mile or two your first couple of runs, then increase the distance to 3-4 miles for a week, then go to 5-6 miles. Easing into your new maximalist shoes will help avoid injury related to doing to much too soon. 

So back to my Bondi 5 review. These shoes are great! They are the most cushioned shoe line in the Hoka family. I need that cushion. But, even with all that cushion the shoe has structure. On my test runs, I definitely felt the cushion, but I never felt unsupported. I think that can be contributed to the wide platform on which the shoe is built. Hoka has provided a lot of surface area upon which to land, giving a very stable foot landing. That was one thing I didn't like too much about the Huaka. It had a  narrow platform and sometimes, if my foot hit just right, my ankle would role outward. Never experienced that in the Bondi 5. Very stable. There's also lots of room in the toe box. My toes had plenty of room to move around, but not so much that that shoe felt too loose.

I am also impressed with the construction of the shoe's tread. In my past experience with maximalist shoes, because the stack is so thick, the material used in the stack had to be very lightweight in order not to make the shoe too heavy. That light-weight material often wore down very quickly making me have to replace the shoes frequently. The Bondi 5, however has a very durable tread that covers most of the bottom of the shoe . While being very durable, it's not very heavy. Often a more durable outsole sounds clunky when your feet hit the ground, but that's not the case with the Bondi 5. The shoes feel light and sound light when running.

I'm very impressed with the Bondi 5 and look forward to many more miles in them. If you're in the Greensboro NC area, you can check out the Hoka Bondi 5 at Omega Sports on Battleground Ave. Tell them RunnerDude sent you. If you don't have an Omega Sports in your area, check them out at the official Hoka website.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Hydration and Fueling Tips for Before, During, and After the Run

"Bad" runs can occur at any time with any runner. The causes can be everything from your head just not being in the game to lack of sleep. But, more often than naught, a bad run is the result of improper hydration and/or fueling. I've compiled a few basic hydration and fueling tips in the video below. Take a look. Hope there are a few good takeaways for you. Give them a try and see you have a better run.

RunnerDude's Hydration and Fueling Tips from Thad McLaurin on Vimeo.