Friday, February 25, 2011

Kettlebell Workout for Runners from Tommy Matthews!

One of the greatest things about working on RunnerDude's Blog is the hundreds of people I've gotten to know who are scattered all over the country and the world. The blog has a growing readership in Canada, Europe, Australia, and South Africa. There are people I stay in contact with on a regular basis that seem like they're right next door, when in reality they're an ocean away.

One such person that I've come to know is Tommy Matthews. I first discovered Tommy on Twitter and soon discovered his website and his workout videos at ExtremeKettlebellsTV.

Tommy is the Managing Director of The Optimal Life Fitness (OLF) Group, OLF run educational courses across Europe, Australia and South Africa. As well as running the OLF Group Tommy still has his passion for training people and can still be seen on many of OLF’s educational courses, working hands on with personal trainers to further their development.

Tommy Matthews
Tommy’s skills and knowledge in training have come from years of working with some of the world’s top fitness professionals, kettlebell athletes and strength coaches. He’s trained with arguably some of the greatest kettlebell lifters ever, master of sport Valery Fedorenko and the all time great Pantelai Filikidi, who is master of sport in four different sports. Tommy was one of the first two lifters in the UK to complete the AKC certification. Before his work with the AKC in Greece he spent some time with Steve Cotter, which is where he got his interest for kettlebell sport. He has now trained with Gregor Sobocan and was lucky enough to spend some time with Steve Maxwell. Tommy’s passion for learning from the best transfers to his own teaching where he expects only the best from his clients and students. His belief that the body is designed to move and lift translates to his style of presenting; fast, dynamic and exciting!

I asked Tommy if he'd create a Kettlebell Workout for Runners. Being a great sport, Tommy, did just that. He's created a simple but extremely effective workout for runners that's great for the novice to the elite. Thanks Tommy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

RunnerDude Chats with Danny Dreyer

Long before barefoot running became the latest thing for runners, long before the terms "forefoot" and "midfoot running, there was a movement for a more effortless, injury-free way of running. What was this movement that's still going strong today? Chi Running, founded by Danny Dreyer in the late 90s. Several years ago, I purchased a copy of Danny's book, Chi Running, and that was the first time I really began thinking more about the mind-body connection of running as well as proper alignment of your body when running. I began implementing many of the key components of Chi Running in my own running and found them to be very helpful.

Over the years, my copy of Chi Running has become a bit tattered. I've referred to it often and even more so now that I'm training/coaching runners. I was so delighted to discover that Danny lives just a few hours west of me in Asheville, NC. Being so close, I had to contact Mr. Dreyer to see if he'd let me treat him to lunch and pick his brain about Chi Running, running in general, and where running's headed in the future. To my delight, he accepted. So, at the end of January (one one the coldest days ever), I headed west to the NC mountains.

It had been several years since I'd visited Asheville and I had forgotten how beautiful that area of the state is. The larger snow capped mountains were evidence of a snowfall Asheville had experienced the prior week. Danny gave me great directions and I had no problem locating the turn-of-the century two-story building Danny and his wife renovated for the new home of Chi Living. I love older homes and buildings, and immediately became enthralled with all the details of this charming old structure as I ascended the wooden steps to the front door. Since it was a business and not a home, I wasnt' sure if I should knock or walk right in. I opted to just open the door to which I was immediately greeted by a large happy dog soon followed by one of Danny's employees who greeted me with a big smile and promptly took me to meet Danny.

Danny is in his early 60s but looks closer to someone in his early 40s. Just a little taller than me and wearing relaxed casual clothes, I knew I was going to like Danny from the get go. (I think, maybe, I own one tie and one sport coat, although I'd be hard pressed to find them if I needed to quickly.) Danny finished up a call and gave me a wonderful greeting and made me feel right at home. He grabbed his coat and said there was a great eatery called Pack's Tavern a few blocks down where we could do the interview. It was a beautiful day with a bright, clear blue sky, but it was about 17 degrees and windy. Quite a bit colder than Greensboro where I live. Danny grabbed a nice warm coat and I had my thin fleece pullover. Didn't really matter. I was numb before we left Chi Living. I couldn't believe I was heading out the door about to eat lunch with the founder of Chi Running. How cool was that!

The restaurant was a large eclectic turn-of the-century brick building with a rich history. Built in 1907, it's been a lumber supplier, automotive supplier, as well as a popular spot for barbecue and bluegrass. It's one of those rare gems with exposed interior brick and wooded beams, wooden plank floors that creak, and large windows that filled the space with lots of sunlight. I warmed up quickly.

While we were seated and our drink orders taken, I thought about the list of questions I had prepared to ask Danny. I decided that instead of a formal interview, what I really wanted to do was just have a rich conversation with Danny about Chi Running as well as get to know more about this innovative thinker sitting across from me.

I asked Danny if he had always been a runner. He responded, "No" with a laugh. He explained the chuckle by sharing that when he was young he was at an inner-city high school flooded with running talent and he was a bit intimidated by that caliber of runner. At that time he had a hard time seeing himself running long, even short spans of time. He did like to ski and so joined the ski club in school. Danny's an avid skier today.

Later during lunch, I asked Danny if there was something about him that may surprise his followers. He responded, "I like skiing better than running." Then he laughed and said, "Don't get me wrong. I love running, but I do it every day. Skiing doesn't happen as often, so I really cherish and enjoy when I get to ski." You may also be surprised to know that Danny was a woodworker before turning full time to coaching running. His wife was transitioning in her career and Danny's hearing was suffering from the machinery used in woodworking. Around this same time his coaching methods were really taking off in California and they felt that they had enough initial success to turn to the coaching and Chi Running into their new career. I'm so glad they made that decision.

Danny continued to explain that even in his early 20s he never ran, that is until he was drafted into the Army. It was 1971 and it was a stressful time, not to mention just the physical stress of boot camp. He began running around the base, not only to help him get into shape, but he discovered that it helped him relax and relieve himself of some of the mental stress he was under. It was during that time, that  he discovered his love for running and he was delighted that it wasn't all for the physical benefits either.

I had read in Danny's book, Chi Running that as a child he was extremely curious about how things worked. He was always taking things apart to see how they worked. I asked him if this intrinsic curiosity played any part in his development of Chi Running. He agreed that it did play a big part. He said that around the same time he was learning to love running both for the physical and mental benefits, he was also beginning to practice meditation. With his teacher from India, he learned techniques that helped him quiet his mind so he could listen to his body. The two, running and meditation, began to become intertwined. This stirred Danny's curiosity into how the physics of running were affected by the "energies powering it." And this began Danny's quest into discovering the best way to move your body using mental focus and relaxation instead of muscle power...the roots of Chi Running.

For about 20 years Danny tinkered with this mind-body connection, but it wasn't until the late 90s that he really began to put it all together. It happened while studying T'ai Chi with the great Chinese T'ai Chi master, Zhu Xilin. Through Zhu Xilin, Danny learned about the concept of moving from your center and letting your arms and legs follow. Danny shared that T'ai Chi teaches you to direct movement from your spine, so that the movement begins with the center of your body instead of from the periphery. He said it's kind of like a tree's strength coming from it's trunk not the branches. Danny shared  how this center source of power really intrigued him and his natural curiosity made him wonder how this could be applied to running. He described it as "moving the body from its center and letting your legs be pulled along for the ride." He tinkered with this new way of thinking about running and soon discovered that he wasn't working as hard to achieve the same outcomes. He also wasn't as worn out or sore after his runs.

After a move from Colorado to San Francisco, Danny found a new teacher, Master Xu. His new teacher, had a theory that the principles of T'ai Chi could be applied to any sport. Working with Master Xu helped Danny synthesize what he'd learned about T'ai Chi and what he knew about running. Danny explained that in T'ai Chi, your legs are your base, your spine is your source of power and the energy flows from the spine out of your upper body through the movements. Danny took that principle and flipped it. He explained that in Chi Running, your upper body is your base, the spine is still your center of energy, but the energy flows from your center through your legs. It's kind of like T'ai Chi flipped.

Not only is Chi Running about energy resonating from your center, a strong mind-body connection, a spiritual connection, and relaxation, there's are also an important component of alignment and posture. In the revised edition of Chi Running, Danny devotes a good portion of the book to pelvic tilt and how finding that "sweet spot" of your pelvic tilt will add years to your running, improve your overall posture, keep your hips and lower back healthy, and avoid IT band issues. Danny also talked about the importance of pelvic rotation. He said that westerners (especially men) are very tight in the pelvic region allowing very little movement. Everything is pretty much a front-to-back motion, very little rotation or lateral movement. In most other cultures, there is much more movement in the hips providing much better range of motion and actually a healthier longer stride. Check out this great video blog from Danny on posture.

Chi Running allows you as a runner to use the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual to your advantage in a way that helps you work with and cooperate with the force of the road instead of the road being your enemy. Danny drew a cool diagram of how just the physics of a midfoot strike, landing underneath or actually slightly behind your body all work with the road instead of fighting it. Danny sketched out some other drawings to help explain his theories. Looking at them without he explanation, they may not seem to say much, but basically they're showing how Chi Running helps the old cliche of "becoming one with the road" not so much of an old cliche. You really can become one with the road instead of fighting it.

I asked Danny what was the best way to get into Chi Running. He said that actually beginning with Chi Walking is best. Through Chi Walking, you'll learn all the basic principles and techniques used in Chi Running, but it's at a slower pace so you can work on and master the techniques before increasing your pace to one of running. In his clinics for Chi Running, the participants actually begin with learning Chi Walking. It's a great foundation from which to begin.

One of the things I like about Danny, is that he not only practices what he preaches, he lives what he preaches. He's been using the techniques of Chi Running for over 20 years and has a life of experiences to stand behind his teachings. Just to make sure this wasn't something unique to Danny, he surveyed thousands of Chi Running customers. 95% said their running had improved. 91% feel Chi Running has played a role in preventing running injuries. 90% said they were probably or definitely able to change their running mechanics with Chi Running. 61% said they were a heel-striker before practicing Chi Running, and 71% said they were a midfoot striker after practicing Chi Running. 60% said they were able to make noticeable corrections in less than a month, 31% said immediately. This was just a sampling of the positive feedback provided by the survey. Now more science is underway to further biomechanical studies of Chi Running technique.

Danny is quite an accomplished runner himself. He prefers the longer distances and has done quite well in ultras. He ran his first race back in 1995 (a 50-miler). He's completed 40 ultramarathons since then. He's won his age group in 14 of those races and placed in the top three in his age group in all but three of those races. Danny's run 50Ks, 50-milers, 100Ks, and 100-milers. He ran his first marathon (Big Sur) in 2002, winning his age group with a 3:04. Danny's quick to say though that Chi Running isn't just a technique for long distance runners. He strongly believes that it's for any runner, novice to elite.

I asked Danny, if he had a particular type or brand of shoe he preferred. While not a barefoot runner, he does prefer more of a minimalist shoe. He said the new "high-tech" minimalist shoes are fine, but a good pair of racing flats will often work just as well. He said he wished Nike still made those original racing flats from way back. Danny did say that Newton sent him a pair of their shoes to give a try and he did set a PR running in them.

We talked for about and hour and a half and I was completely enthralled with the conversation. To hear Danny explain Chi Running, it really does all make sense. Whether or not you become a Chi Runner, reading Chi Running, is a wonderful exploration of your own running and I bet you come away applying many of the techniques.

Danny's Staff at Chi Living

I asked Danny what should we expect next from Chi Running. He was excited to share that he's currently working on a book about how to run a pain-free marathon. I've been sworn to secrecy, but from what I know about the book, it's going to appeal to many runners. You'll definitley find a review of the book on RunnerDude's Blog shortly after the book is released. Danny was also excited about revisions made to the Chi Running website After I returned home, I spent some time going through the website and they've done an excellent job. Be sure to check it out. You can also access the Chi Walking and Chi Living websites from the same link.

I'm so motivated and inspired by my talk with Danny, that my goal is to become a certified Chi Running instructor. Hopefully that will all come to be this summer. You guys hold me accountable and check in with me next fall to see if I've achieved my goal.

Thanks again to Danny and his staff at Chi Living for making this lunch an interview possible. To learn more about Chi Running, check out the video clip below from Danny.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dumbbell Core Workout for Runners

In many a post, I've lauded the benefits of a strong core for runners. A strong core and upper-body means prolonged strong running form. Prolonged strong running form means more time before fatigue sets-in on a long run. Next to improper fueling, fatigue is one of the main causes of runners hitting the wall.

Running is often thought of as a lower-body activity. It is, but it's just as much, if not more, an upper-body activity. A runner's power orignates from the core and moves down the legs. If a runner has a weak upper-body and begins to slouch on a run, that puts more stress on the core, making it work harder. If the core isn't strong, then it too will fatigue, leaving the legs to fend for themselves.

Below is an easy core circuit workout to help improve your core strength. It only takes a few minutes and all that's needed is a couple of dumbbells and an exercise mat. If you're new to working your core, start with light dumbbells, (5lbs or 8lbs). If you've been working your core, then a 10lb dumbbell may be more suitable for your starting weight. You don't need a ton of resistance to get a great workout with this circuit, so working your way to 15lbs for some of the workouts is probably the most you'll ever need. For some of the exercises (i.e., the Dumbbell Leg Lift) 5lbs or 8lbs is all you'll ever need.

Ease into the circuit. Begin with 8 to 10 repetitions of each exercise. Move from one exercise to the next without rest. That's one circuit. Take your rest at the end of the circuit. Make your initial goal to complete one circuit of the exercises. Once you've acclimated to doing one circuit of 8-10 reps for each exercise, you can up the ante by increasing the reps to 10-12 or 12-15, increase the weight of the dumbbells, or increase the number of times you do the circuit to 2 or 3.

Remember, before beginning any new exercise routine (especially if you're brand new to fitness), it's best to consult your doctor prior to doing the workout.

For a core workout using a med ball [click here].

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Unlock Your Lungs-Breathing for Beginning Runners

Breathing. Air in. Air out. It's a simple thing. Right? Many beginning runners would disagree. My beginning runners often tell me, "My legs are fine, but I just can't seem to control my breathing." So what's the deal?

Because we don't have to focus on our breathing in our everyday moving around, it seems like a no-brainer that we wouldn't have to focus on it when we run. Usually the problem lies in new runners unconsciously keeping their breathing at the same rate as their foot strike. Faster feet means faster breathing. Seems like a logical thing. You need more air anyway, right? Well, while faster feet means a quicker pace, a faster breathing rate doesn't mean more oxygen. Your body needs a good deep inhalation in order to get oxygen deep into the lungs where it can be transpired from the alveoli into the bloodstream. Better oxygenated blood means more oxygen getting to the muscle where it's used to make energy. More energy means more endurance. Breathing rapidly doesn't mean you're getting in the needed oxygen, because rapid breathing often mean shallow breathing.

So how do you get in control and unlock your lungs so your breathing doesn't seem so labored? A little practice. Efficient breathing techniques can be learned by anyone. Runners may use different methods to achieve deep breathing and to find their own breathing rhythm, but the ultimate goal is the same—breathing properly to get the right amount of oxygen to your muscles increasing endurance.

Spending a few runs focusing on your breathing can ensure more enjoyable and relaxing runs. One exercise that I've found helpful for new runners actually starts with walking. This can be done on a treadmill or outside.
  1. Go for a 1-minute walk. During your walk, focus on your breathing as you take long deep breaths. Concentrate on expanding your belly as you breath in instead of expanding your chest. This is called "Belly Breathing." Keep an even breathing pattern during the walk. Pay attention to your stride. More than likely you're taking multiple strides during each inhale as well as each exhale.
  2. Now, pick up the pace for a 1-minute brisk walk while maintaining the same deep even breathing pattern. It may take a little concentration to keep your breathing rate from becoming faster as you pick up your walking pace, but you'll be surprised how easily you can actually control it by just paying a little attention to it.  
  3. Now, pick up the pace for a 1-minute slow jog. Focus on keeping the same even breathing pattern. This may be a little more challenging, but you can do it. Pay attention to the number of strides your  taking with each inhale and exhale. (To count a stride, just count each time your right foot hits the ground.)
  4. Finally, pick up the pace to a 1-minute run. Focus on keeping the same even breathing pattern you've been keeping since the walk. Take note of the number of strides your taking for each inhale and exhale. They may not be the same.
The first few times you try this exercise, you may find it challenging to keep that even breathing pattern through the progressively faster intervals, but keep practicing and you'll get it. When you're ready to try it with a "real" run begin by running at a slow pace. Focus on belly breathing as you take in a long slow breath. Then release this breath with a long slow exhale making a complete breathing cycle about 6 strides.  To make this easier, try inhaling over 3 strides and exhaling over 3 strides. (It's more important to take a deeper inhale. So, if your inhale takes more strides than your exhale, that's fine.)

There are no hard and fast rules. Depending on your stride, your breathing cycle (inhale/exhale) may take 4 strides or 8 strides. If associating your breathing with your stride doesn't work for you, try counting—3 counts/inhale, 3 counts/exhale. With practice, this will become second nature and you will no longer need keep track of strides or count.

Whichever technique you use, the main goal is to control your breathing so that you're breathing from your diaphragm or "belly breathing." Controlled, deep breathing will help prevent those annoying side stitches too. Belly breathing gets more oxygen into the blood stream, increases lung capacity and endurance. Once you have your breathing under control, you'll experience more enjoyable runs. You'll also be able to then focus on increasing your speed and/or distance.

After practicing, if you're still experiencing "tight lungs" and you feel like you're unable to get in enough air, check in with your doctor. You could be experiencing sports induced asthma.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Win a Free Pair of Tickets for MY RUN!

RunnerDude is proud to announce that Tim VandeSteeg, the producer and director of MY RUN is providing me with 2 free tickets to give away! To enter for a chance to win the pair of tickets, simply email me at Be sure to put "MY RUN TICKETS" in the subject line of the email and your full name in the body of the email. You have until end of day on Friday, March 4th to enter. Each email will receive a number (in the order that it's received). The True Random Number Generator will be used to select the winning email. The winner will be announced on the blog on Saturday, March 5th. Good Luck!!

To learn more about Terry Hitchcock, the amazing father featured in MY RUN, [click here].

Release Date Set for the Running Documentary, MY RUN!

A few weeks back I posted about an upcoming documentary, MY RUN, that tells the amazing journey of Terry Hitchcock, a 57-year-old widower and father who ran from his home in St. Paul, Minn. to the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Atlanta, Ga (the equivalent of 75 marathons in 75  days!). MY RUN is directed and produced by Tim VandeSteeg, produced by Mark Castaldo and narrated by Billy Bob Thornton.

Well, I'm excited to announce that Indiewood Pictures and Destiny Pictures have teamed with NCM Fathom to bring the 10-time award-winning documentary MY RUN to theaters across the country on Thursday, March 31 for a one-night premiere event.

Presented in association with the online community, Lance Armstrong’s Foundation LIVESTRONG and Life Time Fitness, audiences will be able to embrace the global mission and message of the film, “Be Somebody’s Hero.” A portion of proceeds from the MY RUN Premiere event will benefit the Livestrong Foundation. A list of participating theaters and ticketing information can be found at MY RUN Premiere event tickets go on sale on Friday, Feb. 18.

Hitchcock’s uplifting underdog story has been garnering steam and is being embraced by all walks of life - families, baby boomers, single parents, cancer organizations as well as runners and marathoners. MY RUN is more than a documentary about a guy running multiple marathons; it’s a documentary about the daily marathons we all run in life.
NCM Fathom is the home of cinematic experiences that offer exclusive, affordable entertainment events broadcast to the big screen. Audiences get the best seat in the house – in the comfort and convenience of the local movie theater – for live and pre-recorded concerts, world-class opera, original programming featuring the biggest names in radio and television, sporting events and music concerts.

For more information about the documentary MY RUN, please visit To search to see if the movie is being shown in your area and to purchase tickets [click here]. To enter for a chance to win a free pair of tickets to MY Run [click here]. Deadline to enter is Friday, March 4th.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Post-Run Food: Andy's Rotisserie Chicken Chili

One of the best things about running is all the people you meet along the way. One such person for me is Andy Manry. Several years ago, I was at the turnaround point of my weekly long run with my running buddies. We were all standing around Gu-ing up and downing some water that one of the guys had stashed, when this young guy pulled up in his mini-van, hopped out, and headed out on his run. Didn't really think much about it. We downed our water and headed out on the back-half of our run.

Sometimes on the back-half, I'll pick it up a little. Something about finishing faster on the second leg of a long run makes you feel stronger. It was one of those kinds of days. So, I pulled ahead of my group a little. I noticed that young guy that had started out just before us. He was running alone. Watching him run, I thought of one of my running buddies, Rick King. When I first moved to Greensboro, he invited me to join his group on their weekly long run. I did and most weekends ever since, I've been running with the same bunch. It's a great bunch of runners and we've expanded in size over the years many from group members inviting others to join in the merriment. So, looking at this guy ahead of me, I decided to pick up the pace and see if he was a talker. Luckily he was. We had a great conversation. Come to find out, he was basically running the same route we were, but in reverse. So, I told him about our group (The BlueLiners) and that we met every Saturday morning at 7:30AM at the park for our weekly long run. Told him to join us any time. Well, sure enough, the next Saturday, he (Andy) showed up. Andy's really grown stronger as a runner and it's been cool seeing him progress and get faster.

Not only is Andy a great runner, he's a great family man and cook! Andy loves testing out new dishes as well as creating his own. He's started a great new blog called What's Andy Cooking? Andy's really outdone himself with the blog. The recipes are great. He's a budding photographer too! Looking at the mouth-watering photographs is a treat in itself. Be sure to check out the blog and some of his recipes such as Real Maryland Crab Cakes, Homemade Bagels, and Turkey Meatballs. YUM!!

I asked Andy if he'd share a recipe good for runners and he's come through with an awesome dish. I've made this dish and it was a hit with the whole family!! Read on to find out how to make Andy's Rotisserie Chicken Chili.

Andy's Rotisserie Chicken Chili
I am training for a marathon right now. That is not unusual, as I have run 4 marathons in the past 5 years. What is unusual is that I am training in the winter months. I usually sweat out my training in the hot, muggy, disgusting North Carolina summer heat. This year, I decided to train for a spring marathon, which places most of my training in the winter. I have come to the conclusion that I am a much better cold weather runner. Everything from my long runs to my tempo runs have been faster and easier in the cold. Even though I run better in the cold winter months, it doesn't mean that I don't physically get cold! There's nothing better after a long 20-mile run in the cold than a warm cup of this chicken chili!

This chili is low in fat, high in protein and super high in flavor! The poblano peppers provide just the right amount of heat and the chicken, beer, bean combo has all the trappings of a perfect post run recovery meal. It's also perfect for tailgating, camping, or any party or get together. I have actually made this for a teacher appreciation day at my kids school for the last two years. The first year I made this, someone offered to buy the leftovers! That's the ultimate complement! My Dad turned me on to this recipe and I believe it's based on a Southern Living recipe.

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers (seeded and chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 14 1/2 oz cans of chili spiced tomatoes
  • 2 12oz bottles of beer (I prefer an IPA) you can also substitute chicken stock
  • 1 can of navy beans
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 packet of McCormick's White Chicken Chili Mix
  • The meat of 1 rotisserie chicken (or one smoked chicken), shredded
In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper and poblano peppers and saute until translucent, stirring often. You want the veggies to sweat just like you did during your run today.

Now add the tomatoes, beer, navy beans, black beans, chili mix, and chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for an hour or more until your ready to eat. If you are going to simmer for more than one hour, cover the pot after 30 minutes.

When you serve this, you can top the chili with your favorite chili toppings or simply leave it plain. My favorite is roasted corn, lime, cilantro mixture. To cook this, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add two cups of frozen corn to the pan. Cook the corn until it begins to sightly blacken. Sprinkle with a little chili powder, cumin, chopped fresh cilantro, salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of two limes into the corn mixture, mix and remove from the heat. Some other popular toppings are chopped green onions, sour cream and cheese. Enjoy!

Thanks, Andy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Runner of the Week: Dean

Just recently I received an email from Dean Akers who's an active duty chaplain at Ft. Bragg, NC. He had read my article in Guideposts. He too is a runner and has ulcerative colitis. Dean was diagnosed with UC around the same time I was. Dean shared how he had recently gotten back into running after three years of not being able to run due to some ankle surgeries. He ran his first marathon in Iraq last year and has kept running since getting home in October. He runs about 30 miles a week. I've met many people with UC, but very few that run, so I had to contact, Dean and see if he'd share his story. Read on to find out more about Dean and his running.

I was one of the fastest kids in my high school but that was sprinting. I was never a distance runner. Even when I entered The Citadel I never ran further than two miles. I only ran two miles because I had to as an Army ROTC student at The Citadel. It stayed this way for a LONG time until I entered Active Duty in 2005 as an Army chaplain.

Shortly after beginning my active duty career I twisted my ankle on a road march. (A road march is simply speed walking with a 50 pound backpack.) I continued to run my normal two miles but now I was in pain after running about a mile. I continued to tough it out because that is what we do as soldiers. Finally, I went to have it checked out and of course I had done more damage to my ankle. I had surgery and was told that I no longer would run the 2 miles for the Army’s Physical Fitness Test. I began to bike and still did some shorter distances running.

In 2008, I entered a special residency as a chaplain at Brooke Army Medical Center. My ankle was still giving me problems so I went once again to have it checked. And again, I underwent surgery on my ankle. This time a piece of bone the size of a dime was taken out. It had been “floating” in there. The damage this time was that I had little splinters all over now. I was told by my physical therapist “that if it was his ankle he'd never run on it again.”

I deployed to Iraq in October 2009 as a chaplain with a Combat Support Hospital. I weighed 180 pounds. While in Iraq, I began to biking. I built up to 14 miles on a stationary bike. Then I began to use the elliptical. I built up to 12 miles on the elliptical and then I began to get brave and I once again started running. While I was traveling checking on soldiers, I visited with an old friend, my physical therapist. I told him that I had begun running again. He and I went on a three mile run!

Running once again had become my passion. I heard about the Air Force Half and Full Marathon at deployed locations and thought it would be neat to run a Half Marathon. I even put together a God Squad running group together to help me stay accountable. As I began training, a couple of the soldiers talked me into training for the full instead of the half. In September 2009 I ran my first marathon in Baghdad, Iraq.

This was a HUGH accomplishment for me not only because of my ankle but also because diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) in 2002. I finished my marathon but I had some issues along the way. I am blessed that I had a running partner that understood my issues and ran the whole race with me. He is an Ultra-marathoner and it meant the world to me that he did not worry about his time but ensuring that I finished. I did some 4 hours, 20 minutes, and 56 seconds later.

No matter where you are in your running…you can succeed. I am thankful to God for allowing me the opportunity to complete my first marathon and continuing to run since returning home. I am still running 25-35 miles a week. There are days, unfortunately, that I do not get as far as I plan due to my UC but then there are days that I go further.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Encore Presentation of Hood To Coast...Don't Miss it!

On January 11th, runners and athletes nationwide made their way to see the world’s largest relay race in movie theaters for a Special, One-Night Only screening. The specail showing was such a hit the Hood to Coast is BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND! I'm excited to announce that the running film HOOD TO COAST will have an encore screening in select cities on February 10th, 2011 at 7:30 PM. Whether you missed it the first time around, or you want to see it again, here is your final chance to see this inspiring documentary.

To find a theater near you, visit, click on Buy Tickets and enter your zip code. And please help spread the word!Check out the Hood to Coast trailer below and learn more about the one-night event.

Each year, 12,000 runners make the journey from the top of Oregon's tallest mountain, Mt. Hood, 197 miles to the Pacific Ocean in Seaside, Oregon.

HOOD TO COAST is an inspiring new documentary that follows four teams with various levels of athletic ability on their epic journey to conquer the world’s largest relay race. Some run to test their personal limits, some to overcome personal obstacles, and others leap in blindly looking for a way to shake up a complacent life. As we follow these four teams, we realize that winning isn’t everything in a film that takes a celebratory look at personal motivation and attempting the extraordinary.

NCM Fathom and Film for Thought are thrilled to bring this feature length documentary to your local movie theater and show it on the big screen in stunning HD. Immediately following the documentary, movie theater audiences will hear from a distinguished group of expert runners, Olympians and running world giants as they discuss their experience of participating in the Hood to Coast relay and its unique place in the history of American running. Panelists include but are not limited to:

Mary Decker Slaney—Olympian and HTC Women’s Course Record Holder
Bart Yasso—Editor, Runner’s World Magazine, Author: “My Life On The Run”
Kenny Moore—Olympian, HTC Runner, Sports Writer & Author: “Bowerman & the Men of Oregon”
Bob Foote—Hood To Coast Founder, former Men of Oregon runner
Director Christoph Baaden
Characters from the film
*Talent subject to change

In addition, the event will feature LIVE red carpet interviews, reactions to the event and more, as running legends like Bart Yasso and Mary Decker Slaney make their way to the premier.

For more information check out the movie trailer below.

Hood To Coast Movie Trailer from HoodToCoastMovie on Vimeo.

If you live in or around Greensboro, NC, I hope you make it out to the Grande theater at Friendly Center on Thursday, February 10th for the encore showing of Hood To Coast! If you're not in the Triad, NC area, be sure to visit,  click on Buy Tickets and enter your zip code. Remember to please help spread the word! It's a must see movie!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Training Adaptation: Be Patient and Give It Some Time

Yesterday, I was with my family in the good ole minivan as I pulled into the drive-up ATM at the bank. I needed to deposit a check and withdraw some cash. Sounds simple, huh? I'm in the middle of the transaction when I hear this voice yelling something. It continued and then I realized it was directed at me. I glanced down into the side mirror and was startled to find a red-faced irate woman's reflection staring back at me. She was waving her arms and yelling, "You're not supposed to take that long at the ATM machine!!"

Well, as you all know, when you're at the ATM, you're kind of at the mercy of the machine. This one happens to be rather slow. I had everything ready, before I pulled up to the machine. I wasn't wasting time filling out deposit slips or counting money. I was going as fast as the teller prompts would let me go. Yet this lady was convinced I should be moving faster.

A news article that I had read a few years ago popped into my head which gave me cause to worry. The article was about a man who was shot while sitting in his car in a fast food drive-thru. Who shot him? The person in the car behind him. Why? Because he wasn't moving fast enough. So, as soon as the machine spit out my money, I gave my wife and the three kids whiplash as I burned rubber out of the parking lot.

Sometimes newcomers to fitness and running can be a bit like that red-faced irate woman in the car behind be at the ATM. They think things should be happening faster and get mad when they're not. I guess a lot can be blamed on this fast-paced, give-it-to-me-now, immediate satisfaction world we live in. I love watching Biggest Loser, but I think it's played a part too. While the show has definitely motivated thousands to start getting fit, I can't help but wonder how many begin on their own personal Biggest Loser journey only to get discouraged because they don't see the same results as the contestants on campus. They forget the fact that these people are working out 24-7, seven days a week, in a state-of-the-art facility for 4 months or more.

There's actually some science behind why many don't see the results they want to see as quickly as they want to see them. It's called training adaptation and it takes time. Whether you're beginning a new running or resistance training program, you enter it with a certain level of fitness. Then when you begin the new exercise, your muscles become taxed/stressed because you're asking more of them. When you work out you actually cause tiny tears in the muscle tissue. Then afterward your body quickly begins to repair those tiny tears and it's this process that builds stronger muscle.  Problem is this takes time.

Remember that beginning level of fitness? Well, when you add new exercise to your program, your body's fitness level will actually decline.
This dip is called the gain threshold. Hold on, there's good news. If you keep at it (giving yourself enough rest in between workouts), you'll eventually pull out of that threshold and end up with a higher level of fitness than when you started. But you have to be careful. If you workout too hard and don't give yourself enough rest in between workouts, then you'll stay in the bottom of that threshold and end up weaker than when you started. This is referred to as over-training. Rest is equally important in training as the actual workout.

Over-training isn't usually the problem with new runners. Instead, new runners will often give up before they see that the gains in muscular and aerobic endurance as they pull out of that threshold. Running with others, such as in a beginning running group, can really help increase a runner's sticktoitness. The support of others can do wonders in helping you hang in there and make it through that first month as your body acclimates.

Also, if you're a seasoned runner, keep in mind that this exercise adaptation applies to you too. Beginning a new resistance training program in the middle of your marathon training, isn't a wise thing to do. You're thinking that you'll become stronger, but keep in mind that your fitness level and your running fitness will dip while you acclimate to the new demands you're putting on your body. Better to begin that new resistance training program in the off season before you begin your race training. 

So, if you're a new runner and struggling, think about that red-faced, irate lady behind me in the ATM line and chuckle. Know that taking your time will get you where you need to go and you'll get there injury-free (try to avoid that whiplash thingie, though).