5 Gross Habits That Runners Share

Whenever I think back to all of the sports that I have watched, participated in or been subjected to, I can’t help but think about all of the nasty, disgusting habits that some people have. For instance, when I was playing in a soccer game a few weeks ago, one of the other girls stopped in the middle of the field to blow her nose onto the ground….sans tissues. If the sight of it didn’t distract those who were at the game, the sound certainly worked wonders. That being said, the following are some disgusting habits that I have been witness to (though never actually participated in myself):

5 Gross Habits That Runners Have:

  1. Snot Rockets– Defined as: using one finger to press against one nostril, while with the other one, you blow out whatever debris is in your nose and vice versa. Solution: Carry a tissue.
  2. Spitting-If you ever find yourself behind someone who likes to spit, STEER CLEAR because often times, whatever it is that they’re spitting out of their mouth is coming back right at you. Solution: Move to the side to clear your mouth; Warn the runner(s) behind you so that they can move; Swallow; Don’t do it!
  3. Going to the Bathroom Outside– Understandably, sometimes you cannot help but have to go to the bathroom during a run due to the intensity or length of your workout. However, as the saying goes- prevention is better than cure! Solution: Use the bathroom prior to running; Don’t eat or drink anything several hours before a long run or intense workout; Plot out your runs or workouts so that there is an actual bathroom nearby.
  4. Sweating– In college, we used to run all the time no matter what the weather was. During the warmer months, when it was 80+ degrees, some of the girls would sweat so much that running behind them became a test of visual acuity to see where the sweat was heading off of them so that you could then avoid it. Solution: If you have long hair, opt to tie it back in a bun versus a ponytail, which will only whip the sweat around to your neighbors; Well-ventilated running hats are a nice way to help contain hair for those with shorter styles; If all else fails, bring a lightweight towel and give yourself a dab every now and then.
  5. Body Odor– There are some people who I am convinced go through life never realizing that they stink. It is especially unpleasant to work out (let alone be in the same room) with someone who smells as if they rolled around in a bathtub of garbage and other unmentionables. Similarly, I can’t stand it when I go to the gym and someone comes over to use the machine near me and all I can smell is their cologne/perfume. Solution: Ditch the perfumes prior to exercising; Beef up on the deodorant; Make sure that you take a quick (yet thorough) shower prior to exercising; Wear socks with your running shoes; Wear fresh clothes.

This is just a brief list of bad habits that I’ve picked up on with running. Can you think of any that I’ve missed or that other people engage in with different sports or fitness activities?

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. -Mark Twain

I Thought This Was Supposed to be Easy…

My lower back was aching, and the backs of my hamstrings felt like guitar strings that had been strung on too tight. I waited patiently for one of these “strings” to snap.

Luckily they didn’t.

No, I wasn’t running. I was sitting with my legs crossed, one over the other, on my yoga mat during a Pilates-Barre Xtend class. I tried to focus on the stretch, but I was too distracted because one of my legs was now completely numb and my back was really starting to kill me due to the fact that I was being verbally forced to sit up straight on my sits bones.

Ridiculous, I know.

I felt a rush of relief as the instructor had us come out of the seated position and make our way over to the ballet barre. Five minutes later, after doing some squats in first position, I began to break out in a small sweat over having to stand in one spot, with one leg firmly grounded on the floor while I lifted the other leg and flexed my foot outward from the knee-all the while keeping rhythm with the instructor who happily chirped….

Bend, Extend!

Bend, Extend!

Bend, Extend!

I never knew that the human leg could be so damned heavy…particularly my legs. And as the chant continued and I began to curse my parents for producing such a disproportionate child, I wondered how much longer we were going to have to work this one leg. Hadn’t it been worked enough by now? I glanced anxiously over at the instructor in the mirror who, as it turned out, wasn’t even using the ballet barre to hold on to as she effortlessly pointed and flexed her foot.

A bath of envy and extreme distaste washed over my already-flushed face. I was beginning to think that the instructor had some familial ties with Gumby or that perhaps her real name ended in “Armstrong“.

Eventually, we switched sides and performed a deluge of other lower body exercises that left me wondering whether or not I would be able to walk out of the class. This wasn’t the first time that I had taken the Barre-Xtend class…so then why wasn’t it getting any easier? Why was it that I could run a sub 7-minute-mile pace for 8 miles, putting one long, heavy leg in front of the other, but I couldn’t stand still and lift my leg(s)up?

At least with running, you could sort of track your success. You could see the progression of becoming faster and stronger with every run. However, after months of taking Pilates and Yoga classes, I am STILL having trouble trying to figure out whether I’ve gained any more flexibility or strength. Yet still, I return time and again because I love the challenge….I think.

Frustration is the first step towards improvement. I have no incentive to improve if I’m content with what I can do and if I’m completely satisfied with my pace, distance and form as a runner. It’s only when I face frustration and use it to fuel my dedication that I feel myself moving forwards. -John Bingham

And They All Fell Down…

It was right there. The ball was in the air, and as soon as it hit the ground, I knew that I had it.

Apparently, so did the girl right behind me.

As I turned around, that’s when she collided with me at full speed. The force knocked us both over; and as I fell to the ground, her foot caught mine at just the right angle, causing my ankle to roll. Already in pain, I tried to recover my stance before I hit the ground, but I was still tangled in her foot. We fell at the same time, and as her entire body landed on my left ankle; that’s when I heard it.

Crunch.

pain. Pain. PAIN.

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I just lay there holding my ankle, writhing in agony. I knew that I had to get up. The referee had already stopped the play. My teammates were already hovering over me. I didn’t want that kind of attention; I just wanted to keep playing injury-free. I slowly wiggled my toes inside of my cleats. Good. Nothing was broken. Then I tried to move my ankle. Pain shot through my foot all the way up to my knee.

But I stood up.

I kept playing.

Foolishly, I stayed in the game even though we had four subs on the sideline.

Foolishly, I tried to keep a good face and ignore the pain in my foot as I sprinted after the ball. And when my teammate passed me the ball in front of the open net, I pivoted to prepare for what should have been an easy shot (which were already in limited supply for us); but as I stepped onto my left ankle to bring my right foot back to kick, I suddenly felt as if my ankle would snap in half. The result was an incredibly weak shot as the other team took possession of the ball.

We lost the game 3:0, and as I hobbled off the field to my car, I was frustrated and angry- frustrated that we had lost another game and angry that I had somehow allowed myself to get injured for nothing.

So, here I sit with a swollen, sprained ankle, wondering when I will be able to walk again (let alone play soccer or run). I’m sure that there is a lesson to be learned from this experience somewhere. I know that everything happens for a reason…I guess I’m just trying to figure out what that reason is….

The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way. -Robert Kiyosaki

Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Scale?

“Not I” said the voice inside your head as you prepared to embark on a new year with nothing but the best intentions for eating healthier and maintaining..er..I mean, starting some sort of regular fitness routine. That being said, the following is a list of things you should be aware of as you dedicate yourself to developing healthier, life-changing habits:

20 Things to Be Aware of:

  1. Your Goals-Do you have them? Like buying a car or filing for divorce, it’s best if you have it in writing. More importantly, make sure that the goals you set for yourself are actually within reason. An example of an unreasonable goal would be: “losing 50 lbs in three months”. Good luck with that; I’ll meet you at the hospital. If you need help with your goals, sit down with a friend or nutritionist.
  2. The Scale- is a liar. Ok, so sometimes you really, really wish it was lying to you. But the fact remains that while most scales are somewhat accurate about your weight, you shouldn’t use your scale as a crutch when it comes to trying to shed those extra pounds. Instead, rely more on your intuition…and the mirror. If you think you look great, does the scale really matter as much?
  3. Your Friends-“Does this fat make me look fat?” Most friends will answer ‘no’ either because they don’t want to hurt your feelings or because you’re their ride home later. Either way, take what your friends say with a grain of salt and use their false positives to help boost your drive to continue with your dietary goals.
  4. The Gym-provides a plethora of equipment not to mention a cozy, warm spot to work out when the temperature is only supposed to reach 31 degrees outside. However, it is easy to become complacent while working out. If you’re combining strength training with cardio at the gym, do your strength training first followed by your cardio. Your body will thank you!
  5. Cardio Machines-As much as I would LOVE to believe that I have just burned 400 calories by walking at a brisk pace for thirty minutes, chances are that it’s far from accurate. The fact of the matter is that everyone burns calories at a different rate (i.e. your metabolism). When you use one of the cardio machines at the gym, the machines are rigged to calculate how many calories you will burn within a given amount of time by using a metabolic equation (hence when you are prompted to input your age, weight, etc.). However if you are already athletic and are mostly muscle, you will burn more calories than someone who is trying to lose the baby weight. Check it out.
  6. Food Labels-can be deceiving. This is definitely one area that you’ll want to devote a little more time to, which is why I recommend going food shopping alone. Too often, it is SO easy to read the nutrition label on your favorite brand of food and actually will yourself to believe that it contains fewer calories than you expected. However, the thing that most people miss is the serving size. For example, I picked up one of my favorite guilty pleasures: a neatly wrapped package of chocolate chip cookie dough by Pillsbury, and when I glanced at the nutrition label (on the one rare occasion), I thought to myself “Hmfph- this isn’t so bad!” Later I realized that the calories were for ONE serving. I had eaten the entire package.
  7. Diet Sodas- may seem like a godsend because they supposedly contain zero calories and [gasp] zero sugar (I swear, it tempts me to believe that magic is real). However, what most people fail to notice is that there is usually quite a bit of sodium with some of these delicious beverages, and I don’t have to tell you what the side effects of too much sodium are…
  8. Hot Water-may feel really really good when you hop in the shower to unwind and de-stress. However, studies have shown that too much of a good thing is actually bad. Apparently, immersing myself in what is probably the equivalent of a pot of boiling water actually dries out one’s skin and can actually contribute to all sorts of skin irritation problems. If you must have the hot water, be brief about it or pay the price..literally..as hot, lengthy showers can also increase your water bill each month. Both your skin and your bank account will be grateful.
  9. The Mirror-is often a better judge than the scale. You can often see the results of your fitness efforts by simply taking a glance in the mirror. Besides this, scales can make you slightly more neurotic and ‘number obsessed’, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
  10. Your Jeans-My mother used to have a saying about knowing whether or not she needed to lose weight based on whether or not she could fit into her favorite pair of jeans. Feel free to borrow this bit of knowledge. If you’re 30 years old and you can still fit into your jeans from your senior year in high school, two things here: 1) you’re probably good to go on the weight thing but may still be interested in toning up some areas and 2) why do you still have jeans that are over a decade old?
  11. Your Refrigerator-is begging to be your best friend if you just give it a chance. Just like your stomach, you should want to fill your fridge with healthy and nutritious things. Not only will this cut down on the temptation to snack on crap, but it will help to encourage you in your healthy eating habits.
  12. Your Grandmother-may have loved the cute, chubby little 3 year-old that you used to be; but is it really that cute when you’re chubby and 33 years old? While you don’t want to offend grandma by refusing her famous casserole at dinner, opt instead to do some grocery shopping for her while you’re visiting and maybe pick up a few healthy items for yourself while you’re out. If all else fails and you’re trapped in front of dish with delicious fumes penetrating every taste bud in your body, then do yourself a favor and eat a smaller portion instead, politely refusing seconds on account of being “overwhelmed by the deliciousness of the meal”.
  13. Fat versus Muscle- Muscle weighs significantly more, pound for pound, than fat. Remember this! Someone who weighs 120 pounds and is made up of mostly fat looks drastically different than someone who weighs 120 pounds and is comprised mostly of muscle; so don’t let the scale fool you.
  14. Personal Trainers- are great cheerleaders. And while some are actually relatively knowledgeable and can recite the names of all the different bones and connective tissue in your body as if it were the alphabet, is it really worth the amount of money that you’ll wind up spending? For next to nothing, you can borrow a few books from the library, call up some friends or join a meetup group of other like-minded individuals like yourself in order to get a great workout in.
  15. Your Stomach- always speaks out of turn when you want it to be quiet. Instead of shhh-ing it, eat something! Ideally, you should try to shoot for small, more frequent meals throughout the day. However, you have to use your judgment here, because for some people, eating more frequently only makes them think about food more- but not in a good way. Space out your meals according to how your day-to-day life actually is. Remember; what works for one person doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the industry standard. Fuel up on healthy foods that will help to sustain you throughout the course of the day. For instance, fiber is a great start for the morning because it provides your body with nutrients and gets your digestive track moving, which is important for maintaining a healthy weight as well as great health overall.
  16. Sweating-“Chances are, if you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough.” Eh..this is kinda’ true and kinda’ not. Your internal body temperature is usually set to somewhere around 98.6 degrees. When your body is working out, this core temperature increases, creating heat. Your veins and capillaries expand, your heart tends to beat faster, and blood flows to your epidermis (hence the flushed faces you often see at the gym). Due to the number of sweat glands that you may happen to have, you may sweat more or less than some people around you. Also factoring into this is your fitness level. Comparatively, someone who is out of shape will more than likely sweat more running at an 8-minute mile pace than someone who is used to running a 7-minute mile pace (in which an 8-minute mile pace may feel like a walk in the park).
  17. Too Much Discipline-It’s ok to be disciplined about your eating habits, but geezus! Allow yourself a little cheating every now and then. Not only is it good for you, but it will help to balance the overwhelming desire to stuff your face with those jelly donuts as if you were being timed in an eating contest. Also, this is a good time to remind yourself that you are eating for your health, which is a lifelong sort of thing- not some sort of 6 month crash diet.
  18. Water– The human body is made up of approximately 70 percent water. To break this down even further, muscle is comprised of around 75 percent water, while fat and bones are made up of around 50 percent water. Water is important for many reasons. For starters, your body needs water in order to regulate its core temperature so that nutrients can travel to your organs. Also, just like Drano is used to flush out clogs in your bathtub, water acts to flush your body of toxins and other waste while transporting O2 to your cells. As an added bonus, it also protects your joints and organs. You can obtain water by drinking the recommended 8 glasses a day, but you can also contribute to the intake by eating fresh fruits (which contain water) as well as other beverages, soups, etc.
  19. Fad Diets-are exactly that: something that is popular for a very short amount of time. In other words, it doesn’t last forever. Where diets are involved, you should never diet just to lose weight for a brief period of time. Common examples of this range anywhere from the “Oh crap- my 10-year high school reunion is coming up in a few months..” to the infamous “I don’t want to look like a beached whale on my wedding day…Help!” You should always want to put your health first, which means adjusting to a ‘diet’ that will consist of developing healthy eating habits to last you a lifetime.
  20. Your Quality of Life-is important. When you begin to change your diet for the better and throw in the occasional fitness routine on a regular basis, it is inevitable that you will see positive changes in yourself that will make you (and possibly others) smile. Revisit your goals for wanting to eat better and look better. Remember that golden rule of “In order to take care of others, you first have to take care of yourself”? Well, it’s true. Fitness and overall health is something that is ok to be selfish about. Before you dive into that bag of potato chips, ask yourself whether or not there is a healthier alternative or whether this is your time to cheat a little. If you’ve been cheating a lot lately, perhaps there is something larger than yourself (no pun intended) that’s going on and is worth a trip to the doctor to discuss. Proper nutrition and fitness can have monumental, life changing effects for people. From improved self esteem to decreased health risks, the possibilities are endless if only you give yourself a chance to succeed and feel great.

To begin, begin. -Peter Nivio Zarlenga

When Stress is Chasing You…MOVE.

One Bachelors degree.One Masters degree.Two or more jobs just to make ends meet.Correction: one job, making less money than I originally started out with…Needless to say, I was certainly not living out the ‘fairy tale’ dream that I thought my life would be at the ripe old age of 27 1/2. But instead of allowing the tidal wave of panic to completely wash over me, I glanced over at the closet and then quickly walked over to retrieve my running shoes.The Domino EffectAs fate (and perhaps genetics) would have it, I have the uncanny ability to become stressed out fairly easily where career and finances are involved. Not only this, but when something negative happens in my life, it tends to make me dwell on other negative things, thus creating a sort of snowball or domino effect; and before I know it, I suddenly find myself in the middle of a blizzard that I can’t seem to see my way out of.It’s irritating as hell.However, my one saving grace is my ability to move myself. Rather than sitting around in a slump (which, don’t get me wrong, is extremely tempting), I typically opt to exercise in some form or fashion, whether it means hitting the gym for a cardio/weight session, going for a run, walking, or signing up for a last minute yoga session.Learning to MoveI have found that time and again, if I just move my body by running or exercising in some other way, I feel infinitely better and am ready to tackle the world. For example, running or walking for an hour gives me a chance to clear my head, re-think goals and generally organize my thoughts. I can start a run feeling uninspired and tired, but by the end I am almost always more energized and full of pep. And if you need even more inspiration to move yourself, there are plenty of studies floating around out there, pointing out all of the ways in which too much stress can be bad for your overall health.Five Reasons to Get Out There and Move Yourself

  1. Biological- It is already a well-known fact that exercising can decrease stress hormones such as cortisol by increasing the body’s production of endorphins (aka: the “Runner’s high”), thus putting you in a better mood and making you feel fabulous.
  2. Relaxed State of Mind- Choosing to exercise in different settings such as outdoors in a park or in a local neighborhood can put you into a more relaxed state of mind as you take in nature scenes or come into contact with other people who are exercising.
  3. Immunity- Those who exercise more often may find that they are able to build up a sort of resilience to stress, thereby making it more manageable when something negative occurs in their life.
  4. Health- There are all sorts of negative things associated with not being able to get a handle on stress. For instance, did you know that too much stress can actually disturb your body’s equilibrium and cause physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, panic attacks and elevated blood pressure? Stress is also linked to some of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide [source].
  5. Physical- Perhaps the most obvious benefit to exercise has to be the physical benefits. Let’s face it; the more you exercise, the more psyched you will be (or should be) to want to eat healthier and maintain your gorgeous new physique. Being fit and in shape is also a real confidence booster- not to mention all of the great health benefits that go along with it.

Ten Quick Tips to De-Stress

  1. Meditate– There are great benefits to be had from meditation. Start out with something as simple as sitting in the dark for five minutes without any noise or distractions. Take five to ten deep breaths and then stretch. Need a little help? Try enrolling in a couple of yoga classes or by watching YouTube.
  2. De-Clutter– When you live in a space that is filled with little knick-knacks or other forms of clutter such as piles of bills or stacks of books, it can seem overwhelming. Set aside some time to organize the space that you live in so that whenever you walk in the door to your home, you truly feel at home.
  3. Take 5– Too often, we are so busy that we lose track of the things that we used to enjoy. If you have to, schedule some time for yourself so that you can get back into doing the things that you used to enjoy. Taking time for yourself can even be something as simple as watching your favorite movie or visiting an art exhibit.
  4. Find a Friend- Often, when people become involved in relationships or get married, their friends get pushed to the back burner. The same thing can happen when you start a new job or move to a different state. Even if it is something as small as sending a quick two-line email to check in, staying in touch with friends is important as it makes you feel more connected to the outside world. Friends are also a great outlet in times when you feel a little overwhelmed by life.
  5. Set Realistic Goals- One of the biggest mistakes that people tend to make is that they set goals or standards for themselves and others that are too high. They realize this too late after they are eventually let down by something or someone. Therefore, it is important to assess your life and your situation (and sometimes the people you hang around) so that you can more accurately set realistic goals for yourself that you can ultimately feel good about.
  6. Focus on the Positive- When times are tough, it is important to try to always focus on the positive in any given situation. Remember that everything happens for a reason; and if you need a little help staying positive, talk about your problem or issue with someone who cares about you and will be able to help you lift your spirits.
  7. Avoid Procrastination- As ironic as it sounds, it’s true. Procrastinating is definitely something that you want to avoid doing because it will leave you with a ton of unfinished business as well as a side order of stress to boot. So, if you have those bills to pay or that assignment that your boss just doled out to you…get it done ASAP!
  8. Watch Less Television- Did you know that you actually burn more calories sleeping than you do watching television? It’s true. When most of us watch television, we often think of this as a great opportunity to snack or pig out on junk food. Even if you do avoid the refrigerator while sitting in front of the TV, think about all of the more productive things that you could be doing with your time! That being said, get off the couch!
  9. Incorporate Music– Music is a godsend. It can soften your mood or energize you. The next time you’re feeling blue, create a fun playlist and take it with you to the gym to reinvigorate you. Having trouble sleeping at night? Download some environmental sounds to help lull you to sleep.
  10. Don’t Bring Work Home With You- This is often easier said than done. The one nice thing about working at an office is that you can often walk out the door at the end of the day and leave your work behind you. However, for the growing number of people who work from home, it’s slightly more tricky. In this case, set aside a block of time in which you promise to get your work done. If you have an extra room in your home, great. Turn the extra room into an office, this way you can still get the effect of ‘walking out the door and leaving your work behind’.

Its not stress that kills us; it is our reaction to it. – Hans Selye