How You Can Exercise All Day and Still Get Stuff Done


Exercise via US National Archives

Like many people, I struggle to find the time to exercise during the day. I’ve been able to make it a priority, but often at the expense of other worthwhile pursuits and hobbies. All of these things are good, and I want to make time for all of them.

During the work day, I usually sit in my office, at my desk, typing away. I may trade my computer for paper & pen, but I’m still sitting most of the day, and there’s growing evidence sitting isn’t the best thing for you. I want to move, but I can’t just leave the office to go exercise.

Sound familiar?

I want to share with you something that I’ve been doing for several weeks, and it has changed my exercise habits. The key word is Habit, because exercise has become just that.

The dictionary describes a habit as:

“a settled or regular tendency or practice, esp. one that is hard to give up”

Instead of carving out a single 30-45 minute block, I take little swipes at it throughout the day. This habit keeps me involved, focused, energized, and you can do these exercises anywhere with no equipment.

I call it the All Day Workout.

The basis of the All Day Workout is that you pick 4-6 movements that you do at intervals throughout the day. The movements are quick, short, and in a small time frame, so you can do them anywhere, and also not get too sweaty or smelly in a work environment.

All you need to remember is: 15 seconds every 15 minutes.

That’s it.

On your watch, set the timer to beep every 15 minutes. When it beeps, take a 15 second break to move however you want. Here are some examples of body-weight exercises you can use, and none of them require equipment (watch videos here).

  • Pushups
  • Squats
  • Burpees
  • Lunges

Remember, you’re only moving for 15 seconds! This helps you feel refreshed and gets the blood flowing, without working up a sweat or smell that’s going to follow you in to the next meeting.

Moving like this has helped me immeasurably throughout the day. I feel less stressed, more active, energetic, and less hungry. Movement also breaks up a project and helps clear my mind for upcoming tasks. I love it.

To see the cumulative benefits of the All Day Workout, in terms of total output, here’s what I did on Friday.

Total Hours Exercised – 6 (at 4 intervals/hour = 24 intervals = 6 minutes total exercise)

  • Pushups: 90 (15 reps x 6 intervals)
  • Squats: 72 (12 reps x 6 intervals)
  • Lunges: 36 per leg (6 reps x 6 intervals)
  • Burpees: 30 (5 reps x 6 intervals)

Not bad for 6 minutes eh? Remember that these are my numbers. Yours will be different. The beauty is this program meets you where you are physically. Do it for yourself.

A normal work day is 8 hours. I only listed 6 hours exercised because as we all know, things happen during the day. You can’t drop and do pushups during your meeting, and you want to have a peaceful lunch. If your timer passes 15 minutes and you can’t move, it’s ok. Pick it up next time, or the time after that. Cumulative effort will pay off! Plus, the hope is for less stress and better health, so don’t add to your stress by thinking about a missed interval. There will be more opportunities.

Obviously, this doesn’t have to simply happen during your work day. Consider waking up, setting your timer, and moving all day! Imagine the effect! I will talk about that more another time, as well as simple equipment exercises that will take your All Day Workout to the next level.

What do you think? Do you believe this could be something attainable for you at home or the office? Since I have just recently begun this myself, I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Running an Ultra Marathon: 0-40 in 6 Weeks (Part 1)


via Asheville Citizen-Times

Yesterday I ran the Mt Mitchell Challenge, a fantastic trail run that covers 40 miles from Black Mountain, NC to the top of Mt Mitchell, elevation 6,684 feet. I’m writing a short story about the race and submitting it to Outside, Trail Runner, and Blue Ridge Outdoors. But first, you, constant reader, are able to see the work in progress over the next few days. Enjoy!

We were sitting in the restaurant, waiting on our Thai food, when Dan spoke up. “I’m going to have to drop out of the Challenge this year, my hamstring just won’t hold up for the big runs. Kills me.” My ears immediately perked up. The Challenge. A 40 mile eastern epic that climbs from Black Mountain, NC to Mt Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Rockies. Last year I ran the accompanying marathon, which in comparison is treated like a 1 mile fun run. For 2012, I hadn’t gotten in to the race in time. When registration opened on October 2, I was 3 miles deep in to the StumpJump 50k. That probably didn’t even matter, because both races filled up in less than 15 minutes. Besides, at the end of the race I was so fed up with running ultras that I didn’t care. However, that feeling did not last. Between the end of StumpJump and the current scene, I had run less than 40 miles total. But when Dan said he was out, I immediately wanted in. I asked him to check with the race director and see if I could fill the space. The problem was, the Challenge was in 6 weeks.

I knew it would be an interesting training program. While I had run long distances before, I had not kept up my training during the past 3 months. I simply wanted to see if I could do it. What was the intrinsic desire that compelled me to even attempt this run? The course is notoriously treacherous, with sub-freezing temps, snow, and hurricane force winds. I knew I couldn’t possibly as prepared as I wanted to be, but I still wanted to try. Perhaps some of the desire was male machismo, but I also wanted to believe there was an ability and mental toughness inside me that could keep going. I stumbled upon a training regimen that intrigued me. On Timothy Ferris’ blog, he had interviewed an ex-special ops soldier who had taken up ultra distance trail running (read the post here). Pavel (not his real name), had been training for years by using a model of consistency of heart rates (60-70% of MHR), moderation of distance/intensity, and nose breathing. By not pushing the body to extreme fatigue, he was able to recover faster and be more consistent. Pavel rarely takes days off, and by having a moderate, but consistent, 30 minute workout each day, does not particularly need to. The nose breathing piece was also intriguing, because it is a way to keep the intensity down. The first few times I tried to run while nose breathing felt like 30 minutes of hyperventilating. My breathing became smoother, and it helped keep my heart rate down. I decided to stick with this approach for the remainder of the training.

I had no grand notions of doing well, simply to finish. In fact, I initially thought I would go out and run the marathon again, and spent the first 4 weeks training for that. I didn’t start thinking seriously about the Challenge until 2 weeks before race day, when training culminates with a big run. Mine was 22 miles, run in snow and freezing temps. When I finished, I thought “Hell, I just ran 22 miles, so I know I can run the marathon, and I already did that last year. Maybe I could finish the Challenge.” Being able to pull off a 22 mile run after 4 weeks of serious training had me thinking grand thoughts of long distance using the Pavel Method.

In Joseph Campbell’s masterwork, The Hero with a Thousand Faceshe states that the adventure of the hero begins with a “Call to Adventure”then follows 3 main phases:

  • Departure
  • Training/Initiation
  • Culmination/Return

In my work, we have studied the hero’s journey, rites of passage, and community contribution, so I was able to apply these tenets while making sense of the desire to run. My call was undoubtably when Dan said he was having to drop out of the race. But why keep running? The marathon was achievable, within my grasp. The challenge was a risk, I could endanger myself and others. I believe that we all aspire to challenge ourselves in ways we know will require all of our abilities. Running 40 miles up and down a mountain would require all I had physically and mentally. Could I accomplish that task in such a short amount of time? I didn’t know, but I felt that I wanted to try. I trained diligently during those 6 weeks, consistently running, sticking to the training, and eating properly (a entirely separate post). The run itself was initiation.

I’ll be posting Part 2 of the story by Wednesday, February 29. I appreciate everyone that continues to read my essays and stories, it means a lot! Until then, here is a video made by 3rd place finisher Tim Weed, who does a great job of running fast and showing what kind of course the race is. Thanks Tim!

My Experience with Vibram Five Fingers


I admit, when I first saw Vibram Five Fingers, I thought of those ridiculous water slippers I used to have to wear around the river. So it was not love at first sight. I did love being barefoot as a kid though, and after reading Born to Run and getting the running bug again, I decided I wanted to run in the Five Fingers. Morgan was kind enough to get me a pair for my birthday. I’m a believer now, having covered hundreds of miles in my KSO’s in only a few months. I love running in them, hiked Angel’s Landing, and every time I wear them am engaged in a conversation about hear they feel/look/perform/help/hurt/and more (listening, Vibram?). 8 months after reading the book and receiving a pair, I ran my first Ultramarathon, the Capon Valley 50k, and I credit the Five Fingers with reintroducing me to the joy of running.

Overview

Now, on to the “shoes” themselves. First, they necessitate the runner striking on the mid-foot. This is good news for most people, as most modern running shoes naturally encourage a heel strike because of the cushioned heel. Try running barefoot and heel striking, you will feel pain quick. Since humans ran for thousands of years before the running shoe was invented, makes sense that heel striking is not the way to go. VFFs are light, comfortable, and stay on your feet well. I found that the mid-foot strike felt so much more natural, and have loved running in them. The thin vibram pad protects fairly well against roots and rocks, most of the time there’s an initial shock from the pinch, and it wears off quickly, a few choice words aside. Stubbed toes aren’t bad either, the sole curls up over the tops and does a good job protecting. Grip is fantastic, thanks to the siped grooves in the sole, similar to car tires. If you see a pair in the store, just bend the shoe and you’ll see what I mean. Newer models such as the TrekSport have even more tread, but are still flexible.

Fit

If you are interested in getting a pair, and live within 50 miles of a retailer, I strongly recommend going and trying VFF on. The Vibram website has a good fit guide, but until you have them on your feet, you just won’t know. Some “models” fit different than others. A size 42 KSO is perfect for me, while the 42 Sprint is tight. TO get them on, get your toes in first (spread ’em to get each toe in its place), and then pull the heel in. It will be tough at first, but it gets easier. Adjust whatever straps to dial it in, and then get to moving.

Comfort

I think they feel great, its like my feet are free, closer to the earth, and adjust to its contours and feelings. The footbed is comfy, and I noticed a difference in my walk and running gait quickly. They really only hurt when running over technical trails and I step on a rock or root that digs in to my foot. But, the feeling quickly subsides, the foot bounces back, and I move along. Only once have I had a bone bruise last more than 1 day (it was 2). They also dry very quickly, a great reason to wear them while hiking, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, stream crossings, etc.

Protection

The rubber sole, while thin, offers great protection against most elements (roots and golf ball sized rocks being the exception, see above). It also curls up over the front of toes, protecting against stubbing on the trail. Your toes will bend dramatically at times, but the stability of the shoe, along with letting your toes be toes, keeps it in check. I’ve been very well protected when I’ve worn them, no injuries and very little lasting pain.

Starting Out

Everyone is different, but to be on the safe side, take it easy with your running to start. Run on grassy areas or well-manicured trails, steer clear of pavement and technical trails, just until you get a feel for them. I recommend spending time just walking around in them too, no matter where you are. Gardening, walking the dog, getting the paper (do people still do that?), going to the store, etc. Also, get ready for the stares and the conversations, they’re coming. While hiking around Zion NP this Spring, Morgan and I had nearly 40 people stop us on our hike to ask about them. You will too. Be proud of your VFF, naysayers be damned.

Care

VFF are machine washable, and they get pretty funky after a few wearings, especially if you’re moving a lot (trail running, hiking). Just throw them in, wash on cold, and then hang dry, preferably out of the sun (garage or mudroom will work). I just got the first rips in my KSOs, both the result of sticks on trail runs poking through. Hopefully Vibram will replace them for me, if not, they can sewed up. There is certainly a risk of ripping them, it’s mesh and stretch nylon. But, they are still perfectly functional even with the rips.

Wrap-up

If you are curious, and can swing the cost (cheapest is the Classic at $75), go get a pair, you will be a believer. There’s a ton of research on the benefits of having at least some barefooting in your life, and VFF are the best of both worlds. Harvard Professor tests Barefoot Running and Vibram North America. You can buy them direct from the Vibram site, REI, and other retailers.

Running in the Rain


It’s raining today. Normally I would be glad for a slow, rainy Saturday, perfect for coffee, a fire, college basketball, and reading.

But, I’m training for the Black Mountain marathon, and today is a big run day. 16-18 miles kinda big. In the rain.

Not me... photo credit Erin Brethauer

When I got up this morning and let the dog out, my will began to waver. It was cold, raining, and besides that it wouldn’t be that “great day to be outside” feeling, heck it might be unsafe! Hypothermia at 5000 feet and 10 miles from the road is not appealing. I know that I can keep myself warm and safe, within reason, and maybe I run 12-13 miles on the trail and finish up on the treadmill. I mainly didn’t want to run when the enjoyment level wasn’t sky high for me. But that’s a bad reason to not do something. There are many worthwhile pursuits every day that may not get me terribly excited, but that doesn’t mean I push them aside. Even matters you’re passionate about, there are going to be cold, rainy days where you don’t feel like stepping out your front door to go make a difference. But you should!

To me, that is an important lesson, and the prevailing one in the training process. There is good and bad, love and hurt, pain and joy, all through life. But what is the thing we stick our identity to? When conflict naturally arises, do we go back in our office and lock the door? Do we accept the good runs and great times from the Lord, and not the steep hills and tweaked knees? The good weather and peppy mornings, but not the pouring rain and 12 inches of snow?

No my friends, we take it all, just like Jesus took it for us. We always see in Philippians 4:13,

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

But how can we as followers of Christ miss what precedes this iconic verse? Verses 11 & 12 read,

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

As a runner, I re-worked the verse like this,

I know what it is to run fast, and I know what it is to run slow and in pain, in great weather and in the pouring rain. I have learned the secret of being content on any and every run, whether having many gels or low on water, whether running for medals or just the morning sunrise.

So my friends, this is what we hope to learn. That no matter the circumstances, God is enough. He will give us the strength to step in to the mess of life and run the race set before us. This marathon is wonderful and challenging for many reasons, just like life. To set a goal, work hard, and complete the task is great, but not the whole reason.

I encourage you to ponder in what ways God has blessed you, and in what ways he may be teaching you to be content in his love and glory. It is a gift worth passing on.

5 No Equipment Exercises to Keep You Fit


Since I’m on the road a decent amount, and have grown bored with traditional gyms, I’ve gone back to the basics of movement and using body-weight (BW) exercises to stay in shape. The great thing about any of these movements is that they require no equipment or special space. They can be done in your living room, hotel room, or the local park. The only thing stopping you is YOU.

  1. Running – Just lace up your shoes and go. Anytime, anywhere. Start with what you’re comfortable with, maybe it’s 10 minutes, or run 4 minutes walk 2. Just get out there.
  2. Push-ups – The most common BW exercise. Make sure your body stays in alignment from shoulders to heels. If the reps get too much, put your knees on the ground and keep going.           
  3. Burpees – You should just watch this video to get the idea (mute your volume if you don’t want to hear the rock music). A great workout!
  4. Form Squats – No need for weight, simply keep your back aligned, feet apart, and lower at the knees, butt coming straight down.
  5. Core WorkSit-ups, 6 inch Killers, Planks, Russian Twists, Supermans. There are several BW core exercises, mix it up to keep your muscles guessing.

For a good list of no-equipment workouts, check this out ( via the good people at Carolina CrossFit in Columbia, SC).