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Estes Park Half Marathon Race Recap

Estes-Park-Half-Marathon-Finish

I clocked my slowest road time on Sunday at the Estes Park Half Marathon and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it went. No sarcasm there. I probably could’ve run faster if I were 5 pounds lighter or 5 years younger or had 5 more months to train. But I am who I am and I left it all on the course. I ran the best race I had in me.

There was a lot that could’ve gone wrong.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with… ahem… digestion during and after long runs. I didn’t used to have a problem at all. It got a little trickier after Big Girl was born and trickier still now, after Baby Girl. This is a big part of what’s motivating me to clean up my diet. I tried to play it safe by consuming no more than a reasonable amount of fiber, fat, dairy and sugar the day before the race, which is to say I skipped the pizza and had a shake instead. The good kind. Wups.

I thought a lot about what to eat before the race and decided on a Clif Bar and a cup of coffee so I could take care of business before the race started. That’s right. I’m just going to talk about poop here. I accidentally ordered a box of GU with caffeine last week and had to hunt down a caffeine-free variety in Estes Park on Saturday. So as to avoid any, er, diuretic effects during the race.

By “hunt down” I mean we went to one store after lunch and packet pick-up, and that was about all I could muster the energy for. After several hours of half-napping at the hotel it occurred to me that, perhaps, I had underestimated the altitude: 7400 – 7900 ft.

Oh, and my allergies were out of control.

At dinner I told my husband, “Maybe I’ll just take it easy tomorrow.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” he said. “You don’t want to injure yourself if you haven’t trained enough for it.”

Well, geez. I was only really thinking about the altitude and my allergies before he went and brought up training. To be fair- I have ran half marathons with less training. I wasn’t untrained. But I have also ran half marathons with more and better training under my belt. And there was the matter of the ~1000 ft of elevation gain. Let’s just say I wasn’t prepared to break any records. Except for my slowest time.

It’s possible I have my jitters to thank for my race.

The most challenging part of the course – 3.5 miles at a 2.5% grade – hits just after the first mile marker. I was extra conservative with my pace and let a dozen or so people pass me at the base of the hill without flinching. And I’m giving myself major kudos for this. If there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do over the years it’s how to avoid starting out too fast. I used to think, “I’ll be passing these people at mile 10.” But the magnitude of the fast start is typically far more impressive than that. The passing actually starts around mile 2 or 3. In this case, I hoped to catch a few of them on the downhill. Instead, I ended up passing everyone that had passed me, while still running uphill, chugging along at my slothfully consistent pace.

The peak of that hill was definitely the high point of the race, both figuratively and literally. It was early enough in the race that I didn’t feel run down, the views were great and I had a big downhill ahead of me. I even saw a handful of moose running across a neighboring field.

Estes-Park-Half-Marathon

The much shorter hill at mile 6 felt much harder and so began the progression of things just feeling harder and harder. I made a choice to power walk the hill at mile 11. I also made a choice to run all of mile 12, a doesn’t-really-qualify-as-a-hill <1% grade ramp that felt like death. 

But my body defied me and slowed to a walk at mile almost 13. And I felt pretty wrecked afterwards. My knees stopped aching yesterday, but my calves are still super tight. 

Overall I’m really happy with how I ran. I don’t think I could’ve paced it any better. I ran the second half about 7 minutes faster than the first, despite feeling like I had slowed to a crawl. I didn’t really bonk. It just got hard.

With a bit more training I think I’ll be able to subdue the hard in the second half. We’ll see. This was the first race in the Colorado Mountain Half Marathon Series. Next up is Georgetown to Idaho Springs in August.

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This Should Totally Work: Pizza, Diet, Cake

Produce-Pizza-Diet

I thought about going on a diet at the grocery store this morning, which is quite a feat because usually I think about how I want to buy all the donuts. I suppose this is something I am always quietly considering underneath all the other thoughts. Sometimes less quietly.

I’ve never been an especially “healthy” eater, but lately my habits have really taken a turn for the bad for me. And by lately I mean about 3 years ago when I got pregnant with Baby Girl and decided Five Guys burgers and fries should become a food group. So it’s her fault really. Hers and Dairy Queen’s for not having a store in California and then having one too close to our house in Colorado.

It’s been a long time since I weighed myself, mostly because I don’t want to know what the number is. Not that the number even matters. I can feel the blizzards weighing me down, lingering uncomfortably in my gut.

But I hate the word “diet”. I don’t want anything to do with that word. I don’t want to start weighing myself. I don’t want to count calories or points or drink shakes. Well, I mean, of course I want to drink shakes. I want to drink the ice cream kind that taste really good and generally don’t belong in a “diet”.

I do want my pants to fit comfortably. I want to run a little faster, or at least feel like there’s less to haul up a hill. I want to poop regular poops regularly. I want to not get diabetes. I want to live until 120+. And I want to feel super hot… basically all of the time. These are reasonable expectations, yes?

I found myself commenting on how strong my inner thighs are during Yoga Teacher Training this past weekend. Later in the day the topic of a woman’s relationship with her thighs came up. I thought to myself, “I just called mine strong.” And then I gave myself a big old pat on the back.

This morning I took Baby Girl to a dance class for toddlers. There were mirrors on two of four walls so I could check myself out easily. That’s what they were there for. I found myself comparing myself to the other moms there. “My thighs are smaller than hers. Phew. Oh, but they’re bigger than hers… and hers… and hers. Uh oh.” And then I thought, “This is not a healthy way of thinking.”

Complicated relationships aside, I could definitely benefit from cleaning up my diet. So I’m going to start washing all my produce, even the avocados and the bananas. That’s not true. But I am going to eat more avocados and bananas. More vegetables and less sugar. I’m going to start immediately. Just as soon as the leftover pizza is gone.

…and the birthday cake arriving Friday.

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Running 100 Miles is Totally Reasonable

Grand-Trail-Book

I just devoured this book: Grand Trail by Alexis and Frederic Berg. It’s a combination of articles on ultra trail running, profiles of ultra trail runners and races and tons of phenomenal pictures.

One article talks about how we are born to run. That we as a species survived and thrived largely because our bodies are built for long distance running. Our ancestors out ran their prey. It was our evolutionary advantage. To put this in perspective the following example is used:

“Over a distance of 100 meters, Usain Bolt, the king of sprint races, would come a poor second to a rat or even a squirrel. Conversely, on terra firma, no mammal and no primate can keep up with a man or a woman after several hours of effort, not even the horse, dog or the camel.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve read this. I was introduced to the concept through Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. (A must read whether you’re interested in running or not.) And I’ve been reminded of it periodically, through articles like this one, published in Smithsonian Magazine, about a family that lived in Siberia for 40 years, cut off from all human contact.

“Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders.”

You read enough of this stuff and running 100 miles, with over 33,000 ft of elevation gain, at an average altitude of 11,000 ft (as is the case for the Hardrock 100) starts to seem like a perfectly reasonable idea.

Okay, that’s a lie.

But a 50K or even a 50 miler on trails, with the unavoidable ups and downs in elevation, is beginning to feel more “doable” than “crazy”. So much so that I’ve set a goal. I’ve alluded to it a couple times and now here I am just putting it out there.

I don’t have a race picked out and I wouldn’t say I’m training for one yet. It’s still that far out there. I don’t even know with certainty that my body will be up for it. But I’m optimistic, and I’m more than headed down the path. I’m running.

I went for a 12 mile trail run this past weekend. Within minutes a herd of tall and lean young men darted past me, almost flying over a small stream crossing our path. I very cautiously found a route across the same stream while they disappeared between the trees. Soon thereafter I almost ran into another man while he tried to pass me. I hadn’t even covered 2 miles and was already walking an uphill stretch. He snuck up on me so fast I didn’t even hear him coming.

I’m choosing not to feel discouraged. I have to start somewhere, right? And I haven’t had to poop in the woods yet. What more can I really ask for at this point?

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Today We Run

Green-Mountain-Trail

The sky is overcast. That seems to be the afternoon norm these days. Big Girl and Baby Girl are fighting over a blow up bat decorated in superheroes. Or with the bat. I can’t be sure. Probably both.

Yesterday, I happened to notice that the bottom corner of our shower curtain is covered in mold. Perhaps I would’ve noticed it sooner if I ever showered. I should probably wash it. Which reminds me. I’m down to my last pair of clean underwear.

My husband just informed me that Baby Girl threw up. Wonderful. And shocking because robots don’t throw up. That would actually make sense if you had heard her chanting, “I am a robot,” all weekend ad nauseam.

I feel a little sick to my stomach too. Not because I’m sick. I hope. But because I ate a little too much pizza and ice cream this afternoon. All I really want to do right now is take a nap and divert all my energy to my digestive tract.

But I need to go for a run.

This is where progress is made. This is the meaning of training. Runners don’t become runners by accident. We don’t just happen to get faster or run farther. We get there through one seemingly small decision after another. Not to take a nap. Not to do the laundry. Today we run.

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Not Your Average Yoga Retreat

I took no yoga pictures, but managed to sneak in a quick run during our one legitimate break and snapped this one.

I went on a retreat for yoga teacher training this past weekend. An image is likely coming to your mind. Perhaps you just let out a sigh that was a mixture of relief and jealousy. Whatever it is you’re imagining, let me assure you. It was not that.

I don’t mean to say it was bad. I cried twice publicly and full on sobbed for a solid hour one evening while I shared a personal story with my roommate. I was obviously affected by the experience, and I feel like I can say with some confidence that I wasn’t the only one.

But it was not relaxing. I was up at 5:00 am every day so I could pump and still get to the 6:00 am asana practice. Nursing Baby Girl takes all of maybe 5-10 minutes, but some combination of performance anxiety and unnaturally small breasts/improperly sized equipment led to 40 minutes of pumping per session. For the most part our free time consisted of 10 minutes here and there to collect our things and move to another location. And a second round of pumping commenced around 9:30 pm when we were finally dismissed. In reality, it was exhausting.

The focus of the weekend was yoga philosophy. We went over the entirety of the Yoga Sutras and about half of the Bhagavad Gita. I’m churning over all of the material.

I think I would’ve oddly felt more comfortable studying the bible for a weekend, because I am very much at ease with not being Christian. I feel more conflicted about yoga philosophy because I know with a certainty that I want to teach. How much of the material do I have to buy into in order to teach in good conscience?

“Take what serves you and leave the rest.” This is what they tell us. So I plan on setting aside a good chunk of it to mull over in my own time.

I am taking with me the beautiful friendships that are beginning to bud, blossoming and flourishing. At the end of the last day of retreat we did a closing ceremony, during which most people shared very personal and emotional thoughts and stories. We cried and we hugged. It was profoundly moving.

As Brene Brown says, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

I am beyond grateful for the bravery this group of women showed through their vulnerability and authenticity. The love and acceptance within this community is the medicine we all need.

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I Was a Bad Mom on Mother’s Day

Colorado-Women's-Classic-Finish

I ran the Colorado Women’s Classic 10 miler on Mother’s Day. Big Girl ran the kid’s fun run. She did well and ran the whole 100 yards or so. And then she got a cupcake. So she should’ve been set, right?

Turns out she didn’t get her fix with the 100 yards or so. When Big Girl saw me near the finish she jumped into action and came charging after me down the finish chute yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” A good mother would’ve slowed down and ran with her. That would’ve been the motherly thing to do on Mother’s Day.

But that’s not what I did. Nope. I just kept right on going, fully aware that she would not be able to keep up with me. I didn’t even turn around until I stopped my watch. I prioritized my finish time over my daughter. I was a bad mom.

Oh well.

The race went pretty well. I felt strong throughout the first half. And then it got hard.

I blame my husband.

I voice texted him so he’d know when-ish to look for me at the finish line. But it took like 7 tries and happened to take place on a downhill. So I ended up with a side cramp. Fortunately it didn’t last too long. It went away as soon as I stopped swearing at my phone and focused on my breath. The course veered to the left right around that time, and I turned straight into a headwind.

That felt hard. A client of mine recently commented on how she didn’t fully realize how hard the end of a race would be. And you know what? It’s been so long since I really raced that I think I actually sort of forgot. The course was basically flat, but the few “speed bumps” in the second half felt like mountains.

But I gave it my all and got it done. Right up through my solo sprint to the finish.

Colorado-Women's-Classic

Part of me feels embarrassed that a 9:49 min/mile pace felt as hard as it did. I sort of didn’t want to tell you that. Now that I’m coaching I feel like I’m supposed to be really fast. Definitely faster than my clients, right? Well, I’m not. Not even close. But like my old therapist used to say, “I wonder how helpful it is to compare…”

Answer: It’s not.

So I’m reminding myself that running fast and being a good coach require two completely different skill sets. And I’m reminding myself that it wasn’t that long ago that I was sidelined with a knee injury. It will take time to build my base back up. And I’m reminding myself of my goals.

I’m working towards a really big running goal right now. It’s big enough and scary enough and far enough away that I’m hesitant to write it down right now. But I will tell you that it doesn’t include speeding up.

I guess I should have reminded myself of these things while I was running. Maybe I would’ve waited for Big Girl. I hope she doesn’t think I’m a bad mom.

Eh, I gave her a rose and my chocolate milk. She’ll be alright.

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You Know That Thing You Want to Do? What’s Stopping You?

I’m running the Colorado’s Women’s Classic 10 mile race on Mother’s Day. It’s been awhile since I did a race so I’m feeling a mix of nervous and excited. A friend of mine registered months ago. It took me a lot longer. Then one day she asked me, “What’s stopping you?” Those probably weren’t her exact words, but that was the gist.

And I thought to myself, “Ohhhhh, good one. What is stopping me?”

My default answer was, “I don’t know if I’ll be ready.” But if I’m honest with myself I know I can run 10 miles. What I don’t know is how long it will take me. I really don’t know. But it will likely be much slower than I want it to be. I decided that was a silly reason to miss out and signed up.

Within a week of registering for the Colorado Women’s Classic I told my husband I was thinking about signing up for the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon in August. I’ve wanted to do it for years but living in California proved too much of a barrier. He responded with something along the lines of, “Do it. What’s stopping you?”

And I thought to myself, “Damn. What is stopping me?”

Fear of commitment. I was registered and about halfway through training for the Napa Valley Marathon when my mom was diagnosed with cancer in November 2015. We decided to move and I knew I couldn’t commit to training in the middle of life. I was finally building my base back up and looking at a handful of races last summer when I hurt my knee. It seems like every time I start to get serious something comes along to derail me. So I’m afraid to commit.

But then the next day we were chatting with our neighbors and one of them asked me if I had any races coming up. “You should try the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon,” he said to me.

Holy coincidence! “I was just talking about that one yesterday,” I said.

You know what he said? Of course you do. Some variation of, “What’s stopping you?”

So I sat with that for a couple weeks. What is stopping me? Fear. Fear I’ll have to back out for some unforeseeable reason. Fear my ego won’t be able to handle my pace. Oh fear, you tricky little bastard.

This morning I put fear in timeout and took care of business. I am now financially committed to and looking forward to a fun filled summer running the Colorado Mountain Half Marathon Series. (I’m such a sucker for an extra medal.)

Colorado-Mountain-Half-Marathon-Series

 

You know that thing you want to do? Start running? Try yoga? Change careers? Big or small, we all have a thing. Whatever yours is. What’s stopping you?

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I’m Grumpy! And Don’t Try to Stop Me.

 

Grumpy-Big-Girl

I’ve been feeling stressed, completely maxed out, burnt out and grumpy. Especially grumpy. I’ve been extra impatient with the girls all week and especially with Big Girl who, never a model pottier, seems to have forgotten how to use the toilet all together. She wets her pants at least once a day. At age 5!

We’ve had several serious talks about it this week, during which I have expressed my concern that all the kids will make fun of her when she starts kindergarten in the fall. I felt like I really got through to her. She said she was worried. And then she peed her pants 20 minutes later.

Yesterday morning the doorbell rang and she ran to answer it, naked from the waist down. (Don’t worry. It was only Grandma.) Because I figure it’s time to redo potty training. And, also, I just can’t deal with all that laundry.

My husband “helped” with the laundry last weekend. He put the clothes in the machines and pushed the buttons, but he didn’t actually put anything away. Thursday morning I could only find one pair of pants for Big Girl in the volcano of clean laundry that erupted and coated the entirety of our bedroom floor.

I figured I’d better throw a load in the wash so we’d have at least 10 pairs on hand for the weekend, but was deterred by a load of my own clothes sitting the machine. Remnants of my husband’s helping hand, a week old, damp and smelling like mold.

He forgot to put them in the dryer. It’s an honest mistake. I can’t blame him. But this week has felt like one unexpected crisis after another.

First there was a miscommunication with my husband that led to a frantic search for last minute childcare. Then the science museum decided summer camp immunization cards were due 2 weeks earlier than originally advertised and added some extra requirements to go with it. Then there was a technical glitch on my website that I didn’t anticipate and sucked up all of Thursday morning. Then there was an issue transferring money from an IRA in my Dad’s name into my Mom’s name that I had to suddenly deal with yesterday morning. Because understanding financial transactions are just not one of my Mom’s talents, and the law office we’re paying to manage this stuff doesn’t appear able to manage it either.

Did you actually read that last paragraph? I don’t blame you if you skimmed over it. It’s not an enjoyable read. Nor was it enjoyable to live.

There was a lot of discussion Wednesday evening at Yoga Teacher Training on the topic of non-attachment. This idea that we let go of expectations and let any unexpected turn of events just sort of roll off our backs.

Well, I’m clearly no good at this. All of this week’s unexpected work made my grumpy! I’m also feeling entitled, like I deserve to be grumpy. I don’t want anyone telling me that I should let go of these unpleasant feelings. I will eventually get over it. But it will be on my own timeline, thank you very much.

I went for a 6 mile run Thursday night. I felt more calm, more patient, more content and at ease with life during the few hours after that run than I did the whole rest of the week. Running makes me feel better. But listen. I’m not going to tell you that this is how you will feel or should feel after a run. You just do your thing and figure out what works for you on your own timeline.

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Say Goodbye to All Your Labels With These Two Words

So-Hum-Yoga-Inspired-Jewelry

It’s been a rough week. Everyone was sick. And in the middle of all the snot and phlegm and co-pays and Tylenol I was busy getting ready to open up my online Yoga Inspired Jewelry shop. It was crazy and hectic and extra hard, but now it’s done. The shop is open! There are malas sitting there right now. For sale.

I also have a few shop opening specials going on:

  1. The first 3 people to make a purchase will save 15% off one item (excludes custom malas) with coupon code FIRST3.
  2. All custom malas are 20% off until the end of May 2017.
  3. You can save an additional 10% off by subscribing to the blog. 

Or if you’d rather donate your savings to a good cause I am helping a friend fundraise for the Denver Strides for Epilepsy. Just enter the coupon code FORMAILI and I’ll set aside 30% for her fundraising.

If you’re sort of interested in malas but you’re not quite sure what you’re supposed to do with one, start by watching the video in this post. Or observe my own mental chatter as I meditate with the mantra So Hum.

So Hum.

I am still sick.
I am sick of everyone else being sick.
I am tired. Physically.
I am tired of everything feeling so hard.
I am not sure why I didn’t just delay opening the shop.
I am also kind of wildly impressed that I somehow got it all done.
I am not surprised though, because I know myself.
I am determined.
I am, or at least can be, a perfectionist.
I am… a little intense.
I am passionate.
I am a lover. Of many things.
I am a writer.
I am a musician.
I am an artist.
I am a runner.
I am a yogi.
I am a math geek.
I am analytical and discerning, yet open minded.
I am a high maintenance, yet understanding and accepting wife.
I am, despite being a perfectionist, an imperfect mother.
I am a loyal and supportive friend.
I am an obnoxious, yet unconditionally devoted daughter.
I am a woman.
I am only human.
I am a thread in the fabric of all existence.
I am part of the connection. Through words, through relationships, through being.
I am the miracle of life.
I am all of these things, and I am none of them.
I am that.

So Hum.

So Hum is a beautifully simple mantra meditation that you can practice with or without a mala. It’s a reflection on our connection to all existence. I like to sing this mantra out loud. But it’s also a lovely mantra to repeat silently in your head. Listen to the sound, “So,” with each inhale and the sound, “Hum,” with each exhale. With each repetition practice letting go of all the labels you’ve assigned to yourself.

I am an anxious person.
I am afraid of failure.
I am desperate for validation.
I am too easily angered.
I am not agreeable enough.
I am not pretty enough.

So Hum.

I am smart.
I am brave.
I am perceptive.
I am empathetic.
I am creative.
I am beautiful.

So Hum.

I am all of these things, and I am none of them.
I am a thread in the fabric of all existence.
I am that.

So Hum.

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5 Simple Ways to Improve Running Form

Running-Form

How about a little truth, friends? I usually sort of roll my eyes at running form. I’m a long distance runner, after all. I’m not looking to shave seconds off a race time. And I mostly believe the best way to get better at running is to run. But I’ve been applying a lot of my yoga training off my mat (and in my running shoes) lately, and there’s a few things I’d like to share.

What I like about these tips is they don’t require extra time for an extra workout or any special skills. All you really have to do is bring awareness, or mindfulness, to your body while you’re already running. Even then, I would recommend focusing on your running form only periodically throughout your run. For example, for a few minutes at the beginning and end of a short run or at the beginning of each mile during a long run. During the in between moments, breathe, relax and enjoy!

Relax the elbows and the fists

I often joke that I try to do yoga with my jaw and run with my fists. Whether it’s the jaw or the fist, clenching uses up a lot of energy that can be put to better use somewhere else in the body. So relax those fists! Give them a good shake. And notice if that tension has seeped up to the elbows. Chances are something less than 90 degrees is doing more harm than good.

Roll the shoulders down and back

And while we’re focused on the arms, go ahead and roll them down onto the back a couple times. If this sounds like a yoga cue, that’s because it is. It helps to neutralize the spine, something that’s just as important in running. Do you run with a jogging stroller? Do this 10 more times.

Look up

If you’re running on a technical trail this might not work. But if the ground beneath your feet is fairly predictable, go ahead and look up. Relaxing the arms, rolling the shoulders onto the back and looking up opens the chest up to breathe. Looking up also has a psychological effect. For me anyway. It helps me focus less on the physical challenges of running and begin to appreciate the world around me.

Engage the lower abdominals

My belly likes to flop out in front of me and drag my pelvis with it. I blame my girls and their stay in my uterus, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. Just to be clear – this has nothing to do with how much padding is on top of our abdominal muscles. Gently engaging the lower abdominals helps lift the front/top of the pelvis, remove any overarch in the lower back and reduces the stress on the lumbar spine.

If engaging the lower abdominals makes it harder to breathe or causes you to tuck the tailbone you’ve probably gone too far. So ease up a bit. All we’re doing here is bringing some awareness to the abdominals and the role they play in proper running form.

Activate the outer hip/butt muscles

I pulled my left outer hip/butt muscle about 10 years ago, and it’s always sort of lurking there in the background. I know my outer hip/butt muscles are weaker than my inner thighs. I also know this is pretty common. Inflexible inner thighs and weak outer hip/butt muscles can cause the thigh bones and knees to turn in while running and can potentially contribute to or aggravate existing Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS).

Even if you’ve never experienced ITBS it can’t hurt to bring extra awareness to the outer hip/butt muscles while running. All you really have to do is think about them. The effect is shocking and feels almost magical, especially when running uphill. I feel like I’m tapping into a hidden reserve of energy. On flat ground I find it’s impossible to NOT speed up. The trick is to then slow back down to an easy pace without losing the activity in the outer hip/butt muscles.

What do you do to improve running form? If the answer is nothing, don’t worry. Getting out for a run is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Photo Credit: Happy running by bradhoc is licensed under CC by 2.0 / Cropped and text added to original