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How to Run, Part 3

This should be the last installment in my How to Run series. We’ve already talked about the motivation and spent way too much time on shoes. This time I want to wax eloquent about gear, recording your progress and a few other things I’ve learned along the way.

The Right Clothes

You can run in just about anything but some things will make your run more enjoyable. Sweats and a ratty old t-shirt make up the classic running outfit but they’re not very comfortable. When you run you should be sweating and that classic outfit soaks it all up but won’t let any of it go. All of that moisture hangs around and begins to weigh you down.

Instead of running on the inside of a sponge you want to get clothes that will pull the moisture away from your body and allow it to evaporate. This keeps your clothes from getting too heavy and keeps you cool at the same time.

Do yourself a favor, get a few nice running shirts and some shorts. You don’t want to cut corners when buying shoes but you don’t need to spend a million bucks to get good running clothes. Head over to the nearest Ross or TJ Max and you’ll find good items for cheap.

The Right Time

A watch is something you don’t really need when you’re just getting into the habit of running but you’ll probably find yourself wanting one sooner or later. Like the running clothes, you don’t need to break the bank to get a watch that has all the features you’ll actually need. If you can find one that has a stop watch you’ve taken care of the basics; everything else is icing on the cake.

For my last birthday Kellie bought me a Nike watch and I really like it. Before that I had a trusty IronMan which I used for years until I lost it. Both watches do a superb job and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either one.

The Right Tunes

In the first post I spoke highly of a running buddy but sometimes you’ll find yourself running on your own. I’ve found that on these solo runs an mp3 player makes the run a whole lot more fun. Kellie’s parents got me an iPod Nano this last Christmas and I love it.

On my longer runs I like to start with a Bible study or a podcast from NPR. Those are usually good for about 40 to 45 minutes and by that time I’m nearing the end of my run and feeling tired. Then I switch over to my running playlist. I fill this playlist with songs that give me a good kick in the rear, songs that pump me up and give me a little burst at the end of the run. I probably look a little weird, sweating like a dog and mouthing the words to some rock-n-roll song but at least I haven’t broken out my air guitar.

I will add one comment on song selection. I find myself running to the beat of the song so, if you’re like me, you’ll want to pay attention to the tempo of the songs in your playlists. Fill them with songs that are too fast and you can burn yourself out before the end of your run; fill them with lazy beats and you’ll barely work up a sweat.

The Right Information

Recently I started logging my runs. This isn’t anything new to running but with the advances found on the internet it’s gotten a whole lot easier. Now days you don’t have to drive your car through your route just to find the distance. Nike and Apple teamed up to offer Nike+ which helps track your times and distances. For about $30 you can plug a small data recorder into your iPod and get plenty of info about your run.

I’ve had my eye on Nike+ for a while but I’m currently using a website called MapMyRun.com. This site is built on top of Google Maps, giving you all sorts of options. I use the site to map out runs of various lengths which I save to use later. MapMyRun also lets me log my runs. It even uses my times, the length of my run and my weight to estimate how many calories I’ve burned. On top of all that it will even track the mileage on your gear. If you want to know when it’s time to replace your shoes let MapMyRun keep track of that for you. It’s pretty handy.

For years I didn’t do anything with my times but now it’s kind of fun to look over the data, to see if I’m getting faster or slower and to compare one run with the next. I’m using this as a bit of a motivator, trying to run on a consistent basis while working to improve my speed.

How About You

What works for you? Is there something I’m missing, something else that needs to be thrown in the mix. Leave a comment and let me know.

Late Story Addition: Headphone Hack

If you have ever run with earbud headphones, like the kind that come with an iPod, you’ve probably noticed how hard it is to keep the little buggers in place. The swinging motion of the chord creates enough movement to wiggle the headphones loose so you spend most of your run fixing your headphones.

This problem was driving me crazy so I tried puttting a safety-pin through the piece of plastic where the chord splits from one to two wires. This allowed me to pin it to my shirt and stopped the swinging of the chord from jostling my headphones loose. As a bonus it’s a light weight fix that’s also pretty small. If you try this little hack be careful not to stab the actual headphone wires; headphones that don’t work are actually more annoying than headphones that don’t stay on!

iPod headphone hack

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There and Back

We’ll we’re back from our trip to Arizona. My mom’s family tries to have a reunion every two years and this was one of those years. For Kellie and I it has been four years since we were last able to attend the reunion so it was great to see everyone again. For those of you who haven’t visited Arizona it is a beautiful place and we have the pictures to prove it.

Most of our time was spent in a small town called Williams located on old Route 66. There is only one main street through the town and day or night you could find people walking the sidewalks, taking in the shops and eating at the restaurants. Williams was a wonderful little place.

Route 66
Kellie took this great shot!

There were about fifty of us at the reunion, including my mom’s parents who live in South Dakota. While away we visited the Grand Canyon, played games—even saw an old West show put on in the middle of the road.

Cowboy with Kellie's glasses
This cowboy saw Kellie’s glasses and had to wear them for a second.

Kellie and Grandpa
Kellie and Grandpa.

With Grandpa and Grandma
Grandma, Jon, myself and Grandpa.

Family photo
Grandpa and Grandma, Mom, Dad, my aunts and uncles and Jeanie.

On one of the days a handful of us fellas went golfing. I chose to simply go along for the ride because I didn’t need the frustration of golf. Years ago I put down the golf clubs because they do nothing but drive me crazy. There are plenty of things in this world that can make me nuts for free so I figure I don’t need to pay for it!

Dad golfing

Jon golfing

All said and done, we had a wonderful time in Arizona. Whether in Williams, Sedona or Phoenix the whole trip was amazing.

Bridge by Sedona
Outside of Sedona.

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How to Run, Part 2

This post is the second on the basics of running for fun and fitness. Keep in mind these are not the thoughts of an expert runner or even a very fast runner—these posts are running tips from a peer. I’m sharing lessons learned by your average runner and hopefully you’ll find them useful.

If you haven’t read the first post you should take a second to catch up. Last time I talked about the importance of having a goal and the value of a running buddy. In this post I originally intended to write about shoes, gear and monitoring your progress but as I got started on shoes it became clear that this subject merited a post all by itself.

The Importance of Good Shoes

When you begin running consistently your feet begin logging a lot of miles. If your stride is about three feet long your feet will hit the ground over 1700 times per mile! That’s a lot of foot strikes. As your feet hit the ground they can bear up to three times your body weight. Wow. You can quickly see the need for good shoes dedicated to running.

But let me stop you before you head off to your local shoe discounter. You’re not shopping for the shoes that look the coolest or for the shoes that happen to be the cheapest. When you’re buying running shoes you are looking for a very specific shoe: the shoe that is best for your feet. In order to find the shoe that is right for you a little homework is needed.

The Wet Test

Runner’s World has a short little test you can do to learn about your feet. Essentially you want to get one of your feet wet and step onto a surface that will show your footprint. This will allow you to see how much (or how little) arch you have in your foot. I highly recommend reading the article and taking the wet test to see what kind of feet you have.

Foot arch

When I checked my footprint I found that I have a neutral to low arch. Not much of a surprise there as it matches what I already knew about how I pronante. Let me explain.

Pronation

Pronation is a part of the way your body naturally absorbs the impact of walking and running. It has to do with the motion of your foot from the time your heel strikes the ground until toe-off. Let me quote from another Runner’s World article:

“When you run or walk, you land on the outside edge of your foot and roll inward. This entirely normal inward rolling is called pronation. For most runners, the pronation stops at a healthy point. However, some runners roll inward too much. This excessive inward rolling is called overpronation.”

An easy way to see how much or how little you pronate is to look at the wear pattern on the soles of an old pair of shoes. Grab an old pair and take a good look at the soles. If you see wear on the outside of the heel and the inside of the forefoot you pronante. If the wear pattern is even with no excessive wear in any one spot your stride is neutral. Finally, if there is wear only on the outside edge of the sole you supinate.

Shoe wear patterns

The amount of wear in these areas will give you an idea of how severely you supinate or pronate and help you decide what kind of shoe you should buy. As a point of reference I am a mild overpronator. My shoes show the most wear on the outside of the heel and the inside of the forefoot.

For more information check out any one of the really good articles about buying shoes at Runner’s World.

Shoe Types

For the recreational runner there are really three kinds of shoes to consider: cushioned, stability and motion control. (We’re leaving out trail shoes and lightweight racing shoes.)

Cushioned shoes are built for neutral runners who don’t need any correction in their stride. The next step are stability shoes which offer a bit of motion control but not too much. Finally, for moderate to severe overpronators there are motion-control shoes. (That Runner’s World article I quoted earlier adds a bit more detail about these different shoe types if you’re interested.)

I don’t overpronate to the point that I need motion control shoes but I do buy from the stability shoe category.

Buying Your Shoes

Once you’ve done your homework to figure out your foot type and wear pattern you’re finally ready to buy. Unless you find a good sale expect to spend anywhere from $80 to $135 on your shoes. They’re not cheap but neither are your knees, hips and back. Spend the money on good shoes and consider it an investment in your health.

You can read a number of reviews on the internet but for your first pair you might benefit from visiting a running store. A good running store will let you try on a pair of shoes and even go outside and run a bit. This way you can compare the feel of a few different shoes and go home with the best one. Usually these stores charge a bit more than the big box stores but the service and experience of the staff is worth it.

Once you find a pair of shoes that works for you look online for the best deals. You’ve already done your homework and you already know what you need; now you’re just shopping for price. Sometimes the best deal can be found on last year’s model. Stores are trying to get rid of all their older stock and you can pick up a great pair of shoes on the cheap. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m currently running in last year’s model.

One final thought on buying shoes, and this is a biggy: buy about a half size bigger than what you normally wear. When you run your feet expand and they need the extra room. If your shoes fit just right before you run they will probably be too tight by the time you’re out and about. So, make sure there is plenty of room to keep your feet happy. Along those lines, don’t over tighten you laces when you tie your shoes. Give those feet some room to breathe.

Replacing Your Shoes

There will come a time when you need to replace your running shoes. As much as you might hate saying goodbye to your trusty companions their effectiveness diminishes over time. Personal example: in 2003 Kellie and I ran in the Portland Marathon. I didn’t know it at the time but my shoes were too old and as a result my feet were absolutely killing me when I finally finished.

For the next couple of days I wore my running shoes, thinking that they would help my feet get better. It wasn’t until I put on another pair of shoes that I realized that my running shoes were to blame for my sore feet. Moral of the story: you’ll need replace your shoes.

There is a good article at About.com with some guidelines on when to replace your running shoes. In short, they recommend replacing your shoes when you rack up 350 to 550 miles and I tend to agree.

Wrapping It Up

I don’t mean to belabor the point but shoes are very important if you want to run regularly and enjoy it. Figure out which kind of shoes you need, bite the bullet and spend the cash. If you think about it, even at $135 a pair of good running shoes is a lot cheaper than a membership at your local gym. So, don’t underestimate the value and importance of a good pair of running shoes.

Runner’s World, which I’ve already mentioned a bunch, has a ton of good articles on finding the right shoe for you. They also review a million different shoes and their opinions are pretty spot on. The reviews are done by the editors as well as real world runners so you can trust their advice about a certain shoe.

So, how about you? Have you found the perfect shoes? Do you know of a site with killer deals? Have you been burned by a bad pair of shoes? Let me know in a comment below.

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How to Run, Part 1

Is it possible to enjoy something you once hated with a passion? As a kid I hated vegetables and though I’ll eat a few here and there as an adult I wouldn’t say that I enjoy them. But I have come to enjoy running, something I used to avoid like the plague. I thought I’d take a couple of posts to share how you can go from a couch potato to a running regular. If I can do it there is no doubt in my mind that you can too.

Get a Goal

The first step in your transformation is the desire to make a change; you need a goal of some sort. (Full disclosure: I’ve recently increased my mileage in light of an upcoming family reunion! How’s that for the purity of sport?)

Your goal may be to lose some weight but that doesn’t need to be the case. Maybe you want to see what it feels like to participate in a race of some sort. An upcoming fun run, 5k or 10k might be the thing that gets you off the couch and on the road. You might be surprised to see how good it feels to cross the finish line, even in something as low key as a local fun run. Completing a race and crossing the finish line is a truly amazing experience.

For some the goal might be the desire to run a target distance. With the family reunion around the corner I want to get back to running 5 to 6 miles on a consistent basis. I’ve done it before and I want to do it again.

Another goal might be the desire to establish a healthy lifestyle. It might motivate you to commit to six months or a year of running four times a week. Checking off week after week gets pretty compelling because no one wants to break a streak.

Or maybe the goal is simply to hang out with a friend. Running with a buddy four times a week will really give you some quality time and will provide you plenty of opportunities to talk. A running buddy is a great motivator.

It doesn’t matter what goal you aim for, just pick one. Pick a race, a distance, a weight, a habit or a buddy—it doesn’t matter, just pick one.

Get a Buddy

I believe a buddy is a critical factor in developing a regular habit of running. For me this started with Kellie and some of our friends from church. I wouldn’t be running today if it wasn’t for our friends the Duncans. And once we established the habit of running we got to run with all sorts of friends.

Some of those crazy people would make us get out of bed so that we could be running by 5:00 AM (Alma, I’m looking right at you)! Yes, a running buddy helps get you up in the morning. They may not come and shake you out of bed but the knowledge that they’re waiting for you to show up will help motivate you when running doesn’t sound like much fun. Having a running buddy will also make your long runs less of a solitary experience.

Once you find a friend who will run with you you’ll never want to let them go.

Get After It

Eventually you just need to go running. You can read all sorts of things and talk to all kinds of people but there comes a time when you need to go outside and go running. Get a goal, get a buddy and get after it; go running!

Be prepared that it may not feel all that great the first few times. This is to be expected. Your lungs and legs are being taxed in a way they weren’t before. Even if you’ve been doing other sorts of exercise you will probably be working your muscles in a new way. Don’t be discouraged if it feels like work; they call it a workout for a reason. You’re building muscles and things will get better.

When you start running don’t feel bad about walking along the way. If you start with a 2 mile route and you end up walking half the time don’t get discouraged. Stick with it, stay consistent and it won’t be long before you can run the whole thing. So, feel free to walk but diligently work towards running the entire route.

One Last Thing

No matter how long you’ve been running your longest distance will always be hard. If you only run 2 miles, those 2 miles will always be hard. If, however, you add in some 3 and 4 mile runs the 2 milers will start feeling easy. It’s nice to have a regular distance but you’ll need to throw in some long runs if you want to improve. Try adding one longer run to your week and I think you’ll notice the benefit.

Next Time

In the next post I’ll talk about finding the right shoes, the right gear, monitoring your progress and a few other things I’ve learned along the way. For now, find something that motivates you, a friend who will run with you and get after it.

And, as always, if you have a tip that got you off the couch or a question of some sort leave a comment and let me know.

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Hot Potato

Tonight I’m writing about a new subject: the world’s best baked potato. I know, I know, it’s not the normal high-brow subject matter you’ve come to love from dykast.us but you’ll thank me come dinner time. Trust me, once you’ve had the baked potato I’m about to describe you’ll never go back.

Admittedly, most of us don’t think twice about the humble baked potato, in part because they’re pretty bland. The baked potato is like the bass player of the dinner rock band. It quietly grounds the meal, providing a consistent starch tone throughout. The main protein (steak, salmon, whatever) gets the attention like a big haired lead singer. (The other veggies are like gross groupies that won’t get the hint that they’re not actually wanted around.)

Sweet hair

But I’m going to show you how the quiet, reserved bass player can step up and shred a mean solo. In addition to the potato you’re going to need three things: kosher salt, olive oil and minced garlic. Before you start splashing these ingredients around you’re going to need some aluminum foil, enough to wrap up the potato like a lost hiker in a space blanket.

Once you’ve got your foil down and the potato scrubbed, pour the olive over the potato so that it’s fully covered. You don’t need to go crazy but you want the whole potato to be wet so that the other ingredients will stick to it.

Now you want to blast the potato with the kosher salt. This is the secret ingredient and you don’t want to skimp on this one. Kosher salt is to a potato what spandex and hairspray are to an 80s rocker. With your potato nicely salted add a little minced garlic and wrap the whole thing in the aluminum foil.

Tasty potato

The oven should be set to 425 degrees and you’ll want to cook the potato for about an hour and a half or until it’s slightly soft when you squeeze it. You may find it helpful to place the wrapped potato on a tray while cooking because sometimes some of the olive oil will sneak out of the foil.

That’s all there is to it. These simple ingredients take the modest baked potato and turn it into a stand out rocker. And once you’ve had one of these bad boys you’ll never go back. Bon Appétit.

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Hello, and welcome to my little blog! What started out as a blog to show some of my scrapbook pages ended up being a blog that shows all of my projects, ranging from scrapbooking to decorating to sewing to photography. I also run a little online shop called every jot & tittle where I sell handmade paper products. Take a look and leave me a comment to say hi! (Photo by Heather Smith.)

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