On Tough Love and Unconditional Support

Silhouette of cyclist with friend motion on sunset background

Every major life change starts with some sort of trigger. Maybe it’s a visit to the doctor or an inability to squeeze into your favorite jeans. Or in the case of Susan Lacke, a conversation with her boss, Carlos.

A boss who became one of her best friends and biggest fans as she went from self-proclaimed couch potato to Ironman and now ultramarathon finisher.

Several years ago, Susan was the original contributor to No Meat Athlete (other than Matt, of course), and through dozens of posts she chronicled not just her fitness journey, but also that epic friendship with the late Carlos Nunez. This week Susan released her new book, Life’s Too Short To Go So F*cking Slow, a tribute to the life-changing support we can give one another.

We’ve asked her to share an example of that support. An example we can all learn from.

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To call Carlos Nunez my “cheerleader” makes me laugh out loud. Case in point: When I proudly finished my first 5K race, I texted him. His response to my finishing time: “45 minutes?! What did you do, skip?”

There was also the time I crashed my bike—it was my first time riding in shoes that clipped to the pedals, and I didn’t quite time the release of my feet correctly. I went down in the gravel, still attached to my bike, and Carlos laughed. (And laughed, and laughed…)

When Carlos, a multiple Ironman finisher, inspired me to sign up for my first Ironman despite never having done a triathlon (a journey I chronicled in the early years of No Meat Athlete), he told me it was the dumbest thing I had ever done. Even the title of my new book, Life’s Too Short To Go So F*cking Slow, is a direct quote from something he huffed just before dropping me on a bike ride where I was dragging ass.

And yet I still maintain that for almost a decade, Carlos Nunez was my cheerleader. The captain of my squad, even.

When most people think of a cheerleader, they think of someone who waves their pom-poms and effuses positivity. Though there’s certainly a time and place for that, that’s not the only way to show your support for someone. The thing I’ve learned about cheerleaders is that it’s not the positivity that matters—it’s the underlying and unconditional belief.

You see, when Carlos gave me grief for my slow 5K, he didn’t do it to mock me, but to get me to sign up for another one. He knew me well enough to know that I’m a deeply competitive person. With the right provocation, I’d not only sign up for another race, I’d go faster just to prove him wrong.

Carlos laughed when I crashed my bike, yes, but that was because I had too much pride to ask him for help understanding my newfangled shoes. After he stopped laughing, he cleaned the gravel out of my scraped knee and let me know that he wouldn’t offer advice when he saw me doing dumb things, but he would always give it if asked. As entertaining as it was when I failed, he wanted to see me succeed.

And he did want to see me succeed. So much, that he rode at my (much-slower-than-his) pace every Sunday morning so that he could coach me to my first 100-mile ride, my first mountain summit, and my first Ironman triathlon. He taught me how to pull a water bottle without stopping, how to change a bike tire, and how to pace myself during a 112-mile bike ride so I could follow it up with a 26.2-mile run.

He didn’t have to do any of those things, and yet he did them. He never once said anything resembling a “rah-rah,” and yet I knew he believed in me unconditionally, even on the days I didn’t believe in myself. If it weren’t for him, I would have quit endurance sports a long time ago.

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50 Lessons Learned from a 50-Day Run Streak

Calendario

Back in May, after two months of almost no exercise, I decided it was time to start running again.

I didn’t have a goal, but I knew I had to get back out there. Running was one in a string of changes I decided to make in my life, having been armed (finally) with the skills of habit change and elated to see one change after another actually sticking.

Starting a running streak wasn’t my intention. But from what I had learned about how the brain forms the grooves that become our habits, it seemed that running every day was a surer way to success than taking even one day off each week.

Besides, I wasn’t training for anything, so what did I have to lose?

Fifty days later, that streak is still going strong. I started small, with just 20 easy minutes each day. Each week, I added 10 minutes to the daily run until it got to 70 minutes, at which point I’ve started to transition to more traditional training (but still running every day).

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12 Monthly Challenges For a Happy and Healthy 2017

Winter running exercise. Runner jogging in snow. Young woman fit

2017 is going to be your best year yet. I just know it.

I know I said that about 2016, and even 2015, and 2014, 2013, and … well, you know. It was true then, and it’s true now. Every year, we get better. We learn from our mistakes and build from our successes, and we emerge stronger for it. This is true for life as it is in running — the more we push ourselves, the more we grow.

In 2016, hundreds of you pushed yourself with our year of running challenges: 12 months, 12 challenges, and 12 ways to grow. You became stronger runners, but you also became stronger people: by completing January’s run streak, you flexed your resilience muscles; in July, you went out of your comfort zone by getting muddy on the trails. You emerged from these 12 challenges happier and healthier.

This year, we’re bringing a whole new set of monthly challenges, designed to help you grow as a runner and as a person. You’ll establish habits that will make you faster runners, yes, but you’ll also face fears and find joy.

Here’s how it works:

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8 Running Workouts to Build Strength and Endurance

Pronto a correre

Note from Matt: It’s officially the holiday season, our Christmas tree is up, and today I’m pleased as punch to publish this expanded, updated version of one of our most popular posts ever … which has nothing whatsoever to do with the holidays. (But for some some holiday hijinks that have nothing whatsoever to do with actionable fitness advice, check out our most recent podcast episode.) 

In this updated post, author Doug Hay has added an eighth running workout to the original seven, expanded on many of the sample workouts and added several more, and included a “Putting It All Together” section — to help you not just read and nod along, but actually put this stuff into action and build a training plan around it.

With that, here’s Doug!

When did running get so complicated?

I ask myself that all the time, usually when frustrated by a tough workout on my training plan or a confusing training concept.

Running is such a simple act — exactly what drew me to it in the first place — until you complicate it with drills, exercises, and complex workouts.

Of course, it probably comes as no surprise that the workouts on your training plan aren’t there just to piss you off. They’re included to help you run stronger, faster, and for longer distances.

Unfortunately that doesn’t make it any less complicated, so today I’m going to break down eight common running workouts, and share examples of how the work, and show you how to structure a well rounded week of training.

The Importance of Variety

Before we start wading through the details, let’s first talk about variety. More specifically, why variety in your training is so important.

There’s a little running phenomenon I like to call “Single Speed Running,” where a runner logs nearly all of his or her miles at the exact same effort. Day after day. That speed is usually around 75 percent of max effort — not fast enough to really make your body work hard and adapt, but too fast to build much endurance or count as a “recovery” run.

Sound familiar?

Chances are it does, since that’s exactly what most runners do.

Not only does Single Speed Running keep you from getting stronger; it also significantly increases the risk of injury: our bodies need variety.

We need uber slow runs just as much as we need Lightning Bolt style sprints. The variety works the cardiovascular system and muscles in different ways, and makes room for both strength-building and recovery.

By understanding the importance of each workout, you’re more likely to begin incorporating a variety into your training, and in return, reaping the benefits.

But first, those workouts need to become less daunting and confusing … the goal of this post.

8 Common Running Workouts, Explained (With Examples)

Below you’ll find a description of eight common running workouts for endurance runners. With each explanation, I’ve also included examples of how to put the workout to use.

Let’s start with the easiest:

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The Real Reasons You Gain Weight While Training for a Marathon (And What You Can Do About It)

blurry picture of runners in a marathon

Most of us equate exercise with some weight loss. Increase the amount of exercise (by committing to something crazy like training for a marathon), and you’re bound to lose weight. Right?

Not necessarily. Even for plant-based athletes.

And maybe more surprisingly, marathon training is probably not the best time to set weight loss goals.

As a dietitian who frequently works with runners, I’ve seen many clients — especially women — put on a few pounds throughout training, and I’ve dealt with signs of it myself while training for anything from a half marathon to ultramarathon.

But why does it happen — and more importantly, what can you do about it?

Well, that depends on your goals …

Important: Now Might Not be the Time to Set Weight Loss Goals

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Yoga for Runners: The Ultimate Guide

yoga-for-runners

Yoga, it’s everywhere.

It’s in our schools. It’s at our gyms. It’s even on NFL football fields.

But is it part of your training?

Yoga has exploded in popularity over the past several years, and yogis of all ages use their practice to gain physical strength, calm their minds, and work through life’s stresses.

As plant-based athletes and runners, yoga can be a major training tool to help both the mind and body, whether you’re training for a goal race or running to stay in shape.

How My Yoga Teacher Wife Changed My Running

Yoga is to my wife Katie as running is to me. It’s her way of staying healthy — both mentally and physically — and her escape from a hard day. It’s her meditation and platform for a good sweat.

And it shapes the way she lives her life. For example the yogic practice of ahimsa — or non-violence to all living things — is one of the main reasons she follows a vegetarian diet (I’m still working on her with that whole vegan thing …).

But when we started dating some six years ago, I didn’t get it.

I mean, I’m a trail runner. I like mud, rocks, and grunting my way up mountains … not group chants, twists, and something called mountain pose (which at the time looked to me like just standing).

Like I said, I didn’t get it.

Then, in an attempt to impress my new girlfriend, I went to a class … and it clicked.

My body felt refreshed and strong, and my mind reset.

It released areas of my body overworked from running, and strengthened many of my neglected muscles. And after a few injuries from recent marathon training cycles, yoga felt like just the tool my training had been missing.

Since that first class, Katie has gone on to become a 500 hour registered yoga teacher (RYT500) with a focus in yoga therapy, which means that every day she uses yoga to help someone work through a physical or mental ailment.

Many of those she teachers are runners, either fighting a recent injury or lingering overuse pain from years of pounding the pavement.

So when I sat down to write this post, I knew I had to tap into her experience and knowledge about using a regular yoga practice for better training. You’ll see her advice sprinkled in throughout the post, along with two classes designed for runners which you can find below.

6 Ways Runners Can Benefit from Yoga

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The Simplest-Ever Guide to Running Your First 50K Ultramarathon

Runner on grassy cliff top trail with sea in background

The biggest fear I hear from coaching clients asking about ultramarathon training is about whether or not they can handle it.

It’s almost as if just adding the word “ultra” before marathon makes it sound too long, too extreme, too … ultra.

But that isn’t the case.

As Matt pointed out many years ago, if you can run a marathon, you can run an ultramarathon. It’s just a matter of setting your mind to it, letting go of fears, and making smart, simple adjustments to your training.

Simple enough that the transition to a 50K ultramarathon doesn’t have to include major training volume increases to time commitments.

Just straightforward adjustments to the type of miles you run.

Why Ultramarathon Training is Different

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but ultramarathons are longer than marathons. Even though a 50K ultramarathon is only 5 miles longer than a marathon, it may take two or more hours longer to complete.

And with added distance come added challenges …

… Slower running and increased time on your feet.

… More intense mental doubts and low points.

… Fueling to keep you energized late in the race.

So when we talk about making adjustments for ultramarathon training, we’re talking about preparing the body — and mind — for the increased distance, hours, and challenges.

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The Vegan’s Guide to Traveling to a Destination Race

people running paris marathon france

This post was written by Doug Hay.

Race week is all about routine.

What you eat, how you taper, and the amount of sleep you get are all calculated and practiced.

When it works, you stick with it, race after race — it’s one less thing to worry about.

But even the best routines get thrown for a loop when your upcoming race requires travel.

I was reminded of this firsthand during a recent trip to Northern California for the Mendocino Coast 50K. My wife and I traveled around the area for a week before the race, sleeping in new beds, eating different foods, and not exactly staying off our feet.

It was a total blast, no doubt, but not ideal the week leading up to a race.

Fortunately, not all hope is lost when traveling to a destination race …

Today’s post is a 4-step guide to taking a smart approach to race travel, and the extra considerations you should take as a vegan.

And it all starts before you ever leave home:

1. Make a List, Check it Twice

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