The One Word to Ignore

Post written by Susan Lacke.

In the midst of being on the support crew for my friend Carlos’ chemotherapy treatments, I’ve been inundated with a million You should’s:

“You should tell him about this doctor.”
“You should come to bible study/temple/meditation with me.”
“You should read this book.”
“You should teach him about juicing.”
“You should be feeling more (insert emotion here).”
“You should be feeling less (insert emotion here).”
“You should check out this website on alternative cancer treatments.”
“You should go see my therapist.”

Though I appreciate the consideration and concern, whenever I hear a “you should,” I want to tell people what they should do. Hint: it isn’t pleasant…nor anatomically possible.

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Does Your Label Still Fit?

You can run without being a “runner.”  I did it for five years.

Even once I had run a handful of marathons and was close to qualifying for Boston, when I lined up at the start of a race among all these passionate runners, I still felt like an imposter.

I was just a tourist, doing what runners do, but without feeling like I really belonged.

Sometime during the training for my Boston-qualifying race, where I finally succeeded in breaking 3:10:59, something shifted in me.

Shortly after qualifying, when I was in that happy, weirdly cloudlike space you find yourself in after accomplishing something you’ve worked at for so long, I read Born to Run. And damn if I didn’t feel like a runner after that.

For the first time, I could say that I really loved running, not just as a means of staying in shape or for accomplishing goals, but for its own sake.

And so I became a “runner.”  Quotes and all.

Tourist vs. runner

When I was just a tourist, I sometimes took six months off after a marathon before I got motivated to start running again.

But once  became a runner, I always had at least two races on my schedule.  So even when I finished one, there was another there to get me back out on the roads.

When I was just a tourist, I always ran with a purpose.  Speedwork, hill work, tempo run, long run, easy run. I had a goal, and I did whatever I thought was the best way to get there.

But once I became a runner, I would just run.  Run the trail. Run the loop through my neighborhood. Run through town. And usually all at the same easy pace.

When I was just a tourist, I put everything I had into the race I was training for.  Eat right, warm up, foam roll, ramp up your mileage, taper properly.

But once I became a runner, I became too comfortable. “I know I can finish this marathon whether I train hard and eat right or not. I’ll make it through my 12-miler tomorrow; gimme another beer!”

Time to be a tourist

Looking at it that way, it sort of seems like I was a better runner before I was a “runner.” In fact, I’ll bet a few runners just took offense to my abuse of the title.

Having worn that label for a couple years now, I think I’m ready to put my tourist hat back on.

I want to feel free to experiment.  If, say, I want to just swim for three months (and finally learn to go more than eight laps and not look like a wounded duck), I’d like to be able to do that without feeling guilty about not running. Who knows, maybe that’s what it’ll take for me to finally want to do an Ironman.

Or if I want to lift heavy weights and pack on a few pounds, it’ll be a real relief not to worry about how that extra weight might slow me down. And that extra strength might end up making me a stronger trail runner.

So that’s what I’m doing.  Today I’m joining the gym again, and I think I’ll go lift some weights. Maybe tomorrow I’ll swim. Or be the only guy in the cardio-kickboxing class. (Although, if after that I come back and say I’m going to become an MMA fighter, please kick my ass before someone else does for real.)

I’ll still run when I want to. But for a little while at least, I won’t call myself a “runner.” And I am freaking pumped about that.

Does your label still fit?

If you’re a runner or a swimmer or a triathlete, an omnivore or a vegan or a Paleo, or an anything-else-with-a-label, give yourself a little checkup.  Take a step back and make sure that label still fits the person you want to be.

If it does, then think about what it really means, and make sure you’re living it — not just going through the motions.

And if you decide you’d be better without that label, even if just for a little while, then ditch it. It’ll still be there when you’re ready to come back.  And when you’re ready, I bet you’ll come back with more passion than ever.

And you never know — you might just find another label that’s a much better fit.



The Only Healthy Eating Guide You’ll Ever Need

My friend Brian came to me recently with a problem:

“Matt,” he said, “the other day I decided I was going to start eating healthy and get myself in shape. But then when I got to the grocery store, I realized I had no idea where to even start!”

This post is for Brian and anyone else in that same boat.  If you don’t know where to start, start here.

The most important (incredibly simple) rule of healthy eating

A lot of seemingly “extreme” diets work.  But just when you’re tempted to buy into one, you hear about a diet that’s extreme on the other side of the spectrum that also works.

The Paleo diet (and its close relative, Primal) focuses on high-protein, high fat, and lower carbohydrates.  And it’s become huge among athletes, most notably the CrossFit crowd.

But then there’s fruitarianism (also known as “30 bananas a day“), which is 80 percent carbohydrates. And Michael Arnstein, the most visible leader of the movement, just won the Vermont 100-miler.

And of course, there’s “plain old” veganism, which today I’ll call “plant-based,” to remove any moral or ethical connotation. Ultramarathon great Scott Jurek eats what appears to be a pretty traditionally-balanced vegan diet. Then there’s Brendan Brazier, Thrive author and former pro Ironman triathlete, who also eats plant-based, but focuses more on raw and alkaline-forming foods.

How can such wildly differing diets all produce healthy people, elite athletes even?

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The Simple Art of Meditating While You Run

I mentioned last week that I had been dealing with a little bit of runner’s block.  And when you’re fighting runner’s block, you try new things to make running fun.

That’s what led me to the idea of meditating while you run.

While I’m not a Buddhist (or any religion, for that matter), I’ve been intrigued by the teachings of Buddhism and even its Western bastardizations for several years now. The ability to detach from your emotions, the silencing of the chatter in your mind and access to your creative subconscious, and the compassion for living beings — these are all things I find appealing, even with no overt religious meaning attached.

The connection with veganism is pretty clear.  But it took a conversation with a reader of this site for me to realize how just well meditation jives with running.  And since I’ve started, I’ve really enjoyed it — not just for the new fulfillment I get from running, but also for the sense of presence and calm I feel during the rest of the day.

Meditation without the weirdness

For the longest time, I thought meditation was a New Age or religious thing. But it doesn’t have to be that. I find it helpful just to think of it as a way to relax and play around in your head for a while.

You don’t need special flute music. You don’t need candles. You don’t need to sit with your legs folded and palms up, and you certainly don’t need to make circles with your thumbs and forefingers.

The only thing you need is something to focus on.

That focus might be:

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My Seven Links

As a blogger, I come across a lot of opportunities to play “blogger games.” (Think Hunger Games, only without the oppression and killing.)

For example, bloggers give out “awards” to fellow bloggers, which you’re supposed to post in your sidebar, and then give the award out to a few others, and so on.  Okay, I get it, but not for me.

But earlier this week, my friend Caitlin from Healthy Tipping Point did one that I really enjoyed reading (it’s more a meme than a game).  It’s called My 7 Links, and the point is simply to call attention to one post in each of seven specified categories.

Caitlin nominated me to be next, and since we’ve gotten a lot of new readers around here recently (including 13,000 fans on Facebook!), I thought it’d be a good way to highlight some of my favorite posts in the two-year history of this site.

Here goes…

Most popular post

63 Ways to Shake Up Your Running Routine.  This also happens to be the post that took me the longest to write, about eight hours.  But that work was rewarded when it went crazy on Stumbleupon, and to date it’s been viewed 133,374 times.

Most beautiful post

Beautiful??  Maybe this is why I don’t do these things very often…

Luckily, we have Susan for that.  Her post On Refusing to Settle and the Incredible Power of Denial, in which she reveals her disability and utter refusal to allow it to limit her life, is as beautiful as they come.  (Susan recently did an inspiring interview on the Badass Project where she talks more about it, so check that out.)

Of the ones I’ve written, I’ll go with An Open Letter to My Unborn Baby.  But as far as “beauty” goes, well, it was written by a dude, so don’t expect much.

Most controversial post

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How I Make Almond Butter, Juices, and Smoothies (and Your Chance to Win a Blendtec High-Speed Blender)

“$475 for a blender?  Does it do the dishes, too?”

When my wife first started pushing for us to get a high-powered blender, I just didn’t see how any blender could justify that kind of price (even if it could blend a golf ball).

But when I asked a few readers of this site what they thought of theirs, I was shocked when the responses ranged from “best investment you’ll ever make” to “I can’t believe you’re so into health food and don’t own one!”

So, I caved.  In what just might be our least romantic Christmas ever, my wife and I bought a Blendtec Total Blender as our gift to each other, as a sign of our undying love and commitment to blending excellence.

Well, it turns out that it doesn’t do the dishes (although it does clean itself pretty well).  But it does pretty much everything else… juice, smoothies, nut butter, nut milk, dough, ice cream, dips, sauces, even hot soup.

To demonstrate, I put together some videos to show you just a few of the basic things it does.

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The Thing that Keeps You From Doing Great Things

Somewhere inside your head, my head, and everyone else’s head is a traitor.  Meet the Resistance.

The job of the Resistance is to keep you where you are.  Because where you are is safe, and it’s pretty tough to fail when you’re standing still.

What the Resistance looks like

  • When you stare, paralyzed, at the signup page for your first marathon, telling yourself that the jump from 13.1 to 26.2 is just too great, that’s the Resistance.
  • When instead of just choosing a race, you research it to death until you finally decide on doing nothing, that’s the Resistance.
  • When you want to stop eating animals or putting junk in your body, but all you can hear are reasons why you can’t — your family, your work schedule, your friends — that’s the Resistance.
  • When you give in to the craving and eat the junk, that’s not the Resistance.  But when you bought the junk at the store because you knew you’d be craving it, that was the Resistance, doing its best to keep you the way you are.

It’s easy to recognize the Resistance when it shows up as fear.  It’s a lot harder when it’s in disguise.

Have you ever noticed that when you finally sit down (or stand up) to do something that’s important to you, that’s when every distraction in the world shows up?

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No Meat Athlete at Badwater Ultramarathon!

Meredith Murphy, No Meat Athlete sponsored runner in Badwater 2011

135 miles.

Through Death Valley.

In July, when the temperatures reach well over 120 degrees.

The road gets so hot that runners, who appear almost other-worldly in white suits to protect themselves from the sun, often have to run on the white painted line, just to avoid melting their shoes.

It’s enough to make even a hardcore runner ask, Why?  But to the 90 or so runners who get in to the Badwater Ultramarathon each year — making it through a competitive application process — the “why” is precisely those factors which have earned Badwater the title of “world’s toughest footrace.”

No Meat Athlete sponsored runner, Meredith Murphy

About an hour ago, Meredith Murphy, a vegetarian from Pennsylvania who runs a holistic health center, lined up at the start and began Badwater 2011.  Meredith has run several 100-milers before, but this is her first attempt at Badwater.

After seeing a message about NMA shirts on Facebook, Meredith mentioned to me that she’d like to represent No Meat Athlete at the race, and I happily obliged.  So I’m proud to announce that Meredith’s crew and van will be decked out in No Meat Athlete gear, and Meredith herself will likely wear the running carrot shirt as one of several changes of clothes (I couldn’t convince her that a full-body carrot costume would actually keep her cool, by blocking the sun’s rays).

Meredith won’t be the first vegetarian to run Badwater — ultrarunning superstar Scott Jurek famously won the legendary race twice as a vegan, holding the course record for a few years with his finish time of just over 24 hours.  But I’m thrilled that the No Meat Athlete logo will provide a highly-visible reminder, to those that see it, that you can do some pretty awesome stuff on a plant-based diet.

You can track Meredith’s progress as well as that of the other runners by following the live webcast.  Runners have 48 hours to complete the race, so keep checking back through Wednesday morning to see how Meredith is doing.  (Her time at each checkpoint will ultimately be posted here, but I’m not sure how frequently these individual reports will be updated.)

Once the race is over and Meredith is recovered, you know I’ll be bugging her to write a race recap for us.  At the very least, expect some photos to be posted soon.

And as a P.S., keep an eye on another runner, David Ploskonka.  He’s a friend of mine from high school and an incredible runner who did amazingly well at Badwater last year, finishing 17th in his first time running the race.

Oh, and last thing!  A brand new order of No Meat Athlete shirts came in last week (just in the nick of time, actually, for me to drive two hours to get them in the hands of the last of Meredith’s crew members to fly out to the race).  So you if you’ve been waiting to get one while they’ve been out of stock over the past month, now’s your chance!