12 Monthly Running Challenges for Your Strongest Year of Running Ever

Woman jogging down an outdoor trail

This post is written by Doug Hay, from Rock Creek Runner and NMA Radio.

What if I told you that by this time next year, you could be a completely different runner?

You’d either assume I’m some sort evil internet scammer, or want me as your best friend. Well I’m not a scammer…

But it’s true: this time next year, you could in fact be a completely different runner. Over the course of the next 12 months, you can get stronger and faster, build a massive endurance base, and become a smarter, more well-rounded runner.

That sounds pretty good if you ask me.

As a coach, I’m regularly approached by discouraged runners. They’re frustrated from lack of progress and the constant battle against injuries, even after months (or years!) of hard training. What I’ve discovered is that for the most part, all their frustrations stem from the same problem.

It isn’t lack of discipline or motivation — they wouldn’t bother contacting me if they didn’t have at least some motivation. Instead it’s that we runners get so caught up in a grand big picture goal, that we lose sight of the fundamentals. The smaller, daily challenges that craft a strong foundation for improvement and growth.

But that’s where the real progress takes place. And that’s exactly how I want you to focus your next 12 months.

Now here’s the thing … it ain’t easy. If you want quick-fix guarantees or magic pills, you’ve come to the wrong place. You have to do the work, log the miles, and push new boundaries.

But if you want to truly make 2016 the year you really step things up, then stick with me. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be an adventure. And — hopefully — you’re going to challenge yourself in new ways each month.

So, ready to find out what this is all about?

12 Months, 12 Challenges

Running is a complex sport.

On the surface, it looks simple … we’ve run since we were children, and even as adults it requires little more than a pair of shoes (if that). But if you’ve been training for very long, you know there’s a lot more to running well than simply lacing up. Speed requires one skill set, endurance another. A well-balanced runner builds on their foundation through well-balanced training, and regularly challenges herself through variety.

Your route to becoming a well-balanced, stronger runner? 12 months, 12 challenges, 12 unique ways of pushing yourself.

Below I’ve outlined the monthly challenges, which, all put together, can make this your best year of running yet.

Here’s how it works:

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What Happens When You Can’t Run?

runner woman rest on the leaves in park

It was traumatic. It was uncomfortable, painful, and frightening, and Matt loves to bring it up.

Alright fine, maybe — now that’s it’s over — it’s also a little funny.

Of course I’m talking about the groin story we’ve vaguely teased over the past month. Matt has finally convinced me is worth sharing on this podcast.

But while the story might start with the groin (or actually a 50K ultramarathon) it’s about much more than that. The real story is about mindfulness, letting go of pain and discomfort, and how to handle an injury that leaves you unable to run.

That’s the part of this dreadful, embarrassing story we want to share with you today.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The truth about Doug’s groin
  • What we can learn from a terrible case of poison ivy
  • Can mindfulness help with running?
  • Where to put your pain
  • Untangling your happiness from your goals

Click the button below to listen now:

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Michael Greger, MD on How Not to Die


I admit I’ve been a bit behind the curve when it comes to the considerable force that is Dr. Michael Greger, author of the new (and gigantic) book, How Not to Die.

As one has always preferred reading text to watching video, it took me a while to discover what an incredible resource his site, NutritionFacts.org, is. There Greger posts daily videos about nutrition, based heavily on the distilled results of scientific journal articles and watchable in four minutes or less.

But when I watched several of his presentations on last year’s Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise — he gives more than 100 talks per year — I became an instant fan. What I didn’t know then was that he donates all of his speaking fees, doesn’t profit from his website, and gives away all his book royalties, too.

Benevolently, I’m sure, but with the pleasant side effect of preserving his scientific integrity, giving his recommendations that much more weight in my eyes.

Oh, and Dr. Greger is also the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States. No big deal.

I was fortunate to get Dr. Greger to slow down (sort of: he recorded this interview from his treadmill desk, on which he walks 17 miles each day) to record a 40-minute interview for NMA Radio, and it’s my pleasure to share it with you today. It’s one of my favorite episodes to date, and when you listen, you’ll get an immediate sense for Michael’s enthusiasm and benefit from his immensely deep understanding of health and nutrition.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Do we not need “diet” books at all?
  • Why nobody needs to give up their favorite foods
  • When we might starting living forever (it’s sooner than you think)
  • How to deal with conflicting nutrition information on the internet
  • Dr. Greger’s interesting definition of whole foods — and when we can improve on nature’s foods
  • Should Twinkies be on the Paleo diet?
  • Coffee: good for bad?
  • Dr. Greger’s thoughts on oil

Click the button below to listen now:

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How to Make the Most of the Cold Winter Months

Man running in the forest in winter time

You know winter has officially arrived when you contemplate skipping a run altogether because you can’t find your running tights.

That’s what happened to me last week, and I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one impatiently digging through a closet contemplating the cold.

In today’s episode, Matt and I share our survival guide for how to get through the cold winter months. We tackle everything from running in the cold, to indoor exercise options for those that don’t want to brave the elements, to using winter to set the stage for the coming year.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The indoorsman’s guide to running through winter
  • Staying active without leaving your house
  • What does Doug wear in the sauna?
  • Why we should expose ourselves to winter’s elements
  • Indulging in warming comfort foods
  • Using winter to lay your habit foundation

Click the button below to listen now:

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The Chipotle Method: A Simple Formula for Making Healthy, 5-Minute Vegan Meals

salad bar with vegetables in the restaurant

This post is written by Matt Jager from Don’t Lose the Cow.

Ever feel totally overwhelmed by the busyness of modern life?

If you’re anything like me, you know what it’s like to go for weeks at a time with hardly a break, from the time you slap the alarm in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night.

Between the responsibilities of work, kids, running errands, shopping, chopping, cleaning, cooking, and commuting, there just isn’t any time left over.

I’d need at least a 72-hour day to get it all done, have time to cook a healthy meal from scratch, and settle in for the recommended eight hours of sleep each night.

A little dramatic for effect yes, but the truth is that modern life can be downright exhausting. And when life is exhausting, what tends to go out the window first?

That’s right. You. Taking care of yourself. And along with that, taking the time to prepare those healthy foods that you know you should be eating.

But how are we supposed to eat healthy when we are so insanely busy?

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How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

Mother and child at kitchen

If wading through all the conflicting information out there to decide how to feed yourself is hard, making that choice for your children is even more stressful.

You can pay attention to your body and how you feel when you make personal diet decisions. And if by chance you do make a mistake and your health suffers for it, you can handle that your own choices are to blame.

With your kids, though, there’s an added sense of a responsibility, and for me at least, much less tolerance for risk. Diet self-experiments might be fun for me, but when it comes to what my kids eat, I’m not interested in anything that hasn’t been proven.

In this episode of NMA Radio, I interview Karen Ranzi, raw food advocate and author of Creating Healthy Children, which T. Colin Campbell has endorsed as a “most important book … that is must reading.”

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • How I raise my kids as vegans
  • How to interest your kids in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • What parents can do to feel confident in the choice to feed their kids a vegan diet
  • How to deal with outside criticism about how you feed your family
  • Finding a supportive pediatrician
  • Should kids choose this diet, or should we choose it for them?
  • The philosophy of attachment parenting

Click the button below to listen now:

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Protein, with Garth Davis, M.D.


Quick announcement: In case you missed it on Black Friday, the 2015 No Meat Athlete Vegan Fitness bundle is officially live! You can save 85% on 22 great plant-based fitness products, many of them from authors you’ve heard as guests on NMA Radio. But this special bundle deal lasts only until Wednesday morning at 10am EST, so don’t miss it! Get all the details here.

By now, you know that protein isn’t the big deal that most people make it out to be.

But one reason the “Where do get your protein?” question exists, in my observation, is that as vegetarians and vegans we don’t have a simple, concise, and satisfactory answer.

We can talk about how we need much less than most people think, and how protein is in almost everything we eat, but unfortunately, this doesn’t often do much to convince anybody.

But now, thanks to surgeon Garth Davis, M.D., we can hand them a book. Garth is the author of Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It, and it was a pleasure to have him as a guest on No Meat Athlete Radio to talk about all things protein.

(Oh yeah: Garth’s quick answer to the protein question? “Food.”)

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The shortest good answer to “Where do you get your protein?”
  • How much protein we really need each day
  • Why too much protein is unhealthy
  • Do athletes need more protein?
  • How the world became unhealthily obsessed with protein
  • Is there any truth to the advice that you should combine proteins within a meal?
  • How to deal with conflicting information on the web

Click the button below to listen now:

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The Epic Holiday Extravaganza Episode

We’re just two days out from Thanksgiving, which can only mean one thing:

Holiday extravaganza episode! It’s time to break out your cornucopias, Black Friday shopping shoes, Santa hats, and champagne glasses, because we’re tackling the whole holiday season in one (long) episode of NMA Radio.

When Doug and I were planning our podcast schedule for the next few months, several holiday-themed topics popped up on the list. Instead of stringing it out over several weeks, we thought it’d be more fun to cover everything holidays, all in one epic episode.

The episode kicks off with more serious topics like how to handle big non-vegan holiday meals with family and friends, and staying on track with your healthy habits when all those cookies are around.

From there things take a less-serious turn, with our favorite recipe and adult beverage recommendations, a gift guide, and a list of our favorite holiday themed music and movies (ABC Family for the win!).

This is the closest thing the No Meat Athlete team gets to a holiday party, so we’ve made it a good one…

Here’s just some of what we talk about in this episode:

  • Are holidays an excuse to drop all healthy habits?
  • Owning a single habit throughout the holiday season
  • When things get awkward, embrace the joke
  • Why holidays with non-vegan family members get easier over time
  • Matt and Doug’s essential holiday recipes
  • Our go-to beers, wines, and cocktails around Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • The 2015 No Meat Athlete Gift Guide
  • Why it’s not a Christmas in Matt’s house without A.C Slater and Taylor Swift

Click the button below to listen now:

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