Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Today is the last day of the year so a good day to talk about resolutions. I've been thinking about change a lot recently and something I realized is how set we can become on even the most trivial things. For example, if you always eat cereal for breakfast it can feel heretical to do anything else; however, upon further reflection you may realize that there is no compelling reason to only eat cereal.

Or there is a compelling reason, rather: habit. Compelling, maybe, but not justified. And I think this propensity comes from the structure of the brain, because as you do a certain task over and over, your brain builds new neural pathways that enable you to continue to do that same activity. So changing those pathways, rebuilding, renewing them takes deliberate, focused effort.

But we all have things about ourselves and our lives that we'd like to retool, big and small. But if change is so hard what is the biggest chance of success?

Change in the smallest possible way

If you want to start lifting weights but are afraid of the effort or pain, then decide to do the simplest, shortest set of exercises that are still meaningful, and decide to do them once a week.

"But where is your sense of adventure?" you might be thinking. Such meager goals can seem a little cowardly, unless they are taken in the right context. That small step can be the first of a long series of goals that will eventually lead to greatness. Running three miles every day can lead to five which can lead to 10 and then 20. This in turn can be part of a plan to finish your first marathon, which in and of itself can be a preparation to a triathlon that is helping you get to an ultra-marathon in the mountains of Peru (I don't know if such a race exists but I hope it does. If not then maybe someday I can start it.)

Do you see how small decisions can form the foundations of grand, sweeping, majestic life plans? This is how they balance, the mundane and the magnificent. So that's my hope for each of you, that your life means something to you, that you are each pursing something important, something that matters.

Maybe someday?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Health Triangle

I know this looks like something from an old 7th grade text book, but I definitely made this myself.

I'm just finishing the semester and as usual I'm finding myself starting to fray at the edges-too much work, stress, not enough of everything else. Sometimes you have to purposely allow things to get out of balance to finish something really important, but it takes a toll on your body. So it made me think about the relationship between rest, diet, and activity and how closely tied they are because each piece affects the other two.

Sleeping-> Exercise

When you don't get enough sleep it saps your energy and dulls your reflexes. Not only are you going to be less motivated to work out, it makes moving around unpleasant and even harmful if you constantly push your body without letting it get the recovering you need from sleep.

Sleeping-> Eating

I've been working late nights and so I'm always hungry when I get home from work at 2 AM but don't have time to make a good dinner, so I often just stop at McDonalds (I love the mal-beouf but it's easy to over-do it.)

Eating-> Exercise

If you don't eat enough or eat the wrong kinds of foods you feel heavy and lethargic when you head out for a run.

Eating-> Sleeping

I can't fall asleep at night if I am hungry-better to have a late night snack and get the z's you need.

Exercise-> Eating

When you recognize that the purpose of eating is to fuel your body instead of to cure boredom or deal with stress or to please your senses then it changes how and when you eat. I can't tell you how many times I've rethought my lunch because I knew that I had a really important workout later in the afternoon.

Exercise-> Sleeping

If you wear yourself out during the day falling asleep at night will be as easy as laying your head on the pillow (I think that the sedentary upper-middle class lifestyle is the cause of our cultural dependence on sleeping pills.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Running News: "new" girl wins marathon

As you might have seen on Flotrack Becky Wade just won the California International Marathon with a time of 2:30, which is apparently the 5th fastest time this year by an American woman. You can see an interview with her about it here:

I had never heard about her so I decided to do some research: she ran Track and XC for Rice, she competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials for the steeplechase, and she just returned from a year long study of running cultures around the world.

Yeah, that last one caught my attention too. Apparently it's called the Watson Fellowship, and it's an award where you can construct your own research project where you can go wherever you feel like and do whatever you want. Great gig, right?

As a blogger I thought, "Man, that would be a killer adventure to blog about" and sure enough I found Becky Runs Away, where she started last July and wrote about her entire experience. She went to 22 different countries so I can't wait to see what she experienced. Usually the post-college world trip always comes across as aimless and self-indulgent, but hers had a focused, academic purpose so this seems like something substantial.

It's especially interesting because if her purpose was to learn how to become a championship runner her win at the CIM is a good indication that it was a success. A lot of athletes get burned out in college so maybe the time away from the high-level competition allowed her to recharge and come back with renewed energy. Or maybe she found something special on her odyssey. I'm going to start her blog from the beginning and try to see for myself.