Tag Archives: Running

Reading on the Run: Audiobooks to Inspire You

Scene from a running trail in Portland, Maine

Scene from a running trail in Portland, Maine

Check out five audiobooks that will help you unleash your inner champion.

Since two of my favorite loves are reading and running, I was thrilled to write a piece for Runner’s World Zelle on the intersection of those two subjects, specifically audiobooks that will help fire up your running through their tales of trouncing self-imposed limitations, journeying from everywoman to athlete on the world stage, and more. Of course, I’ve included my beloved What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. (Incidentally, his first two novels, which were previously impossible to get in English, have been recently released as Wind/Pinball.)

Be sure to check out Five Running-Themed Audiobooks to Inspire for my other recommendations.

Note: The Will Smith quote has been truncated. For the full version, search “Will Smith on running and reading.”


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Filed under Health/Wellness, Inspiration, Running, Writing/Books

Running Love, Audrey Hepburn’s Healthy Living Secrets, and the Empathetic Brain

Running love

Every relationship—whether you’re talking friends, family, or romantic partner—takes attention and a bit of work. That’s even (or especially?) true when you’re talking about your relationship with exercise. On that note, this week I’m over at Runner’s World/Zelle, where I offer ideas for falling (and staying) in love with running, but I suspect the broad strokes of the ideas could apply to a number of passions. Check it out!

More link love:

Audrey Hepburn was an icon of class, beauty, and style, so it’s perhaps not surprising that she brought that grace to healthy living and food as well. Her son has just published a cookbook At Home with Audrey, and in an interview he talks about her very well-rounded and holistic approach to life, including her emphasis on drinking water, her flexitarian and seasonal approach to eating, and her once-a-month detox day. (Of course she was ahead of the curve!) See it here.

A new study found differences in the brains of people who respond emotionally to other’s feelings (like those moved to tears by witnessing others’ pain), compared with those who have more rational (or cognitive) empathy, such as a clinical psychologist counseling a client. It makes perfect sense that there are different kinds of empathy and that those types light up different parts of the brain, and I can see this finding having a number of ramifications. As just one example, one would imagine that helping professionals do far better with a hefty dose of cognitive empathy versus the emotional kind. (Can’t get much done if you’re crying along with your patients, right?) I’ve personally never heard empathy broken down into subcategories and it’s definitely given me things to think about. See the study here.

Reading that study made me think about discussions of how reading fiction cultivates empathy. Not long ago, I saw the historical fiction writer Erika Robuck during her book tour for the lovely The House of Hawthorne, who said something along the lines of: “A history book can help you see a battle, but fiction can put you in characters’ shoes and makes you feel what they’re feeling.” Her words are backed up by a study that finds not all reading is equal, empathy development-wise. Not surprising, literary fiction—as compared with genre or nonfiction—was the winner for boosting readers’ ability to their ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions. See the study here.

How do you keep your workouts fresh? Where are you on the empathy continuum? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?


Filed under Health/Wellness, Inspiration, Running, Writing/Books

20 Inspirational Quotes to Fire You Up for Running—or Life

Running along the snowy Charles River in Cambridge_2014-01-18_by Bill Damon

Has winter chilled your enthusiasm? These wise words from athletes, authors, thinkers, and leaders just might help you rekindle your commitment to your goals.

On motivation

‘Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.” Steven Pressfield

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not
to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is
against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” –George Sheehan

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you.  Criticize me, and I may not like you.  Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.  Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” William Arthur Ward

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” Unknown

“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Susan Jeffers

On setbacks

“Pain is necessary, suffering is optional.” –Haruki Murakami

“The biggest mistake an athlete can make is to be afraid of making one.” L. Ron Hubbard

“So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.” Steven Pressfield

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” –Napoleon Hill

“Most of all, the ultra distance leaves you alone with your thoughts to an excruciating extent. Whatever song you have in your head had better be a good one. Whatever story you are telling yourself had better be a story about going on. There is no room for negativity. The reason most people quit has nothing to do with their body.” –Scott Jurek

“As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” –Steve Maraboli

On inspiration

“The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost

“Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be.” Joyce Carol Oates

“The reward of running—of anything—lies within us. We focus on something external to motivate us, but we need to remember that it’s process of reaching for that prize, not the prize itself, that can bring us peace and joy.” Scott Jurek

“The most beautiful motion is that which accomplishes the greatest results with the least amount of effort.” Plato

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” Margaret Lee Runbeck

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” Unknown

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” –Andre Gide

“Having a true faith is the most difficult thing in the world. Many will try to take it from you.” –Steve Prefontaine

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” –George Sheehan


Have a great weekend everyone, and let me know your favorite quote if you have one! I’d love to hear.

Photo credit: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. Some rights reserved by Bill Damon. (This photo originally posted at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/billdamon/12016479684/in/photolist-jiRALd-iHW8DU-jiRfeR/)


Filed under Health/Wellness, Inspiration, Running

Diary of a Reluctant Run


For the second day in a row, the sky is gray. I look up from my desk and out the window. There’s a sense of stillness to the air, even though I can see the raindrops hitting the ground. Maybe it’s just my own brain that’s still. Still like a stagnating pond.

As a runner who has battled multiple setbacks over the last few years, both external (e.g., injuries) and internal (e.g., resistance), I sometimes feel like I’m in perpetual start-over mode, and what was once habit can now sometimes require seismic energy. I know it would help to get up and get some fresh air and move my body. I know this, because it always does. But I can’t. I even have good “reasons”:

  • I don’t have time.
  • I’m busy with work, and even though my mind is not generating anything great as I sit here (or really anything) parked at my desk for what feels like the umpteenth hour in a row, I—see reason above—don’t have time.
  • It’s raining.
  • I feel sluggish, and I don’t want to warm up, and if I don’t warm up, I really shouldn’t run, since I’ve been trying to be much better about the warm-up thing.
  • I read we might be getting a thunderstorm. That doesn’t seem to be the case now. But hey, best to be on the safe side right?
  • I don’t really feel like it.
  • Besides, lunch sounds better than running.
  • It’s probably best just not to go.

I go anyway. I force myself out of my seat, put on my layers and my Garmin, don my shoes, and get myself out the door before I can change my mind.

Almost immediately, the rain soaks through my shoes and everything else not covered by water-resistant material—yep, it’s wet out here all right—but what is also instantaneous is that I feel more awake and alive, and I’m so glad I’ve come out. I look around and my eyes take in what’s left of the orange leaves, the stragglers. They are so beautiful, and we won’t have them for much longer. A short time later, I am running past the grade school near where I live. The playground looks abandoned, and I think about being a kid and that jump-out-of-my-skin feeling I had on rainy days when we were stuck inside. Ugh, all that sitting. I take a deep breath as I run past and revel in my big-girl freedom.

On my run, I’m nearly the only pedestrian, save for one man in a heavy rain slicker who’s walking his dog, and later a woman doing the same. She is shivering against the cold, as she has braved the rain without the right kind of jacket to repel the water.

As I run, the rain beats against my body, and my feet beat against the ground, and I am propelled forward in a way that changes the day’s trajectory. I no longer feel like a Walking Dead extra after doing yet another take of a single filler scene. Instead, my brain fires with creative thoughts about how to tackle the writing project I’d been working on, as well as other projects that I hadn’t even been thinking about just a little while ago. By the time I return home, I’m soaking wet, but I’m full of fresh air and fresh ideas. I’m excited to get back to my desk and put my thoughts on paper.

There are things I do that I think, “I probably shouldn’t have just done that.” Running though?

Never one of those things.


Filed under Inspiration, Running

Glute Strengthener, A Playlist Fit for Rocky, Oiselle Fashion Show, and More

Walden Pond

View from trail at Walden Pond during fall

This week, temperatures dropped and I saw telltale signs of fall—a smattering of yellow and orange leaves amongst the lush green, a sparkle to the air as if you’re looking through diamond glasses, vivid blue skies, and pink and orange sunsets. At this time of the year, I feel as if I could run forever. (Though fyi: emphasis on the word ‘feel.’) Fall is a great time for running, and it seems like there’s lots of exciting news and developments around it. So, I thought this week I would put together a bit of link love for things that grabbed my attention.

First up, Oiselle used only real athletes in their fashion show, which grabbed the attention of the New York Times.


The new Runner’s World hit newsstands and doorsteps, and, Wow! I love the fresher and edgier redesign. I always thought the covers turned something really exciting into something, well, kind of staid. So it’s nice to see some movement and life reflected. Plus, how about those vegan socks! Also, I loved the passion with which Sons of Anarchy’s Theo Rossi spoke of running.

Karla Bruning (as usual) has wonderfully motivating posts. Two faves: running mantras and a Philadelphia Marathon playlist.

On a different note, the Apple Watch may have worrisome repercussions for all the other fitness trackers and running watches.

And finally, here’s my new favorite strengthening exercise: Marching bridge. It’s from a series of strengthening exercises taken from the book Build Your Running Body.




Filed under Inspiration, Running

5 Exercises Every Runner Needs to Do Right

Photo by: Lululemon Athletica, available through the Creative Commons

Photo by: Lululemon Athletica, available through the Creative Commons

Clamshells, side plank, standing straight leg raise, single-limb squat, and lunges are key exercises for runners. Find out why they’re important and whether you’re doing them correctly.

Many of the essential exercises we do as runners can seem so familiar that we go through the motions mindlessly. Yet, doing an exercise incorrectly means that you’re not getting the benefit of that exercise, and it can also set you up for injury. Moreover, many seemingly basic exercises actually require subtle attention to form in order to do correctly. In particular, exercises like clamshells and lunges are really easy to do wrong. When doing clamshells, it’s easy to roll the pelvis back as you lift your knee. In a standing leg raise, it’s common to lean to one side. And with lunges, many people’s knee comes too far forward of the toe.

Such mistakes are the subject of the Runner’s World video “Rehab the Right Way.” In it, physical therapist Craig Souders takes Articles Editor Katie Neitz through five essential exercises—clamshells, side plank, standing straight leg raise, single-limb squat, and lunges—first demonstrating common mistakes then showing the correct way to do each exercise.

The exercises build strength in the hip/butt area (and in particular, the gluteus medius), which is why these exercises are so key. For most of us, the groups of muscles that form hip/butt area is one of the weakest areas of our body. That’s not surprising considering most of us spend a large part of the day in full rest-mode with our backsides fused to our chair. Yet having strong hips and gluteal muscles is essential for runners, and some believe that especially true of gluteus medius. In the article “Gluteus Medius: Weak Buttocks Ruin the Runner,” on Sports Injury Bulletin, physiotherapist Sean Fyfe writes:

The gluteus medius should be considered in every running injury. So many athletes with running overuse injuries of the lower limb present with poor gluteus medius function that I have come to the view that the strength and function of this muscle is probably the most important active component in the achievement of a biomechanically efficient running technique. This is not so surprising when you consider that during running you are always either completely in the air or dynamically balanced on one leg.

The exercises shown in the Runner’s World video, especially clamshells, can also help prevent piriformis syndrome (which is often paired with sciatica). Piriformis syndrome literally feels like a pain deep in the butt. And like many running injuries, it can be very difficult to get rid of, especially if you’re ramping up on training, like one woman I know right now who is training for the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, she’s dealing with this painful issue at a time when she’d rather be 100% focused on the amazing journey of getting to Hopkinton. In the Triathelete article “Piriformis Syndrome Treatment, Prevention and Exercises,” Dr. Jordan Metzl writes:

Runners, cyclists and rowers are the athletes most at risk for piriformis syndrome. They engage in pure forward movement, which can weaken hip adductors and abductors, the muscles that allow us to open and close our legs. Throw in some weak glutes, and all those poorly conditioned muscles put extra strain on the piriformis. And you’ve got a painful problem.

So take a look at the video, and stay healthy. Let’s think of this as a prehab video, and avoid needing rehab! @Diann_D

Note: The first part of the video contains a lunge to diagnose weakness; the how-to portion starts around 1:30.


Filed under Health/Wellness, Running

The Triumph of a Morning Run


“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years,” old-school LL Cool J sings to me as I increase the speed on the gym treadmill to begin my run.

I’d bought this song during my new-running-music shopping spree at the beginning of the year. And by new, I mean released sometime in the last 100 years but not yet on my iPod, and by spree, I mean my cheap-about-music self plunked down a whole $20 or $30. (It’s not that I don’t love music, I do. But typically my boyfriend has and buys tons, and since we have the same taste for listening music, some of which I can use for running as well, it’s just an area in which I’ve defaulted to scrimping.)

My music-buying was an attempt to help kick-start a personal running renaissance by not just reshuffling the same old stuff I’d been listening to on runs for about the last, oh, seven years, but actually adding to it. I spent quite a bit of time researching which songs to add to my very particular running library, which includes what may seem like a strange cross-section of artists—Radiohead, Tupac Shakur, Chili Peppers, Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, 50 Cent, and Justin Timberlake, to name just a few. I’d googled “best hip hop songs for running” and the same for the alternative category. LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” showed up as popular in the former category and although the beat is slow, it has a certain Rocky-esque, I-can-do-anything vibe that makes it easy to do double time, which I found out firsthand in early January when I took my new-for-me songs on a run. It’s amazing what fresh music can do. I felt enlivened, invigorated, like I could bust out a marathon at a moment’s notice.

Fast forward to late February. That is to say, now. Unfortunately, between being sick twice already, once for a week and this time heading toward three—so basically more than half of 2014—not to mention the spate of snowstorms and sub-freezing days, my running renaissance hasn’t exactly happened yet.

But today’s a new day. The antibiotics have kicked in, my cough is on the way out, and I’ve made it to the gym this fine morning.

Knowing that I was going to the gym, I didn’t sleep well past about 4 a.m., because I kept thinking the alarm would malfunction. Finally, about five minutes before the alarm was set to go off, I rolled out of bed bleary-eyed and as quietly as possible so as not to wake my boyfriend. I headed to the kitchen where I made coffee as my two cats threaded around my legs. I gave them both quick cursory petting to appease, then donned my workout wear, and my outside wear over that.

When I walked outside, I felt so happy. I was getting to the gym before work! I can’t even remember the last time that happened. It was 6:15 a.m., and I didn’t need to be back home until 7:30. My Klean Kanteen was filled with coffee, my brain with visions of a solid 50 to 60 minutes on the treadmill. The morning was silent and gorgeous—the trees still flocked from yesterday’s late afternoon storm, fresh snow hiding the dirty icy mini-mountains piled high at the curbs, the sky streaked with pink as the sun came up. Gorgeous yes, but like a cold but beautiful woman, the eye-appeal hid an iciness. Literally.

Not used to being out so early and thinking it was supposed to be somewhat warmer, I went to my car and found that the doors were frozen solidly shut, they and all the windows cemented with a thick layer of ice. By the time I dealt with all that, warmed up the car, drove to the gym, and then cast off my outside wear, I had exactly 20 minutes on the treadmill, which ordinarily I could easily use just for the warm-up and cool-down, especially when I’m not exactly in “fighting shape.” But as my legs turn over, slow but without having to worry about things like black ice or unshoveled sidewalks, I almost don’t care that I have so little time. It just feels so good to be here. And I know it’s a little thing, tiny really, but I feel proud that I didn’t turn around and head straight for bed and a bit more sleep once I realized I would have so little time.

In terms of running, these last two months have been an unfortunate extension of the last few years as I’ve dealt with one injury after another, and spent more time thinking of myself as a runner than actually being one. Sometimes I feel like running is a metaphoric bad boyfriend who keeps breaking my heart, and I wonder why I keep at it. Maybe I should just cut my losses and take up that unusual-looking sport curling, which seems to be on every time I catch some of the Sochi Olympics. Maybe I should just do yoga, and call it a day. But then I always remember: Oh right, I know why I keep going back to running.

I love it. Deep-in-my-bones true love, plain and simple.

When I can actually do it, it gives so much that makes the effort (and I guess even the necessary and boring-to-me spot strengthening) worthwhile. After a run, I feel like I can conquer the world, not to mention those problems that previously seemed insurmountable. After a run, despite a beet-red face and soaked T-shirt, I feel beautiful and thinner no matter what a camera would show or what the scale actually says. After a run, I’m just happier. The world seems like a kinder place.

I get off the treadmill—I managed to run a whole 1.5 miles between my warm-up and cool-down—and I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror that lines one wall of the gym. Being generous, I look a teensy bit disheveled, exactly like a person who rolled out of bed to squeeze in a quick workout. But that’s on the outside.

“I’m gonna take this itty bitty world by storm,” sang LL Cool J as my blood started pumping and my endorphins kicked in. “And I’m just getting’ warm.”

But the inside. That, now, is a different story.

Rocky image from Wakpaper.com



Filed under Health/Wellness, Inspiration, Running