grand canyon

While brag­ging isn’t the main rea­son you get out­side and push your­self, you can’t deny it feels pret­ty good rev­el­ing in your accom­plish­ments to close friends and fam­i­ly (or any­one that will lis­ten). All across the coun­try, the nat­ur­al land­scape con­fig­ures some per­fect phys­i­cal chal­lenges that could leave you bruised, bush­whacked and pos­si­bly regret­ting once boast­ful intentions.


grand canyonHik­ing: Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, Grand Canyon Nation­al Park
Going from Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) involves just over 40 miles of trekking, with sig­nif­i­cant ele­va­tion change along the way. Typ­i­cal­ly start­ing on the south rim, day hik­ers can take either the South Kaibab Trail or Bright Angel Trail down into the canyon where they con­verge at the Phan­tom Ranch Ranger Sta­tion. From there, the North Kaibab trail gets you to the north rim, where you then can repeat the whole process to get back to the start.

Obtain­ing this sought-after adven­ture achieve­ment should only be done with a deep under­stand­ing of your own phys­i­cal abil­i­ties and fac­tors like ele­va­tion, expo­sure, and dehy­dra­tion. Per­mits are not required if you can do it with­out spend­ing the night, but it is heav­i­ly advised to con­tact the Park Ser­vice to be sure you’re not only abid­ing by park rules, but also so you’re account­ed for as you make your way on this ambi­tious adventure.


Appalachian trailHik­ing: The Triple Crown of Hiking
While com­plet­ing any one of the three most promi­nent long-dis­tance Nation­al Scenic Hik­ing Trails (the Appalachi­an Trail, the Con­ti­nen­tal Divide Trail, the Pacif­ic Crest Trail), is wor­thy of some brag­ging rights, to real­ly get the most boast­ing for your buck, com­plete all three and obtain the cov­et­ed Triple Crown of Hik­ing. Each trail takes a few months to com­plete on their own, mean­ing that to obtain the Triple Crown you’re look­ing at near­ly a year and a half of liv­ing and trav­el­ing by trail.

While that does sound pret­ty nice in respect to nor­mal day jobs and oth­er respon­si­bil­i­ties, it is no easy task com­plet­ing the ardu­ous jour­ney of one long-dis­tance hike, let alone three of them. While there’s an unof­fi­cial aspect of sim­ply claim­ing to have com­plet­ed the Triple Crown, the Amer­i­can Long Dis­tance Hik­ing Asso­ci­a­tion (West) can offi­cial­ly com­mem­o­rate the expe­ri­ence with a plaque and per­son­al­ized poster to serve as a sym­bol and visu­al brag­ging cue for your achievement.


leadville 100Bik­ing: Com­plet­ing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, Colorado
The Leadville Trail 100 MTB is an awe-inspir­ing endurance event that tests the best adven­ture ath­letes across the world. Tak­ing place exclu­sive­ly in the Rocky Moun­tains of Col­orado and the San Isabel Nation­al For­est, the Leadville 100 MTB starts above 10,000 feet and climbs a total of 12,000+ feet with­in the out and back course. The only thing that makes the it a lit­tle eas­i­er is the amaz­ing Rocky Moun­tain view that lines the entire way—plus the extreme­ly grat­i­fy­ing feel­ing of cross­ing the fin­ish line after a gru­el­ing 100 miles. For those with­out moun­tain bikes, the coun­ter­part Leadville Trail 100 Run is an equal­ly arse-kick­ing adven­ture worth brag­ging about.


birkieSki­ing: Cross-Coun­try Ski­ing the Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er, Wisconsin
Serv­ing as North America’s largest cross-coun­try ski race, the Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er tra­vers­es 55 kilo­me­ters from Hay­ward to Cable, Wis­con­sin, pass­ing by much the of the scenic wood­lands and win­ter beau­ty that define this Mid­west­ern State. The Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er is a well-orga­nized and high­ly antic­i­pat­ed event that occurs each Feb­ru­ary. Despite the com­mon bone-chill­ing tem­per­a­tures, thou­sands of peo­ple show up each year to watch and par­tic­i­pate in the race. But just because a lot of ath­letes show up to the start­ing line, it doesn’t mean that the Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er is an easy task to accom­plish; expe­ri­ence with snow trav­el and win­ter endurance will be key to com­plet­ing the Birkie in a safe and rea­son­able time frame.


horseshoe hellRock Climb­ing: 24 Hours of Horse­shoe Hell, Arkansas
No bet­ter exam­ple of climb­ing cama­raderie can be found out­side of the 24 Hours of Horse­shoe Hell at the Horse­shoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas, not to men­tion it being one of the most dif­fi­cult rock climb­ing chal­lenges found in the country.

Horse­shoe Canyon Ranch is a sand­stone mec­ca of sport climb­ing routes for all lev­els of climber, and each Sep­tem­ber hun­dreds of climbers grab their gear and head to this pre­miere des­ti­na­tion for the chal­lenge that is 24 Hour of Horse­shoe Hell. Dur­ing this annu­al event and four-day cel­e­bra­tion, teams of two have 24 hours to clean­ly ascend the most routes they can. If you hap­pen to win this con­test, you sure­ly have rea­son to brag, but even just par­tic­i­pat­ing is an extreme accom­plish­ment worth hav­ing some­one buy you a beer.


cherry creekKayak­ing: Cher­ry Creek, California
The waters of the Upper Cher­ry Creek in Cal­i­for­nia, in prox­im­i­ty to Yosemite Nation­al Park and Tuolumne City, are not suit­ed for first-time boaters. The rapids and dan­gers of this Class V+ water sys­tem is noth­ing to mess around in with­out the prop­er expe­ri­ence. Serv­ing as a trib­u­tary for the Tuolumne Riv­er, Cher­ry Creek is trig­gered by snowmelt and is reg­u­lat­ed by a near­by pow­er­house and reser­voirs to make this quick-mov­ing water acces­si­ble, with most runs tak­ing place between mid-July and into the fall.

To make the 8‑mile run safe­ly down Cher­ry Creek, you need to have a per­fect­ed roll, expe­ri­ence pick­ing lines, and ide­al­ly some­one to give you some beta on the water. Com­mer­cial out­fits and guides do run the riv­er as well, which can give you a lit­tle extra help obtain­ing per­mits and orga­niz­ing shut­tles, as well as some­one with expe­ri­ence to lead the way. Once you’ve crushed this Cal­i­for­nia creek in the Sier­ras though, and you could be ready for just about any pad­dle chal­lenge out there.


denaliMoun­taineer­ing: Sum­mit­ing Denali, Alaska
For­mer­ly known as Mount McKin­ley, Denali is the high­est peak in North Amer­i­ca stand­ing at just over 20,000 feet. The first offi­cial ascent of the moun­tain occurred in 1913, but it wasn’t until 1953 when the West But­tress route opened up did this moun­tain become acces­si­ble to more people.

These days if you want to tack­le the typ­i­cal 17 to 21 days it takes to get up and down the moun­tain, you are wel­come to either go at as a pri­vate expe­di­tion with the cor­rect per­mits, or uti­lize a guide ser­vice that can help with some of the logis­tics. Either route you choose, it takes a healthy com­bi­na­tion of expe­ri­ence, sta­mi­na and men­tal for­ti­tude to even con­sid­er Denali a viable option. Climb­ing Denali deserves its brag­ging rights for good reason.

 

green exercise

green exerciseOut­door trends don’t often start in the halls of uni­ver­si­ties. Instead, they tend to be born in places like a bike junkie’s work­shop in Marin Coun­ty (where the first moun­tain bike was cob­bled togeth­er) or in the trunk of a car in Yosemite Val­ley (where Yvon Chouinard sold home­made gear that rev­o­lu­tion­ized climbing.)

How­ev­er, the next big out­door exer­cise trend orig­i­nat­ed in peer-reviewed stud­ies and aca­d­e­m­ic papers—from Oxford, Yale, Stan­ford, and MIT—full of data and graphs and med­ical ter­mi­nol­o­gy. It’s called “Green Exercise.”

Get Health­i­er and Hap­pi­er Outside
For years, we’ve been told to hit the gym for both gen­er­al health and to cross-train for ski­ing, bik­ing, or surf­ing, in effort to to off­set the mus­cle imbal­ances. But acad­e­mia is now telling us the gym isn’t near­ly as good as bring­ing the gym outside.

Phys­i­ol­o­gists at Oxford and Yale took a group of sub­jects and had them do a work­out at the gym. Then they moved the gym equip­ment to a nat­ur­al set­ting and had them do the same work­out. Researchers mea­sured indi­ca­tors of mito­chon­dr­i­al decay (the cel­lu­lar process respon­si­ble for aging) and found that the out­door work­outs bet­ter fought decay. The Stan­ford study had two groups of peo­ple walk briskly through two envi­ron­ments while mea­sur­ing their brain activ­i­ty: one through a nat­ur­al area, anoth­er through down­town Palo Alto. The park group showed more signs of cre­ativ­i­ty and relax­ation; the down­town group showed more brain activ­i­ty linked to stress and depression.

Nature is in our DNA
Researchers hes­i­tate when they’re asked why exer­cise in a nat­ur­al set­ting is bet­ter, because the research has yet to iso­late par­tic­u­lar mech­a­nisms. But Har­vard biol­o­gist Edward Wil­son sug­gest­ed that the inter­est in nature is hard-wired into our genet­ic code. Our DNA is housed in our mito­chon­dria, the part of cells that best react to exer­cise out­doors. The proof isn’t nailed down yet, but it stands to rea­son that the DNA-cen­tric part of our cells is going to be hap­pi­est in the sounds, smells, and views that resem­ble where it evolved.

Doc­tors Rec­om­mend Out­door Fitness
As uni­ver­si­ties and research hos­pi­tals take note, we may soon see major shifts in the out­door indus­try. Port­land, Ore­gon has a pilot pro­gram called PlayRx that teams up doc­tors with the parks depart­ment. Docs and phys­i­cal ther­a­pists, in addi­tion to mak­ing stan­dard med­ical pre­scrip­tions, can give peo­ple trail maps and show them where they can work­out out­doors. Parks have devel­oped “nature play” areas where kids can run around and jump on logs rather than arti­fi­cial mon­key bars.

On the Trail
As the health ben­e­fits of out­door exer­cise become more main­stream, we’ll see changes in out­door sports. Trail run­ning is stag­ing a resur­gence. You’ll see more cov­ered places to do tra­di­tion­al work­outs among fresh air and trees, a com­mon prac­tice in South Korea. Expect more portable work­out gear we can use out­side. Peo­ple stop­ping in the mid­dle of a hike to do push-ups and planks will become the norm. Fit­bits, heart-rate mon­i­tors, and apps used for out­door cross-train­ing will become more popular.

©istockphoto/HalfpointMarathon rac­ing has become some­thing of an epi­dem­ic across the world as of late, with for­mer couch pota­toes and sea­soned ath­letes alike com­pet­ing for glory.
If you’re look­ing for a chal­lenge, then con­sid­er con­quer­ing what the lazi­est run­ners out there won’t even touch: extreme win­ter rac­ing. Here are a few of the most epic, and ardu­ous, win­ter races in the world.

Alas­ka Moun­tain Wilder­ness Clas­sic | Some­where in the Alaskan Wilderness
The Alas­ka Moun­tain Wilder­ness Clas­sic tra­vers­es rough­ly 150 miles across our country’s most rugged land­scape. Run­ners typ­i­cal­ly flank the north­ern foothills of the Alas­ka Range past the awe-inspir­ing peaks of Mount Hayes and Mof­fit, though there’s not a pre­scribed route accord­ing to race orga­niz­ers. Glac­i­er cross­ings, sub-zero lakes and unpre­dictable weath­er are just some of the chal­lenges fac­ing com­peti­tors look­ing to win this race. If you’re not the run­ning type, it also makes for a great mul­ti-day back­pack­ing trip.

Idi­tar­od Trail Invi­ta­tion­al | Knik Lake, Alaska
The Idi­tar­od Trail Invi­ta­tion­al fol­lows the orig­i­nal route of the Idi­tar­od Trail—and is not for the faint of heart. This ultra marathon com­bines foot rac­ing, fat bik­ing, and ski­ing across 350 miles of one of the world’s fiercest cli­mates. If you’re tough enough to sur­vive the frozen tun­dra once, you’ll qual­i­fy for the 1000-mile race. It begins in Knik, Alas­ka and cross­es over the Alas­ka Range into McGrath.

6633 Arc­tic Ultra | Yukon Ter­ri­to­ry, Canada
Imag­ine rac­ing 350 miles non­stop across an icy, snowy land­scape while pulling a sled full of sup­plies behind you as you go. That’s what you get when you tack­le the 6633 Arc­tic Ultra. Now enter­ing its ninth year, this arc­tic endeav­or pits win­ter dare­dev­ils against one anoth­er from the Cana­di­an vil­lage of Inu­vik along the Ice Road to Tuk­toy­ak­tuk. If you can’t hack the dis­tance, they offer a short­er ver­sion that stops after 120 miles.

The Last Desert | Antarctica
In case you think a race with the word “desert” in the title wouldn’t qual­i­fy a win­ter endeav­or, the Last Desert actu­al­ly takes place in Antarc­ti­ca. It’s the final leg of the infa­mous 4 Deserts series that tack­les the Gobi, Ata­ca­ma, and Sahara deserts. In order to com­pete you have to have suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed at least two of the pre­vi­ous events. If you qual­i­fy you’ll find your­self engaged in a mulit-day race across a polar land­scape with min­i­mal equip­ment. The race route is cho­sen based on ter­rain, dif­fi­cul­ty, and views, so you’re def­i­nite­ly in for a treat.

Baikal Ice Marathon | Siberia, Russia
The Baikal Ice Marathon near Irkut­sk, Rus­sia might not be the tough­est race on the list, but it cer­tain­ly is unique. Part of the annu­al Baikal “Win­te­ri­a­da” fes­ti­val, the race takes run­ners across the frozen sur­face of the world’s deep­est fresh­wa­ter lake. With sur­faces rang­ing from snow to slip­pery ice as smooth as a hock­ey rink, run­ning across the ter­rain is tricky and only for the extreme­ly sure-foot­ed. The land­scape is bar­ren and the wind strong, so main­tain­ing your focus and com­plet­ing the race is high­ly depen­dent upon sheer willpow­er and strength of mind.

snow run

snow runFor the casu­al run­ner, mounds of snow pil­ing up on the ground is a cue to pack up the shoes and take the sea­son off—but real ath­letes see this time a year as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to up their game. If you’re not sure how to man­age the extra resis­tance that comes with run­ning in snow here are a few exer­cis­es that’ll help you con­quer the white stuff.

Stair­mas­ter
It sounds sil­ly, but one of the gym’s most basic machines is a great tool to help you build endurance and strength in your legs. If you can tack­le the end­less upward ascent of the Stair­mas­ter, then you’ll eas­i­ly be able to sur­mount the snow. Spend at least 30 min­utes a day on one of these beasts before win­ter tru­ly sets in and you’ll find your­self primed and ready to run through a blizzard.

Lunges
Ham­strings are one of the runner’s biggest assets and they need to be pumped reg­u­lar­ly if you’re going to learn how to run in the tough­est of cir­cum­stances. The slow, for­ward motion of the lunge actu­al­ly mim­ics mov­ing in snow some­what. If you can pro­pel your­self for­ward from such a low posi­tion with­out tir­ing quick­ly than you’ll be apt to do the same in a few inch­es of snow.

Moun­tain Climbers
This one might sound too obvi­ous, but to up your game and help you run in the snow, incor­po­rate moun­tain climbers into your dai­ly exer­cise regime. These nifty moves help blast your quads and pre­pare you for the resis­tance you’ll face run­ning both uphill and in win­try con­di­tions. The burst of ener­gy required to com­plete each move­ment is sim­i­lar to what it takes to force your body for­ward when run­ning in deep snow, so use it to help you fight back against obstacles.

Floor Glute-Ham Raise
Glute-ham rais­es are one of the most effec­tive exer­cis­es when it comes to cre­at­ing seri­ous pow­er in your ham­strings and butt. You’ll need that strength to run against the extra resis­tance of snow, so try adding some into your next work­out. The ben­e­fit of the floor glute-ham raise is that it doesn’t require equip­ment and can be done at home.

How to: Start on your knees with your tor­so straight up, then slow­ly low­er your upper body down onto your hands with­out bend­ing your hips. Then push back up. Most peo­ple need help with these the first few tries.

Bul­gar­i­an Split Squats
Bul­gar­i­an Split Squats are a pow­er­house move that works sim­i­lar­ly to a lunge but require much more effort and strength. Adding them to your exer­cise rou­tine can help you build not only epic leg mus­cles but also upper body strength.

How to: They’re basi­cal­ly lunges that occur while you’re stand­ing in one spot, with one foot placed behind you on a bench and the oth­er in front. Slow­ly bend your leg for­ward like you would with a squat, stretch, then return to the start­ing posi­tion. Adding weights can help anni­hi­late your legs and back muscles.

What dri­ves us to the moun­tains? To the trails? To wilder­ness? These are the ques­tions Anton Krupic­ka asks. As he says, “We can nev­er have enough of nature,” quot­ing Thore­au. This video is all about tak­ing to the trail to expe­ri­ence what it real­ly means to be human, to get back to the pri­mal nature of our exis­tence, and ulti­mate­ly to expe­ri­ence nature first hand. Fol­low Krupic­ka as he races over 100 miles through the moun­tains while reflect­ing on what com­pels us to these nat­ur­al spaces.

 

©istockphoto/nullplusSum­mer is just start­ing, which means most of us are ready to get back into an out­door rou­tine. Even for the “all sea­sons” out­door enthu­si­ast, this is still a time of tran­si­tion and jump­ing back into sum­mer activ­i­ties can be chal­leng­ing. So, if you’re ready to brush off the dust and hit the trail, here are a few tips.

Check Your Shoes
Run­ning shoes are gen­er­al­ly good for about 8 months of reg­u­lar wear. If you played hard last sum­mer your shoes may not be per­form­ing opti­mal­ly, in which case it’s prob­a­bly time for a new pair. For those pur­su­ing mul­ti­ple activ­i­ties, opt for a shoe that can take you wher­ev­er you go.

Bring Your Gear to Work
For nine to fivers espe­cial­ly, it’s easy to rush home to the couch and spend the evening loung­ing. To boost your chances of get­ting your after­noon out­door activ­i­ty in, pack a bag with what you’ll need and bring it with you to work so you can change and go right the trail­head or park.

Get a Partner
Chances are you’re not the only one look­ing to get back in the swing of things. Enlist a friend to team up and get back out. You’ll moti­vate each oth­er and the added pres­sure of mak­ing your work­out a social event, means you’re more like­ly to fol­low through.

Go In the Morning
While it might not be real­is­tic to forge out on a 10-mile morn­ing hike, it’s prob­a­bly pos­si­ble to get a short trail run in before break­fast. Take advan­tage of the ear­li­er day­light hours and get out­side first thing. While giv­ing up an extra 30 min­utes of shut-eye is no easy feat, you’ll thank your­self lat­er in the day when you’ve already got­ten out. The trick with ear­ly morn­ing activ­i­ty is to start before your brain knows what’s happening.

Play with Your Pup
If you spent the cold­er sea­sons hiber­nat­ing, your fur­ry friend prob­a­bly did too. Tak­ing your dog out for a hike or run is a sure way to get you both back into it. He will thank you—and prob­a­bly be less mis­chie­vous after a bout of out­door activity.

Pick a New Trail
Feel­ing burnt out on the same trails you roamed last year? Branch out a lit­tle and explore some­thing new. A new set­ting, a dif­fer­ent trail, or an unseen view might be just what you need to get back into your sum­mer rou­tine. Be sure to stay safe by choos­ing types of ter­rain you’re used to and let­ting some­one know where you’ll be. Once you’ve cov­ered that have at it and take the road less traveled.

Get Caf­feinat­ed
Feel­ing too tired to get out­side? Try down­ing a cup of cof­fee 30–60 min­utes before your activ­i­ty. Stud­ies show this amount of caf­feine boosts per­for­mance and it’ll like­ly help you muster the ener­gy to get start­ed. If you tend to engage in activ­i­ty in the evening opt for less caf­feine or none at all if you’re par­tic­u­lar­ly sen­si­tive as it can affect your sleep schedule.

Join a Run­ning Group
Often found on social net­works or via a sim­ple Google search, local run­ning groups are a great way to get out­side. The added ben­e­fit of orga­nized group runs means more rou­tine and more moti­va­tion to get out.

Explore a New Activity
Maybe this is the year you final­ly start kayak­ing, pick up moun­tain bik­ing, or try out­door rock climb­ing. What­ev­er your new activ­i­ty is, it’s sure to get you back into the out­doors and enjoy­ing your summer.

Make a Plan
Some might be rid­ing the guilt of all that “Net­flix and chill” this win­ter. If that sounds like you, don’t fret or let it bog you down. Make a plan to get start­ed and employ some of these oth­er tips. Write it out if you have to, but start by des­ig­nat­ing sev­er­al days a week as your days to get out. Before you know it, you’ll be hit­ting your sum­mer activ­i­ties like you nev­er stopped.

10 Types of Runners

Some time before or after choos­ing the right race, you need to know what type of run­ner you are. The options are end­less and com­bi­na­tions do occur. Use this help­ful list to start under­stand­ing what type or run­ner you are and your run­ning rou­tine will great­ly improve.

1219067221. Audio-book Endurance Run­ner
Are your thighs sore and are you well-read in the col­lec­tion of George Orwell? The long-dis­tance, many-pages, endurance run­ner enjoys the sto­ries that good books pro­vide, but can’t sit idle long enough to soak in the scenery. If you fan­cy your­self a mul­ti­tasker and a book-worm, strap on those run­ning shoes and plug in those ear­phones; the sto­ry goes as long as you do. 

2. Speed Queen/King
Hel­lo fin­ish line. If you get off on being the first to cross it, with miles of peo­ple behind you and your legs scream­ing for mer­cy, you may be a speed Queen or King. With a steady desire and phys­i­cal prop­er­ties sim­i­lar to an ante­lope, the only glimpse you want oth­ers to have of you is the back of your sneakers.

3. Silent Med­i­ta­tor
Whether you run to get away from it all or to be a part of some­thing big­ger, if you’re lost in a peace­ful patch of thought while run­ning, you may be the silent med­i­ta­tive type of run­ner. No need to bring the head­phones when you have a deep inner-psy­che to explore. 

1688271724. Map­per
If you use any GPS track­ing sys­tems such as Map My Run, Nike +, or Garmin Fore­run­ner, you might be a map­per. You might also be able to look up how far and at what pace you ran last week, last month, or maybe the past two years. You are the per­son to look for when search­ing for good routes and clas­sic runs.

5. Trail­blaz­er
Rocks, roots, and run­ning water; it’s all part of the game. The trail­blaz­er has light­ning-fast foot reflex­es and ankles filled with lit­tle cuts and leafy abra­sions. Hav­ing fun in the mud, the trail­blaz­er does­n’t mind get­ting a lit­tle dirty as they cross creeks and jump pud­dles. If this is you, just remem­ber to wipe off before get­ting into the car.

6. Bare­foot Enthu­si­asts
You feel your body is best in tune when it’s run­ning naturally—without the hin­drance of shoes. No rub­ber tech­nol­o­gy or insole ergonom­ics can replace a nice, clean foot­fall. And you prob­a­bly have the calf mus­cles (and cal­lus­es) to prove it. Go ahead, get run­ning, feel that earth below your feet, and watch out for all patch­es of poi­son ivy. 

1670802187. Portable D.J.
Pump up the tracks and make it some­thing upbeat. You have a sound­track for epic uphills and anoth­er for marathon pur­suits. You’re a run­ning radio sta­tion. You most like­ly have a well main­tained music col­lec­tion and been caught doing karaoke on your long runs. 

8. Munchie-Munch­er
Are you well-versed in the lat­est Clif Bar selec­tion? Would you win a blind taste test of dif­fer­ent ener­gy-gels? Do you con­sid­er your post-race food choice the most impor­tant deci­sion of your day? You under­stand the anal­o­gy of  your body being a machine, and that machines run best on the best fuel source.

9. Ele­va­tion Junkie
If you enjoy start­ing and end­ing your run with a gnarly uphill you might be a chron­ic ele­va­tion con­queror. You search for that sting in your thighs, the chal­lenge at hand, and that accom­plish­ment of mak­ing it to the top. The only down­side, or upside, is that one hill is nev­er enough; there are always big­ger climbs to bag. 

10. Escaped Con­vict
I don’t know how you got your­self into this posi­tion, but if you’re an escaped con­vict you’re prob­a­bly wear­ing clothes that don’t belong to you, you are pos­si­bly imped­ed by the shack­les between your legs, and you may hear dogs in the back­ground. In any case, you bet­ter keep running. 

          

When run­ners talk about train­ing for extreme dis­tances, there are a few top­ics that always come up: how many miles a week they’re putting in, what injuries or obsta­cles are they fac­ing as the race nears (run­ners tend to be a bit on the neu­rot­ic side, so there is always some­thing that they’ll squeeze into this cat­e­go­ry), and who they have assem­bled for a sup­port crew. That last one is one of the scari­est aspects of long-dis­tance run­ning, because it’s an exter­nal ele­ment that the run­ner can’t con­trol. It’s also what the run­ner depends on to get them to the fin­ish line no mat­ter what.

scFirst off, let’s clar­i­fy that the term ‘sup­port crew’ can vary large­ly depend­ing on the event. A sup­port crew can range from your sig­nif­i­cant oth­er who feels oblig­at­ed to meet you at a turn-around point on your 20-mil­er to exchange your water bot­tles with fresh ones, to a few friends each run­ning a leg of the race along­side you to help pace and offer words of encour­age­ment when need­ed, to a van full of peo­ple sup­port­ing dif­fer­ent aspects of your race, includ­ing pac­ers, nutri­tion­ists, and medics. Sup­port crews are most often used in races longer than a marathon, usu­al­ly called ultramarathons.

Being on a sup­port crew is a fun way to expe­ri­ence the world of extreme dis­tances with­out hav­ing to put in thou­sands of train­ing miles, blood, sweat, tears (and, hon­est­ly, a fair amount of oth­er bod­i­ly secre­tions). Mem­bers of sup­port crews are won­der­ful peo­ple that give up an entire day or week­end of their time to help a friend accom­plish a great goal. Although few run­ners would ever dare offer a com­plaint about their sup­port crew, there are cer­tain­ly a few point­ers a run­ner would great­ly appre­ci­ate all mem­bers of their crew hav­ing been told by some­one else.

erKnow your runner’s moti­va­tions
Everyone’s per­son­al fire is stoked a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly. Be sure to have a cou­ple con­ver­sa­tions with your run­ner to know what moti­vates them best when they are hit­ting their wall. Do they want to know their pace? Do they like the ‘tough love’ coach­ing approach? Do they want you to talk about their fam­i­ly? Is there a spe­cif­ic life event that spurred their desire to fin­ish this race? Do they want you just run next to them quietly?

Car­ry a vari­ety of food and liq­uid
Your run­ner will most like­ly know exact­ly what they want to eat and drink (what­ev­er they’ve been using dur­ing their train­ing), which should def­i­nite­ly be your pri­or­i­ty, but throw in a few extra salt packs, GUs, Cliff bars, chia seeds, and some NUUN tablets as well. If your run­ner hits a wall that seems insur­mount­able and is real­ly threat­en­ing their race, per­haps a slight­ly dif­fer­ent nutri­tion punch will be just the extra boost they need. This adds a bit more weight to your load, but at the end of the day, that’s what you’re there for.

Lis­ten to your run­ner
Although you are there to encour­age your run­ner to go far­ther and hard­er than they think they can, this does not mean push­ing them to the point of injury. Lis­ten care­ful­ly to your runner’s com­ments to deter­mine if they are mere­ly hit­ting a nor­mal low or if they are tru­ly on the verge of seri­ous ill­ness or injury.

waFinal­ly, avoid the fol­low­ing phras­es
“You’re almost there,” “Keep run­ning,” and “Look­ing good!” Although said with only the best of inten­tions, these phrased do lit­tle but annoy run­ners on the move by point­ing out the obvi­ous with­out any use­ful tips on how to over­come the pure exhaus­tion they are like­ly feeling.

Instead, offer more spe­cif­ic encour­age­ment
Such as how many miles until the next water stop – or to the next tree, or curve in the road, or rock…it doesn’t real­ly mat­ter. Giv­ing them a short-term goal to focus on can remove the over­whelm­ing feel­ing of the rest of the race still loom­ing before them. Also, phras­es such as “Look­ing strong” or “look­ing focused,” work bet­ter than the gener­ic “look­ing good,” because even if you’re lying, words like ‘strong’ and ‘focused’ help remind a run­ner where they want (and need) their mind­set to be if it’s not already there.

Vol­un­teer­ing your time to be on a sup­port crew is a won­der­ful thing to do that would bring tears of appre­ci­a­tion to most runner’s eyes. It’s also a fun and unique way to expe­ri­ence extreme races with­out end­ing up walk­ing fun­ny for the next few days.

running-in-the-heat-featuredAs spring turns to sum­mer and the weath­er con­tin­ues to heat up, the climb­ing tem­per­a­ture might start to cramp your run­ning style. Heat and run­ning aren’t exact­ly the best of friends; the hot­ter the run, the high­er the chance of severe dehy­dra­tion and heat exhaus­tion. While you def­i­nite­ly shouldn’t take the high temps light­ly, there’s no need to let scorch­ing sum­mer days ruin your runs.

Here are some tips to keep you on your feet this summer:

1. Run early
The best time to run in order to beat the heat on a hot day is just before or as the sun is ris­ing. Depend­ing on where you are, of course, it should still be rel­a­tive­ly cool out­side (com­pared to how hot it might get dur­ing the day, any­way), mak­ing for the most opti­mal run­ning con­di­tions you’ll get all day. That hav­ing been said, if get­ting up ear­ly just isn’t prac­ti­cal for you, then head out just after the sun has set. Avoid run­ning between 10am and 4pm espe­cial­ly if it’s sun­ny, humid and extreme­ly hot outside.

2. Less is more
When the weath­er gets hot, you’re going to want to wear as lit­tle as you can. So strip down to what­ev­er you feel com­fort­able in, so long as it’s still a legal amount of cloth­ing, of course. Also, be sure to wear light-col­ored, loose-fit­ting, mois­ture-wick­ing clothing.

3. Stay hydrated
The typ­i­cal rule of thumb when run­ning in high­er than ide­al tem­per­a­tures is to be sure to drink about 6 ounces of liq­uid for every 15 min­utes of run­ning. So either car­ry water with you and make sure there are enough places to replen­ish your sup­ply or plan your route some­where with water foun­tains along the way. And if you’re run­ning a pret­ty long dis­tance, weigh your­self before the run and then again after—then drink at least a glass of water for every pound lost.

4. Pro­tect your skin and eyes
Be sure to slather on the sun­screen (with an SPF of at least 15) to pro­tect your skin from harm­ful rays, but make sure it’s a kind made to with­stand sweat. The last thing you want (besides a sun­burn, of course) is your sun­screen to drip into your eyes or just dis­si­pate as you sweat. And be sure to either wear some sort of visor or hat to shield your eyes or wear some good UVA/U­VB-fil­ter­ing sunglasses.

5. Think shade
When plan­ning your route, try to choose an area with either tall trees or build­ings to pro­vide some relief from direct sun­shine. The shade will both help your per­for­mance and feel a lot nicer.

6. Slow down
You’re not going to be able to run at full speed in warmer weath­er, espe­cial­ly if it’s also humid. It’s just not going to hap­pen. So cut your body some slack and slow your pace a bit to com­pen­sate for the fact that you’re not going to be able to go at 100 per­cent. And hey, take a short break if you need to.

Most Inspiring Long Distance Running Books

rbEvery runner’s moti­va­tion wanes some­times. Luck­i­ly, tak­ing a few days off and los­ing your­self in an excel­lent run­ning book can rein­vig­o­rate your moti­va­tion to hit the road or trails like no oth­er. If you’re mus­ter­ing up the gump­tion to step up the dis­tance and look­ing for a lit­tle addi­tion­al moti­va­tion, check out any of the fol­low­ing books and be pre­pared for a new feel­ing — the desire to run all day long.

Born to Run: A Hid­den Tribe, Superath­letes, and The Great­est Race the World Has Nev­er Seen
by Christo­pher McDougall
This book prob­a­bly needs no intro­duc­tion, as it is the most recent run­ning-relat­ed pub­li­ca­tion to hit megas­tar sta­tus, even inspir­ing non-run­ners to give the sport a try. Many peo­ple cred­it the book for start­ing a few recent nation­wide trends in run­ning, name­ly bare­foot run­ning, eat­ing chia seeds as a long run ener­gy source, and the grow­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of ultra­run­ning. Christo­pher McDougall demon­strates exact­ly why he’s an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist by entan­gling his per­son­al expe­ri­ences with his­tor­i­cal and fac­tu­al infor­ma­tion on run­ning, ultra­run­ning, human anato­my, and the Tarahu­ma tribe of Mexico’s Cop­per Canyons into a book that reads like fic­tion. The indi­vid­u­als McDougall describes in his book are such unique and enter­tain­ing char­ac­ters that their real life pop­u­lar­i­ty soared after Born to Run was pub­lished. At worst, you will be high­ly enter­tained and learn a few things about the his­to­ry of run­ning. At best, you’ll find a new lev­el of love and sat­is­fac­tion with run­ning, nev­er think­ing about run­ning the same again.

Pre: The Sto­ry of America’s Great­est Run­ning Leg­end Steve Pro­fontaine
by Tom Jor­dan
In all hon­esty, the spir­it, con­fi­dence, and accom­plish­ments of Steve Pre­fontaine are so impres­sion­able, impres­sive, and inspi­ra­tional all on their own, that it would take a remark­ably poor writer to ruin his sto­ry. This man had none of the tra­di­tion­al phys­i­cal qual­i­ties of a world-class run­ner (he was short, stalky, and unco­or­di­nat­ed), yet his spir­it, dri­ve, and moti­va­tion to excel at run­ning even­tu­al­ly made him an Amer­i­can run­ning leg­end. Although Pre’s sto­ry has a trag­ic end­ing, his actions and words are still inspir­ing new gen­er­a­tions of runners.

Run­ning With the Buf­faloes; A Sea­son Inside with Mark Wet­more, Adam Gouch­er, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado Men’s Cross-Coun­try Team
by Chris Lear
Being a part of a team often encour­ages peo­ple to push a lit­tle hard­er and go a lit­tle fur­ther than they might on their own. Run­ning With the Buf­faloes intro­duces the mem­bers of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Colorado’s cross-coun­try team with such detail and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion that read­ers feel as though they know them per­son­al­ly and are part of the team. Read­ing this book may just make you pull out your high school or col­lege work­out sched­ule (c’mon, we know you saved them) and risk pulling a ham­string to see if you’ve ‘still got it’. Good luck, and remem­ber to stretch!

Once A Run­ner: A Nov­el
by John L. Park­er Jr.
Cap­tur­ing the inten­si­ty and mind­set of a pro­fes­sion­al or world-class run­ner is a chal­lenge for any writer, but Park­er Jr. man­ages to por­tray it per­fect­ly by draw­ing on his own expe­ri­ence as a col­le­giate run­ner. Once A Run­ner focus­es on a fic­tion­al col­lege stu­dent, Quen­ton Cas­sidy, with a seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble goal – run­ning a four-minute mile. At the time Once A Run­ner was first pub­lished, an extreme­ly short list of pro­fes­sion­al ath­letes had ever accom­plished this feat. Even today, more than 50 years after the first sub-four-minute mile was clocked (accom­plished in 1954 by Roger Ban­nis­ter in a time of 3:59.4), break­ing the four-minute mile bar­ri­er is a stan­dard mark­ing excep­tion­al world-class mid­dle dis­tance run­ners. Read­ing about Cassidy’s work­outs is bound to inspire a few extra loops around the track from readers.

Run­ning Through the Wall: Per­son­al Encoun­ters with the Ultra­ma­rathon
by Neal Jami­son
Although many books about ultra­ma­rathon­ing or spe­cif­ic ultra­ma­rathon­ers now exist, and all are inspir­ing in their own way, Run­ning Through the Wall offers sto­ries from 35 dif­fer­ent ultra­run­ners – most of whom are not pro­fes­sion­als. Sto­ries of peo­ple of all ages, phys­i­cal con­di­tions, and expe­ri­ence lev­els, run­ning races that are 50, 100, and some­times more miles long leaves read­ers with no excus­es as to why they couldn’t do it do too.

Hap­py read­ing and hap­py running!

Run­ning is not for the weak-willed. That’s not real­ly news to any­one though, is it? Yet what makes run­ning so appeal­ing to such a diverse group of peo­ple is that you don’t have to be men­tal­ly tough to start. Run­ning will nat­u­ral­ly build that perseverance.

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Gump­tion: shrewd or spir­it­ed ini­tia­tive and resource­ful­ness. Just mak­ing the deci­sion to head down the dusty trail and start call­ing your­self a run­ner takes gump­tion. There are many stereo­types and expec­ta­tions that have been assigned to any­one dubbed a ‘run­ner’. If you’re going to call your­self a run­ner, you have com­mit­ted to actu­al­ly get­ting out there and run­ning a few days a week. This is not too hard the first week when you’re still excit­ed about the new hob­by. But just wait for the next sev­er­al weeks. It becomes hard­er when the nov­el­ty has worn off and you’re sore and tired. If you stick it out though, you will build that gumption.

Ded­i­ca­tion: The qual­i­ty of being com­mit­ted to a pur­pose. The word ‘ded­i­cat­ed’ gets thrown around a lot, but ath­letes tend to under­stand it in its entire­ty more than the aver­age per­son. Train­ing for a marathon, which takes months to years depend­ing on your start­ing fit­ness, will leave you with no doubt about what ded­i­ca­tion means. If you skip a prac­tice, your body will remind you lat­er – and that reminder will prob­a­bly hurt.

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Endurance: The pow­er of with­stand­ing an unpleas­ant or dif­fi­cult process with­out giv­ing way. Run­ning obvi­ous­ly involves a great deal of phys­i­cal endurance. Our bod­ies have lim­its, but run­ners know there are often ways to press those phys­i­cal lim­its a bit fur­ther through endurance. Endurance is also a men­tal attribute. Whether you’re on a 5‑mile loop, an 18-mile train­ing run, or mile 23 of a marathon, you’re going to hit a point where you’re utter­ly exhaust­ed and the only options are to quit (which is not real­ly an option. Every­one knows that.) or keep going. Most run­ners keep going. Run­ning, walk­ing, crawling…it doesn’t mat­ter; for­ward pro­jec­tion is the bot­tom line. That is endurance.

Goal Set­ting: A goal is the des­ti­na­tion of a jour­ney. Goal set­ting is lay­ing out the path that will get you there. Run­ning involves con­stant goal set­ting. Some­times the goals are sim­ple: just get out the door and start jog­ging; make it to the cor­ner before slow­ing down; add half a mile to your long run this week. Oth­er times, the goals are huge: train for your first half marathon; run your first 16-mile train­ing run; com­plete your first full marathon. Goal set­ting is an essen­tial life skill that helps peo­ple build real­is­tic paths towards goals that may seem too far off oth­er­wise. How won­der­ful is it that you can nat­u­ral­ly acquire this skill by stay­ing active and hav­ing fun?

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Con­fi­dence: The feel­ing or belief that one can rely on some­one or some­thing. Every time a run is com­plet­ed, whether it’s a train­ing run or a race, there is a feel­ing of accom­plish­ment award­ed to the run­ner. This feel­ing is large­ly what keeps peo­ple in this sport.

Run­ning is already wide­ly rec­og­nized as a great way to exer­cise your body and keep it healthy. It does a lot more than that, how­ev­er. Run­ning also exer­cis­es your mind, spir­it, and resolve. It builds char­ac­ter through its nat­ur­al chal­lenges and leads you to uncov­er qual­i­ties about your­self that will help you in many oth­er walks.

Women running on a bridge

Vaca­tion means a break from the dai­ly grind, but there’s no rea­son it should also mean a break from run­ning. After all, don’t most run­ners enjoy run­ning? Aren’t vaca­tions about hav­ing a good time? There are actu­al­ly a lot of real­ly great rea­sons to pack your run­ning gear on the next vaca­tion; here’s just a few:

Ease tran­si­tions
Some­times, at the begin­ning of a vaca­tion, it’s hard to get your mind to real­ly let go of work or issues at home. You know the feel­ing, when your shoul­ders are stuck next to your ears because you’re so tense. Then, right about the time you real­ly start unwind­ing and are ready to soak in some vit­a­min D and cul­ture, you’re smacked with the real­i­ty that it’s already time to pack up and return to it all. The tran­si­tion back is usu­al­ly the hard­est, espe­cial­ly if you have guilt over spend­ing any part of your vaca­tion not ful­ly enjoy­ing it. Run­ning on vaca­tion pro­vides a famil­iar way to push ‘reset’ on your mind and ease that tran­si­tion into and out of vaca­tion mode.

Learn your way around
There’s no faster way to learn your way around a new area than to head out for a run in it. You’ll quick­ly mem­o­rize main streets so you can find your way back to wher­ev­er you’re stay­ing, but you’ll also have the unique advan­tage of mov­ing through side streets, cut­ting through areas, and per­haps even find­ing some new paths or trails to check out. If you’re vaca­tion­ing more in a city set­ting, you can try run­ning to some of the sites you want to check out lat­er, so you’ll be able to find them with much less has­sle when you have the whole fam­i­ly along. If you have mul­ti­ple days of vaca­tion, make a point to head in a new direc­tion each day to max­i­mize the area you explore.

awFend off vaca­tion pounds
Eggs Bene­dict? Ice cream sun­dae? Third mar­gari­ta? Bring it on. What’s a vaca­tion with­out a bit of glut­tony? Still, just imag­ine get­ting to enjoy those extra treats with­out hav­ing to deal with the extra ‘vaca­tion poundage’ when you return. Run­ning a few miles each morn­ing before the hoopla begins will help burn some of those extra calo­ries from the night before as well as rev up your metab­o­lism for the day ahead. No one is going to return from vaca­tion and think, “Dang it! Why did I go run­ning? I should have eat­en more!”

Meet the locals
It’s no secret that the locals know the best hang­outs, the best places to shop, and the best restau­rants that are off the beat­en tourist path. The trick, how­ev­er, is meet­ing a local. It doesn’t take a rock­et sci­en­tist to fig­ure out that the odds of meet­ing locals are a hell of a lot bet­ter if you’re on foot than if you’re trapped in a car. Depend­ing on where you’re vaca­tion­ing, there may even be a local run­ning group or club you can join up with one morning.

dftRemem­ber to relax
An unfor­tu­nate side effect of vaca­tion­ing for some peo­ple is that they are so busy try­ing to see and expe­ri­ence every­thing that they for­get to do the most impor­tant thing – relax. Run­ning will offer some­thing famil­iar, com­fort­able, and sooth­ing; a few miles alone with your own mind to reflect on the fun you’ve had and gear up for what’s com­ing next.

Vaca­tion should be a time of fun, relax­ation, and food vibes. In oth­er words, at the end of a vaca­tion, you should have that same feel­ing you get after a great run.

Run­ners are a lit­tle bit crazy; there’s no way around that. There are plen­ty of low­er impact sports out there that don’t include miles and miles on the pave­ment or a trail, sore legs and often-ugly feet. But there’s some­thing mag­i­cal about run­ning; there’s an enthu­si­as­tic opti­mism even when we’re hurt­ing, and one cheer from a spec­ta­tor at a race can break down even the high­est of walls. If that’s not enough to con­vince you to lace up, here are 10 rea­sons to start running:

It’s rel­a­tive­ly cheap.
All you need to run is a good pair of run­ning shoes. Once you have a pair of those, the world is your tread­mill. Go run the trail by the riv­er, or head out to your favorite neigh­bor­hoods for a jog. Grant­ed, races tend to be pret­ty spendy, but if you aren’t enter­ing any then run­ning will remain a real­ly cheap sport.

It’s good for you.
When you run, you don’t just strength­en your legs; you also strength­en your heart and keep your cho­les­terol down. And it’s good for your immune sys­tem. And it increas­es your bone den­si­ty, help­ing you fend off osteo­poro­sis. And it’ll help you lose weight and keep it off.

It’s a great way to explore your city.
Want to head out into the streets and see your city from a dif­fer­ent view­point? Run through it. Chances are you’ll find places you didn’t know were there and you might learn new and bet­ter routes to get around town.

You can run for a cause.
If you do decide to do a race, you’ll get the chance to run for a great cause—since most ben­e­fit char­i­ties. When you run for some­thing you believe in, it def­i­nite­ly helps add some moti­va­tion that’ll keep you going the full distance.

You can do it anywhere.
This is the sport/exercise you can take with you every­where. All you need to do is pack your run­ning shoes. Take a jog on the beach while on vaca­tion, or check out a new city when you’re away on a work trip. Or, you know, head out on a great trail run while on a camp­ing trip.

You can do it anytime.
Despite the time of year and the weath­er, it’s still pos­si­ble to run. Even when it’s snowy and cold, you can either head inside for a tread­mill jog, or bun­dle up and pre­pare to burn even more calo­ries on a great win­ter run.

You’ll increase your stamina.
Run­ning will help increase your sta­mi­na in basi­cal­ly every oth­er phys­i­cal activ­i­ty you do. It’ll make work­outs and oth­er sports a lit­tle bit eas­i­er and more enjoy­able, as well as, ahem, oth­er areas in your life.

You’ll meet new people.
Even if you only ever run solo and nev­er do any races, if you keep a reg­u­lar run­ning sched­ule, chances are you’ll start to see the same faces. This could lead to a future poten­tial run­ning bud­dy, or maybe you’ll just exchange names or smile at each oth­er each day. Either way, there’s def­i­nite­ly extra moti­va­tion in know­ing you’ll get to see some­one famil­iar out there.

You’ll get more energy.
If you run in the morn­ing, you’ll get your­self a nice ener­gy boost that might just last you through the day. But over­all, even one run can help defeat fatigue and fight slug­gish­ness. It’s a nat­ur­al stim­u­lant and bet­ter for you than that fourth cup of coffee.

You’ll feel bet­ter about yourself.
Com­bine all of the above and what do you have? A more inspired, high­er self-esteemed you. You’ll feel proud of the accom­plish­ments in your per­son­al runs, like when you break your own records for your fastest miles, and, if you decide to do races, when you accom­plish your first 5k, 10k, 15k, half-marathon and maybe even marathon.

Run­ning is a very demand­ing sport, both phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly. Although the ben­e­fits often out­weigh the neg­a­tives, some­times you just start feel­ing burnt out and need a lit­tle extra moti­va­tion­al kick to get back in the swing of things. Here are a few ideas to try next time you find your­self feel­ing unin­spired on a run.

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Try a new route
Run­ners, like any­one, get stuck in their rou­tines. Just like peo­ple cycle through the same 12 din­ners for years, run­ners will cycle through their same 3–4 run­ning routes until they could run it in their sleep. No won­der they lose moti­va­tion! It’s impor­tant to keep your mind stim­u­lat­ed while run­ning and give your­self new turns, sights, and mile mark­ers to look for­ward to. If you’re lim­it­ed by where you live, try dri­ving or rid­ing your bike a few miles away on the week­ends and begin­ning a run from a new loca­tion, or have a friend or fam­i­ly mem­ber drop you off a few miles away and run home.

Vol­un­teer at a Race
Although many run­ners sign up and par­tic­i­pate in races, far few­er give back and vol­un­teer. Most races depend heav­i­ly on vol­un­teers, and you’re not like­ly to ever be turned away if you offer your time. Vol­un­teer­ing lets you feel the rush of pos­i­tive ener­gy and enthu­si­asm of races with­out hav­ing to train and run in it. See­ing run­ners of all ages and ath­let­ic abil­i­ties work­ing hard, achiev­ing their goals, and cel­e­brat­ing at the fin­ish line emits an extreme­ly con­ta­gious good feel­ing that is bound to get you excit­ed about your own train­ing once again. Don’t be sur­prised if you find your­self sign­ing up for the same race you just vol­un­teered for.

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Go shop­ping!
Although shop­ping is not always rec­om­mend­ed as the go-to bore­dom buster, few run­ners can deny the remark­able feel­ing a new pair or run­ning shorts or shoes (or, if you’re on a bud­get, just a head­band or fun col­ored shoelaces) can pro­vide. Per­haps all run­ners secret­ly want to believe that new gear might make us faster run­ners, but hon­est­ly, who’s to say it can’t? It’s all about atti­tude, after all.

Read a book about running
There are count­less inspi­ra­tional books on run­ning out there. We are all inspired by dif­fer­ent types of sto­ries, but here are a few to get your list start­ed: Born to Run by Christo­pher McDougall, Ultra­ma­rathon Man: Con­fes­sion of an All-Night Run­ner by Dean Kar­nazes, Eat and Run: My Unlike­ly Jour­ney to Ultra­ma­rathon Great­ness by Scott Jurek, Run­ning Through the Wall: Per­son­al Encoun­ters With the Ultra­ma­rathon by Neal Jami­son and Don Alli­son, or Once A Run­ner (the only nov­el in this list) by John L. Park­er. It would be near­ly impos­si­ble to read any one of these books and not want to get back out there with a fresh­ly inspired perspective.

sdTake a week off
If all else fails, maybe you’re just burnt out men­tal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly. Lis­ten to your body and give it a break. Get some extra rest, catch up on your ‘to do’ list around the house, read a new book, and just relax. It nev­er seems to take run­ners more than a week to start itch­ing and reach­ing for their run­ning shoes again.

Run­ners of all abil­i­ty lev­els expe­ri­ence some moti­va­tion loss at times but, thank­ful­ly, it’s a very fix­able prob­lem. What are your moti­va­tion secrets?

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Why have dogs become our pri­ma­ry ani­mal run­ning part­ners? Sure, it seems sil­ly to try and take your cat for a run, but it must have also seemed sil­ly when the first per­son decid­ed to leash up his canine friend and jog around the neigh­bor­hood — the dog dart­ing back and forth, trip­ping up his mas­ter in the leash. My best guess is that that per­son just couldn’t han­dle the intense­ly sad look on his dog’s face as he laced up his shoes and pre­pared to exer­cise with­out his dog. Any dog own­er knows this sad stare. But we’ve come a long way since that inevitably awk­ward first dog run.

Run­ning with a dog takes some prac­tice – for both you and your dog. Run­ning in a straight line at a steady pace is not what dogs nat­u­ral­ly do. Run­ning with some­thing tug­ging you in var­i­ous direc­tions is not a nat­ur­al feel­ing for peo­ple either. Of course, some hard work and train­ing are nec­es­sary, but run­ning with a dog has some won­der­ful rewards that make it all worth it. Like what?

wedThe per­fect listener.
Find­ing a run­ning part­ner you love is hard enough, but find­ing one that loves you back uncon­di­tion­al­ly, always lis­tens, and nev­er has a com­plaint of their own is damn near impos­si­ble. Dogs trump humans every sin­gle time in the lis­ten­ing depart­ment, as they will nev­er inter­rupt and start shar­ing a sim­i­lar sto­ry of their own to try and relate through empathy.

Adapt­able pacing.
Odds are, your pooch can run a lot faster than you (it helps to have two extra legs) and won’t have a prob­lem keep­ing up with you for a few miles — but also doesn’t judge. Your dog won’t even bat an eye if you need to walk on an uphill, and will only get excit­ed if you throw in some fartleks or oth­er speed work through­out the run.

Moti­va­tion.
Dogs prove that you don’t need words to be a source of encour­age­ment and moti­va­tion. All you need to do is walk by your run­ning shoes on the way to the bath­room, and your dog may start jump­ing around with excite­ment for a poten­tial run. He will con­stant­ly remind you that he likes to run and would like to go on one with you. Right now. See­ing him gulp water and then sack out in the mid­dle of the liv­ing room floor after a good run is at least equiv­a­lent to the sat­is­fac­tion you feel in your own efforts after a run.

njAvail­abil­i­ty.
You don’t have to work your run­ning sched­ule around a partner’s dai­ly com­mit­ments. Your pup is ready to join you every day, any time.

Con­ta­gious excitement.
You’d have to be in one gnarly bad moon to avoid smil­ing when your dog starts his hap­py dance upon real­iz­ing it’s time to run. Whether it involves spin­ning, zip­ping up and down the hall­way, jump­ing on his back legs, fran­tic slob­ber­ing, or fre­quent nos­ing of your run­ning shoes, a dog’s excite­ment over a run helps keep it fun. No mat­ter the age or shape of the dog, if he’s run­ning, his tongue is hang­ing out from a smil­ing mouth and he’s hav­ing a ball look­ing for squir­rels and birds. If we could remem­ber to approach run­ning with that same care­free atti­tude, just enjoy­ing it for the move­ment it is, there would be more run­ners in this world.

Run­ning with a dog may not be for every­one, but if you’re look­ing for an irre­place­able run­ning part­ner, you may want to give your four-legged friend a chance to prove himself.

One of the things new run­ners learn is that run­ning can hurt—and not just the lung-burst­ing, calf-burn­ing sen­sa­tion of the first runs, but the total leg and some­times abdom­i­nal tight­ness the days after. For new and vet­er­an run­ners alike, the tight­ness can lead to some seri­ous injuries if you don’t learn to stretch it out post-run.

For­tu­nate­ly, yoga com­ple­ments your runs nice­ly by both stretch­ing out those tight mus­cles and build­ing strength where you need it. Here are the best yoga pos­es for runners:

But­ter­fly

If you’ve ever tak­en a P.E. class ever, you’re prob­a­bly famil­iar with the But­ter­fly pose. Sit tall on your mat, and put the bot­toms of your feet togeth­er. Inter­lace your fin­gers around your toes and sit up straight, rolling your shoul­ders back and down. If you don’t feel a nice groin stretch already, either bring your feet clos­er in or low­er your knees clos­er to the ground. If you need more, lean for­ward. With every inhale, visu­al­ize the crown of your head reach out to the wall in front of you and with every exhale, sink a lit­tle deep­er and bring your chest clos­er to the ground.

Runner’s Lunge

As the name sug­gests, this pose is great for run­ners. It’ll stretch out your groin and hip flex­ors. Start in a lunge posi­tion with either foot back first. Press through your back heel to straight­en the leg. (Don’t hes­i­tate to let your back knee drop to the ground if you need to.) Your front knee should be over your ankle and your hands on the ground on either side of the front leg. Tuck your tail­bone and raise your heart up with­out mov­ing your hands. And don’t for­get to breathe. Switch up your legs to get the stretch on the oth­er side.

Stand­ing For­ward Bend

Stand up with the out­er edges of your feet par­al­lel (so you’re slight­ly pigeon-toed) and your feet hip’s width dis­tance apart. With a flat back, bend over and let your fin­gers rest on the ground. If your ham­strings are tight, it can be hard to have straight legs; so don’t hes­i­tate to bend your knees. The key is to make sure you’re bend­ing from the hip, rather than round­ing too much. Let your head drop and feel a nice spinal and ham­string stretch.

Dia­mond Pose With Toes Tucked

This one will hurt so remem­ber to breathe. Start by sit­ting on your knees with your shins par­al­lel to each oth­er. Tuck your toes under and sit back on your heels. Rest your hands on your thighs. You will know you’re doing this right when it feels like your toes are scream­ing. Hold for 10 or more breaths to get a nice arch stretch.

Half-Pigeon Pose

Start in a low lunge. Then lay your front leg down so it’s par­al­lel to the front of your mat and bring your back leg down stretch out straight behind you. Sit nice and tall and then slow­ly bend over your front leg—straightening on your inhales and sink­ing on your exhales. You’ll stretch the thighs, groin and your hips. Be sure to do the oth­er side to stay even.

Child’s Pose

Start by sit­ting on your knees with the tops of your feet flat on your mat. Lay over the front of your knees, stretch­ing your arms out. This’ll give you a nice relax­ing pos­ture with a good back stretch. You can also bring your arms behind you on either side for a shoul­der stretch.

Quad Stretch

Begin in a low lunge and bring your back knee to the ground. Then, bend your back knee and reach around to grab the foot, using the same hand as leg. If you want to add a twist, use your oppo­site hand. Hold for sev­er­al breaths, and switch sides. This’ll help loosen up those quadri­ceps while also build­ing bal­anc­ing strength.

Boat

No runner’s yoga prac­tice is com­plete with­out a lit­tle ab work. Sit up straight with your knees and ankles togeth­er, your hands, palms up, by your sides. Lean back, keep­ing a flat back and your stom­ach tight, tail­bone-tucked. And then lift your arms and feet off the ground and straight­en your legs so your body is in a V shape. While this’ll def­i­nite­ly start to work your core, lean­ing back a lit­tle and low­er­ing your legs a lit­tle simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and then crunch­ing back up a few times will help you get that strength your core needs for your hard­er runs.