Running Articles

Below are my Personal Experiences of Running/Exercising, as rewritten and/or modified from my original writings. My experiences have been featured in the past on the website for KURU Footwear, but are not available on their site at this writing.

The First Three Steps
 D.P. Bickerdike


Every journey begins with the first three steps out the door.  Often I will have great epiphanies while running, always great conversation, and many times I will remember the long journey I have taken as I see other runners from various stages in their own journey.  I witness many journeys on one of my favorite running paths: The Rillito River Park, which runs along the dry Rillito Riverbed.  I encounter beginner joggers and elite runners of all ages and backgrounds, attempting to escape the mundane world and work toward their own life goals.

I warm up on the level and wide path of Rillito at a slow pace, remembering my humble beginnings to get back into shape. I was formerly dedicated to various other goals while neglecting to exercise and think of my health in general. I see now that I should have made this a priority much sooner, but I am thankful I finally saw the importance of making my health a priority.  Much like the other athletes I see on this path, I had to commit to taking the first few steps out the door before I could get to the main running course.


Our core screams from our depths for adventure, and we, as noble citizens, sacrifice our core for the benefit of our worldly routines. In my original efforts to begin a new training program, I would often give in to the idea that something else was more important, and this luxury of taking time to exercise was selfish.  Taking those first few steps out the door takes planning, prioritizing, and commitment.


On this Rillito run, I take the first mile to warm up effectively.  I stay under my heart rate threshold, observing the elements and how they are affecting my warm-up. I stop and stretch and admire the great setting for this pathway.  I can choose any distance to run because this pathway stretches for miles. It is offset from the main road, and the air is fresh and clean.
As I stretch I see the elite athletes race by and the beginners walk and jog intermittently. Participating in your own exercise program requires a commitment to making exercise a priority and motivating yourself.
I think back to the crossroads that led me here. A life changing experience catches up to each one of us, forcing us to choose whether or not we will make a true commitment for change: A Major Crossroad in Life.  Change requires planning, dedication, and commitment.


I begin my speed work for this day’s run. I recall the many months it took to slowly build my mileage so I could finally get to this stage. It took patience and consistency to get this far. Had I pushed myself too much or too soon, I would have become injured, a plight that befalls many beginner athletes.  I am reluctant to do the speed work since it is a chore, though I do enjoy the prize at the end of my journey.


Habits and routine help me to follow through with the commitment, whether verbally or by setting an appointment in my planner. I set a goal to alternate fast and slow strides, repeating the process for eight repetitions. Once I begin, I have set my workout in motion, and I follow through.  My emergency pouch, filled with the essentials, races along with me on each stride. Taking the first few steps on the actual run takes commitment to cross that threshold.  I had to be willing to undergo my metamorphosis and take the first few steps.


My feet glide across the path as I pass some runners and as a few bicyclist zoom by.  We share the wide pathway, and there is great courtesy and mutual respect among all athletes on this pathway.  My fastest stride is well under a five-minute-mile pace. I am challenged by my logic to slow down or stop; the intervals are fast.  I push myself to finish the workout I have planned. My legs begin to get heavy. My lungs begin to burn.  I recall early training when I was unable to even run a few steps, having been weighed down by life in general.  By sticking to the program, I became transformed.


On this particular run, I did not have my Soul Mate and running partner, Carmen.  It helps to have a running partner and accountability to the commitment that you make.  Carmen and I run together, encourage each other, and encourage each other’s goals with deep empathy, adding a wonderful balance to our exercise program. 


As I near the end of the intervals, I challenge myself to continue additional but slower intervals for the remaining mile segment. I begin to experience the fringe of the Runner’s High, that elusive panacea that all runners seek.  I flash to thinking that I could have accepted the temptation to skip this workout for other tasks.  I could have relented to lowering the value of this precious time to train. All of my senses are now heightened in my Runner’s High bliss; I am thankful I followed through with my running plan.


I am reminded that the challenge is not about all the potential things that can draw me away from this commitment to exercise. My real Nemesis is not an external force. It is about the internal core choice that I make to commit this program to a high priority. If this were not a priority in my core, I would never have followed through. 


I warm down from my run and enter one of the many parking lot areas designated for all who want to enjoy the Rillito Park pathway. I stretch again on a bench near the bathrooms and drinking fountains (amenities that are available at various points along the path.)  I enjoy the after-effects of my Runner’s High, realizing I am renewed again, revived. I can take this reminder with me back into my worldly routine, knowing that I don’t have to sweat the small details in life.  I am revived once again with perspective: It’s not only about the journey itself, but how I interact along the way that matters.
I achieved my goal for this run.  I completed a fast speed workout after many months of preparation on (arguably) my favorite path to run.  I meet Carmen for lunch and share my statistics for the run. She, as always, is elated, supportive, and encouragingly full of empathy.


Some runs are hard to break away from. When achieving just the right pace, just the right heart rate, I feel like I could run forever.  Reality and commitments gently remind me that I cannot run forever, but I can revisit my enlightenment soon enough. I transition back into my routine, knowing that it is only a matter of time before the next run.  In the meantime, we plan ahead, and I stretch in-between tasks at work.  Achieving a goal is about how one interacts along the journey, and each journey always begins with the first few steps out the door.


Until the next run: Choose a journey, commit to a goal, take the first few steps out the door and enjoy your steps along the way.


“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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Ten Running Tips for Successful Running
D.P. Bickerdike


My original appeal for running was in knowing that all I really needed were basic clothes and a pair of running shoes to go out for a run.  I would put on some old shorts and a shirt, some comfortable socks (sometimes two pairs) and my department store (archaic) basic shoes to begin running.  Times have changed, and so have my feet.  Over the years I have evolved into learning the details that increase the fun and the longevity of running, allowing me to go further. The bottom line is this: Face the challenge to become inspired and follow your passions. It takes mental focus to stick with any program or goal. Here are Ten Tips to Help You Go Further with your exercise goals:


1.  Practice Safety First.  Avoiding injury and danger is essential.  Prepare a complete emergency pouch in advance of your run. Wear the right equipment and take safety precautions. Long before you take the first three steps out of the door you need to address safety issues, and some issues might require some research on your part.  The first and primary safety issue should be getting approval to exercise by a qualified medical expert. Second, in general, prepare for all the items you need for before, during, and after the run for your unique circumstances and conditions.


Beyond approval to exercise, the ideal preparations may specifically include: a.) proper hydration and nutrition at minimum the night  before a run, b.) a good night’s sleep, c.) I.D. in an emergency pouch with emergency contact information, d.) ideal shoes, e.) proper (comfortable) clothing to avoid chafing,  f.) bright clothing/reflective gear or flashlights/headlamp, g.) quality hydration bottles, h.) sun-protective clothing and/or tolerable sunscreen, hats, bandanas, eye protection, warm clothing for colder weather/ matching clothing with weather conditions, i.) stretching, both static and active (pushing the muscles against the stretch), j.) heart rate monitoring, k.) data tracking, l.) emergency phone, m.) route planning, n.) communicating to a relative or friend where you are running, o.) following your coaching plan, p.) listening to your instincts and what your body is telling you, q.) warming-up before a run, r.) having an emergency kit nearby or a smaller version in your emergency pouch, s.) carrying a few dollars for basic emergencies (bus fare or additional carbohydrate purchase, for example), t.) handkerchief/tissues, u.) keep certain items nearby or with you such as anything you may need in relation to a medical condition (sugar replacement, Epi-pen, blood sugar monitor, medical bracelet, etc.), v.) keep at least one ear available to hear traffic, people, animals, etc., w.) add to this list as needed.


2.  Commit to a program or coaching method that challenges you to a higher goal and give it ample time to work.  Whether you decide to coach yourself (by following a general coaching regime) or you choose to have an actual coach who can evaluate your specific needs to design a unique plan based on your data, stick to it.  Any legitimate plan will take a minimum of six weeks before you see the results begin to surface; be patient.  Any questionable plan can show signs of aches and pains (potential injuries) much sooner.  While sore muscles are expected with increased training, be sensitive to bone or tendon pain and be cautious of running too hard or too fast for your level of conditioning.  When you follow a plan and monitor your body’s reactions (and adjust accordingly), you can achieve success.


3. Become “coach-able.” Listen to your aches and pains as well as your endorphin highs.  Any good program will start you out slowly toward achieving any level of conditioning.  Running slower at shorter distances builds the bone and body strength to eventually pile on increased speed work and distance. Be patient: speed and distance will increase.  Laying the foundations and the proper stress on your body at any given level of athleticism is paramount so that the more intense training can occur with the least amount of injuries. Listen to your coach, listen to your body, and follow the plan.


4.  Expand your horizons.  Be up for the challenge. Allow yourself to be tested and stretched beyond your comfortable limits.  Fulfill your sense of adventure.  This is where a good coach can help guide you.  I believe a coach’s real job is to “hold you back” until you are truly strong enough to go to the next level. A great coach knows when you are ready.  While you desire to improve, also seek adventure. Find new places to run and enjoy. Include a picnic at the end of a run. Find a trail with a great view. Take pictures and keep a scrapbook or computer file. Journal your experiences about your expanded adventures.


5.  Identify what your passion is and pursue it.  After trying out new places to run, expand on the ones that you enjoy the most. Find your place, find your passion, find what drives you and inspires you to go out for the next run.  Which run makes you feel the Runner’s High (or even the fringe of it?) Pursue those things that inspire you. Combine your passions (run with friends, take photos, etc.) Journal your progress.


6.  Reassess your Priorities.  Are you in, or are you out?  We are all tempted to compromise, to give in and give up. While injury is a legitimate reason to taper off and rest, you can still maintain aspects of your program while recovering from an injury such as continuing to incorporate stretching, weight lifting (non-injured muscles), diet, hydration, and anything else that can contribute to your recovery. Practice time management.  Set aside time for your training and follow through on whatever level you can accomplish for your circumstances.


7.  Confront your Nemesis and find your Bliss.  We all have that one thing (our Nemesis) that interferes with us being able to follow through with our goals. The bottom line is that your Nemesis is either allowed by you or not, you control the affect on your life.  If you allow it, you give excuses to your Nemesis. In order to conquer it, you have to face the source and establish priorities that line up with your core goals. The true identity of your Nemesis looks back at you in your mirror.  Are you having a conflict? Rewrite the goals in your core and they will take priority over the other things you previously allowed to interfere. This is finding your Bliss and freedom; conquering the things within you that block you from living your success.


8.  Create your version of the Runner’s High.  This is very basic: pursue the kind of training that gives you joy and passion, and keep repeating those things. Combine as many of the things you love into your running program that you can and try to discover new things along the journey.


9.  Inspire yourself. Create reminders about your goals and reasons why you strive to achieve them. Write down your bucket list. Make a vision board.  Remind yourself why you are training.  Keep a photo on your phone of your goal or of a recent achievement and view it often. Create and update your vision board. Add inspirational quotes.  (Growing up, I used to cut out headlines from the newspaper and pieced them together to create inspirational goals as an early version of a vision board.) With today’s technology, taking steps to inspire yourself should be easy to accomplish.


10.  Bask in your success. Reward your mileposts along the way. Appreciate the mile-markers that others achieve and share in their success. Balance the nurturing of your dreams and goals with the reality of your otherwise routine obligations.  Share your success with others.  Inspire others to conquer their Nemesis and find their own version of the Runner’s High.


“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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How to Keep Your Running Skills Sharp During the Off-Season


 D.P. Bickerdike
 
 
Your Nemesis is preventing you from training how you prefer to train. Maybe this is due to seasonal temperatures or maybe your work responsibilities and hours have changed, or possibly something more challenging prevents you from continuing your regular program.  Maybe you are having an “off-season” due to an injury, or maybe you just need a mental break.  We all experience circumstances that initially appear to give a devastating ‘adjustment’ to how we do our daily routines.  Sometimes these adjustments become our daily routine unless we make counter-adjustments in some way. 

Take control of your mindset and reprogram each and every thought to reshape your core grid.  What drives and elite athlete? I suggest it is the deep core that influences one’s mental imagery and permeates every detail and every decision that gets filtered through this internal core grid.  What happens when an elite athlete meets circumstances beyond their control? Say to yourself, “where there is a way, I will find it” and assume there is always a solution. Find that solution.

Some will refuse the notion that intricate details in training have a powerful affect on mental and physical improvement.  You have the right to refuse as well, but I encourage you to take the challenge.  For those of you who need a little encouragement, I will repeatedly offer glimpses into the “core grid template” that I have always used.  I am fully aware that: “Every Detail Counts!” The details you develop can apply toward training in any given state of your “off-season.”

After having completed a successful Cross Country season years ago, I had a tough break. Literally, I broke my leg (fibia and tibia bones.) I had to decide if I was going to become complacent to my circumstances, or choose to do all I could to heal faster and race again.  The first threshold you have to cross is whether or not you are willing to do whatever you can in your off-season to stay in peak shape, no matter how silly you may look, no matter what others may say. You have to separate out the critical voices.

You also have to own the fact that your training will be different for your off-season circumstances, especially in the areas of training frequency and VO2max.  Don’t try to “make-up” for lost runs or time, otherwise you are more prone to gaining injury. Treat missed training as an opportunity to gain needed rest, stretch, increase and maintain flexibility, read inspiring material, readjust your program on paper, design a vision board to keep your mental passion and focus, lift weights (light weights which you are able to easily do 15 repetitions), and maintain your cardio work through cross-training. 

Be creative. Once you are willing to modify your routine, you are the one who will know what will work best for you and your circumstances.


I chose to take action in my off-season, keep my mental focus, increase my strength and flexibility, work on my form and try to maintain my VO2 Max. Your off-seasons may vary in intensity, but there is always something you can do in each of these areas. As for me, I checked with my doctor what activities were acceptable and then kept a healthy diet, used visual imagery, replaced calve raises with “toe-ups”, stretched, used a rowing machine, competed with my good friend Andy Chase in pull-up contests and also rowing competitions.  I practiced tensing and relaxing my muscles alternately. I practiced my running form in the swimming pool after wrapping plastic around my cast to help keep it from getting wet.  I had many challenges and I had to come up with creative ways to overcome my obstacles.


I believe our core grid is much like a tuning fork: when we need it most, when we get hit the hardest, it reverberates through our entire being, and those who are not tone-deaf can hear the perfect pitch reverberate.  We each innately know when things are in balance and when they need to be adjusted. Some choose to live comfortably numb, letting time pass by until the next season comes on its own. Others take the reins and ride like the wind, preparing to meet the next season head-on.  Each off-season is an ideal time to re-evaluate how to fine-tune one’s core grid.  Renew your mind, reshape your goals in your core; this will influence your place at the finish line. 

As with any training regime, it is tempting to follow the critical voices around us.  Though it is always good to evaluate any well-intended comments, filter these comments through your new core grid. You are the one who determines if doing wall pushups or stretches on your work break is silly or has meaning toward your training goals.

Every detail counts, every moment counts; follow your core, follow your passions.  Our Nemeses and challenges appear to be external, though the true battleground is our inner core. We encounter opportunities to overcome circumstances each day. Do one stretch here. Do two push-ups there. It all adds up. Design your core/mental grid to challenge yourself within every opportunity to appreciate the small details, and in this way, you will make up for any lost training in whatever form of off-season you encounter.

Flashing back: after I convinced my doctor to take off my cast, I only had a few weeks to train for the last race of the season. I convinced a reluctant coach to allow me to train and race, in an attempt to qualify for the next level of competition.  In my training, my lungs ached and my leg felt numb: I had no feeling in my leg because the nerves had not yet grown back.

What I gleaned from my experience, first and foremost, was to practice safety first in all I did so as to avoid injury. Beyond this, I discovered the true power of passion and determination, and how all the tiny details added up so that I could follow my passions again.

I finished the race with passion and intensity, in addition to the severe pain in my lungs (and pain the rest of my body from lactic acid buildup.)  It would have been easy to quit along the way, and few if any would have judged me had I quit.


The prize at the finish line should always be one’s focus and ultimate goal.  However, we should not neglect the value of having integrity on the journey to the finish line.  Appreciate the details and enjoy the view along the way. Choosing not to change with the season would leave one left out in the cold without proper gear. Use this off-season to improve the fine details of who you are in your core.  In the end, humble athletes are always lifted up based on the accumulated training, from fine-tuning the core details to the last step across the finish line.


At the end of each season, my coach would always tell me that the next season was just around the corner.  He was right.  Do what you can do right now. Add to your off-season with frequent details of training disbursed throughout the day. Your next season is just around the corner.  Inspire yourself. Make the details count. Rewrite your core mindset to include passion for every moment.

“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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How to Avoid the Most Common Running Injuries
By D.P. Bickerdike

Take the challenge and avoid injury.  We are all prone to injury in general, and many runners already have an existing injury that needs treatment on some level.  Unless we take an educated and proactive method in our course of training, injury is inevitable. Being proactive and preventive in training results in conserving energy for the next run. Those who rest and run away preserve the strength to run another day.  The best ways to avoid injury are to train under your threshold while focusing on the basics of proper warm-up, form, and cool down, while staying hydrated and getting proper rest, nutrition, flexibility, and strength.  (Since common injuries can easily be researched on any search engine, I am not providing an extensive list of common injuries.)


Perhaps you are not up for the challenge.  Being proactive takes effort, and one might feel reluctant to do what is necessary. This includes training at 75% to 80% of the effort and level at which you want to train. Many often ignore this warning and refuse to prevent themselves from overtraining. You must begin to focus on the basics and “hold back” your intensity.


Listen to the “old dogs.”  Increase your arsenal of great experts, the ones who stand the test of time. At the onset of the slightest indicator of potential injury, consult your experts, taper off, rest, research, then proceed with caution. Though complete avoidance of injuries is the ideal, it is better to dramatically reduce your training intensity and duration once you become aware of any potential injury.


Choosing to take this challenge means that every detail counts.  Choose to be proactive and preventative and commit to this goal. This takes time, research, and action. Once you are committed to the goal of avoiding injury, you must remain disciplined in holding yourself back from overtraining, even though you crave more miles or intensity.


Be determined to go through a metamorphosis.  Set goals to become injury free, tell supportive people, and then take regular actions toward those goals. You may find that you can greatly benefit from changing your running form. Commit to wearing appropriate running gear that accommodates better form and protects you in your environment. Practice longer periods of stretching before and after a run and increase the amount of time you warm up (at a much slower pace than usual.) Be aware of your environment; be prepared for the weather conditions and your terrain (slopes, grades, surface material, debris, etc.)


We have all been challenged by potential injury at some point in our training.  We have all had our failures when challenged with these running injury trials.  Once you obtain any given injury, there are many resources available to help you determine the most appropriate course of treatment.  In general, treatments are fairly standard and include decreasing the duration and intensity of your workouts.  This week’s article is not about how to treat injuries per se, but it is about how to avoid injuries to begin with: in general, do not exceed your modest threshold and stay within a “moderate safe-zone” for all areas of your life.


“Fluidity” in your form, and your life, is the goal. Visualize your ultimate outcome and success. When everything matches up you can experience fluidity.  I encourage you to watch clips of runners in motion. Study their form. Try to imagine yourself as having that same fluid form as those you research.  Running is symmetrical, fluid, scientific, and calculated. Ellipses, angles, and laws of gravity are the playground to a fluid runner. Imagine what your form would be like if you could run slow motion in the water while cutting through the water with the least amount of resistance and while using the most amount of gravity to help propel you forward.


Do not be tempted to over-train. Many are tempted to push training too hard when they begin feeling better, thinking they can go above and beyond the original safe and conservative plan.  Your compulsion to escape, your compulsion to achieve the “no pain, no gain” attitude (or whatever your nemesis is) this will defeat you if you do not face it, accept it, and work around it in advance.


It is time to say good-bye to bad habits, bad form, and your excruciating and relentless notions that you have to push your training harder at the expense of your fragile, damaged and overworked body. Less is more.  Run for health, not for injury.  When one can remove the Nemesis (perhaps in your case it is the compulsive urge to push beyond safety limits to counteract the stresses or anxieties in your life) then you can achieve the goal of running free from injury, free from burdens, and finally experience fluidity.


Imagine being so healthy and injury free that you feel you could run forever.  It is easy to get caught up in the world of running when you have achieved both fitness and freedom from injuries.  At this stage, it would be easy to dedicate all of your spare time to unlimited running.  However, the goal at this stage is to stay within a reasonable threshold and teach others.  Reach out to other people to help them achieve the same goals you have achieved in a safe and healthy manner.  Though we all run our race to get to the prize at the finish line, it is equally important as to how we run our race before we get there.


Take a break when it is needed.  There may come a time when you must temporarily or permanently retire your running shoes for other types of training or exercise. If and when that time comes, recognize that there is honor in preserving your health versus risking permanent injuries. Learn to know the difference and anticipate the possibility; accept your limits and find ways to avoid further injuries.  Sometimes our repeated injuries become the guide that tells us to back off, taper down, and possibly even retire to the idea of much longer periods of rest.  Preventing injuries will allow you to enjoy running for many years prior to having to hang up your running shoes. Make the best of these years and pace yourself.  This could mean that you know the logical progression of how overtraining (or having less efficient form) can result in injuries, and then brilliantly recognizing that it is more important to play it safe than to push one’s training too hard.


Find the balance.  The ultimate balance is being able to push the threshold of training to increase the mileage and intensity without causing injury.  The most challenging part of this stage is that often times, the signs or symptoms of injury do not show up during the training session, and if they do, they are likely the result of a previous training session in which you were oblivious to the onset.


Always leave your workout wanting more.  Pace yourself and get into the habit of allowing yourself a “buffer.”  Adapting to live in a “training safe zone” allows you to enjoy any run, any terrain, and under any circumstances…safely.  Quieting the critical voices in our lives (that prod us into pushing harder beyond what is safe), taming the unbridled compulsions (to escape our busy lives and run away from the world temporarily), this is the success of living free in the moment when faced with any challenge. We reserve for ourselves the energy it takes to enjoy the world around us versus those who exhaust their entire existence by pushing 100% all the time with no allotment for resting.  Those who rest and run away, preserve the strength to run another day.


“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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The Importance of Traction
By D.P. Bickerdike
 
Helping another learn empathy yields incredible traction for positive change in life.  With every lesson in running I have learned, there is a parable reflected in how one interacts with the rest of the world toward ultimate success.  When first training my youngest daughter to run, she would burst out ahead of me, almost at a sprint, wanting to impress me with her speed. Though I expressed how impressed I was, I encouraged her to go slower, be patient, and build the foundation for life long exercise.  In the youth of our endeavors, many of us burst forward, often slipping from the start or halting shortly thereafter to catch our breath, while the “Old Dogs” steadily use all they have learned to inch forward in balanced fluidity.  Where the sole of the shoe meets the ground, this is the true test of that balance; putting the accumulation of what has been learned into measurable statistics. Every detail counts, including traction.


It is not easy to accept the need to re-evaluate our speed or form, and most certainly we do not want to consider increasing our “patience” in life.  However, there are countess stories of great athletes who, at the peak of their careers, either broke down their techniques or they had their life broken down around them, and then later rebuilt the empire of their strengths from solid foundations: They found their traction.  This is not just about wearing a shoe down to a smooth surface on the sole (though a shoe should be replaced long before this occurs), it’s about how we approach the surface we travel on.  Without traction, we become seared to the surfaces around us. We have limited choices: 1. We can go out too fast, and perhaps slip, 2. We can kick the ground with our toes on every step, and prevent our energy from propelling us forward as it is intended, or 3. We can plant our feet with solid conviction for the path we encounter, and roll with the terrain at a steady and secure pace until we meet a crossroads where we can then choose another type of terrain.


In order to understand the importance of traction, one must first be committed to understanding that everything above the sole of the shoes has to be factored in first.  If we were to run in zero gravity, we would discover our true form: our fluidity. The precursors to this form include a great diet, great hydration, stretching, strength training, shoe research and testing, etc.  It’s the full package for an athlete. Where the sole of the shoe meets the surface, this is the true test of all the preparation leading to those first few steps.


The true athlete will listen to the Old Dogs, the ones with experience.  This might mean stepping out of one’s comfort zone, stepping out of the truths that were previously taught to us before, truths which are now in question of having a foundation of truth at all. Position yourself to see all of the facts, and allow the truth to rise to the surface on it’s own; with patience, truth always rises to the top. 


Your metamorphosis will be the realization that these new epiphanies are rooted in more truths and more results than what you previously considered possible.  Thrive on the truth, and your eyes will be opened to new epiphanies, new technologies, and greater results of change.


Traction must match the surface conditions.  If you are racing on a cinder track, you may need half-inch spikes.  An artificial track may require quarter-inch spikes. A road race will essentially require a smaller version of spikes in a textured shoe sole for ideal traction.  Use training flats for training, and racing (preferably slightly lighter) flats for racing.  Tread wears differently based on the form you use in your approach (your fluidity) and the type of terrain you encounter.


Carmen has taught me incredible lessons: Passion, Integrity, and Empathy are all intertwined, and carry unlimited strength and power for traction through life, no matter which circumstance you are in or how these core attributes are applied.  Critical voices can and will try to challenge quieter voices of progress, but core truth will always have traction and will always surface by the end of the race.


We have all been tempted to modify our previous shoes to meet our needs.  In past shoes, I cut holes out of the heel and glued the sole back on; I tried adding springs to partially cut soles; I tried various inserts and various types of padding to modify archaic shoes.  When testing something new to see the epitome of what it is worth, don’t allow yourself to modify it with all the bells and whistles that your friends tell you it needs: Allow yourself to see it as it is presented and give it the true and fair test over adequate time.


For greater traction, get rid of your bad habits.  It is easy to judge the speed or form of other athletes or to be influenced by those around us who have critical voices.  In being critical externally, we avoid dealing with the internal adjustments within ourselves.  Adjust your speed and form accordingly. 


Be wise not to quickly burst out from the starting line to impress others around you (as if pushed forward by the chants from an overbearing crowd) as you may slip without proper traction and pacing. Avoid kicking the ground on each step (the equivalent to making snap judgments of others in life), preventing you from truly moving forward and seeing change. Be wise to incorporate good preparation in diet, strength and form (the equivalent of having Passion, Integrity, and Empathy in life). 


You have to die to the beliefs you once held, and search your core for the truths rooted deep within you for what is truly important: What form do you want to have when you reach the finish line? What do you think of when you imagine the end game; what takes priority?  Having all the preparation in the world on a zero gravity trail yields no results; there has to be a time and place where your core preparation meets the road with gravity.  This is the importance of traction. Where and how the sole of the shoe meets the road, this determines your success.


Successful traction means you accomplish your end-game of health, enjoyment, and thriving with Passion, Integrity, and Empathy in all that life has to offer.


It would be easy to be caught up in a world of zero gravity where little traction was needed, and weight on our shoulders is light.  However, to reside there would mean a disconnection between us and those who are much like ourselves. We are compelled to return to the ground beneath us, to strategically drive forward with our knowledge and passion, plant our feet firmly, and include others in the lessons we have learned.
Sometimes an escape from a critical (elbow-to-elbow) crowd is necessary and warrants a special flight ahead of the others, allowing one to think and see clearly ahead of the crowd.


Often times we need the steady paced Old Dog to pull us forward. Recognize who is the real and true Old Dog who gently pulls you forward out of the crowd.  Without proper traction, moving forward at your best pace would not be practical or fully attainable. Choosing the time that you will surge ahead is important, but having the means of traction to do so is what makes it available.


Be gentle to the Old Dog(s) that pull you out of your former thinking and way of propelling forward; someday you too will become the Old Dog and others will need your wisdom in a similar way.


Looking at the results you want to achieve at the end of the race puts things into perspective.  My youngest daughter walked one of her races toward the finish line due to the overall pain she was in, but she was determined to FINISH the race with good form and did so with Passion, Integrity, and Empathy: her true core.  We should all run our races with such dignity.  I was honored to walk with her, at her side. Walking the last part of the course was more than sufficient and was honorable for the circumstances.  However, she was later compelled on her own to propel forward as she surged and sprinted the last segment toward the finish line: A further demonstration of core Passion, Integrity, and Empathy.


Some races are won on a completely different course that supersedes gravity, and has an internal traction all it’s own.  Whether we are referring to physical training and races or life in general, propel yourself forward with the greatest tools for ideal traction.
 
“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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How Running Shoes Should Fit
By D.P. Bickerdike


By running into the trailhead and not yet having the correct fit in shoes for your feet, you are in for a big surprise.  We have all started our journey with the most basic of essentials.  As time has passed, we have not only learned how to use more advanced resources, but we have also learned how to make those resources become the most beneficial. I originally wore archaic department store “running” shoes. As a freshman in high school, I was able to excel to keeping up with the top seniors on my team at that time in simple footwear that I was grateful to have, though I had my share of blisters and foot issues.  They saw my worn and generic shoes (a fact that I was oblivious to as a fairly new runner) and held a meeting.  I was then informed that I was the recipient of the yearly shoe award for Cross Country runners, and I was told to shop at a nearby store to use the account they reserved for such an occasion.  It was years later that I discovered that there was no such award, but my coach and fellow elite runners pitched in and arranged to purchase my first name-brand pair of running shoes: A true gesture of the power of Empathy and Passion.


Of course I would have denied the shoes if I thought they were given to me out of charity, but my peers and coach spared me from struggling with pride, and allowed me to become a better runner with better fitting shoes.  They made me feel worthy to reverberate the notes from my core.
Sometimes stepping out to try on a new pair of shoes requires having faith in the uncertainty of what results you may find.  I have repeatedly done this in my pursuit to find the right fit for inserts and shoes, but I also discovered a few beneficial tips along the way.


In my past, I stepped into many stores, tried many inserts, and spend much money in my pursuit of better fitting shoes.  I even went through a phase of a simulated “barefoot running” which I cannot recommend unless you are running through a deep swimming pool or are on a thick memory foam trail. With Internet access and online stores, we can easily step out across our computer links to find a nice pair of shoes that we estimate will have the potential to fit our feet relatively well.  Committing to purchasing a new pair of shoes is your commitment toward giving the new shoes a fair test.


It is important to give them the best evaluation, and therefore the method in which you initially wear your new shoes is crucial for your overall evaluation of comfort and desired results.  Even if you do not initially wear them outside of your home, there are many things you can do to fully evaluate these new shoes.  First, make sure you have not just jumped out of bed and put them on.  When you first wake up, sit up in bed, allow the blood to flow to your feet, and stretch your feet by moving your ankle and foot in all normal directions.  Those with foot pain may require special exercises beyond a simple stretch. Second, make sure you have a comfortable pair of clean socks that match your desired thickness and overall feel.  Third, put your shoe on with loose laces and pull the tongue comfortably tight toward your ankle. Fourth, consider different lacing styles for the best adaption to the top of your foot (I prefer “straight lacing” for my running shoes.)  Finally, wear them around the house as much as you can for a full initial test.  This may take one to several days before deciding to take them for the first few steps out the door. I recommend you give them a chance.


Ask runners who have found a great fit with their shoe/insert combinations, and you will find their reasons are similar: less pain, more comfort, sufficient support, and durability.  I used to prefer shoes that wrapped a little tighter around my foot, though I still needed plenty of room for my toes.  A well fitting shoe should allow the heel to sink in and be cradled (difficult to do with excessive inserts or flat shoes without raising the heel uncomfortably high in the shoe.)  The ideal shoe should allow for an extra half size in length as a minimum, as the feet tend to spread out on the run. I now prefer to have extra width in my shoe, allowing my foot strength to increase and my feet to have plenty of room (with the cradled heel, I do not slip or move more than is necessary, and I have not developed any blisters from my new shoes.)


It was once tempting to buy cheaper shoes and adapt the correct combination of inserts to alleviate my foot pain, but these fixes were temporary and I had to venture on to trying the next best insert.  My expenses added up.  I paid less for the first pair of shoes in my current style than all the “combinations” I tried for previous running footwear.  When you can find and get all the technology you want or need in one shoe without the need for inserts, why buy anything else?  Some may feel that it is less work to accept something that may have less durability and support for less effort upfront. However, it is better to choose wisely in the beginning to save yourself from painful journeys down the road. If you have been on a painful journey, there is always time to make a change.


Why do we make the choices we make?  For most of us, we are influenced by those around us, reviews, reports, evaluations from others, advertisements, etc.  All of these things are perfectly fine if they are rooted in truth.  However, when your pains still exist after following others’ advice with all of their promises and influences, then you become faced with a choice: Do you still follow others’ advice  or do you investigate the deeper truths toward becoming pain-free?  Choose to follow your passion; choose to follow your core.  This may require cutting yourself loose from those ideas or people who have critical voices around you, and stepping out in faith to uncover deeper truths you may not have previously given a chance to fully hear or experience.


If your ultimate goal is to become pain and injury free, you must separate yourself from the things that potentially cause you pain, as those things may have been the culprit all along.  Give your new pair of shoes a full evaluation and trial, without other’s extreme advice or the influences of any tweaks, additions, or modifications.


Consider what is needed to make a change and grab a hold of the opportunities and methods within your reach (which reflect integrity and passion) toward reducing your pain. Distance yourself from critical voices and influences (even if it takes a nudge from our true mentors to change the direction of our journey.)


It is easy to bask in the bliss once you have found it.  Be willing to try on a new shoe, a different size if necessary, better socks, exercises and various lacing options to see what works best.  Find the right fit that works for you.  Finding the right fit in a pair of shoes is not limited to the shoes. Sometimes the feet need to be strengthened first and previous injuries healed prior to seeing the results of the new fit. Once you discover what brings you to this bliss, share it with others; you then become the seasoned athlete that shares wisdom from your journey.


Years ago my oldest daughter had a knack for coming up with new words, such as being “Phili-so-lophical,” and here is my summation with that in mind: The core of a person is much like a tuning fork.  Some people have a core filled with notes that are sour, others have perfect pitch. Life is thrown at you, and others around us like to tell us which notes we should sing in response to our challenges.  I challenge you to allow life to permeate you, down to your core, so that your truth can ring out on it’s own, unmuffled.  Your instincts (if rooted in seeking out truth) are worthy, and they will reverberate truth to guide you toward your end goal of being blissful and pain free. Share your journey with others.  Once you begin to sing perfect notes from your core, it will be easier to recognize the critically sour voices from others.  Follow your passion, enjoy the music of your own steps, become and remain pain free with the correct fit for your life.  Your core is worthy. I passionately run to the tune of my core and the beat of my feet, enjoying the symphony along the way.


“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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How to Motivate Yourself 
By D.P. Bickerdike


Eat, sleep, propel forward, and repeat. There is more to life than routine.  The things that help you determine your choice of direction: These are the things that motivate you.


Often, we prefer the safety of our routines.  Venturing out to learn greater truths beyond what we have been taught is usually uncomfortable, though a worthy adventure.  Many things contribute to our loss of motivation: distractions of our responsibilities or other obligations, our fears of succeeding, our insecurities or sense of inadequacies, etc.  These are often echoed by the Critical Voices from others around us, and appear to be stuck on a high volume, preventing us from hearing the still small whispers of motivation.


The things which inspire passion and deep compassion are the keys to self-motivation.  They have a limitless source of rejuvenation. Prior to becoming motivated, you must choose to seek deeper inside your core and be willing to reevaluate the truths you have been taught so far.


This adventure has the potential to transport you to a new level of understanding, new discoveries, new insights, new friends, and new and restored connections with others.  Self-motivation is captivating and invigorating; others want to join in and share the energy you permeate. Others want to be in your inner circle and bask in the warmth of your motivational energy.


You may not like what you initially discover, as it may test the perceptions you previously held with conviction, if you allow yourself to enter the realm of discovering without being quick to judge yourself or others. 


I believe we all need a motivational mentor, a muse, someone who inspires us and helps us flex the greatest version of ourselves.  Those of you who have been reading this series for a few articles have gathered that Carmen is an incredible inspiration for me. She has helped me see beyond the surface and facades in life, and has both expressed deep empathy as well as been open to receiving it in return.  Carmen’s core resounds empathy in a world full of various pitches and tones.  We should all be so fortunate to find our empathy match in our family and friends around us.  How is this obtained?  It comes from freely giving out this passion from our core, and I suggest that it is also the key to motivating ourselves toward our goals.


We all encounter the temptations to run away from the idea of self-motivation, and do not initially see the real prize that it ultimately yields. The easy route is one of allowing ourselves to become seared to doing the work required to achieve our goals.  The easy road is wide and well traveled.  The narrow road to self-motivation is hidden behind rough brush and is often considered to be an “unmaintained path.”


The one thing that can cut motivation off at the knees is having quick judgment.  The downfall of having quick judgment for others or for yourself is that it always comes around full circle to bite you again anyway. Have you ever run along a brushy trail and instinctively push a twig away from your face to have it “thwap” right back at you? This is much like quick judgments.  I have learned to roll my arm across branches and twigs and gently roll them back into place so as to avoid giving those behind me an abrupt surprise.  It takes time to form habits that are not sabotaging to others or ourselves; this is where Passion and Empathy become the keys to motivation. It is impossible to have judgments of others or ourselves when we are encompassed in Empathy and Passion for envisioning our end goals.  Instead, we must become focused on our ultimate goals and dreams, and see the incredible depth of worthiness in achieving these goals at all costs; we must see the worthiness of never giving up on our dreams.  To do this, we must also realize that one of those critical voices is our very own, and we must remove this as well. 


The Critical Voices in our lives no longer have volume when we have this perspective.   By diminishing the volume on our Critical Voices, we can then hear the quiet prompting from the whispers of those worthy goals which have meaning in our lives: great insights and understandings, health, longevity, service to others, connections with others, sense of accomplishment that you can be grateful for, etc.  Your core goals are worthy of your time and efforts; don’t let any voice talk you out of them. What are your personal goals for your end game?  You must be able to remove your obstacles and be capable of envisioning these goals and dreams in order to see the steps needed along the way.


In order to go through a metamorphosis, there is usually a stage in which we die to those things that weigh us down. We must be willing to consider dying to the things that prevent us from fully living; shedding the weights that prevent us from standing tall to see over the brush, removing the blinders or dark shades from our eyes that prevent us from seeing truths about others or ourselves.  We must practice the habit of being quick to show Empathy, not being quick to judge.  How many twigs to the face does it take to learn this? Roll with your obstacles and challenges with sensitivity, and enjoy the peace and lack of resistance that it brings.


The goal is to have self-motivation. This helps you achieve fluidity, tranquility and the least resistance against you so that you can fully flex your core dreams and goals. Beyond the philosophical view, there are practical methods to help you get on the right track.  Motivational and favorite quotes are helpful, ideally on a vision board placed where you can remind yourself daily of the worthy goals ahead of you.  Use the environment around you.  Design a vision board on your coffee cup and use a food grade seal to preserve it. Choose a running partner wisely, and become accountable for your shared goals. Include aspects of your goals in every venue of your daily routine.  Set an alarm on your phone to remind you that you have identified worthy goals.  Watch motivational movies. Read motivational blogs (hint, hint) and print them out for a quick pick-me-up.  Speak the dreams and visions out loud to yourself and others.  Highlight and repeat inspirational material, your mantras of success, and envisioning your worthy goals.  Remind yourself that your dreams and goals are worthy and have power in both your conscious and subconscious mind.


Make your training runs enjoyable. Identify your passions and pursue them. Reassess your priorities and commit to the plan.  Remove or reduce the critical voices in your life.   Use your resources to inspire yourself.  Bask in the success of each step toward your dreams and goals.


At some point you will either convince yourself that your passionate dreams and goals are worthy, or you will adjust them so that they fit within the definition of having Passion and Empathy.  The core attributes that inspire, rejuvenate, and have a limitless source of motivation where motivation flows freely is a beautiful place to dwell, but is not meant to be hidden.  When you master this, you will see how it draws others in, as they want to bask in this as well.  Teach them how to motivate themselves and obtain this same bliss.


Some stumble across the keys to self-motivation, others are thrusts into it out of no choice of their own.  The lesson is simple: move forward or become stagnant.  When you get inspired, run with it! Save your best quotes and inspirations for your pep talk just before your run, and keep the motivation rolling.


Like truth, true empathy rises to the top, above opposition from the world (sometimes from those close to our inner circle.)  It is Empathy and Passion that drives truth to the top. Ask your running partner to send you random inspirational quotes and words of wisdom. Repeat your mantras. Inspire yourself regularly.


Ultimately, share your successes to help others achieve their own successes. Motivating yourself means you go beyond the first few steps out the door, having no excuses that are strong enough to prevent you from flexing your core. 


There are two main types of inner cores in people: The ones who reflect and flex Passion and Empathy, and those who merely feed off of the passions of others. Choose wisely.  Living in the realm of expressing Passion yields peace in a world of those who have only been taught to glean it off of you.  With passion in your core, there is enough to motivate you and those around you.


“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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Stage 1: Foundation: Increasing Distance
BY D.P. BICKERDIKE
 
Subheading: The challenge has been extended to you.  Build your base mileage with this analogy in mind: The broader you can safely build the base of your mileage “pyramid”, the higher you can set the peak of your goals.  I Triple-Dog-Dare you! Now you have no choice but to set a great mileage goal and safely increase your mileage toward meeting that goal.  Accept the challenge.  

This article is an overview of the first stage of training: building and increasing your distance base. Establish medical clearance and then set your goals.  Specialized training may be necessary for differences in fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, though the same general training program has the potential to work for anyone.


You may be thinking that you cannot accept the challenge for various reasons or excuses.  Maybe it is overwhelming to consider.  Maybe you have not yet built up your faith in yourself to believe it is attainable.  When I encounter these negative voices, I remind myself of great runners who challenged themselves to hear the call and accept the challenge.  I think about Roger Banister in pursuit of the sub-four-minute mile; Billy Mills in his courageous race to his first place finish in the Olympics; and Steve Prefontaine, who drove himself with tenacity, just to see what was on the other side of his limits. There will always be excuses or reasons to refuse the challenge or avoid the call to step up to a new goal.  Quiet those negative voices and replace them with the voices of those who stepped up in the past. Learn from the Old Dogs.  Consider the three examples above as your official “Triple-Old-Dog-Dare.”


Stage one is designed to help you focus on two main ideas: time management and heart rate threshold training.  If we divide our day into a pie chart, most of us would divide it into 24 hours, or pieces of the pie.  Let’s slice the pieces further: divide the pie into fifteen minute “slices” of time. Pretend you have $96 per day to spend on what you want to accomplish each day, and that it costs $1 for every fifteen-minute slice.  Whether you spend those dollars or not, the pieces of time get taken out of the pie pan, so you may as well choose who you give those pieces to.   Make each piece count.  The goal is to focus on your priorities each day, and possibly gain more room in the pie pan for additional pieces. You already require so many pieces of time for your sleep, work, meals, etc., so where do you find the time to spend the remaining focus for the time you need for running?  Here is the secret: put slices on top of one another and multi-task, become more efficient in your daily routine, and then you will have additional time (15 minute spaces) left over to dedicate to improving yourself, and increasing your mileage. Overlap your tasks during the day (use a slow cooker or pressure cooker for your meals, pre-prep meals on the weekend for faster meals during the week, stretch at work during a break, etc.)  Running takes time, and we each need to find more of it.


I will briefly address Heart Rate Threshold (HRT), which should be no greater than 80% of your maximum heart rate for any beginner, and rarely is greater than 90% for elite and seasoned runners.  Keep your heart rate under your HR Threshold.  If you approach your heart rate threshold then slow down, even if you have to walk, and keep it under control.  Once you go over your HR Threshold, your workout and distance ends for that run.  With medical clearance, you can test your maximum heart rate by running a mile time trial and record your heart rate at the maximum level for that run.  Otherwise, subtract your age from 220, and use this as a general estimate of your maximum heart rate. 

This is not about deciding which goal to choose first.  It is about taking action and beginning where you are at this moment.  Point the compass and GO.  If you don’t know where to point the compass, go anyway, and you’ll figure out your goals and direction along the way.  Pretend you have had a time capsule reserved specifically for you, and you have been told that you should only open it when you are at a serious crossroads or challenging life event to then read the message.  Imagine that moment arrives while reading this article, and when you open the time capsule, you read the message: “The time to act is now!”  It is never too late to begin; therefore, take “The First Few Steps.”

If you do not know which mile goals to set for yourself, I will suggest the following as a general guide, providing that you do not exceed your HRT:  1 mile, 2 miles, 5k (3.1 miles), 10k (6.2 miles); 15k (9.3 miles); Half-Marathon (13.1 miles), Marathon (26.2 miles), etc.  Once a week, you should have a goal of extending your mileage further, without going over ten percent of your total mileage for that week.  For example, if a beginner runner runs ten miles a week, don’t add more than one mile (10% of total mileage) of distance for that week.  Pick a distance that you think you can safely run, and run it while staying under your HRT (i.e., under 80% of your maximum heart rate.)

Tell all your friends you have been Triple-Old-Dog-Dared into running “x” miles this week. Post it on your online media.  Comment on this article and post the distance you have chosen.  Toe the line, and don’t back down.

Getting organized takes some preparation.  Review the “Ten Running Tips to Help You Go Further” to get a general idea of how to plan ahead. Anticipate some setbacks in your organization, but don’t let that stop you completely. Slow down, re-prioritize your pie pieces, but don’t stop spending your time on the things that are the most important to your overall goals.

Find your “Sweet Spot Pace.”  Carmen and I run together often because her “Sweet Spot Pace” for a Half-Marathon is the same as mine for my ultra-running goals.  This is the pace that is under your heart rate threshold, prior to any noticeable discomfort, and the pace at which you feel you could potentially “run forever.”  This is the pace that is the precursor to the Runner’s High.  Enjoy the bliss; embrace it.  Let time stand still while you run through it.

Do not add more to your plate (more non-running goals or priorities) just because you have successfully created more time for yourself by doubling a few slices of the pie on top of each other.  Commit to using that newly adjusted time for your improvement, for your training goals.  I am not suggesting to neglect people or responsibilities and obligations that surround you, I am saying that in order to feel fulfilled, we need to find the balance.   Don’t be tempted to take on more than you may be able to handle (don’t overstuff the pie pan.)

A further word of caution: Do not become haughty in finding your Sweet Spot Pace.  Striving for pain does not mean obtaining safe gain. Relish in the bliss of your fluid pace under your threshold; do not push harder or over your threshold because you can.  Instead, aim to go further distances each week as outlined above. 

I love the story with the grandfather teaching the grandson about the two “wolves” that are within each one of us, battling each other for control.  One of the wolves causes benefits while the other causes consequences.  “Which one will win, Grandfather?”  The grandson listens to the Old Dog as he says, “The one you feed the most…” Your fiercest competitor stares at you from your mirror. Cha-Ching; one more dollar has been spent on a sliver of pie.  Your time will either benefit you or cause you consequences, depending on how you choose to spend your time.  Though it is important to recognize one wolf will win, it is more important to realize that you are fully responsible for doing the feeding.  Choose wisely.

In order to nurture your training goals, unfortunately, there may be some things that become “time casualties.”  These are the things newly deemed a lower priority.  Let’s face it: there is only so much multi-tasking that can be done in a day.  When you try to squeeze too much into the pie pan, it all gets disorganized and less appealing.

Choose which pieces of time and focus may need to be cut, even temporarily, in order to make room for your larger goals of having empathy for others, as well as nurturing health and longevity for yourself.

It can be easy to become consumed by training when you find the Sweet Spot and are able to avoid injuries.  Remember that the greater goal includes teaching and caring about others.  Any goal that removes you from interacting with people needs to be re-evaluated.  Find your balance and share it with others.

Listen to your body; listen to the positive voices around you; listen to the Old Dog. Balance your life: prioritize the time in your day.  Enjoy the bliss and move forward toward your goals.

“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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Stage 2: Increasing Strength
BY D.P. BICKERDIKE


Life challenges us.  It is better to prepare in advance for the struggles and challenges we encounter, safely pushing the limits of what we can handle now in order to increase our strength for that eventual day of testing our resilience.


Stage 2 of training (Increasing Strength) is designed to follow “Stage 1: Increasing Distance” and is meant for those who have already been running for a reasonable period of time.  At this stage, I encourage you to add strength on top of your “distance pyramid base.” When faced with life challenges, we can either suit up to meet the challenge, or we can let the event lay railroad tracks over our core.  I recommend using mini-cycles of increasing distance combined with some strength and speed, the major push for strength training comes in the second phase of a full spectrum training program, establishing a solid, long-lasting strength that can be maintained for a lifetime.  I challenge you to build yourself up with calculated resistance training prior to ever needing to be resilient.   Challenge: Extended.


Your natural desire may be to refuse this challenge.  Most people are reluctant to tell you that pain is inevitably involved prior to gaining strength because most of us have already experienced the pain. To handle the challenge, you must add flexibility to your training toolbox. Maybe you are thinking that strength training will require you to go to the gym or sacrifice other parts of your day.  Your resistance likely comes down to not knowing how to include strength training within your already busy schedule.  Develop a “multi-layer” system of time management and safely do two or three things at one time.  When we are faced with life’s challenges, whether by our doing or an external force, we revert to our long history of mundane training to keep us focused on the urgent task at hand.


Use science and technology to your advantage. Use the environment you live and work within to your advantage.  Use your stairs, your doorways, your counters to do step-ups and isometrics.  Do 15 reps with a can of black beans before you prepare dinner. These methods take little effort, and if done safely and properly, can increase strength with little adjustments in your schedule.  Effectively choose how to use every minute of the day.  Continue to change your diet to one that promotes strength versus disease and weakness.


Challenge: Accepted.  Design a plan for yourself; make a vision board.  This requires you to commit to these goals and move forward. Learn muscle ratios. For example, for every 100 pounds of weight you lift with your legs, your quadriceps should handle 60 pounds and your hamstrings should handle 40 pounds.  Design a plan that begins with the easiest methods (such as isometrics and stretching) and work your way up to wall push-ups, lunges, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, lifting healthy canned foods, etc.  Anticipate soreness, and counteract with flexibility exercises. Excluding things from your plan can also be beneficial.  For example, consuming one tiny particle of gluten can ruin the progress of an entire month of being gluten-free for those of us who are Gluten Intolerant.  Avoid the things that cause your plan to unravel. Avoid excessive refined sugars, artificial additives, and things that are extensively processed.  Design your vision board with great care to include all aspects of training.


Create a “Runner’s Cave.”  Keep your array of information and exercise equipment accessible and visit them often.  In the least, allow yourself to be nourished by your overall plan and material outlining the science and technology that supports your plan.


One of our greatest trials is to be tested on how we choose to spend our time.  Tests and trials challenge us to bring our true core to the surface. How we show our true empathy and passion with character through those trials is what lifts us to the top of success.  Journal and document your training regularly. Schedules change, learn to be flexible and adapt to these changes and pick up the next day where you left off.


Carmen loves to use a systematic approach when stepping up to a new level of training.  We are both very calculated in how we approach our plan for training in order to avoid injury, yet at the same time we gain the greatest results.  A runner at any age or level of training should plan ahead to avoid injuries by beginning slowly.  Use light enough resistance (such as isometrics or hand weights) to easily complete 3 sets of 15 repetitions.  Keep track of what you can easily do, and try to increase your training over time.  Carmen has taught me that in order to consume the “elephant challenges” in our lives, we are only required to take one bite at a time.  Using this philosophy, I caution you not to put too much on your plate at one time and to chew small bites thoroughly before taking another.  Start with the first few steps for every exercise technique in your overall program.


When reaching new levels of strength, it may be tempting to bite off more than we can chew.  Proceed with caution and practice the 80% threshold rule in strength training: rarely train above your threshold.  Patience is key, and diligent restraint is a must.  Being overconfident comes before a fall. 
This article is a general guideline for you to apply basic principles to your life.  You are the only one who can look into the mirror and determine the details of your plan.  The strength you gain will be an accumulation of the details you choose to commit to over time. Inspire yourself by finding worthy goals that justify building your strength.  Find reasons to flex your physical core as well as your empathy core; these are worthy causes that justify commitment and dedication.


Remove the image of who you were, take on the image of who you want to become. We need to accept the things we cannot change, visualize our ultimate goals of the character we want to exude to others, and then flex our empathy strengths at the most appropriate time.  We need to shed our lack of strength, flexibility, balance, muscle core, etc., from our past.  Get rid of the image of the old you that held you back, adopt the new image of your “future you” within your current core.  Believe in yourself and it will surface as you move forward. 


Chiseled abs, stable balance, running with fluidity: strength and vitality, the ultimate goals.  Increasing our strength in any area allows us to choose our challenges more carefully.  It is much easier to repeatedly challenge ourselves with circumstances and conditions for improvement, versus being blindsided with life events when we are otherwise unprepared.  Put on the image of who you want to be, who you want to be seen as, and the true core of who you are now.


Achieving levels of strength can be incredibly fulfilling, providing there are others who share in these goals.  Once you learn how to be successful in any area, the fulfillment that follows is in sharing this newfound success so that others can also succeed.


It is always good to have a partner to train with and be accountable to, one that can help hold us back when we train too hard or one that can challenge us when we need to reach a higher level. The goal is to be able to run and finish our races and challenges with fluid grace in victory, not with chronic injuries as victims.  What greater example to finish than with blissful strength while being injury free? Though we all train, train to win safely and injury free. This will give you the platform to teach others who are more likely to glean from your Old Dog wisdom.


One of my favorite Old Dog instructors often referred to the benefits of having an iron fist covered by a velvet glove.  We challenge ourselves to become stronger so that when we encounter the greatest of challenges we can then remove the velvet cover and perform with strength, integrity, and honor.  To know that one has the latent strength from training is powerful.  It increases mental strength to be equipped to handle any challenge or life event that we encounter.


Why do we challenge ourselves to increase strength?  We do it to have more options in choosing which battles we can avoid and which ones are honorable in facing head on.  Choose wisely, choose with passion, and flex your empathy core in all of your training.

“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike
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Stage 3: Increasing Speed and Stamina
BY D.P. BICKERDIKE


It’s not nearly as important to measure the distance from Point A to Point B as it is to measure the “Internal Distance” one travels in overcoming obstacles within oneself through mental endurance and will-power.

You’ve tried almost everything so far to increase your speed and personal records.  You were just about to throw in the towel, but now you are reading this article.  You have to decide if you are up for the challenge. I beckon you to read further.

I understand your plight: trying one more method after having tried so many is not an appealing task.  Be encouraged; this one has scientific support for the principles for increasing your VO2 Max by 14% in six weeks by using the method I am about to share with you.

One incredible motivator is in knowing that this method can be researched and has scientific backing. The blueprint has already been designed. All you need as a prerequisite is to ensure you have mastered the first two stages, are not currently injured, and still have adequate medical clearance.  Now you are ready to pick a training day to test this out.  Get ready for, arguably, the hardest workout you have ever attempted. 

After mastering Stages 1 and 2, try to enlist a coach or helper for this workout.  You will want to feel free to train hard and have another hold the watch and whistle.  It might give you peace of mind during the workout to know your coach has a cell phone to document your success, or call for help, whichever comes first.  If that is not encouraging enough, read on, cross the challenge threshold, and stick to the plan.

If possible, have your coach either drive you to your training area or plan to drive you home after the workout, just in case.  Choose a flat surface to run on, preferably grass, as long as there are no dangerous rolling slopes or holes in the ground.  Find the balance and try to combine the best of both worlds for your terrain: soft and flat.  You will need less than 200 meters (about 220 yards or half the distance around a track.)  Try to find an area that is a long stretch so you do not have to run curves to get the distance.

Note that one workout should not be a deciding factor toward obtaining your goals.  This is where you strengthen your Internal Distance: the power of your mind in setting yourself to a goal and committing to the steps along the way, no matter how short the distance you physically run will be.  This is a mental workout as much as it is a physical one.  You will encounter that voice that tells you to stop.  You will encounter your body telling you it was not designed for this type of workout.  Prepare yourself in advance to thwart all the negative voices you can imagine you may encounter, and choose to push through this workout until the end.  Tell your coach to use a favorite catchphrase which you respond well to, such as “Bear Down” or “Dig Deep” or a simple “You can DO this!”  You will need it if you do this workout properly.

The first time I monitored Carmen doing this workout I asked her to do it at 80% effort.  This is a great idea for anyone just beginning to do a speed workout, and if you are new to speed work altogether, it is a must to push no harder than an 80% effort.  For the seasoned die-hards, only you can determine how close to 100% effort you are willing to push.  Remember that the studies are based on 100% effort, and doing less than this will yield less than a 14% increase in VO2 Max.  I cannot choose for you, but I can hold the watch in spirit and cheer you on.  You might even hit the Elusive Runner’s High. 

If done properly, your mind and body will beg you to stop this workout.  There is no shame in stopping and warming down properly to try again another day.  The goal is to build up enough stamina to finish this workout.  This workout has been proven over and over with me and those I have coached and I believe it has the same potential for you.

At some point in this workout, you will likely encounter your Nemesis. Take all the baggage you have from the day, the week, things not dealt with, and burn them off with this workout. At the end, you will have faced yourself and removed some of the stumbling blocks that previously prevented you from getting to your goal. 


Within patterns of running, and life, there is a time to cut things loose that interfere with your goals.  The most inhibiting roadblocks are the ones we face while running our Internal Mileage.  These are the patterns of thinking that make or break us.  Use these as your buffer to push through this workout.

The ultimate goal is to complete this workout at 100% effort, one to two times per week for six weeks, and obtain a higher level of fitness, speed and stamina.  Here’s how it’s done: 1.) Warm-up properly and longer than usual. 2.) Stretch more than normal.  One non-stretched muscle in a long run won’t affect you the same way in a sprint. 3.) Have a coach time you, preferably from a mid-point in the stretch of 200 meters, blowing a whistle at each increment in the following pattern:  20 seconds sprint, 10 seconds rest, repeat for a total of 8 repetitions.  Preferably check your pulse rate with a heart monitor.  If you go above your max, stop the workout.  Continue to monitor your heart rate as you warm down.

You might be thinking at this point that this is an easy workout, but it is not easy if done properly.  Your first 20 seconds are an all-out sprint; everything you can muster, nothing held back. The whistle blows, you stop to catch your breath. Ten seconds later the whistle blows again, and you are prompted to sprint again, the same exact way, only in the opposite direction.  Beginners will change their mind at this point, and rightly so; there is no shame in knowing your limits.  Safety always comes first.  But if you dare continue, you are in for one of the greatest workouts of your life.  Most seasoned runners can make it to four repetitions before determining if they need to stop. Repetitions from five to eight are for the mentally elite, as it takes strong will power to fight the urge to stop. 

I repeat that this is not a workout for the faint-hearted. It is challenging to the body and the mind. However, if you can work toward completing eight repetitions “all out” and without injury, then you are truly in the elite category.  Before starting this workout, stick to the primary plan: Safety comes first; therefore stop this workout when you need to so you remain injury-free and can come back and try again another day.  No matter how many you complete, allow yourself a long warm down and lots of stretching.

Suppose you have reached eight repetitions and want to do more. Stop the workout. Forbid yourself to doing any more than eight repetitions.  You will gain nothing substantial beyond eight repetitions except a higher probability of getting injured.  Warm down and enjoy your success.

You may need that extra push from your coach. A good coach knows when to hold you back.  A great athlete listens. After finishing your workout, you can bask in getting a nice ride home and can enjoy in your newfound success. Any stage of repetitions is successful when doing an elite workout as I have outlined, as it adds to your internal mental strength to overcome both physical and mental challenges: your strong Internal Distance.  It helps to clarify between the things you might need to cut loose versus the things that encourage you to excel. Choose wisely, and share your seasoned experience with others.  Master this workout and help monitor a healthy, seasoned runner to do the same.

This is the kind of workout you can use to balance out the various things you deal with from day to day. Safely burn off mental weight while working toward your goals. Strive to hit the Runner’s High. Bask in knowing you have accomplished more than you previously thought possible. Rest with more peace, knowing you will encounter this workout again.
 
“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike
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Healthy Feet Finish Faster
BY D. P. BICKERDIKE

As the sole of the foot endures the weight of the body, so follows the empathy of our soul to life’s challenges.  Running is, in part, about distracting oneself from the challenge at hand, and I tend to feel empowered by the thoughts of will behind the motions of running to help propel me forward.

The strength of the feet immensely affect the speed at which one can safely run, limited only by any weakness in our own willpower. Strong feet plus strong will equals enduring many wonderful travels.  Every step of running is at minimum the equivalent of three times your bodyweight pounding on your feet. Strong feet make a difference.  Prior to strengthening the feet, the soul needs to mature with passion and empathy.  This is what completes the cycle: coming around full-circle physically, mentally, emotionally in order to extend these lessons to others in the practical walks of life.  Not everyone knows how to do this; not everyone is ready to accept the calling.  Strengthening one’s willpower is a prerequisite to having strong and fast feet.

You have now been given a valuable secret: strengthen your empathy so that your joys increase; strengthen your feet and your running can endure long distances at fast paces.


This begins with you deciding to commit to foot exercises.  Most of you know the basics, and this site offers great articles on strengthening the feet, so I won’t repeat them all.  I like the old fashioned methods of scrunching up a towel with the toes, flexing the toes, rolling the ankles or spelling out the alphabet (mirror images so everything is balanced), “calve-raisers”, stretching, etc.  Write down a plan and stick to it.  Be determined to increase your strength without injuries.  Gaining mental strength requires determination and visual imagery.  Imagine your goals at your new goal-pace, your new goal distances.  Let your passion drive you forward to follow through with your strengthening plan.

Great shoes will cradle your feet just as developing empathy will increase your internal strength to endure your challenges with speed instead of being stuck in a stagnant rut.  It’s a matter of will, yes, but more importantly, it is knowing when to cut loose those things that may hold you back from striving and thriving toward your goals.  Empathy knows the difference in what to keep and what to cut loose for a strong foothold on any path.  It is never too late to run the path you have always wanted to run.

Whether you strengthen your feet by picking up a pencil with the underside of your toes or give your feet a deep massage, your feet will encounter challenges on the path.  Be aware of the terrain you run on, try different paths, different terrain, vary how you need to train your feet to land for these different conditions.  Trail running helps to keep the seasoned runner’s feet in shape, as the trail twists and turns with various obstacles that need to be adjusted to accordingly.  Proceed with caution and train your feet for all circumstances.  On the early morning desert trails, I have often encountered circular patterns that resembled … A SNAKE.  I have learned to adjust quickly.  One of the biggest challenges in one’s mind is deciding if a goal is worth pursuing, and at what price it may cost.  Evaluate the cost in advance and remind yourself it is worth it when your mind tries to renegotiate your contract.

Free yourself. Carmen has taught me the power of routinely feeding the soul with encouragement, whether life brings us a sun that shines or the sun that is engulfed by a storm: encourage yourself daily.  As for those critical voices that you still hold on to, they will eventually make you decide the cost, and what you need to do to move forward toward your goals to continue to grow and thrive.  Critical voices are like ankle weights that keep growing in weight: eventually you have to decide if you will stop or cut them loose.  If you have strengthened your empathy and passion with encouragement, you will not need to feel guilty when you cut the weights loose that hold you back, but can know you deserve to find joy ahead in the race. We all get tempted to lessen the priorities of our goals.  Make this goal count: strengthen the feet and you can strengthen your running overall; it is that simple.


Running is cathartic.  It allows time to sift through all the voices in our lives and determine which ones lift us up and which ones try to hold us down.  Training others has allowed me to see a full circle of success in others.  Teach a runner key elements, inspire the will, and possibilities are limitless.  Before being able to see the full circle and great end results, all athletes have to sift through and remove any mental weights holding them back.  Face your biggest fears.  Challenge yourself to reach incredible goals.  The human body is capable of so much more than we give it credit for, so imagine your possibilities and encourage yourself.  Be aware of having good form in your foot strike: a natural soft roll from the (slightly) outside of your heel toward the big toe with the flat weight of your foot falling directly under your hips for every step. 

Eliminate bad habits, be diligent in strengthening your feet. Once you isolate your roadblocks, your setbacks, do what you can in the moment to overcome them and move forward swiftly.  Letting go of the trail behind you is the only way to find the one in front of you.

Before facing any challenge physically, one’s mental strength needs to come first.  This is what allows the freedom to accomplish greater goals in running, and life. Shed the old weights, have a peaceful outlook full of empathy, and you can meet any challenge with great wisdom for safety and relaxation for endurance with speed. Find your peace, enjoy your Runner’s High.

Once you realize how easy it is to go great distances with greater speed, it is sometimes difficult to pull oneself away from the path.  Eventually, we return to our reality of daily routines and responsibilities, however.

Know your limits but use this knowledge to prepare for a longer distance in the future. Seeing things clearly as they are allows for better planning.


Harness the two worlds: The world of where your feet hit the actual path, and the world of choice of encouraging voices that you choose to put into “repeat” mode.


Live Freely. Life has plenty of twists and turns so learn to “travel light.”  The power of the mind is fascinating. Strengthen your feet, and let your mind take you wherever you want to go.  Finish this race faster than the last one.

“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike 

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New Year’s Resolutions: Staying Motivated 
BY D. P. BICKERDIKE

The difference between having a mere interest in a new direction versus a strong life goal is the priority level you attach to it.  Some of what we encounter in life already has a priority level “pre-installed” while other opportunities are what we make them.  At any point in time, you can rewrite the value of that priority.

So, you made promises to yourself, did you? Did you happen to get interrupted by life challenges?  Join the club.  The sun shines and the rain pours on everyone.  There is no discrimination.  Having a preset grid to filter life events helps one to make quick, clear and solid decisions in the midst of any situation, rain or shine.  One must also allow other priorities that are truly at a higher level to take precedence.  It is the season for flu cases, temperature changes, and an array of potential distractions. Know the value of setting aside your high priorities for ones that are even higher.  You can later return to your goals with vigor, not with condemnation for yourself.  Pick up your planner, and start again.  The unexpected happens, no matter how much we plan ahead. When faced with adversity, use your preset grid. Reevaluate with grace and mercy.

Sometimes extending grace and mercy is not enough. These are the times that we are forced to reprioritize and perhaps set aside some weights to start fresh with a new approach. This is the challenging part, as it may involve tough decisions.  It is much like a rock climber scaling the face of a tall cliff while carrying various backpacks from the ropes tied to the waist. Sometimes you have to leave some weight behind in order to climb to safety. At other times you might have to tie in to another’s rope because of the condition of your own. Empathy tells you when it is better to tie in to a safer rope; choose wisely.

Fortunately, you are being encouraged and empowered with the ability to focus on flexing your core empathy.  Focusing on empathy means that you focus on your entire situation, including the external people and world around you, while still attributing appropriate value to yourself.  Focusing only on yourself is like suddenly finding yourself attached to a hook midway up a cliff while wondering who is responsible for getting you to safety while cutting your essential equipment loose because you cannot be burdened with them.

Get a new perspective.  Step back and place your priorities in order while attributing a value on each one. Reevaluating your priority grid is a must, and should be your first course of action. The first steps in rejuvenating your motivation level may be to set aside the extra weights that prevent you from climbing over the immediate obstacle in front of you. Hook them in for safety where you will be able to climb back later to pick them up again. Attributing a priority level to these things determines your motivation in returning to get them.


Be willing to adapt.  Tackle the curve that life has thrown at you and counter with full strength. Getting back to your goals means getting over the flu or juggling your new challenge, whatever it may be. Focus your strength on dealing with your temporary challenges first, then refocus on your priorities when you have gained better ground.

You might have to dodge a few rocks, and a few may graze you: hold on tight.  Setting aside a few of your priorities to deal with them another day is not an easy task, but may be a necessary one toward obtaining a stronger grip.  Whatever caused you to become distracted from your goals, deal with those first.  Empathy dictates that you have a firm hold on the face of the cliff before trying to lift up any additional weight.  Do not allow yourself to hang from a hook while waiting for your backpack to learn to how to climb so it can rescue you.

Attribute the correct level of priority to your passions.  This is how you will find your bliss. The analogy of climbing the face of a cliff is like overcoming your temporary challenges and setbacks. Getting to the flat surface above or below is where you flex your true passion.  The goal is to get there safely.  The act of climbing carefully carries a preset priority level, even if you have to temporarily set other priorities aside.

Do not be overconfident. Proceed with caution: have a plan, revisit the plan, and believe in the end goal. This is why you gave your dreams the high priority that you did. Follow your passions, dodge the falling rocks, set aside extra weight, even temporarily, to obtain a stronger grip so you can help others around you.  Do not be distracted by those things that masquerade as having a higher priority which actually are designed to make you loose your grip or footing. Stick to the plan, reach levels of safety first, and then pull other people and priorities up to safety with you.

Have respect for your priorities.  If you are forced to set some of them aside, do so with the intent of securing them safely to assure retrieval at a later time.  Do not be quick to cut anything loose too soon, you may later find that you needed that item to make it safely to your goal. 

You may come to a crossroads of realizing that a few of your priorities are actually working against you.  Reevaluate, re-prioritize, hook it in and cut it loose.  If it proves to be valuable you have saved it for a later time, but you can’t allow it to prevent you from following your dreams and goals.

The ultimate boon is reaching the top so you can help others make it to the top also. The journey is to be enjoyed along the way. Being motivated is about setting priorities.  Prioritizing steps toward your dreams and goals need to become like the breath you breathe or the metal hooks that hold you safely on the side of the cliff as you climb. 

Getting to the top is ultimate safety, elation, and achievement of your goals.  You might even want to camp out for awhile. Remember that the real fulfillment is in climbing back down to teach others how to climb to their own goals.


Often, we have the ability to repel down the side of the cliff, helping us to return to our other responsibilities and goals.  Help others along the way, retrieve the equipment that will not weigh you down, and bask in your victory of going the full circle. You have touched down on solid ground and are ready for your next pursuit.

Most of us do not climb cliffs. Few of us like to take the stairs. Whatever slope we encounter, the real key is mastering which weight we attribute in our minds to those tasks before us.

Once you succeed in having “priority focus”, your priorities will drive you from within.  Your core will flex toward your goal with passion and empathy. Know that you can achieve any goal you believe in.  No matter what your preferred form of exercise is, choose to do it for longevity, then walk, bike, swim, or run forward!
 
“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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Beginner Tips: Increasing Mileage
By D. P.  Bickerdike

Increasing mileage applies to both the internal miles as well as the external distances we travel.  We each choose whether or not we will place a high priority on training and racing toward achieving the goal of crossing the finish line.  We each are currently running a race in life, whether or not we recognize it. Ultimately there is only one prize: The success of crossing that finish line with our priorities in proper order.  It is our responsibility to obtain that prize.

Your running journal has blank spaces.  You don’t know how to add mileage into your already busy schedule.  Fortunately, you realize that you have passion within you to seek your end-goal.  This is what drives you; it is what brings you back to the table of renegotiating the vision of accomplishment and priorities for yourself: your end goal of being fulfilled and gaining accomplishments.

Though many variables are out of your control, you know that you do have the controlling votes within your own core.  You will be fulfilled as long as your priorities are set in the proper order:  Having the “Epitome of Empathy” comes first, caring for the people we love are next, and material things and possessions always come last.  It is in knowing this core structure that creates ultimate success in all aspects of life, including running and building mileage.  Crossing this threshold means you sit down and make sure your priorities are set in the proper order. You must find the right balance.  Obtaining goals does not come without a price, therefore, choose priorities wisely because there is always a “trade-off.”  The difference in choosing is this: if you choose priorities wisely, you obtain fulfillment; if you change the order of the above structure, you are left empty, no matter how much you try to become fulfilled.  Empathy can bare the burden of an unjust weight on it’s shoulders because Empathy’s core is rooted in integrity, whereas the self-seeking core has a weak structure within itself and is destined to eventually implode, unable to bare the weight it tries to force on others.  Place a high value on increasing safe mileage to further your goals to build a strong foundation.  In addition, increase your internal mileage which is rooted in Empathy, caring for others, and occasional rewards for yourself and those around you, in that order.  When priorities are placed in the right order, joy permeates all three areas. What happens if prioritized in the wrong order? The wrong order results in an empty, void, and unfulfilled life: seeking to gain the entire world while losing life’s ultimate treasures.

Strap on your shoes, suit up, and take the first few steps.  Transport yourself toward your goals and increase your mileage safely.  How do you do this? First, expect to make adjustments as needed. Start by prioritizing your time while making time to exercise. Increase the times throughout the day that you can exercise. For example, whether your goal is to run one mile a day or twenty, break it down into three or four sessions when trying to consume the mileage that is on your plate for that day.  Eat the elephant one bite at a time, and allow time to digest what you’ve consumed.  This is a safe way to increase your mileage.  The “Ten Percent” rule still applies: Do not increase your safe/uninjured mileage by more than 10% per week (build your mileage slowly.)  Allowing yourself to have multiple sessions to chew that mileage throughout the day increases your safety and helps one avoid injuries. 
Next, make sure you stay under your Heart Rate Threshold (HRT) for the majority of the day.  This allows your body to maintain a level of comfort in avoiding excessive recovery times between sessions of exercise.  Once you go over your threshold, your workout sessions for that day should end.  By staying under your HR threshold, your workout is extended without exhausting your body. Building mileage is the equivalent of slowly rolling a bowling ball down a bowling lane (throughout the day) versus shooting it toward the pins like a cannon all at once.  Slow down and enjoy the ride.

Additionally, the next challenge is to take opportunities to jog or run when they are available without disrupting your other priorities.  Jog ten steps, if that is what you have available between your car and your next errand (attempting to wear suitable clothing throughout the day is helpful for these opportunities.)  Cross train and jog or workout on a machine for three minutes after getting home from work and before starting dinner.  Take advantage of those seemingly “insignificant” time slots that get wasted because there is no other “filler” to accommodate them.  Cross train and dance, move, stretch, squat: challenge your activity level.  To help achieve my highest level of VO2 Max, I have done a modified version of “Russian Dancing” for thirty seconds at a time, greatly challenging my stamina (only recommended at the end of your exercise sessions and not within a few hours before sleeping for the night.)  Mild versions of speed work can be incorporated a few times per week, but be sure to avoid anything over a 70% speed effort while trying to build mileage.  The cross training serves one goal: to prepare you for replacing the cross training time with time that you  use for running.  These are the challenges you will face when trying to increase your mileage.

Carmen and I have obtained ultimate results for our ultimate goals because we both know how to keep our priorities in the right order.  Everyone seeks to have their counterpart in another person who will not unjustly judge, who gives ultimate support and unconditional acceptance, and who is capable of mutual reciprocation of Core Empathy values.  If you have not yet found your beautiful counterpart, it begins within yourself in working toward your own goals individually while keeping your core priorities in proper order.  By doing this, you are most likely to meet your counterpart along the way.  Do not compromise your core, hold fast to your integrity in spite of any adversity, and everything will balance out over time.


It is often tempting to create “false priorities” in our lives.  These are the things that we create in our lives to give an excuse for ourselves in avoiding pursuit of our goals or in facing the reality of our previous choices.  Some people are workaholics.  Some of us allow the intensities in life to become our pet projects that “only we” can properly fix.  Others create fires and turmoil so they don’t have to “choose” to pursue important goals. I suggest to you that all attempts to avoid any appropriate challenge or goal (whether labeled “reasons” or “excuses”) are actually forms of  “false priorities.” 

Face yourself daily.  This is more than looking into the mirror. Looking into a mirror is external; facing yourself is looking into your core.  Are you in a state of mind of having excuses and creating avoidance, or are you determined to face the realities of your choices and are ready to reset those priorities into proper order?  True Empathy seeks out truth prior to applying justice or judgment.  At the end of the day, the only constructive evaluations that truly matter are the ones we give ourselves. 

Face the things that prevent you from making your goals a priority and move forward.  This is how you increase your internal and external mileage.
Discover the secret to travelling light. The results from having weights lifted off of your shoulders will be envied by those who have not discovered how to obtain this wonderful state of mind, in spite of adversity.  Just as one can feel the difference in running after hours of wearing a weight-vest, ankle weights or wrist weights, one can know how to travel light on their internal mileage when one’s core is rooted in integrity.

Those who have an Empathy Core will respect this state of mind and will seek to obtain it with compassion, while those who are self-seeking will not understand your peace in the midst of adversity, and will wallow in discontent: their own torment.  Choose wisely.

This state of bliss is not easy to tear oneself away from. Often, in order to share and teach how to “travel light” to others (toward increasing safe mileage) one needs to practice being selfless in order to help others work toward this state.  For example, a seasoned runner can help new runners achieve slower and shorter distances toward their end goal but may sacrifice their own mileage in the process.  Motivating others to join you will increase the number of people who will eventually run and finish future races.  The end goal is a wise goal and is worth the compromise: adding more runners who will cross the finish line for the greatest races in life.

The end goal is two fold:  flexing your core so that others are enticed to follow in your footsteps, and achieving the victory of adding great numbers to the amount of finishers that cross the finish line.


Complete the circle.  Increase your internal and external mileage to build a strong and wide foundation.  Share your enthusiasm and passion with others so they can achieve their own goals as well.

Find the balance.  Just like being on an airplane when the oxygen masks drop down, you must make taking your own oxygen a priority before you can effectively help those around you.  When your own mask is secure, don’t waste the opportunity to help those around you.  Build your mileage, become strong, and then you are in a position to help those who choose to train for and run the race with you.  This is the joy of running and the joy of life. This is the full circle that springs from having Passion.
 
“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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Intermediate Tips: Increasing Strength and Flexibility
By D. P.  Bickerdike

Ben Franklin’s suggestion that the only things that are certain are death and taxes may not fully address all issues in life. Adversity, for example, is also inevitable in our lifetime. Countering the effects of adversity requires training, and training requires the use of resistance. Knowing truth is not enough. Successful people take action, and they are often forced to figure out solutions along the way after having already accepted life’s intermittent challenges. If we each waited to have complete solutions for eradicating adversity before moving forward, we would be waiting for a lifetime. This is your calling: choose the resistance to experience now so you will be prepared for your adversities later in life. 

I understand the refusal that one mentally flashes to when challenged with the idea of increasing strength because it implies only one thing: additional work. When daily tasks seem like plenty of exercise, it is difficult to imagine adding more work. 


Fortunately, science supports adding strength training for longevity and health benefits. Increasing strength training can help revive bone density, better mobility and a myriad of health benefits.

The first step is to commit to choosing a plan and sticking to that plan. I recommend a basic structure of doing exercises and stretches that are catered to the style of exercise you prefer. If you are a swimmer or cyclist, your routine may vary compared to the primary muscle groups and ratio of strength needed for those activities. As a runner, I will recommend focusing on training that targets running movements and exercises in general. I have always had the school of thought that more intricate training should include the actual motions of running.

It is not necessary to go to the gym or create one in your home, but it can be helpful. The convenience of having various hand weights and barbells is convenient. No matter what arena you choose to do your strength training in, it is also recommended that you train with someone else. This can help you maintain safety with a spotter and someone to help you recognize any needed adjustments in your form.

Prior to beginning any new level of exercise, make sure you are fit enough and approved medically to begin. If you do not have access to a gym or weights, do not let this cause you any setbacks. Begin with the basics. Always warm up and stretch prior to any exercise. Begin with static stretches and then add force and pressure against the stretch; this helps to stretch a different set of muscle fibers and increases your flexibility. In the very least, do jumping jacks and break a sweat. Use the resources you have at your disposal: various sized cans of food, for example, for doing one arm curls are just as successful as using one to two pound weights. Use isometrics to your advantage. Isometric exercises can be done in most settings and can target key muscle groups for both beginners and elite athletes. Use soft matting or a cushioned floor to do push-ups on your knees and sit-ups; do wall push-ups and squats from a standing position and focus on having a straight posture and fluid form. When using weights, always begin with lighter weights for your first set of repetitions. For your routines, you should pick a weight that you can comfortably do for 3 sets of 15 repetitions. Your warm-up weight is likely close to one-half the maximum weight you can lift one time, though I would recommend that less than this half weight is better than choosing a heavier weight for your warm-up. For example, if you want to do 40 pound curls with a barbell, do not warm-up with anything greater than 20 pounds. 

A well rounded runner’s routine should include exercising: the chest, back (Lats), shoulders, tricepts, bicepts, and legs (hamstrings and quadracepts.) If weights are not available, form drills can be substituted as an introduction to strength training.


There is a great feeling of accomplishment when one can complete a workout without getting injured. Carmen and I both know the value of approaching exercise with caution and great planning to avoid injury. As people age, our recovery time increases for any injury. A conservative workout can help prevent injury and can have the potential to elicit a type of runner’s high, endorphins, and/or a well deserved general sense of accomplishment. 

It might be tempting to rush through a workout without focusing on form. It is better to have slower, concise movements than to ignore proper form. One article is not sufficient to explain specific form, techniques and specific exercises, though I would recommend searching online for three sources of weight lifting samples and then choose specific exercises that (as closely as possible) mimic one’s running form.

Your Nemesis is a lack of time management. Make use of the small increments of time that exist between your other tasks. Combine your tasks. If you are dedicated to watching a certain show on television, dress to stretch during the show. Take advantage of time that you can incorporate lifting weights and doing a workout. If you plan ahead, you can strategically make better use of time you already have blocked off.

Move beyond your excuses. If you have committed to an end goal, then commit to the smaller tasks along the way. We all have reasons or excuses, but people of action do one simple thing: they take action. When all else fails and you do not know what to do, do something anyway. Get in the habit of doubling up your tasks within reason (i.e., do not try to weight lift or stretch while you are driving.) You can, however, make it a routine to briefly stretch against your front door before leaving for work or on a lunch break. Replace your excuses with actions.


The benefits you will gain can go as far as you want to take them. Everything you do adds up and is a contribution to the journey toward the end goal: a better quality of life and longevity.

It is easy to get wrapped up into our own worlds, but remember to share what works for you with those around you. Having healthier people around you helps to create a more fulfilling environment for everyone.

Once you have been dedicated to a program for 5 to 6 weeks (alternating days with leg workouts versus upper body workouts), you will begin to see results in your tone, strength, and flexibility. Increased repetitions at a lower weight will focus on endurance while fewer repetitions with heavier weights will increase mass. For distance running, I recommend the lighter weights with more repetitions.


Accomplishing a 5-week program will put you on the way to safer and faster times n your workouts and races. Just think about all the new people you will be able to meet while running at a faster pace.

We train, in life, so that when adversity comes our way, we are equipped to endure with resilience. Choose your weights, train often, and be prepared for that inevitable challenge that lurks around the corner. We all encounter adversity and challenges in life’s journey. Maybe Ben Franklin did not mention adversity as a certainty because it is obvious to us all. I pay my taxes, I welcome challenges that I am prepared to handle. After all, facing adversity with breath in my chest means I have evaded the remaining certainty in life that Ben mentioned, and I have more time for joy.
 
“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike
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Outdoor Versus Indoor Running
D. P.  Bickerdike


Subheading: We all have options.  Deciding among options in choosing the best choice for one’s circumstances requires weighing the pros and cons.  When the pros and cons are in equal balance, choose the option that gives you the most joy.


You train as often as you are able to in your busy schedule. Two general choices are running indoor or running in the outdoors.  One or the other may be more to your liking depending on your circumstances.

You may live in a colder climate with 3 feet of snow in your neighborhood.  Perhaps you live in an area where the sun shines warmly year-round. Anyone can understand the refusal to subject one’s body to extreme elements.  Aside from these obvious factors, there are other things to consider.

Science documents the difference in one’s indoor air quality versus getting fresh air outdoors (indoor tends to be lower quality.) A way to counter this fact is to open the home up to outside air in the mornings to allow the freshest air to cycle through all areas of the home.  This is not recommended if the outdoor air quality has unique circumstances such as downwind smoke form nearby fires or industrial exposures.  Though exhaust from vehicles travels approximately five miles from the sides parallel to a highway, it may be difficult to escape in-town road running exposures.  However, there are many parks and trails that provide barriers or further distances from such potential exposures.  Terrain is another factor, and one should consider the slope of any given path outdoors, as running on one slope for the duration of your training run can encourage a lack of balance in your strength development, thereby increasing the potential for injury.  Indoor machines are often free from any such concerns.  Indoor equipment may have a similar issue with form, however, for equipment that controls the form, such as using elliptical machines.  Though elliptical machines are generally designed after the average runner’s stride, this does not necessarily mean it fits your exact stride adjustment or natural foot placement.  With either indoor or outdoor options, the consideration of impact on your joints from your running is equally important.  Some machines are designed to be low impact, while others can challenge the impact one can handle. 

If you like to listen to music while you run, I only recommend using one earpiece so that you can listen for moving vehicles and others outdoors.  An added benefit of running indoors is that you may have the option to watch favorite documentaries or inspirational movies while you exercise without the worries of outdoor traffic.  If you are deficient in Vitamin D, perhaps outdoor exposure in the sun can benefit you, in the least to warm-up and stretch or for use as a warm-down. 

The main point is to pick one, and take action.  Choose one and do it, even if you have not fully decided which one you might prefer.  Successful people take action.


Whether you choose to run in the middle of a group of runners outdoors or within a self-equipped gym at home, you have to initiate yourself into discovering the particular benefits of each option for yourself and your circumstances.

Many of us have tried various options in the past: different gyms, running groups, various trails or courses, etc.  It is important that we do not assume that each style retains the previous experience we had, so that we do not make assumptions about what we may encounter if we gave similar options another try.  Mix it up.  Vary your experiences and adjust the tiny details to suit you.

Carmen and I have our favorite outdoor areas that we like to run.  We often make a decision based on what will give us the greatest option for joy.  Sometimes we enjoy a nice run and the beautiful colors of a sunset.  At other times we enjoy a great documentary while we train indoors.  I encourage you do follow suit: pursue those things which give you joy for each circumstance.

It is tempting to avoid choosing altogether and doing little to nothing for exercise.  Sometimes this might be the best option for your circumstances; but don’t be tempted to make this your only option.

At the end of each day, you have to realize that in today’s world, there will always be plenty to take care of and be responsible for doing.  The accumulation of each person’s day happens because of the individual choices we make within any given day.  Don’t wait for months to go by and then wonder why you are in your current circumstances: visualize who you want to become and take daily action toward those dreams.

One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is how to look through the windshield in front of me and where I am headed instead of the rear view mirror and all the things I cherished in the past.  I can’t change the past, and therefore I have to let it go, with no blame and no regrets.  It is only when you can let go of your past that you are free to move forward to your future.

Carmen and I have designated this year for ourselves as the year of increased joy.  Passion and integrity are not void of paying a price to those who challenge our passion and integrity, however, as long as we stand firm, we will eventually reap the crops of the seeds of our passion and integrity. When one is finally able to glance into the rear view mirror and see the trail that was created by our former “future” goals, then we have arrived at a place of peace and joy: we have manifested our dreams into reality.

So which choice is better? The choice that leads to your joy is the correct choice.  Pursue joy. There is enough to challenge us in every new day.  Do not put off your joys, do not compromise your passions.  Enjoy life. At the end of each choice, I encourage you to stretch or walk barefoot on the grass or ground: connect with something greater than yourself.

It would be easy to get caught up into our pursuits of joy to the point that we might start to neglect our responsibilities, but in our core we know how to prioritize.  One of the greatest parts of having joy is in sharing it with others.

I am often bewildered by grace and joy with peace that surpasses my understanding.  This is more than the Runner’s High.  It is in standing firm, knowing that my integrity and passions are as true as a compass pointing North.  This is my comfort when challenged with circumstances, choices, and options.  Pursue the options that bring you joy.  At the end of the day, you will have either chosen to rob yourself of joy, or you will be in pursuit of joy that lasts and does not fade away.

Combine the things you love into each workout. Mix it up, “tweek” it, be yourself, flex your core.  Get the best of both worlds, and follow your passions.  Run with passion, and every choice will be the right one for you.
 
“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike
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Gluten-Free for Elite Performance

By D. P. Bickerdike


 When your immune system is brewing hot magma underneath your body’s smoking volcano of health, consider the benefits of potentially decreasing your inflammation like Elite athletes have done: Consider going Gluten-Free.

Puffy face, overweight, chronic pain/aching joints, upset digestive system: I am all too familiar with these symptoms.  I tried many times on my own, trying to discover the pieces to the puzzle.  How could such a small amount of gluten have such an enormous effect?  Like many people who have tried on their own, I could not see the change take place with the little efforts I made to “Go Gluten-Free.” 


I believe I was in a state of denial at first, as I did not know how something seemingly so insignificant could change my life so drastically.  My periodic efforts to go gluten-free were short lived, feeling slightly better, but retaining overall symptoms that I and medical practitioners attributed to other sources. 

Science came to the rescue, through a knowledgeable medical practitioner.  I had numerous symptoms to this Autoimmune disease: puffiness, red skin, scaly skin, dry-course-straw-like-hair, brain-fog, body aches, joint pain, headaches, sinus problems, stomach/gut problems, weakness, lack of energy, sleep disorders, breathing problems, etc.  A few quick online searches can help one discover that the body does not appear to have the ability to fully break down gluten during digestion.  Further research can uncover that elite athletes can shave crucial fractions of time off of their performances.  Elite athletes are already adding a high level of stress on their bodies, and it makes sense that they are more susceptible to showing signs of anything that would cause inflammation.  If an elite athlete could gain a 2-3 % increase by going gluten-free, why wouldn’t they take this opportunity?  Further searching online should be able to isolate teams of athletes who train together while committing to a gluten free diet, specifically to avoid or reduce inflammation.  I should add that these elite athletes likely have professional medical practitioners who attend to their menus and diet protocols, and anyone attempting to try this on their own should consult a medical practitioner for the best recommendations.

I was at a crossroads, and I had to choose once again. I was asked to pay attention to how my body reacted following any gluten-dosed meal.  I started to realize that the symptoms I had seemed worse following these meals. It was time to take the full plunge.  With the help of a trusted medical practitioner, I chose to go on a 100% gluten-free diet, with no “cheating” to put it to the test and see the changes.


Originally I had been immersed in a safe-haven; a home away from home where I could recover and heal with no judgment and with full acceptance of my core.  My first steps into this safe haven were much like that of a beat up old alley cat.  


Finally, a medical practitioner helped me get on the right track and discover the main pattern in all the pieces of my puzzle: my body reacted horribly to gluten exposures.

The beginnings of going gluten-free can be challenging for the beginner, and would have been much more challenging for me had I not had this safe haven in which I ate gluten free every meal.  My diet was plant powered, and my exposures to processed foods were reduced dramatically.  I failed in the beginning.  I still had cravings for gluten, and had my moments of “splurging,” though I did not realize at the time that one tiny morsel of gluten ruined an entire month of being gluten free.


Carmen saved me.  She supported me through my challenges, understood what I was going through, and continued to love me with compassion and understanding.  She also made incredible, gluten-free food.

It is tempting to think that a day or a week is a sufficient test to be off of gluten.  I did not feel a significant difference until after three weeks of eating only gluten-free meals.  After one month, I noticed more symptoms had reduced in frequency and intensity.  Eventually, I woke up and realized for the first time in months what it felt like to be void of joint pain.  I had not noticed before, as I was so used to the pain.  The absence of pain made me realize my body was finally beginning to heal.  Carmen informed me that I was only in the beginning stages, and she was right.  I began to mark mileposts in my recovery.  It is still possible for a person with Celiac Disease to get biopsied 5 years after diagnosis (and a dedicated diet free of gluten) to still have inflammation.  It takes years to see the full results and recovery for those who are either sensitive to gluten or entirely intolerant of it.

My Nemesis: Gluten.  My children’s Nemesis: Gluten (it is genetic.)  It was only after months of beginning to heal, that I was able to see how incredibly debilitating gluten was, even months after I stopped consuming it.

I had to completely cut off gluten exposure.  Even when removing gluten from my diet (as far as I knew), standards allow for anything under 20 parts per million to be called “gluten-free” while still containing trace gluten.  My personal opinion is that it should be called “”gluten reduced”.  Some may need to reduce gluten further to feel better and recover at a reasonable rate.  Less than 10 parts per million is much better, and is “Certified Gluten- Free.”  Less than 5 parts per million is designated by the Celiac Sprue Association.  A person with Celiac disease can arguably react to approximately 2 parts per million.  What is the point?  It is difficult to actually become “gluten-free.”  Even plants have to be transported and might be exposed to cross contamination.  The point is to reduce your gluten as much as absolutely possible if you happen to fall into the category of being gluten intolerant or Celiac.  Elite athletes avoid gluten during peak and intense training seasons to reduce inflammation.  Imagine how much more inflammation can effect someone who is genetically predisposed to having medical symptoms in relation to gluten?

I found an incredible wealth: rejuvenation in my health, unmatched to date. This is the ultimate: Living Well, Living Long, Living a Beautiful Quality of Life.  When I started eating healthier, my weight dropped from 210 pounds down to 174.  When I stopped consuming known gluten, my weight dropped down to 147 lbs.   Those who react to gluten have the potential to lose weight when going on a gluten-free diet (preferably while incorporating exercise), though I encourage anyone attempting to do this to first find a medical practitioner knowledgeable in Celiac and gluten intolerant symptoms and diagnosis, as it is vital to consume a well balanced diet for recovery, exercise, and performing well.  What else did I gain?  I gained my health, and in my humble opinion, I gained my youth back.  The old alley cat that went on his first “run” with Carmen (we actually had to walk that first time because my health was in bad shape) has been rejuvenated, revived, and transformed.  I feel like my old self again, my youthful core: revived.  Carmen saved me.

It would be easy to retain my privacy about such a controversial issue, as this is a disease that appears to be widely misdiagnosed for years.  It would be irresponsible if I did not shout it from the rooftops about what happened to me in my own transformation.  The message needs to be shared.

I disclose to you theories that are beginning to be researched further, and I believe an awakening is occurring, but we are still in that layer of sleep just before the alarm goes off.  I share my experience with you so that if your volcano has been smoking for years and you assume it is just because you are getting older, stop and take an evaluation of the top symptoms of being Celiac or gluten intolerant and see if the shoe fits.  I encourage you to seek out and confirm a potential diagnosis if you have symptoms.  It may not only be your volcano that you allow to cool off, it may be your own offspring that you save from years of inflammation and discomfort by allowing them to cool the hot magma in their own lives and diet.


It is possible to enjoy a myriad of foods and drinks that are gluten-free while you are doing your intense training; perhaps you will choose it for a lifelong lifestyle, if you fall into this category.  You can have the best of both worlds.          
 
“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike
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After Committing to a Race: Claim It!
By D. P. Bickerdike

A certain race appeals to you.  You have plenty of time to train for it. There’s a certain amount of prestige and potential accomplishment associated with this race, so you commit to it.  There are plenty of excuses not to race, but you only need one really good reason to follow through. 

Find race that has meaning to you, one that echoes your passion, one that permeates your core values and connects you to those who share your empathy and passions.  One good reason is all you need to overcome your insecurities and fears.

Sign up for the race. Prep everything in advance and consider your gear, the expected weather conditions, nutritional needs, and fluid choices, etc.    Visualize the complete journey.

Once you have visualized your end goal, your training will carry you toward your goal with the help of your core passion as your fuel.  Keep your race in the forefront of your mind as you train.  When choosing gear, choose comfort first.  Never add a new routine, ritual or change to your training regime prior to or during the race unless it is of a medical necessity. We have all heard the stories of someone who tried “something new” just prior to a race or during a race, and reaped the consequences of that decision.

You will inevitably encounter trials that challenge your plans, therefore, avoid injuries, avoid breaks in your training routine, and plan ahead to allow an extra three to four weeks to train in case your plans get interrupted.

Ideally, find a partner to train and race with.  When Carmen and I choose a race to run, it is a big ordeal from start to finish.  We have many things we want and need to be set into place prior to being able to commit to an ideal race.  One of the things we value is to avoid disclosing our race plans to others.  Even though we often hear supportive voices, there will always be those who have well intended opinions and comments that may not echo the positive spin that supports our core goals.  Sometimes, hiding your core goals can be a protective measure.  Ultimately, it is the journey that is the joy while the race is the icing on the (gluten-free) cake.  It is the commitment that counts.  Feel free to tell others you are training for a race, but you don’t need to disclose all the private details of when and where you will race.  After you return with your prize you can tell all the details.

The easiest temptation is to allow other things to take priority.  It is easy to make excuses, even when there may not be sufficient reasons to support those excuses. A commitment is a solid decision: seeing your goal through to the end.  If one is tempted to give excuses in place of commitments, then you may as well start off by calling the excuses for what they are: “procrasti-ments.”  Whatever it is that keeps you from your goals needs to be re-evaluated to determine where it truly falls on the scale of priorities.

Inevitably, our goals and dreams force us to visit how we look at ourselves in the mirror.  We cannot be “committed” to two race that are scheduled at the same time, as one will always win our commitment over the other.  When you consider choosing your goal, ask yourself, “Am I all-in?”  It is the simple decision and willingness to omit that paves a smooth path toward your goals.

Whatever it is that takes a lower priority in your life does not have to be completely ignored or washed away from your mind, but your true core will show you where your heart is pointed, much like a compass always points to “True North.”  Anything else might as well be considered moderately insignificant when compared to your ultimate priorities.  When you compare two priorities side by side and you have to choose one, only one can ignite your core with passion: it wins. 

It is only after you truly recognize where you are internal compass points that you will be then understand the power of priorities.  This power yields the ultimate goals: peace and joy.  Own your core.  Own your priorities. If you don’t happen to like where your core points, only you can change what is written on your core.


If your core priorities are lined up with what you think and speak, then don’t allow them to hold you back.  Don’t allow any lower priorities to sidetrack you from your goals. Choose your passionate core values and don’t be swayed by critical voices that speak contrary to your “True North” core.  Recognizing your “True North” core allows you to lie in peace within your core and allows you to freely flex your core and focus on your priorities.  You can share your wisdom with others without the fear of judgment for having your passionate goals. 

Though the journey is much of the joy, the race is also very important.  One must decide if they will get busy racing, or become determined to sit on the couch.  Everyone has a choice.  Go; race; win your peace.

Let’s get real: time flies by quickly.  I recall my a favorite coach and mentor telling me at the end of each season that the next season and races were “just around the corner” and he was correct.  Time will pass whether you sit on the couch or go running, so you may as well suit up and enjoy the view along the path.

Seek to obtain your goal. Your race will be here sooner than you anticipate, so be prepared. You now have the ability to balance your two worlds: The mundane world of surviving our day to day workload and the peace of pursuing dreams and goals.


Passionately train, race, and win your peace.
 
“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike
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Fine-Tuning Your Fluidity
By D. P. Bickerdike

You enjoy the status quo of your running, but you are curious if “tweaking” your methods would shave off seconds from your personal record and add more adventure to your life.

There may be apprehensions in doing this, as you are comfortable with where you are at, but wonder what it would be like to uninhibitedly experiment with changing your form or training regime.  To some, this extra work might seem like…work.  Only those who venture on will know for certain whether or not there are great benefits to gain.

There is a very beautiful enticement when one sees the opportunity to potentially raise the bar to a higher level of the excitement of the Runner’s High.  Uninhibited fluidity can be a quick aid in bridging that gap.  I believe that, with slight adjustments to form, one can obtain a much greater fluidity that increases the chance to trigger off the enlightened Runner’s High state of mind.  Instead of grunting forward with less than ideal form, one can potentially use less effort to master fluid form and then use the “saved energy” to then run at a faster pace, with fluidity.

The first step is to get a baseline of your current form. Make a checklist of what you observe.  Film yourself or run past a business glass storefront to see your reflection.  Commit to improving every detail: flexibility, the angle of your entire body lean, your foot strike, the imaginary ellipse that your ankle draws in the air, the fractions of inches that you can push back, forward, and higher with your foot within each stride, your hip motion and torso twisting matching up with each stride, the energy expenditure you currently have versus the reduced energy expenditure you want to have, the imaginary image that your wrist draws in the air with every stride, your breathing patterns and use of your diaphragm/chest, your weight/BMI level, your diet and digestion level;  all of these things can be tweaked for ideal running form.


 
Transport yourself on this new journey by starting at the beginning: stretch extra.  It is much easier to make adjustments to your stride and motion with loose muscles, therefore increase the time that you allow for stretching both before and after your run.  Take the time to research ideal running form.  I could give many examples here, but your time should be spent seeing great form in videos or visualization.  Study form in slow motion as well as in real time.  Allow it to educate your subconscious.  Great form should reflect a symmetrical balance in geometrical and mathematical shapes and rhythms.  Fractions of an inch can make all the difference in the world.  These are the details that can transport you toward your goals.

Your new adventure comes with a trial and error process.  Try to think outside of the box. An example of how you adjust your form is to use the slight uphill grades on your running path to focus on extending your stride out in front of you on each step with a slight lean forward. On the downhill grades, focus on the opposite: focus on extending your stride backwards with a slightly adjusted lean “backwards.”  Try different combinations and slight variations until you eventually find one that seems to allow you to run faster without adding much more effort.  Great form may not feel comfortable at first.  Every new adjustment to your form has the potential to cause new muscles to awaken, so proceed with caution.  If you feel extreme discomfort, back off until you can revisit that part of your form at a later time with less intensity. 

Use your hips. Twisting slightly to propel even a fractional increase in your stride length can increase your fluidity.  The energy you previously used to force yourself forward is now being transformed into better form, allowing your natural gait to emerge along with full utilization of gravity to propel you forward.  Another benefit to a slightly longer stride is the use of the “snap-back” effect of your Achilles Tendon. I again caution you that a thorough warm-up and stretching program before your run Is essential in avoiding injuries.  Using your tendons to “rubber-band” you forward can help to reduce the energy needed compared to strictly using muscles to carry out the same movements.  Less muscles firing to propel you forward decreases the amount of oxygen needed and increases your VO2Max ratio.

Evaluate subtle variations in your form.  Keep a journal and document your elation or your struggles.  Learn from your experience accordingly.  Your running form is much like a Stradivarius violin: Your potential is incredible, you just need a few minor adjustments to the strings now and must have an artist (you) who can play those strings in a delicate manner in relation to your stature and physical make-up.


Practice fluidity. Your arms should flow naturally. One breathing method is to breathe sharply inward for two strides, and then breath out slowly to about a 75%-85% exhale over the next two to five strides.  If you don’t want to keep a full count of your entire rhythm, at least focus on the first to sharp inhales.  This allows the ripple effect from the force travelling up your body with every foot strike to ripple through your diaphragm: use that natural energy instead of your muscles.  If you can do this effectively, you just added to your VO2 Max ratio.

Carmen and I love running together. We share the same passions of pursuing health, longevity, and dreams/goals in general.  Fluidity in running has always been a focus in our training.  When fine-tuning my form, I have been able to increase my pace dramatically with little extra effort.  Fluidity is about conservation of energy.  When your form has the least path of resistance, you flow in that form naturally, without having to seek out a more fluid method.  Your fluid form should feel much like running in the same direction as a moderate current in a stream that is shoulder height.  You should feel that you are naturally being propelled forward.


Don’t be tempted to force a long stride; it should come natural (though it may feel awkward at first.)  Avoid the temptation to “add force” to your fluid form.  Get rid of the old thinking that tried to mock you into thinking that, “if it doesn’t hurt, you are not working hard enough.”  Work smarter, not harder.  You don’t need to feel pain for your form to be effective.

You are the one who has to revisit your form and face yourself in the reflected image.  Adjust your form until you like the image you see.

Make peace with your form and get rid of the old restraints that hold you back so you can flow freely with your new fluidity.  Throw out the old form, give way to the new.

After finding my balance in form, I feel elation.  The intricate details of slight adjustments have made for a beautiful flowing enjoyment of running, not to mention better race times.  Sometimes I feel that I could run forever at my fluid pace, other times I feel I could get my best personal record.  It is worth making the fine-tuning adjustments to reach my goals of running with fluidity. 


It would be challenging to run every training run at the peak race-pace fluidity level.  Take a break from focusing on your form and discover what your body naturally remembers on it’s own.  Running should feel free and enjoyable.  Talk about your new skills to another running who might be seeking that next level of improvement.  Share your wisdom as you now become the “old dog” in the race who gives the rest of the crowd a run for the prize.  Fluidity is wisdom: know how to use it to become efficient and effective.

“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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Top Seven Team Sports for Conditioning
By D. P. Bickerdike

My top seven team sports likely include at least one of your favorites.  The main idea is that for team sports, additional personal growth is available and great bonds for life can be formulated.  The real goal is to get out there and take the first few steps toward doing something, anything, and preferably include some camaraderie.

My first experience to team sports was in my elementary school the first year I moved to Tucson.  I was the last picked for the soccer team, being the new guy in town.  I soon learned how quickly I could lose my breath, and was determined to climb up the ladder in how I was picked for the recess teams.  The short bursts of sprinting mixed with brief rest periods is an ideal way to increase VO2 Max, and I quickly moved up my rank to the point where I became the guy picking the team.  Soccer is an excellent form of exercise that can help one get in shape rather quickly.  In any team sport, the team works best when all participate with a core of empathy: selflessness.  It’s not about “hogging the ball” so you can “be the one to score.”  It’s always about helping the team get to the next level with each potential opportunity, wherever it may fall.

The next team sport I was exposed to was basketball, in junior high school and happens to be ranked second on the list. Again, I was challenged with increasing my VO2 Max, and the wind sprints from short markers to longer markers added a great routine, increasing balance and agility to my exercise regime. This also required great skill in communicating with my peers on the court and learning basic signals.  This sport truly made my lungs feel as if they were burning in a relatively short period of time on the court.  If you are looking to get into shape fast and have good agility and balance, consider joining a local basketball team through your local parks and recreation.  Your lungs may not thank you now, but your overall health will later in life.

Tennis happens to be third on the list of ranking and ironically coincides with the next team sport I was introduced to in my local Parks and Recreation tennis camps.  I love the game of tennis for getting into shape, and I enjoy the fact that tennis can be played by all ages for health maintenance.  One can perform at an easy level, or at a high level of exertion, allowing the opportunity to increase VO2 Max in five to six weeks of regular exercise.  In addition, the movements promote stretching and agility as well.

Baseball is always an American favorite and ranks number four on the list.  The nice thing about team sports is that all you really need is a group of people and a few pieces of equipment to get things started.  Ranging from using paper cups as bases and a basic stick and ball to being on an official baseball team with all the bells and whistles, this sport allows great training opportunities with varied options for exercise levels, depending on the position you end up wanting to play. 

Football is a great sport to rank as number five on the list.  Providing that any sport focuses on safety first, each and every one of them can be effective in increasing one’s level of conditioning.  The point is to get active, use the right equipment for the sport, find a great coach who focuses on proper training, technique and safety methods, and this sport has great potential for lifelong enjoyment and training.  A word of caution: try to avoid “pick-up” tackle games.

Running (Track and Field and Cross Country) rank number six on the list and is my personal favorite.  This sport allows one to join at almost any age on many different levels of skill and conditioning. Many local Parks and Recreation groups include this sport for Summer running events, allowing teams to join and participate as both groups and individuals.  This is my favorite choice for lifelong training to get your body in shape at any age or any starting point for further conditioning. 

Finally, I list golf as the seventh sport for the team sport that helps to get your body in shape.  Golf is yet another sport that allows one to join at almost any age or level of conditioning.  This is a great beginning sport for young and old athletes alike, and a sport that can be carried into the twilight years even as one’s VO2 Max levels decline naturally over time.  In the very least, one can practice their putting, at most, one can make it a training run and run from hole to hole between swings.


The greatest gift that exercise and athletics offers is the benefits to our health and increased longevity. I love an old quote I once overheard years ago about an old dog passing down his wisdom for how he was able to achieve a long healthy life. He was quoted as saying, “When I work, I work hard; when I play, I play hard; when I rest… I go to sleep.”  If your favorite sport is not on this list, no worries.  Pursue your passions. Find a sport you can play hard at, and when you are finished, enjoy your rest. Work hard, play hard, and dream of your goals while you rest and sleep.

 

“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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Hiking in the City
By D. P. Bickerdike

Whether you are visiting a new city or wanting to further explore your own urban jungle, a well-prepared hike can add to any city’s ambiance.

You do not have to let mild variances in your climate affect your ability to hike and explore through your town or city.  In windy, hot or very cold weather, there are many indoor options to choose from.  Local malls, indoor tracks, and some stadiums offer availability and access to certain groups and individuals, just check ahead for requirements or any memberships that may be necessary for some of the options.  Often, your local business strip will allow you to browse their specials before you move on the next store.  If you don’t plan on bringing a purchasing budget, try not to linger too long.  If you like to systematically zig-zag through all the aisles, at least try to be a customer at some point as a thanks for the opportunity to hike through the facilities.  You can choose small stores, or go large. On the other hand, maybe you would like to visit the largest mall in America.  Either way, pack a snack and plenty of water in a non-breakable container where allowed, and enjoy your hike.

The real keys are to have a plan, tell a friend or bring one along for the hike, take some pictures along the way, and have fun.

What it takes is stepping out and activating your plan.  For some, the local grocery store to do shopping is the equivalent of running a marathon.  Others may want to take a bus or tram across the city and hike back toward home.  The options are limitless when adding a bit of creativity.  Many local areas offer options for “Geo-tracking” within certain rules and local regulations, and are often found listed on websites.  If you have a GPS tool, then it might be fun to do this type of GPS “treasure hunt.”  I like leaving a small coin or token in a designated and hidden spot, to return weeks, months and years later to find the token again.  These types of activities can add adventure to any Urban Jungle hike.

Transporting yourself with local transportation can also be a great way to preview your route so you can anticipate potential stops or avoid unforeseen obstacles that might not be updated or listed on your maps.  Some hike ideas might include plotting out future race courses that you might want to walk or run.  You can always hike to and from favorite race courses within each new city.

As with any new adventure, you might have to make adjustments prior to your next hike.  Take a notepad or digital method of documenting ideas for the next time around.  Plan out a preselected place of business, seating area, or snack shop where you can reward yourself for a job well done.

One of the greatest benefits to exercising in public is being able to interact and meet other people, even if it is just to say a cheerful “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.”  Having helped raise wonderful children, I was always cautions about safety first, and this lesson still applies as an adult: it is always beneficial to travel in numbers, even if it is only you and another close friend.

It might be tempting to take on a large building’s stairwell, but make sure it is one that allows public access and don’t take on more than you can handle.

As always, look at yourself in the mirror before venturing out.  If you are wearing a shirt that represents the local sports team’s biggest rival, you might not meet with cheers but jeers.  Promote the local teams and popular groups and you will have a much more enjoyable hike.

Get rid of anything that makes your walk uncomfortable, include the things that will make your hike enjoyable.  Aim for comfort.

Ultimately this is about flexing your core empathy for your surroundings.  Soak in the ambiance. Speak greetings with cheer and joy. Practice safety first and always have a meeting point to reconnect if anyone in your party gets sidetracked or temporarily lost, or if phone batteries and reception are limited.

It is easy to get lost when exploring new areas.  It happened to me while in Belgium, as I sketched various buildings, people and scenery on my hike through the area.  Have a plan and stick to it; try to meet time guidelines to keep you on track.

In the very least, have a backup plan for your return.  It is much easier to plan ahead to end your hike near a potential bus route than to have ventured off on a trail that requires you to hike back when you are exhausted.  Tell other friends where you are going, what your route will be, and make sure you let them know when you return.  After all, they might be the one who comes and rescues you when you realize you took on too much of a challenge for that hike.

Finally, share your adventures and experiences with others.  This is part of the reward. You can inspire others to safely venture out and explore new areas of their city or new cities altogether.  Take pictures, write a journal, post on your favorite social media about your adventure.  Maybe you will even start a new trend and will become your local Urban Jungle expert.

“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

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Emulating Traits of the Olympic Athlete
By D. P. Bickerdike

Can you feel the excitement in the air?  Just as cream rises to the top of the world’s elite cup of coffee, so the elite athletes rise to the top of the world competition; not for money, not for glory or fame, but the true athlete strives to know the limits of human capacity, and then strives to push beyond these limits at the Olympics with pride for their Country, camaraderie with fellow competitors, and honor for themselves.

Steve Prefontaine had humble beginnings. It seems implied that he was bullied, and that he found a place to escape with his running.  I can relate to this. Somewhere along the way, he was offered an opportunity to run on a team.  Somehow, getting rid of his extra energy was appealing.  Somewhere along the way, his footing found a rhythmic pace that drew him in, captivated him, and made him want more.

Other sports were not suitable for his physique.  Having been a scrawny child myself, I understand why he did not stick with football or other sports.  I do, however, understand that when one finds their natural stride that they were born for, that it permeates your soul with effortless strides, and all you need to add to that recipe is relentless tenacity to take it to the limits.

Steve Prefontaine personified tenacity. His innate instincts and abilities were recognized early on as he progressed from one mentoring coach to another.  It is not that any particular workout or someone holding a stopwatch can necessarily make a difference: it is the integral genius between the coach and athlete both recognizing and understanding that a true gift needs to be combined with passion to surpass any known limits.

In order to pursue the Olympics, any given athlete must submit to a coach’s creative consultation and every coach must honor the dedication and commitment from athletes who have innate abilities and passion.  It is an elite coach’s job to know when to hold the athlete back for their own safety, and an elite athlete’s job to trust that (until the coach draws a line) any known limits are open game.  You will find complete trust, complete dedication, and full communication between elite coaches and elite athletes.

What is it that transports us to our dreams?  The same threads and fibers that transports elite athletes to the Olympics: Tenacity, Passion, Drive.  However, these cannot be unbridled and fly around like a pinball in a pinball machine; these attributes require some guidance down the road.  A coach’s job is to nudge the athlete back toward the middle of the path with a gentle flipper from the sidelines, trying to streamline the efficiency of the overall program to gain the best results.  The vehicle down this path is integral, and combines the intertwined efforts from both the coach and athlete.

I recall reading about a challenging workout that Pre did that demonstrated his high VO2 Max level, called “30/40’s.”  This workout was basically running laps around a track in 220 yard intervals, alternating the first one in 30 seconds and the second one in 40 seconds.  Though this workout appears to have been designed by his coach at the time, Bill Dillinger, I imagine that the inspiration for the workout was from Pre’s running style and ability. 

I recall my high school track coach timing me for repeat 200 meters (in 28-29 seconds.) I told him it was too hard to just stop at 200 meters after running that pace and I asked if he wouldn’t mind if I just “coasted” after the 200-meter mark until I slowed down. He agreed, and timed me for 300 meters.  Apparently I was running regular sub-40 second splits and I had onlookers timing me as well.  After all, I was borrowing their all-weather track for this training session. I was just coasting to a stop; they were scratching their chins on the pavement with stopwatches in their hands.

I would walk the next 100 meters and start again, lap after lap.  I imagine that Dillinger may have been inspired in a similar way: Prefontaine was capable, likely just “coasting” an extra 200 meters to begin again, and between the two of them discovered a unique new workout.

Carmen and I have our great running stories and passions that we share with each other.  Carmen is much like the gentle flippers that nudge me back to the center of the path and helps me refine and focus my passions and creativities further down the road.  We all need someone who first can recognize the value of our core, and then can help us understand the value in sharing that core with those around us.


To the best of my references, I have calculated Pre’s early personal records.  As a sophomore in high school, Prefontaine ran an 880 yard race in 2:03.5. As a sophomore, I ran an 800 meter race in approximately 1:57.  Pre raced a mile in 4:29.1 and as a sophomore I raced a mile at about 4:25. For our junior times, Pre ran an 880 in 1:56.2, and my converted equivalent was 1:53.9. 


I do not know the statistics of how many runners can match their high school times with Prefontaine’s.  I do know that it takes great coaches to recognize the combination of talent and inborn drive within any athlete.  Genetics helps, but passion is essential.

I recall meeting and speaking with George Young (four-time Olympian) at a track camp, who also raced with Prefontaine.  At the time I met him, he was coaching at Central Arizona College.  His tenacity for running flexed through from his core, as he smoked a cigar, and told me how fast he was even using only one lung.  I often wonder what would have happened if I had accepted his invitation to run in Coolidge to have him as my coach, even after I recovered from a broken leg.  There always has to be a balance between the tenacity of the athlete who is racing, and the coach who is meant to push hard until it is time to hit the safety switch.  It is a delicate balance.

The dangerous temptation that causes elite athletes to fail is flirting with danger and lowering safety standards.  Pre trained his body like a high performance vehicle: every detailed adjustment and fine-tuning was necessary in combination with every intricate moving part for ultimate success.  Another dangerous temptation is for a coach to push an athlete too far.  I was fortunate to have coaches who knew when to draw back the reins and reel me in from the danger zones.

At some point, every elite athlete is given the responsibility to run the race.  The coach can only go so far: the athlete is the one who competes.  The coach passes the torch to the athlete. The responsibility of putting it all together lay on the shoulder’s of the elite athlete alone.  The crowd goes silent, the footsteps pound in echoing chorus, the lungs burn, the legs grow heavy, and the athlete decides how close to the danger zone they are willing to push their heart. This is the core and character of the elite athlete.

An elite athlete knows what the danger zone means.  It means, in a somewhat morbid sense, that one must be willing to compete to exhaustion, to the point of collapse, to the point of sensing they may have pushed too far and might not return.  It is the willingness to sacrifice that is the heart of the elite athlete.  It is the willingness to be “All-In.”

In the running world, nothing beats a good Runner’s High.  It can be achieved during or after a moderate run, or be caused by a fierce race.  With or without the Runner’s High, however, there is pride in knowing one was willing to sacrifice, and that they reached the limits of what they could do so as to return another day and repeat the challenge again.  It is about testing the limits of the human will, and Steve Prefontaine taught us how to do this.

The Runner’s High is the chariot that taxi’s us back into reality.  It buffers the pain and the blows of how our body reacts from us pushing it into the danger zone.  Soon, the high melts away, and we are left to deal with our lactic acid buildup and soreness from trying to push our limits.

Being an elite athlete is much like living life in general.  We push to the limits of what we can handle, we relish in the moments of elation, and we train to handle the next round with more stamina than before.  We all need guidance and mentors, but ultimately we are responsible for how we run the race.  Learn the traits of elite athletes and apply them to your own life, whether you walk, “wog”, jog, or run, become inspired and do it with passion.
 
“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike