Six hot-weather training tips for runners

This guy will make your outdoor training a little tougher in the summer. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Summer is rapidly approaching, and it’s a time when a lot of us are thinking about vacations, backyard cookouts and time at the pool.

But for the running crowd, it’s also an opportunity to take advantage of extra daylight hours to get in our miles.

One problem: The heat. Most places will begin seeing temperatures rise significantly within the next couple of weeks, and things really get cooking in July and August. Fun in the sun is great and all, but when you’re training, heat can wreck you. It can beat you and your workouts into submission, and if you’re not careful, cause serious health problems.

But if we only went out in perfect conditions, there is a good chance we’d achieve almost nothing. So my advice is to make peace with summer and learn a few things about hot-weather training to get by, at least until things cool off in the fall.

So here are six tips for training in the heat:

Hydrate. A lot. Before you go to bed, drink some water. When you get up, drink some more. And throughout the day, be drinking more water. Bring some with you (hand-held water bottle, hip belt or hydration pack) or be sure your route has drinking fountains available. Don’t wait till you crash to stop for a water break. Heat-related illnesses and dehydration are no joke. Is a gallon a day excessive? Not if it’s summer and you’re outside training.

Shade your face. A ball cap will help you keep a little shade on your face and direct sun off your head. If it’s a moisture-wicking cap, it will help you stay cool.

If you can, pick routes with trees. I love trail running, and many of my trails are in wooded areas. You’ll lose some of the breeze in the woods, but the shade will help keep you cooler.

Pace yourself. Your body will not be able to maintain the same intensity at 98 degrees as it does at 78 degrees or 58 degrees. But you will still be working hard, and that’s what you’re going for — putting in some hard work. Which leads me to the next point…

Watch your heart rate. Whether it’s just listening to your body or wearing a heart-rate monitor, those beats-per-minute will be very telling in terms of how hard your body is working. In the winter, you burn more calories because your body is trying hard to keep your core temperature up. But in the summer, it’s fighting — and losing — the battle to keep you cool. If your pulse is pounding in your temples at 180 bpm or more, maybe it’s time to slow down and walk a couple of blocks. No shame in that.

And finally, and this might go without saying, pick a cooler time of day to run. This means running pre-dawn or after sunset during the summer, but those hours will be cooler and easier to manage.

So there you have it. Use these ideas during the hot months. Or succumb to the treadmill. Your choice.

Bob Doucette

The strength experiment, a final word: What I did right and wrong

One thing about these guys: They’ll give back what you put in.

Much thanks to everyone who has hung on through this series on my strength experiment. If you’ve read the posts, you know why I did this, the workouts I performed, and what I did to stay healthy and ready to go.

This post is what I would call an “accountability” piece. Namely, what my results were, what went right, and what went wrong.

Before I go into all of that, a little guiding philosophy first. When you’re pushing for strength gains, you can’t do the same workouts with the same weight every week. You have to gradually increase weight in your lifts. The added challenge is added stimuli to promote muscle growth and performance gains. Otherwise, you stagnate and ultimately regress.

That said, I am very conservative when it comes to bumping up weight. Part of it has to do with a history of back injuries. I was steady but conservative on increasing weight on deadlifts, and even more so on squats. But when I felt it was appropriate, I moved up.

That said, let’s get to it…

THE RESULTS

I started out with a one-rep max deadlift of 320 pounds. Not too shabby, but in need of improvement. At the end of four months, that one-rep max stood at 350. Not quite twice my body weight, but a decent gain and 30 pounds closer to my goal.

I don’t like doing one-rep maxes on squats. I just don’t trust myself on that lift with the make-or-break stakes of a single. It should also be noted that my squat sucks out loud. I’ve had to work hard on getting the right form, and that meant dialing back the weight a bunch. When I started the cycle, I was doing a four-rep set with 225. When it ended, I was getting a four-rep set at 265. I think that would put me right at a 300-pound 1RM, but it’s all talk until you do it. Nevertheless, I’d call my approach on the squats ultra-conservative, and the gains were real.

Lastly, the dreaded bench press. What used to be my best lift is now pretty sad. At the beginning of the cycle, I was getting a max of about 220. At the end, I hit 240. That one surprised me a bit, mostly because I put very little emphasis on this lift, but I went ahead and tested it, mostly because it’s one of the three used in powerlifting meets. It was a pleasant surprise. I haven’t put more than 225 pounds on the bar in five years.

These aren’t really big totals. There are Crossfitter/bodybuilder/powerlifter/gym rat guys and gals who crank better than this. Just being honest. But there was some progress, and if you believe Men’s Health magazine, that 350-pound deadlift puts me in the “fit” category on that lift. The charts at one of the gyms I go to puts all my lifts in the intermediate range, or between intermediate and advanced, for my age and size. Not bad, with room for improvement. But more to the point, improvement is what I got.

WHAT I DID RIGHT

Dialing back the running. I’m a runner these days, so scaling back my miles was mentally hard. But what’s harder is getting stronger while pounding out 20 to 30 miles or more a week. Dropping that weekly mileage count allowed my body to rest and rebuild in a way that was conducive to strength.

Conservative progression. Some lifters and coaches advise adding 10 pounds a week to your lifts. I was more of a 5 pounds per week person. Go big or go home? Nah. There was one week toward the end I went the 10-pound route, but otherwise, nope. And I think that was the right speed. On some lifts, it was even slower. But progress was made, mostly without injury.

Workout design. I did a bunch of research and consulted with folks in the know to come up with the workouts I did. Not only that, I took care to place them at the right times of the week. They seemed to work pretty well, and did so without having to spend hours in the gym or doing exotic (and painful) fad workouts. Mine were simple, concise and challenging. Could they have been better designed? Probably. But these worked for me.

Sticking with it. I never let bad moods, busy schedules, laziness or anything else keep me off the program. Consistency is where I did best.

WHAT I DID WRONG

Lazy diet. I did a good job in getting all my protein. But I also ate more than I should have, and in many cases, in an undisciplined way. Too much junk. I gained about 8 pounds, most of it being the jiggly kind. Now I have to work that crap off. Yeah, there was some muscle gained, but not enough to justify that sort of weight gain.

A rep too far. In the last week of the cycle, I was really feeling the strain of it. Muscles and joints were barking. During a mid-week workout, I missed on a clean (I caught the bar, but at an awkward angle that tweaked my mid-back). It scared me a little, but I wasn’t in pain so I figured I got away with one.

Three days later, feeling beat-up and fatigued, I went through my lifts on the deadlift: 135×8, 205×7, 255×6, 295×5. They all went fine, even if I was a bit tight. I loaded 355 on the bar for a one-rep attempt and missed. An inch off the ground, but no more. The week before, 350 went up fairly well, so I figured I’d take a breather, reset, and try it again.

Big mistake.

I missed the second attempt, and my lower back freaked out for the better part of two weeks afterward. I suspected after the first miss that I needed to back off and move on, but I was prideful and wanted that gain. Bad move, and I paid for it. It’s now four weeks later, and I’m just now starting to deadlift heavier again.

So there you have it. Four months of work for a runner/hiker in the weight room trying to get stronger. I haven’t focused this intently on strength in many years, and after focusing on running over the past five years, I had a lot of ground to make up.

Will I get my miles back up? Yes, especially when the fall rolls around. Would I do another strength cycle? Absolutely. I’m not young, but I’m not dead. Being stronger can only be a positive, and if I can repeat what I did right and avoid what I did wrong, who knows how far it will go.

Thanks for reading, y’all. Time to get outside once again and get back to writing about the wide, wonderful outdoors.

Bob Doucette

Strength experiment, part 4: Self-care outside the gym

If you want to lift hard, you need to learn to take care of your body outside the gym.

In previous posts, we’ve gone over several workout plans designed around the four main strength movements: the press, the pull, the squat and the hip-hinge. None of these workouts are terribly time consuming, taking anywhere from 40 to 90 minutes apiece. But they have been challenging and fruitful.

But there are important things that support these workouts that have nothing to do with lifting. What I’m talking about is self-care.

If you’re lifting hard, there is a good chance your body will accumulate fatigue, painful tweaks and even injuries. That’s a fact of life. But you can stave off serious problems if you do the right things outside the weight room. That’s what this post is all about. I’m going to lay out what I did, and tell you why it’s important when trying to build strength and stave off injuries.

Take your rest day: I believe wholeheartedly that one day a week should be reserved for rest. You pick the day, but on your rest day, the most active things you should do are peaceful walks outside, or an easy bike ride. No lifting, no rigorous conditioning, nothing that taxes your body. If you’re not sure where that line is, then plant your butt on the couch and binge-watch a show on Netflix, catch a ballgame on TV or read a book. Rest is critical.

Get your sleep: The prime time for recovering from hard workouts is when you’re flat on your back catching some Z’s. People’s sleep needs vary, but I’d advise getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

Become friends with a foam roller: The foam roller is an excellent tool for getting ready for a workout, or recovering afterwards. I use it a lot on my back. It’s like my little tubular chiropractor. But I also use it to work on the fascia tissues in my legs, hips, back, shoulders and elsewhere. Healthy fascia means more mobility , and more mobility means better athletic training and performance.

Eat right: I think it goes without saying that you shouldn’t eat crap. Just because you burn calories working out doesn’t give you license to eat junk that piles on bad calories. Better food is better fuel, and promotes athletic performance and muscle-building. This means getting an appropriate balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein. On the protein front, I’d advise consuming at least .75 grams of protein per pound of body weight. One gram per pound of body weight is even better. It’s not easy, but it needs to be done. Short-changing yourself on protein will make strength gains difficult to achieve, if not impossible.

Do the deload week: There should be one week every four to six weeks where you do a “deload,” where you back off the intensity. There are a lot of ways to do this, but generally speaking, take down the amount of weight you use for a week and allow your body to catch its breath, so to speak. Focus on form, get your lifts, but be a little more chill. I always bounced back from a deload ready to take the next leap forward.

Work on your postural alignment: When most people think about the term “posture,” they think about standing or sitting up straight. Ut goes way beyond that and is far more clinical than avoiding the slouch. The biggest part of this post is going to go over this subject.

Postural alignment deals with the proper positioning of the spine, shoulders and hips. Good postural alignment in these areas means your body will move fluidly, efficiently and correctly. A posturally aligned body will be less likely to suffer from overuse injuries and joint problems.

Conversely, a posturally imbalanced body will be far more likely to injure muscles and joints, and be more prone to overuse injuries. Overuse injuries often happen in sports as well as in training exercises like running. It’s been said that continued physical exertion in a posturally imbalanced state is like hammering a bent nail: You only reinforce the existing problems while never achieving the desired goal.

So how do you fix your postural alignment? There are a number of relatively passive exercises developed by Pete Egoscue that are designed to do this. Having used them, I can tell you they work.

With some guidance, I put together a battery of exercises I like to do in the mornings that help my particular imbalances. My hips are slightly off, as are my shoulders. I have some kyphosis in my back. All of this will affect my strength training, running and overall athletic performance negatively. The more I can resolve these issues, the better prepared I’ll be to tackle new physical challenges.

My exercises:

Static back.

Static back: This uses gravity and positioning to help my back become straighter and less curved. 3-5 minutes.

Static extension.

Static extension position: This fights rotation in your hips and shoulders and straightens the back. 1-2 minutes.

Wall drop.

Wall drop: While also helping straighten the back, it also helps loosen the musculature in the entire posterior chain: calves, hamstrings, glutes and the back. This also combats anterior pelvic tilt, which can severely impede overall mobility. Lastly, it assists in getting your head in a more neutral, less forward-tilted position. 3-5 minutes.

Upper spinal floor twist.

Upper spinal floor twist: This targets the upper to mid back, opening it up and pulling the body out of a rounded state and pulling the shoulders back. This will help prevent shoulder injuries, open up the chest, and thus enhance air intake and lung capacity. 1 minute each side.

Counter stretch.

Counter stretch: This helps pull your spine out of excessive curvature in your lower back and mid/upper back, repositions should shoulders and properly realigns your pelvis. Again, key components of proper mobility. 1-2 minutes.

There are postural alignment specialists scattered all over the country who are certified through Pete Egoscue’s system. Google “Egoscue” and your city and find them (I happen to know a good one in Tulsa 😊). A properly aligned spine improves your core stability and capacity to take on bigger loads in weight training.

Additionally, proper alignment will help your cardiovascular performance. I can tell you from experience that these exercises have helped me breathe better in races.

That’s my take on self-care during a strength cycle. Take care of your body, and it will take care of you.

In my next post, I’ll discuss my own results, as well as break down what I did right – and what I did wrong.

Bob Doucette

Strength experiment, part 3: Posterior chain, aka, working your backside

The primal joy of the deadlift. Sah-weet!

It’s been fun recapping the strength workouts I did over the winter. Some are harder than others. Today we’re going to hit on an area that, for most people, offers the greatest potential for growth, and yet is often sorely neglected: the posterior chain.

So, what the heck is that? Simply put, it’s all the musculature on the back side (posterior) of your body, starting with the muscles in your neck all the way down to your hamstrings. So many people focus on the “mirror muscles” – the muscles they see when looking their reflection – that they forget about crucial areas which will make or break you athletically, and will affect your long-term health.

Let me lay out some truth to you. You cannot be strong if your back is weak. You will not stay healthy is your back is weak. You will likely become injured, physically compromised and otherwise headed toward greater immobility if your back is weak. Bench-pressing a truck is great. So is squatting a house. You will do neither if your back is weak.

And think about all the other things you do. Running, skiing, hiking, backpacking, recreational sports – just about anything, really – depends greatly on a strong back, and will be hindered if you are weak in this area. Some of the most debilitating injuries you can imagine are back injuries, and if your spine is not protected by strong back and core muscles, you WILL hurt your back. It might happen while grabbing a rebound. Or on a 20-mile hike. Or while running your next half-marathon. Or picking up a basket of laundry. That’s the truth, folks.

Here’s another: The deficiencies in your back can be solved by you.

Earlier this week, I mentioned the four main movements of strength training. One of those was the hip-hinge. Another was the pull. That’s what we’re going to focus on today.

When describing “pulls,” we’re talking about pull-ups, chin-ups, barbell rows, dumbbell rows, and cable pulls. These will primarily work the lats, those big muscles that flank the spine from your armpits down to your tailbone. Your biceps will also get some work here, as will the muscles on the back side of your shoulders. Being strong in these areas will go a long way toward balancing your anterior workouts and promote shoulder health as well as back strength.

Hip-hinge exercises are deadlifts, hip thrusters and kettlebell swings. The latter two exercises are great at working the glutes and hamstrings. But the deadlift rules them all. Deadlifts work the glutes and hamstrings while also giving your quadriceps some love. But wait, there’s more! Deadlifts will also work all the muscles in your back – from the muscles at the base of your neck to the base of your spine. An added benefit is holding a weighted barbell does wonderful things for improving grip strength. Master the deadlift and you will become strong.

I do two posterior chain workouts per week. The first one is an “easy” day. The second one is the toughest, most taxing workout of the week. Done right, these workouts will become the core of building strength.

Here’s the plan:

“Easy” day posterior chain workout

Lat pulls, 3×8

Cleans, 3×5

Seated cable rows, 3×10

Straight-arm cable pull-downs, 3×10

Mix in some core work and you’re good to go.

One note: If you haven’t done cleans before, go light and practice the form. This is a tricky, skill-based Olympic-style lift that will build back strength and overall explosive power, but get it wrong and you’ll jack up your back.

“Hard” day posterior chain workout

Warm-up: Pull-ups, 8, 9 and 10 reps; Sumo deadlifts with a kettlebell, 3×10

Barbell deadlift, 8, 7, 6, 5 reps (escalating weight with each set). If you’re brave, try adding fifth set of a 2-rep or a single rep with a heavy weight that you’re not sure you can get.

Standing horizontal cable pulls, 3×10 (escalating weight)

Farmer’s walk, loaded trap bar, 3 sets, walk with the weight for 45 seconds per set

Dumbbell bicep curls, 3×12 (escalating weight)

Hammer curls, 3×10 (escalating weight)

Throw in some planks and dead bugs, 3 sets each.

I added in the dumbbell curls to give your biceps a little more love.

But what I really want to address is the farmer’s walk. Such a great exercise. If you don’t have a trap bar, you can carry plates or dumbbells. The farmer’s walk, or any other loaded carry, works your back, legs and core. It will test your cardio. And it will build grip strength. This is one of my favorite exercises, and it has practical applications.

One last admonition: Form on the deadlift is crucial, especially when the weight starts getting heavier. You must brace your core and keep your back straight. A bowed lumbar is a recipe for injury.

So there it is. No lift scares me more than a really heavy deadlift single. No exercise makes me happier than the deadlift. And nothing is more satisfying than loading the bar with a big weight, walking up to it, and hoisting that bad boy off the ground. It’s simple, primal, aggressive and oh so good.

As a bonus: The deadlift is a total body exercise, and if you get strong doing these, you will get stronger everywhere else.

In the next installment, I’m going to discuss what I did for self-care during this strength cycle. It ain’t sexy, but it’s important.

Bob Doucette

Strength experiment, part 2: Leg day

If you want stronger legs, you’re going to have to get under the bar.

In the last post, I went over different variations of the press. Specifically, overhead presses and chest presses. Good stuff to power up the upper body.

But as we all should know, the foundation of any athlete is a good set of legs. All the upper body power in the world won’t do much (aside from looking good) if your legs are weak. Hiking, running, sprinting, jumping – you name it, if there is any sort of land-based locomotion going on, your legs are going to be heavily involved.

Go into the fitness corner of the internet enough and you’re bound to hear the admonition to “never skip leg day.” Sometimes that’s accompanied by a photo of a dude with a stacked upper body and the spindly legs of habitual computer gamer.

As a matter of disclosure, I wish mine were stronger. They don’t look like much. That’s why I never skip leg day. In fact, I make sure I do leg day twice a week and spend plenty of time under the bar.

Going back to my original theme of four basic movements, my leg day workout centers on the squat and its variations. The goal is to strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves.  When I think about these muscle groups, the quads and glutes power you through jumps and quick bursts as well as being the primary “push” engines of your lower body. Your glutes work with your hamstrings to propel you forward when you’re running or sprinting. The calves assist in all of these, but have enough slow-twitch muscles in them to make them ideal stabilizers for everything from all-out sprints to holding your place on a wall when climbing. I know I’m barely scratching the surface here, but it gives you an idea of how these muscle groups make you move.

If you’re strong in your legs, it’s a pretty good bet you’re going to be strong everywhere else. Strength training for legs is hard. Really hard. But it’s also crucial, not only in your athletic performance now but in your mobility as you age. Running alone won’t cut it. You really should be lifting. Don’t neglect the legs!

Anyway, enough of that intro. Like I said, I do two leg day sessions a week, with the core of the workout centered on the squat. Here’s what it looks like:

Warm-up: 3×10 sumo squat with a kettlebell; 3×10 single-leg calf raises w/dumbbell (escalating weight with each set on the calf raises). I include those calf raises because that movement stretches the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, allowing for better mobility once I get under the bar for squatting. I use a 60-pound kettlebell on the sumo squats; nothing too heavy, just enough weight to help wake up the muscles in my legs and hips for the work to come. When I’m done with these, I’m ready for the real deal.

Barbell back squat, 1×8, 1×7, 1×6, 1×5 (escalating weight)

Barbell front squat, 3×6

Barbell Romanian deadlift, 3×6

Peterson step-up w/kettlebell (light weight), 3×10 each leg

Kettlebell swing, 3×12

Leg extension, 3×15 (escalating weight)

The key to this is that both squat variations should be challenging weights. The rep ranges are not high, so the weight must be on the heavier side, relative to your ability. Generally speaking, you’re going to be able to squat much more weight on the back squat than you are on the front squat. The Peterson step-ups are a really good single-leg exercise to build your quads, especially that “teardrop” muscle on the inside of the kneecap. The Romanian deadlifts pound your glutes and hamstrings. Same thing with the kettlebell swing, but more explosively. The leg extensions at the end of the workout are a great way to safely roast your quads before you call it a day.

I usually don’t do core work on leg day, as your core is going to get a lot of work doing the squats. But that’s a call you’ll have to make for yourself.

For conditioning, I like to do three rounds of a barbell complex. The goal here is not really strength, it’s more about quick-burst lifts to raise your heart rate. And believe me, a barbell complex will do it. Mine includes some lifts that aren’t “leg day” lifts, but by this point it’s more about conditioning than lifting anyway. Here’s what a round of mine looks like:

Hang clean x6

Front squat x6

Standing overhead press x6

Romanian deadlift x6

Bent-over barbell row x6

With the barbell complex, you load a light weight (I’ve seen some people do it with an unloaded bar). Perform all the lifts in the entire complex without stopping to rest or put down the bar until the round is finished. It’ll spike your heart rate nicely, and is a good way to end a leg day workout.

My first lift of the week is always a leg day workout. I’ll do it again three days later.

So there it is. Next time, we’ll tackle the hip-hinge and the posterior chain. See you then.

Bob Doucette

Four ideas on dealing with injuries during training

My friends. But they don't care if I'm injured.

My friends. But they don’t care if I’m injured.

Tell me you’ve heard this one before…

You’re training hard, working toward a specific goal. Things are going great, progressing nicely, and then it hits: An injury.

Now what?

I’ve faced this a bunch over the years. A cranky back, tweaked neck, wonky shoulders and sprained ankles. Last spring it was a tweaked hamstring, and there have been elbow, wrist and foot problems, to boot.

Last week, it was something else.

I’ve been working hard on building strength for the past couple of months, dialing back my running and pushing hard in the weight room. I still run, but less frequently and shorter distances. The bike has taken over some workouts where running used to be.

But a little over a week ago, I was doing a deadlift workout and tweaked my right trapezius muscle. The trapezius is a long back muscle that starts at the top of your neck, widens and thickens on your upper back, and runs down the side of your spine.

The trapezius. Mine was angry.

The trapezius. Mine was angry.

It is a crucial muscle in any lift where a hip-hinge movement is involved, and if it’s freaking out, you’ll know it every time you get out of bed, turn your head or try to pick something up.

I did a lot of rehab exercises to try to work out the kinks, but by late last week, it was still angry. The workout I had planned included Romanian deadlifts – a great hamstring and glute move that also works the back, and therefore, the trapezius. Additionally, I’d also be lifting a barbell off the floor to the front squat position for another exercise. Same deal, and my back was saying no.

The rest of my body was fine. But one ticked-off muscle can throw you for a loop.

I ended up doing two things. First, I modified that day’s workout to a lighter-weight circuit that included back squats, calf raises and reverse lunges. Six rounds of that, with minimal stress on the traps. Second, I skipped the next day’s shoulder workout entirely and just ran trails.

By Saturday, I was good to go for another deadlift workout (which also included farmer’s walks, cable pulls and pull-ups, all of which recruit the trapezius). I slayed that workout.

There are some important lessons here, and to be frank, sometimes you have to learn this the hard way, like me. Whether you’re training to get strong, for a long-distance race, or preparing for a major physical challenge (say, climbing a mountain), injuries are going to happen.

How do you handle them? Here are some ideas:

Sometimes you have to suck it up and train through it, but work around the problem. Not every injury requires you to shut it down and wait it out. Think it through and find ways to keep up your training without aggravating the problem. What I described above is a good example. Another: runners facing roadblocks can hop on a bike or swim for their conditioning needs until their bodies are well enough to hit the road.

Many injuries are caused by overuse and imbalances. These in turn put undue stress on others parts of your body, leading to injury. Diagnose that, and find ways to train those weak areas so other parts of your body aren’t overcompensating for the weakness and leaving you sidelined. For runners, “dead-butt syndrome” is a perfect example (lack of glute strength). Many lifters suffer from shoulder impingements (poor postural alignment, or underdeveloped back musculature are common there). The fixes are simple, but they will take time. Commit to it.

Your “form” in your training sucks. Fix it. So many runners I know pound their knees into oblivion by hard heel-striking. Others bounce too much, putting a ton of stress on the Achilles tendons. In strength training, poor form – especially on compound exercises, Olympic lifts and explosive movements – lead to potentially serious problems (and don’t get me started on doing these lifts in a fatigued state). My ongoing back issues can be traced back to piss-poor squat form over a decade ago that left me injured. I’ve had to work on that diligently to keep myself from getting hurt again. Proper form in any athletic pursuit mitigates injury. It’s usually pride that keeps people from fixing the problem, and ultimately leads the prideful to the sidelines, bemoaning a fate that could have been avoided.

Sometimes, you really do need to stop and heal. Injuries happen. If you rip your knee up, wrench your shoulder, suffer a stress fracture or hurt your back, there may not be enough chiro work, at-home rehab, Ibuprofen, inner toughness or other tricks to keep you moving forward. When that happens, you need rest, time to heal, and a plan for rehab and recovery. Whether it’s something as relatively minor as an ankle sprain before a big race or something major like a blown disk or ligament/muscle tear, there are definitely times when you need to swallow your pride, shut it down and get well.

If you're like me, you don't want to stop. But we have to be smart about it.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to stop. But we have to be smart about it.

I was fortunate that I knew what I could and couldn’t do in terms of what was a minor physical setback, but one that was big enough to potentially derail my training. I could do my squats; but the overhead presses the next day? Nope. And it all worked out in the end.

Bob Doucette

Moving beyond New Year’s resolutions

weights

It’s that time of year.

You’re going to see two types of people in the gym and on the trails: The New Year’s resolutioner and the people who have moved past resolutions. There is nothing right or wrong about being either. But there is merit to moving from the former to the latter.

You’ve got two kinds of resolutioners. The first type are the people who are getting in shape for the first time in their lives. This is a good place to be, because this person is a blank slate, ready to learn, and ready to improve his or her health. The second type includes those who have made more than one resolution to get fit, but come December find themselves where they were a year ago. The silver lining is you can look back on mistakes and learn from them, but it also means there is the possibility of learning and entrenching bad habits.

The folks who have moved past resolutions have a few common traits. They’re consistent. They’re patient. And they’re willing to learn new ways of doing things to achieve their goals. The new year presents new challenges instead of starting over. Most importantly, their health has become a priority in their lives. They make time to do the things needed to be healthy, fit and strong. Their achievements are built over years of putting in the work.

If you’re part of the resolutioner crowd, there are some simple things you can do to evolve past that. Here are a few:

Understand that becoming fit is a long-term process. You’re not going to magically sport a six-pack after a month of hitting the gym. Or two months. And there are no pills, devices or other shortcuts that actually work. Getting in shape, becoming strong, getting lean — all these outcomes take time and discipline. Be prepared to spend a good number of months putting in the work, and don’t get let down if you’re not seeing results after a few weeks. Keep at it. With that in mind…

Go into your fitness journey with a plan. Some exercise is better than none, but playing around with the weights and slogging away aimlessly on an elliptical won’t get you very far. Do you want to run a 5K? Find a training plan for it and stick to it. Are you seeking to get stronger? Talk to a trainer, do some internet research or consult with people in the know and learn how to do this. Create a training schedule, follow it and track your progress. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Figure out what you want, find a plan to achieve it, and then execute. It’s that simple.

Leave the phone in your locker. I cannot begin to tell you how many people I see wasting time farting around on their phones texting, updating social media or otherwise staring at their device and not training. You say you use it for music? Fine. If you’re disciplined enough to press play, slip on the earbuds and not do anything else with your phone until your workout is done, go for it. Otherwise, don’t bring it with you. It’s a distraction that prevents you from getting the work done.

Pay attention to what you put in your body. What you eat matters. What you drink matters. Eat real food, and not the fried, sugared or overly processed variety. Sugary drinks and alcohol pile on tons of mostly useless calories that get stored as fat and play havoc with your metabolism. Eat clean, get the right amount of protein and watch those liquid calories closely. An occasional beer or two on the weekends is not a problem, but much more than that and you’re probably going to undermine your efforts.

Set a tangible goal. Amazing things happen when you say, “I’m going to do this,” and then commit to it. When I ran a marathon, I told people beforehand I was going to do it. The result was transformative, and I learned a lot. My nephew Jordan chose a Spartan race as his goal, and now having done a couple of them, he’s in the best shape of his life. People I know have competed in bodybuilding, power lifting, mixed martial arts and more, while others have run ultramarathons, climbed big mountains or completed ambitious through-hikes. Their fitness was honed in on a goal, giving their efforts purpose. You don’t even have to be that dramatic. Maybe it’s competing in (or finishing) a shorter race, or perhaps being able to deadlift twice your body weight. Whatever it is, having a target helps measure progress during the process and success when it’s done.

When January 1 rolls around, where are you going to be? Are you ready to evolve? Get your mind right first, make a plan and make your health part of your daily lifestyle.

Bob Doucette