The strength experiment, part 1: Presses

My last post was designed to be an introduction to this little strength experiment I did. I told you that I wanted to focus on four main movements: the press, the pull, the squat and the hip-hinge.

Today we’re going to talk about the press.

It seems that only until recently, there has been a decades-long devaluation of overhead pressing in favor of things like the bench press. You know, the whole, “How much ya bench?” question of meatheads everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, chest pressing is a good thing. But overhead pressing is better.

Personally, I suck at both. But I quickly learned why the standing overhead press in particular is so valuable. The act of pressing a weight over your head requires a lot of muscles working together: your shoulders, your upper back, your triceps and your core. Basically, almost your entire upper body.

Bench pressing is great, too, because it works those big muscles in your chest. But because you’re on a bench, the muscles are more isolated and the core doesn’t get much work. For that reason, I think the overhead press should be emphasized as much as any sort of chest press.

I also like to add some other exercises to support the muscles used in these movements. But they are secondary exercises and should never replace the main movements. Support exercises can isolate muscle groups and even improve postural alignment, something we’ll get into in a bit.

I divided these into two different workouts: A chest/triceps day, and a shoulders day. Here’s how it broke down:


Flat barbell bench press: 1×10, 1×8, 1×6 (escalating weight with each set); 3×8, close-grip barbell bench press (grip with hands about 18 inches apart).

Dumbbell incline press: 3×8 (escalating weight)

Single-arm cable press-down, 3×10

Cable push-down, 3×10

Dips, 3×10


Band pull-aparts, 3×10

Standing overhead barbell press, 3×8 (escalating weight)

Dumbbell lateral delt raises, 3×12 (escalating weight)

Dumbbell overhead presses, 3×8 (escalating weight)

Cable face pulls, 3×10 (escalating weight)

So, a couple of notes to explain all this: I added the close-grip bench as a way to work the triceps more. The cable exercises for the triceps are also there to help build the type of support I needed to do a good press. The dips are great for your chest and your triceps (though do your dips on a dip bar, not on a bench).

With the shoulders, I want to say that two of the most important exercises on there are the first and last ones mentioned. The band pull-aparts are there to activate (or warm up) the shoulders and upper back at the beginning. The face-pulls work the same muscles at the end. There is a good reason for this: Chest presses, plus all of the other daily activities that emphasize the anterior (front) side of your body (think typing at a computer, driving your car, or messing with your phone) tend to make our shoulders sink forward. This is how shoulder injuries start. You need to strengthen the muscles on the back side of your shoulders to open up your chest and pull those shoulders back to prevent injury and allow for better muscular development all around.

I cannot overemphasize how important this is, not only for shoulder-joint health, but also in overall athletic performance. To wit: If your shoulders are pulled back into a natural position, it opens up your chest. When your chest is opened up, you can take in larger volumes of air when you breathe. Think that might carry over into endurance activities? Yup. It does.

Lastly, it’s OK to only have one day a week dedicated to these splits. Your shoulders are getting a lot of work on the chest/tricep day, and your triceps are getting plenty of work on the shoulder days. If you want more work for your chest, incorporate some push-ups into your weekly routines a few days a week.

My chest/tricep workout is the second lift of the week, and the shoulder workout comes later in the week. With each workout, add in some core moves – three sets each of planks and dead bugs, two of my favorites. At the end of the session, I’d run anywhere from 2 to 3.5 miles at a solid pace, or if I’m really looking to gas out, do some 8x400s at race pace.

In the next installment, we’ll tackle leg day. Yup, we’ll be squatting. A bunch.

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

Can you be a fast runner and also be strong?

The changing physique of Ryan Hall is instructive.

The changing physique of Ryan Hall is instructive.

I saw an article in Outside Magazine recently that attracted a bit of ire from readers. In it, the writer checks out the case of American endurance athlete Ryan Hall, and how being so good at long-distance running made him, physically speaking, weak.

Hall has retired from a prolific and successful career as an elite runner, and has since taken up weight training to go alongside a less intense regimen of running. Since his retirement, he’s packed on some muscle and become noticeably stronger. The conclusion: Elite distance runners are fast on the course, but that speed comes at a cost. Namely, strength.

This is where a bunch of online readers collectively lost their minds. They attacked the article, the writer and the publication. You can read it here.

But what they failed to objectively conclude was that the premise is the article was right.

If you’ve read this blog much, you might be surprised to hear me say that. I’m a committed runner, regularly racing in 15k, half marathon and 25k events. Mostly, I run for fun. How can I dare to say that runners are weak?

Let’s step back a moment. There are some things we have to square away before I can defend the article in question, and my agreement with it.

We need to define “strength.” From the outset, let me say that it takes a mentally strong person to run big distances, and to run those distances fast. Running long distance at higher speeds is grueling. Pain is constant. The body is telling you to stop. You can’t be a sub-1:30 half marathoner or a 3-hour marathoner and not be mentally and emotionally tough, not to mention well-conditioned.

But it’s important to distinguish between being “well-conditioned,” “mentally strong,” and “emotionally strong” and what qualifies as “strength.”

Strength is quantifiable. You can objectively measure it. The easiest way to do that can be found in how much mass you can move. Can you pick that thing up off the floor? How much weight can you lift above your head? These types of questions can be answered — and usually are — in different weight lifting moves. Someone who can deadlift 500 pounds is stronger than someone who can’t. It’s that simple.

At the elite level of long-distance running (or even at distances like the 5k), efficiency is key. The heart and lungs are going to be taxed at the highest levels, so any mass (muscle or otherwise) that is not essential to the goal is either going to slow you down or be pared off your frame. There are muscley people who can do a 5K 21 minutes, but you won’t see anyone who looks jacked running 15-minute 5ks or 80-minute half marathons. The extra muscle competes too much with the rest of the body when the pace approaches that of runners like Hall, or Meb Keflezighi, or even college scholarship athletes involved in endurance sports.

On the other end, it’s extremely unlikely you’re going to see high-level distance runners who can squat or deadlift twice their body weight. The training that goes into running really fast, or really far, or both forces the body to adapt, and when it comes to running, the sacrifice comes at the cost of muscle, and ultimately, strength.

This is even true of fast-but-not-elite runners. The 1:30 half-marathoners, or the 3:30 marathoners, for example. Or most people who run ultras on a regular basis, regardless of pace. Similarly, you won’t find any power lifters running 24-minute 5ks or any bodybuilders breaking four hours in a marathon. They might be strong, but they won’t be fast or be able to go very far.

(I might add for beginning runners and exercisers, you can gain strength and speed for awhile, but those goals will eventually collide.)

I’d look at my own history here. When I run less, I gain strength. When the miles pile up, I lean up. But I also lose strength. Right now, I weigh about 190 pounds. During marathon training, I dipped to 172. I can deadlift probably 80 more pounds now than I could then. But I doubt very seriously I could come within an hour of the time I hit for those 26.2 miles, and my current 5k is a couple of minutes off my PR. (As a matter of disclosure, I have tried to be both, but the results have been predictable: At my best, I’m moderately strong and not very fast.)

What I’d conclude is this: When you see articles like the one mentioned above, don’t freak out. Don’t get offended by a headline that tells you endurance running will make you “weak.” Understand that strength is objectively quantifiable, and being really fast while also being really strong are competing goals that, for most people, won’t happen simultaneously. Go ahead and train hard for the goal you want, and embrace your own “strength.”

Bob Doucette

Five reasons why I lift


I’ve been a gym rat most of my adult life. Weights became a thing for me at age 17, and my affinity for the iron hasn’t waned.

Many people play around with weight machines, or tinker with free weights. Others shy away, bothered by the noise real lifting creates, and maybe the personalities a weight room attracts. Not me. I’ve never felt self-conscious about lifting when the real big boys were around. I’m not the biggest, strongest dude around, but that doesn’t bother me. I just do my thing.

But I often hear about how maybe I should do other things. That people of my age shouldn’t lift heavy weights. Or that being a gym rat is too “indoorsy,” and how you can get all that strength training doing stuff outside (sorry, but you can’t). And more than a few of my female friends have heard endless dronings about how they shouldn’t lift because they don’t want to get big.

Well, you can (and should) do resistance training deep into old age (way past my age for sure). And ladies, those barbells and dumbbells will do you a lot of good without making you look like a linebacker.

So in the spirit of my last post, here are five reasons why I lift…


Because it’s a stress-reliever. Had a rough day? Someone tick you off? Get under a bar or pick up some iron and take out your aggression in the gym. The controlled violence of the lift and endorphin rush when you’re done might leave you wrecked when you leave, but you will feel awesome. It sure beats eating your problems, punching your boss or drinking your woes away.

Because it makes me a much healthier human being. Strength training builds up your muscles, and when done right, increases mobility, stamina and athleticism. A weak body is often a sicker body. Strong ones tend to stay healthier for much longer, and can leave you active and capable well into old age.

Because being strong is useful. A powerful body can do more things than a weak one can. That’s not an opinion. It’s an objective reality. It goes beyond opening pickle jars, too. The physical labor you can do, the punishment you can endure, the ability to take care of business in a dark alley — all these things are made easier when you’re strong. Strength isn’t the only factor, but it’s a damn important one. When it comes to the physical tasks and challenges you face, being strong is more useful than being weak.

Because I can. Sort of like what I wrote about running, I’ve been given one body and one life. If lifting heavy things can make that life better, I should do it. And if I see a heavy thing I want to move and have that ability, I want to because I can. Not everyone has that option, but I do. Might as well use it.

Because there are few things that will make you feel as boss as lifting something big. Looking for a confidence booster? Set a goal to lift a certain amount of weight you cannot do now. Train for it. And then do it. It may sound superficial, but when you accomplish that goal, it will make you wonder what else you can do once you set your mind to it. That’s how I feel every time I load a bunch of weight on the bar, walk up to it, and pick it up off the ground. And best yet, the process of getting to that point will leave you stronger, healthier and more mentally disciplined than when you started. There’s a lot to like about all of that.

Do you lift? What are your reasons for hitting the iron? Holler in the comments.

Bob Doucette

The Gym Rat Code: 11 rules to follow when you’re at the gym

This is a tool, one that gives you power. But use it wrong, and it's a source of pain. And setbacks.

It’s early January, it must also be National Gym Month.

The turn of the new year means a lot of people will be trying to turn a new leaf. Often, that includes those wonderful fitness resolutions.

The gym rats — those of us who hit the iron 12 months out of the year — are well accustomed to seeing the effect of the New Year’s resolution on our workout space. A whole bunch of people we’ve never seen before or haven’t seen in awhile will be clogging up the works at fitness centers across the country this week.

I’m cool with that, mostly because for some of you, it means that real transformation is underway. You won’t see me giving folks the “Get off my lawn!” stare just because a few more people are taking up some gym space.

But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a high number of annoyances that come with the flood of newbies who are suddenly mastering the art of the dumbbell bicep curl. So for your sake and our sanity, here are a few tips from Gym Rat Nation on how to behave during the unofficial National Gym Month:

An exercise station is not a parking space. If you’re going to rock those lat pulls or leg presses, have a seat, get your work done, and move on. Sitting there for 15 minutes before finishing your second set is quite rude. A little self awareness helps here, in that you should realize that other people (gasp!) might want to use that machine or bench, too.

Put the damn phone away. You’re not at the gym to text, check Facebook or post selfies. You’re there to work off that pumpkin pie you snarfed all by your lonesome. We waste more time on cellphones than just about anything else we do, so why bring that time-wasting habit to the gym? That text, social media post, cat video or selfie can wait. Do your work, move to the next station. If need be, leave the phone in your locker or in the car. Trust me, it’s not a vital organ. It’s a portable piece of technology that can actually be set aside for an hour or two.

Don’t crowd the dumbbell rack. When you’re grabbing a pair of dumbbells, do us all a favor and don’t just stand in front of the rack while you get your epic pump. Take a few steps back. Otherwise, you might be standing in front of several pairs of other dumbbells the rest of us want to use. Seriously, I don’t want to have to reach for a weight that’s right in front of your junk because you’re too lazy to create a little space.

Minimize the chit-chat. You may know some of us at the gym. But we may not want to talk to you very much while we’re there. A few words, a sentence or two, that’s fine. But don’t drag us into a conversation. We’re there to get some work done, and a play-by-play breakdown of Sunday’s game, your epic pub crawl or a recap of the latest “Game of Thrones” episode is not furthering our goals. Save the water cooler talk for places where calorie burns and work sets are not part of the business at hand.

Excellent tools for fitness. But put 'em back when you're done.

Excellent tools for fitness. But put ’em back when you’re done.

Clean up after yourself. One of my two greatest pet peeves of the gym is when people use a bunch of weights and put none of them back when they’re finished. They leave the floor looking like a tornado flung random dumbbells and plates everywhere, leaving it up to gym employees or other exercisers to sort it all out. Dude. This ain’t your mom’s house, and you aren’t four years old. Put your stuff back when you’re finished.

Clean up after yourself, Part 2. So you’re working hard and sweating, right? That’s fine, but it’s not OK to leave pools of sweat on benches and seats. Any gym worth its salt has towels and spray bottles ready for you to wipe your goo off the equipment. No one wants to wallow in your slime or clean up after you, and certainly these are the types of behaviors that give people staph infections or MRSA. Do your part and leave no trace of your perspiration behind.

Don’t slam the weights. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There is no reason most exercisers should slam weights. Aside from people doing powerlifting barbell work with bumper plates, or perhaps deadlifting big amounts of weight, there’s no excuse for it. You’re either using too much weight or you’re trying to draw attention to yourself. Stop it. It’s douchey as hell and can damage equipment.

Leave the ladies alone. The gym is sometimes populated with female exercisers, and many of them have done an excellent job at getting themselves in shape. Kudos to them. But it’s not a bar scene, and it’s not a singles mixer. Stash the pick-up lines, don’t leer at the gal in the yoga pants and in general, let the gals do their work. They’re not there for your romantic fantasies, so keep your eyes on the ball and remember why you’re there.

Don’t be a coach. Unless you’re a trainer who works there or if you’re asked, we don’t want to hear your tips. I confess, I’ve been guilty of this one when I see atrocious form at work, but I always felt like a douche afterwards. Why? Because it’s a douchey thing to do. Unsolicited training advice is unwanted training advice in almost all situations. Chances are, the training tips you got from your high school football coach suck anyway.

Share. Especially at this time of year, lots of people are going to be wanting to use the same equipment as you. Be cool and let folks work in a set with you. Or pick a different weight or exercise station. We go along by getting along. You don’t own that pair of 25s on the dumbbell rack. They sorta belong to all of us.

And finally, no curls in the squat rack. The squat rack seems like a convenient place to load up a bar with plates and use as a station for barbell curls, right? You can rest the weight on the safety bars, walk up to it, do your thing, and then set it back down in the cage without having to bend over. Don’t do it. Ever. The squat rack is for squats. Serious lifters squat, and we take great offense when this precious piece of real estate is being squandered on your epic bicep pump. So take your bro-curls elsewhere, junior.

If you can do these things, you will get along well with the gym rats, and given time and commitment, you’ll become one. And believe me, there are far worse things to be.

Bob Doucette

The dreaded setback: Six things you need to do when you’re injured

This is a tool, one that gives you power. But use it wrong, and it's a source of pain. And setbacks.

This is a tool, one that gives you power. But use it wrong, and it’s a source of pain. And setbacks.

If you’re an active person, there is a good chance you have to deal with the dreaded setback. We push our bodies hard, trying to get in better shape, to sharpen our competitive edge, to get stronger. But then something comes along, and boom – you’re flat on your back, or walking with a limp, or something else that shows you’re not quite right.

Though I try to be athletic, it’s not a natural talent for me. What I lack in natural ability I make up for in effort. Unfortunately, that can land me in trouble. A few knee and ankle sprains from basketball, for example. A series of nasty neck tweaks from jujitsu. A back injury from weight training.

The last of those three is the one that comes back to haunt me the most. A little more than 10 years ago, I was squatting pretty heavy – too heavy, as it turns out, given my actual strength and subpar form. My back seized on me mid-rep, forcing me to drop the weight off my back and crash to the floor. Fortunately, this was in my garage gym, so no one else got hurt or startled by the crash, but the injury was there just the same.

As the years have gone by, I’ve done my best to avoid reinjuring my back. But every now and then, it flares up, most recently about two months ago. Again, I was lifting hard – careful on the squats, but really trying to get after it on my deadlifts. One day at the gym, I was getting under the bar for my first set of back squats, and at the bottom of the lift, that familiar, painful twinge seized me. The workout was pretty much over before it began. I backed off the squats for awhile, but within a week, I felt good enough to resume heavy deadlifts.

A month later, after finishing off a particularly grueling round of deadlifts, it happened again: while doing a set of snatch-grip deadlifts, my back freaked out. This time, I had to stop doing my favorite lift altogether.

It’s frustrating to see progress halted so abruptly by the body you’re working so hard to improve, but it happens. The “down time” – days and weeks following such a setback, when you’re figuring out what you can and should do as you heal – can be really important. For me, this last mishap helped teach me a good number of things, so I’m going to share them with you:

Back off and heal. No pain, no gain, right? Wrong. Soreness is one thing. Injury is another. Pain is not weakness leaving the body. It’s your body trying to tell you something’s amiss. If you’re running hard but battling severe knee pain to the point where your speeds and distances are falling off, maybe you need some time off, or find an alternative for your endurance training for a period of time (swimming or cycling, for example). If you’re bench-pressing like a madman but your shoulder sockets are on fire, perhaps you’re pressing your way to a serious injury. You can’t outwork an injury by going harder. Swallow your pride and heal.

Re-evaluate how you’re training. This is key, as it may reveal what’s causing the injury in the first place. For me, I needed to think hard about how I was doing two different exercises, and I was able to identify what was going wrong. Bad form was to blame in both cases, causing my already janky back to work extra hard to make up for weaknesses elsewhere. Load enough weight on that dicey platform and it’s no wonder I got hurt. My advice: have someone watch you lift and give you feedback. Have that person record you doing some reps, then watch the replay. Be ruthless in critiquing your form and fix it. In the short-term, that probably means backing off the weight for a time until you get your form right. Lifting lighter with good form is far better than lifting heavier with poor form. Same goes with running. Plenty of running shops offer stride analysis, and good coaching can fix bad running form. It may take awhile to get used to the changes, but in the long run you’ll benefit. Ask any reformed heel-striker, they’ll tell you the same.

Find alternative exercises. Back squats may have been out, but I could still do lighter front squats. And I came to love/hate the Bulgarian split squat. These didn’t replace anything, but they kept me working vital muscle groups while I was unable to load up on the back squats.

Embrace the warm-up. I’ve become a fan of corrective exercises and the foam roller. I don’t spend a huge amount of time on either, but enough to make sure I’m ready for the work to come. And before a hard lift (especially on days where I’m doing the big lifts), I do things to warm up before walking up to/getting under the bar. Sumo squats with a 60-pound kettlebell? Dang right. Three sets of them at the beginning of my leg day before I even sniff the squat rack. Smirk if you want to, but neglecting those light warmup sets is a mistake I’ve often regretted.

You may feel like you have to crush it every day. But dude. Take a rest day.

You may feel like you have to crush it every day. But dude. Take a rest day.

Take your rest day. God rested on Day 7, so if it’s good enough for The Almighty, it’s good enough for you. One day a week, you need to chill. Eat right, or course. But spend a day not running, not lifting, not crushing a ride or ballin’ so hard. Enjoy some Netflix or a football game on the tube. Relax. Your body needs it.

Reevaluate periodically. If your workout is working, cool. If it’s not? Maybe it’s time to change things up. And if you’re finding yourself getting too run down, or battling through too many nagging injuries, it’s definitely time to make changes. Don’t get stuck in a training routine that takes you nowhere, or worse, keeps getting you hurt. Embracing change in these situations is a good thing.

Fast-forward to the present, I’m gradually working back into my older routines, with an eye on the lessons I most recently learned. Surprisingly, the gains are coming, and showing up in new ways – faster, more powerful running, for example. Here’s to getting fitter, stronger and faster while staying injury-free.

What injuries have you dealt with? What did you do to get back on track? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Bob Doucette

My 500th post: What a ride it’s been

After 500 posts, you'd think I'd run out of stuff to say. Nope.

After 500 posts, you’d think I’d run out of stuff to say. Nope.

It’s hard for me to believe, but this very post marks a milestone for me. Going back to the fall of 2011, I’ve posted here 499 times. This marks No. 500.

It’s tough to quantify all that has happened during that time, and what I’ve chronicled here. It’s been a fun ride so far!

Adventure anyone?

Adventure anyone?

Some of the highlights for me have been the trip reports. I created a category just for them, and I still believe the heart of this blog belongs there — all the training, the gear, the planning, those things led to adventures that have taken me to some incredible places in several states. Add in a couple of guest posts and you’re talking about stories coming from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Not surprisingly, these reports keep getting clicked by people seeking their own adventures in the places I’ve grown to love.

Being active outdoors. Yes, please.

Being active outdoors. Yes, please.

There has also been plenty of fitness to go around. It’s a big part of my life, be it about running, weight training or just funny observations I’ve seen while on the run or in the gym. Race reports have been big here. You all have seen me go from an occasional runner to a marathoner in just a few short years. Maybe it’s time to do another one.

Despite the fear and violence, the good guys showed up. And will keep doing so.

Despite the fear and violence, the good guys showed up. And will keep doing so.

Lighthearted fun and humor is a big part of what I do, but there have been some more serious moments. Following the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, I looked at what was facing the people of Boston by what I’d seen already happen in Oklahoma City. I found cause for encouragement, and said as much. More than 40,000 of you read that post, which remains the most-read thing I’ve ever written on an online platform. Since then, we’ve seen the justice system deal with the surviving terrorist from the attack, as well as a whole lot of inspiration in the past two Boston Marathons from runners, supporters and survivors. Boston proved me right.

Mmmm. Gear.

Mmmm. Gear.

And let’s not forget the gear reviews. I’ve been able to test a lot of gear for running, hiking, backpacking and camping, among other things. I’ve done most of that on my own, but it’s also been good to work with Salomon Sports to test their shoes and give them — and you — honest feedback on their stuff.

Worth protecting.

Worth protecting.

Lastly, it’s been great to see how this space has helped give voice to preserving my local trail haunt. Thousands of people read and shared posts about Turkey Mountain and the controversy surrounding a proposed outlet mall there. While that situation is still not completely settled, the level of awareness and advocacy for urban wilderness in my hometown has increased dramatically since last fall. It’s been good to be a part of that, and I’m grateful to all who have joined the effort.

So what can you look forward to going forward? Life has its ebbs and flows, but rest assured there will be more adventures, a whole lot more fitness and more gear reviews.

In conclusion, let me just say thank you. Thanks for reading, as there is no greater compliment to a writer. Thanks for commenting, even if you disagree with my take. The interaction is great regardless. And thanks for sharing. If you’ve shared any of my posts on social media other otherwise, you have my gratitude.

So there it is, folks. No. 500 in the books. I hope you all have enjoyed it, found some usefulness from the posts, and maybe some inspiration. Possibly even a laugh or two. Here’s hoping we can keep going down this journey together for a while longer, and who knows — maybe I’ll see you all on the trail.

NOTE: Oh, and if you haven’t already, look me up on Instagram (proactiveoutside), find me on Twitter (@RMHigh7088) or like my page on Facebook. I’d love to connect!

Bob Doucette