Friday, February 19, 2010


I haven’t posted lately because I’m in a bit of a holding pattern. I’m running to keep my fitness up and lifting a bit at the gym, but I think I’m suffering a serious case of cabin fever. There has been over a foot of snow on the ground since the middle of January and it doesn’t seem to be departing any time soon. Spring may well eventually arrive, but I haven’t articulated any clear-cut fitness goals for the upcoming race season and so I’m feeling a bit out of sorts. I don’t lack motivation, merely direction, but it is hard to pick a course through the woods when the trails are covered with ice and snow.

It looks like we are going to be moving again in the fall. I like the house we’re renting, but it won’t be big enough to hold our expanding family and it’s a little too far from work. I don’t mind moving so soon, so long as the place we’re moving to is one where I can settle in for a while. We’re thinking of heading back to the Port Washington area, assuming something affordable pops up in the MLS listings. I like that part of the Island; there are a lot of parks and plenty of places to run, and the town is near the water. I’ve been meaning to get into kayaking, but haven’t had the space to store a kayak. Well, back in a bit.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I’ve been reading a lot of Buddhism recently. For years I’ve found running to be a perfect form of moving meditation; there’s nothing like a good run to get those alpha waves going. I used to have a regular Zen meditation practice, but I’ve found it hard to keep up with it. The kids demand constant attention and by the time I get them to bed I’m half asleep myself. Zen practice is all about mindfulness anyway, so instead of sitting on a cushion paying attention to my breathing, I put one foot in front of the other and concentrate on my running. Running is ideal for meditation because it is a repetitive physical activity that requires a measure of focus while not demanding too much in the way of technique. In a way it’s like sitting in zazen, although I find sitting still and not moving to be much harder than running. A Zen master once likened the mind during mediation to a man sitting on a chair in an empty room with all of the windows open. You just sit there in the room and see what wanders in. When you’re running you’re confronted with a lot more in the way of physical stimuli than when you’re sitting still-cars are a biggie-so you really do have to be present in the moment and use those incoming sense impressions as training aids.

When I’m running I try to integrate my awareness of my surroundings with an awareness of my body moving through space, breathing in and out. I don’t discriminate between good and bad thoughts and try to remain in the moment. The practice is pretty effective at clearing the mind and allowing solutions to problems to well up from the subconscious. Give it a try some time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More on Feet

There have been some interesting scientific studies released in the past week. One dealt with the hot topic of the moment-barefoot running-the other takes a look at whether distance running can stave off the effects of cellular aging (I’ll look at that one tomorrow).

Anthropologist Daniel Lieberman's article in Nature magazine discussed the results of a study where he compared the pressure patterns of Kenyan runners when running barefoot and when wearing shoes. He determined that runners who wear shoes hit the ground a lot harder on their heels than barefoot runners. He concluded that barefoot running "may protect the feet and lower limbs from some of the impact-related injuries now experienced by a high percentage of runners." The shoe industry spokespeople (sorry, I mean editors), over at were quick to point out that other studies have shown that impact force is irrelevant to the development of musculoskeletal injuries. My own feeling? I think the burden should be on the shoe companies to show us that their products are beneficial. It is noteworthy that there has never been a peer reviewed study that has shown running shoes do anything to prevent injuries. Of course, while our predecessors ran barefoot and may have been forefoot strikers, we have no way of knowing what their injury rate was. I guess the shod/unshod battle will be fought for some time to come.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter Blues

It’s been pretty cold in the Northeast this past week. I caught some sort of flu-like bug this past Thursday which curtailed my running somewhat. It took a couple of days to start feeling normal again; I had that all-over body ache which makes the thought of any serious exercise untenable. Yesterday I finally got back to the gym and back on the treadmill, and I started lifting again. My diet has been atrocious lately-a combination of lack of time to cook and easy access to bad food. Jack’s birthday was last week and I’ve been whittling away at the remains of the ice cream cake ever since. I get like this in the winter. By the time February rolls around, I’m tired of the cold and the darkness and I’m ready for spring. Unfortunately, Spring is a little ways off. So, I go to the gym and try to keep the kids entertained while stuffing my face with pizza, ice cream and Chinese food. Fortunately, the weight lifting has jacked up my metabolism, so the effect of my gluttony has yet to appear in cold numbers on the bathroom scale. A few more weeks of this and I won’t be so lucky.