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A 3:30 Marathon? Winning is Believing in Yourself

When I discovered "outside sports" — and by "outside sports," I mean anything that involved me getting off my (at the time) huge ass and sweating in an effort to lose weight — I would tell anyone who would listen. Didn't matter if I didn't know what I was talking about ("I ran my first 5k! That's so massive!" "Er, Peter, that's 3.1 miles – about the distance from your apartment to the subway." "Oh.") or if my stories had merit to no one but me ("... and then, at mile 4.0219, my heart rate dropped by a beat and a half!"). It didn't matter, because to me, it was the most important thing in the world — even if I sometimes thought I was the last person in that world to discover it. (I found running. Several days later, I discovered fire. I'm hoping next week to invent a round device that rolls for easy transport of rocks.)

Anyhow, I was pretty sure that the majority of the time, I was the only one listening when I told my stories. My parents listened, of course — I mean, that's what parents do. And I'm not denying that there wasn't anyone prouder than them (except for me) when I broke my 4:00 goal in the NYC Marathon in '06. But they were also smart — they didn't know any of the running greats, or Triathlon heroes, but they were smart enough to know that it was a pretty safe bet that I'd never win a marathon, or heck, even place in a 10k in Central Park.

Because I knew that and was okay with it, they knew it, and were okay with it.

The only person who didn't know it, because it would just never occur to her to think that way, was my Grandma.

When I spoke to Gram, which was several times a week, at least, I'd usually mention if I had a race coming up. She'd wish me luck, and then, without fail, the next time I called her, the first question from her 90+-year-old lips would be, "Did you win?"

Every. Single. Time.

And I had to explain, each time, "No, Grandma, I didn't win… A much, much faster person won, but I did really well, and felt good, and am improving my time every race."

To which she'd respond, "Well, maybe next time."

I knew I'd never win. Come on. Last time I looked, I wasn't Kenyan, didn't train in Colorado, and didn't sleep in an oxygen tent. I don't weigh 110 pounds, and I occasionally (and by occasionally, I mean "way too often") enjoy food that's not the most conducive to going faster. Like sugar. Or donuts. Or donuts with sugar. Wrapped in a hot-dog bun. That's been coated with sugar. So yeah, it doesn't take a sports medicine degree to know that I ain't coming in first any time soon.

But Grandma never thought that way. In her mind, why couldn't I win? I was, after all, her grandson.

And perhaps, unbeknownst to her, what she was really saying was, "Believe in yourself like I believe in you, and you can do anything."

I don't know if "anything" will ever mean winning a marathon, but you know what? Maybe it means trying to break 3:30 this year.

My 98-year-old Grandma passed away this past Tuesday. And this November, when I'm out there, running as hard as I can, I'll remember her question to me. And although I'm pretty sure I won't win the marathon, perhaps I'll do better than I've ever done before.

And if that happens, I'll turn my head up to the sky, and maybe I'll say, "Hey Grandma? Guess what? I did win."

By Peter Shankman  |  Mon, 31 Mar 2008 at 12:00 AM  |  Permalink

Unhealthy Fun — and What You Can Do About It

The man who climbed up a mountain and came down ... a sore man.

So I'm in Palm Springs for the week, where it's warm, but not overly warm. I'm probably the youngest person here by far. This is a place for older people.

Which is ironic, since they have some really awesome mountains to climb.

Was here all week at a conference, and was going insane. Not because it wasn't a good conference, but because all people do at conferences is drink, drink some more, then top it all off with a bit of drinking.

By the third day, I was retaining more water than a dam, and was tired, groggy, and generally yucky.

So I walked up a mountain.

By the time I reached the first plateau, I was sweating. By the end of the hike, I was drenched. I smelled like a barroom floor, having sweat out a TON of alcohol from my system. (I can imagine my liver, upon noticing that the alcohol is going somewhere else, rejoicing in prayer and happiness.)

Fact is, we can't be good all the time. We're never going to be. So perhaps the key is to be good a lot, then have some fun other parts of the time.

Because don't get me wrong — while the morning after the tequila was horrible, the events themselves were a lot of fun.

Knowing that you're going to do something the next morning to counter-balance the debauchery you're about to enjoy makes the enjoyment of it that much more real, since you know it won't hurt you long-term, and the results will be more muted than if you, say, didn't do anything.

So climb a mountain. Or run up some stairs. Or do some push-ups. But remind your brain (and liver) that you're more or less generally a healthy person. Every once in a while, though, we deserve to have a little bit of unhealthy fun.

By Peter Shankman  |  Fri, 21 Mar 2008 at 2:52 PM  |  Permalink

Why Spitzer Should Have Gone for a Run

Had Governor Spitzer gone for another run, this whole thing never would have happened.

With apologies to Woody Woodpecker's favorite quote (If Woody had gone straight to the police…): I'm willing to bet that if the Governor of New York State had exercised more, or spent time on the elliptical trainer, or even just walked around the block every time he allegedly met with his "friend," the number one subject in New Yok wouldn't be the Governor and his designation as "Client #9," but rather, Billy Crystal signing a contract with the Yankees.

Think about it — ever gone for a run, or walked around the block, or dropped for 20 push-ups when you were angry, or craving excitement, or thinking about doing something that could have landed you in hot water?

I've said it before: Any kind of workout — any kind of exercise — shoots those wonderful endorphins right into the pleasure center of your brain, right through the Mesolimbic Pathway (or the Dopamine Pathway, I forget which one…), and floods you with "feel good" chemicals. The rush you get from these chemicals, which are naturally produced when you exercise, have been proven by scientists to be the same rush you get when you have sex, when you do something scary (or illegal), or when you do certain types of drugs.

So why risk doing something illegal? Why take drugs? What fun is that? Rather, do something good for you! Everyone thinks of working out in the "Yeah, it's good for me, I'll get healthy and lose weight" kind of way. But the fact is, a good run, a good workout — heck, any kind of exercise or activity that you're not used to (say, skydiving, a 5k, or 20 minutes of walking the dog at a brisk pace) — actually gets you high!

No one ever uses "getting high" in the same sentence with "exercise" or "working out," but the fact is, it's true! You get a chemical rush into your brain that makes you all happy and giddy. Ever see a marathon runner cross the finish line and look sad? Or a weight lifter finish his workout and be all "Sigh, maybe I'll go take a nap, I'm so depressed?" No! Of course not! Exercise, doing something that scares you, a simple walk around your building, changes the way you think — at least in the short term.

Do it long enough (like, for instance, every time you have the need to meet up with a woman named "Kristen"), and you'll be at the top of your game, all the time.

Yet again, a simple workout, or a walk around the block could potentially save you serious "Oh, this is SO not going to be fun" time.

I'm just sayin'.

By Peter Shankman  |  Thu, 13 Mar 2008 at 7:19 PM  |  Permalink

My Training Mantra ... for Now

They say you gotta have a mantra.

You know, something you say when you need encouragement … something that keeps you going when you ask yourself what are you doing it for.

The nice thing about mantras is that they can change as you need them to.

So for instance, my current mantra, "It's just the beginning of the season, and I was injured, I'll get faster as I train," can change to "I'm faster now that I've been training."

At least, I hope it can.

Coming back from an injury is one of the hardest things to do. We've all done it — whether it's something as simple as twisting your ankle or waking up wrong and throwing out your back, or something as complex as surgery, there's one simple fact we all have to accept:
Our first run back will not be like our last run before.

It's frustrating, but it's true. We've taken time off. We haven't trained. We're going to be, simply put, slower.

If we go in expecting that the first workout back will be as easy and as "good" as the last workout before we got injured, we're guaranteeing ourselves two things: 1) We're going to be frustrated when it's not, and 2) We're more than likely going to re-injure ourselves.

So we sort of have to accept it. We're going to be slower. The hills are going to be harder. We're going to pant more. We're going to be a bit frustrated that we're not what we were. But … we're back out there. And just like we got fast for the first time, we can do it again. And it will come back. The body will remember, and we'll get stronger. Most important, we'll come back, day after day, until we do.

And that's when that mantra really, really comes in handy.

By Peter Shankman  |  Tue, 4 Mar 2008 at 8:51 PM  |  Permalink

A 3:30 Marathon? Winning is Believing in Yourself

When I discovered "outside sports" — and by "outside sports," I mean anything that involved me getting off my (at the time) huge ass and sweating in an effort to lose weight — I would tell anyone who would listen. Didn't matter if I didn't know what I was talking about ("I ran my first 5k! That's so massive!" "Er, Peter, that's 3.1 miles – about the distance from your apartment to the subway." "Oh.") or if my stories had merit to no one but me ("... and then, at mile 4.0219, my heart rate dropped by a beat and a half!"). It didn't matter, because to me, it was the most important thing in the world — even if I sometimes thought I was the last person in that world to discover it. (I found running. Several days later, I discovered fire. I'm hoping next week to invent a round device that rolls for easy transport of rocks.)

Anyhow, I was pretty sure that the majority of the time, I was the only one listening when I told my stories. My parents listened, of course — I mean, that's what parents do. And I'm not denying that there wasn't anyone prouder than them (except for me) when I broke my 4:00 goal in the NYC Marathon in '06. But they were also smart — they didn't know any of the running greats, or Triathlon heroes, but they were smart enough to know that it was a pretty safe bet that I'd never win a marathon, or heck, even place in a 10k in Central Park.

Because I knew that and was okay with it, they knew it, and were okay with it.

The only person who didn't know it, because it would just never occur to her to think that way, was my Grandma.

When I spoke to Gram, which was several times a week, at least, I'd usually mention if I had a race coming up. She'd wish me luck, and then, without fail, the next time I called her, the first question from her 90+-year-old lips would be, "Did you win?"

Every. Single. Time.

And I had to explain, each time, "No, Grandma, I didn't win… A much, much faster person won, but I did really well, and felt good, and am improving my time every race."

To which she'd respond, "Well, maybe next time."

I knew I'd never win. Come on. Last time I looked, I wasn't Kenyan, didn't train in Colorado, and didn't sleep in an oxygen tent. I don't weigh 110 pounds, and I occasionally (and by occasionally, I mean "way too often") enjoy food that's not the most conducive to going faster. Like sugar. Or donuts. Or donuts with sugar. Wrapped in a hot-dog bun. That's been coated with sugar. So yeah, it doesn't take a sports medicine degree to know that I ain't coming in first any time soon.

But Grandma never thought that way. In her mind, why couldn't I win? I was, after all, her grandson.

And perhaps, unbeknownst to her, what she was really saying was, "Believe in yourself like I believe in you, and you can do anything."

I don't know if "anything" will ever mean winning a marathon, but you know what? Maybe it means trying to break 3:30 this year.

My 98-year-old Grandma passed away this past Tuesday. And this November, when I'm out there, running as hard as I can, I'll remember her question to me. And although I'm pretty sure I won't win the marathon, perhaps I'll do better than I've ever done before.

And if that happens, I'll turn my head up to the sky, and maybe I'll say, "Hey Grandma? Guess what? I did win."

By Peter Shankman  |  Sat, 9 Feb 2008 at 12:08 AM  |  Permalink

In Sports, Who's a Beginner? Aren't We All?

Tri, tri again …

Was reading the latest edition of Triathlete magazine on my way to the airport today. The entire issue is dedicated to beginners in the sport. I recommend picking up a copy if you've ever thought of tackling the multi-sport world in any fashion.

Got me thinking though, about what a "beginner" really is. I've done several Triathlons, including the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, as well as the Nautica NYC Triathlon this past summer. And even though I know what to do, and how to do it, I still very much consider myself a "beginner." Lack of skill? Not at all. Lack of fortitude? Not in the slightest … but still a beginner.

Why? I have no idea — because I'm still learning, maybe? Aren't we all? When does one really become a … I don't even know — what's the word for a non-beginner? Seasoned? Lovely. Like a steak, I've become.

I don't know — I'm not a beginner in marathoning, with 13 under my belt. But what does that mean? I feel less like a beginner Marathoner than I do a beginner Triathlete. But still, I know that every year I can learn more.

I can tell you though, that each time I compete, I try to get better — and maybe in that sense, we're all, from first-timers to pros, beginners.

The rib is healing, slowly. It's hard as hell to watch all these races and know I can't compete for at least another month. It's also very easy to wallow in pity-land, and eat my way into a new zip code … so I'm trying to stay active. The guys at Bicycle Renaissance did a really nice tune up on my "banging around the city" bike, and I'm going to bring in my racing bike this week, as well. They're decent people over there.

Congrats to everyone who ran the Manhattan Half this weekend. Gridiron Classic is coming up this Sunday — should be a fun one. Then … go Giants! (I'm not actually talking about football here – just interjecting a comment.)

More soon!

By Peter Shankman  |  Wed, 30 Jan 2008 at 9:34 PM  |  Permalink

Injury and the Power of Frustration

Define "irony."

For me, irony is being a marathon runner, a triathlete, a licensed skydiver, a daredevil, a risk-taker … and never (knock on wood) getting badly injured, other than the occasional sprained ankle.

Inadvertently cracking a rib by slamming into a closing F train door — that's irony.

So I sit here with a fully fractured rib, absolutely unable to run outside for the next two weeks.

You've NO idea how this pisses me off.

How do you work out when every deep breath causes you pain? How do you do what keeps you sane, while going insane knowing you're not allowed to do it?

For me, the answer lies in slow, deliberate movements. Slow squats can be done without causing too much pain. Twenty of those are a really good workout.

Same thing with calf extensions, lunges … anything that can done slowly and deliberately.

See, I know me — If I get out of training for even a few days, I wind up getting fatter and depressed, and then this leads to a cycle. Last time that cycle hit, 10 years ago, I gained 75 pounds in a year and was miserable. It took close to two years to lose that weight — and it was a horrible, horrible experience.

I promised myself I'd never let that happen. So, I'm not. I'm doing lunges. And I'm doing squats. And I'm stretching. And I'm eating Advil like it was candy.

Telling a sub-four-hour marathoner that he's not allowed to run for three weeks is the same as taking a dog and saying, "Don't pant." It's impossible, and frustrates the hell out of both you and the dog.

I sit here, as frustrated as a non-panting French poodle.

So perhaps the irony is this: When you're injured by something that only heals with time, frustration becomes your greatest ally in the whole world.

By Peter Shankman  |  Tue, 22 Jan 2008 at 1:22 AM  |  Permalink

The Holy Grail: Sweat-Proof Headphones

CES, if you play it right, is a healthy-exerciser's fantasy.

You spend the majority of the day walking miles and miles around the convention floor, trying desperately to find appointments with reps of companies. Once you actually locate them, you spend the next 20 minutes walking from product to product to get information on them.

Then you walk back to your hotel, take a shower, and spend another six hours walking from party to party, smiling politely. Fall asleep for three hours, and do it again.

So my quest this morning was to find a perfect pair of headphones, and a laptop bag that could stand up to my repeated runs. I think I found both, but I'll need more testing.

The problem with most running headphones falls into two categories: If you run and get sweaty, the sweat either drips into your ears and knocks the in-ear headphones out, or, if you wear over-the-ear headphones, the sweat drips onto the cushioning and into the earphones, and eventually shorts them out.

But finally, someone got smart! Altec Lansing created headphones with the same moisture-wicking technology that you find in your racing shirts, and applied it to the cushioning around the headphones. Result? Sweat-proof headphones!

Second: I'm one of those idiots who run to meetings all the time. Sometimes, I'll combine a run with actually going to a meeting — do the loop, then head to a meeting, stopping by a NYSC to take a shower first.

The problem, though, is running with a backpack is usually hellish. Not only are most laptop backpacks amazingly uncomfortable, but they're all really heavy, and horrible to run with. And as a bonus, they're all pretty darn ugly.

Which is why I was psyched to find Golla Bags at CES. They have a gorgeous new laptop bag. When I put it on, I was amazed to see how it fit — it hugged my back — and it "breathes," in a way that lets me sweat without transferring it to my laptop inside. Best part? Price point when it's sold in the US in a few months: about $70. That rocks.

More soon, from the land that decency forgot….

By Peter Shankman  |  Mon, 7 Jan 2008 at 9:38 PM  |  Permalink

From Vegas, the Latest in Electronics for Outdoors

Hello from the Consumer Electronics Show 2008, in Las Vegas, Nev.!

Over the next week, I'll be meeting with the latest and greatest companies with the latest and greatest in outdoor electronic devices. From headphones to heart-rate monitors, if it's electronic and you can use it while doing something outdoors, I'm going to look at it, write about it, and blog it for you!

I've got meetings about everything from the latest in-ear headphones that block out the world while you're on the treadmill, to solar vests that you can wear while you run that charge your iPod on the fly. It's going to be an amazing week, full of some really, really cool stuff.

It's funny — CES has made my girlfriend and her family hate me. My girlfriend hates me because I'm away in Vegas all week. Her father hates me because I get to see all the coolest stuff without him.

I can't win. Such is life. But I don't care. The geek exerciser in me is so very happy right now.

So stay tuned! It's going to be a really, really fun week!

By Peter Shankman  |  Sun, 6 Jan 2008 at 8:50 PM  |  Permalink

Stay Put. The Other Resolutioners Will Be Gone Soon.

Welcome to 2008. Worked out yet?

If you belong to a gym, and have gone since January 1, you've no doubt walked in and been shocked at the number of people sweating, 95% of whom weren't there on December 30.

What happened?

Simple: They're resolutioners.

Resolutioners are the gym-goers who make their promise that, come January 1, they're going to "work out!" For them, that means joining a gym, spending hundreds of dollars on initiation fees, workout clothes, and a new iPod.

Then they go to the gym for a total of two weeks, and we never see them again.

So don't worry — they'll be gone by January 15, and the gym will go back to being empty again.

But … what if you're one of them? What if you're a resolutioner? How do you make sure that come January 28, you're still there?

Easy: Promise yourself you won't think about quitting until you've seen the first result. Then make that result something achievable.

I know people who go to work out in NYC and start by running 10 miles. They've never run before, and they're trying to run 10 miles.

As soon as they hit the wall at mile three, they never go back to doing it again.

What did we learn?

Don't do that.

Set manageable, attainable goals.

I will work out three times this week. I will work out three times a week for the entire month of January, then I will weigh myself February 1.

That's a good goal.

Do that. Don't quit until you do.

Trust me: The initial hump sucks. But once you get over it, you become someone who blew past the resolutioners. And then, come summer, you're the hottie on the beach, and the resolutioners are, again, nowhere to be found. That's what you want.

By Peter Shankman  |  Sun, 6 Jan 2008 at 2:56 PM  |  Permalink

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