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July 22, 2013

Group Therapy

Group Therapy

IMG_4428“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

~ Ryunosuke Satoro

For the past couple of years as a runner, I have run alone almost exclusively. It’s not that I don’t occasionally go out with a friend, but mostly, I don’t. My running time is my time to not talk to others, to not answer, to not share. It’s mine. It’s personal.

In years past, however, my preference was always for groups. I did serious martial arts for a long time and part of what I loved was the dynamic of my school. We trained together. We trained a lot, and over time we became like a family. One big sweaty family united by upper cuts and side kicks and wrist locks. In years since I have had similar kinds of experiences in yoga studios, though less so because there is more transience in yoga.

For me personally, a funny thing happened over the years – the harder and more demanding my family and career became, the more I craved activities that took me away from people not towards them. Running lets me be an exercise hermit, and I am grateful for that. It also lets me be at my own pace and push only as much as I want to on any given day. One of my readers here once commented about physical “diminishing returns” in running…and I wonder if this is partly why.

So I started to think recently, that maybe part of the magic of a group has to do with accountability.

When someone else is there to push you, maybe you can expand your limits more than you can on your own?

Continue reading…

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June 29, 2012



It is necessary to try to surpass one’s self always: this occupation ought to last as long as life.
~ Queen Christina of Sweden

Technically, I am turning 43 today. But here, I am going to celebrate turning One.

One year ago today I laced up my very first pair of running shoes and I committed to a new course. I decided to start running but, more than that, I decided to run for a year.

Here I am. I have arrived.

When I started this journey, a year sounded like infinity and a half a mile in running shoes felt like a marathon. Today, I sit here hoping to recover from a herniated (ok 3) disc in my back and I finding myself wondering if I could manage to train for a half marathon in the fall if all goes well.

In-between, I have put a lot of miles under my feet and I have learned a whole lot about who I am.

Isn’t that funny? When you are a kid, you think of grown ups sort of like fully cooked humans. They are “done” and you are growing. Adults tell you that all the time don’t they? When you are grown up, you’ll see… But the special secret of grownuphood is that – if you pay attention – there is always more growing up to do.

One thing I learn more and more as I keep growing up is that we can be more or less conscious in this process. I am not saying that we can always choose the lessons or the training grounds, but we can choose how actively we participate in the process. On the surface, I chose running because I got to age 42 and realized that I needed to make a hard commitment to taking better care of my body because it was not getting any younger. (You can read about where I started here.) And I could have just left the decision at that. Lots of people make commitments to exercise right? And they quietly stop them 2 weeks or 2 months later and life goes on.

I chose to run for an entire year because I was looking for something more. Continue reading…

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May 14, 2012

Races with Girlfriends

Races with Girlfriends

Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.

Oprah Winfrey

So much has changed for me in 11 months of running that it’s hard to wrap my mind around it.

If you had ever ever told me I would even think of entering a race – even months after I started running I might have called you silly to your face. When I first started running, people constantly asked me what I was training for. I quickly realized that this is common conversation between runners – many of whom run (at least in part) so that they can participate in races.

This was a conversation that happened the other day when I was running with a friend. I was a hot day and we were stopped on the side of the path at a drinking fountain. Another runner – I think she was from South Africa – stopped about the same time.

My friend: Hot day, huh?

Other runner: Oh yes!

My friend: Are you out here training for something?

Other runner: Not at the moment…(pause)…but there is always something to train for right!

And she flashes a happy, sweaty smile and takes off. Continue reading…

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February 28, 2012

Reason (Enough) To Run

Reason (Enough) To Run







Our culture has spawned all sorts of sayings that use the word run.

Run the gauntlet

Run out of steam

(Don’t) Run before you can walk

Run off in all directions

Run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off

I love language and the way we use words. When we hear phrases like this, we learn a lot about the way our culture (or the culture at the time the phrase was coined) thinks about a thing or a concept. Despite all the great things runners (even beginners like me) might say about running, our society has come up with all sort of uses that imply going to fast, being reckless or cavalier, or exhausting yourself.

We use the word run to describe extremes mostly, not norms.

Maybe we have it wrong. Continue reading…

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February 21, 2012

Feels Like…

Feels Like…

A lot of people have asked my why I would chose a year – that’s a long time to commit to something that you have never done and you might not like. It was not arbitrary.

I did a lot of research before I started running – not about gear or technique – I wanted to know why runners run. What calls them to do it, why they keep doing it, what pushes them forward, gets them to run and run and run.

Talk to enough runners and you realize that most of them are fanatical about running. Many, I am pretty sure would give up sex before they would give up running if forced to make a choice. When you ask them why they run, you get all kinds of answers that make little sense to non-runners. You especially get various descriptions of “runner’s high” and the dreamy looks that accompany the descriptions always speak louder than words. It’s like talking to someone who just fell in love.

Continue reading…

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February 9, 2012

The Meaning of Push

The Meaning of Push

Happiness comes only when we push our brains and hearts to the farthest reaches of which we are capable.
~ Leo Rosten

Today, I am home with a sick kid. I am playing doctor-mom, working from my kitchen, trying not be be distracted by the laundry and the unopened mail. There is never a time when there isn’t too much to do.

Today I also decided on a 5k run. It’s warm and sunny here and I thought that a break outside would clear my mind that was feeling pretty slow (think up every two hours with kid with fever and cough…I know some of you have been there).

I don’t know if it was my tired brain, but somehow, barely a third of the way into my run, I just wanted to stop. I slowed my pace, thought about the route ahead, thought about the route back. No choice seemed good.

Then I thought about what it takes to push.

A good push is often what it takes to get something done. Pushes can come in lot of forms – I have seem my kids’ coaches push a child back on the field or into the pool because he somehow knows that if he just gets him out there it will all be fine. I have felt my self pushed by a challenging task or a an obstacle that needs overcoming. It’s funny isn’t it – the way that positive enticements (accomplishment, reward, money, etc) often feel like the carrot we chase, but that a bit of adversity or an obstacle in our path can seem like a slap on the back? Continue reading…

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February 6, 2012

Staying the Course

Staying the Course

Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second. 
~ William James

I broke my own running record yesterday.

Never mind how far I went or what the prior distance was. I finished the run quietly sitting at my friend Wendy’s kitchen table watching our kids play. It was Sunday morning. Friday night I had returned home very late from Cleveland, Saturday I was up at 5 to prep for each of my boys having separate sports tournaments in a city almost an hour away at different locations. Saturday night one at a slumber party, the other another social event. I was sweaty and tired – my day ahead involved laundry, errands, homework and a Super Bowl party. Monday was starting to look restful.

And quietly, I am smiling to myself because I just accomplished something – something just for me – in the midst of it all. I don’t need to share.

My life sometimes feels like a series of sprints and obstacle courses. I may not be a trained runner, but I am a trained mom, coach, chauffeur, business woman, traveler and friend. I am an endurance athlete in life. Continue reading…

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January 14, 2012

Bumps in the Road and a Bit of Rain

The road to self-belief is potholed  ~Nyasha Madavo

I am lucky enough to be spending this week with an incredible international group of health professionals at the Inaugural Caribbean Obesity Forum on the beautiful island of Barbados. In love meetings like this because having a global perspective on the disease of obesity is increasingly important in what I do. When you don’t open your eyes and take a look around the world once in a while, your focus can become ever more narrow.

So for me, while I appreciate the education, the best part of this kind of gathering is increasingly building my global network of like-minded people.

At the same time, travel always has its challenges. I chose running as a form of exercise in large part because of it’s portability – “have shoes, will travel” – you can really do it anywhere. Almost every business class hotel in the world has at least one well-worn treadmill hiding in a converted 5th floor suite.

For this trip, however, I had not really planned on needing the treadmill.  I am, after all, on a tropical island – I am thinking “I am going to run outside.” so I put on my shoes and walk out through the lobby to do just that when the skies open up  – not with glorious sunshine – but with torrential rain.

Me, shoes, iPhone – wet, wet, wet. Continue reading…

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January 10, 2012

There’ll Be Days Like This

There’ll be days like this…When you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises; when you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape; when your boots will fill with rain, and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment. And those are the very days you have all the more reason to say thank you. Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.
~Sarah Kay

Part of the reason I fell out of the habit of regular exercise a many of years ago was that the number of things that seemed to be standing in my way somehow grew to be big enough that I just couldn’t see how to do it. I have long been a busy person with a full life. At one point I was in medical school and working a job and managing to train 3-6 days a week in martial arts. Later, I was working in private practice, had a part-time consulting business, had a baby, did volunteer work, and still managed to do yoga, go to spin classes and walk in the parks near my home. I can’t exactly recall when it became too much – but it was somewhere after baby number 2, the consulting company taking off into a full-time business, agreeing to chair a health conference and joining a corporate board on the side…

I never stopped exercise wholesale – it just slowly but surely got squeezed out of my life. One day I woke up and I had memberships at a gym and 2 yoga studios and I really wasn’t using them at all.

I had become one of “those” people.

Continue reading…

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January 8, 2012

Goal! (Or Not?)

I have written here before that I am a perfectionist. One way this shows up is that I am continually asking myself questions like:

  • Can I do that better?
  • What’s the next level/step?
  • How do I progress or move forward?

I can sometimes get a little obsessed with reaching one goal and then trying to find a way to get to the next via the shortest path.

This has been a great thing in my career. I work hard, get things done and never hesitate to tackle the next thing that needs my attention. I will tend towards producing better and better work over time because  I am constantly comparing what I do today to what I did yesterday or last week or last year – and I want to see that I have somehow progressed.

But the older I get, the more I recognize that this strategy doesn’t work for everything – and in some cases it may actually hinder my results or at least keep me from enjoying the journey. Continue reading…

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