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Month: March 2023

How bad is your shape diet?

Mobility issues

The first injury I had in 6+ years caused me to review my habits.  I strength train, eat right, don’t drink much, and cycle training with high/low intensity. I had picked up a new chair about 7 or 8 months ago for my office. Typically, I stand all day, but recently I had been working out in the morning then sitting the rest of the day. It’s what we do the majority, not the minority that causes the most damage.  What does your shape diet look like?  Are you eating junk shapes all day by sitting in the same position? 

Shape Diet curtesy of Stable Diffusion
Stable Diffusion’s image for a “Shape Diet”…

How do we fix it?

I realized I just had to go back to standing no matter how hard I worked out.  For the past 2 months, I stand on my yoga mat, and I’ve noticed I’m fidgeting, and moving way more.  I’ll spontaneously grab a kettlebell and start swinging it, or maybe do some toe raises or downward dog.  Guess what? My plantar fasciitis went away!

I also just ordered one of these balance blocks to increase my foot drills to strengthen all the supporting muscles in my feet.

Sitting is the new smoking, but why?

“If you sit with your legs at 90 degrees all day and rarely extend your hip flexors, hips and quadriceps can become short and tight. Your hamstrings are also affected, which limits your range of motion and will therefore affect stride length when you run. The same applies to your calf muscles”.

Ask a high-volume runner to touch their toes you will see tight hamstrings and poor hip mobility firsthand. You need to fix your “shape diet” to avoid injury and lead a long and healthy life!  We were meant to move, walk, and be on the go.  A standing desk lowers the barrier to movement. If you are standing you are more likely to just walk around. Do you have some weights nearby, well you are more likely to walk over and do a few reps. Always be moving! Muscles are use it or lose it!  When you’re at your standing desk throw in some 100 ups to help your form!  This is the most amazing single drill that all runners should do!  

The idea of the shape diet was discussed on the recent Tim Ferris Podcast here:


It boasts 12,000 feet of climbing on the rockiest terrain you can imagine. This was the 2nd toughest race I had next Eastern States 100. It was the mix of the weather, rocks, and climbs that made for the perfect storm. I was only 2 minutes off from being pulled from the course. I would call myself a decent runner but was not prepared for what this race threw at me.

What went right:

  1. I changed my socks, lubed my feet, or changed shoes every loop (2-4-6-8) because of the wet conditions.  I still felt hot spots even with that much foot care.  I acted before it became an issue.  I know I sacrificed a ton of time, but this was my first time doing the event AND it was raining.  No PRs will happen in conditions like this and it is more important to just finish.   
  2. At the aid station, I would grab 2 snacks and fill my water, and use my waist belt.  It was more than enough food for the loops.  With the temps this low I barely needed more than 1 bottle of water per 2 loops.  
  3. I took Tylenol twice during the race when the pain was high.
  4. I didn’t give up, after a cold loop where I couldn’t feel my hands I got back to my car and got a change of clothes, and warmed up. I used one of my ponchos to prevent from getting soaked again. This was CRITICAL to saving my race.  If I had not gotten out of the wet clothes the race would have been over.  I was so cold and shivering/couldn’t feel my hands for so long that I had to do something.  The dollar poncho I used as a cover kept the rain off and I stayed dry.  
  5. I worked on mobility and foam rolling leading up to the race and it seemed to have fixed the tightness/pain in my foot.

What went wrong:

  1. The light running shell got soaked and I couldn’t feel my hands.  It was NOT a rain jacket, so make sure to carry a poncho!  I need to remember to carry it for future races.
  2. My feet got banged up, but using anti-friction powder helped.  I got a blister on my back heel which has never happened before.  It might have been from the new shoes I got.  I couldn’t run along the rocks, I couldn’t move my feet fast enough.  I am going to practice some drills going forward to increase my turnover rate.  I needed super fast turnover for running on an extremely rocky course like this.  
  3. I had a sore throat and didn’t get much sleep the night before. I wasn’t overly concerned as I have had races before where sleep is disrupted. (I have 3 kids.)

What would you do differently:

  1. Practice on a more technical section of my local trail.  Do drills to increase foot turnover.  You need fast feet!  Maybe do 100 ups more?  The more you lower contact time with the ground the more efficient you become and the less likely to trip.  
  2. Keep from getting wet before it happens!  Carry a dollar poncho with you.  Keeping rain off you has a 10X multiplier in well-being and energy expenditure from shivering.  This has to be remembered if rain is in the forecast, or maybe even if it is not. A poncho goes in the record books as a must-carry-on personal item. 

I asked him what does he do with all the people who drop. He said they are on the back of his van as the wall of shame.

Final Thoughts:

I BARELY finished. I prioritized foot care over all else to make sure I finished.  Taking the time to rest between loops, eating food, and getting warm was what needed to be done.  I was able to look at things clearly, put myself back together and finish.  2 minutes was the difference between failure and success!  2 minutes… I won’t forget this race for a long time.  In hindsight, I think an underestimation of the course was my fault, maybe I should have scouted it more and read more race reports.  I just thought I would power through it, what could they throw at me??  In the past, I had always started the year off with an “easier” race – HAT 50K.  I wanted to change things up, life is too short to be stuck in a grove.  We get into a grove that puts you in a place of comfort, monotony, and boredom.  The stories are HERE, where you go off script, you do a big challenge, or something different.  A few years ago I made the promise to myself to always do something that has a high chance of failure.  This checked that box.  What are you doing this year that has a 50/50 shot of success or failure?  Are you playing it safe again and are going to do the same old song and dance as last year? 

Pain and Suffering in Ultra-Racing

Pain is guaranteed in life. There is no escaping the fact that something or someone will cause you pain. What is not guaranteed is suffering. Ultra-running, to me, is a long conversation with yourself about these two ideas. Are you in pain AND are you suffering?  The ability to first understand the purpose of pain, as a feedback mechanism to instruct us to listen to our body, is crucial. Children tend to listen only if there are repercussions for their actions, so the same goes for pain. Our body sends a pain signal because we are not listening. In ultra-racing, you need to learn how to listen to that signal, acknowledge it, and then move past it. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when both pain and suffering collide, and that will cause a DNF. The majority of the time, we choose to suffer because the pain has crossed over a threshold that we decide we can no longer bear. We give in, we give up, and we drop out.

When you reach this point, there are a few critical items you can do to prevent going over the edge:

  1. Listen! It’s trying to tell you something, but if you choose to ignore it, there will be a breaking point.
  2. Take a break! There’s nothing to say you can’t back off the pace, sit in the shade, or just stop and collect your thoughts. Pain comes in waves, and most of the time, you can ride the wave to the next shore.
  3. Reason with it. You can talk with yourself to see if it’s really an issue if it’s really that bad and if you can make a deal just to wait and see if your fears are warranted. Nine out of ten times, it’s never as bad as you think.

This year, I plan to approach racing and life completely differently. I will stop getting in the way of things, stop trying to steer them, and let things play out. I have read many books on self-help, self-discovery, and self-improvement, and the underlying theme in all of them is awareness.  The present moment is always trying to tell you something, but we ignore it.  Far too often, we are on to the next thing, living in the past, or dreaming about the future.  Sitting in silence, with no task and nowhere to be, is life’s ultimate reward. Not what you have, what you have done, and what you will do. The odds of being born into you are 1 in 400,000,000,000,000. Think about that! You already won the lottery, now it’s time to just sit back and enjoy it. So, the next time you are “suffering” you have to ask, but am I really?  Sit with your pain, because it’s a gift trying to tell you what you are doing wrong, and if you listen, you will avoid suffering.