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Archive for June, 2010

Become a Runner to Think and Feel Better

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A couple months ago, I made the decision on a complete whim to become a runner.  After years of self-identifying as an “athlete”, “martial artist” or a “lifter”, I dove into running with everything I had and studied it like I studied plant biology back in high school.  I’ve learned a ton and feel like I may have found a new escape for myself.

If you’ve never run a mile, or if it’s been years since you laced up running shoes, keep reading.  And if you’re an old pro, you might learn something new here, but I kind of doubt it 🙂

The obvious caveat is that all of this advice is coming from someone who’s probably a lot like you and not some ultra-marathoner or Tarahumaran.  I’m not a “real” runner… yet.  I haven’t finished a 5k (my first race is July 31st) or written a book about running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days.  But ultimately that shouldn’t matter much, because unlike learning how to hit a 90mph fastball or drive a car, running is about overcoming the resistance to move more than anything.  And that’s mostly a mental game… it shouldn’t take years of experience practicing impeccable form until you can run well enough to impart wisdom, it requires the will to get yourself up off your ass and onto the street.

That isn’t to dismiss the fact that running, like most physical activities, is something you can dissect down to the most minute detail.  Ankle inversion, foot pronation, stride length, heel vs. toe running, etc.  But I’m not at that level yet – probably never will be – and my guess is that you aren’t either.  We’re just two wanna-be runners right now… so let’s start with the basics together.  I’ll give you some links to follow when we’re done to learn more if you care.

First, a little background: I’ve always hated running.  Loathed it with a real passion reserved only for instant chocolate pudding.  There have been times in my life (college, mostly) where I ran pretty regularly but it’s been something I’ve dreaded the whole way through.

Yet running is the world’s oldest and simplest activity.  Most everyone is born a runner… it doesn’t require a gym membership or any special overpriced equipment (like, say, biking does).  Ear buds, running shoes, headbands, and special socks aren’t required in order to run.  You just need two healthy feet and a bit of willpower and determination.  I mean: you don’t even need to have a destination in mind, you could run in circles around your block and feel better.

And boy will it humble you.  Running will teach you more about yourself than most other sport or activity.  Mostly because it’s you against yourself and you’re in your own head most of the time… but also because it’s just plain hard.  Exercise is meant to give you progressive resistance in order for you to improve, and running does that in spades.  There’s always a new goal to be had no matter how accomplished a runner you are.

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Written by Mike Torres

June 23rd, 2010 at 2:15 pm

The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Tracking & Analysis

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‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.’ – Ben Franklin

Self-tracking – or personal analytics as some call it – is a relatively new phenomenon brought about by the ubiquity of cheap sensor technology and the internet.  It’s a space that’s just now coming into its own thanks to the tech getting cheaper and lots of interested, data-driven geeks finding each other on the net and exchanging ideas.

The potential impact of self-tracking on personal health and overall well being could someday rival the discovery of penicillin – seriously – and we’re just at the beginning of what’s going to be a huge wave of self-improvement and individualized health care based on self-tracking and analysis.

I’ve recently entered the world of self-tracking… and there’s no going back.  My weight, body fat percentage, running speed and distance, calories burned, sleep patterns, investments, genetic predispositions, daily routines, mood, and even commute times are tracked and analyzed.  Sound a little excessive?  Maybe.  But only because it’s still not 100% automatic.  But it’s really, really close to being “set it and forget it”, and for me, the benefits far outweigh the few minutes I spend each day tracking things.

What is Self-Tracking?

The basic concept behind self-tracking is simple: our ability to determine cause and effect through our memory or experience alone is inherently faulty.  It’s tough enough for most of us to remember a birthday or anniversary.  Ask us to calculate how many calories we burned yesterday and how that affected our sleep last night and our blood pressure will rise – and we won’t even be able to detect that in order to prevent it from happening in the future! 

Our minds play games with us… they trick us into seeing and believing things that aren’t there in order to "protect us".  We can rationalize most anything we do or say (science shows this) which means deciding not to exercise because we’re busy or just don’t feel like it is easy to justify.  Of course, machines aren’t as easily tricked.

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Written by Mike Torres

June 7th, 2010 at 6:21 pm