Setting Goals: Actually, There is a Wrong Way

If 2015 is going to be the year you get in shape, I applaud you.

And I see failure in your future.

It’s not that I hate you or don’t want  you to succeed. It’s that the goal of “getting in shape” is ill-defined, like an amoeba. The foundation of success is a sharply defined goal. Think less amoeba, more… cheetah.  I know how hard it is to carve out the time and gather the motivation to stay committed to a fitness goal when there are a million and one other things conspiring to thwart your efforts. I’m looking at you, Snooze Button.

I’m guest posting today over at my friend Erin’s blog, The Social Butterfly Mom, on fitness goal setting (and I think you will find the basic principles apply to goal setting in any area of your life). I hope you will join me over there!


Workout Wednesday Vol. 2: How to Begin Running in Three Simple Steps

You guys are awesome! I have gotten so many questions, I am not even sure where to begin… I’m thinking the obvious place to start would be the beginning… So here is a question from a reader on how to begin running.

Q: Do you have any information/good plans on starting to run [after a long hiatus].

A: First of all, it depends on what your fitness level was prior to the hiatus and just how long of a break you took.

Let’s assume you haven’t run in over a year, and that when you were running, you were doing three miles, three to four times a week, and that you had been doing this routine on and off for two years. My advice in this situation would be the same as it would be for the person beginning to run for the very first time.

#1) Carve out time for at least three to four 20-30 minute runs per week. Put it on your calendar and treat it like you would any other appointment. Do not wait until you have found a cute running outfit. Do not wait until you have lost weight. Do not wait until it’s a little colder/warmer/less humid/cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

As Dan is fond of reminding me, perfect is the enemy of good. Even if you only have 15 minutes to step out during your lunch break, even if you only have time for a bird bath instead of a shower, and even if you ate an extra piece of cake at that work birthday party and you think you’re too bloated to exercise… GET OUT THERE (or in there if you’re on a treadmill).

#2) Get comfortable walking for 20-30 minutes at a brisk pace at least three to four times a week. If you’re already there, skip to step #3.

#3) Begin the Run/Walk progression as below. Each Run/Walk is 20-30 minutes. Don’t worry about distance. All you need is a digital watch and a pair of sneakers.

Repeat each workout below as many times as it takes to feel comfortable before moving to the next workout. What do I mean by “comfortable”? I mean you could complete the workout while having a conversation, you could do the workout while breathing with your mouth closed most of the time, or you could easily keep running when the run interval ends.

Run 1 minute Walk 2 minutes

Run 1 minute Walk 1 minute

Run 2 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 3 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 4 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 5 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 3 minutes Walk 30 seconds

Run 4 minutes Walk 30 seconds

Run 5 minutes Walk 30 seconds

Run 6 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 8 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 10 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 6 minutes Walk 30 seconds

Run 8 minutes Walk 30 seconds

Run 10 minutes Walk 30 seconds

Run 12 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 15 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 18 minutes Walk 1 minute

Run 20 minutes, Walk to cool down

Run 25 minutes, Walk to cool down

Run 30 minutes

#4) Celebrate!! You can now run for 30 minutes straight!

Bonus Inspirational Story: I struggled to complete the mile run required for the state fitness test in middle school gym class. The only person I beat was the fat kid in my class. It took me an agonizing 10 minutes. Nearly 20 years later, I registered for a one mile race for fun. I finished second woman in my age group. It took me six minutes and 41 agonizing seconds.

Don’t give up!






Workout Wednesday: Vol. 1

Welcome to Workout Wednesday! Here’s the deal: Every Wednesday I am going to post an answer to a fitness question. Mostly I will be talking about running, because that is my first love, my current favorite form of exercise, and it is the area of fitness where I have the most experience and knowledge. However, there will definitely be posts where I talk about other topics pertaining to exercise and fitness.

The question I answer might be one a friend has asked me, a question I once had, or a question I still struggle with. If you have a fitness/running question you want answered here, shoot me an email! Nothing would make me happier than hearing from you. If I know the answer to your question I will answer it. If I don’t know the answer, I promise not to give you some bullshit non-answer answer. I hate when people do that. Instead, I will tell you, “I’m sorry but I don’t know.”

So, first things first….

Question: Pam, why in the world do you think you are qualified to answer any questions about running or about fitness in general?

Answer: Good question. In fact, I asked Dan this very question myself just the other day. Here’s the deal. I don’t claim to be a physician, a coach, a guru, or an expert of any kind. I am a person who loves exercising (especially running). I have never been a natural athlete. I was picked last for every team as a kid. But when I discovered I loved to run, I also learned how much I love to train, race, and move toward accomplishing my goals. I have worked hard over many years to become a better athlete.

I have been running for over 20 years. I ran my first marathon in 2001, and since then I have been hooked on endurance sports. I’ve run six marathons, completed two ironman triathlons, participated in several multi-day road cycling tours, and I have competed in countless shorter events over the years. I became certified to teach indoor cycling classes in 2004 and have been teaching on and off ever since then.

Since having my first child in 2012, I have focused on running, due to the unfortunate circumstance of there being only so many hours in a day. I achieved a personal record of 1:44 in the half marathon when my daughter was eight months old.  You can read about my other PR’s here. My long-term goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. First, however, I need to accomplish my short-term goal of establishing a regular sleep pattern for the baby, who is now 7 weeks old.

I love helping people accomplish their fitness goals. I coached a friend to his first half ironman finish and I coached Dan to his first sprint triathlon finish. I also wrote a training plan for what was supposed to be Dan’s best post-college 5k ever (although I beat him in that one, so it turned out be my best 5k ever). I believe that anyone can cross any finish line they set their mind to (barring any real physical limitations, like a bad knee or a bad back).

I’m looking forward to chatting fitness with you over the course of the weekly Workout Wednesday series!

Off to a Running Start: Five Tips New Runners Need to Know

This article was originally published in the March issue of Colorado Runner Magazine. Please feel free to add your own rookie mistakes in the comments.

Just copying and pasting this post into WordPress is making me miss running so bad. The idea of me running right now is simultaneously the most hilarious and painful thing I could imagine. If you have a chance to run today without carrying an extra 30 pounds and the feeling that your insides might fall right out, enjoy it!

Running is simple. Just put one foot in front of the other as fast as you can, for as long as you can right? Not necessarily. Every runner has made his or her share of rookie mistakes. Follow my tips below and you will avoid these classic beginner fumbles. Or be the stubborn fool that you are, and make your mistakes yourself. You’re a runner now, so don’t worry- it’s not your fault. Stubbornness comes with the territory.

Rookie Mistake #1: Wear your grandmother’s shoes

If your running shoes are the same ones you’ve been wearing since high school basketball or the ones that were perfect for the step class you loved in 1998, Do Not Pass Go. If you bought your running shoes because they match all your new running clothes, do not pass Go. And, for the love of God, do not wear your grandmother’s running shoes. (My friend actually did this for her first 5k. It did not go well). You need a pair of running shoes that will support your body and your gait pattern. Go to a local specialty running store, where the knowledgeable staff will analyze your gait and help you select the shoe that will work for you. You might pay a premium for the shoes but you will save yourself a bundle on physical therapy, chiropractic, and deep tissue massage.

Rookie Mistake #2: The Lone Wolf Approach

It’s hard to be the new kid on the block. I’ve been there. I get it. And I don’t care. Sorry to go Tough Love on you but you must put on your big girl (or big boy) underpants and join a running group. Once you find your wolf pack, your running peeps will hold you accountable [read: you will not hit snooze instead of running] and they will teach you all the secrets runners know about nutrition, hydration, the best training routes, and strategically placed Vaseline. I joined a running group when I was training for my first marathon. We met every Sunday at 7am.  On a good day, there were a just a dozen of us. Most of them were much faster than I was. Precious few of them ran at my pace. Week in and week out, I faithfully showed up. At worst I ran alone and my long run was complete by about 9am. No matter what, I logged the miles that would be the money in the bank I would withdraw on race day.

Rookie Mistake #3.  The “But everyone else is doing it” Training Method

And now I need to totally contradict myself. Training with a group is awesome. Doing everything your friends are doing is not awesome. Just because you’re invited to do hill repeats with your neighbor on Tuesday, a track workout with your friend on Wednesday, and a tempo run with your co-worker on Thursday doesn’t mean you need to join them. Peek at any beginner or even intermediate training plan. You will not see back-to-back hard workouts. Your body can only become stronger when it has time to recover. Remember those Public Service Announcements from the 80’s? They were right. Just Say No.

#4. The More is Better Philosophy

If a two-mile run is good, a four-mile run must be twice as good, right? Maybe. Ask yourself if you can complete your two-mile loop easily. If you can’t maintain a steady conversation or sing a few verses of a song (quietly), do not increase your distance. Running should feel stupidly easily before you even begin to think about adding mileage. The same goes for adding intensity. Track workouts, hill repeats, and long runs may be alluring, but there is nothing sexy about nursing an injury. Those nagging aches and pains, consistent fatigue in your legs, difficulty sleeping, recurring illnesses, lack of motivation to run- That’s your body trying to tell you something. You’re a runner now. Stupidity and pigheadedness come with the territory. But try to step back and listen to your body. It’s smarter than you are.

#5 Racing By the Seat of Your (New) Pants

Now that you’re a real runner, you’ve signed up for a race. Congratulations! If you are a little scared, that is normal. Use that fear to your advantage. Race day nerves convert to speed you never knew you had. That is, as long as you are not nervous about your outfit, your hydration, or your nutrition. It may be a mental lift to wear new socks and a new top on race day but your spirits will be in the toilet when you’re struggling with unexpected chafing and blisters. Speaking of the toilet, if you are not used to drinking or eating during training, race day is not the time to experiment, unless you want to get intimate with the port-o-potty. Do a “dress rehearsal” before race day, where you wear, eat, and drink the same stuff you will wear, eat, and drink on race day. If you have a chance, you can drive all or part of the course prior to the race. At the very least, review the course map. Although there should be signs and volunteers to help you navigate, ultimately, knowing the route is each runner’s responsibility. Then you can focus your jitters on important stuff- like beating the eleven year-old who just passed you like you were standing still.


Reality Check

Oh yeah, I have a blog. I’ve been too busy bellyaching about how hard it is to be 33 weeks pregnant to actually update this thing.

And then on Monday, someone told me something I didn’t know I needed to hear. After the spin class I am subbing for a friend who just started her maternity leave- really, they should call it the pregnant teacher class, not the Monday morning class- one of the women from the class lingered in the cycling studio as I wiped off the bikes and turned off the stereo. She told me how happy she was for me that I seemed to be having a healthy pregnancy, how she could never have done what I’m doing, that her body had a very hard time with pregnancy, so hard in fact, that her baby was born at 26 weeks.

26 weeks.

If you are where I was 3 years ago (eg You don’t understand why people would say “my child is 15 months old” instead of a simple “one year old” or why a woman would need to be all picky like “I’m 20 weeks along” instead of “I’m five months pregnant”), let me break it down for you. A typical pregnancy is 41 weeks. (Yes, everyone says 40, but actually the average pregnancy is 41 weeks). A baby is considered full-term at I think 38 weeks. At 26 weeks gestation, a baby wouldn’t even weigh 2 lbs. (An average baby weighs around 6-8 lbs.)

26 weeks is really, really early. That’s a lot of time in the NICU, a lot of tubes, a lot of wires, and a lot of stress and heartache that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around.

So, I’ll take my round ligament pain (if that’s what it is. Who knows, really?). I’ll take the occasional heartburn. I’ll take the intermittent insomnia. I’ll take trying to explain to a 2 year old why “uppy” isn’t a great option after about 5pm. I’ll take the stretch marks (not that I have a choice). I’ll take either being able to breathe or bending down to put on my favorite boots (and I admit, sometimes I choose the boots). I’ll even take the suffocating feeling of our basement still being in boxes after the remodel and knowing I don’t have the stamina to put it all back together in one weekend.

As for the next stranger who asks me if I’m ready to have that baby already… No, no I’m not. We’ve got at least 40 days to go and I am grateful for every last one of them.