Tag Archives: personal health

Finally Getting Back In The Gym

I finally got a membership at the nearby Planet Fitness. Despite having a gym within a block from home that only costs $10 a month and is open nearly all the time, I balked at getting a membership for a variety of practical reasons that now finally are no longer the case.

The gym itself has pretty much everything I’d need out of a gym. They have a ton of treadmills, several ARC Trainers and ellipticals, several spin and recumbent exercise bikes, and of course a wide variety of free weights and exercise machines. And because of the no-judgment motif of the Planet Fitness brand, everyone working out seems cool and goes about their business without any passive aggression or peacocking you see at other gyms.

I’m digressing a bit. As I ramp into official fall marathon training, the gym provides me with a ton of benefits it turns out I really need this time around. I’ve been admittedly struggling with several aspects of training over the last few months, and the gym’s going to help with several of them.

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Walking as a habit for sneaky aerobic exercise and weight loss

Starting shortly after my Vancouver Marathon trip, I began leaving for work earlier in the mornings to walk 5K to work instead of taking the bus.

I already run-commute in part to save money on bus fare (it’s long since been cheaper to pay per use than to get a monthly pass since I don’t ride as much), not to mention get my training in during the week.

Admittedly, part of my motivation for walking to work in the morning was to further save on the cost of bus fare. If using the bus once per work day was cheaper, then not using it at all is even cheaper.

And of course living 5K from work makes walking to work feasible. If I lived farther away (my last job was 9 miles from home), running that commute would be more difficult, and walking that commute would be unworkable. I would have a need to take transit.

All that said, there’s a variety of health benefits to taking long walks to work that I’m trying to take advantage of.

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Why I don’t perform anymore. Why I like running.

Prior to becoming a more serious runner some time back, I spent years as a practicing theatre, improv and dance performer, and wrote about those subjects here.

I stopped performing in 2017 because I frankly didn’t enjoy doing it anymore. Showing up to the theater became a chore with no personal benefit, and that’s not why people practice and perform.

Now and then I get views on my old improv posts. Here’s one that got viewed last night. I wrote a lot about ideas and principles that demonstrated the ability to produce better improv, better theatre, better shows. Much of what I wrote still stands up today, even though I haven’t stepped on a stage in two years and don’t feel much like doing so today.

I’m glad my writing on improv and theatre is still of use to people performing today. It’s part of why I didn’t take that writing down once I switched my focus to running.

Part of the reason I stopped performing: Fundamentally, on and off stage, your success in performing arts entirely depends on the approval and active support of other people. After all, you are performing for an audience, and even if performing solo you need other people to get a stage to do it.

Because of this, you can do everything essentially “right” (whatever that means in your case), but if people don’t want to fully engage it won’t matter. The problem really hit home when I began teaching and coaching. If people don’t want to engage, don’t want to work hard, don’t want to take you seriously… no effort you put forth will succeed on a suitable level, whether you perform or seek to help performers. In the performing arts, everyone else decides if you succeed or fail.

Despite everyone’s best intentions, it’s little wonder so many performers are mentally unhealthy. Objectively, a lifestyle that depends entirely on the approval and support of others is not a healthy way to live.


It’s also a key reason I got seriously into running, which like most forms of exercise is essentially the opposite. While useful, you don’t need anyone’s approval or support to succeed or grow with running. If you know what you’re doing and you regularly do the work, you can grow. Even if for whatever reason someone doesn’t want you to succeed, they (short of criminal or other ethically bankrupt activity) cannot stop you.

I put a lot of time and growth into becoming a theatre performer, but every time I think about going back… I think about all the costs and obstacles to doing it, and it frankly doesn’t seem worth the effort. I may be talented, may be funny, may be whatever else… but so are a lot of other people. And competing with those people for a finite, dwindling amount of attention in an increasingly ADHD, media-heavy world doesn’t seem like the best use of my time and energy.

Meanwhile, running has always been a great use of my time and energy. I’ve gotten in much better shape and health. It’s always engaging to me. The knowledge I’ve built from doing it, what I share writing about it, helps a large number of people I haven’t even met.

So that’s a big reason why I run and write about running and the lifestyle. If there’s a takeaway for you from this, it’s to focus on doing what rewards you and helps you reward others… and to not invest yourself in things that don’t.

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How to run in snow and ice

Snow finally hit Chicago hard for the first time this cold season. While 4-8″ isn’t anything close to a record, it means runners here finally get to deal with snow and ice.

Walking in snow and ice itself is an acquired skill, which puts running in snow and ice on a whole other level. Being a winter runner, I have enough first-hand experience and knowledge to help you continue to train outdoors in cold conditions.

The standard caveats apply: Layer accordingly, dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer since you will warm up while running, and of course should the weather get suitably severe (blizzard conditions, massive snow or ice, thunder-snow, and dangerously low temperatures and windchill) you should go ahead and stay inside.

Barring that, here’s some key tips to running in snow and ice.

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Overeating: What To Do When You Do It

You’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, trying to stick to a calorie total… but then you go wild and over-eat. Literally all of us have done this countless times. And it doesn’t have to trigger a disastrous slide into terrible long-term eating, or to a lesser extent another eating binge.

Here’s some tips for what to do in the moment after you’ve done it, and what to do the next day to mitigate what you did.

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Why do your legs itch when you run?

Many experience itching on their legs whenever they go out to run, regardless of weather and regardless of what they’re wearing. Why?

Well, nothing’s biting you and you don’t have some sort of skin condition. So over the counter remedies aren’t going to do you much good.

The reason your legs itch is because when you start running, you activate previously dormant nerves in your legs. The sudden stimulus compels your legs to send the sensation of itching up your nerve fibers back to your brain.

So your legs itch, and the temptation is to think that something’s happening on your skin. But the reality is that your legs are basically waking up and using more energy. Often, if you continue running through it, the sensation passes.

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An impromptu birthday run, and thoughts on aging (even when others don’t notice)

Most people go on an abbreviated run and hope that it’s long enough to count in their training long.

Me? I go tonight on two short runs, to and from the store to get ice cream, and hope the runs aren’t long enough to count. Here I am trying to stick to my guns on a two weeks hiatus following the marathon, and yet opportunity calls.

See, today is my birthday, and I turn 40 years old. I figure why not treat myself? Ice cream makes sense. A 2 mile round trip run… possibly less so, but I certainly enjoyed it.

A lot of people get to this stage in life and face a mid-life crisis. Their health and figure has declined. They’re fighting father time.

Me? I probably feel and look better than I did at 30. Hell, I feel a lot better than I did at 38 or 39. A combination of all this running with substantial improvements to my lifestyle habits have dramatically improved my energy levels, my physique, my health.

So, I realize the number is a specter given it’s a midlife number. Any notion of youth your age offers is pretty much gone at 40. You’re a man, and you’re pretty much on the “old” side of the spectrum.

Meanwhile, I still get mistaken for being 15 years younger, and I’ve let a lot of twentysomething ladies down when I break to them when I was actually born. You have to look closely for telltale signs of my actual age. My face at point blank range looks just weathered enough to indicate I’m no kid. My hairline has mostly held the line, but the front base of hair has gotten a bit thin at the top of my forehead. People get weirded out and some even laugh when I make any effort at being authoritative, because it looks like a college kid trying to act like an old man.

But otherwise people still think they’re dealing with a twentysomething. Maybe it gives me as many chances I wouldn’t otherwise get, as it takes away chances I otherwise would get. Maybe if I race as a Masters runner people will immediately cry foul and accuse me of lying (especially if I win an age group). If I went to see a doctor about some old man thing like a heart scan or (heaven forbid) a prostate screening or something, he’d probably laugh and wonder why a kid thinks they need something like that.

I’m not crazy enough to think I’ve turned back the clock or I’ll be young forever. I feel the bone-and-joint creakiness of having passed 30 now and then and have for years. I just have gotten in good enough condition that it doesn’t really hold me back. I realize I’ve got to work hard to take care of myself to maintain what I can as I age, as much as grow in any way naturally possible.

I ran to the store and back at an 8:35-8:40 mile pace. I couldn’t have imagined running comfortably that fast back in 2010, and certainly couldn’t have imagined that eight years later I’d be running like that, in better shape than I’ve ever been.

P.S. I couldn’t decide between Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup and Häagen-Dazs Caramel Cone. So of course I got both. The former got crushed just now, and I’ll eat the Caramel Cone some time down the road.

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