SoulBashing – C’Mon Man Isn’t it time we stop hating over activities that get people healthy and active?

 

The first thing you notice when you stand outside of the SoulCycle studio in West Hollywood is all of the sweaty and visibly fatigued folks that emerge from the frosted glass doors. It sends a clear image, step inside and be prepared to work. The other message it sends to onlookers is that this is a place where I’m going to get a good workout in. Why wouldn’t I? Just look at them? Their Lululemon yoga pants and bedazzled electric blue waist coats barely cover how toned and fit they are!

So inside we stepped, me, my better half and our friend who regularly attends class there. Aside from setting my own bike up, I tried to hide my experience as a veteran cycling instructor as I wanted to get the full experience that a newbie would get. Under my saddle I found a pair of 1-lb weights cradled there. Our friend warned me that new riders trying to “show off” by using heavier weights would be unceremoniously ridiculed for their poor decision when they could no longer keep up with the workout. I asked the rider next to me what he used and he suggested I use at least two pounds. I chose the three pound weights to match his. Yeah, I know, I couldn’t turn off my ego entirely.

The other thing I noticed about the class was how close together the bikes were placed, and I mean close together, as in your face is in the butt of the rider in front of you and you are essentially rubbing elbows with the riders to either side.  I later found out that this is to share the energy between riders and it also serves to accentuate the choreography of the entire line of riders as they pop up and down in unison, making for a very energizing and sweat-flinging demonstration of solidarity. The class ought to come with a warning to avoid gas creating foods before riding. In short there is no personal space, and oddly it isn’t such a bad thing once you start going, probably because the heat and vapor haze in the room tends to numb your senses after a few minutes.

And then it began. No warm-up to speak of , we head right on into it. Jumps, more jumps and more jumps. Spin your ass off as quickly as you can – oops did I say that? No not ass, but the word Spin. That’s trademarked. The vast majority of the class is held out of the saddle save for a few moments where we spin (lower case word) free. Surprisingly the emphasis on the use of hand weights was grossly over advertised. We did Pilates-like arm movements for the duration of only one song, Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, which lasts for roughly four and a half minutes. Sound easy? Click on the link and the hold your arms out and pulse them up and down while watching the YouTube video and let me know how you feel at the end.Are you burning a huge amount of calories? Nope, but you are creating resistance to your delts and traps, etc and it’s better than sitting there with your arms at your sides as you read this.

So why all of the media attention? And why all of the criticism, like this article entitled How to Waste An Hour of Your Time in a Cycling Studio, by Jennifer Sage of the Indoor Cycling Association.

Is SoulCycle the indoor cycling alternative we’ve all been looking for? Does it create finely toned physiques and improve the health of its participants? Or is SoulCycle the devil incarnate or as one critique asserts is a complete waste of time and suggests that its mere presence and public popularity is contributing to ruining the industry?

So do I have a dog in this fight? No more than when providing an educated opinion on any exercise class or fad. Yes I’m a purest and I when I teach cycling I teach based on solid principles, but hey guess what, Spinning isn’t true cycling either, nor is Reebok Cycling nor are many others. Oh and by the way, Zumba isn’t dance but it doesn’t mean that taking the class is a bad thing to do. If you want real cycling indoors then climb on your rollers or Computerainer – it’s as close as you’re going to get. Indoor cycling attracts people from all walks of life and with varying goals, not all of which may agree with yours.

As I’ve gotten older I recognize that like most everything else in life, this argument can be solved by managing expectations, communicating those clearly, and then following through.

Here is my revised priority of what I like to see offered in the fitness industry and how I score SoulCycle:

  • Get people off the couch – Offer opportunities that inspire people with different objectives to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle – Check, SoulCycle is one such option, and hey guess what it isn’t the only one. SoulCycle appeals to folks who want to dance, do things as a group, and sweat. If the alternative is sitting at home on the couch watching Real Housewives of Atlanta, what is the problem?
  • Be safe, but don’t insist on policy without purpose – The goal is to keep people healthy and active once they embrace the lifestyle. Significant injuries prevent this. Base jumping without a parachute is probably not a good idea. Too many jumps or pedaling too fast – staples of SoulCycle – are not the end of the world. Be able to help participants avoid those harmful without casting a blanket to protect everyone against every possible scenario. Newsflash, always being safe isn’t fun. Some people don’t mind a few cuts and scrapes, others do. Again, manage expectations.
  • Use intelligent instructors – Notice I didn’t say “certified” instructors. Beyond basic safety and repeating what is in a training manual, instructors of any fitness discipline should be able to actually apply those learnings to a wide variety of situations and know when they can leave well enough alone, when they should offer alternatives and when they should strongly suggest that the participants don’t do something altogether. Jury’s out on this one, not just for SoulCycle but for every fitness discipline out there. In the 25 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve definitely seen my share of cowboys and crappy instructors that are successfully certified by multiple agencies, and that never seems to change.
  • Make it fun or make it extreme – Either is fine and both is great also, but you actually have to know you are doing it. You can’t go into a Zumba class and teach like Bob Fosse. You’ll make them cry and usually crying isn’t fun. Fun or extreme hardness are both equally effective at attracting participants and helping them to get off their assess. SoulCycle is flat out fun unless you are sitting or standing or jumping there being pissed off that the class doesn’t adhere to specific safety principles. That’s like being Ferris Bueller’s sister, and the only guy who liked her in that movie was Charlie Sheen. SoulCycle is also hard. Seriously, you try bouncing up and down on a saddle without hurting yourself. That’s hard.
  • Know your audience and tailor your class to them – As  group cycling instructor, you aren’t going to teach octogenarians in the same way you’re going to teach to members of Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, a pro cycling team. So why argue that what one instructor does for one group is wrong?

My summary? If SoulCycle is inspiring folks to embrace healthy and active lifestyles AND isn’t sending anyone to the hospital, more power to you. Is it for me? Not sure. Like I said, I’m still a cycling purest and for me, 8 by 3-minute sprint intervals with 90 second recoveries still get me more excited than isometrics to Robin Thicke and bouncing up and down on a saddle while wondering if I chose the right food the night before. To each her own.

 

Obesity is The Government’s Business

I use running to check out or check in. I use it to become absent or to become present. I listen to my shoes crunching through the snow, to my favorite tunes or just to the world around me. Running, for me has become the only time when I can break away from the direct work responsibilities to expand my mind. To do this, I often listen to podcasts of a variety of types. This past Saturday while running in Mill Creek Park, I found myself listening to a local Youngstown NPR channel and to a rebroadcast of a February 2012 debate from Intelligence Squared US entitled Obesity Is The Government’s Business.

Granted by listening to this while running and while listening to National Public Radio, I’m already self selecting into a specific stereotype, and when I heard this was a debate, I initially reacted by thinking, “What is there to debate about?”. 78 million adults and 12 million children are obese. We spend more than $150 billion (with a B) addressing chronic and largely preventable illnesses, brought about from poor lifestyle choices and personal decisions. Of course our government has a role in solving this problem.

The panel for this debate was impressive with Dr. David Satcher, former Surgeon General and Dr. Pamela Peeke, WebMD’s Lifestyle Expert representing the Affirmative, and John Stossel, FOX Business News Anchor and Paul Compos, author of The Obesity Myth opposing government’s involvement.

The main point of Drs. Satcher and Peeke are that government has a role in providing an environment where everyone can participate in healthy and active lifestyle choices regardless of socioeconomic status – access to sidewalks, parks, foods, etc.  Those opposed to the motion argued that this was largely about awareness and anyone can watch Richard Simmons or P90X commercials and know that being overweight or obese is not a desirable trait in our culture and that the problem with government being involved is largely that 1) government has a lousy track record of making a difference in people’s behaviors, 2) that schools are having enough problem teaching reading and writing without asking them to teach nutrition, and 3) we are a free society and government shouldn’t be involved in the individual decisions of its citizens. They also put forth a few specious arguments such as the proposition that there is no evidence that obesity is unhealthy or responsible for rising heath care costs.

I was disappointed that there were a number of important positions that went unexplored in this debate including the fact that government is already involved directly in obesity when they subsidize commercially available packaged foods and factory farming of foods that contribute to this issue in turn making whole real foods more expensive and less accessible by comparison. They also did not fully explore the fact that rising healthcare costs are largely contributing to one of the most significant national defense issues of our time by throwing us deeper and deeper into debt. They also did not explore the fact that healthy people subsidize the poor decisions and bad behaviors of those who just don’t care or who selfishly have decided that somehow they are entitled to these as rights under our constitution. Why should my tax dollars go to support their bad decisions and how is that not a government issue?

What actually amazed me most of all is that the team opposed to obesity being government’s business actually won the debate. I’m not sure how to interpret this with so many facts and the preponderance of evidence weighing in favor of what many would see as common sense. Listening to this on the heels of the Newtown slaughter also reminded me that there are a lot of Americans who simply are willing to sacrifice a whole lot of lives to protect what they see as their individual freedoms and liberties. Similar to the debate on gun control, those opposed to government’s involvement really didn’t provide any alternative recommendations on how to actually solve the problem, only that whichever path is chosen, government should not be involved. Now I’m Jewish and my mother was first generation born in the United States and I grew up ever wary of fascist overzealous controlling governments that strip away the freedoms of its citizens in order to promote a particular point of view. So am I just naive? Am I ignorant? Must we always and forever assume that representatives of a duly elected government will always be looking for ways to harm its citizens? I’m not sure I buy it. I guess I believe that liberties and a government that actively helps its citizens can responsibly coexist.

In any case, do listen to the debate here: Obesity is The Government’s Business. It’s definitely worth your time while commuting or working out. It provides a good summary of the facts surrounding this extremely important issue in our country. Its an issue that won’t be solved any time soon, but must be solved to avoid a tremendous amount of suffering in the future. Interested in your opinion.

http://www.npr.org/2012/02/10/146706878/is-obesity-the-governments-business

http://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/past-debates/item/536-obesity-is-the-governments-business

 

 

I so do NOT want to workout today – Then make it even harder

Yesterday was a full day. I started off by hitting the gym at 5:45am for a 45-min Stairmaster workout at the hotel I was staying at and then headed to the office for a full day of meetings, analysis and other mentally challenging mind-bending and emotionally taxing decision making. At 7 PM, I told my team, I’m going to be offline for the next 90 minutes and will be available again at 8:30PM. My intent was to recharge myself with a workout but as soon as I got back to the hotel to change, my struggle with the inertia of just eating an unhealthy dinner was beginning to overwhelm my commitment to my 10 in 10 Challenge objective. As I passed the workout room off the lobby, I realized that the only way I would win this fight was to lean into it, as my friend Brett Blankner says. But I knew that leaning into it wouldn’t be enough so I figured I just knock the mutha down thereby getting in a quality workout and sending a strong message to the little devil on my left shoulder (insert Animal House reference here) letting him know that I control him, not the other way around.

So instead of skipping my workout, or barely go through the motions, I hit the treadmill for an interval workout that wound up frightening the people in the small room around me. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if I could have been cranking out some Drowning Pool, Disturbed or Steel Panther so that everyone else had to get on board with my schizoid speed party of hell and submission as well.

Now for those of you who could care less about my motivations and only read this because you think you might get a training tip you can try on your own, here’s the treadmill routine I followed, which is pretty darn simple and can be done by a person of any level, simply by adjusting the speeds to your particular capability.

Workout:

  • Warm-up: 1 mile at 7 mph
  • Main set: 6×800 (.5 mile) at 8 mph with a .25-mile recovery at 6 mph after each interval
  • Cool down: .5 mile at 6.5 mph

So to be clear, the workout might be notated:

  • w/u 1 mile; 6×800 at 10K pace/400; c/d .5 mile

What this means in English is that I warm up for a mile on the treadmill and at the one mile mark I jump into the first of six separate speed intervals by raising the speed of the treadmill to 8 mph and then after half a mile I do the first of five recoveries for .25 miles. I keep alternating between speed intervals and recoveries and after the sixth speed interval I do my cool down half mile and then celebrate what I accomplished.

When selecting speeds, take the “normal” treadmill speed you might run to do your treadmill runs and use that for your warm-up. That will give you a sense as to how fast to do your intervals. Your intervals can be done between 5K and 10K pace, and your recoveries should be about a half to a full mile per hour slower than the warm-up pace. To close out the session in a solid manner, see if you can do your cool down where you started at your warm-up pace.

This workout gets you 5.75 miles of kick ass quality development of your turnover speed, stride length and lactate threshold. It took me just under 50 mins, which is a pretty darn good use of time.

The benefits:

Taking a feeling of malaise and kicking it in the teeth accomplishes a number of things.

  • Complete a quality workout
  • Gain confidence in your ability to control how you feel
  • Provides a great excuse to strengthen your mental fortitude
  • Creates an entertaining way get in a bunch of miles that may seem daunting but by breaking it up into intervals and recoveries the miles pas by a lot more quickly
  • Reset your day/evening from one of acceptance of giving in to one of unbridled success

Whatever your motivation, doing a workout like this is a positive experience and is just one more way to get you back on track. Love to know your favorite treadmill workouts that help you get past getting “lifed”.

Until next time.

The 2012 “10 in 10 Challenge” – Week 0: Getting Started

What if I lost weight and got healthy? What if I stopped making excuses and started making progress? ~ Charles Barkley

First let me be the thousandth person to wish you a very Happy New Year; more importantly, let me wish you a Healthy New Year. And this year, I’ve committed myself to helping any of my friends who want to “lose weight/get healthy and stop making excuses/start making progress” to do so.

Thanks to our friend Nigel, I’ll be helping to support all of our friends in this year’s 10 in 10 Challenge. I participated in this last year and lost a lot more than ten pounds in the first ten weeks of 2011, so I know this is very possible to do.

The key to the success of the folks who participate in this challenge is in its community support. We’re all in this together and through Facebook and Twitter we can support others and in doing so support ourselves.

The 10 in 10 Challenge begins on January 9th, that’s when we’ll all do our first weigh-in, and that means that you can use this week to set yourself up for success beginning from day #1.

Each day this week, I’ll post a quick entry giving you something simple that you can do to start off 2012 and the 10 in 10 Challenge on the right foot.

What do I do today?

Today you only have to do two things, you have to commit to your goal of losing a few pounds and starting off the year by getting healthy, and you have to register for the Challenge. Don’t worry, it’s free, we don’t collect e-mails, there’s nothing nefarious about any of this – just a group of everyday people wanting to improve their lives by starting the year off adopting good habits while they have other friends there to support them doing it.

How do I register?

We use two free primary tools to administer the 10 in 10 Challenge:

Facebook:

Go to https://www.facebook.com/10in10Challenge and “Like” this page. Read through the info page and through the Notes page. When you complete your weigh-ins, post your progress to the wall on this page on facebook so we can all celebrate your progress however small or large that might be! (Trust me, I had a few weeks last year when I gained, but still came out far ahead of my goal.)

Buckeye Outdoors:

Go to http://buckeyeoutdoors.com and create an account. It’s super quick and easy.

Go to http://buckeyeoutdoors.com/training/challenges and join the “10in10 2012″ Challenge

This is where we will record our actual weight loss. The Challenge is set up to begin on January 9th and last 10 weeks.

We’ll show you how to enter your weight in a separate post or you can check out the facebook page to see where we’ve already described how to do this.)

Lastly, if you are a Twitter user, go to https://twitter.com/10_in_10 and “follow” 10_in_10 to keep up to date and engage in the banter there.

You won’t lose 10 pounds or become a healthier person just by registering, but you will have taken the first steps to making this commitment real. I promise you that if you do commit to this, and see it through, the benefits will last long after the ten weeks are over. The little secret is that while the first ten weeks will help you to lose a few extra holiday pounds, by doing so you will adopt better habits and behaviors that will give you more energy, better health and make you feel a whole lot better about what you can accomplish in 2012.

Say hi when yo get onto Buckeye or Twitter, will ya? You can find me as @CoachAdam on the latter. Happy New Year!

Road Warrior Runners: The New Guy

In every community, you’ll find its members categorized into various groups. Running communities are no exception to this rule. You’ll find the veterans, those elder statesmen or regular members who have been coming for years; the leaders, usually the founders, organizers or decision makers; the followers, a subset of the regulars that show up and simply go along with what everyone else is doing; the celebrities, the folks who show up one week are gone for the next two months and then come back regaling their club members with terrific stories of their running in exotic locations abroad; and then there is the new guy.

Regardless of gender or even of how many, the new guy arrives into a running group with energy, hopes, expectations, an agenda, and a shoe full of anxiety and apprehension. The new guy can be new to running, a thirty-year veteran who just moved into the area or a travelling businessman. The new guy might be there for a single run or there to join the club indefinitely. Underlying all of these, the primary goal of the new guy is to be invited in and have an enjoyable time. But the quickest way to make this perfect situation completely horific is for the new guy to be too forward, too knowing, too ignorant or too irritating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that inserting oneself into a group of runners is as difficult as blending into a prison click but like everything else in life, the new guy has one chance to make a first impression. So if you’re the new guy, here are a few things to do and a few questions to ask to ensure the enjoyment of your first run:

  1. Call ahead. If you’re the spontaneous sort, you can just show up at the posted time and meeting place, but it’s been my experience that that’s a 50/50 shot at best. Lots of clubs post regular runs but many either never instituted anything formal or the group changed their logistics or eliminated the weekly run entirely. When you call the organizer, ask them a few basic questions. Do they meet as scheduled? How far do they run? Is the posted time an arrival time or a run start time? What pace do they run? How large is the group? Do they run on streets or trails? How easy is it to get lost? Is the course marked or easy to follow? Will you be there or should I be looking for anyone in particular? Should you bring anything? Does their group have a specific purpose or mission – what’s the composition of its members? The answer to this last question may not seem important but if you are a new runner and you connect in with a group of cross country A-personality racers you may not be very happy as they drop you in an unknown area within the first few hundred yards. Another reason is that the running group may be part of a larger community. On two occasions, I found myself running with Christian church members and GLBT members without knowing it until I was about a mile into the run. On both occasions I had terrific runs, but I felt a bit disingenuous as both groups assumed that I was already a part of their community. These are fairly benign examples, but increasingly I’m seeing that causes of all types are realizing that appealing to runners is a great way to recruit new members, and you just might want to insure that the folks you’ll be running with are at least somewhat aligned to the conversation topics that you might want to have out there on the road.  For instance, I wouldn’t necessarily want to be running with a group of hunters talking about their latest kill.
  2. Show up early. Parking and logistics are never as easy as they appear to be, especially if you are connecting with a group while on a business trip. I remember connecting with a weekly group run in Piedmont Park in Atlanta and the starting place was listed on the internet as near the tennis courts. It took me a good twenty minutes of driving around before I finally stumbled upon the correct entrance to the park and the meeting location for the group. The only thing worse than a crappy run is missing the run itself in an unfamiliar area with no idea where to run next.
  3. Introduce yourself. I know this sounds like an obvious thing to do, but how you introduce yourself can give you a lot of information about the group and can help to blend in much quicker. I usually begin first by asking if this is the group run that I’m looking for. Even as recent as last week, I showed up at a running store where runners were congregating and when I asked them if they were members of a particular group, they told me no, that this was a running class and the group I was looking for would be arriving a few yards down in about fifteen minutes. In Los Angeles, if you show up on a Saturday or Sunday morning at the end of San Vicente where it hits Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, you’ll find four or five different groups meeting within a ten yard area and it can be both overwhelming and a bit intimidating if all of a sudden you jump into a group with a completely different purpose than the one you expected. The better a runner you are and the more familiar you are with the area, the less of an issue this is. Introducing yourself to the runners that are already there will help to alleviate this issue. When you introduce yourself, let people know that you are new, that you haven’t run with this group before, and let them know how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the area in which you’ll be running. Here’s what not to do. Don’t tell them what distance you would like to run and how fast. In short, you are not a member of their club yet and you haven’t earned the right to do that. I’ve seen folks do this and they are seen as pushy, entitled and assuming. It sets a bad tone that is completely avoidable.
  4. Ask them what their plans are for this particular run. Even if you have previously asked the organizer this on the phone, things change. It also solves the awkwardness described in step number three. By asking them how far they are planning to run and at what pace, you can figure out if that fits with what you are able to, and want to do. There’s still an escape clause. Nobody knows you and there’s no harm in backing out if it doesn’t work for you. You can do it quietly and without fanfare by simply telling the organizer that you were hoping to go longer, shorter, faster or slower, however you’d love to connect with them another time now that you have a better understanding what they do. But do let the organizer know. There’s nothing worse for a conscientious club organizer than hunting around for a new runner that’s gone missing, especially when you haven’t gone missing, you just dropped out on your own.
  5. Find at least one person running a similar distance and pace. Many groups start together and then break up into smaller groups by pace. This can be a formal process set up before you start or informal as runners start to hit their stride. Try to find at least one person slower than you, and a person faster than you because in most all cases you’ll need to apply a pace discount or premium to what they tell you. “We’re going to probably run 7’s” might mean we’ll start out at a 7:00 min/mile pace but then the speed up once the testosterone sets in, or alternatively it means we’re really running 7:30’s or even 8’s but I exaggerate a bit. The terrain can also come into play. This is a bigger issue with cycling groups but running 9’s on a 6-mile climb requires much more energy that running 9’s on a flat route. If you’ve been used to the latter, you might not be able to keep up. What you’re really looking for is a tour guide, someone to follow that knows the route so you won’t get lost. By identifying folks slower and faster, you hedge your bet and once you start running you can blend in with the folks that seem right for how you’re feeling that day.
  6. Communicate but don’t over-communicate. This isn’t your group and even the friendliest of folks will get tired of you if you talk the entire time about how great running is somewhere else. If they’re interested they’ll start asking you questions but the general rule is that less is more. Remember you’re the new guy.
  7. Run with humility. If you are a world-class runner don’t go out with the intention of showing everyone how terrific you are. They’ll see it soon enough. Nothing is more endearing that a great athlete that seems to be content enjoying the company of those who are less gifted. And as the new guy, you are already cool, and only by opening your mouth or by doing something silly can that change and it can only really change for the negative; view this as just another interpretation of low impact running.

Most importantly, have fun out there. Being the new guy doesn’t last forever, so enjoy it while you can.

Road Warrior Runners: 7 steps to becoming an instant member of the local running scene

Running is a lifestyle that yields tremendous benefits in all parts of our lives. One of the terrific characteristics about being a runner is that across the globe we all share a common connection, and no matter where you may travel or live, you will always find like-minded souls putting in their mileage, enjoying a trail, pushing a stroller or hanging out at a local coffee shop after a good sweat out on the roads. The trick is finding out where they are all running.

I’m down in Orange County, CA this week and while I used to come down to this area when I was back in college, almost everything has changed since then so I needed to do a bit of quick research to figure out where I could safely run to keep my training going full bore in these final few weeks before the Los Angeles Marathon on March 21st. Here is my approach to get looped in quickly and seamlessly:

Step 1: Find locations to run

The best way to do that is to find places where people have already run which is super easy using all of the available Web tools for runners. A few of my favorite sites include Map My Run, USATF Running Routes, and Garmin Connect. USATF alone turned up dozens of mapped routes from 1 to 19 miles each and if you use a Garmin, you can download routes from Garmin Connect directly to your device which gives you turn by turn directions right on your watch. Goggle will also come up with blog posts and other useful information to help you orient yourself appropriately before heading out. For example, Google turned up this awesome site called Friends Run Orange County which included pdf maps of all of the various running trails in the area – priceless!

Step 2: Find your local running store

In my case I Googled “Running Aliso Viejo” and came up with A Snail’s Pace Running Shop and Road Runner Sports. Not only are these a great place to replace the Body Glide that Homeland Security confiscated from you on your flight over, but it’s a great place to get local knowledge of the area and find out if there are any group runs happening while you are there.

Step 3: Join up with a local group run

As mentioned previusly, the first place I look to is the local running store. You can also Google “Running Club [your location]” and you’re bound to come up with contact information and a schedule of group runs. A note of caution. Runners are well meaning people who try to create community. It doesn’t always work, so contact the group administrator to make sure that the run is actually still happening and that it is happening at the time and place published. Here in Alsio Viejo, I connected with the Snail’s Pace Running Club on their Wednesday evening group run. I showed up last night and there were thirty runners of all abilities loitering around at the published time and I was able to introduce myself to a group of incredibly friendly people and then get a near-perfect 6-mile tempo run in with four people at my pace, with plenty of other runners doing their own thing of less or more mileage and pace. In my case their website was a bit squirrely but I found a great link to the A Snail’s Pace Running Club page on Facebook and got all of the information I needed. The best part about group runs is that you have built-in tour guides.

Step 4: Plan your own run

Some of the sites mentioned earlier also allow you to draw out your own run on a Google Map or similar device. Gmaps Pedometer is another site that allows you to do this really easily. This way you can create a customized run of any distance before you head out. Note that sometimes maps are not completely accurate, so one of the things I do is to write down the turns on the back of a business card and take it along with me just in case. That way, even if I go off course, I’ll recognize the names of the streets and be able to find my way back.

Step 5: Let people know you’re around

With so many people on Twitter and Facebook, you’re bound to have a friend or follower that may live right in the area and can play tour guide on your behalf. As in every other community, there are cats – those who do their own thing, and dogs – those who love to join in and please their masters. The running community is no different. My friend Barry loves when I let him know that one of my running friends is coming into town so he can take them out on a run and show off what he believes is the greatest running city on earth. Bet you have friends that would do the same.

Step 6: Get lost

OK not literally, but don’t be afraid to just go out and run, and as long as you know the area is safe, you’re bound to see the area from a totally different perspective. Pretty sure that Zooey Dechanel and Jim Carrey had something going with their early morning running photography club from Griffith park in the movie Yes Man. You’ll get inspired, feel great and it will really set you up for a terrific visit, whether it’s for business or pleasure. The best part of just heading out and running is when you pop out and you figure out exactly where you are. it’s a great confidence boost knowing that you can head out with just a pair of running shoes and have a terrific mini-vacation of your own. Obviously, if the weather is unpredictable or you are heading out on the trails, you might want to bring along water, a few dollars and maybe even a cell phone in case things go downhill rapidly…get it? Downhill.

Step 7: Race

I was in a group cycling class recently where the instructor said she went down to Costa Rica and found out that there was a road race going on, but decided not to enter it because she felt intimidated. Malarkey! Anywhere you go, if you can register for the race, there will be runners that are faster than you and runners that are slower than you. If you can’t register for the race, it probably means that you’re at the Olympic Trials and then it would be OK to be intimidated. In all seriousness, join in the fun and participate. I guarantee you’ll have a great time. You can find out about local races through the local running stores and clubs, by Googling “running race [your location]” or by searching race specific websites such as Active.com.

My personal adventure here this week in Aliso Viejo has been nothing short of spectacular yielding two 10 plus-mile runs along the Aliso Creek Trail, where both times I “got lost” and had a terrific time finding my way back, and a 6-mile tempo group run and I’m not done yet. It also allowed me to connect with new friends Matt, Bob and Tom with the Snail’s Pace Running Club, which not only provided me with a great run but introduced me to Tom who I found out lost his daughter in the second plane that flew into the World Trade Tower on 9/11 and who went on to carry the Olympic torch back in Salt lake City. Tom is also running his 26th Long beach Marathon, one of only 16 runners that have run all 25 of them. Pretty cool! I even got invited to an awesome Italian restaurant after the group run where over 40 club members laughed and chatted about their upcoming races and runs. If you ever find yourself in Orange County, I highly recommend Antonucci’s in Mission Viejo. The pizza was amazing!

See you out there on the road.

What should I wear? A Clothing Log for Cold Weather Running

It’s too damn hot for a penguin to be just walkin’ around here. I gotta send him back to the South Pole. – Billy Madison

Winter running is not something that should be dreaded or avoided. In fact, some of the most memorable runs you will ever have may be on a snow-covered trail, running past icy streams and snow-covered lakes. Winter running can be as serene and pure as running ever gets. But winter running can also present a host of issues for the uninformed, uninitiated or the stubborn.

On February 10, 2010, I co-hosted episode 68 of The Runner’s Round Table where we discussed Cold Weather Running, it’s opportunities, it’s risks and how runners can prepare themselves to enjoy this whitest of seasons. A number of questions were asked during the episode specifically about what to wear. I encourage you to listen to this episode either by subscribing on iTunes or listening through your computer.

Cold is both personal and subjective. While 40F may be cold for those running in Los Angeles, it’s down right balmy for those running in New England. Therefore the recommendations that follow are based on my reality.

The best thing you can do is create a gear log of your running wardrobe that documents what you wear under a variety of conditions and includes commentary about whether you were too hot, too cold, too wet or too chilled. This information will be valuable for years to come and can finally take the guess work out of running in the cold.

Below is an example of a clothing log that you can adapt for your own circumstances and preferences. Click on each of the orange hyperlinks for photos of various outfits for the described conditions and temperatures.

Temperature Clothing If Wet
60F+ shorts & singlet, cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, Buff to cover head if not wearing cap consider trash bag if waiting around
55-60F shorts & short-sleeved shirt or singlet, cap, sunglasses possibly wear feather-weight vest without shirt
50-55F shorts & short-sleeved shirt or singlet, cap, sunglasses, possibly lightweight gloves feather-weight vest with shirt
45-50F shorts, long-sleeved shirt or short-sleeved shirt with a shell vest, cap or fleece hat, glove liners, possibly Buff to cover neck feather-weight vest
40-45F shorts with feather-weight wind pants, long-sleeved shirt, buff to cover neck, use lip balm, polar-fleece hat, glove liners feather-weight vest or feather-weight shell
30-40F shorts with feather-weight wind pants, long-sleeved shirt with feather-weight vest, Buff to cover neck and mouth, use lip balm, polar-fleece hat, glove liners (Create barrier between cold air and breathing pathways to warm up inspired air.) feather-weight shell instead of vest, cap under polar fleece hat also consider fleece-lined vest for windy but not wet conditions
20-30F shorts with feather-weight wind pants, long-sleeved shirt with feather-weight shell jacket, Buff to cover neck and mouth, use lip balm, polar-fleece hat, convertible running mitts over glove liners cap under polar fleece hat
10-20F briefs with wind panel with feather-weight wind pants OR briefs with wind panel under running tights, thicker long-sleeved shirt with lite-weight running jacket, Buff to cover neck and second Buff to cover mouth and nose and mouth, use lip balm, polar-fleece hat, convertible running mitts over thicker running gloves cap under polar fleece hat
0-10F briefs with wind panel with heavier tights OR briefs with wind panel under light-weight tights under wind pants, thicker long-sleeved shirt with lite-weight running jacket, Buff to cover neck and second Buff or neoprene facemask to cover mouth and nose and mouth, use lip balm, polar-fleece hat, convertible running mitts over thicker running gloves, consider hand warmers cap under polar fleece hat
-0F Stay in car until the last moment, get out and run when the gun goes off or run starts, forget waiting around for medals and drive home. Get under covers and stretch. No one recognizes anyone in these temperatures anyway. trash bags, cap under polar fleece hat
0-20F Lower Cost Alternative Use items you already have laying around. Ski hat with scarf to protect face, sunglasses, hooded sweat shirt, athletic jacket, sweat pants, wind-proof gloves and possibly mittens with whatever technical gear you have worn underneath closest to your skin. 0-20F Lower Cost Alternative with reflectors for running at night or in lower visibility conditions

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to buy a ton of expensive gear to run in the cold. It’s most important to cover your head to minimize heat loss, protect your breathing areas (e.g., mouth, nose, neck), and external appendages or exposed areas that have a tendency to freeze (e.g., fingers, toes, ears, eyes). You can accomplish this with the clothes you already have. Yes it may mean that the articles won’t be feather-weight or ideal, but it shouldn’t deter you from getting out there and enjoying the roads.

Hope you’ll add your own thoughts and recommendations below in the comment area.