Your 2019 New Year Resolution Tips – Tip # 2

I don’t know about you, but when I run and see my shadow, I like chasing “her.” She’s always one step ahead, and impossible to catch, but I like trying anyway. The other day she caught my attention again, but around this time of year her appearance is always a stark reminder of another year passed by. She had me questioning who she was, and if she was the same girl whose footsteps I followed last year, or was she someone different?

The thing I love about her is that she can be whoever I want her to be. At the start of each new year I enjoy reflecting on previous paths travelled, and in my mind’s eye I visualize the next journey and destination. I transfer my hopes and thoughts to a vision board so that I don’t forget, and then I start the chase all over again.

I challenge you to have a little fun with me. Determine who you want your shadow to be, set a course for her to run in 2019, and then smile every time you see her because she is beckoning you to follow!

2ae90864ba6f9e5b6d0bcdeee42a5921

Lessons Learned From My Runs – Lesson # 2

I usually look forward to the end of my runs, especially when I have worked hard and know that the last kilometre or two is along an easy, flat stretch of road. But I don’t always take the easy road home. Every now and again I choose another route that requires me to finish on a hill. On tired legs and pre-stressed lungs, it takes a lot of grit and focus to finish with a moderately hard climb, and I never enjoy it!

If you’re wondering why I choose to make things tough for myself, I do so for two reasons: the first is because I have run enough races by now to know that they don’t all end with a cruisey fast flat or downhill slope, and second, I’ve learned that these types of runs do wonders for character building.

There have been many periods throughout my lifetime where certain trials have forced me to dig deep and find the mental grit needed to get out from under whatever hard rock I’m under. During those periods it’s always been liberating to finally see a light shine through, but it’s often required a final hard effort to break through and let all the light in.

 

Your 2019 New Year Resolution Tips: Tip # 1

A few years ago, I was asked by the Marketing Manager of Health and Fitness site top.me, to suggest just one key fitness resolution for the New Year. I recall thinking at the time that it would be difficult to put all of my tips and ideas into one small basket. I still think it’s a difficult assignment, however looking back at what I wrote I’d probably write the same or something similar today; check it out below:

  • If I were to suggest just one fitness resolution for the New Year, it would have to be one with a two-fold approach. It sounds a bit like a cliche, but I’d first recommend visualizing what your lifestyle would look like if you were in the best shape of your life. What would it take to achieve that lifestyle, and considering all the influencing variables, then ask yourself if such a lifestyle were really possible? If not, go back to the drawing board and paint another picture, the “next best” scenario. That’s part one!

 

  • Second, take another look at the picture you’ve just painted and if “getting there” requires setting the same goals that you traditionally set yourself every year, then maybe you need to get even more honest with yourself and ask if that’s really what you want. Because if you’re going to simply go through the motions of setting the same old goals, knowing that next year brings with it another opportunity to “try again,” you’ve already lost the battle.

Get real and honest with yourself, because once you have decided what you most care about, you’ll stop sabotaging your goal efforts and start taking small, intentional steps that each day, move you a little closer to your desired lifestyle.

 

Give, and RECEIVE compliments!

The other morning I ran past a man who looked to me to be homeless. When I got closer, I gave him a friendly smile, not expecting more than a smile back in return. He surprised me though; he not only returned a friendly smile, he also cheered me on. 

“You’re strong girl! You go!”

I could tell by his smile and tone of voice that his comment was sincere, and meant as a compliment. I smiled even bigger and yelled back, “Thanks!”

That exchange reminded me of a conversation I once had with a good friend. We talked about why it is that women – in general – have a hard time accepting compliments. And at the end of that conversation we made a pact to start smiling and saying “Thank You” to every compliment given. 

I don’t always get it right, but two reasons in particular motivate me to keep trying:  

  • Accepting compliments is actually good for my well-being! Whether I believe the compliment to be true or not, it doesn’t matter. My natural response is to either transfer the praise back to the person giving it, or to someone or something else. But I’m training myself – and you should too – to celebrate and be grateful for kind words said about, and to me.
  • In accepting compliments from others, I’m also contributing to someone else’s wellbeing. Imagine if I shot down every person who tried to compliment me; what a killjoy! But show them that their words have helped to make my day a little brighter, and I guarantee that I’ll also make their day a little brighter.

 

I challenge you to start owning and accepting whatever positive observations are made about you, because in doing so you are helping to maintain a positive cycle of energy (and wellbeing) that both you – and your complimenters – will benefit from.

In The Spirit Of Christmas, And Kindness……

Most charity and donation pages start with an intro that says “I need your help,” but I’ll be honest, I don’t need your help. I am however, asking.

Four years ago, myself and good friend Anna Boom, helped to raise funds for a member of our women’s trail running group. This member’s son was diagnosed with leukemia while living on one of the US military bases in Japan, and sadly, passed away before he saw his 9th birthday. The money that Anna and I were able to donate didn’t save his life, but it helped by contributing towards ongoing medicals costs. We didn’t do much but we did something, and as little as that something was, it helped.

I have an opportunity to do something again, this time for a member of the gym I work at; his name is David Pretorius, and in 2010 his three children were in a horrific head-on car collision.

His eldest daughter Alexandra, survived the crash but still deals with significant emotional trauma. His four year old son, Adam, lost his life on the roadside in front of his sisters. And his middle child, Holly, somehow miraculously survived but is now confined to a wheelchair, for what doctors say is forever.

David is not buying into that prognosis! Ever since that day, he has been raising money to help support the Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility at Auckland University, through the charity of which he is now a trustee, the Catwalk Trust (www.catwalk.org.nz). He is whole-heartedly committed to serving this cause, and driven by the ground-breaking work they’re doing to get people (like Holly) walking again.

I want to help. I have always made the claim that “I run because I can!” What I am inferring, is that I am mindful of and grateful for a body that functions and moves as it should, and I do my best to not take that privilege lightly. In line with that mindset, and the gift of being able to use my legs – to run, walk, move about freely – I am running the entire Auckland Half Marathon series this summer in the hopes of raising money for the Catwalk Trust.

In the spirit of Christmas and kindness, please consider coming alongside me to support my efforts. For every half marathon I run (there are five in the series), I am donating $50. But you can donate as little or as much as you like, and for just one race or all five. Any amount will be received with much gratitude, and it’s as easy as going here to my charity page and clicking the ‘Give Now’ button.

Thank you in advance, and from myself and all those involved with the Catwalk Trust, have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

it means a lot!

My Greatest Strength Is My Greatest Weakness

Looking back at my childhood, I remember sitting up straight at weekly school assemblies, hoping to be noticed and commended for being such a good kid. I also remember hoping that I’d be one of the few kids to receive an achievement certificate; I’d work hard all week to try and get my name on the list of recipients. Most weeks my hopes were fulfilled, and I’d run home, eager to show my parents how smart or good I had been.

Even before I was old enough to attend school, that compulsion to learn and achieve was already apparent. At age three, when my mother would help my older brother with his homework, I’d plant myself squarely beside them, listen very intently, and shout out the answers before my brother could respond. I was up to speed with his level of homework because while he was at school each day, I wiled away my hours at home playing educational games with my mother (who by the way, was a trained school teacher who loved to challenge me as much as I loved being challenged).

But getting back to that compulsion – or whatever you want to call it – I’d argue that it has become one of my greatest strengths, since it’s rewarded me with the accomplishment of many goals. Unfortunately, it’s a strength that happens to also be one of my greatest weaknesses.

Because I feel compelled – most days – to do and achieve so many things, and often all at once, I struggle to tone it down and take rests when it’s obvious that rest is needed!

I’m working on it though……..

 

Lessons Learned From My Runs – Lesson # 1

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have no trouble relating to the following scenario. On many occasions, when I have started to tap out and flatline on a run, the sudden appearance of another runner has been enough of a stimulus to snap me out of it. Simply being alerted to the fact that a fellow runner is either directly ahead of, behind, or across from me, is a sure-fire way of getting me to re-focus and put forth my best stride and effort.

Beyond running, and as I consider my workplace for example, I believe I work as hard as I train; that is, I work hard but struggle to remain fully committed all of the time. There are days when motivation is lacking, or days when my mind drifts and work output is reduced to “good intentions.” I guess that’s normal, but could I be a better and more productive worker if every time I started to lose interest, I forced myself to imagine a colleague working nearby in the same office space as me?

I know it shouldn’t really take someone else’s presence or observation to prompt a greater effort from me, but if it helps to produce a more exceptional performance, then heck, I may as well use it as a tool.

Changes Are A Comin’

Jannine Myers

WOOT (Women Out On Trails), originated in Okinawa, Japan, and is arguably one of the largest women’s trail running groups worldwide. Prior to it’s beginnings, myself and Anna Boom (group Founder), met most weekends with three of our guy friends, and ran (or more like, played) on various stretches of challenging and diverse-terrain trails. Beyond the weekends, we often ran and exercised alone, and it was during those solo runs that Anna began to observe other women out on the pavement, also running alone.

When Anna first proposed the idea of starting a women’s trail running group, I knew it was about more than just women running trails together; it was also about creating community, friendships, and support. For Anna and I, who already had some affiliation with Japan and largely understood the culture and language, we were well adapted and comfortable in our environment. But we knew that wasn’t the case for others.

Made up at the time of mostly American military spouses, WOOT was a haven in a foreign place; it drew women out from what were possibly lonely and stressful living conditions (military spouses are often uprooted and planted far from the comforts of home, friends, and family, and then left to parent alone while their active duty husbands are deployed). Providing a weekly outlet where they might occasionally arrive with heavier-than-usual burdens, and be able to leave without them – or at least with lighter loads and happier hearts – was what we hoped to deliver.

To further support that vision, Anna and I felt that an online presence would help build our community. We wanted to publish information about a whole host of things, including running events and races, road and trail running tips, nutrition guidance, and off-the-cuff female issues that would invariably arise as members gathered each week to run and “share life” together. Hence, the creation of this blog, but known back then as GoTheExtraMileWIthWoot, then later as RunWithWoot, and finally as JannineMyers after I left the group in January 2017.

Almost two years on (and since returning to New Zealand), life has changed quite significantly. I’m divorced for one, and although my single-parenting role is not so different from my military spouse days, I’m now hustling a full-time job in a city that currently rates as one of the highest cost-of-living locations in the world. These, and other factors, unfortunately thwarted earlier efforts to start a partnered business (UCAN Trail Running & Retreats) with Scenic Sports Event Director, Kerry Uren.

I have a great job however, and with no pressure to commit to external work projects, I’m able to devote any spare time to the things I remain passionate about. With that said, and with a new year quickly approaching, I have a new vision for this blog.

JannineMyers.com will be moving in a direction that serves to promote more of a holistic approach to health and well-being. With a continued focus on fitness and nutrition, there will be a new underlying notion that these two disciplines combined, provide the most simple yet effective antidote against a woman’s natural inclination to love and nurture everyone but herself.

Keep watching for further updates……

 

Do Arm Swing And Form Really Matter?

Jannine Myers

Looking through some half marathon photos from a race I ran recently, I couldn’t help notice that I still run with a “cross-body” arm swing.

Back in Japan, in the neighborhood that I lived in, there was a little hotel near my house that accommodated traveling sports teams. During the winter months I often saw high-school aged athletes, dressed in their team warm-ups, head out on group runs. On many occasions I also saw them run with baton-like sticks in their hands, presumably to help improve balance and running form.

There are differing opinions on running form, and whether it matters or not. Some coaches insist on putting their runners through various types of form drills, while others would rather ignore form flaws if training time is compromised. Paula Radcliffe, for example, has a hard time keeping her head stable once fatigue sets in, yet she prefers to focus on consistent and quality training versus form correction. And other world class athletes, such as Dathan Ritzenheimer and Paige Higgins, have managed to run outstanding marathon times despite major form faults.

Still, the question begs to differ, that if correcting form faults can make a difference, is it worth trying to do so?

I think the best answer for any runner questioning their running form, is to consider changing it if there is a history of chronic injuries and a possible correlating relationship. In my case, long-term recurring injuries have resulted in a significantly reduced capacity to run, and while it may seem that a cross-body arm swing is fairly harmless, perhaps it is not?

One thing runners tend to ignore is the fact that a balanced foot strike must ultimately come from a smooth chain of movement that starts at the top of the body. If balance is thrown off by an uneven arm swing for example, the supporting muscles (think core region) will have to work much harder. Additional strain on the supporting muscles may cause a breakdown in muscular strength, and subsequently an increased risk of injury.

On that note, if you’re a runner with an irregular arm-swing and frequently injured, here’s a few comments and tips from run coach Jonathan Beverly:

  • I laugh as I type this, because the first thing Jonathan mentions is rolled and hunched shoulders that come from a “forward-oriented” lifestyle; sitting in front of laptops and computers, for one! Beverly says that poor posture from endless hours spent in a day-in and day-out hunched position, pushes the shoulders forward and limits the range of backwards arm motion. Consequently, the arms spend a lot of time moving forwards and across the body, and the shoulders start to curve inwards. Eventually, the spine is no longer in an ideal neutral position, and that in turn results in poor hip extension.
  • Additionally, a collapsed chest reduces breathing capacity, which apparently hinders the connection between lat muscles to opposite glute, thereby preventing the glutes from firing properly! 
  • Any posture, hip-flexibility, or strength workouts that are done as part of your regular run/fitness training routine, may actually serve little purpose if your chest, shoulders, and lats are overly tight and/or in a hunched position.

For more info, read Jonathan’s article here, and check out his website for further running inspiration and coaching tips.

Are You Getting Older And Not Liking The Changes Taking Place?

Something that has been on my mind lately, mainly due to changes happening at work  and people I meet and talk with, is the concept of strength training as an effective antidote for degenerative age-related conditions. Being a Gen-X’er, and right on the heels of my Baby Boomer peers, I’m especially interested in health and fitness updates that pertain to my age-group.

Sarcopenia, for example, comes up a lot in my area of work. It’s the condition referred to when talking about the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs as a person ages. Or how about Creeping Obesity, the term used to describe the slow but significant accumulation of body fat that commonly occurs through the ages of 20 to 50.

Believe it or not, the average person can expect to gain approximately 20kg over 30 years; that’s a lot! The congruent occurrence of fat gain and muscle loss is so slow and subtle – hence the term “creeping” – that unfortunately it’s often not until the mid-life years that it becomes suddenly evident.

Through my job, I’ve met (and continue to meet) way too many middle-aged men and women who wished they had started a strength training program years ago. Fortunately for them and for others who might think it’s too late, the latest research indicates that we can manipulate, to some degree, the rate at which we will age.

A key piece of research for example, was conducted in 1992 by William Evans, PhD, and Irwin H. Rosenberg, M.D. Both surmised from their findings that there are 10 biomarkers of aging; that is, ten things that “mark” or indicate a person’s age if it was not known how old that person was (and let’s face it, you only need to compare a line-up of several men and women the same age to see that some individuals age faster than others):

  1. Muscle Mass
  2. Muscle Strength
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate
  4. Body Fat Percentage
  5. Aerobic Capacity
  6. Blood-Sugar Management
  7. Cholesterol/HDL Ratio
  8. Blood Pressure
  9. Bone Density
  10. Ability to regulate Internal Temperature

What’s really interesting about these biomarkers, is that it was also deduced that all ten of them can be improved by strength training. In the past, men and women focused predominantly on aerobic exercise for the maintenance of good health and fitness (and hopefully less fat and less visible signs of aging), but the latest research places strength training at the top of the list for working against the biomarkers mentioned above.

I love how world-renowned Personal Trainer, Nick Mitchell, describes the physical success of older individuals who enjoy and follow a regular strength training routine; he sums it up nicely and asks the question, “Why on earth isn’t everyone lifting weights?” I ask the same!

Excerpt from Nick Mitchell’s article The Difference: Growing Old Versus Staying Young

They have stronger bones, infinitely better posture, carry themselves like much younger people, and always, because of the positive metabolic by-products and hormonal stimuli of lifting weights at a certain high intensity (in this case degree of intensity is defined as being how close you are to lifting a load that represents your one repetition maximum) have an energy, enthusiasm and zest for life that normally dissipates as testosterone, thyroid and Growth Hormone levels decline with age. These are the guys (and increasingly the girls) who “get it”. The ones who appreciate the fact that science now bears out what they have long known instinctively – that properly conducted resistance training sessions can profoundly improve one’s quality of life by boosting all the key aforementioned hormones associated with vitality and youth. In other words a well thought out and consistently applied weight training plan will put both a spring in your step and lead in your pencil! Anti-aging certainly, reverse-aging potentially.

All this clinical and anecdotal evidence only leads me to ask the one question – why on earth isn’t everyone lifting weights?  I myself don’t ever want to grow old…instead I plan on aging well!

A final note: strength training doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to invest in a gym membership. Don’t give yourself permission to ignore your health by coming up with excuses; there are various “free” online at-home strength training (without equipment) videos that you can pick and choose from. I often train at home when I don’t have time to get into the gym. Just 30 minutes a day two or three times a week will get you moving in the right direction……

Strength Training At Home – the only expense is a couple of pairs of light dumbbells and a resistance band, or if you don’t want to spend anything at all just use your bodyweight!