Ms. Kitanakagusuku

Post by Anna Boom

Being Healthy is the Thing: Introducing Ms. Kitanakagusuku!

Some of you may know, I am half Japanese. My family lives here on Okinawa too, in fact very close to Foster. If you have ever joined us for the Off-Limits run and stayed through to the end, you would have run right through my family’s hood.

The area where my family lives is called Kitanakagusuku. Don’t be intimidated by the number of letters. Just pronounce it as it is written—Kita naka gu su ku. One of the beauties of the Japanese language is that hiragana is pronounced exactly as it is spelled. We don’t have any of the “i before e” or “silent t” business. Anyone who forgets which there, they’re, their to use, knows what I mean.

As you have heard, life here in Japan and Okinawa have the quality of life that promotes longevity. Japanese women have held the longest life expectancy for the past 25 years!

To celebrate this fact, the Japanese have festivals celebrating milestones in life. As the population grows older, places are coming up with ways to celebrate healthy lifestyles in older folks.

Let me introduce my aunts, my mother’s older sisters. The woman in the middle is my aunt, also known as Ms Kitanakagusuku.

Ms.K in the middle with her sash. Photo courtesy of L.Sanchez

The village came up with this way to honor the women of Kitanakagusuku who have the longest average life span on Okinawa. What a beautiful thing to celebrate: an active, spirited life. 

My aunt keeps herself very engaged everyday. She is involved in learning new things such as swimming and playing the koto. She continues to work on learning English so she can talk to my random American friends who join me on a visit to her home. Ten years ago, when my mom was alive, they went every night to Comprehensive Park and while my mom trained for the marathon, my aunt would walk.

She eats a normal Japanese diet with vegetables and a little meat and eats hara hachibu. Have you heard of this? It is all about moderation. You eat till your stomach (hara) is 80% (hachibu) full, not 100. I teach my kids this way of eating, which my family thinks is pretty funny. These American kids walking around, talking about hara hachibu, a very Okinawan way of eating.

What does this have to do with running or training? Nothing and everything. Although my aunt does not run, she is active, which keeps her body and mind in tip top shape. She eats moderately, which keeps her thin and healthy. These are the components of a healthy lifestyle: being active and living in moderation and maintaining that for 80+ years. Easy, right?

You are in the perfect place to start this lifestyle, today. Okinawa, Japan.


Have you tried running trails yet?

During our recent time away in Napa Valley, our running friends who met us there (all original members of WOOT), expressed some concern about WOOT’s diversion from trail running. It’s true, we had strayed from our true passion and have been running far too many paved routes lately, but last weekend took us back to the trails and we were quickly reminded of how much we love them. In fact, we had such a great time that Anna and I have decided that unless the weather conditions keep us away, you’ll find WOOT back out on the trails most weekends!

Here’s an old post I dug up, in the hopes of enticing you to come and run some trails with us!

Anna Boom

Ahh, spring is here. And with spring comes changes in clothing, changes in mood, and sometimes changes in routine. Getting out of bed in the mornings somehow seems a little easier. So maybe now is the perfect time to try something new, switch out of the old – and come out on trail.

For new women trail runners, here are some tips on what, where and how:

WOOT runs trail. Good thing that is part of our name, eh? The terrain we cover ranges from

Paved road – Kadena and Futenma Habu trail

Farm road – Yomitan farmer roads, Top o The World

Random paths – Zakimi Castle ruins

True trail – Paintball, Yamada Castle Ruins, Spider Loop, Mt. Nago

On all of these, except for paved roads, there is uneven terrain. There are loose rocks, branches (both fallen and hanging), and roots. There is clay, what Okinawa is built on, coral rock covered in red clay. During the rainy times, the clay is slick. We often run through puddles and mud too (white sneaks don’t stay white for long!). 

Thanks Kirsetn and Julie

If this is the first time you have run on uneven terrain, be prepared to go a bit slower. You will have to watch your footing and concentrate a little more on where your next foot fall will land. During and after your trail run, your feet, ankles, calves, and buns will need some time to adjust to this new challenge. Trail running takes you to a new level of challenge, mentally and physically.

There are plenty of resources backing this up. Just do a search for training and trail running to find the 1001 links. From my own experience, I have had my best races since running with WOOT. And more than that, I have had met my best training partners and friends. There is something that we share, a common bond: waking up early to run, maybe getting lost, finding a new path. It is something unique and quite odd.

The beauty of running along trails, grass, and farm roads is that the scenery is always so pretty

So how about the when? Every Saturday morning, as the sun rises, you will find WOOT’ers out climbing, running, laughing and challenging ourselves to a whole new plateau.

Come out and join us soon!

From Zero to Half and Full Marathons

Time to get real ladies and while it’s not my intention, I might step on a few toes in doing so. Before I potentially rain on anyone’s parade however, let me first sing everyone’s praises and say how incredibly impressed I am at the number of WOOT and WOOP ladies who have recently run half and full marathons for the first time. 

Quite honestly, unless you’ve run a half or a full marathon, it really is quite difficult to comprehend just how challening it is, especially for those who fail to train properly, or train without first building an adequate base. And that ladies, is what I want to discuss with all of you. With so many new runners to both WOOT and WOOP, I think that those of us who have been hanging around the race circuit a little longer, or who have been running for several years, owe it to our less experienced peers to explain the importance of choosing an appropriate training plan, which is hopefully preceeded by at least two or three months of consistent running. Equally important, is a commitment to stick to the chosen training plan and follow through with all, or most of the scheduled runs.

I recently read the following article which explains what happens to runners who fail to train properly for a marathon – the author, Mark Sisson, keeps it humorous and light-hearted, but the message  clearly conveys a level of seriousness. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Jannine Myers

The marathon. An epic struggle of the individual against his/her own body. A kind of “Mt. Everest” for athletic practice, it exacts a sizable toll on anyone who dares attempt it. (The first marathon man died after all.)

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The seasoned athlete knows and respects the physical claim of a marathon, and it is substantial even for the best trained. But marathons are becoming increasingly popular in the last few years. Once limited to the athletic elites and diehards, marathons are now the stuff of social events and charity drives. We’re all for the social element of sport, and we’re suckers for a good cause like anyone. But this recent popularity has changed the face (and emergency support requirements) of marathons.

While we believe that everyone’s got to start somewhere, we definitely believe this ain’t the place.
So what is the deal with weekend warriors, otherwise fit people who haven’t trained specifically for a marathon, or at least haven’t trained enough, jumping head first into this taxing and demanding physical feat? Even Lance Armstrong after completing the New York City marathon in 2006 in just under three hours said, “that was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done.” And this is Lance Armstrong people. You know the guy. He’s the 7 time Tour de France winner and arguably one of the greatest athletes in recent history. If Lance thinks it’s tough, the weekend warrior will undoubtedly be sobbing like a baby at the finish line (assuming he or she makes it to the finish line and is hydrated enough to even produce tears).


Our faithful Apples know we’re not lauding the merits of this kind of hyper-endurance exercise at all – for anyone. But we thought we’d consider the weekend warrior in this scenario. What are the physiological consequences of attempting to pull off an extraordinary physical feat without proper training? Hint: it’s not pretty.

The gun has gone off, and everyone is now moving. Our weekend warrior is in the hind portion of the herd, to be certain, but he’s finding some space as the crowd spreads ever so slightly. He looks to settle into a pace. He’s feeling good.

It’s the first several miles, and the sweat is pouring off of him. This part is normal, of course. His heart rate has risen – how much is in part determined by his pace and his fitness level. For a seasoned marathoner, this is an easy stretch. For weekend warrior, he’s perhaps feeling a little uncomfortable.

Over the course of the next several miles, his heart rate will likely not drop slightly as it does during the “comfort zone” for seasoned runners. The weekend warrior, without a long and consistent training schedule, may not have perfected his pace. Though he’s keeping up, the pace may increasingly feel strained, ungrounded. He visits the water points. He’s feeling thirsty, of course. He knows the dangers of dehydration at least from a bit of reading he did in the marathon packet he received. It’s possible he makes the rookie mistake of loading up on too much water and now is beginning to notice a bloated sensation which makes him feel a bit sluggish or even nauseated.

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Our weekend warrior has passed the halfway point now as well as his store of glycogen. It’s possible (especially if he’s not especially fit) that he may have run out of glycogen fuel a while ago. This is a critical turn. The body must now burn fat to continue. Well-trained, seasoned long-distance runners tend to be more efficient fat burners than poorly-trained individuals like our weekend warrior. He’s likely feeling a little hazy and jangled.

He’s beginning to feel the force of the progressive pounding on his joints. Fatigue is also beginning to set in for our good man. As a result, his stride has become less efficient, which only worsens the joint impact and jarred sensation. His muscles are feeling the pain as well. Lactic acid is building up quickly. As for any runner, his body is trying desperately to repair the incessant damage, resulting in inflammation and contributing to some excruciating muscle cramping that is now challenging his pace. His respiration is going downhill, and his muscles aren’t getting the oxygen they need.

As he passes mile twenty, our warrior’s blood sugar is bottomed out, his breathing is increasingly strained, and he’s beginning to feel disoriented. After the bloated feeling he got from drinking too much earlier, our warrior passed up water too often and now finds himself dehydrated. (Solid, consistent training teaches you where that fine line is.) His body is going into protein catabolism. That carbohydrate drink isn’t enough now. In fact, it only helps induce a nasty bout of vomiting. He’s entering a mental as well as physical exhaustion, and his pace has entirely fallen apart. In fact, he’s not even running in a straight line but wavering from the exhaustion and disorientation. His heart rate is too high, his oxygen intake inadequate. His knees buckle, and he blacks out on the pavement. He’s hit the wall and then some. He’s lucky in that he’s treated for arrhythmia, dehydration, heat stroke and exhaustion but not for cardiac arrest or renal failure resulting from rhabdomyolysis.

Had our weekend warrior properly trained and logged many miles before the big race he would have learned a few important lessons about nipple/thigh chaffing, cramps, blisters, hydration, plantar fasciitis, ITBS, his pace, shoes, stomach and mental strength. Instead he had to learn them all at once and will be paying the piper for his hubris.

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He won’t be moving around much for the next week, and he’ll be more sensitive to heat stroke in the future. And though he won’t have the ability to say he finished, he’ll have a dramatic story (and hopefully a lesson learned).

If you’re a fit guy or gal and are thinking about running a marathon for the sake of having completed a marathon, unless you are willing to stick to a proper training regimen (and even if you are) you might want to rethink the whole thing altogether. Maybe take a different approach and do a “Grokathon” (shorter, more fractal, walk a little, jog a little, and throw in a few rounds of sprints here and there) instead of a marathon.

Experiences or thoughts on our weekend warrior? Observations? What do you think of the growing popularity of marathon participation? What are your marathon experiences?

DanMaudsley, mp3ief, notcub Flickr Photos (CC)

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Cross Fit Endurance versus Long Runs

Post by Anna Boom

Can you skip the Long Run?

Recently, Shirley, one of our lovely hard core runners posted about using Cross Fit Endurance as a way of training. This caught my attention because I know Shirley can RUN! (Okinawa and Naha marathons and up to Okuma) and I am a certified Cross Fit Endurance running coach.

I messaged her immediately, cautioning against using CrossFit Endurance training as a substitute for long runs.

If you have tried CrossFit and love it, like many of us do, you know it is mentally one of the hardest 10-20 mins of your day. You push yourself to the point of nearly throwing up, or even past it (hopefully you are outside). It is intense, challenging and over.

I enjoy doing these explosive WoDs, workouts of the day, and became certified to do the Endurance part. This is meant for runners, cyclists, triathletes, swimmers, athletes who go for longer periods of time.

CrossFit Endurance is a great workout. They recommend running in minimalist shoes with forefoot strike and with a figure four type of stride (from the side, a runners legs will form a 4 with the knee in front and high heel). Although I am a fan of minimalist shoes for myself, the forefoot strike and Pose method is not something I use or encourage others to use.

I did a lot of research on using CFE before setting up my training plan for the Equinox Ultra in Alaska. There weren’t any top athletes who supported this method of training. I decided to experiment on myself by adding it heavily in my plan. I kept a moderate long run, but did not cover the miles I had in all previous training plans. Instead of my weekly mileage peaking around 60+ miles a week, I was hitting around 35 miles.

That Alaska race, and the following Portland marathon were not my best races, although they had the right conditions to be. When I hit that wall, my legs did not have enough endurance built up to carry me forward. In both races, my legs were logs. Cement logs.

There are opposing opinions out there on using this type of workout and still being able to run an endurance event. You will find a few success stories. For example, this male triathlete used CFE and loved it.

There are many, many more opposing arguments:,7120,s6-238-244–626-0,00.html 

As an athlete, I love CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance WoDs. I recommend them highly in the off season when you need that push, that pain and you are tired of running (say it ain’t so! And yes, we’ve all either been there or will be there).

As an endurance athlete, I use CF and CFE WoDs sparingly, after I have done the bulk of mileage for the week, not instead of the long run.

Check out Kara Goucher’s Running 101 in Runner’s World.

Long runs do wonders for your endurance. They should account for 20 percent of your weekly mileage.

Kara can’t be wrong!