About Jannine Myers

This is a blog for women who love to run (in general, but especially on trails), eat healthy and delicious food, and succeed in life! Also follow me on Instagram @https://www.instagram.com/guiltlesseats/ and on my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/pg/womenstrailrunning/about/?ref=page_internal

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!

Don’t Say It’s Genetic

Let me preface this post by saying that it is not a bragging post! It’s a post intended to inspire fitness goals by encouraging what I believe is the key component to any successful training plan, and that is, consistency!

I got to thinking about the idea of this post several weeks ago, when my work colleagues and I had gathered together for a lunchtime meeting (for those of you who don’t know, I work at a fitness centre that specializes in Supervised High Intensity Strength Training). Our employer, who led the meeting, was about to point out that some individuals – and he looked in the direction of one of our team members – are blessed when it comes to body composition and how they respond to resistance training. But before he could get the words out, my colleague – the one who had been singled out – was quick to interrupt with the following words, “DON”T say it’s genetic!”

This co-worker of mine is undeniably shredded; he looks amazing, and is in way better shape than most other guys. He was quick to respond because he objected to what he assumed was about to be insinuated. And I can hardly blame him. As a woman who is unusually lean and toned – when compared to other Gen-X’ers – I am frequently told how genetically lucky I am to be able to skate through my mid-life years without gaining too much fat or losing too much muscle mass.

Here’s the thing; while it’s most probable that some individuals are ‘hyper-responders” who tend to see their exercise efforts pay off a little quicker than others, the end result  ultimately goes back to hard work and consistency. Someone I know – whose training disciplines I really admire – sometimes challenges me when he knows I’m physically holding back; he’ll jokingly say, “Those muscles aren’t painted on!” While said in jest, he also means it quite literally. He knows my lifestyle, and the daily habits that I rarely deviate from. My co-worker too, is solid in his everyday commitment to living his life in a way that produces specific and intentional outcomes.

So whether you’re a hyper-responder or not is completely irrelevant, because anyone is capable of getting rid of fat and improving muscle tone…… regardless of age, size, or genetic ability. Granted it may take a little longer for some, but change is inevitable when CONSISTENCY is the core driving factor behind any training and nutrition plan!

Early morning PT session with my favourite instructor, Sarah Colebrook

Learning To Celebrate The Small Wins

Note: originally posted in 2012

A couple of situations arose last week which inspired me to write this post. The first one was the unfortunate high temperature last Monday, which forced hundreds of Boston marathon runners to exit the race prematurely. The second had to do with yesterday’s Kourijima half marathon here in Okinawa, which due to humid and rainy weather conditions, also turned out to be a tough race for those who attempted to run it.

Perhaps because I had a personal interest in these races (my coaching partner and good friend Anna Boom was a participant in the Boston marathon, and one of my running clients was a participant in the Kourijima half marathon), was I moved to share my thoughts and convey a message that race results are not the “be all and end all!”

Setting PB’s (personal bests) and achieving podium-status awards should not directly equate to success or failure. On the contrary, race results should be treated as part of the overall prize package – with the prize package comprising of all the intrinsic rewards that are earned throughout the entire training process. There is much to be celebrated along the way. Greater endurance and speed for example, or perhaps a better body composition or greater confidence and self-discipline; these are all smaller “wins” that are worth reflecting upon and using as measures of overall performance.

My client, who recently ran the Kourijma Half Marathon, spent the past two months training incredibly hard. Her commitment to consistently follow a progressively structured training plan without taking any short cuts has led to faster run times and significantly improved endurance. Furthermore, she has gone from being a relatively inexperienced runner with uncertain expectations, to being a stronger, more informed runner with a whole new level of confidence that is spilling over into other areas of her life.

Would it make sense then to box up all of these positive outcomes and shelve them as obsolete because her race day goals were not met? I suspect that under better race day conditions, and on an easier course, my client would have done exceedingly well. I also have no doubt that my good friend Anna, who instead of reaching the Boston Marathon finish line almost collapsed in a first aid tent, would also have experienced a great race if not for the severe weather conditions. Understandably both ladies were disappointed, despite the obvious challenges they each faced.

However, while it’s normal to feel defeated and discouraged when hopes and goals are not realised, we should allow for only a brief time of permissible despair. You’ll be a far better person and athlete if you can quickly move on and reflect upon the entire race experience as a whole. In doing that you’ll be reminded of all the progress made since day one of training, and hopefully be more mindful of seeing future races as opportunities to celebrate the smaller but everyday gains and wins. And if race day goals are also achieved, then BAM! – that’s the icing on the cake.

Kourijima Half Marathon – rain and wind didn’t steal this couple’s joy; they finished and that’s worth celebrating!

I’m A Runner – But Not Defined By Running

Jannine Myers

I remember reading an article back in 2015, before Rodale ceased publication of it’s Running Times Magazine. The article, which featured New Zealand ultrarunner Anna Frost, touched not on her status as an elite athlete, but on the severe depression she experienced when injury forced her to take a break from running.

© www.annafrosty.blogspot.com

© www.annafrosty.blogspot.com

Anna’s story isn’t uncommon; depression during times of forced rest and recovery is something many runners struggle with; it’s so common in fact that it’s often the topic of discussion on various running forums and websites. While most recognize that depression occurs because there is a huge loss of emotional and physical fulfillment, the idea that a sense of identity is also lost is not so perceptible.

In Anna’s case, that’s exactly what happened; she faced the possibility of never running again and found herself asking the question “Who am I, then, if I’m not Anna the runner?” She wondered how she would spend her time, and worried too about peoples’ reactions, especially those who knew her as Frosty, one of the world’s leading female ultrarunners.

Even at the non-elite level, everyday runners can experience a similar host of emotions. Regardless of achievements and status, a runner is a runner is a runner…… so if running is no longer an option, it’s easy to see how feelings of a lost identity might evolve. Most runners for example, wake up each day and anticipate their morning, afternoon, or evening run, and others even, who schedule life around their runs (versus fitting in a run only if time permits).

For someone like Anna, who filled much of her time with training and racing, thoughts and priorities were heavily focused on things related to her running goals. To suddenly find herself in a position where all running had to be ceased, it’s not surprising that a period of depression ensued. Fortunately she was able to recover by training her mind to accept only positive and empowering thoughts, and as her emotional health improved so too did her physical health.

Anna eventually went on to run and win more events, but her return to training and racing was accompanied by a much healthier mindset. These days Anna balances her life by also making time to swim, make jewelry for her online business, and enjoy quality time with friends and family.

Running may be the “thing” we most love to do, but it doesn’t define who we are. Anna’s story teaches us to seek out other enjoyable activities, so that we don’t box ourselves into a life that can only be enjoyed if running is at the heart of it.

Kids Have MUCH More To Gain From A Healthy Diet Than Just Weight Control

I heard a news report recently that cited several reasons for the staggering increase in childhood obesity: biological factors, unregulated marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, a decline in physical activity, and inadequate access to healthier food options.

With regards to nutrition, I think conventional approaches to influencing changes are simply not working. Both government and private health groups constantly disseminate information in attempts to encourage better dietary choices, and yet the number of kids being categorized as overweight or obese continues to rise. 

Not wanting to get into a debate on what might or might not make a difference (there’s enough of that going on right now with the sugar-tax proposal), I’m going to share instead a “happy story,” one that tells of the surprising transformation that took place when a friend took small but progressive steps to change her 10 year old son’s eating habits.

Jet is twelve years old; at the age of just ten he ran and finished a half marathon. Two weeks later he also completed a very challenging 10k mud run. While it’s not uncommon to see young kids of Jet’s age participating in running events, it is unusual to see them completing the more difficult adult distances and courses.

Two years prior, health reasons prompted Jet’s mother to change his diet. Haruna, Jet’s mother, says, “Jet always loved to eat lots of meat, and very few veggies. He loved to eat chocolate or anything sweet; he’d eat just sugar if he could!”

To start with, Haruna stopped buying processed snacks. She used to keep an ample supply in the house but knew that that had to stop. Her greatest challenge was saying no to Jet and his sister when they accompanied her to the supermarket, but by compromising and allowing them to each choose just one “treat,” she was met with far less resistance.

The next step Haruna took was to cut back on Jet’s meat servings, another huge challenge since he was used to eating meat-heavy meals every day of the week. The change was initially too drastic, so reducing Jet’s portions (and eventually meals), had to be a gradual process that involved simultaneously introducing a greater variety of salad vegetables and dressings. 

Haruna says it was around eight months later that she began to observe some very noticeable differences in Jet’s body; he looked leaner and more muscularly toned. But in addition to the changes in appearance, he seemed to have much more energy and soon expressed a desire to start joining his mother on some of her weekly runs.

Not long after he took up running with his mother, Jet decided he wanted to train for his first half marathon. Haruna believes that Jet’s change in diet made it possible for him to achieve that goal; the change in body composition (loss of fat and increase in lean muscle), undoubtedly gave him the physical strength he needed, but Haruna says the real surprise came with the changes she observed in Jet’s mental clarity and behavior. 

According to Haruna, Jet somehow seemed calmer, more positive, and better able to focus and concentrate. Most athletes will agree that these qualities are invaluable in the realm of endurance sports, especially if the end goal is to “successfully” complete an event (and imagine how these qualities would improve a young person’s life, in general).

For Jet, success would have been defined by simply finishing, and had Jet remained on the diet he had enjoyed for so long, it’s highly likely that running and finishing a half marathon at age 10 would never have happened.

jet

Jet, trying to stay cool in the hot and humid conditions, and still smiling!

At just 10 years old, Jet completed a half marathon and proudly earned his finisher's certificate!

At just 10 years old, Jet completed a half marathon and proudly earned his finisher’s certificate!

Jet and his mom Haruna on right - at the Famous Hansen 10k Mud Run April 24th 2016

Jet and his mom Haruna on right – at the Famous Hansen 10k Mud Run April 24th 2016

The take-away from sharing Haruna and Jet’s story:

  • Most parents are exposed to enough nutritional data to know what they probably should – or should not – feed their kids, but even when it’s obvious that health and weight concerns are indicative of a poor diet, they continue to make decisions based on convenience and/or taste. It’s my hope that in sharing Jet’s story, and illustrating the immense and beneficial impact of a nutrition-rich diet, that some parents reading this might be inspired to take the kind of proactive steps that Jet’s mother did.