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.

Don’t Let Life’s Road Bumps Keep You From Moving Forward

The past couple of weeks have been a bit trying and honestly, I am not too sad to see the back of them. A minor car accident, getting off a night shift only to discover that the loaner car I had driven to work in had been towed, further car and towing issues for my older daughter, stomach virus for my younger daughter, a burst water main, and finally a power outage that somehow affected only our street.

In the midst of these setbacks however, I found it kind of amusing to see and hear things that seemed to hint towards a message of persevering; I’ll share just a couple:

The first came by way of a podcast I listened to while working out; the host played a snippet of the forthcoming talk, and in that snippet I heard the following quote:


It’s funny how, of all the words I heard, those ones in particular seemed volumes louder. It’s not as if they were new and enlightening, but they were a great reminder to not despair but to keep pressing forward. It’s easy to feel sorry for one’s self when things go wrong, yet finding the strength to persevere is, I believe, the far better option. Why, for example, set up camp in a dry and arid dessert if just over the horizon lies a beautiful coastline with pristine beaches. Sure, it might take some effort to get there but it beats camping out in the land of misery.

The second observation made was when I was out running one morning. About 7km into my run, I encountered a fallen tree that was completely obstructing my path. It wasn’t really a challenge as such, since I could easily climb over, but I thought of it as a metaphor for the obstacles I had earlier faced. It made me think that we only have two choices in such situations: we either quit and give up, or we contemplate how to get around or over them. I chose the latter because the former would have guaranteed two things:

1/ an unaccomplished goal – since I had set out with a predetermined route and distance


2/ a learned behavior that would have wired my brain to turn back or give up whenever something blocks my path – and that’s unacceptable.



Book Review: The Boys In The Boat

The Boys In The Boat is an account of the US rowing team’s victory at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin; nothing to do with running, but certainly an inspirational story for any athlete, regardless of sports background.


One of those “hard-to-put-down” reads, this book effortlessly captures the reader, provoking an instant sense of connection with both the characters and the setting. Much like Laura Hillenbrand did in her books, Seabiscuit and UnbrokenDaniel James Brown also delivers a triumphant story of hope against all odds, only this time the odds are overcome by a team of boys, who once introduced, you can’t help but root for.

Interspersed throughout the story are background snippets of a dark and grim reality going on behind the scenes, in Berlin, Germany. Brown provides just enough details to paint a clear picture of the level of grand deception orchestrated by Hitler, and his close associate Joseph Goebells (Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945). While the boys (from Washington State) were busy working hard to earn the coveted privilege of representing the United States at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Hitler and Goebbels were also hard at work – attempting to conceal all traces of evidence that might later expose their persecution of the Jews.

At the core of the story, is Joe Rantz, one of the members of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team. His strong resolve and humble demeanor make him a true hero. But as the story evolves, it becomes clear that his teammates are equally heroic, each possessing similarly unique attributes and an extraordinary will to overcome extreme odds.

The story cleverly climaxes, with Brown recounting the dramatic events leading up to the final race and then describing in vivid detail the race itself. It really is a remarkable story, backed by extensive research that makes it well worth the read; I encourage you to check it out and read it for yourself!

A few key points however (without giving the story away), include what I feel are valuable lessons for those of us who strive daily to succeed in both physical training and life pursuits:

1. The boys trained through the harshest of weather conditions, understanding that extreme discomfort was at times necessary if there was to be any hope at all of making it to the Olympics. A missed day of training meant an extra day of training for a competing team.

“They rowed six days a week, rain or shine. It rained, and they rowed. They rowed through cutting wind, bitter sleet, and occasional snow, well into the dark of night every evening.”

2. Some of the boys came from particularly challenging backgrounds, yet they approached life – in general – with optimism and hope. Joe Rantz, for example, had an uncanny knack for finding four-leaf clovers (it’s much easier to find the more common three-leaf clover). He told his girlfriend, 

“The only time you don’t find a four-leaf clover, is when you stop looking for one.” 

That attitude carried over to the training obstacles they faced, and equipped them with the mental tenacity required to endure many months of grueling workouts.

3. George Pocock, designer and builder of racing shells, played a pivotal role in leading the team to victory. He taught the boys many things, but paramount to their success was his insistence that once they entered their racing shell, they were to leave everything else behind. These boys were taught how to be fully in the moment during races; able to keep their minds one hundred percent focused on the task at hand.

“…..from the time an oarsman steps into a racing shell until the moment that the boat crosses the finish line, he must keep his mind focused on what is happening inside the boat. His whole world must shrink down to the small space within the gunwales.” 

4. The boys followed strict rules imposed upon them by their coach, Al Ulbrickson. They were tempted at times to break those rules, and on a few occasions they did, but for the most part they respected the necessary disciplines required of them.

“You will eat no fried meats, “ he began abruptly. “You will eat no pastries, but you will eat plenty of vegetables. You will eat good, substantial, wholesome food…..You will go to bed at 10 o’clock and arise punctually at seven o’clock. You will not smoke or drink or chew. And you will follow this regimen all year round, for as long as you row for me. A man cannot abuse his body for six months and then expect to row the other six months. He must be a total abstainer all year.” 

5. Finally, in the days leading up to the biggest race of their careers, the boys were understandably nervous and on some level, all dealing with fear and self-doubt. They each had their own coping strategies however, and intentionally implemented these in an effort to align their mental strength with that of their physical strength. 

The take-away lessons:

  • Train consistently, and train when you don’t feel like training (getting outside your comfort zone regularly is necessary for growth).
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, and train yourself to respond to adversity in ways that help you to favorably interpret situations.
  • When the starter gun goes, it’s time to narrow your focus! Get your eyes, thoughts, and expectations off your competitors, and focus instead on executing your “ideal” performance (one that you know is supported by weeks and months of carefully planned and progressive training).
  • Optimal performance requires optimal nutrition, sleep, and lifestyle habits – not just some of the time, but all of the time.
  • Tapering is a necessary part of pre-race preparation – and while the body is purposely rested – the mind on the other hand should be vigorously exercised and fed with generous doses of positive self-talk and affirmations.

You Might Be More Susceptible To OverTraining Than You Think

Most runners are familiar with the term overtraining, but few probably realize that they may be more susceptible to it than they think.

Because overtraining refers to a decline in performance due to excessive stress on certain parts of the musculoskeletal system, we tend to associate it more with competitive runners who endure higher volumes and intensities of training. But Dr. Inigo San Millan, PhD., says that blood biomarkers showing up in recreational runners are increasingly revealing signs of overtraining.


Dr. Millan believes that the reason these biomarkers are being seen more and more in recreational runners, is because – unlike professional runners – recreational runners don’t have an entourage of training and recovery specialists facilitating everything they do on a day-to-day basis.

The following points highlight how and why a recreational runner might find him/herself in an overtrained state:

  • Runners, in general, tend to be A-Type personalities; they are by nature hard workers and goal-achievers. While it’s clear that recreational runners don’t train at the same level and intensities as professional runners, many – especially A-types – still train with as much purpose and determination; the problem is that they are often just as zealous in other areas of their lives, and therefore, unintentionally negligent when it comes to ensuring optimal recovery conditions.
  • A “zealous” and busy recreational runner for example, might have a lifestyle outside of training that keeps her (or him) from getting adequate sleep. When she wakes up consistently feeling tired, she might be inclined to tell herself that fatigue is a normal part of training and should simply be tolerated; she’ll therefore continue to stick to her training plan and make no modifications. A professional runner on the other hand (or her coach, at least), is more likely to recognize early signs of overtraining and accordingly reduce the training workload and/or intensity.
  • Diet might also play a role in the occurrence of overtraining symptoms. The average recreational runner might know a lot about training, but a little about nutrition. A professional runner makes it her job to know how to properly fuel both during and outside of training. Interestingly, a too-low carbohydrate intake appears to be a common factor among recreational runners who suffer from overtraining.
  • Recreational runners are more likely than professional runners to try and “make up” for missed runs by overcompensating with extra intensity and/or miles. Additionally, recreational runners often run too fast, believing that the harder they run, the faster they’ll run. Professional runners understand however, that slow, easy runs are an important part of training as they help to heal minor damage from previous runs by pushing oxygen-rich blood through the legs.

With all of the above in mind, take care when training for your next event, especially if you’re someone who holds yourself to high standards in everything you do.

Here’s a few quick tips:

  1. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
  2. Consult with a nutritionist if you’re not sure that your diet is supporting your training efforts.
  3. Remember to slow down and take it easy on recovery days, and make sure that you actually rest on days that you should be resting.
  4. Minimize your stress levels, to the best of your ability.
  5. Schedule regular massage visits once you begin to approach a peak in your training workload, and use your foam roller if you have one.

Happy and safe running!