The Benefits of Not Training

team-watermelon-preraceOur guest blogger this month is Lauren, an RRCA certified coach and the mastermind behind Health on the Run. Her running and wellness blog has been a favorite among the sneakered set since 2010. Since then, she and her husband have started a new life (and a new family!) in Southern Vermont. Follow her adventures in running in the Green Mountains.

 

This blog was originally written in July 2013, but the content is timeless. Enjoy!

Some runners run purely for recreation. A few miles a couple of times a week, just to stay in shape/burn off calories/eat that extra slice (or three!) of pizza on Friday night.

While I can’t argue with the fact that these are great benefits (and I’ve used running to justify splurges more than once), I personally need more out of the sport. Like many of you reading this, I thrive off actively training — the goal setting, the hard work, the endorphins, the races. I complain about it sometimes (of course), but I generally like the structure of a training schedule. It keeps me accountable, keeps me motivated, and helps me feel accomplished. For the past several years, I’ve gone right from one training cycle to the next…hitting a goal, resetting, working towards another. I love the sense of order and consistency it brings to my life.

But that kind of schedule can also lead to burnout. And now that I’m not training (not really), I have to admit that there are some very nice benefits to the time off. Especially when it’s summer in Vermont, and you don’t have to worry about fitting in your long run when there’s all sorts of other fun outdoor adventures to be had.

I still set goals for myself each week. I track my workouts, and come up with a set number of days I want to run and a certain number of miles I want to hit. Of course it’s all sort of arbitrary at this point, but it’s really the only thing that keeps me motivated. And the structure brings a sense of normalcy to an otherwise crazy time.

Sometimes, however, it’s good to put those goals to the side…something that’s a lot easier to do when there’s no race on the line. No one really cares how many miles I run every week except for me, and running isn’t the only form of physical activity (sometimes it’s easy to forget this when I’m in the middle of a training cycle!). In fact, there are other things I like doing just as much.

cascade falls_1

Like spending the day hiking up a nearby mountain.

cascade falls_17weeks

It’s so funny to me how I can feel absolutely fine (and like my old self) while running a race, but not while walking at an easy pace…well, not when that walk involves climbing a mountain, anyway. I love hiking, but it’s embarrassing how easily I get out of breath now. And I don’t particularly like the fact that I’m lagging behind Evan the entire way.

But, other than my damaged pride, hiking really is a great workout. And I can’t think of many other ways I’d rather spend a day. If there ever comes a day when I give up running for good, I think I’ll just dedicate my life to hiking mountains all over the country.

On Saturday, we headed to Mt Ascutney, the site of the crazy trail race I ran last fall (but not the same trail). It was a tough, but beautiful hike. About halfway up, we stopped for lunch at the top of a waterfall. Eating sandwiches with our feet hanging off the edge of the “world” and the endless green mountains all around is basically my idea of heaven on earth.

weathersfield trail_cascadefalls lunch

cascade falls_viewPictures don’t really do it justice

The day was humid, but not overly hot, which made it perfect for hiking. And although it was a little cloudy at the top, the mountain ranges still seemed to stretch on forever.

Mt Ascutney_top

Have I mentioned lately just how much I love Vermont?

On our way back home, we happened to drive by an orchard advertising freshly picked berries. So we just had to stop to pick up some strawberries and blueberries, which we devoured within 24 hours (in the form of strawberry shortcake and blueberry pancakes).

The next day we continued our Vermont adventures by running from another waterfall…this time, one that’s a fairly well-known spot for swimming on hot summer days. We drove out there with our towels and ran an easy (hot!) 4 miles out and back from the falls. The sole purpose of the run was to work up enough of a sweat so that the icy cold water would actually feel refreshing.

Turns out, it’s going to take a lot more than a 4-mile run on a hot sunny July day to make that water feel good. It was so cold that going under momentarily took my breath away.

buttermilk falls

But there’s nothing quite like an ice bath in a Vermont river. I think if I could finish every run at a waterfall/swimming hole, I’d be way more likely to take regular ice baths during training.

IMG 3913

And if I can spend every weekend frolicking in the Green Mountains, I’d say life is pretty good. Living in Vermont has its downsides, but weekends like this past one remind me why we chose to live in this state…and how lucky we are to be here, no matter how long it ends up being.

And I have to admit that it makes me pretty happy to not have any sort of long race to train for. There will always be another training cycle. I plan to enjoy this downtime as much as I possibly can.

Stratton Receives Award for Most Improved Carbon Footprint

By Liz Millikin

This week, the Vermont Ski Areas Association announced the winners of the second annual Green Mountain Awards for Environmental Excellence at Vermont Ski Resorts. Across the state, resorts went head to head in the hopes of winning a coveted award for environmental stewardship.

Stratton Mountain is proud to say that we won the award for Most Improved Carbon Footprint.

In the last year the resort has dedicated itself to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels as well as reducing emissions across the mountain. While small, daily contributions add up quickly, the resort initiated four large emission-reducing projects.

They are:

  1. Replacing a damaged diesel air compressor with 300 high-efficiency guns. Due to a fire in 2012, one of the air compressors used to power the snowmaking guns was damaged beyond repair. Instead of replacing the inefficient machine, Stratton decided to put the allocated funds toward upgrading the snow guns themselves. The new guns produce more while using less energy.
  2. Replacing the second air compressor with an electric compressor of equivalent power. By moving from diesel-powered to an electric, Stratton is reducing the amount of fossil fuels needed to power the snowmaking system as well as the amount of emissions generated in the process. The new electric compressor also reduces the risk of gas and oil spills and leaks.
  3. Building earth features to reduce the amount of snow needed to cover winter terrain features. The tubing hill and other trouble spots on the hill have historically needed a large amount of snow to fill in and build up the surfaces for safe and enjoyable skiing, riding and tubing. The tubing hill alone was sculpted with 9900 cubic yards of clean fill – saving the equivalent amount of snow and the energy to produce and sculpt said snow.
  4. To support and guide us on future energy reduction and efficiency projects, Stratton has signed on to Efficiency Vermont’s Continuous Energy Improvement (CEI) Program. Through CEI and the accompanying data tracking system, Stratton is creating new long-term goals and implementation plans that address internal policy, leadership support, capital investment, education, outreach and best practices. These plans support Stratton as we work toward diesel-free snowmaking by 2017.

According to calculations made by Efficiency Vermont, Stratton anticipates the new high efficiency snow guns, electric compressor and earth features save a total of 251,670 gallons of diesel fuel and 625,859 kWhs every year. The electric savings are equal to 441 metric tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere – the equivalent of 11,307 saplings growing over the course of 10 years. The anticipated savings from diesel are 2,231 metric tons of CO2; that’s as much removing 465 passenger cars from the road.

From zero-sort recycling to choosing electricity over diesel, Stratton is working toward protecting the mountain environment for generations to come. We are excited to receive the award for Most Improved Carbon Footprint and even more excited to continue the work of reducing emissions and fossil-fuel dependency.

See original post here: Ski Vermont Announces 2014 Green Mountain Award Winners

Put Your Best Foot Forward This Spring!

By Paula Pelkey

Put your best foot forward this Spring!

Hibernation is something that happens every year for the bears that inhabit the woods surrounding Stratton Mountain Resort. Right about the time we break out our ski boots and hit the slopes, bears are laying down for their winter nap. Something else goes into hibernation at that time too, our feet.

We squeeze our feet into our ski boots. Boots that we need snug to keep us steady as we cruise down the mountain. Boots that can pinch and rub if not fitted just right. Boots that can put pressure on our toenails when we are skiing especially hard. Boots that support our ankles and arches yet still make those muscles sore and achy after a full day on the slopes.

Often times we overlook the importance that well-loved feet provide in our lives. They provide a sturdy foundation for our bodies. They keep us upright and balanced. They transport us from one place to the next. They quite literally carry the weight of our lives upon them. Therefore they deserve to be treated well.

Flexible and well maintained feet are a sign of good health. They show that you as a person care enough for yourself that you look after even the most overused and rugged part of you. Tension and stress often hide out in your feet. Getting regular foot massage or reflexology can keep that tension from building up, affecting your balance and then effecting the alignment of your body.

Keeping the nails clipped and clean will ward off ingrown toenails and the growth of fungus. Removing the dead cuticle skin and bits of splintered nail will help encourage stronger nails. Any areas with tough, callused skin will be softened and gently buffed away leaving behind softer skin.

Ski season is over, let’s bring those toesies out of hibernation! Come into the Day Spa at Stratton Village for your foot massage and pedicure. Add a little spring in your step with a splash of color or keep it au natural like our beautiful Vermont surroundings.

The Day Spa at Stratton Village will be open for our summer season May 23, 2014.

Our hours will be:
Friday and Saturday 9:00am-6:00pm
Sunday and Monday 10:00am-5:00pm
(802) 297-4772

10 Reasons to Ditch the Garmin

team-watermelon-preraceOur guest blogger this month is Lauren, an RRCA certified coach and the mastermind behind Health on the Run. Her running and wellness blog has been a favorite among the sneakered set since 2010. Since then, she and her husband have started a new life (and a new family!) in Southern Vermont. Follow her adventures in running in the Green Mountains.

 

This blog was originally written in December 2011, but the content is timeless. Enjoy!

 

***

Up until a couple of years ago, I rarely ran with a watch if I could help it. And when I did wear one, it was usually because I was running for time instead of distance. Which meant that unless I went and mapped out the route later, there wasn’t any way to tell what pace I was running. The year I qualified for Boston, I timed myself on treadmill runs (you can’t really avoid that) and long runs, not because I wanted to keep a specific pace, but because I wanted to have a general idea of how long it took me to run 20 miles. Those long run times were the only running “data” that I had going into the marathon. That year, I managed to take 19.5 minutes off my marathon time – my biggest marathon PR to date.

But then I got a fancy Garmin as a gift, and this girl who once loved running free and un-timed suddenly became a slave to numbers. I thought I would hate all that feedback, and would hate always seeing my pace in front of me or exactly how far I had gone. But the truth is – it was love at first run. I loved not only having data on the run, but also being able to upload it and see what my runs looked like over time. I loved that I could run in any direction, without any sort of plan, and still know how far and fast I had gone that day. In short, I was hooked.

ifyouseemecollapse_ Health on the Run

I know many of you feel the same way about these little wrist computers. They’re a great tool to have when you are actively training for something. But they’re also incredibly easy to become addicted to. And even though I just spent the first part of this post talking about how much I love my Garmin, sometimes I think the dependence becomes too much. Like so many others I read about, I became a little obsessed with seeing the numbers on every run. If I got ready to run and found out that my Garmin wasn’t charged, it threw everything off. “But how will I run without knowing how fast I’m going every single step of the way??” It’s a little ridiculous, really.

Now that I’m not actively in training, I’ve decided to ditch the Garmin – for most runs. And instead of feeling panic at the loss of so much “valuable” data, I can tell you that it’s been wonderful. So wonderful, that I think it’s something you should do too.

10 Reasons to Ditch the Garmin (for now)

It’s true – runners love their numbers. Average pace, fastest race times, miles per week, miles that need to be run at X pace in order to hit X time – our life revolves around them. I know breaking the cycle by ditching the Garmin has been discussed before, but here are 10 reasons why I think it can be great to run without the feedback. I promise it won’t kill you.

1.) Break the addiction

Pure and simple – you won’t break your dependence on the watch if you never let yourself run without it. I know this seems obvious, but you need to give yourself more than one day. Running watch-less multiple days a week will help you break free of your dependence. I promise it may feel weird at first, but that’ll soon pass. After a few days, seeing an uncharged Garmin before you head out the door on your run won’t even phase you.

2.) Stop worrying about mileage

I am one of those runners who, when I get to the end of what was supposed to be a 5 mile loop and see 4.83 miles on my watch instead, will run up and down the street until I get to exactly 5 miles. Why? I could tell you that it’s because those last .17 miles are just so important, but really it’s because I just like seeing the even number on my watch. Plus, who wants to go out and run 4.83 miles? That’s not as good as 5, right? Five full miles will make me a better runner – 4.83 ? Not worth it.

The beauty of it all is – once you ditch the watch you won’t know whether you went exactly 5 miles or not. And you’ll find that you don’t even care, leaving you free to actually finish the run right in front of your house, instead of 3 blocks down the street.

3.) Stop worrying about pace

Even on days when I’m not trying to run for pace, it’s hard to not keep checking the watch to see how I’m doing. If it tells me that I’m running slower than I want to be, there’s a huge part of me that wants to pick up the pace until it’s back where I like it. Even if I manage to not look at the watch during the run, I still know that the time is being recorded, ready for me to pick apart and analyze later. Running without a watch is the only way that I really, truly don’t care how fast or slow I’m going. I just run.

4.) Embrace the freedom

It’s amazing how freeing it can feel to just shed one little piece of running equipment. There are no paces to hit, no exact mileage to run. Just you and the road.

5.) Run simpler

That freedom you get from ditching the watch takes you back to the simplest form of running. How fast or far you run doesn’t matter. Instead, the run is just about being out there, about experiencing the miles, and getting back to the reasons you fell in love with running in the first place.

6.) Zone out on the run

Besides the fact that you never actually get anywhere, one reason people hate running on a treadmill so much is because of the constant feedback. You can’t escape the monitor that tells you how far you’re running, how fast you’re going, how many calories you’ve burned, and (if you just grab onto the handrails) your heart rate. The watch does the exact same thing – it just lets you know all that stuff without being chained to a treadmill. Having so much feedback all the time makes it really hard to zone out. The watch beeps, you have an urge to glance down at the numbers, you check to see how much further you have to go. None of that helps you “get in the zone.” Ditching the watch gives you less to think about, making it easier to spend the run getting lost in your own thoughts.

7.) Your arm stays warmer

Okay so this may not be at the top of your priority list, but if you ditch the watch your forearm is likely to stay much warmer this winter. It’s amazing how great NOT having a huge chunk of metal against your skin or having to lift a layer or two to see the numbers on the watch feels.

garmin-layers {health on the run}

8.) Easy runs become easy again

I’m one of those runners who has certain paces in my head that I feel like I should be hitting, and paces I don’t really like to go above even on easy days. But running is weird. We all know that some days a certain pace will feel so effortless while other days we’re struggling to hang on. So when I go out for what is supposed to be an easy run and see that my pace is a lot slower than it feels like I’m running, instead of telling myself that I obviously need the extra rest today so should slow it down, I push through, often trying to speed up a little in the final miles. At the end of the run, I may have hit the arbitrary pace that I feel is acceptable, but I haven’t exactly had a nice, easy, recovery day either.

When there isn’t any feedback to tell me otherwise, I run as slow as my body wants to go. It may seem silly that I can’t do this normally, but it’s all a part of the “Garmin Effect.”

Which brings me to…

9.) Relieve the pressure and run stress-free

Wearing that watch can put an unnecessary amount of pressure on you. Just like I described above, when you know something is always recording how fast you’re moving, it creates pressure to hit certain paces. I know this isn’t completely logical. No one (literally no one) cares how fast I complete that 7 mile run except for me. But when I’m being timed, it’s as though the stakes are higher. That run will be recorded forever. Everyone will know I ran slow today. And I will be annoyed with myself that I couldn’t hold the pace I wanted to.

Getting rid of the watch means removing that pressure – the pressure to hit a certain pace, the stress of getting caught behind a group of walkers or a slower runner who might mess up your average pace for that mile, the stress of getting stuck at a stoplight or stop sign (should I pause my watch? Try to sprint across? My pace is ruined! My watch will say I’m slow when I’m really not!)…all of that will be gone.

10.) Become more in tune with your body

Finally, and most importantly, running watch free means that you can’t rely on a piece of technology to tell you how fast you are running, or should be running. Instead you just run by feel. When you don’t have the numbers to tell you if you’re hitting a recovery pace or a tempo pace, you are forced to look inward. A few weeks of running watch-less can help you become more in tune with your own body. You’ll know an easy pace because you know what it feels like to run it – the rate of your breathing, the length of your stride – these will help you determine how fast you’re running, not the watch.

When marathon training starts up again in January, I’m sure my Garmin and I will be reunited. Like I said, the watch can be an incredibly useful tool. But that doesn’t mean you need to run with it all the time. If you find yourself tied to your Garmin, I encourage you to give it a break even if just for a few weeks. After awhile, you might find that you don’t even really miss it…

Run for Life

By Myra Foster

You’ve no doubt heard that Vermont consistently ranks at the top for both health and happiness. Yup, fit and happy. They go together like kale and quinoa. Ben & Jerry.

As skis and snowboards go in, bikes come out. There’s hiking, paddling, softball, soccer, Frisbee. And gardening, that’ll put a smile on your face and fresh, organic, absolutely local food on the table.

Simplest of all forms of fitness, though, might just be running. All you need is a pair of shoes and Darn Tough socks, crafted right up in St. Johnsbury. And nowhere is it better than right here, right now. In my humble opinion.

Somewhere between the end of sugaring season and the start of fishing season, running season begins in earnest. Senses awakened along a rolling road, surrounded by fields and trees and flowers starting to sprout. Just the sweet sounds of spring on your playlist. The dreadmill a distant memory.

We all have our reasons for running. It could simply be to feel great. Or enjoy a little time for yourself in the fresh air and sunshine. Maybe it’s to train for that 5k, 10k, marathon or even the Vermont 100 Endurance Race in Woodstock on July 19-20.

The thought of running a hundred miles makes the Shires of Vermont Marathon seem like a breeze. Now in its fourth year, the course travels from Bennington to Manchester on May 18 with an 872 foot gain in elevation and at least one covered bridge to cross. It is Vermont.

And if I were king, or governor, I would issue a proclamation for the Green Mountain State!

Whereas:
• We celebrate health and wellness; it’s in our nature.
• We value mindful movement; it makes us fit for life, gives us focus in our work and play, and joy in our mountain lifestyle.
• We explore, we ski, ride, hike, bike, climb, paddle, run … rinse and repeat.
• We don’t sit still.

For recovery days, I hear there is a strong correlation between eating chocolate and winning the Nobel Prize. Just saying.