Category Archives: Training

Good dog!

Ramona the Pest has been a Very Good Girl lately. We’ve walked or jogged together almost every day since this semi-quarantine began, and now she’s learning to work off-lead. 

Getting a dog to work without a leash is challenging, because the handler has to trust and respect the dog enough to relinquish control of its movements, and the dog has to trust and respect the handler enough to listen and follow directions instead of running off and getting into mischief.

Some dogs are better suited for this than others. Under the wrong circumstances, an off-lead excursion can turn an asset into a liability or amplify a personality quirk into a real hazard.

Ramona is a bit scatterbrained when she’s excited, and walks are Very Exciting, so I start our lessons by walking or running several blocks down the alley with her on a loose lead. 

Once she’s settled down enough to focus, I drop the leash and let her drag it, paying close attention to our surroundings so I can run interference quickly if I see trouble brewing. I like working her in alleys, because they present plenty of distractions but few real hazards, and they’re narrow enough that I can catch up to her quickly if she tries to bolt. 

We had a great training session the other night. She did very well at heel, sit, and stay, remained polite while visiting her friend Bruce and his housemate (who was less polite), and even did a little modeling next to some breezeblock walls:

Brown dog cocking its head and looking at the camera
I’m pretty sure she knows how cute she is.

Brown dog licking its chops
“I was told by Applecare that there would be treats.” — Ramona, probably

Two dogs greeting each other over a concrete wall as a third dog flashes its teeth
I wish I spoke dog. I’d love to know what he was saying. (Probably some variant of “You damn kids get off my lawn!”)

My long-term goal is to be able to take her on long runs off-lead, because handling the leash siphons off a little more energy than I’d like — no big deal for a 5K, but unpleasant at half-marathon distances and beyond. We’ll see how it goes.

Emily

Hi-dee-ho, neighbor.

What’s better than a breezeblock wall? A breezeblock wall just at the golden hour, with three dogs and a cat greeting each other over it.

That guy doing his very best Wilson impression in the top photo is Bruce. He belongs to my preacher, Amy, who lives a couple of blocks down the street from us and has a fabulous hidden-circle wall around her backyard. Bruce and his housemates had a good time visiting with Ramona over the fence while Ron and I were walking the dogs yesterday evening.

Dog peeking through breezeblock wall
Look closely to see Bruce peeking at us through the breezeblocks.
Orange tabby cat atop a breezeblock wall
Jake the cat came out for a visit and took a moment to pose in the sunlight.
Two dogs greeting each other over a breezeblock wall
Ramona makes a new friend. This is Bruce’s housemate. I forgot his name.
Dog peeking under a metal fence
This guy lives a few blocks over from Amy. I’ve never seen him before, but we got a kick out of his efforts to see us as we were walking down the alley.

Our dogs love this down time. We’re home a lot more than usual, and they’re getting a lot more attention. I finally had time to download the Hal Higdon app and start training for another marathon, which is something I’d been planning to do since Ramona was a puppy. I took her out this afternoon for our first scheduled run: a three-mile jog. She’s a good running buddy. If you’ve been thinking about taking up distance running (with or without your dog), now is a good time to do it. The weather is starting to warm up, but we still have a few weeks of fairly moderate temperatures, which gives you time to acclimate and build your endurance before it gets really hot.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: A virtual ride down Route 66

I have kind of a long-term goal — nothing really pressing, but just something I’ve thought might be cool to do — of pedaling the equivalent of the length of Route 66 on our stationary bike. About a year ago, I got on Google Maps and planned rides in increments of anywhere from 7 to 35 miles, following the road from landmark to landmark. I entered that information into Excel, printed out a chart, and hung it in the basement, where it’s been sitting, mostly ignored, for months. I noticed it a couple of weeks ago when I was testing out the new bike Ron bought after the old one broke down, and I decided to give it another go, just for fun.

I’ve logged over 100 miles in the past couple of weeks. It was easier than I expected, even with the tension turned up on the bike, and it’s a comfortable way to burn a few calories and generate a few much-needed endorphins while I wait for spring.

I don’t have the time, money, or endurance to go out and take a real ride down Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles right now, but this virtual trip is kind of a nice way to revisit favorite attractions in my head and daydream about where I’d like to explore on our next road trip.

By the way, 100 miles puts me somewhere south of the Route 66 Museum in Pontiac. If I were really on Route 66, I’d have started at the “Begin 66” sign in Chicago and passed the Berwyn Route 66 Museum, the site of the late, great Wishing Well Motel, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, White Fence Farm, Haunted Trails, Route 66 Raceway, the Gemini Giant (pictured above), the site of the fabulous Riviera Roadhouse, Ambler’s Texaco, Odell Station, and the Pontiac Route 66 Museum.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: No-bake recovery treats

These are a good, quick recovery snack after a hard workout.
These are a good, quick recovery snack after a hard workout.

This recipe isn’t particularly glamorous or photogenic, but it’s an absolute godsend if you happen to be an endurance athlete, because it’s an easy make-ahead snack you can keep in the refrigerator and grab quickly after a long run or a hard hill workout to give yourself a nice balance of protein, fiber, and sugar to keep you from crashing and speed muscle recovery.

Ingredients

1 c. rolled oats
1 c. peanut butter, almond butter, or a mix
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (optional)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Scoop out about a tablespoon of the mixture and form it into a ball. If the mixture seems too squishy, add more oats. If it seems too dry and crumbly, add more nut butter and/or honey. (The proportions aren’t precise, because the consistency of the nut butter you use will vary by brand, type, and oil content.)

Once you’ve adjusted the proportions as needed to make a workable texture, form the rest of the mixture into balls, place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and chill until firm. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Frozen fruit pops

Packed with phytonutrients, my anti-inflammatory fruit pops are a great recovery snack after a hard workout.
Packed with phytonutrients, my anti-inflammatory fruit pops are a great recovery snack after a hard workout.

As an erstwhile distance runner, I (usually) (sort of) try to eat sensibly(ish). You can train for a marathon on Krispy Kremes and MaggieMoo’s, but it’s not pretty.

A few months ago, I read an article somewhere about foods with natural anti-inflammatory properties and how they help tired muscles recover after a long run. As summer was just getting started, I decided the best way to incorporate such foods into my postrun snacks would be to freeze them into popsicles, giving me all the inherent benefits of the foods themselves, plus an easy way to bring my core temperature down quickly without having to stop and make a smoothie while doing the dear-calves-please-don’t-cramp dance.

With that in mind, I picked up a popsicle mold similar to these at World Market and hit the grocery store for ingredients I could run through the blender. Here are the two best recipes I came up with.

This isn’t an exact science, so I didn’t get too specific with the amounts. Base your proportions on what you like, what you have on hand, and the capacity of your popsicle mold. My mold has 10 openings that hold about 2 oz. apiece, so I aim for 20 oz. of liquid in the blender when I’m done.

In a pinch, you can use ice-cube trays or small Dixie cups with lollipop sticks in them, but molds are much easier to work with and pay for themselves in a few batches. Also, frozen fruit works fine for this (obviously) and is usually cheaper than fresh.

Anti-Inflammatory Fruit Pops

About a cup of red raspberries
About a cup of strawberries
About a cup of cranberry or grape juice (or a blend)

Puree fruit in blender. Add enough juice to make 20 oz. (or whatever your popsicle molds require) and blend briefly to mix. Pour into molds and freeze. Unmold, wrap individually in waxed paper, and store in a big freezer bag.

The phytochemicals in the fruit make these a good choice after long runs or hill training.

Spicy Electrolyte Pops

2 c. seedless watermelon, diced
About a cup of orange juice
Chile-lime salt (available at Mexican grocery stores)

Puree watermelon in blender. Add juice as indicated above and blend briefly to mix. Pour into molds and freeze. Unmold pops. Lay each pop on waxed paper, sprinkle with chile-lime salt on both sides, wrap in waxed paper, and store in a big freezer bag. (Work quickly, as the salt will melt the surface a little bit.)

With the potassium from the orange juice and the sodium from the chile-lime salt, these are a good source of electrolytes after a hard workout on a hot day.

The advantage of cold weather

I hate winter. HATE IT. With every fiber of my being. HAAAAAAAAAAATE it. This blog pretty much owes its existence to my profound and undying hatred of cold weather and gray skies.

I can think of only three things I hate more than I hate winter: crowded gyms, flavored coffee and the designated hitter.

That first one put me in a bit of dilemma yesterday. I had a five-mile run on my agenda, and my options were: A.) run in 25-degree weather, or B.) go to the gym and dodge all the newbies who don’t understand why there are separate lanes for runners and walkers.

I decided colliding with a wrong-way walker would be more unpleasant than fighting the cold for a few miles, so I sucked it up and headed out.

HOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHMAHGAH, that first half-mile sucked. Wire-rimmed glasses, for the record, are NOT comfortable at 25 degrees with a headwind. That metal conducts the cold straight into your face everywhere it touches. Two blocks in, I gave serious thought to turning around, but I really didn’t want to go to the gym in January, so I gritted my teeth and kept going.

By the time I got to the trail, the wind had settled down, I had settled into a rhythm, and I had one of the easiest runs of my life.

I still hate winter, but it does make distance running easier, and I wouldn’t be terribly upset if I had subfreezing temperatures to run in every Saturday morning between now and, say, the end of February.

In other news, I’m not the only one training in our house. Lillian, who is completely flummoxed by the concept of a leash, had a meltdown and wriggled out of her harness last night when I tethered her to my waist to keep her from sneaking off to steal cat food or poop in the floor, so I put Scout’s old choke collar on her and marched her around the house, making her sit every few minutes. She was outraged and had several good tantrums, jumping and flailing and fighting the leash, but bacon bits eventually calmed her down, and now we have a new routine: When we’re home, Lil is tethered to one of us. She hates it, but she’ll get used to how the leash and collar work eventually, and I predict all will be well in a few days.

Emily

Lazy(ish) Saturday

I had an idea I’d run five miles this morning, but I finished painting my bedroom yesterday and then followed that up by wrangling a new shelf unit home from Kmart, assembling it and basically gutting my office closet and rearranging the entire thing, so I was pretty well tapped out by the time I woke up today. Throw in questionable dining choices yesterday (the homemade lasagna was a good idea, but the giant plate of dive-bar cheese fries was nothing but empty calories that didn’t last long enough to do me any good this morning) and the fact I’m driving to Southern Illinois this afternoon, and I decided I’d be better off refueling and rehydrating today and running tomorrow.

I will regret that decision when I wake up in the morning and my options are “run in 20-degree weather” or “risk an indoor track in January,” but nobody ever said marathoning was supposed to be easy, so I’m just going to enjoy my day today and suck it up tomorrow.

In other news, my bedroom looks awesome. For my next performance, I’ll redo the drywall joints in the office and repaint them.

Emily