Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My First Half Marathon Race Report, part two

Here is part two of my OKC Half Marathon race report. There are a few pics here and a few other details and thoughts about the race.....

Me and my buddy Adam, after the race.

Above: Running Briefs, Fair Weather Runner,  Adam, and me.

I had a nice meal at Spaghetti Warehouse the night before the race. I met fellow bloggers/runners/Kansans Fair Weather Runner and Running Briefs, who were running their first marathons, and my friend Adam, who along with me was running his first half marathon. . 

Yeah, this massage on my calves after the race felt incredible.  I think I could have stayed in the massage tent all day.

The run started/ended at the OKC Memorial, the site of the OKC bombing. Above and below are a few pics of the memorial. It is very touching/emotional to think about all the lives that were lost in this senseless bombing.

Above is the race on TV. The race was televised live on local TV....a church next to the Start/Finish had it playing live on a big screen TV. The church also provided free pancakes, sausage, drinks, etc all day to the runners...since all the roads are closed on Sunday AM anyway, they have church on Sat night, cancel their Sunday church service and encourage all their attenders to serve and minister to the runners and families that day. My kids had a fun time with their inflatables, tatoos, face painting, coloring contests, games etc. Pretty neat that the church does this I think.

A pic of the family at a fountain near Bricktown, the night before the race.

Lesson Learned
As I mentioned in part one, the biggest lesson I learned in my first half was about being properly hydrated. How do i know I was dehydrated? Well, there were two times during the race when I got weak in the knees and light headed...I actually thought I was going to pass out one time and had to sit down for a couple minutes to try to get my strength back. Then after the race I drank 3 bottles of water, 2 bottles of powerade, 1 bottle of orange juice, and 2 milks within 30 minutes, and then an hour later I had a large cherry limeade from Sonic...I couldn't pump liquids into my system fast enough......the thing I wish I had known before was that apparently you're supposed to over-hydrate in the week/days leading up to the race, which I didn't do (didn't help, either, that I didn't drink anything before the race).......also, talking to some other runners, I guess when it's hot you're supposed to drink the gatorade instead of the water, because it contains sodium, and I didn't know that or do that runner said he takes salt packets from McDonalds along and takes one every 4-5 miles to keep his sodium intake going. By the way, the post race meal was Carl's Jr hamburgers, and I ate only a few bites, then we had pizza for lunch and tacos for in that one day I had three kinds of fast food meals, which I never do...

Split Times

As embarrassing as this is, I'm going to post my split times.....

mile 1=902---started strong, felt good
3=855---cruising along
6=955---still felt pretty good up to this point
7=1118---started getting light headed/weak kneed here, about mile 7.5
9=1241---light headed and dizzy again
10=1255--horrible calf cramping started here
13=1506---yeah this is the mile when I really tanked
.1=1548---struggling to cross the finish line

My 2:34 time wasn't as fast as I had hoped for (shooting for 2:15-2:30), and I really think I could have hit 2:15 if I hadn't had the calf cramping, but I am glad I finished, and the 13.1 miles is the farthest distance I've ran......hopefully next time I'll hit 2:15 or better.....I still got a PR since it was my first race of this distance though.....(one funny side note, the first thing my son said to me when I got finished was "what took you so long?"...the little stinker)

50 States Club

I met two guys who are shooting for the 50 states club (running a marathon in all 50 states) was from Georgia, and one was from Michigan...the guy from Georgia plans to run 12 marathons this year, and the guy from Michigan ran 15 last year, including Alaska....I can't imagine what these 50-staters spend on these races with airfare, hotels, entry fees,'s got to be we were talking about running, the guy from Georgia made a good point, I thought...his teenage son is really into basketball, like a lot of teenagers....everything is basketball, basketball, basketball.....his son runs too, and he has been trying to sway him to become more of a runner and drop basketball, because the odds and percentages are much more in your favor to get a scholarship for running/cross country than for basketball.....maybe I'll try to get my kids involved in running, if it means it could help pay for their college someday........

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My First Half Marathon Race Report, part 1

Well it wasn't pretty, but I finished the OKC Half Marathon.....for my race report I wanted to present it in the form of my Lessons Learned from Running My First Half Marathon:

  • I am slow….ok, that isn’t so much something I learned, because I already knew it, but it’s something that got re-confirmed…..I am amazed at the speed of the elite runners in these races….the winner of the mens marathon finished the full marathon before I got finished with the half….my chip time was 2:34….my 10K time was right at 1:00, but I could not run at all the last 2 miles due to severe calf cramping… the way, the guy that won the marathon—it was his first marathon, which makes it even more amazing (not that he beat me, but that he won)....anyway, the time was slow, but I guess now I've got a time to beat….
  • I can finish a half marathon---yes this was my main goal for this race….it almost didn’t happen under my own power though….seriously, the calf cramps were so bad the last mile that I needed someone to walk with me for 100 yards or so, and I actually considered hopping in a golf cart, but I was a quarter mile from the finish and sucked it up to finish under my own power...not sure if I could finish a full marathon after this, butI am confident that I could finish another half…..
  • You should drink plenty of fluid prior to the race…this is  part of what caused my cramping, I believe, along with the hot weather and humidity….I made the mistake of not drinking anything pre-race, mostly because I wasn’t thirsty……I did drink at about every water station, but with the extreme humidity it wasn’t enough and I got horrible calf cramps….
  • There are a lot of runners out there….it was so cool to see so many runners in one place…..they announced 19,000 for the race (probably all the race events combined), and it felt like it…..literally it never really thinned out until like mile 11 or so, and even then it just thinned out a little….I was running in a pack of people the whole time….
  • Oklahoma has hills….and I think we had most of them on this race….the course description said that it was a flat course, but don’t be deceived, there were several really good hills…not San Francisco type hills, but tough  hills to run nonetheless….
  • There are a TON of volunteers that make these races work…..I was so impressed with the volunteers and organization of this thing…amazing, really….
  • I’m not sure if all the hype during the run is was almost sensory overload for me to have live music, belly dancers, life size cut outs of Darth Vader, etc during the run….too many distractions and mentally I had a hard time focusing….don’t get me wrong, I think all that stuff was cool, but my training  takes place early morning with no distractions on quiet roads…this was quite the opposite, not something I am used to, and I wondered if it all was really necessary……
  • I really enjoyed the several parts of the race that ran through some neighborhoods….there were a lot of people sitting out in their front yards cheering runners on, handing out water or candy, and spraying water with a hose to help cool you down….I thought that was really neat….
  • The plastic GPS chip that times your race is pretty cool….it didn’t look like I expected, and it didn’t come with instructions on how to put it on, but I think I figured it out and attached it to my shoe….….also they had a way to get email/text alerts during the race, which I thought was a great idea, especially if you have someone waiting at the finish line for you, it gives them an idea of when you’ll cross the finish line….
  • The GU packs that are handed to you during the race are already opened….I ran by one water stop and grabbed two Gus, ate one and stuck the other in my pocket….by the end of the race I had a GU-ey mess in my shorts pocket….yeah, I'm smart I know...
  • The post race massage is heaven…..after running that far, and especially after cramping, I really wanted a massage, and there was a good sized massage tent at this race....and they were doing a great job of getting everyone massaged, I only had to wait about 20 minutes, and the masseuse focused on my cramping calves….it makes me think I should go get a massage sometime, I’ve never had one…..but this one was great…
  • There is a lot of littering on a race course….I know it’s not really preventable, but I was in awe at how many plastic cups and empty GU packs were littered all over the course…..
  • I learned again how much I love my Garmin….I'm still loving it just because it's new, but using in a race setting gave me a whole new affection for was awesome to be able to glance down and check out my pace at any time during the race…..I did, however, forget to disable the auto-stop feature (that stops the timing when you stop, like at a bathroom break or stretch break), so my Garmin time was off from the chip time…..
  • There aren’t many purple wicking shirts, evidently….the one thing I was wanting to get at the Expo was a purple shirt (K-State color), but there weren’t any…I asked one of the vendors and he said “I guess there isn’t a demand for them.”   I am sure there are some out there,  and I'm sure I’ll find one, just didn't get it at this Expo…..the Expo was kind of disappointing overall too, really, it was very crowded and didn't have much interesting runner stuff unfortunately….

It was great getting to meet a couple other bloggers, Fair Weather Runner and Running Briefs...we had dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse together with about 20 other people the night before the buddy  Adam was there too, and it was a fun blogger meet up...

Okay, this post is way too long already, so I'm going to end it here...if you made it this far congratulations...... my next post will be part two and will have a few more details and lots of pics!

Friday, April 24, 2009

TGIF Foto Friday -Putchyofaceinahole

My contibution to Nikemom's Foto Friday.   Yeah, I only wish I could win a race.  Any race.  
Check out to put your own face in a hole.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Final Countdown...

I started running 10 months ago, and in 4 days I will run my first half marathon.  I feel like I have come a long way.    I am excited and a bit nervous.  The OKC marathon is supposed to have 18,000 people, with about 15,000 of them doing the half marathon like me.   Unless I get injured, I am confident that I will finish, but it may not be fast.  My Nike+ miles are almost at 500 miles during these last 10 months, and as soon as it hits 500, I am going to stop using it to track my miles, and just use my Garmin.     I feel like I am as prepared as I will be for the OKC event, so I had my final pre-race run last night, a short 3 miler.  I am giving my legs/feet three days of rest leading up to the race.    

The weather forecast a few days ago said windy with a high of 81.   I checked it again just now and it said high of 78 with a 40% chance of rain.  I am  hoping for good running weather.  I really do not want to run in the rain.

I have had thoughts of continuing my training after the race to ramp up to a full marathon, but I am not sure yet.  A half marathon takes less time and demands and seems to fit my lifestyle better, so maybe I'll just try to find another half in a few months or so.  Not sure yet.  I am planning on doing our local River Run 10K 3 weeks after the race, so that will keep me busy.

Check out Tri Runner, he's giving away some Hornet Juice!

Happy Running everyone!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wheatgrass=best drink ever or waste of money?

Last month while out of town I was in a Jamba Juice getting a smoothie and the guy behind the counter asked if I wanted some wheatgrass. I hesitated, but he went on to say that another customer had ordered it and then left, so rather than see it go to waste he would just give it to me, free of charge.

He also said that this little 2-oz. shot glass full of wheatgrass had the equivalent of 3 pounds of vegetables, and that it's very healthy for you, apparently. So I tried it, with an OJ chaser. It wasn't great, and it wasn't bad either. Just kind of grassy tasting.

But I walked away scratching my head about his comment of there being so many nutrients in just a small shot glass full of juice. Does a shot of essentially a relative of lawn grass really offer the amazing health benefits that many health food stores claim?, a Web site that has information on all-natural and organic food products, advocates wheatgrass as an antibiotic, appetite suppressant and energizer. According to the site, the chlorophyll reacts with toxins in the body’s cells and tissues and brings them into the bloodstream to be excreted at a later time. The website also makes the claim that wheatgrass acts as a deodorizer with the ability to subdue the stench that comes with consumption of certain food and beverages or use of tobacco.

Vivian Crisman, nutritionist at Vaden Health Center, says the health craze surrounding wheatgrass is more marketing than truth. "Wheatgrass is isn’t loaded with proteins or vitamins or calcium or fiber,” Crisman said. “Marketers of wheat grass make these bold claims, but they don’t show up as facts on the nutrition label.”

Crisman said that she thought the energizing effects of drinking wheatgrass shots are likely to be psychological. “Any effect someone feels would probably be the result of the placebo effect, but it’s hard to quantify,” she said. “Asking someone, ‘do you feel a boost of energy after drinking this?’ isn’t measurable. If you tell someone that something is going to happen, you can’t tell whether the effects are real or perceived.”

I am not an advocate for or against wheatgrass, and if you drink it regularly and believe in the positive effects, more power to you. I am just skeptical about the claim that a shot of wheatgrass is as nutritionally valuable as 3 pounds of veggies. I think many Americans are looking for a shortcut to energy, or quicker, faster way to improved health. As for me, I'll stick with my veggies. But, if you offer a shot of wheatgrass to me for free, I won't turn you down either.....

Run to Finish is having a giveaway!  Check it out if you want some free stuff!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Running Superfans - Ultramarathon

Hello from my 12 miler in yesterday.  Weather was perfect for a run.....I intentionally went out slow, but then I stayed slow, and then really slowed after mile 8 or so...ended up time wise at 2:08:04, which is like a 10:40 pace....I'm thinking for OKC I might go out faster and if I tank, then I tank.....entering my last week of training, which will be a light long and strong everyone...

Friday, April 17, 2009

TGIF Foto Friday

This is officially my 100th post!  Wow, time flies when you're having fun.  I wanted to something fun to celebrate, maybe with a giveaway or something, but number 100 just kind of snuck up on me, and I am posting this from Illinois, where we are visiting my wife's hometown for her college reunion.   So the celebration will have to wait.   Due to the weather forecast I am bumping my long run up to tomorrow, and I am using to try to map out a 12 mile route.

Anyway, here is my contribution to Nikemom's Foto Friday.  This past fall we had a day where we got 14 inches of rain in 24 hours.  It was ridiculous.  I didn't think it would ever stop raining. There was flooding like crazy everywhere.  Streets were closed, cars were stalling out, homes were severly flood damaged, and kids were playing in it all.  These pics are from the street where I live, which leads into a park.   There are baseball fields in the park that had water up to the top of the dugouts.  Yeah, it was bad.   Luckily, we lived just up the hill so our home stayed dry (more or less).   These are some of the streets I run on:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Running Superfans -Driving Range

I love this clip because it combines two of my favorite things--golf and running...(Isaac, thought you'd like this one)

Running Update
Beautiful weather yesterday, temp in the high 60' in a total of 9.5 miles, including 4 after work...the weather is supposed to get windier/chillier/rainier the rest of the week, so I was glad to get the mid-week miles in.....saw my buddy Adam and sounds like there will be a big group of us hitting Spaghetti Warehouse the night before the OKC race in 11, 11 days!  I can't wait....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Meet Bill Mallonee

From Athens, Georgia, Bill Mallonee is a phenomenal songwriter, musician and artist. I believe he has a lot more talent than most of the artists on the radio today. I wish more people knew about him. That's why I'm introducing you. He is the former lead singer/songwriter for one of my favorite bands, Vigilantes of Love, who unfortunately disbanded in 2001. I saw them twice in concert and they were incredible. I have a couple of their songs on my iPod that I run to. Bill continues to write and perform as a solo artist, and though he has released 25 albums during his career, he has only made one music video, "Resplendent," below. It's not my favorite V.O.L. song, but it's still pretty good. Enjoy.

Running Update
12 days until my OKC half marathon! Yikes!
Ran 3 miles last night, 5.5 this morning, including 3 at speedwork pace of 8:30. Will try to get another 3-4 in tonight and 3-4 tomorrow morning. I am cramming these runs in because we are driving 10 hours to Illinois on Thursday for my wife's college reunion. I will be doing my last long run, a 12 miler, in Illinois. Then maybe a short run or two the week leading up to the race.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My First Garmin Run!

It's official...I have joined the world of all you Garmin-heads out there...I have to say that it was every bit as awesome as many of you had Nike+ has served me well and lasted a good 7-8 months, but it's time to move on....for my first Garmin run,  I still had my Nike+ with me though, too, and probably will for awhile anway (I'm trying to reach  500 miles on my Nike+, and have about 70 miles left to hit it)....

I got my Forerunner 205 on Friday, read the owner's manual (skimmed it really) and took it out Saturday for my 11 mile long run (my Tri-City run, where I run through parts of 3 cities).....I really love that you can look down and be able to tell your pace at a glance...and having an accurate distance is awesome too.   I went 11.02 miles in 1:51:57, a pace of 10:09, according to Mr Garmin......I think the watch looks bulky, but it didn't really feel bulky once I had it on my wrist...and it didn't take more than a minute to find a satelite...overall, I am very happy with the 205 purchase...

I am still trying to figure out the Garmin Training Center thing, and where to keep my charger....those of you that have a Garmin, how often do you synch on your computer?  And, can you synch on multiple computers?  I was thinking about installing the Garmin software on my laptop, but not sure if it will work....any other tips for a Garmin newbie?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter = Love is Here

Wishing everyone a very happy easter as we celebrate Jesus......

We went to a Christian concert on Good Friday with several bands....the arena was sold out, like 11,000 of opening bands, a new band called Tenth Avenue North, did a song that I thought was a great reminder of why we celebrate was called "Love is Here" camera video didn't turn out so well, so below is a snippet of the song, with the lyrics to the chorus below it....

Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from
His hands, from his brows.
Love is near, it satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from his side.
Cuz Love is here. 

God is Love, and Amen that Love is here..........

Friday, April 10, 2009

TGIF Foto Friday = Fishin'!

My boys went fishing for the first time last month with their grandpa, my dad.  My oldest caught 5 fish,  including a 2-lb. bass and my youngest caught one.  They had a wonderful time with their "papa."  I just hope they don't expect me to take them fishing every weekend now...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Nature of Success

Take 4 minutes and watch this video -

(Please note that the link ends with a promotion for the company..........this is simply their way to promote their own material, but in no way am I suggesting or promoting the recommendation that you subscribe to or purchase any products, nor are you required to view the material.)

I love the running pics and many of the quotes included. Two of my faves --

"Wisdom is knowing the right path to take... integrity is taking it." - M. H. McKee

"May it be said, when the sun sets on your life...many of your dreams came true, made the difference in the lives of others."

Running Update
Ran 7 miles this morning, 5 at Tempo pace of first half marathon is in 3 weeks and while my ultimate goal is to finish, I would like to see if I can maintain a 10 min pace throughout the run....two more weekend long runs until race day should tell me more about my expected pace....
***btw, thanks to everyone for all the Garmin advice, I have a 205 ordered, I really don't think I'll use the heart rate monitor....Wal Mart had them on sale for $150 and I had a couple gift cards so I really only had to pay $22 out of pocket....I hope to have it early next week to try it out a little before the OKC Half.....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Running Update and Garmin Advice

Running Update
Per my training plan I needed to run 3 easy miles on Monday, but my original plan was to put it off until Tuesday and get an extra rest day in.....However, the weather was forecasting a record low of 20 degrees Mon night, which would mean an ultra chilly run Tues AM, so I ran Monday evening after work and before our small group......

I wanted to get a quick run in, and it was quick, my fastest 3 miler yet I think--25:10........Even though I was supposed to do 3 easy miles, I think I had some pent up energy from sitting at a desk all day and felt like pushing the pace.....first mile--8, second in 830, third in 840, I was pretty winded on that third mile....I know this is not fast for many of you, but this is much faster than my regular pace...for some reason I felt like pushing it, despite what my training plan said...I have a rest day today and then need to get in an 8 mile tempo run tomorrow.....

Garmin Update--
I was very close to getting a Garmin yesterday. Wal Mart has the 205 pretty cheap, and from what I can tell the only difference between the 205 and the 305 is the heart rate monitor, and I don't think I'd use that anyway. It would probably end up in a desk drawer somewhere. I am also looking on ebay, craigslist and some runner forums. Can any of you speak to the the 205? Do you like it? Any other advantages for the 305 versus the 205?

Happy Easter Week everyone!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Wild West Still Lives, Evidently.....

My wife works part time at a children's resale consignment shop. This weekend they had their Christmas party for the staff and their spouses. (yes, I know it is April, but they were very busy around Christmas time)....anyway, we went to a place called the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper.....I had never been before even though it's just about 20 minutes outside of town. I have to say up front that I did not know that there was such a niche as western style or cowboy music or what not, but apparently there is. We were greeted when we drove in by cowboys and indians on horseback who helped us park our car. We took a ride in a wagon pulled by horses, sipped on lemonade and watched Roy Rogers movies while we waited for the dinner bell to ring. We browsed around in the Mercantile and gawked at all the western themed items on the walls. The food was good old fashioned barbecue, all you can eat, served by cowboys, or at least people dressed up like cowboys. They threw the biscuits from across the room if you wanted more and served seconds to you out of buckets. I felt like I had been transported to the old west. Everyone was wearing cowboy hats, chaps, and bandanas. There was the Happy Trails Theater, and the Hoppalong Cassidy Cowboy Museum. There were a lot of mementos of John Wayne and other cowboy heroes. After supper we listened to Western Swing music by a few different acts. By the way, the place was packed, probably 250 people, and we were among the youngest people there. The average age had to be about 65. You could see in the eyes of the older crowd that they were loving this cowboy stuff and western music. Many of them commented that this was the music they grew up with, and the things that brought back fond memories. It was sweet seeing one after another older couple get up and dance to the music, reminiscing about music from their past. (by the way,one song they did was "Ghost Riders in the Sky," and I was totally reminded of the scene in Blues Brothers when Jim Belushi and Dan Ackroyd sang "Rawhide" over and over again behind chicken wire at that country bar)

It was a fun evening out. Here are a few pics....

Here we are at the dinner table...yes, that is a cow hide on the wall behind us...there were probably about 20 saddles on the walls too as decoration.....

This guys name is Johnny Western......

I thought these signs were funny....

Yes, the Duke still reigns apparently......

Running Update....
I ran 5 miles 4 times this week, 20 miles was my "easy" week, with no tempo runs or speedwork...even my long run wasn't very long....I am feeling a twinge of pain in my foot so am going to take tomorrow off, maybe the day after too......also I am very excited that I have the green light from my wife to get a Garmin. Woo-hoo! I am shopping around, so if any of you bloggers has one for sale, let me know. Doubt that I will go for the 405 because of the cost...most likely I'll get a 305.....not in a rush, but it would be cool to have it by the end of April for my OKC Half.....
By the way, it was extreeeemly windy again, like 30-40 mph wind, and snow is in the forecast again for tomorrow....seriously, what is up with this weather?????
Edited to include yet another giveaway --
Happy Runner is having a giveaway, check it out here

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Teaching Your Kids to Be a Runner......

I was listening to The Extra Mile podcast this past week and one of the runners mentioned that on his "Bucket List" of runs to do was to run a half-marathon or marathon with each of his kids.

That got me to thinking, "will my kids become runners?" I mean, they are young now, and they like to run. Even through the house. Chasing each other. Knocking over lamps and stuff. And they run outside at play. Through flower gardens even. But running comes so naturally to young kids that they don’t even care that it’s good for them. They just know that they have to move fast to squeeze the most out of every day.

My kids becomming runners is not really the goal. I just want them learn to live healthy lives, including exercise and eating right. Running is, in my opinion, just a great way to become fit and stay fit.

So here are some ideas that I plan to implement over the next 5 to 10 years in hopes that they might catch the running bug:

  • While they are still young (6 and 8), play games that have running in them, like freeze tag or duck, duck, goose....

  • Continue to encourage them to be involved in sports that have a running component, like soccer, baseball, etc

  • Invite them to take a run with me, even if it's just around the block, and even if they are on their bikes at first.

  • Take walks with them, which can often include little "race you to the telephone pole" activities.

  • Make sure they have good shoes for running...even if they like other types of shoes (skateboarder-type shoes are popular with one of my sons), make sure they have athletic running shoes around and available.

  • Take them to a race that I'm running so they can experience the event, and teach them how to cheer for the racers (maybe with a cowbell or noisemaker).

  • Get them signed up for a Kids run (1 K or 1 mile to start), maybe even run a race alongside of them if needed.

  • Set the example by continuing to run regularly and participating in local races both as a runner and a spectator.

  • Take them to a local track meet at a junior high or high school. Help them gain a vision for seeing themselves as a runner someday too.

  • Teach them about the benefits of running, and include the benefits of eating right with it.

These were some of my ideas, I'd love to hear any ideas you have on the topic. Maybe you were raised in a running family, or maybe you've raised a runner already. What are your suggestions?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mid Day Distraction

maybe this is one of aron's dogs dreaming about all those runs she is taking them on.......

your caption?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Does Exercise Reduce Stress?

( I got a lot of this from an article, but I can't remember where......)

We've all heard of "walking off" tension, or "blowing off steam" at the gym. But does working out really relieve stress?  The answer is yes — for reasons both physical and psychological, immediate and long-term. Once you get the scoop on the impact it can have, you might just want to run out and work up a sweat! Here are some of the ways exercise can help your state of mind:
1. It's a Great Release
First of all, physical activity uses up the flood of extra energy that's biologically hard-wired into our stress response — designed to fuel our ancestors through fight-or-flight situations like getting chased by a bear. Today, "we're worrying about more complex survival issues," points out biofeedback expert Dr. Andrew Elmore, "but our bodies react in the same reflexive way by releasing all this energy, which in the modern world we call anxiety. If I worry about paying the rent and my heart starts pounding, it doesn't help me pay the rent. Exercise is a way of using that energy — even if it doesn't solve your problems — to make your body stronger, to burn calories, which is a good thing."
2. It Provides a "High"
But that's just the tip of the chill-out iceberg. Exercise can be a system-wide "quick fix" to help counteract the physical effects of the stress response. "Aerobic exercise increases the body's production of natural, morphine-like painkillers called endorphins," says Dr. Christian VanDenBerg, Director of the Executive Health Program at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. "And physical activity does a lot of metabolic things that are beneficial. It also improves your brain's oxygen supply."
3. It Reduces Tension
Even less aerobic forms of physical activity, such as simple stretching, can relax the body and release stress. "One way we store tension is by habitually contracting our muscles," explains Cathy Calderon, director of the Shambhala Yoga and Dance Center. "Stretching helps release that tension, and the nervous system starts to send calming messages to the body. If you're sitting at a computer all day, lift up your arms and stretch your shoulders; do a couple of head rolls. You will release so much built-up tension in the neck and shoulders."
4. It Clears Your Mind
Working out also offers psychic benefits. "One of the best reducers of stress is a sense of confidence," points out psychologist Dr. Fred Luskin of the Stanford Forgiveness Project. "And you can get through a stressful situation with a lot more confidence if you know you can go for a run afterward." Exercise provides a "time-out" that can be crucial to getting some perspective on your worries. "A major point of working out is that you get to focus on something outside your normal realm of problems," observes Doug Firestone, director of the Aikido of Westchester dojo in New York. "If someone's trying to throw you down on the aikido mat, it's hard to let your mind wander to anything else."
5. It Gives You Strength
In the long run, regular physical activity is one of your body's best defenses against the wear and tear of chronic stress. From lowering your blood pressure and heart rate to invigorating your immune system, exercise "simply strengthens the resiliency of your body's systems so they can handle stress better," Dr. Luskin says. "It takes more to challenge the equilibrium of a fit person than a couch potato." In other words, the stronger and healthier you are, the better you can deal with whatever life throws your way.

Win $100!
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