high score screen

In praise of being a generalist

There’s something undeniably alluring about being highly accomplished at something. Being the best. Being at the top of your field, your game, your performance. But there’s an opportunity cost to this kind of excellence— the time and focus you dedicate to one thing, you are not dedicating to anything else. Can single-minded focus actually undermine your effectiveness? It depends on what you are doing. . .

Let’s think about this through the lens of running for a moment. We are not all 100m sprinters, even though that’s impressive, and you can win cash and medals and huge endorsements and titles like “the fastest man in the world.” But is Usain Bolt, impressive as he is, better at everything than you are? Is he a better human than you are? His speed is truly amazing, but it’s just speed. This is why obstacle course races are cool— you have to be fast, but you also have to be tough, have power, have strength, have skills. Even the crossfit games (as mixed as my feelings are about crossfit) are a good example of testing a broad set of competencies rather than a narrow one.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I am not, shall we say, a highly focused individual. I am curious, a bricoleur, a person who loves to say yes and follow side trails. My grandmother once wrote a poem about my twin sister and me, where she was the arrow and I was the hummingbird. She was a smart lady, my grandmother.  Continue reading

Running on a Hot Day: Why Bother?

There are lots of tips out there for how to surive running in the heat— basically, go early or late, hydrate appropriately, wear light clothing, run slower. But if you’re not training for a hot race (Badwater? what are you, nuts?), why bother?

Well, there are likely physiological benefits, so if you care about that sort of thing, or you’re looking for a performance goal, keep reading. Training in the heat can potentially improve VO2 max, blood plasma volume, sweat rate, and skeletal muscle force— and this translates into cooler conditions. Neat!

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Using the legs to settle the mind— travel edition

Sorry for the short break. I’ve been traveling. I do a reasonably large amount of traveling— I’m not George Clooney in Up in the Air, but I travel for work a few times a year and for fun whenever I get the chance. Sometimes you go to Barcelona, sometimes you go to Indianapolis. What can you do?
Traveling can be a little taxing on everyone, but for the hardcore introvert (TM), air travel is a special kind of torture. Robbed of personal space, forced into small talk, bombarded with the airport and airplane noise, too close for comfort with the sounds and smells of thousands of strangers, lacking an escape route. This is the stuff introvert nightmares are made of. But it’s part of the deal, if you want to get from point A to point B in a timely fashion, which I do.
I arrive with a disorienting and uncomfortable fog over me. Every. Single. Time. All the standard travel advice in the world doesn’t seem to fix it— not hydrating properly, not xanax, not the perfect chic travel outfit. But one thing does help: using my legs, as often as possible. If I’m not home, you better believe I am moving myself through space using my legs.
starve log

anything to brag about? no. immensely helpful to my state of mind? absolutely.

I schlepp my stuff around from terminal to terminal at the airport, rather than sit at the gate. I go outside when I get there and walk around the block. I go out for coffee instead of going to the Starbucks in the lobby.  I find a body of water (there’s always a body of water!) and go for a quick jog. And it settles me, a little bit. Enough, usually. That leg-brain connection that gives us our best ideas when we’re a few miles in? Same magic here, I think. Do you have any tricks to settle the restless mind when you’re traveling?

Kinesio taping: yea nor nay?

I’ve had a minor niggling calf pain for a week or so. Should I kinesio tape that sucker? Kinesio tape (also called KT tape, though technically that’s a brand name): it was a hot ticket at the olympics a few years ago (London, maybe?). I’ve used it before, for minor tweaks and sore spots. I see others at the gym doing it. Patients of mine ask about it. Professionals (hi PTs!) do it. Theoretically, kinesio taping is supposted to increase blood and lymph flow by lifting the skin— this isn’t the same as traditional athletic taping, which is meant to create stability. Because I’m a science person, I’m immediately skeptical of a claim without evidence, even if it seems generally sane.

So, let’s ask: Kinesio tape. Is it safe? Does it do anything? Should I cover myself in multi-colored tape before my next workout?
taped up and ready to run.

why yes, my KT tape does match my skoras, than you for noticing.

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Running, Thrills, and Awesome

It’s THRILLING to accomplish something you weren’t certain you could do. For all the babble out there and instagram quotes about comfort zones and breakthroughs and whatnot, that central truth remains. And to accomplish something you aren’t certain you can do, you have to, well, do something you aren’t sure you can do. For people who are risk-averse creatures of habit, this can be a huge leap— but so, so worth it. There are roller-coaster thrills, and then there are life-changing thrills. On the roller coaster, you know you’re on there for five minutes and everything’s been safety-checked. For the other kind, there’s no net— you don’t know what will happen.

Last weekend, I ran a Ragnar Relay with my sister and a bunch of other lawyers.

the van

what could go wrong?

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Running, Racing, and Life

Why, as a reasonably slow adult, would I choose to participte in competitive running events? I pay money, run when I don’t feel like running, make a trip to whatever running shop to pick up my bib and tshirt, get up at some ungodly hour of the morning, wait in line for a porta-potty in the freezing cold, and then run so hard I feel a little sick, only to finish in the middle of the pack, eat an underripe banana, go home, and go back to whatever the rest of my life holds that day.

Sounds a little crazy, I guess, when I try to explain it.

But competitive running events are immensely popular among adults who aren’t, and never were, elite athletes. I know some people do it for the social aspect, some people do it because they need some external accountability (interesting thoughts on this re: Gretchen Ruben’s 4 tendancies— stay tuned). Some people are just really competitive and they get a buzz from that. I get a little satisfaction from these aspects, but not a lot. I’m an introvert. I’m pretty self-motivated. So why? Continue reading