In the immortal words of C.S. Lewis:

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

Sooner or later, you have to shake up your life.

With running, it means making the decision to train seriously so you can have a breakthrough race. After a giant PR, everything changes: your new workload baseline, workout paces, and expectations for yourself.

Just like in 2005 when I changed how I approached summer training before cross country (and had my best season ever), there’s always something you can do differently:

  • Higher mileage
  • Longer (or faster) workouts
  • Consistency over a long period of time
  • Re-dedication to strength workouts
  • and a lot more…

And just like running, life is much the same.

Want a promotion? Start performing at a higher level and results will naturally come.

Want to meet the love of your life? Stop staying in every weekend and go meet people that share your interests.

Want to make more money? Start working the street corner for fast cash. (<– not good advice)

Whatever your goal or ambition, change is necessary. Without change, there will never be progress.

So with that said, I’m thrilled to announce the next chapter for me: a cross country move from Washington, DC to Denver, Colorado. For the last few days, I’ve been furiously unpacking and setting my family up in our new house in the heart of Denver.

It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s just a little bit crazy. But it feels right.

Why Move to Denver?

Denver
Morning walk for a cup of coffee!
 

Before this year, I hadn’t been to Denver for more than a few days. The city brought up images of mountains, skiing, and good beer. But when my wife and I had a daughter last year, we started thinking about where we wanted to live long-term. DC is great, but it’s not the lifestyle that we were truly looking for.

So we spent three weeks in Denver last May, exploring the city and we fell in love with it. The mountains are gorgeous (trail running here I come!), the craft beer scene is mouthwatering, the outdoorsy vibe of the city is palpable, and the weather makes it possible to be outside most days.

Then there’s the running scene: the Denver / Boulder area is a distance running mecca. With fantastic weather and easy access to altitude and trails, Denver is a hub for runners who are passionate about their sport.

Whenever I’m confronted with a difficult life decision, I think about what I value most and that always leads me to the right answer. Reflecting on what’s most important to me – and what I want to avoid – is my standard decision-making framework.

DC is one of the worst traffic cities in the country and has a hectic, “work at all costs” mentality because of politics that never resonated with me. Plus, the cost of living nearly rivals New York or San Francisco. Why stay?

While losing Rock Creek Park stings, knowing that I can drive 20 minutes to some of the best trails in the country makes that an acceptable loss.

People are friendlier. Traffic is virtually non-existent. I now have a formal office! The drier climate will make running in the heat of summer a lot easier. And the beer sure is good :)

Change is Brewing for Running, too!

Moving to Denver isn’t just about the benefits of the city. It also marks a big transitional time in my running career: after 16 years of training competitively, I’m now more interested than ever in different running goals than just trying to get faster.

Speed, personal bests, and racing the clock dominated my approach to running for the majority of the last two decades. After any race, I was most interested in the time next to my name in the results. If it wasn’t a PR, it didn’t interest me.

But as I get older and grow my family, other types of running achievements are more attractive. There’s just so much more to running than getting faster.

I’d love to seriously get into trail and mountain running. Maybe even take a shot at ultra running!

Instead of traditional road races, I want to test myself at more obstacle races like Warrior Dash.

I also want to accomplish a few training records in the process, like finally running 100 miles in one week and 400 miles in one month (pro tip: attempt this during a 31-day month).

With the natural landscape and running scene in the Denver area, I know I’m in the right place.

What does this mean for you?

And as I write the next chapter of my life and running career, I’m thrilled to have you along for the ride. Strength Running provides me accountability to practice what I preach (how can I skip a core routine now?!), share the lessons I learn along the way, and better help runners of all levels achieve their goals.

SR is about so much more than just getting faster. Of course, you can get a helluva lot faster with the advice and resources here. But what if you want to…

  • prevent injuries?
  • crush an obstacle race?
  • run an ultramarathon?
  • lose weight for good?
  • just get started with running?
  • live a healthier, more active life?

Strength Running has helped with some of these so far – and it will continue to help you use running to accomplish all of your goals, whether that’s a PR, a 100-mile ultra, or simply to lose 10 pounds. And there are many new projects on the horizon that I’m incredibly excited to share with you. Stay tuned!

Change is the only constant and I’m already feeling more inspired and fulfilled by helping runners reach new levels.

Thank you for being part of this special community of runners! SR has big things in its future :)

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“I call them business meetings,” pro marathoner Ryan Hall once said about his daily nap.

Better Sleep

Ryan is the fastest American marathoner and half marathoner of all-time and is so adamant about his regular nap that he insists it’s part of his job:

“Everyone else seems to call their afternoon shuteye ‘naps.’ I call them ‘business meetings.’ On my easy days, I schedule two hours for these meetings. When you’re sleeping, your body absorbs all the hard work. It’s ironic: one of the best ways to get better is to do nothing.”

It’s true: when most elite runners are capable of just about the same training, the competitive advantage is often outside of running. Extra sleep – or in other words, extra recovery - may make the difference in how well you adapt to your training.

Yeah that’s great for the pros, but what does it mean for us recreational runners? Simple: the more you ask of your body, the more it needs to rest and recover. Learning how to sleep better could be the next big performance enhancer for you.

It’s also true for athletes in a variety of other sports. A Stanford study had their basketball team sleep 10 hours per night with almost immediate results: improved mood and higher energy, but more importantly faster sprint times and more accurate shooting! The researchers found comparable results for Stanford’s swimming, track, golf, football, and tennis teams.

Can you imagine how much more energized you would feel for every run if you were properly rested? Your mood would be better but you’d also see tangible performance benefits - just like the participants in that Stanford study.

Maybe you’d be more motivated to run more frequently, helping you gain more endurance.

Your training would ultimately be more productive, helping you gain speed (without doing any extra work!).

It’s likely you wouldn’t have as many aches, pains, and small niggles that always leave you wondering if you should run or not.

After your running annual review, you might find that sleep is the next piece of your training that needs an upgrade.

Here’s how you can do it.

Sleep 101: Daily Lifestyle Matters!

Ok, sleep is starting to sound like it could really help your running. I haven’t even covered everything yet: there’s also evidence that you’ll experience fewer overuse injuries if you sleep more! So get your sleep – and more injury advice here.

But how do we ensure that when the time comes for bed, we’re able to fall asleep? Many of us get in bed and lie there fully awake, unable to fall asleep. We wonder why we were so tired at 3pm but now at night we can barely shut our eyes.

Getting to sleep faster is something that you can start remedying during the day so you’re better prepared once the sun sets. Sometimes it’s what we do hours before you fall asleep that really matters.

First, easy on the stimulants. Limit caffeine after 1-4pm depending on your tolerance and sensitivity. While some can have a shot of espresso and fall asleep an hour later, caffeine can make you sleep more restlessly, waking up more often than usual.

If you typically have a coffee in the afternoon, try replacing it with green or black tea. Both have less caffeine than coffee (green tea can have as little as 1/4 as much caffeine).

Exercise is a natural sleep aid and is a critical component to a good night’s rest. You’re probably a runner if you’re reading this so here’s even more incentive to go for a run most days of the week! If you run regularly, you can expect to fall asleep faster, improve the overall quality of your sleep, and sleep more overall.

Just be aware that running within 2-3 hours of going to sleep may affect your ability to fall asleep (especially if you run a hard or fast workout). Your central nervous system will still be “awake” and you’ll feel restless instead of tired.

Get your sunlight! If you work inside, you might be throwing your circadian rhythm off by avoiding sunlight during the day. Akin to living in a cave, not getting any sunlight alters your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

Direct sunlight impacts melatonin production and reminds your body that it’s supposed to be awake – and darkness reminds it that it’s bedtime. So go for a walk, get outside during your lunch hour, and enjoy the sunlight!

But if you need to go to sleep during the day (like if you work the night shift), avoid sunlight as much as possible and wear sunglasses outside.

How to Get to Sleep Faster

Now that you’ve taken steps to get yourself ready to fall asleep during the day, it’s important to make sure you can get to sleep as fast as possible once you turn the lights out. But most of us struggle with either sleep procrastination or taking too long to fall asleep.

Sleep procrastination is familiar to all of us: it’s when we say I’ll go to bed in fifteen minutes and then after an hour of watching cat videos on YouTube, reruns of Seinfeld, or reading that stupid Reddit threat we wonder why the hell we’re not in bed.

There’s nothing forcing us to stay awake, but we do it anyway. The “trick” to get yourself to go to bed when you intend to is to set an external reminder: a watch alarm or automatic timer that shuts off your TV both work well.

These work because you need an external notification to shock you out of that tired, groggy state of procrastination. If you don’t use a cue to snap yourself out of that state, you’ll keep watching those cat videos until midnight.

But what if you have no problem going to bed at the right time? Some of us get to bed on time but lie there, wondering why we can’t fall asleep. If you lie in bed struggling to sleep, don’t stay there. Sleep is a habit and the more often you associate your bed with not sleeping, the more frequent it will become.

5 More Tips to Sleep Better Tonight

With a third of American adults not getting enough sleep, it’s critical to get the best sleep possible. Let’s talk about actionable advice you can implement TONIGHT to start sleeping more soundly.

Do these 5 things and you’ll dramatically improve your quality of sleep and fall asleep faster:

Use blackout curtains in your bedroom that block all outside light from your windows. This alone will reduce the number of times you wake up early in the morning.

Block outside noise by using a noise machine. You can buy a separate one (common for infants) but I prefer to use an app like Simply Rain. If your partner can’t stand the extra noise, a pair of good ear plugs works too.

Set up a humidifier to add more moisture to the air in your bedroom. You’ll breathe easier and won’t get a parched mouth with higher humidity. This is much more important if you live in an arid environment or overuse heating or air conditioning.

Read a fiction book immediately before bed to clear your head and forget your to-do list. See what’s on my reading list here and shut your brain off at the end of the day.

Power down all screens at least 30 minutes before bed. No laptop, television, iPad, smart phone, etc. This is tough, but the blue light from the screens negatively affects your circadian rhythm and impacts melatonin production. If you must work on a computer or laptop at night, use a program that limits blue light like f.lux (free).

Remember that being a good runner is about much more than just running. These “sleep hacks” can all improve the quality of your sleep to better enhance your recovery.

If you’d like a free e-course that shows you what other elements of a healthy lifestyle can help you run faster and with fewer injuries, sign up here to get started.

Now a question for you: what helps you sleep better? Leave your best tips for falling asleep faster, sleeping more soundly, and getting more sleep in the comments below.

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The Importance of a Running Annual Review (here’s one of mine too)

July 21, 2014

Tweet Rarely do we take a meaningful amount of time and step back from the bustle of our daily lives to reflect on our accomplishments and progresss. But it’s a valuable tool that can help you stay on track with all of your goals. Author Chris Guillebeau performs his own annual review to evaluate his personal and professional […]

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9 Reasons You’re Running Slow (and how to fix them to get faster)

July 14, 2014

Tweet Isn’t it funny that when something isn’t working, most of us just “buckle down” and try harder (even if you’re lost doing the wrong thing)? But often “what got you here, won’t get you there.” So if you’ve hit a plateau and are stagnating, running the same times and getting frustrated, doing more of the […]

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When Are You Ready to Run a Marathon?

July 9, 2014

Tweet A few weeks ago a runner emailed me and said: “I started running a few weeks ago and I’m up to 9 miles per week with a 4 mile long run. I’m also working on increasing the run portion (I’m walking every few minutes) of all my runs. I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon […]

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The 13 Weirdest Things Runners Do

July 2, 2014

Tweet If you run, you’re probably a huge weirdo. But don’t worry, I am too – and there’s safety in numbers so I’m glad you’re here! After running for 16 years, my life has become progressively weirder. Not only do I do things that normal folks think are unbelievable / weird / crazy / stupid, […]

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The 5 Traits of a Good Running Coach (and when you should think twice)

June 26, 2014

Tweet In the fall of 2001 after the season’s first home cross country race, I went on a four mile warm-down with a few other runners from the Varsity team. After the run as we were recounting our battle stories from the race, one of the track coaches walked by and asked why we were at […]

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Everything You Need to Know About Running in the Heat This Summer

June 19, 2014

Tweet Summer training ain’t easy. With skyrocketing temperatures, high humidity, and scorching sun it can feel like it’s impossible to get in a good run. A long run or fast workout is hard enough. What about a RACE? Like a friend of mine always says: In the heat, I don’t compete! Even if you just run […]

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What’s the Ideal Runner’s Diet Plan? Matt Fitzgerald Says…

June 16, 2014

Tweet The other day I had dinner with a registered dietitian who also has a Masters in Public Health. After my second Coke, I felt the need to explain that I don’t normally drink soda. Even though I was all jacked up from the the sugar and caffeine rushing through my system, I felt guilty. Yes, […]

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Inspiration on Tap: The Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half & Festival

June 11, 2014

Tweet I’ll admit: I’m in a slump. Motivation is low and the only inspiration to run I’ve had recently was when the scale showed an extra ten pounds. The desire to train after any marathon, particularly an overwhelmingly emotional one like Boston, will likely be small. It’s normal. You feel like you’re in a rut and […]

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