Heart Rate Variability is being touted as the next best thing in a world of stimulants and overtrained athletes. After using it for more than a year on my own, I pitched a story to Outside magazine. It was green-lighted for the September, 2015 issue. After a pleasant edit or two, however, it was shelved (the inner workings of a major magazine’s editorial process are mysterious). Thankfully, it just hit the newsstands in their April, 2016 issue. I also wrote the sidebar on “Things Athletes Should Know About Their Hearts,” page 70. Go check it out and let me know what you think. http://goo.gl/IgwK1e
On Tuesday, Dec 8th, Competitor magazine published a piece I wrote about ultrarunning being at a crossroads on the performance-enhancing drug question. In the short time it was up, it was shared over 500 times on Facebook. It started some wonderful conversations. My own post on FB had a fantastic, intelligent comment string well worth reading through.
Twenty-four hours later it was gone. Friends started telling me their post weren’t just gone but any comments made by anyone were completely stripped from their histories. You couldn’t find the article or any mention of it anywhere on FB. It was even removed from Competitor magazine’s FB page.
It may have been flagged and taken down or it may have simply been stripped by a FB algorithm that searches the site for keywords. It’s conceivable that because the article was ostensibly about drug use it was taken down. It’s possible that a few people didn’t like my writing and flagged it as offensive. Either way its gone on FB’s whim. With so many of us getting our news from FB that they can make or break articles, they can make or break page views. If you’ve ever tracked this stuff, FB destroys Twitter or any other way of reaching an audience. It’s just so big. The bigger it gets the more control it will have over the narrative and the cultural discussions we are allowed to have.
I don’t know about you, but that frightens me.
– Podcast series everyone should hear — This podcast kept coming up on my radar, so last week I dug in. It’s an amazing five-part series on the Khans, you know, Genghis Khan, who pretty much took over the world in the 1200’s and spread his seed so far and wide that most of us have some of his DNA in us. The history is stranger and more brutal than fiction, check it out: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: Wrath of the Khans I.
– Interview with a smart guy to check out — I’m a fan of journalist David Epstein. His book, The Sports Gene, is brilliant. He’s also picked fights with Malcolm Gladwell over the 10,000 hour rule, and he broke the Alberto Salazar is cheating story. For the cliffs notes of his book watch his TedTalk, “Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?”.
– Sweet ass rope, yo — For the past month I’ve been working these CrossRopes into my training. They’re fantastic. I have the speed rope, an intermediate weight, and then a one pound rope. My feeble tiny runner’s arms really feel it when I use the two heavier ropes. I’ve been in CrossFit classes where I take a massive time-hit because I suck at jumping rope, mores specifically double-unders. But, with just a little bit of jump rope practice a few times a week I’m quickly improving. A jump rope is an awesome, mobile piece of workout equipment that will help strengthen your lower legs (more on that very soon), even if you have a gym membership it’s a good idea to have one around.
– Recent long-form article I loved — This piece on Stephen Colbert from GQ magazine (Sept issue) stayed with me; my mother on the other hand was distracted by the style employed and hated it. Because Colbert played a character the entire nine years of his last show we never got know what he really thought about certain topics. In it he discusses how the loss of his father and two brothers when he was 10 affected his life.
– A book worth reading (or returning to) — Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is a classic book on how to write (originally published in 1920). I know it’s good because the topic is dry, yet, sentences like this stay with me, “Do not dress words up by adding –ly to them, as though putting a hat on a horse.” Seriously, don’t put a hat on a horse when you write. I bought this pretty illustrated version mostly because the recent edition is appallingly bad, but also because I thought it might spruce up the topic. If you are a writer I highly suggest reading this one.
** Now go read something I got paid to write!
Leaving Microsoft (and a desk) behind at the end of 2005 was a seismic shift for me. Though most of my former colleagues would see my lifestyle as vagabond and my income as poverty-level, my newfound freedom of location and ability to make my own schedule have increased my quality of life in innumerable ways. However, unchecked freedom without discipline can easily lead to hedonism. Adding journalism to two already full-time jobs as coach and ultrarunner meant I had to learn how to be more productive and efficient with my time. I quickly found that without anything to anchor my day, it was a crapshoot. Some days were very productive, others, not so much.
In an attempt to moor myself to some sort of daily structure—without acquiescing to a 9-5 job—I started playing around with Morning Rituals (how artists work). Yesterday I read The Morning Miracle, though I finished wishing these self-help gurus could just get to the point already. I’ll save you having to read the book; start your list with this acronym as your template, then edit as you see fit, and get up before everyone else to make this happen.
This is about putting yourself in the right place to have a successful, productive day, every day. So, I got up at 5:15 am and—BEFORE I turned a computer on—did the following:
- Check Heart Rate Variability before coffee. This is the best way I’ve found to get a status of my central nervous system and its preparedness for stress (ie training, work, life).
- Meditate: The benefits are hard to ignore at this point, however my monkey mind hates it, which is exactly why I persist. (I love the Muse device, but the Headspace app is very good and free)
- Affirmations & Visualizations: This is a bit woo-woo for me, but I muddled through it.
- Mobility + Strength: What Kelly Starrett stresses in his book, Ready to Run, is the need for humans to spend at least 10 minutes every day doing maintenance on their bodies. I couldn’t agree more, and my coaching clients all do some sort of daily mobility—it works. This will change over time, but today I hung from my pull-up bar, sat in a squat, and rolled out my spots, each for 5 minutes total (Hang/Squat/Roll). I then did some basic strength work on my limiters (hips and ankles).
- PowerBreathe: Three sets through this device to strengthen respiratory muscles—believe it.
- Morning Pages: If journaling worked for Marcus Aurelius, Ben Franklin, and Mark Twain who am I to scoff? Here is the 5-minute journal I use. I think the gratitude component is the most powerful here.
- Read: This is the perfect time—no internet, early morning—to get your 6-pages of reading done.
- Write: I’m a writer so I added this in addition to the Morning Pages journaling. I spent 20 minutes on a book I’m writing (it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s more than zero).
- One Big To-Do: You can now turn your computer on, because at this point you’ll be primed to have an amazingly productive day—look at all you’ve already gotten done. Like the “make your bed every morning” idea that even small successes lead to big successes—start with these easy wins and build on them. I effortlessly slid into work-mode and was able to finish a huge project I’d been putting off for months. For your big to-do items, use this great blog by Tim Ferriss to figure out what to focus on.
Having done all this today before anyone else was even awake was astonishingly empowering. I’m now committing to making this ritual a habit. Imagine how productive you’ll be if you can get this much done first thing every morning, before you get caught up in the torrent of life, the tyranny of your inbox, and other people’s agendas. I’m going for 30 consecutive days—wanna join me?
Read 10 books a year.
So simple, yet so powerful, it changed my life, and it will change yours.
A person who doesn’t read gets the same education as someone who can’t read. [tweet this]
I’m deep into Tony Robbins’ tome on finance called MONEY: Master the Game, in which he says, “I didn’t quite read a book a day, but over seven years, I did read more than 700 books to find the answers to help myself and others.” That’s 100 books a year. Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of all time, estimates that 80 percent of his working hours are spent reading. When I think about what I want to spend my time doing, it’s comes down to reading, writing, running (or skiing or biking or just exercising outside), and spending time with the people I love. The books you read are less important than the actual reading.
Read widely and outside your field. [tweet this]
What we’re after here is the habit of reading. I realize very few people can manage a book a day, or even 100 a year. The good news is that’s not necessary for this to work. Even just 10 books in a single year will change your life forever. At average reading paces that comes down to about six minutes of reading a day.
- Get a library card. You’ll be able to get audiobooks and hard books for free.
- Wake up and read. Get it in before the kids get up and the craziness of your day starts. Sip your coffee and read your book for the first 20-30 minutes of each day.
- Read before bed. This is a great way to unwind before drifting off. Leave the screens out of the bedroom (they are detrimental to your sleep and your sex life).
- Read offline and unplugged. Your iPhone and computer are distractions (practice airplane mode). The book, The Shallows, is good on this.
- Start small. Set a timer and go for that six minutes. Work up to 20 pages or 20 minutes, it doesn’t matter, just get started today. If you get distracted just come back to it as quickly as you can.
- Listen to an audiobook while you exercise. All you endurance athletes will be amazed how many books you can consume this way.
- Take a book with you. Whenever you leave the house be sure to grab your book. You will be more likely to read it when you’re stuck in an unexpected long line. Twitter and Facebook can wait, must wait. I know they give you that pellet of dopamine, but they won’t change your life.
- Join a book club. The peer pressure will help push you to read more. If you are in Boulder hit me up, the Boulder Book Club might have one or two spots left.
- Use Good Reads to track progress, books you want to read, and where you are against your reading goals (which you now have!).
** This is my first attempt to blog more often. Short, punchy 300-500 word pieces—hit me on twitter with any topic ideas you’d like to read.
Altra Running shoe give-away, y’all! (for the readers out there)
Want a free pair of the new Altra Torin 2.0 running shoes? Here’s your chance. Watch this video, then share with me in the comments your favorite magazine article on running. It can be long or short. Here’s one of mine: http://buff.ly/1HrkSGn
I’ll read them all and select my favorite. If it’s you, Altra will send you a pair of Torin 2.0s in the mail!
About a month ago Outside magazine asked me to write a profile on high altitude mountain guide Karl Egloff. He had officially hit the tipping point—breaking two of Kilian Jornet’s speed records will do that—and someone needed to write a definitive profile on him. I was on a PR trip in Montana so I asked when they needed it. The response was “As soon as possible.” Of course.
Being in different time zones made this tough, but Egloff was gracious with his time. We had a great conversation, and he seems to be a smart and humble guy. Here is the resulting piece. As with most articles I write I wish I could change a few things, but it ended up being one of the top articles traffic-wise on Outside the week it went live. I attribute that to the dearth of information that was out there and Outside’s authoritative status rather than my wordsmithing—but I’ll take it!
I’m going through a bit of a blog revival. It’s winter 2014/2015 and you local trails are beginning to get covered with packed ice and snow. What to do? Well, might I suggest ski mountaineer racing… but shy of that, if you simply must continue to climb mountains and run trails here is a video I did for Mountain magazine on making your favorite shoes all-terrain by outfitting them with some sheet metal screws. It’s way easier than you think and only takes about three minutes.
My latest piece for Outside magazine.