Guest post: The basic 8 of regular exercise

Note: Thank you again to Dr. Steven Jonas for his contribution to this blog. This one is a topic that anyone can learn from. We get so caught up in train-race-repeat it’s easy to forget the underlying reasons we “du” what we do: to be healthy! Train wisely and race with “eyeballs out” (thank you Devon Yanko for the phrase), but remember the long game. 

My apologies again for not writing more often. Busy work, tending to a cat with cancer and a general burnout because of the first two took some wind out of my sails. I’m on the upswing again, so I hope to get back to a more regular schedule soon! Now, on to the expert! — Du it for You

The basic 8 of regular exercise

While some of us live where we can race year-round, in many parts of the country, even with the onslaught of global warming, winter is on its way. And as it comes, those of us who train year-round (which I happened to have done in my 34 years in duathlon), think about what we are going to do, how we are going to train, as the weather limits the amount of time we can safely spend outdoors.

Many years ago, with a strong assist from the legendary track coach Bill Bowerman1, I put together what I call the “Basic Eight of Regular Exercise.” They certainly have helped me to keep on truckin’, and given some thought, they might help you too.

Because blueberries are healthy.
  1. The hard part of regular exercise is the regular, not the exercise. Believe me, I know, and live this principle very well. There are surely those mornings (and I workout in the morning) when man, I just don’t feel like getting going. But I do know just how important getting going is. While in my schedule (and I generally workout five days per week) I do take an occasional day off, most of the time I do get going, and then guess what? Ten minutes into the workout I’m very glad I did.


  1. The best exercise routine for you is the exercise routine that is best for you. There are numerous choices. One size does not fit all. This applies to duathlon as well as to training for it. There are so many articles that say “do it this way, and you are sure to…” Well, maybe, but, as I have said so many times, just because a particular writer says that it works for him/her, it does not mean that it will necessarily work for you.


  1. There are many reasons to exercise regularly, other than for race training. Most folks who do will tell you that regular exercise makes you feel better and feel better about yourself, as well as making you look better and look better to yourself. Those are certainly my principal reasons, even though as a preventive medicine doc I know there are plenty of health-promoting reasons to do it, too.


  1. Regular exercise can help you prevent and manage certain diseases and conditions. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain kinds of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis (bone softening associated with aging), being overweight and even depression and chronic anxiety. There are no guarantees here, but the risk goes down for getting all of these major illnesses. It’s also very helpful in managing many of the same conditions.


  1. Gradual change leads to permanent changes. Over the course of my own racing life, I have found this one to be true over and over again.


  1. 6. Explore your limits; recognize your limitations. This applies to distances, to speed, to the frequency of racing, and to training as well. Can you go faster, go longer? Of course you can (just as I did in my early days in the sport…well, longer, anyway!). Do you want to stay in duathlon? Then you absolutely have to do what works for you, not for someone else.


  1. Effective mobilization of your motivation is the key to long-term success, both as a regular exerciser and then as a multisport racer. (We’ll be getting back to this key to exercising regularly in one or more future columns.)


  1. We can never be perfect; we can always get better. If you can embed this one in your mind, you can have a long and successful (for you) career in tri/duathlon, regardless of your speed or athletic ability.

1. Walsh, C., The Bowerman System, Los Altos, CA: Tafnews Press, 1983, chap. 3.

This column is based in part on an article that appeared earlier in my series for USA Triathlon, and is used with permission.

Image courtesy of Flickr


Will morning runs make you smarter?

Happy Christmas Eve Duathletes!! In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, don’t slack off too much on training. One great way to make sure you get it done is to get it done first thing. Morning runs, rides, or some combination leave you energized for the day ahead. And according to a recent study, running may make you more productive at work.

A University of Arizona study shows running stimulates part of the brain related to decision-making and planning. Much like playing a musical instrument, running helps improve memory and attention span. Read more here.

As I write this, I’m about an hour away from a long early morning bike ride. Unfortunately, the study didn’t analyze cycling, but if it did, and it posed similar benefits as running, I will return home able to recite the encyclopedia!

From your favorite Duathlon blog, have a very merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just a very happy week between now and January 1. You may hear from me in the interim. If not, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter @gorunbikerun.


Racing weekend: NOLA and NYC

Two big races take place on the first day sans Daylight Savings Time: the New York City Marathon and the USA Triathlon Draft-Legal Duathlon World Qualifier in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Draft-Legal Duathlon

Who’s racing in New Orleans? Do tell! The sprint-distance races kick off bright and shiny at 7:30 a.m. (Men 16-49), followed by the 50-plus men at 7:45 and the women at 10 a.m.

With lows in the mid ’60s, the men will have comfortable temps on race morning. Things will heat up for the women’s race, when the thermometer climbs to 72-75 degrees.

It could be worse. Have you ever visited New Orleans in the summer? Don’t! The hottest, sloppiest weather I have ever experienced was in New Orleans in August. It was well in the 90s, I think, with steam room humidity. The swimming pools felt like bath water and had big bugs floating in them.

There will be none of that this weekend, thank goodness. The course looks pretty straightforward and runs along the water, so I assume it’s pretty flat. I don’t remember hills in New Orleans. Of course, there’s lots I don’t remember about those trips, many years ago, for reasons you might expect.

For the curious, here is the start list. What’s draft legal racing all about? More about that in one of my previous blog posts.

Before I start my long run on Sunday, I plan to watch the TCS New York City Marathon. Will Dathan Ritzenhein do something special? Will Molly Huddle hit the podium in her marathon debut? Will super-triathlete Gwen Jorgensen break 2:30? (Let’s Run predicts 2:27.) We’ll find out in a few days!

Here’s what the men’s marathoners have to say leading up to race day. And here’s the scoop on the women’s race.

Whether you’re running, riding, or both this weekend, enjoy the fresh air and the gift of good health.


Review your 2016 season to prepare for an even better 2017

For most of us, the duathlon season comes to a close by late September. (Unless you’re in California, like me, when you can race year-round.)

As your duathlon race season wraps up, take a look back at your results. Did you accomplish your goals for the year? Did you earn that podium spot? Nail that PR? Did you set any goals at all?

As you look back, you may find you accomplished way more than you thought. I had a great 2015. I won a handful of local duathlons, placed fifth in the USA Triathlon Duathlon Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota, raced a full season of cross-country, and squeezed into the top ten in the USA Track & Field/Pacific Region road racing series (short course). I also tacked another USAT All-American certificate on my wall and applied for and received a USATF Phidippides Award for running a whole bunch of races that year. Had I not looked back at my goals and what I accomplished, I wouldn’t have stopped to appreciate it. I had accomplished my goals and then some.

This year, my duathlon season ended in August. Injury kept me from achieving my original goals, but I did achieve my revised goal: finish respectably in the duathlon nationals in Bend, Oregon. Now, I’m healthy, I’ve regained my pre-injury fitness, and am in the thick of cross country season with my team, Pamakid Runners. But I’m already imagining my 2017 goals.

What’s a good goal-setting strategy? Set goals that get you excited; push you but aren’t ridiculously out of reach; and specific. Pick a few, not too many.

To elaborate, I’ll turn it over to someone far more experienced than me in achieving big goals: Olympic medalist, Boston and New York Marathon winner, and inspirational person Meb Keflezighi. In this article for Runner’s World, taken from his book, Meb for Mortals, Meb tells you how to set yearly running goals. Apply this to your duathlon season for breakthrough success.

Need more inspiration?  Canadian duathlete Darren Cooney assesses his 2016 season in his latest blog post. His article shows that even when we don’t achieve everything on our list, we still have lots to appreciate.

Did you nail your goals this year? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Brain training: how to find that extra gear

Do you start out strong in a race, only to slog through the final few miles? Blame it on your brain.

Samuel Marcora, director of research at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at England’s University of Kent, reports that the brain can have as much impact on performance as muscle exhaustion.

According to an article in Outside magazine, Marcora started researching mental fatigue’s impact on physical performance in 2009. He’s tested rugby players and he’s tested himself. Analyzing mountains of data, he concluded that the brain tells us to stop or slow down even when we have more gas in the tank or an extra gear to push.

What can you do about it?

Train the mind as well as the body.

If you tend to slow down too much in the second run of a duathlon, practice running hard when tired. Incorporate bricks with a hard bike followed by a fast 5K, for example.

Do you let yourself slow down in training? Stop it! What you do in training, you’ll do in racing. If your mind starts telling you, “I’m too tired. I’ve done enough. I can jog this last mile,” tell it to shut up. Replace that thought with something positive, such as “I’m a winner; I’m strong; keep pushing; etc.” Focus on your form: your foot cadence, your posture, your arms.

Use a magnet. Imagine that the person in front of you has a magnet on her back. The magnet pulls you closer, until you’re right behind her, and then when you confidently pass her. Put a magnet on someone else’s back and repeat.

Keep it positive. If you’re off pace, don’t beat yourself up, especially in a race. Criticism doesn’t help performance. Instead, say something like. “Okay. 7:05? Just a little more.” If you think you can push harder, push harder. But if you know, through consistent training, that your 10K pace is about 6:45 minutes per mile, don’t start running 6:15s because you think you can push harder. Otherwise  you really will be whining at the end of a race!

For more mental toughness tips, check out this article by JoAnn Dahlkoetter, PhD. A well-known sports psychologist and longtime runner, JoAnn has worked with a slew of professional athletes, as well as regular folks—like me! JoAnn helped me for a couple sessions leading up to the 2014 World Duathlon Championships in Pontevedra, Spain. The magnet trick? That’s her idea.

What do you do to stay strong late in a race? Share your tips in the comments below!


Boost your duathlon training with this running event

As most of you know, it ain’t easy to find local duathlons to use as either tune-up races or as an “A” race itself. Bob Anderson, a mainstay on the San Francisco Bay Area running scene for many years (and the founder of Runner’s World), directs a series of races that could very well fill the void in your 2016 (and beyond) duathlon calendar.

Enter, the Double Road Race, a challenging running event that gives multisport athletes a new way to build fitness and enhance duathlon training in a fun, competitive environment.

SF Double
You can find a triathlon any weekend you like in some parts of the U.S. Duathlon? Not so much. The Double Road Race can help fill the void.

Basically, you run twice. The standard event features a 10K run, a break, and a 5K run. Sounds like standard duathlon run distances to me! During the break, hop on your bike or use the race-supplied spin bikes. Voila! A challenging run-bike-run event.

For more information on the Double Road Race, check out this article in Triathlete magazine (written by yours truly).

And to find a Double Road Race in your neck to the woods, visit its website at

Hint: The Double is coming to San Francisco August 7; San Jose, CA August 20; Kansas City, MO October 9; and Pleasanton, CA December 18. They also host races in Mexico and Kenya!

If you are a runner that’s looking for a new challenge or a duathlete looking for new ways to get in a good hard workout, consider a double day.

Happy running-riding-running,

Heather J