Do you plan your run routes?

Running is recreational, but it isn’t just clomping out a few random miles on a given day. If we’re really going to stick with this running thing, we need to have goals.

OK, that’s sort of a given.

We have race goals, fitness goals, mileage goals, weight loss goals, and even fundraising goals (if we run charity races).

But do we set goals for individual runs?

When we’re serious about training, we do. We mark our calendars with mile assignments, ticking off each outing, as we complete it. We count the days till the next big race and measure our progress in miles checked off.

But what about goals for more casual off-season runs?

Running is as much a mental exercise as a physical one.

That’s why goals are critical. If we don’t have clear plans, then other stuff tends to get in the way. The famous automaker Henry Ford (1863-1947) said:

 “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

I’ve come to realize that I need to have a pre-set running course in my head – before I even lace up my sneakers. I plan out the loop I will run, the turn-around for a down-and-back jaunt, the number of track laps I want to finish, or even the mileage total I aim to do on the treadmill or elliptical.

It doesn’t take a lot of busywork to come up with a plan for a run. I might go online and map something out, unless I’m running a familiar route I’ve already measured. Occasionally, I will drive a down-and-back or a loop to check the mileage. I have a Garmin Vivoactive HR watch and various smartphone apps to count the distance as I go, but it helps to have an idea ahead of time.

Today, for example, I picked a landmark. 

This time, it happened to be the state line. I ran there and back. I've been known to drop my car at the repair shop and run one-way home. The turning point might be a school, a park, or even a simple street sign.

Sure, sometimes run plans have to be altered in-process.

Traffic, real injuries, sudden sickness, road construction, trail blockages, flooded pathways, unforeseen weather changes, and various emergencies can alter the course. More than once, I have changed my running route simply because I wanted to avoid creepy or potentially dangerous situations.

Flexibility is a must.

But most of the time, the goal holds.

It holds me to my running plan. When things start to hurt, when I grow tired, or when the wind blows a little too hard in my face, I have a goal to remember. That steels my nerves and reinforces my own fortitude.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that regard. There’s power in planning.

Adapted by Runderdog from public domain art.

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Maybe it's time for a dog trail etiquette refresher course.

Yikes! It’s Dogs’ Day Out today. My pair of trail dogs and I just completed a three-mile jaunt, and we encountered five other dogs along the way. That almost never happens around here. And the passing approaches those pet owners took varied dramatically.

A few of the meet-ups were altogether uneventful, and we didn't even break pace. A couple were not. What made the difference?

Basic dog trail etiquette

Let’s consider some of the most fundamental matters of manners, when it comes to hiking, running, or walking with dogs on the trail.

Check local regulations. Some trails allow dogs, either on-leash or off. Others require leashes. Some don’t permit dogs at all. Many trails have right-of-way rules for dogs, bikes, horses, hikers, and others.

Train the dog before taking him on the trail. This sounds like a given, but it’s clearly not. The dog must be leash-trained. He needs to know and obey basic voice commands, such as “come,” “heel,” “stop,” “sit,” and “stay.” He must be taught not to chase wildlife – even birds, rabbits, or squirrels – on the trail. Ideally, any dog on a public trail will be leashed.

Take only as many dogs along as you can safely manage. Can you control one, two, or three dogs at a time? What if you encounter another person with multiple dogs or another surprise along the way?

Draw the dog close to you, as others approach. It’s a lot easier to keep a dog under control (and hold his attention), if he is within arm’s reach, rather than out on the end of a long leash. Some pet owners take along treats to lure their dogs out of on-trail interactions. Other disagree on this, considering treats an unnecessary temptation to wildlife along the way.

Announce a challenging dog, if you have one. Is your pup fearful, nervous, or aggressive? Hold on tight, but give the passers-by a clue, so they can steer clear.

It’s OK to ask a passing pet owner to collect his own loose or unruly dog. Don’t accept “Oh, he’s friendly,” if you and your own dog are unfamiliar with the other animal. Each owner needs to take control of his own pet.

Be aware that a dog may be in training on the trail. Never assume, when passing a dog, that he is a seasoned trail dog. Expect the unexpected, and give him and his owner a wide berth, if possible.

Don’t stop to pet an unfamiliar dog. Always ask permission. Discourage children from approaching unknown dogs. And, if you have your own dog in tow, it’s better to avoid stopping.

Keep moving, when you encounter others. This is especially true in dog-to-dog meetings on the trail. It’s best to avoid actual contact and march right along, if possible. Besides, some of us are timing our runs. Lingering can lead to tangles and other trouble. You may even have to encourage the other person (and dog) to continue moving as well.

Clean up after your own dog. Sure, there may be wildlife droppings on or near the trail. So it pays to watch your step. But domesticated pet presents are a no-no. And please don’t leave plastic bags filled with pet poo along the trail, either.

The basic idea is to be considerate of others, keeping dogs and humans safe along the way.

Runderdog personal photo –
all rights reserved 

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Mixing it up: Cross training adds spice and fitness

Focus is foremost, when it comes to fitness. Marathon training is a prime example. Long-distance runners aim to rack up multitudinous miles in the months leading up to big races. On the other hand (er, foot), cross training makes perfect sense for tons of reasons.

Sure, a day spent in a different sport may sound like a diversion. But that’s sort of the point. 

Having started a little late to the whole running thing (as in, within the past decade), I have to admit something here. I learned this the hard way. In fact, I am still learning it the hard way. It’s easy to get greedy with mileage, relishing the increasing total each long run brings. (This is especially true during year-long mileage challenges, when lots of us try to run the year’s worth of miles.) 

And the chasing-the-new-PR thing is a temptation beast all its own. 

So this post is sort of a preaching-to-the-mirror thing.  

Humor me, if you will.

What do you do for fun and fitness, besides running? And how does it help you?

Personally, I enjoy hiking, horseback riding, and a bit of biking on my non-running days. I’m even learning to enjoy a little weight training. Sometimes I pursue these activities on running days as well, if time and energy permit.

Cross training brings a welcome variety to the picture.

Let’s face it. Exercise can be downright boring. Runners get into a groove, especially when we take favorite soundtracks along with us. And that runner’s high is no joke. Still, any exercise can become drudgery, if we get into a rut with it. Cross training allows us to step back and change the channel for a bit.

Pursuing an assortment of high- and low-intensity physical activities is good for our mental health and overall fitness. We have to work our minds to master other sports. We have to build and flex and exert other muscles. We test our balance, cardio capacity, flexibility, and endurance in new ways.

Cross training offers runners an opportunity to continue exercising, while recovering from running-related injuries. We can find alternative ways to stay fit, even if we can’t pound out actual miles for a stretch.

Here’s the best part. Cross training is fun. A runner can try out all sorts of recreational activities without feeling the need to go whole hog with them.

If running is your thing, then you can give yourself permission to be a rank newbie at another sport or two. Go ahead and flub things. You can always go home and boost your own personal sports-confidence by rearranging your running medals. (See? You’re still an athlete, even if you couldn’t hit the ball or master the butterfly stroke.)

OK, that all sounds like basic common sense. But it’s true.

Maybe moderation is the key.

If I don’t run for a day or two, I totally crave it. But if I skip too many days in a row, I almost don’t want to return to running. It’s a quirky sort of balance.

Sports icons – public domain image
Horseback Riding – personal photo. All rights reserved.
Cross-training definition – Fair use screenshot

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