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Fall is my favorite time of year, but it creates a challenge for exercising, at least during the week. The days get shorter, the temperatures cooler and the kids after-school activities more frequent, which leaves less time for biking or running.

Yesterday I left work a little early. The temperature was right, the winds negligible and the sunlight still beaming. I hopped on my bike and took off down the road. My muscles complained a bit with the unfamiliar movement since I’d been doing more running and less biking lately.

The right combination of layers and windproof gloves kept me warm, except for my ears, which were uncovered. Gradually I found my rhythm and even though it wasn’t my usual speed, it still felt good. I checked my watch and the sky. The sun was starting
to lower itself on the horizon. My bright pink vests increases visibility, but I still didn’t want to get caught in the dark.

I made the turn for home and increased my pace. So did the sun. It was a race, who would reach their destination first?  I made it
home as the shadows grew longer and the air cooler but still a bit of light in the sky.

Today, I beat the daylight but soon it will be no match. Even though I plan to run outside during the winter, the shorter days and challenging winter weather means much of my exercise time will be spent inside.

Last Monday night I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural RunSMART program that is based in Mankato. This program is a 3-legged stool for runners based on physiology, psychology and nutrition for endurance athletes, and specifically, runners. It is the brainchild on Cindra Kamphoff, PhD at MSU-Mankato, and utilizes the talents of Bob Pettitt, PhD and April Graff, MS for the physiology and nutrition aspects, respectively.

Our first session involved learning strengthening exercises, plus a run-through of dynamic and static stretches. We also had a musculoskeletal screening process to identify weaknesses and imbalances in our body. This screening will be combined with next week’s video gait analysis that will appraise my running technique. I hope to end up with knowledge of what I need to focus on to enable me to run pain and injury-free for years to come.

We spent time discussing the psychology of running (50-90% of performance) with Cindra. There were 4 men in my group, 3 of us masters (1 a triathlete) and a younger guy that has gotten into ultramarathons recently. We seemed to be on the same page about what makes up a mentally tough runner, and shared some of our race experiences and some of our road blocks to better performance. One common theme was importance of family, and how to balance that with the admittedly selfish commitment required of endurance sports.

Next Monday, along with our video gait analysis, we will have our current nutritional intake analyzed and critiqued. We also will have a 3 minute “run to exhaustion” to help us determine training paces and race goals.

Overall, the RunSMART program wraps up the Mind, Body and Nutrition of sports into a neat package. I know that these 2 sessions will help me improve as a runner. I hope that we can create a follow-up session in a month or two to assess progress towards our goals.


Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. -Albert Einstein


I’m sure many parents can relate when I say I spent all of last weekend in the gym.  Of course I wasn’t working out.  I was sitting on the bleachers, cheering on my children in their respective sports.

On Saturday  morning Madison had to be to her basketball tournament at 7:30am.  I found a spot on the bleachers next to some other moms and spent the next four hours chatting and cheering.  You get to know the other parents really well after spending that much time with them!  I didn’t get to watch the entire basketball tournament, because I was off to my next destination.

I went home next to pick up Kendrah, who was now finished working  in the barn.  We picked up one of her friends and headed to Rochester to the National Volleyball Center.  Kendrah is on a JO volleyball team that plays volleyball January-May.  I do have to say that I prefer watching volleyball over basketball, but that’s just because I prefer playing volleyball over basketball.  We arrived home that evening around 7:00pm and I felt exhausted from sitting all day!

On Sunday morning we headed to Cannon Falls with Max for a wrestling tournament.  More bleachers, more cheering, more sitting.  The Goodhue Elementary Wrestling Team ended up taking first in the tournament and it was an exciting day for everyone.

It’s easy to spend an entire weekend sitting, but it’s important to make time for yourself and get moving.  Whether you enjoy walking, running, cycling, or skiing, it doesn’t matter as long as you move.

An unexpected snow storm blew up Friday and as you can see by the picture, the wind was blowing hard. You may be curious why this blog is called winter biking. No, I’m not crazy enough to try biking in the snow and ice. For my birthday/Christmas gift, Dale gave me a Cyclotron, which is a frame that holds the rear wheel axel on my bike so that I can bike outdoors.

Biking indoors helps break up the monotony of the treadmill. Even though I vary my workouts, it’s nice to do something different. So far, I’ve enjoyed biking. The only downside is that the speedometer/ odometer is on the front wheel of my bike, which doesn’t move. So I have no way of tracking how fast or how far I go. (Yes, I feel the need for speed). This forces me to go by time and I really don’t like watching the clock. But I can watch TV or a movie and it helps pass the time away.

It’s nice to have alternatives on days like these.

Winter has not even officially started, yet we’ve had enough snow to make most people ready for it to be over. Cold temperatures and icy winds have added to the mix and we’re already talking about what it takes to be a “hardy Minnesotan”.

What should we do? Well, when you’re 13 year old son asks you to come outside and have a snowball fight, you put on your winter gear and get involved. The snowball fight turned into a “King of the Hill” contest that pitted Adam and Brett against Beth and I. Thanks to the huge snow piles that Dale made from all the snow so far, we had an awesome hill to claim.

Fortunately the boys have enough respect for Beth and I that they don’t use all their strength. I use my “experience” (isn’t that what we say when we get older and less agile?) to try to outsmart them. We try to stop the game before someone gets hurt, which isn’t always easy since Beth always seems to catch a flying boot or knee.

Not everyone has a nice yard or big snow pile to play on. But as the saying goes, life is what you make it. Winter looks like it’s here to stay for a while and we can either try to find some enjoyment out of it or be unhappy. Snowball fight anyone?

In the past as the weather grew cooler, my workouts would move indoors to the treadmill. This year, with Dale’s help, I’ve purchased some cold weather clothing so that I can continue to run outdoors. I have a 1/4 zip mock t-shirt that has long sleeves and a slit to put my thumb through so that my hands stay warm. I’ve worn that shirt a couple of times for both running and biking and it’s worked really well. I also have a pair of wind resistant pants and a jacket. The prairie winds continue to blow, no matter what time of year.

The temperature has been in the low 30’s when I’ve ran, so it’s not terrible cold and in reality, I was overdressed. In effort not to be cold, I underestimated how much heat I would generate by running. I must say that I really enjoyed running. Even though I probably won’t run in as cold or extreme weather as Dale, it still provides a nice alternative to the treadmill. I admit my distances aren’t much to brag about, just 2-3 miles, but it’s more than I did last year, so I consider that progress. It also fits into my original goal that I started with this Pork Power blog, to challenge myself and to try some activities I hadn’t done for a while. So far, so good.

The weather has been so beautiful this fall that it has been easy to get outside and run.  It really is the perfect time of year to be outside, neither too hot or cold.  I’m realistic though, and know all things good or bad will change.  I really don’t mind running in the cold.  I actually rather enjoy the brisk air and the feel of snowflakes on my warm face.  What I don’t appreciate about trying to run in the winter is the ice. 

When the ice starts to take over the city streets and country roads, it’s time for me to move inside.  My treadmill died last summer, so that is not an option.  The building I head for is not our local YMCA or gym, but our public school.  I meet a friend year round at 5:30am to exercise, and in the winter we head to school.  It’s such a great option in a small town.  We have a lot of steps to maneuver and that makes for a great workout. 

It’s easy to stop exercising when the weather turns ugly, but you don’t have to.  Look around your community.  There may be more options than you realize.