Running Shirtless

One of my goals in life has been to run without a shirt. It’s not because I’m promiscuous or want to show off my body. But rather, it’s always been a symbol of freedom for me- freedom from caring what others think of me and being comfortable with who I am and what I look like.

I ran shirtless for the first time. For some reason, I woke up to run and decided not to put on a shirt. I just didn’t feel the need. There were people out. It was sunny. I couldn’t hide. Eeek!

Let me tell you, running shirtless makes you mindful of your core. It forces you to engage every muscle and it actually makes one run faster.  Try it, even if it’s running in place in your bedroom.

For one day I felt fearless. That attitude carried though the day, and lots of positive things were set into motion. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe a combination of a fearless attitude and just a minor change in my daily routine propelled me to approach my day differently thus leading to different results.

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Tips for Staying Safe When Exercising Outdoors

We all know the biggest downside to working out in the winter is the lack of sunlight. It’s a struggle to wake up in the morning and work out when it’s still dark outside. It’s a struggle to have the motivation to go to the gym after work when it’s dark outside.

Saturday I was feeling inspired and went for a six mile run outside. It was 50+ degrees so I thought I’d take advantage of the remaining warm days in 2011. The sun set halfway through my run so on the way back, I made sure to run in well lit areas.

Long story short, a man followed me for a few blocks. He was walking and I passed him. As I passed him he said hello, which I ignored as most women do in NYC, and then shortly began to run. Not just run, but run right behind me. Step by step with me. I could his his step in sync with mine. His shadow was right next to mine.

I didn’t confront him. What did I do instead? I ran into traffic and stood in front of a car and waited for him to pass. If this guy was going to do something, I was going to make him do it in front of countless others. He ended up cutting through a few other cars and ran into obscurity.

Whether this guy really was following me or intending to scare me, it got my thinking about safety precautions when one is exercising outdoors. NYC is not a dangerous place. Any New Yorker will tell you they feel safer on the streets of NY than when walking a dog in the suburbs. Wherever you live, here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years.

  • No Headphones – I realize that it’s painful running in silence for many of you, but it’s also quite peaceful not having noise constantly in my ears. You can hear yourself breathe, the pounding of your feet, the wind blowing, etc. There’s a rhythm to running. Discover yours! Actually, I would strongly encourage you to stay from anything that obstructs your hearing.
  • Cell phone – pretty self explanatory but learn to not be dependent on the cell phone. In a really emergency, you may or may not have a chance to call anyone.
  • Have a game plan – tell someone beforehand where you’ll be going, how far you’ll be running, and how long you expect it will take. If you’re out longer, have him or her check in on you. If you run the same route each time, mark “Safe Zones” where you know you can turn to for help. Perhaps it’s a cafe or deli, or a friend’s apartment you run by each time.
  • No shortcuts – Stay on the path, always.
  • Identification – I  wouldn’t suggest carrying your license or passport with you, but carry something that identifies you. I’m a big fan of the company Road Id. They offer plenty of products that’ll give you some peace of mind when hitting the pavement alone.
  • Buddy Up – it’s hard finding a work out buddy who is at the exact same fitness level. But it’s better to be with someone you know, rather than finding yourself with someone you don’t know.
  • Wear Proper Gear – When working out in the dark, don reflective gear. Really loving this Nike Vapor Flash Jacket but wish it wasn’t so expensive!
  • Response Required Words – In a self defense class, I learned that screaming “HELP” or just plain screaming is not always effective. Opt to yell “Fire!” or “Call 911, I’m being attacked.” Don’t hesitate to be descriptive: “I’m being attacked by a tall man with brown hair, wearing a blue t-shirt.”  It will help whoever is making the call to 911.
  • Safety Device – I prefer a noise maker over  mace. Why? I’m a person that believes that any weapon you carry can be used against you. But I won’t lie, I do own mace…just never have carried it.


How do you stay safe when working out? Leave a comment and share your tips!



Inspiration Starts with Me

I’ve been leading a running group with my church. And by leading, I don’t mean teaching running. I’m talking about organizing our meeting location, leading discussions, encouraging people to talk and be engaged…that kind of leading. I’m definitely not the fastest but it’s nice been nice knowing that I can run with runners of all levels now.

When I find myself with the advanced, athletic crowd, I often whine and get down in the dumps about where I am NOT. “I can’t do push ups.” “I’m not as skinny as that girl.” “I hate to exercise.” And the list of negative declarations goes on. If this is you, raise your hand (hand raised). The reality is that is not the point of running with the faster kids. You should always run and/or hang out with people who push you to be better. You never want to be the one in the front because it means you have nothing to strive towards.

Last night I ran with the beginner group. I may not have burned as many calories as I would’ve liked or logged my high intensity cardio for the week but I learned a valuable lesson.

My words are much more positive and encouraging with other people than for myself.

“You can do it.”

“One foot in front of the other.”

“It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you’re going, you’re doing it!”

“You’re doing great.”

I truly did believe that he could run 4.5 miles. I knew it was hard for him, but he had determination all over his face. He was going to finish, no matter what. So why did I believe that he could do something that was obviously a challenge for him, but when it comes to myself and my challenges, I have no faith in myself? Why can’t I be encouraging with myself? Why no faith in myself?

Sometimes when we look for encouragement we look in the wrong places. We expect people to give us a hand, to tell us we’re doing great, and to push us. Me. Me. Me. It’s nice when they do it, but it’s not their job.

When you take on the responsibility of motivating others, you’re challenged to lead by example. It makes you want to be better. It doesn’t cripple you and make you feel unworthy, but rather empowers you. When you are looking for inspiration and encouragement for yourself, be that for someone else! When you are looking for generosity from others, be generous first. When you are looking for kindness, be kind first. Whatever you seek in life, be that for someone else.

It’ll come back to you.