Pain, joy and connection: Grit on the trails with Andy Cochrane

I was grumpy. Thankfully, so was Magda. Suffering is always better with company. Forty-some miles into our dawn-to-dusk jaunt from South Lake Tahoe to Truckee, I was out of water, nearly out of Cheetos, and staring uphill at another 2,000 foot climb. 

To be clear, I love running. I especially love running up hills. But at that moment, everything sucked.

With nothing to do but commiserate about our leg pain and remaining snacks, I asked Magda “why do you run so much?” As an elite ultra racer, she’s spent the last twenty years on podiums around the world. Which also means she’s also spent the last twenty years skipping boozy brunches for Saturday long runs, not snoozing her alarm for tempo workouts, and lacing up her shoes twice a day to stay in ridiculously good shape. 

So, naturally, I wanted her secrets. With twenty miles to go, I had the time to find out. 

“That’s a loaded question, but first and foremost I love training.” If anyone else had said this to me I would have called bullshit, but I knew it was true. Even on long runs she rarely stops smiling. 

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“Maybe the biggest thing is that I use running as an example to my son Owen. He sees me train every day, he sees the passion I pour into it and the sacrifices I make, and he sees how sometimes it all pays off. He sees me enjoy the process. He sees me push through low points. He sees me fail and get up to try over and over again. And now Owen is discovering running for himself.”

Slogging up that hill, I started to wonder what motivated others. Magda’s answer was perfect for her, but probably not fit for everyone. Sometimes questions like this fade as quickly as the endorphin highs that spawn them, but this one was different. So I spent the last month running over 300 miles of trails, asking my closest companions why they love to run.

“What a tricky question. I often ask myself this and even though I’ve spent countless hours putting one foot in front of the other I still don’t have a concrete answer,” said Rebecca, next in line for questioning.

“Every day I run it looks a little different. Sometimes I run to feel connected with others, sometimes I run to have time with my own thoughts. Sometimes I run to feel fast, but more recently I run to just move through space at whatever pace my body allows. Running has given me a multitude of things: strength, speed, confidence, friends, lots of rolled ankles, and knowledge of every chafing spot you can imagine. But, most importantly, running has given me the opportunity to grow into this person I didn’t know was inside me, thanks to the help of the people I have shared happy, and sometimes grumpy, miles with.”

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Her response resonated with me. Every once in a while running gives me an answer that I probably wouldn’t find otherwise. I stewed on the question during a week of solo runs, then woke up early on Saturday for another full day in the mountains with friends. I followed Sam up our first big climb, both of us wrangling as much oxygen as we could out of the thin air. Cresting over the top, I stopped to take a pull of water and then put him on the spot, asking him why he said yes to this adventure.

Still out of breath, Sam was brief “I used to combat mood disorders. Running has given me the tools to bring myself from the darkness. It’s a natural medicine. There is nothing like the feeling of flying through the mountains. It was an easy yes.” Close behind us I heard Reed reach the summit and without pause turned to ask him the same thing.

“I wasn’t cut out for football as a middle schooler, so I joined the cross country team. It was an arbitrary move, but it became a part of my DNA. When I was younger it was about trying to be as fast as possible, always thinking about splits and personal records. After high school I felt burned out and gave up running for a number of years, but not long into true adulthood I rediscovered it as a way to cope with everyday stresses and anxieties. Over time running began to feel like less of a chore and more of a form of sustained meditation and clarity, something to look forward to. Now it’s a way to connect with friends and community, to spend long days exploring, to get to that odd convergence of joy and transcendent pain, and a way to burn an absolute ton of calories and make up for it in beer and pizza.”

I spent the rest of our run–nearly twenty five miles–thinking about the odd overlap between joy and pain, and of course what kind of pizza I would order when we finished. We wandered up and down valleys, took breaks to jump in alpine lakes, and eventually found our way back to the trailhead by mid-afternoon. The pizza that followed was delicious, but somehow, I remember being less happy in the restaurant than I was three hours earlier, begging my legs for a few more miles. 

A week later, still on my hunt for answers, I ran the Teton Crest Trail with friends and used it as a platform to get real. “I guess it started in elementary school. I heard they gave out popsicles at the end of practice so I signed up,” joked Sam, in her typical unfiltered manner. 

“I love that there is no ceiling, no known limits. All you need is a pair of shoes and the drive for a good challenge. I used to be incredibly shy and timid and running helped me change that. Whether in a competition, a hard workout, or a long suffer fest in the mountains like this, there’s nothing better than getting through it and feeling like you truly accomplished something. Plus, numb legs, salt covered skin, and a full heart. That’s how the best friendships are formed.”

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Alli laughed, then agreed with Sam “Running has shown me that I am capable of digging deeper than I ever thought possible, that I am capable of giving more than I think I have. Running has taught be to believe that anything is possible. There’s almost childlike wonder in this ability to be fiercely optimistic. I wouldn’t call it “fun” exactly, but sharing big days running in the mountains with friends certainly forges bonds that are some blend of suffering and joy.”

The consensus continued to build as Dani chimed in “I also run to connect. I run to connect with myself. As an extreme extrovert I often find the only time I enjoy being alone is when I’m running. It is a time for me to reflect and untangle the web of thoughts and feelings in my mind. But I also run to connect with others. Sharing a long day on the trail is a rewarding experience. Between the conversations and long stretches of silence, I’ve found some of my most profound connections while running.”

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Stephanie’s answer–completely uninformed about the response Dani gave second earlier–was eerily similar. “Simply put, I run for connection. Running connects me to the things that enable me to live fully. I run because getting outside, moving my body, chatting with friends, and letting my mind wonder is what connects me to myself: nature, the great spirit, my humans, and my living, breathing, functioning body.”

After a pause, she continued “I have learned a lot about where my mind can go while running. I have peeled off a trail to sit and cry. I have found that discipline and commitment to running has made me a better teacher, wife, friend, sister, daughter. I know how to stay calm in the face of challenge. I also know that I am freaking capable of anything. Running connects me to my being and I am stronger for it.”

Running is a little different for everyone, but almost always simple. It comes with the freedom to move, look, listen, and breathe without the complexities of the rest of our lives. That space allows us to find and connect with things we might not otherwise.

Shop HOKA trail running shoes here.

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Holistic nutritionist Bianca Valle shares five wellness hacks anyone can add to their lifestyle

My wellness journey is always evolving and I believe that becoming your best self is a forever growing process, not a final destination. I have tried trends, ancient remedies, lots of DIY trial and error so I have rounded up five of my top wellness tips and hacks to keep you at your best self internally and as a human on the planet.

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  1. Gua Sha

In ancient Chinese tradition, the Gua Sha tool has been used to move around Qi. Qi is energy, and can come in the form of fluid or even spirit. For me, I use my Gua Sha tool, or Gua Sha stone, to massage the water out of my face. I have a tendency to hold a lot of water in my face and using this stone in conjunction with a face oil helps me pull the water up and away from my jawline.

2. Nut butter jar

Nut butters may be my favorite food. They are so satisfying on a banana or in a spoonful for dessert. After I go through a jar, I save the jar and the lid, clean it and reuse it for all my container needs. For example, a place to keep my bulk oats, to drink my to go iced coffee from my favorite cafe, or my favorite, it’s small enough to take on a plane to use instead of the three plastic cups full of water you will probably be offered! I love the size of the nut butter jar because sometimes a water bottle or even a travel mug just doesn’t feel right.

3. All treadmill workout

If you thought going to the gym guaranteed an all body work out, you can actually just use a single treadmill to work out all your muscles. Don’t believe me? Get this. Run for 30 minutes as your cardio. After you run, turn the speed down to a fast walk and up the incline as much as you can handle. Then as you walk, incorporate arm exercises like arm circles and bicep curls. After you feel the burn in your arms, you can move to core. Hold onto the treadmill and as you walk do thigh lifts, being mindful of using your core muscles. After a few rounds of this, it’s lunge time! Slow down your treadmill almost to a snail’s pace so you can lunge. Put one foot in front of the other after each lunge. The beauty of lunging on a treadmill is that you don’t have to wander all over the gym trying to get your lunges in.

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4. Push yourself on everyday walks

This is a huge one! We all wear sneakers and in theory have the capability of using them to our advantage. Next time you walk to work or even to the grocery store on the weekend, wear your sneakers on purpose so you can get your heart rate up a little and preserve your feet.

5. Water

I promise you the reminders are true. As ubiquitous and maybe annoying as they may be, staying hydrated is key. Think of it this way. You are made up almost entirely of water, so why not keep your stock plentiful and never low. Water helps with full body functioning. All of our organs benefit from it, including our skin and large intestines. The buzz words! A hydrated large intestine means an easier time going to the bathroom! Water, drink it.

Over all, these tips just scratch the surface of wellness and all of them are up for interpretation. It is important however, to always keep an open mind and never stop informing yourself on how to become a better you.

Follow more of Bianca’s wellness tips on her Instagram.

 

Shop the look: Women’s Clifton 6 in White/Lunar Rock

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The world is your gym: How to stay fit while traveling with Jeanette Jenkins

Consistency is key when it comes to maintaining fitness, but sometimes, a change of location can throw your fitness routine out the window.  Whether you’re on vacation or traveling for work, Hollywood trainer Jeanette Jenkins is here to help make the world your gym. She show’s us all that it takes to stay fit while traveling is an open mind and a bit of planning.

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When preparing for a big trip, keep Jeanette’s five simple tips for staying fit while traveling in mind:

  1. Keep a positive attitude

If you go into a trip with the mindset that you can’t keep up with your fitness goals while traveling, you are setting yourself up for failure. Stay positive and set realistic goals to achieve during your trip. You’ll be surprised how much a positive attitude can impact your choices for the better.

2. Look for outdoor workout spaces

Never underestimate the power of nature. Get outside, enjoy the fresh air and take in the beauty of your new surroundings to leave a workout feeling energized and ready to take on your day.

3. Schedule your workout

Set yourself up for success by scheduling workouts in with your travel fun. That might mean going on a run to a local site or squeezing in a circuit at the beach. If you make time for a few workouts while you’re gone and commit to them, you’ll have a smooth return to your usual fitness routine.

4. Your body is a gym

According to Jeanette, you don’t need anything but your body to get a killer workout. Use travel as an opportunity to push your cardio with challenging circuits and tone with bodyweight exercises. If you change your outlook to “No gym, no problem,” you can successfully stay fit anywhere.

5. Come prepared

Pack to prepare for your fitness goals. When it comes to shoes, prioritize versatility. Bring a shoe you can walk in, run in, train in or wear with jeans. You can try Jeanette’s personal favorite for travel, the Cavu 2.

Need a workout you can do anywhere? Try Jeanette’s go-to travel workout circuit.

Circuit:

(30-45 seconds each exercise, 2-3 rounds)

  1. High Knees
  2. Reverse Lunge to Front Kick
  3. Mountain Climbers
  4. Push Up to Side Plank
  5. Jump Squats
  6. Front Kick Touch the Ground
  7. Plié Squat on Toes
  8. Bicycle Abs
  9. Hallow Hold with Flutter Kicks
  10. Ab V Hold

Cool down:

  1. High Lunge Hip Stretch
  2. Downward Facing Dog

 

Shop the Cavu 2 here.

 

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Quick tips: How to know if you need wide shoes

SG4 Wide XThink you need a little extra wiggle room in your shoes?

If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you might want to consider purchasing wide shoes.

Please note that these problems could be associated with other issues. If you are in need of medical advice, be sure to consult a doctor or other appropriate medical professional.

  1. Do your feet go numb when you run?

This could be a sign that you need more accommodation in your toe box. Constant pressure from shoes on wide feet can impact your circulation and cause numbness. If you’d like to run the road in HOKA favorites, the Clifton 6 and Bondi 6 are offered in wide. If you also need stability to prevent overpronation, check out the Arahi 4 or Gaviota 2. If you’re looking to go off-road, try the trail-ready Speedgoat 4 and the all-terrain Challenger ATR 5.

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2. Do you use custom orthotics or a brace?

Orthotics and braces take up room in your shoes. Choosing a shoe in a wide size can help make up for that taken space.

3. Do you have a bunion or consistently get blisters on the sides of your feet?

Constant rubbing from running or other daily activities can irritate bunions or cause blisters. Choosing a wide size shoe may help reduce the rubbing that would take place in a regular-width shoe.

4. Are you prone to foot swelling, or do you stand for long periods of time?

If you run long distances or stand on your feet for long periods of time, your feet are likely to swell. If this has caused you to feel like your shoes are too tight, you can combat this feeling by choosing a wide shoe. If you are on your feet all day, we would recommend something with ample cushion, such as the Akasa or the Bondi 6. If your feet are swelling from long days on the trail, check out the Speedgoat 4 or Challenger ATR 5.

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5. Take a look.

Are your feet extending, or “spilling,” over the last of the shoe? Can you see excessive pressure on the seams? Does there not appear to be enough room for your toes? Do your older shoes have blowouts or unusual wear or rips? Sometimes you can tell you need a wider fit from just looking. If your investigation reveals any of these problems, you might want to try a wide shoe.

6. Have you ever been fitted for footwear before?

If you’re unsure if you need wide shoes, there is no harm in asking. Visit a run specialty store and ask to be measured to take out all of the guess work. Find a HOKA dealer near you here.

There’s a HOKA option offered in wide for any activity. Shop all HOKA wide models here.

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Hikes and Climbs on Mountains, Oh My! with HOKA fan Matt Carter

Millions of people around the world are moving to urban centers in search of opportunities and a new place to call home. As expected, this mass migration towards cities has seen a surge of interest in the outdoors. I’ve lived my entire life in New York City surrounded by skyscrapers and sidewalks, but it’s outside on trails among trees and between mountains where I’ve always felt most at home.

Fortunately, I’m able to escape the city quite easily as my weekend job is a Rock and Ice Climbing Guide in the Catskill region of New York, one of the most beautiful areas in the country. People from all over the world visit this area to climb world-class routes, hike to the tops of mountains, swim in lakes, trail run and bike on carriage roads.

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With limited opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, I always recommend traveling to a location that is able to provide a variety of experiences and equipping yourself with versatile gear that allows you to experience it all.

One of my favorite places to do this is Maine’s Acadia National Park, where the islands’ granite rock-faces and hundreds of hiking trails provide visitors the opportunity to hike in the morning, climb in the afternoon, run back to camp and cool off in its lakes in the evening.

For the past sixteen years, I’ve gone back to Acadia every summer to combine my love of hiking and climbing, often having to carry a load of gear and shoe options with me each day.

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This year, I took my new favorite shoe – the new HOKA Arkali– for my week of hiking, trail running and approaching rock climbs. The versatility, support, comfort and security of the Vibram rubber, not to mention the stylishness meant that I didn’t have to pack multiple shoes, making it an obvious choice. From simple to technical hikes, trail runs and approaches to climbs, I was covered.

The Arkali shoe highlights my belief that while I may always have personal goals of climbing harder routes and summiting taller mountains, it’s the combining of the outdoor activities that complete an experience for me, with the ultimate goal of being outside, doing what I love.

Shop the HOKA Arkali here.

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