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Need some inspiration? Check out my list of recommended podcasts, books, and movies

17 Jan

Whether you’re looking for something to listen to, read, or watch, I think you’ll find lots of information and inspiration in the list below. Let me know which ones move you!!


Trail Running Women

Hilary Spires

A great podcast for women, by women.  You’ll hear women trail runners talking about everything from running while pregnant, to eating disorders, to overcoming incredible obstacles.  Badassery abounds in this “ask me anything” format, and Hilary brings out the absolute best in her guests. Be sure to listen in – you might be surprised at who you’ll hear!!

The Strength Running Podcast

Jason Fitzgerald

Information on training and discussions with world-class athletes.  A great addition for anyone who wants to improve their running (and let’s face it – that’s all of us!).  Listen to your idols talk about their experiences, get tips from elite coaches, and get inspired by all the guests of this podcast series.

Ultra Stories Podcast

Human Potential Running Series (“Sherpa” John Lacroix)

No one tells it like it is like Sherpa John.  He’s opinionated, sometimes foul-mouthed, and about as real as it gets.  His episodes range from recaps of the races that he directs, to interviewing the runners who attend his “Stories Ultra”, to hearing about what it’s like to run with mental illness.  His podcasts encapsulate the true spirit of the ultrarunning community and are as funny as they are informative. Go for a run with Sherpa John and get some fuel for your soul.



Dr. Stacy Sims

“Women are not small men.” This is the basis of Dr. Sims’ research, and the premise that this book is founded on.  An overwhelming number of women train and eat like men, thinking this will make them stronger, faster, and healthier.  This could not be further from the truth! This book outlines proper nutrition and training strategies specifically for women at every stage of life and is packed with information to help women be the best athletes they can be.  ROAR should be a part of every woman’s library if she wants the best advice for a lifetime of health and fitness.

Fast After Fifty

Joe Friel

Let’s face it – none of us wants to admit that time keeps marching forward and robbing us of our health and fitness.  Current research shows that this doesn’t have to happen! Joe Friel’s advice on training for athletes over 50 gives hope to mature athletes and shows us how to stay strong and healthy for our entire lives.  Just as women should not train and eat like men, mature runners have different needs than our younger counterparts and we should treat our bodies as such. This book has contributions from from many experts who show us that age is just a number.

Training Essentials of Ultrarunning

Jason Koop

When I picked up this book last year, I never imagined it would become such a focal point of training for my third VT100k.  The principles Jason uses for both mental and physical training are based in science and are easy to implement into your own training program.  From goal-setting for your season to planning your pacing and nutrition for race day, this book covers it all. I highly recommend it for any serious ultrarunner, whether they are completing their first 50K or going for a 100 mile PR.


Alex Hutchinson

In his latest book, Alex Hutchinson combines stories with cutting-edge research to tease out the limits of human endurance.  Are limits physiological? Or are they psychological? Or mental? Or emotional? This complicated relationship is explored in depth and is supplemented by incredible stories of successful (and unsuccessful) feats of endurance, ranging from Roald Amundsen’s race to the South Pole to the Nike 2 hour project.  The book is an entertaining as well as inspiring and informative read, and is regarded as one of the best books on endurance ever written.

Let Your Mind Run

Deena Kastor

Deena Kastor shares with us the inner workings of the mind of an elite athlete and lets us in on the secrets that helped propel her to the top of US women’s marathoning.  The book recounts her life from her attempts at a young age to find an outlet for her athletic energy, to her almost burnout from the pressure of winning as a college track and cross country star,  to her position as a top-ranked masters runner. Deena teaches us to think about our running and our lives, and how we can improve both by employing visualization, positivity, and gratitude. A great read and the perfect addition to any runner’s library.

Gratitude in Motion

Colleen Kelly Alexander

This one has been an absolute favorite of mine.  Colleen sustained life-threatening injuries in a cycling accident involving a distracted driver, but didn’t let that dampen her spirit.  With hard work, mental toughness, and the love of her husband, she made it through a mind-boggling number of surgeries to emerge as one of the most amazing pillars of strength I have ever encountered.  This book is her memoir and chronicles her journey from a shy girl from the Florida coast to a powerful advocate for cycling safety and spokesperson for the American Red Cross. A must-read for anyone who needs a little inspiration in his or her life.


Unbreakable: The Western States Endurance Run

This movie provides a glimpse into the oldest and one of the most prestigious ultra marathons in the US.  It follows four top runners (Hal Koerner, Anton Krupicka, Killian Jornet, and Geoff Roes) as they battle to traverse the hot canyons, steep ascents, and brutal downhills of the Western States Trail and be the first to cross the historic finish line at the Placer High School track.


This moving documentary surrounds the bombings at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the amazing resilience of the city of Boston and the athletes from around the world that come to compete at this race, intertwined with the rich history of the race and the legendary runners who have made their marks on Boylston Street.  If you’ve never run a marathon, this film will make you want to register for one.

Finding Traction

Nikki Kimball is a driving force for women’s equality in sports.  In this film Nikki sets out to break the FKT (fastest known time) on the 273 mile Long Trail in Vermont, and not only did she want to set the record for women, she wanted to break the men’s record,  proving that women can stand on equal ground with men. Throughout her quest Nikki had to face difficult terrain, uncooperative weather, and physical challenges while maintaining forward progress. Her tremendous determination to complete the trail will leave you wanting to take the journey yourself.

Inspired to Ride

Inspired to Ride chronicles the inaugural Trans Am bike race.  Follow cyclists on their journey of 4233 miles through ten states, from the Pacific coast to Virginia, and be inspired by their incredible determination to be the first to complete the cross-country race.  Throughout the movie you’ll learn the riders’ stories, and you’ll cheer at the triumphs and cry with those that fall short of the mark. Even if you don’t ride, this is a must-see film for anyone who wants to watch a bunch of crazy people go after an extraordinary goal.


Do you believe in miracles?  You will after you watch the true story of Herb Brooks and the 1980 US Olympic hockey team.  Herb took a bunch of mismatched and rivalling hockey players and turned them into the best team in the world, all while teaching them to believe in themselves and each other.  Watching the US team triumph over the heavily-favored Soviet team will leave you feeling like anything is possible, as long as you believe.

Without Limits

This movie is one recounting of the life and career of Steve Prefontaine, one of the most influential and legendary amateur runners that ever lived.  From his modest start in a middle class household in Coos Bay, Oregon to his defeat of almost every top track runner in the world, Pre held fast to his views on running and racing and always held himself to the highest standards.  “A race is a work of art” was how Pre felt, and this film sets out to show how his gritty demeanor and single-mindedness on the track indeed made each of his races a masterpiece.

Getting out when the temperature goes down

03 Jan

(reprinted from Run Long ~ Run Strong Endurance Coaching Facebook page)

Cold weather running can be a challenge for most of us. We drag out all our tights, gloves, and hats and assemble them all into what can only be described as a refugee center for the Arctic. We check weather forecasts and try to plan our wardrobe according to what Mother Nature is throwing at us today. And then we are left with an amount of laundry that looks like it came from a family of ten. Now that winter seems to have descended on New England, it seemed appropriate to address the things we should and shouldn’t do as we head out the door.Most of us struggle with what to wear when the temperature dips. Should you layer up or go for the heaviest pair of tights and pair that with that awesome new sub-zero jacket that you just got? Mittens or gloves? Or should you just bail on the whole thing and hit the treadmill (gasp)? I asked a few friends if they wouldn’t mind sharing their tried and true tips and their go-to gear for when they want to get some miles in when the weather isn’t cooperating.

Chantelle Robitaille, coach and outdoor enthusiast, says, “Running in the cold doesn’t have to be miserable. Coming from northern Canada, I learned from a young age that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation.” She likes to layer up, adding that “if you plan it right, when you head outside you will feel a bit chilled, but you will warm up fast.” I’m all about the layers myself. Not only do layers trap air between them (which helps to insulate you), you can remove gear as you warm up and stuff in into your pack. You can’t do that if you wear just one shirt and a heavy jacket.

You also might want to consider a change of clothes when you are out for a long run in the cold. Once you start sweating it is very easy to get chilled if you need to slow down to negotiate a technical section of trail, or you are doing loops and are stopping to refuel and refill your hydration vest or bottles. “During a long run if it’s possible, I change shirts and whatever else I can to stay fresh. It makes a huge mental difference to throw on a clean, dry shirt or shorts after several hours on the trail, so I try to pack extras when I can,” says friend and fellow ultra runner Mike Crutchley.

Making sure the feet stay warm is a must, as the extremities are the most likely to suffer from frostbite or frost nip. “For socks, I’m pretty loyal to the Swiftwick Wool Line. They have all different ankle heights, which make them versatile in the running wardrobe depending on what type of terrain you’re running on or what type of footwear you’re reaching for that day,” says race director extraordinaire and fellow trail runner Jason Paganelli. Chantelle warns to “never double up on socks! A good pair of merino wool socks should do the trick here. Just make sure they go above the ankle and feel good in your shoes.” She recommends Smartwool, Darn Tough, or Voormi, and Mike echos the Smartwool endorsement.

I don’t know about you, but if my hands are cold then the rest of my body feels chilled. Lucky for us, there are many options for keeping those fingers warm and toasty even in sub-zero temperatures. “On your hands, this comes down to personal preference – but mittens will always keep you warmer than gloves,” says Chantelle. Brooks makes a great cold-weather mitten, as does Saucony and Nike. According to Chantelle, you can also try the lobster-claw style cycling mittens from Pearl Izumi or Craft. Whatever you choose make sure to bring a another pair of your favorite gloves or mittens with you, just in case you get wet or start to sweat. Cold, wet fingers are very susceptible to frostbite and that’s the last thing we need when we are out enjoying winter trails.

Finally, we need to keep our heads warm. A person loses 7-10% of their body heat through his or her head and while this may not sound like much, when the temperatures are below freezing, that heat loss can deplete a person enough to allow hypothermia to begin. This is especially important for those with less, um, insulation on their noggins, so I turned to my follically challenged friends to help me with this one. “I own a lot of hats! Beanies, skullcaps, ball caps, trucker hats, etc…I pack them all and for any occasion,” says Mike. Jason had a lot of advice for less-than-hirsute heads: “For me personally, being comfortable in the cold is always about maintaining the balance between staying warm and staying light. I hate to run with too much bulk, even in the winter, and that includes on my head. Luckily, the whole bald thing helps keep the weight down,” he says. One of Jason’s go-to toppers is his Smartwool Merino 150 Beanie (a super lightweight beanie made with a merino wool blend). He then added, “If I’m running at a lower intensity, or I know the weather is going to be on the colder side, I’ll reach for my Craft Race Hat. They sell these locally at Spark Bike Run Sports, and offer a TON of warmth.” Mike also says he changes his hats often, as this helps reduce the heat loss and keeps him comfortable over many miles.

Chantelle advises to use a buff as a versatile option for keeping the neck, chin, and ears extra warm. “You can cover up your neck, face and head with it, or just use it around your neck, or as a headband,” she says. These come in different weights, and fleece-lined ones are great for when the frost is really on the pumpkin. It also helps to cover your nose and mouth to ease your breathing when it’s really cold, and buffs make this easy to do. Chantelle added that “balaclavas also have their time and place- don’t worry about how it looks- people will think you are weird for running in the cold anyway!”

Finally, for those who suffer with Reynaud’s or a similar disorder, be extra sure to choose the correct socks and gloves/mittens for the temperature and bring changes of both, and hand warmers in the mittens or shoes go a long way towards keeping the hands and feet from getting too cold. Plan to have a place to warm up mid-run, or break your runs into two segments to reduce your exposure. And Chantelle says to eliminate the coffee before your run and opt for non-caffeinated beverages, as caffeine is a vasoconstrictor and may make keeping your extremities warm a real challenge.

There’s no reason to relegate yourself to the treadmill for the winter months, as long as you plan your route properly, stay hydrated and well-fueled, and choose the right clothing. So grab the mittens, the fleece-lined tights, and that silly looking balaclava and go exploring. Chantelle’s last piece of advice? “Have fun out there! Winter is a great time of year to see your favourite trails in a new light.”

Chantelle Robitaille is a coach at Carmichael Training Systems and holds a master of science degree in high altitude exercise physiology. Jason Paganelli, president of True North Running Company, is an avid road and trail runner and is the race director of many road and ultra events in the RI/MA area. Mike Crutchley has run numerous ultras and trail marathons and is a trusted trail partner of many years. I thank them all for their advice and recommendations for this article.