Ryan Welton

Sports + Digital + Music + Life

Category Archives: running

Building momentum is the most important goal for new runners

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I’ve had a hard time getting my road legs back. 

Two years ago, I would have called myself a hardcore runner. A slow, hardcore runner, but definitely an accomplished one. I had run several 5Ks and three half-marathons. And then life got in the way. 

I gained back the 25 pounds I had lost. 

And worse yet, I lost all my momentum. 

While walk-running the other morning, I was listening to an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience. Joe’s guest talked about the importance of building momentum, stating that small, regular achievements done consistently were more important than big ones done sporadically. 

I’ve applied that to my workouts. 

Instead of trying to battle through 5-6 miles on the weekend after two years of barely working out on the regular, I am focused on 30 minutes here and 30 minutes there. This morning, I upped it to 40 minutes, but my top speed is 5.0. My average running speed is more like 4.5. 

My current routine is to do 30-40 minutes of walking/running every morning. The goal is to get back to Saturday long runs come January in hopes of again doing the Oklahoma City Memorial half-marathon come April. 

A list of preparatory 5Ks are coming soon.

Look back at 2018 & channeling my inner Don Draper

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Don Draper from 'Mad Men'

The period between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite each year. It’s a time filled with anticipation for the year ahead, a time to look back at the year gone by and a time to state the obvious.

I don’t know why I like that lede so much. Strikes me as first-cup-of-coffee funny on a gray winter’s Saturday morning.

The start to this weekend finds me at my local Subaru dealership, getting an oil change, rotation and a fuel service. I think they call it an induction service, but to what I’m being inducted I don’t know. It’s 27 degrees outside, gray and still and gorgeous. I can do any kind of weather with no wind.

Boy, am I in the wrong state (Oklahoma) for that!

But on to the business at hand.

I love looking ahead to the new year and looking back at the year previous. I am never one to say, “Good riddance!” to the year. There are always highs to balance the lows.

A look back at 2018
And this year had plenty of high moments. I got engaged to a wonderful woman with whom I have enjoyed many an adventure and plan to enjoy decades more. Being a 48-year-old bachelor, I never anticipated what it would feel like to be engaged or married or even tightly coupled. However, I also didn’t spend my bachelor years overly concerned about how I would feel about it. To the contrary: I spent most of those years considering how to do it right in a world where at least half of all marriages ultimately fail and even more relationships fade into the ghosted ether.

With all that said, I feel extraordinarily confident about the start of my marriage in 2019.

We’re getting married on April 12, which would have been my mom’s 80th birthday. She passed away on June 5, and that was certainly the low mark for 2018. However, I gave myself a gift in anticipation of that moment several years ago with the daily phone conversations we’d have on my commute home from work. The regular communication with family is good for the parent, to keep them engaged and connected, but it’s also a giant deposit into the barrel of goodwill and good karma that you’ll be able to lean on when the loved one passes.

For anybody who has aging parents to whom they’re close, I can’t encourage you enough to develop that kind of routine.

Also, I may have some snippets of our conversations thanks to the fact that sometimes Mom didn’t turn off her answering machine when I called and it picked up before she did.

Work ain’t hard if it’s passion
My professional life has gone exceedingly well, especially so because I get to be in news and work with a wonderful newsroom. Over the years, some folks have labeled me a workaholic, but that’s never been true. I enjoy working and, more so, being in motion. Sitting still is not in my DNA. Any time or situation when it’s felt like I’m overworking myself is the product of poor management on my part, failing to delete the actions that need dismissing and overvaluing money for time.

Time is the arbitrage for everything.

It’s why voice is the technology of the 2020s. It’s why Uber exists. It’s why you should hire a housekeeper and a lawn care person (GreenPal is fantastic). It’s why you should get up early (good sleep is awesome but long sleep is insanely overrated), and it’s definitely why you should get off the couch and explore your city, state and world.

Time is the single currency you can’t amass. You can always make more money.

And travel is more important than acquiring any ‘thing.’ Just thought I’d add that.

But I digress.

As I get older, my professional focus is more about helping other people achieve more. I’m taking on more the role of a teacher or mentor to anybody willing to be taught or mentored (willing is ‘key’), and what I realized early on is that words have super little impact where no actions live. The best way how to tell anybody how to do anything is to show them, by setting the example.

So, whether I’m always successful or not, I’m focused on the examples I set every day.

Various side projects
My digital life has been a lesson in drifting, an enjoyment for sure but no real accomplishment other than an exercise in patience. Take my YouTube channel for example. I gained 86 subscribers in 2018, but that’s in a world where it’s not uncommon to gain thousands.

Why is that?

It all depends on how you look at my channel. Is it a songwriter’s channel? A performer’s channel? If so, it’s super clear that the quality of the content at a creative and technical level isn’t moving the needle. However, that’s not totally true. Two of my biggest organic videos of the year were contemporary jazz tracks I recorded and posted a decade ago.

RyanWeltonMusic YouTube watch time 2018

Step To It” picked up another 6,456 minutes of watch time in 2018.

Nocturnal” earned 1,237 minutes of watch time.

But those weren’t performed. They were produced. There’s probably a lesson there.

Views are important, but the currency on YouTube and, eventually on any video platform, is watch time. How long can you keep a person watching your video content? It’s important because it indicates quality. Most folks are willing to click on a video. Very few are willing to sit there for 7 minutes and 32 seconds.

In the list above, you’ll see a couple of original songs with a high amount of watch time. Those weren’t organically achieved. I ran two types of ads in 2018: Google ads against YouTube videos and Facebook ads against Facebook posts on my teeny-tiny Ryan Welton Digital Facebook page that point to my YouTube channel.

The Google ads did an amazing job of boosting my superficial stats, but they failed to produce engagement and subscribers.

The Facebook ads, especially when executed against cover songs, did an amazing job of turning targeted viewers into subscribers. Mind you, for me, we’re talking dozens of new subscribers instead of hundreds or thousands, but any one of us learns or achieves in nuggets. The snowball falling downhill gets bigger the farther it goes.

On the other hand, my No. 1 video for 2018 didn’t require a dime for it to catch fire. It was called “How To Play ‘Rosanna’ By Toto For Piano,” and it amassed 8,044 minutes of watch time for the year. I don’t even know that I did such a great job with it, but it helped some people get the gist of the chord progressions in the song and, a bit, of how to play the imposing synth solo in the middle of the track.

It had value.

And for the 95 percent of us who aren’t young, beautiful or incredibly talented, value is where it’s at.

Teach somebody how to do something. Pass along your experiences to other people. Document your adventures. Share wisdom.

Do it over and over and over.

That’s the plan for 2019 in my digital life. When it came to this blog, I was largely all over the place, writing about the Sooners and Browns and baseball and YouTube, and that’s all well and good. I think I can still do that as the mood hits, as inspiration strikes.

But as I look at other platforms, I’ll be doing so more closely with an eye for value I can offer to somebody else. I’ll also be looking at eliminating content that provides low return and focus on content that provides much greater return. Whether it be in work or play, passion or necessary mundanity, we all have way too much wasted motion.

In that regard, 2019 is a year to move the needle in a big way.

Walk, don’t run?
don’t know, however, that it’s going to be the year I run my fourth consecutive half marathon in Oklahoma City come the last weekend in April. My training in 2018 was poor, and while I blamed it a lot on the weather, I should also pin it on the extra 10 pounds (now 20) I was carrying.

Mid-year grief sure didn’t help, and neither did a pre-Thanksgiving car wreck. Kristi and I walked away from that, sure enough, but it’s been a giant pain in the butt on numerous fronts ever since. As I sit here finishing this blog post on a Sunday morning, I can confirm that my right knee confirms the accident.

The swelling on the inside of it might not seem the result of Grade 3 whiplash, but when you start connecting the physical dots from spine-to-foot, it’s not unbelievable how that could be. And there’s not a chance I could run to the mailbox right this moment much less a quick three miles.

Not that there’s ever been anything quick about my running.

We’ll see. You all know how much I love running; now it’s just a matter of how much I love training. Need to be better at the latter to be able to enjoy the former. 

Trash talk
Any time I spend ‘not training’ I’m liable to spend on my newest passion: eBay and all-things-flip. Earlier this year, Kristi and I started a little store called R&K’s Happy HodgePodge, and it was born of young Olivia’s enjoyment of garage sales meshed with my inner drive to turn everything into a quest.

I had watched some Gary Vee videos on that ‘flip life,’ and then got interested in how people do it. How they source their products. How they price them. And how they manage a small business based on the simplest of retail tenets: Buy low and resell higher.

That’s all that retail is.

Plus, if I get good at it, it could provide a nice little retirement nest-egg or some money for more travel. I’m telling you: for me, long-term, there is nothing I’d rather spend my money on than travel.

Either way, it’s a fun little side venture.

It seems I’m mostly rambling now, but I’ll leave you with this thought from the wise sage of the advertising world, Don Draper. One of the things I admired most about his character in the series “Mad Men” is his ability to stoically maintain his focus on tomorrow.

“I have a life, and it only goes in one direction: forward.”

Cheers to an amazing+challenging+satisfying 2019 ahead.

Runner’s Diary: So, I didn’t quite run 10 miles this week

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It’s evident what stretching before a run will do for you. Better recovery, fewer aches and improved runs.

My goal this week was 10 miles for the week, up from 7.35 the week before. I didn’t quite get there, but I did up my total.

8.84 miles

So, my long run for Sunday was 4.20 miles, a totally average run for me two years ago.

Weather conditions were nearly perfect: started at about 49 degrees with sunshine and a very light Oklahoma breeze. If anything was negative about the conditions, it would be the angle of thesun right now. It’s right in your eyes during the early-to-mid-morning hours.

For the second week in a row, I earned my miles across three runs, one gym run, one neighborhood run and one long neighborhood run.

The first neighborhood did feature some resistance as soon-to-be 10-year-old Olivia tan with me tugging to my running shirt as if I were a horse.

I’m still taking way too many walking breaks for my taste, but I’m moving — and for any of you out there looking to start a fitness program that involves running, moving is the point.

We’ll try for 10 cumulative miles this week.

Happy running!

Runner’s routine: 5 stretches I do before every run

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Two years ago, I was running up to 20 miles a week. This week, I’m thrilled with 7.35. And today I got three miles in.

Note that my running time right now is about 13:00 per mile. That’s slow. I’m taking a few walking breaks along the way.

I’m up 15 pounds on where I was two years ago. I’m not getting any younger either, just turning 48 in August.

As we get older, we have to exercise smarter. And for me that means stretching before I run to loosen up my muscles and joints.

Here are the four stretches I’m doing before every run:

1 – Hip stretch. Or that’s what I call it.

I sit with my legs crossed and pull up on my knee. This one feels really good.

2 – Hamstring stretch.

I stand up, cross my feet and try to touch my toes. It’s not my intention to overstretch my hammy. It gets stretched during the run itself.

3 – Calf stretch.

This is an easy one but effective. I think the key is to not overstretch. I say that, but I’m not an expert. I had always heard that I shouldn’t really stretch before running.

Until I got to the point in my running when I was never stretching. Never stretching leads to injury.

4 – Shoulder stretch.

Even though you’re using your legs mostly during a run, your upper body is also in motion. This helps to loosen it all up.

5 – Quad stretch.

Grab your foot and pull it behind you so you can feel the stretch on the thigh.

I’m doing these stretches for about 3-4 seconds apiece, just enough to loosen me up — and today I felt loose during my run. It sure helped that it was 54 degrees with drizzle and no wind.

Perfect day!

The goal of this stretching is to aid in my recovery after the fact and to prevent injury.

My goal for this week is to get closer to 10 miles for the week. I strongly prefer running outside to a treadmill, but I know I just need to keep grinding regardless of the weather.

Happy running!

Ryan Welton is a digital journalist and marketer based in Oklahoma City. When he’s not running, he’s making smooth music on his YouTube channel: YouTube.com/ryanweltonmusic

Runner’s Routine: The podcasts I listen to while running

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My Bose Soundsport bluetooth headphones are pissing me off. The button somehow got stuck, and I can’t get it back to normal. Wearing these has become a part of the running ritual; they’re the first headphones that will stay in my ear no matter how greasy I get.

Argh!

It depends on the day as to what I listen to, too. I have a running playlist that I’ll detail sometime, a mix of songs from today and way back in the 1980s, back when dinosaurs roamed the planet.

Sometimes, especially on calm Sunday mornings, I’ll listen to NPR’s Morning Edition, or in this case, Weekend Edition. If I’m running by 9 a.m. or so, I’ll tune it to KQED in San Francisco and listen to the West Coast feed. This is a fantastic way to get caught up on news and to consume a high caliber of news, to boot.

Because I’m a YouTube Premium member, I can listen to videos while using my running app in the foreground.

Or I listen to podcasts. And that’s what I thought I’d write about today – the 11 podcasts that are currently in my rotation. For what it’s worth, I am subscribed to the West Wing Weekly podcast, but Kristi and I are only in the middle of Season Three, and I had never watched the series serially like this. For example, I’ve seen Season 3, Episode 9 a billion times. It’s the ‘Bartlet For America’ episode where Leo McGarry eloquently describes the appeal of Scotch while at the same time eloquently describing the hell of addiction. To me, this is the best scene in the history of the show.

Anyway, I digress. I don’t listen to West Wing Weekly yet because it’s something I’d like to share with Kristi once we both finish the series, serially.

But here’s what I do listen to:

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The Gary Vee Audio Experience. Gary Vaynerchuk is pretty hit-or-miss for me these days as I think his schtick has become routine. His insight into usable tactics for social media is still insightful, and he remains one of the best motivators for workaholics on the planet, encouraging us to keep hustling. When he hits, he slugs it out of the park. After six years of listening to the man, however, I know when to tune in and when to tune out. If you’re in marketing or are interested in digital anything, he’s a must-listen.

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Marketing School. Neil Patel and Eric Siu are two of the preeminent experts on digital marketing with an emphasis on SEO. Their podcasts are always super short, as in less than ten minutes each, but there’s always value. To me, SEO is the most important discipline in content for brands, news organizations and even bloggers. Patel’s SEO Analyzer tool is a must-use for anybody wanting to compare their website to the competition. This podcast is a no-brainer for marketing geeks.

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Hit Parade. This is a podcast from Slate about pop music, the pop music charts and trivia associated with it. The last episode I listened to was about the BeeGees, and it was like listening to a documentary history of the vocal group. The production was brilliant, and the nuggets of information were meaty enough for the music nerd while being palatable to the neophyte.

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Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter. I’ve been a fan of Brian’s since his TV Newser days, and I followed him and David Carr after the New York Times movie came out. I had also read Carr’s “Night Of The Gun.” As both a fan of Brian’s and a newsie, I find Reliable Sources to be a must-listen to keep up with media trends and to get a pretty fair analysis of how we’re doing as an industry. For example, this week he had on Frank Sesno, who was pretty critical of the coverage from mainstream media types during the Brett Kavanaugh proceedings.

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The Tim Ferriss Show. I believe Ferriss came to fame via the ‘4-hour’ books: “4-Hour Work Week,” “4-Hour Body,” etc. Ferriss is a prolific accomplisher of things (what does that mean? it just feels like it’s the right way to describe him), and he has fascinating life hacks that are super practical. For example, Ferriss turned me on to a mushroom coffee that has become a go-to for me on days where I didn’t get the best sleep the night before. His interview with Terry Crews, in my opinion, is the best podcast interview I’ve ever listened to both because of him and Crews.

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The Life Coach School. Brooke Castillo is the host. I know she’s a Texan, and I suspect she probably knows Brene Brown. In fact, I might have stumbled onto Brooke because of Brene, especially after I read “Daring Greatly,” which I think is a must-read for anybody in management. The gist of that book is how to use vulnerability as an asset both as a giver and a taker, a speaker and a listener. Brooke’s podcast is hit-or-miss for me, but when she’s speaking about a topic that’s pertinent to my life, I find her to be on point. When I decide to listen to her, I’m never disappointed, and the content is what you’d expect from a life coach — so it’s not for everybody although it wouldn’t kill you to listen to it.

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WTF with Marc Maron. His was the first podcast I ever downloaded. Maron is a stand-up comic who interviews people a couple times a week for his podcast, which happens to be one of the biggest on the planet. I love his monologues more than his interviews primarily because I like him more than a lot of his guests. For interviews, you can’t beat Howard Stern. Best on the planet. But Maron ain’t shabby. Even still, Maron’s podcasts are worth it even only to listen to the monologues at the beginning of each episode.

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YouTube Creators Hub. A guy named Dusty Porter teaches creators how to use YouTube to grow businesses or at least grow audiences. He interviews successful creators and even has a Patreon where you can get access to a group of people who supposedly can help you grow your channel. It hasn’t helped me at all, not one iota. Once you listen to about 10-15 of his episodes, you glean about as much as will be useful to you. The themes are all the same: develop niche content, post consistently, “it’s a lot of work,” and more. But, IMHO, this is still the best YouTube creators podcast out there. After listening to 50-60 episodes, for me, at this point, it’s hit or miss. I’d love more of a deep dive into tactics that successful channels leverage.

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Mitchell Talks. My friend and colleague Scott Mitchell visits with journalists (my friends and colleagues Aaron Brilbeck and Grant Hermes) and newsmakers about issues of the day here in Oklahoma. It’s a smart look at politics in the Sooner State with no political bent. Scott is an equal-opportunity political analyst and is particularly effective at pointing out the most ridiculous parts of the political machine. I should point out that I might contribute some music to Scott’s podcasts. Woot!

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West Of Everest. This one is from another colleague, Lee Benson. He and his brother, Grant, talk Oklahoma Sooners football – and they take a real deep dive into each game. This is an hour’s worth of content that will greatly appeal to the diehard Sooners fan. I haven’t listened to this one yet during the offseason. I think that will be the trick to appealing, long-term, year-round to folks.

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And last but not least, Why Today Doesn’t Suck. This is the daily segment on The Ticket 1310 in Dallas where Bob & Dan Radio hand it off to The Hardline. This is what they call in the radio business, “crosstalk.” And as they do this, they talk birthdays and death days and born on this day, now dead. Listeners (P1s, especially) write in with their birthday wishes and ask for various drops to be played, and it’s heavy on the language and rituals of those who have listened to The Ticket for years. During my tenure in Dallas, I was a P1 practically from Day 1, and I’m thankful beyond thankful that this is available to me via the magical power of my phone.

I know there are hundreds of other podcasts I’ll never have time to listen to that are worth an audit. I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Speak to me, people, and let me know what you listen to while you run!

Cover photo credit: Nicola

Ryan Welton is a digital communicator, marketer and journalist who loves to run and write songs. He thinks that’ll be the focus of this blog from here forward. He can be found at YouTube.com/ryanweltonmusic and on Twitter @ryanwelton.

Morning workout: How do you get yourself up early to go run?

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So, how in the world to you morning people do it? Any by do it, I don’t only mean “get up.”

I mean get up and exercise! How. Do. You. Do. It?

I work in the digital news business, and between work and home, I’m go go go go go go go. It’s constant. I’m doing great if I get seven hours of sleep per night, and many nights it’s between six and six and a half hours.

Going about my day is never a problem after six or six and a half hours, but getting up to do cardio is a never-gonna-happen for me most of the time.

But I’m trying. I’m setting my alarm for 6:30 each day this week in hopes of getting up and getting a 30-minute run in. Last night, I got to bed at 11:30 and didn’t fall asleep until 12:33.

I immediately adjusted my alarm to 7:15 a.m.

Over the years, I’ve cultivated several good sleep habits. I got rid of all blue light in my home in Norman, and since I’ve moved in with Kristi, I don’t think we have much or any blue light in our room there. You might not notice it consciously, but blue light causes you to produce less melatonin. I tossed my alarm and anything that gave off blue light. I turn my phone over so that the screen doesn’t show. And while I have always had a TV in my room, I mostly watch it when I’m awake.

I keep my bedroom cold: 66 degrees, summer or winter. And believe it or not, 66 is on the high side of where you should be for sleep. It’s recommended that your sleeping room be between 60 and 67. For me, anything below 64 is too cold, but 66 appears to be perfect. A by-product of this is that your pillow is more likely to be cool to the touch!

I’ve also taken Diphenhydramine for a couple years, fully admitting that I’m not sure this is a good thing. Before that, I took melatonin every night. Did that for several years until I read and understood that melatonin isn’t a drug; it’s a hormone, and it’s super dangerous for me to be messing with the hormonal system.

And I should back up because I haven’t always had sleep issues.

I’m not sure I’d say I have sleep issues currently.

However, as we get older, we sleep through the night less and less. We middle-aged men have to get up to pee 1-2 times every night, and when I became a runner a couple of years ago, I found that I was getting up 2-3 times a night, sometimes four! I had always attributed it to exercising during the evening, delivering trauma to my hips and pelvis by running along concrete and then sleeping with either actual or hidden pain. I had read some things that made me believe the trauma to that area could even trigger the sensation that I needed to urinate in the middle of the night.

With that, we’ve come full circle because I want to become an early-morning runner and yet I have a hard time with that when I stress out even the least little bit about it. At this point, that’s my last sleep hurdle. Most of my other sleep habits are pretty good.

Well, maybe except for constantly working on something or other. Unwinding wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Ha! Thank you for reading! If you’ve got some workout-in-the-morning tips for me, I’d love to hear them.

Hope you’ll come find me on YouTube at youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic or venture on over to Twitter @ryanwelton

Quest to get back into running shape starts with walking

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It was four years ago when I first got into running. I’ve run four or five 5Ks and three half-marathons, and I plan to run more for sure.

But for the moment, I’m walking. I don’t dare say ‘just’ walking because much of the latest research shows walking to be more effective for weight loss, which is precisely what I need to be able to get back into running shape, which is something I need both physically and mentally long-term. My running routine was fantasic until this colder-than-normal winter plus a bout of flu in January totally derailed me.

And then on the last Sunday in April, it was 70 degrees outside, which is way too hot for a half-marathon (truly), and my lack of proper training combined with a mild weight gain led to a much slower time for moi. I was happy to finish, but everything about my effort this year sucked. I thought I could work it mind-over-matter, but I actually needed to face facts.

I’m almost 48 years old.

I’m close to 220 pounds.

When I ran my fastest time in 2017 (2:48:00-ish), I was only 205, so I basically ran a half-marathon this year while carrying a sack of potatoes.

Mmmm, French fries.

Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding me writing this blog and even walking in an effort to get back into shape was all the result of my mom passing away earlier this summer. Technically spring. I wrote about it here.

And I inherited her treadmill.

Dragging it upstairs, I placed it strategically across from a TV so that I had no excuse but to get some steps in and catch up on a bevy of TV shows I would never watch otherwise. Maybe I’d just watch sports. Or YouTube.

As part of a work incentive, I’m trying to hit a certain number of steps per day, month and quarter. I don’t really even know for sure right now what they are. I’ll have to look them up, but I’ve set a goal of 12,000 steps per day for myself in the hopes of getting super consistent about hitting 10,000.

And now I’ve done it for three consecutive days. It feels good. One of the advantages of walking versus running, to start, is that I’m not famished afterward. It also helps to get me nice and tired for bedtime, and it creates for me a daily routine and goal, structure that I’ve always craved.

The goal is simple: Hit 10,000 steps every single day at the bare minimum.

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I’m hoping the result will be to get me down to 200 or below at some point soon.

And at that point the weather will be cooler, and I’m going to be running again. Outside. Where we were meant to run.

I’m going to document that process here, leading us from now until next year’s Oklahoma City (half-)marathon.

Over the weekend, I was able to achieve well more than 10,000 steps. Heck, the past couple of weekends, I’ve had a dalliance with 20,000.

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That helps given that I’m still prone to a candy binge or a couple of beers here and there, but I still need to shed that extra weight to help me get back into my running groove.

Whether I’m able to get there in a timely manner is something you’ll be able to see and to know about right here.

Featured image: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 4.0

Running trail between Alexandria and Mount Vernon is fantastic

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Before I visited Lake Anna and the swamps of north-central Virginia over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018, I visited Old Dominion in March 2017 when it was considerably colder.

As long as wind isn’t involved, I’ll take colder over hotter any time.

The reason I’m posting this blog is because in my previous blog about Lake Anna, I referred to an awesome running trail in the Alexandria area. It brings to mind something that was announced in my home metro of Oklahoma City. Leaders recently announced that they would connect the entire city via bicycle and pedestrian trail, which I think is highly commendable.

Oklahoma City is improving, step by step and day by day. Underrated li’l city we have.

But Alexandria is an incredible area. It’s where affluent D.C. pros live. There are lots of government careerists, military lifers, politicians and communicators alike and the people who love and support them. To me, it feels like a city of high achievers.

Slackers not wanted.

And near the house where we planned to stay but eventually didn’t because a kiddo had the flu, there was a trail. It was a paved trail that went for miles and miles between Alexandria and Mount Vernon. I don’t know how many miles it went, but I ran four miles worth — and as usual, I took photos.

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And recorded a couple videos.

It was 39-40 degrees that day, which at that point was the coldest weather in which I had ever run. I really, really enjoyed this run, and it makes me look forward to what OKC is doing relative to pedestrian trails. It’s a big deal, and it should be a priority. It encourages exercise and wellness, and it could lessen our dependence on cars and ultimately reduce health care costs as we get older.

Total win-win, even if it costs us a few dollars in taxes.

Would love it if you gave me a follow on Twitter (@ryanwelton) or a subscription on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic.

Lake Anna getaway my latest Virginia adventure

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It’s like Virginia is becoming my second home.

This is at least my third trip to Old Dominion in the past three years although there might have been a fourth adjacent to a Washington D.C. visit. Two years ago, for work, we flew in to Virginia Highlands Airport near the southwest Virginia town of Abingdon, before eating a wonderful Southern lunch in town and visiting a couple work sites, in Max Meadows and Toms Brook.

Abingdon is a little more than 8,000 people, and I distinctly remember the restaurant where we ate. I couldn’t remember what it was called, but they served the best grits dish I’ve ever had. Fantastic restaurant. I’m searching my phone for photos right now. Hold on. Surely, I took photos. That’s why one does so: to preserve memories of magnificent meals. How does one ever remember what they ate otherwise?

And here’s what I found: We ate at the Bone Fire Smokehouse, and the dish to which I referred was the White’s Mill Grit Cake: “fried jalapeno cheese grits from locally ground grits from the Historic White’s Mill. Served three on a plate with our famous Grit Sauce and topped with goat cheese and scallions.”

One of the best eats ever.

I’m highly disappointed in myself that I didn’t take a photo of the dish. But here’s one of the empty restaurant at noontime. What was I thinking?

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I remember thinking: what a neat little joint and quaint small town.

On to Toms Brook and Max Meadows. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores have locations there, and that was the business reason for the venture. The traveler in me couldn’t help but notice the beauty of our scenery, however.

Tall trees, greenery everywhere and mountains were the backdrop. The mountains were so tall that they rose beyond some low-sitting clouds. I believe the area is geographically known as the Tennessee River Watershed, and the greenery of what I am seeing appears to be the far-southwestern edge of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.

I remember thinking: the people who live here get to look at this every day. So lucky.

Other Virginia trips before this most recent:
I’ve been to suburban D.C. several times. When I visit our nation’s capital, I often spend time in Alexandria. Super nice. Super affluent. Colonial yuppie might be the best way to describe it. Smart people, military careerists, political operatives and high-achievers.

I went for a trail run in 2017, probably the coldest run I’ve ever done. It might have been 38 degrees. However, I remember that the city had designated quite a long stretch of blacktop to those who enjoyed running. Was hyper-impressed.

And now I’m on my second trip to Lake Anna in north-central Virginia, just southwest of Fredericksburg and northwest of Richmond. It’s a beautiful getaway for folks who want a leisurely weekend or who like water activities. I’m not a swimmer, boater or any of the sort. I enjoy looking at the water, but that’s about it. Here are some photos from the beautiful lake house and lake front.


But I am a runner. So, my first quest was to find somewhere I could run, and there is not much available best I can tell. You sure can’t run along the winding roads near Lake Anna and Spotsylvania, not unless you want to get hit by a car. During my first visit to Lake Anna in 2016, I was able to run near the lake house where we stayed, mostly because it wasn’t traveled and there was a shoulder, albeit slight.

Our lake house for this visit is on top of a tall hill (the Stubbs Cove overlook), and the road up to the house is quite treacherous.

Kristi suggested I try Lake Anna State Park, so that’s what I did. She always has good ideas. Being that it was Memorial Day weekend, I was expecting a big crowd at the park. That was not the case. It cost $7 to utilize trail parking, and the ranger informed that the only trails were on dirt.

I needed to run. Dirt it was.

The first path was called ‘Sawtooth Trail,’ and I quickly figured out that if I didn’t want to break an ankle, I needed to plant my feet carefully. There was nobody out here aside from a father and two kiddos bicycling and a solitary deer trying to escape my view. I needed to pay attention to where I was going lest I be the subject of a future news story.

The man’s vehicle was found outside the trail. His body was found only 50 feet from its exit.

“Oh, he almost made it, Marge,” Joe said.

“Too bad. If only he had taken lots of photos along the path,” Marge replied.

I was paying attention, not only to my surroundings but to my feet. Ended up running and hiking close to five miles on the afternoon. And I took a handful of photos to boot. The humidity was set to “swamp,” so I had sweated a pound off my fightin’ weight.

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Like a dingbat, I didn’t wear any insect repellent either, so I wasted no time getting into a shower and washing the bugs and dirt away. The more that I run, and the more that I run when I travel, the more I realize the need for a running list of things to take with me when I go.

Speaking of lists, I then had a grocery list of items to get for the night’s festivities, which included a rehearsal dinner for a wedding. Kristi’s sister was getting married, and that’s why we were here. We had visited here for her birthday a couple years ago, and we had a great time.

I also needed to get some copies made on a Memorial Day weekend in a part of the world unfamiliar to me — so I did what I always do when I need to find my way. I looked for a Walmart or a Target. There are usually all sorts of businesses near either, and in this case I found a FedEx Office nearby the local big box.

Mission accomplished, although I was a bit disappointed by this particular Walmart’s selection of sports apparel. That’s how I make any trip to the big box stores interesting; I look for sports gear. I figured I might be able to find a Washington Capitals t-shirt on the cheap (since they’re in the Stanley Cup Finals) or a Virginia Cavaliers or Virginia Tech Hokies shirt. Nope, the only thing they had was for the Washington Nationals. Blech.

On this getaway, I’ve even found some time to read and write, which I count as a big win. I’m currently reading “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon.

And this doesn’t at all feel like this is the last time I’ll be at Lake Anna either. In fact, the whole Virginia-Washington D.C.-Baltimore area is feeling awfully familiar to me these days.

3 weeks until Oklahoma City half + Redbud Classic

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We’re headed down the homestretch now. Three weeks to go until my third half-marathon in Oklahoma City, and my fourth time participating in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon event overall.

But first, it was Redbud Classic weekend in the city, and I’m a board member, which means I volunteered. Usually, I’d add “all weekend” to that, but we canceled the bicycle event this year due to ice.

That’s right. Wintry precipitation in Oklahoma.

In April.

However, the weather was perfect for runners on Sunday: 48 degrees, cloudy and moist. Ideal.

And this was my third and final year to serve on the board. It’s been a real honor. I’m excited to run this event next year!

As for this weekend, I did my long run Saturday. Nearly five miles in 43-degree weather.

In April.

It’s not my coldest run to-date. That would have been my Alexandria, Virginia, run when I visited my girlfriend’s sister and brother-in-law. I ran a trail out that way in 38-degree temps.

And then tonight (Monday), I did a quick two miles to focus on form and speed. Finished in under 24:00, which is well ahead of my corral time of 12:30.

I should move up and run faster with the fast peeps.

The rest of the week will be focused on short work, honing in on form, posture, good foot strikes and maintaining this breathing technique that I believe has really been helping. The technique is simple. I focus much more on breathing out than sucking in oxygen.

I find that I feel more energized when I focus on ridding my body of CO2.

Maybe I’m crazy.

Alas, I’d like to run another 3 and a 2-miler this week before doing 9.73 around Lake Hefner this weekend. That’s my final big test to ensure my body is up for a half-marathon challenge.

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