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How to Avoid Hitting the Wall


At some point, it’s going to happen. Maybe it’s happened already. It might be in the midst of a grueling run on a rainy Seattle night or during a routine workout at the gym. For some, it may well happen the day of the race. “It,” in this case, is hitting the wall.

You know the feeling: You’re not making much progress. Maybe you aren’t running faster or longer, or you’re stuck at a certain point on the training program. Bad workouts happen to everyone, but you know you’ve hit the wall when you forget the feeling of progress and think about throwing in the sweat-covered towel.

That’s the bad news. The good news? There are valid reasons for hitting the wall, it’s entirely scalable, and you’re not alone. Just ask Daniel O’Rourke, a clinical psychology graduate student at the University of Washington. “Everyone hits the wall,” he said. “It’s like a plateau.”

You hit the wall when your body gets used to the rigors you’re putting it through, O’Rourke said. “After a certain point, it’s not challenging enough for the body to adapt.”

But, lest you retreat to the couch and fire up the Netflix, O’Rourke has a handful of tips for avoiding the wall – or scaling it once you’ve run headfirst into it.

Make changes.

The changes can be any number of things, from a new route to the music you jog along to. O’Rourke suggests switching up a few particulars:

  • Try running different distances. “If you’re always running 5ks to train for a 5k, maybe some days, do a 2k pretty quickly. Some days, do a 10k slowly,” he said.
  • Find a new route. If you usually train on a treadmill, find a park or sidewalk.
  • If you usually run alone, find a friend or running group to train with.

No matter what you do, “switching it up allows your body to adapt,” O’Rourke said.

Set SMART goals.

Entire courses have been taught on goal-setting, and for good reason: It can be tough to know what to strive for. “If you don’t know what you’re going to try and achieve, then it’s very difficult to achieve it,” O’Rourke said. To that end, keep this pneumonic device in mind when figuring out the next step. It stands for the five components that go into setting good goals.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant/realistic
  • Timely

Read more about SMART goals.

Keep the bigger picture in mind.

When slogging through a program that last several weeks, it’s easy to think about how frustrating or difficult the current workout is, rather than remembering the big picture. Says O’Rourke:

  • “Get in touch with why you’re doing this. Is it to come in first? Is it to look as crazy as you can and wear the weirdest costume? Is it to have fun? If you’re having a tough time, try getting back in touch with why you’re doing the run and what makes it fun.”

O’Rourke also recommends making a deal with yourself when the motivation isn’t otherwise there. Something like “If I make it through this, I get to go to the movies tonight” can be a powerful motivator, he said.

Have you signed up for Dawg Dash yet? Registration is now open!

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Nutrition: Get ready for race day with the right food choices


Training for a 5k or 10k doesn’t start at the gym or on the course. It starts in the kitchen, where the right nutrition choices can mean the difference between a euphoric race and not finishing at all.

Dr. Elizabeth Kirk

Dr. Elizabeth Kirk

We checked in with Dr. Elizabeth Kirk, a senior lecturer in the University of Washington’s Nutritional Sciences Program, to see how runners and walkers alike can make the right food choices to help prepare for a successful race.

Make sure you’re meeting minimum caloric needs.

It might sound counterintuitive, but Dr. Kirk stressed the need to eat plenty of calories and carbohydrates. Dr. Kirk likened our muscles to engines and compared carbohydrates to the fuel that keeps the engines humming; if we don’t eat enough carbs, our muscles look for other fuels – like fats – to keep us going. Our muscles burn fats well enough, but it’s not as efficient and might slow us down. “It’s a slower fuel,” Dr. Kirk said.

Not just any calories will do, though; Dr. Kirk recommends a mix of whole grains (like brown rice or quinoa), dairy products (like cheese and yogurt), and plenty of fruits and vegetables. “A balanced diet is key,” Dr. Kirk said. “Eating something from every food group will assure that your body gets the nutrients needed for energy production.”

Find the right eating schedule while training.

Some people don’t like to eat for up to two hours before training, while others can transition from the dinner table to the gym without skipping a beat. Dr. Kirk advises runners and walkers to experiment with their diet to see what works best for them. “Some people are really sensitive in terms of their makeup,” she said.

To that end, Dr. Kirk suggests eating an hour before training for a week and making adjustments from there. Hungry in the midst of training? Try eating a little closer to the workout. Feeling slow and bloated? Give yourself a little more time before going for a run.

With regards to what to snack on, Dr. Kirk suggested two balanced ideas: The first is a piece of fruit and container of yogurt or glass of milk, and the second includes graham crackers or pretzels with a sports drink like Gatorade.

Post-exercise, Dr. Kirk suggests refueling muscles with carbohydrates and protein by eating a banana with yogurt, or by drinking a milkshake.

Don’t skip on fluids

Our bodies are more than 50% water, so Dr. Kirk underscored the importance of fluids before, during, and after exercising. “We begin to underperform if we don’t have enough fluid on board to allow energy production to occur,” she said.

Not surprisingly, water is ideal. Beyond water, unsweetened tea and Gatorade, though, Dr. Kirk suggests shying away from fruit juices. “You get kind of tricked, because they’re delicious and fun to drink on a warm day,” she said. “But you definitely end up over-consuming calories.”

Not quite ready to give up juice entirely? Dr. Kirk suggests filling your cup with a half-juice, half-water mix.

Have you signed up for Dawg Dash yet? Registration is now open!

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Take the first step: Finding the right training plan


Do you want to run your first 5k but find yourself confused about how to train? Do you want to take the next step and run a 10k? Start here with a few helpful and popular training programs.

Cool Running plans:

The Cool Running website offers a variety of training programs for beginners, along with community forums where runners swap stories and trade tips for successful training.

Couch-to-5k: One of the most popular training programs, Couch-to-5k is perfect for the would-be runner with little or no experience; the first 14 training sessions feature a mix of jogging and walking, allowing runners to build up strength and stamina along the way. The nine-week program consists of three workouts per week, with about 30 minutes dedicated to each session.

As an added bonus, download the Couch-to-5k mobile app for the iPhone or Android phone ($1.99, but other developers offer Couch-to-5k free apps). The app tells when to warm up, cool down, jog or walk, depending on the workout. Users can share workouts, listen to music through the app, and track distance/pace, as well. – the maker of the popular Couch-to-5k app – also offers an app to help runners transition from a 5k to a 10k. Learn more about’s 5k-to-10k training program and mobile app. ($.99)

Beginniner 10k training program: Cool Running also offers a beginners’ 10k training program for novices with an eye on their first 10k. The 12-week program introduces speed workouts and offers a calendar to help guide training efforts.

Hal Higdon plans:

Ask a marathoner or half-marathon finisher about their training regimen, and odds are good that they’ll name-drop one of Hal Higdon’s training guides. But the Runner’s World contributor and long-time runner offers training schedules for 5k and 10k runners, as well.

Each plan starts with an overview of the strategy; offers paths tailored to novice runners, regular runners, and walkers alike; and includes schedules to help measure progress.

Read more about Hal Higdon’s 5k training programs and 10k training programs.

Do you have a favorite training program? Do you have experiences with these plans? Let’s hear your feedback and thoughts in the comments!

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At the starting line: Join us for Dawg Dash 2013

Dawg Dash is the only running event that snakes through the UW campus.

Dawg Dash is the only running event that snakes through the UW campus.

It’s the time of year in Seattle when clouds part, temperatures rise, and rain exists mostly in long-term forecasts. What better time to start training for the annual Dawg Dash? The long-standing race/walk is less than three months away – circle October 20 on your calendars – and there’s no better time to put your running shoes on and start exercising.

Dawg Dash, a UW tradition for nearly 30 years, is the only run that takes runners and walkers through the heart of campus. Participants start just outside of Red Square before passing Drumheller Fountain, using the Burke-Gilman Trail and ultimately finishing in the Quad. Afterward, everyone is invited to celebrate with the Post-Dash Bash in Red Square, featuring food, beverages, and entertainment.

Are you looking for motivation to run your first 5k? Challenging yourself with a 10K? Join us over the next few months and become part of the conversation as we help you get ready for the big day. Here’s what’s in store:

Daily tips: Like us on Facebook for daily training tips. Each week, we’ll choose a theme – it might be proper footwear and gear, nutrition, or stretching techniques – and bring you a handful of tips to help you make the most of training. Most tips will be geared toward novices and beginners, but we hope to draw on the experience and advice of veteran runners to benefit everyone taking part.

In-depth features: Once a month or so, we’ll bring you articles with advice, tips and knowledge from UW experts. We’ll help you find the right training program, offer nutrition tips, and share some insight on preparing for the big day itself.

Conversation: Along with the daily updates, we’ll invite you to share your stories, tips, insight, photos and more. What motivated you through the tough times? What did you learn about proper form and injury prevention? This series won’t be complete without your participation and involvement.

Whether you are gearing up for your first race or ran a 10k before breakfast, join us as we get ready for this fun UW tradition. Follow us on the Dawg Dash Facebook page, and get updated information at

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Student showcase at heart of final Arts Dawg event

Pioneer Square

Minutes before I shut my computer down and headed over to the Henry Art Gallery for the season’s final Arts Dawg event, my phone vibrated with bad news: My date for the evening was stuck at work and would be unable to join me to check out the Henry’s annual MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition.

In an ironic twist, Jen – the same coworker who spearheaded this date series in the first place – volunteered to be my date for the evening. The only catch? We made a pact to leave work talk back at the office.

It proved to be an easy bargain to keep. We walked into the café for the pre-show reception, where a trio of students provided live music while the rest of the Arts Dawg patrons mingled and enjoyed appetizers. Jen and I each grabbed an amber ale from Ballard-based Hilliard’s Beer and stepped outside, where we talked about career aspirations, hobbies, and upcoming weekend plans.

In between the chatter, we found a few minutes to explore the exhibit. With such an incredible array of works on display, the exhibit itself demanded more time than we had. But one video piece in particular caught our eye; a short film about Pioneer Square played in one corner, examining the past, present and future of Seattle’s historic neighborhood. Architects and restaurateurs alike talked about the challenges facing Pioneer Square, its value to the city, and what the future might hold.

Throughout the evening, we talked to other patrons about the series. I asked other attendees about their favorite events over the previous six months, and remarkably, no consensus emerged. Some raved about the “Plastics Unwrapped” exhibit at the Burke Museum; others commented about the action-packed “Once Upon a Time 6x in the West;” and yet others praised Ana Moura’s achingly beautiful voice and stage presence.

A few singled out this evening’s MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition. Some patrons enjoyed the wide variety of work on display, and others appreciated being able to talk with the student artists on hand for the event.

It underscored for me the true value of the series. Nearly everyone I chatted with said they wouldn’t have attended such a variety of events on their own. But, whether they fully understood – or even enjoyed – everything, they appreciated the exposure and diversity of events.  From the energetic performance of “The Rite of Spring” to the eclectic display of student work at the Henry, the Arts Dawg series truly showcased something for everyone. There was something for arts aficionados and curious newbies alike, and I’m excited to see what kind of arts buffet gets served next year.

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The Long-lasting History of Disposability: Recapping ‘Plastics Unwrapped’

"Plastics Unwrapped"

“Plastics Unwrapped”

Early in our tour of “Plastics Unwrapped,” the latest exhibit at the Burke Museum, my date and I turned a corner and found ourselves face-to-face with a wall adorned with 1,500 clear water bottles. The empty bottles took up every square inch of the surface, save for where a small sign explained their significance: The massive display represented the number of water bottles used every second in the United States.

That was just one of the many unbelievable visuals we encountered as part of the latest event in the Arts Dawg series. The Arts Dawg event may be over, but “Plastics Unwrapped” presents stunning statistics and memorable visuals through May 27 at the Burke Museum.

I met Jenna, my date for the evening, about the time the museum opened its doors to Arts Dawg patrons; we got to know each other while exploring the Burke’s numerous exhibits. The conversation came easily – so much so, we missed the first few minutes of the tour offered by “Plastics Unwrapped” exhibit developer Ruth Pelz – an Arts Dawg exclusive opportunity.

Early on, the half-hour tour shed light on the history of plastic and the unlikely genesis of the exhibit; Pelz said she and other exhibit planners were inspired by a Burke Museum exhibit on coffee. That discussion led the group to think about other seemingly ordinary items that deserved a brighter spotlight. Elsewhere in the tour, Pelz discussed the chemistry behind various forms of plastic, examined the material’s rise in modern culture, and talked about its use in all walks of life today.

Pelz didn’t hold back in describing the negative impacts plastic have on our society. We learned that it can take up to 400 years for plastics to decompose, and we stood next to a 170-pound tower of electronics waste – representing the volume of electronics discarded every second in the United States.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Pelz talked about how plastic has revolutionized modern medicine and showed off a pair of prosthetic legs made possible by plastic. And tips on reducing plastic use were sprinkled throughout the exhibit.

Pelz stuck around after the tour to answer any lingering questions as most of us scattered to explore the exhibit on our own. Jenna and I marveled at a 12-year-old iPod on display, scoped out a collection of environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastics (including a set of bamboo eating utensils), marveled at a rain coat made from sea mammal innards, and gleefully played with some of the plastic toys on display. With the unusual items and eye-popping statistics, we lost ourselves in learning about a material that had seemed so unremarkable just two hours earlier. Before we knew it, the Arts Dawg staff started cleaning the museum and folding up the tables, ending our exploration. Jenna’s only complaint of the evening? She hadn’t known about the exhibit earlier.

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Arts Dawg Preview: Unwrapping ‘Plastics’

(Photo courtesy of the Burke Museum)

(Photo courtesy of the Burke Museum)

Plastic is an inescapable part of everyday life. It’s in the phone, tablet or computer you’re reading this on. The water bottle you lug to the gym is probably plastic. Even the toothbrush you used this morning is made from the ubiquitous material.

It’s a wonderful invention that made many of our modern marvels possible, but it comes at a cost: Plastic is difficult to recycle, doesn’t biodegrade, and contains chemicals that can poison marine life when not properly disposed.

Both sides of that discussion are represented at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture’s latest exhibit, Plastics Unwrapped. The exhibit, which examines the past, present, and future of plastics, runs through May 27; Arts Dawg patrons will get an up-close look at the exhibit, along with remarks from exhibit developer Ruth Pelz, on May 16.

The exhibit starts with the history of plastics and brings to life a piece of pre-World War II Americana by showcasing objects made before plastics took hold in manufacturing. Some of the more puzzling objects on display include a jar coated with pitch to hold water, a hat made from cedar bark, and a rain coat made from sea mammal innards. (Yes, really. “It’s beautiful,” Pelz said.)

From there, “Plastics Unwrapped” uses video, sculpture, text, and more to examine how plastics have taken hold over the past 70 years, how various types of plastics are made, and what happens after we throw them away.

The uglier side of plastics is certainly given its due: One sculpture made from water bottles shows how many are used every second at the University of Washington, and another sculpture shows how many plastic bags are used every quarter-second in the United States. It also explores the challenge of recycling plastics. “You can’t just dump all these plastics together and come out with a water bottle,” Pelz said.

It’s easy to demonize the seedier aspects of plastic; after all, Seattle banned grocery stores from offering plastic bags in July 2012. But the exhibit looks at how plastics helped our culture, especially modern medicine. “You just can’t imagine a glass tube IV,” Pelz said.

The exhibit ends on a hopeful note, offering examples of how companies are altering their practices to use less plastic and sharing with visitors the various ways they can reduce their plastic use. “I hope people will understand that we do have choices to make about how we use plastic, and that they’ll be inspired to use them more responsibly,” Pelz said. “We have to rethink our relationship with plastics.”

If You Go

What: Arts Dawg event in conjunction with “Plastics Unwrapped.” The event includes remarks from exhibit developer Ruth Pelz, a tour of the exhibit, wine, and light appetizers.

Where: Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, 17th Ave NE and NE 45th St., Seattle

When: Thursday, May 16, 2013, 6-8 p.m.

Cost: $8.

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Where ‘Western’ is merely a state of mind: Recapping “Once Upon a Time 6x in the West”

Once Upon a Time 6x in the West

“Indian” (Ben Phillips) offers Lil (Sylvia Kowalski) medicine in the first act of UW Drama’s production of “Once Upon A Time 6X In The West” at the Jones Playhouse Theatre. (UW Daily–Photo by Andrew Tat)

What do a down-on-his-luck American Indian impersonator, beer pong, and “The Wizard of Oz” have in common?

They’re all a part of the theatrical menagerie that is the School of Drama’s “Once Upon a Time 6x in the West,” the latest entry in the Arts Dawg series. Though difficult to follow at times, “Once Upon a Time” provided a memorable experience for both myself and Tara, my date for the evening.

Tara and I met 45 minutes before the pre-show reception, getting to know each other over iced teas at Cafe Solstice. The conversation flowed freely as we discussed our respective careers and the uniqueness of this dating series before heading to the evening’s pre-show reception in Parrington Hall.

Settled in with wine, fruit, cheese and crackers, we listened as “Once Upon a Time” director Jeffrey Fracé explained the genesis of the production and decoded the wildly disparate styles we would encounter. Tara would later say that this discussion helped her understand what to expect and prepared her for the variety of styles throughout the two-and-a-half-hour play.

Fracé and crew adapted an original script, “The Story of Little Horse,” for the production. The resulting story follows Lil, an orphan who’s kidnapped and eventually raised in an Old West brothel; the story culminates on Lil’s 13th birthday, when she’s faced with the choice of embracing the bordello life or escaping for something better.

Then again, that’s like saying “Pulp Fiction” is about a boxer or “The Dark Knight” is about a guy in a bat costume. Throughout the production, “Once Upon a Time” reflected its story through the styles of six iconic stage directors, with each act adopting a look and feel unlike any of the others. The first act, for instance, started with a minimalist stage design inspired by English director Peter Brook, who strove to emphasize the actor’s performance over design elements surrounding the action; the set consisted of roughly a dozen bamboo sticks and little else. The fifth act, meanwhile, paid homage to The Wooster Group, a New York City-based experimental theater company, with video projections, disaffected speech, bright lights, and frenetic choreography.

I had little time to make sense of the action as “Once Upon a Time” hopscotched from one style to the next. The sheer spectacle, extreme variation, and occasional musical numbers sometimes distracted from the story; in fact, the actress portraying Lil (Sylvia Kowalski) broke the fourth wall completely at one point, inviting audience members to play the roles of crucial characters — including herself — before talking about a bike ride she had taken earlier that day.

No matter. The unpredictability made for a memorable performance.

That said, I don’t know that it was an ideal first date; an early rape scene, in particular, would have been cringe-worthy even if I wasn’t inches away from someone I’d met only two hours earlier. To her credit, Tara was a good sport, laughing along with the absurdity of the production and making an excellent point after the cast took its final bow: “Once Upon a Time” gave us plenty to talk about afterward.

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