Posted by: David Stewart | January 26, 2015

Sock Stop: A compassionate response for signers?

Flickr: Brian Hawkins

Flickr: Brian Hawkins

This story is at its core is about how cool my wife is.

A short while ago, I was giving a friend a lift in my wife’s car on a typical cold and rainy Portland winter day. We exited the freeway and stopped at a traffic light, and rolled up next to a “signer” – someone standing at the intersection holding a sign, and looking for cash.

My friend was quick to pull out a dollar bill to offer to the man. But I was hesitant – “Wait, this is my wife’s car! She is usually prepared for this.” I reached behind the driver’s seat and riffled about and, sure enough, came up with a plastic bag with a pair of socks. Score! I handed this out the window to the signer.

The recipient immediately sat down and pulled the dry socks on, and then we rolled through at the green light and were gone.

20150126_07521020150126_075200

Since that time, she has equipped my car as well. I have a supply of these pre-packaged kits to hand out, which include socks, toe warmers and a coupon for a free meal.

I conclude that the people who are signing and asking for money are human beings. If so, no matter what has brought them to their situation on the roadside, they are just as deserving – or just as undeserving, if that’s your particular bent – of love as anyone else in your life. Any other position, any judgement on them that says something like, “why don’t they just get a job?” doesn’t take into account their real stories. And so what if someone has made unfortunate choices? I’ve made some bad ones too. Fortunately the consequences were not too bad.

I’m not so naive to conclude that the sock kit is the perfect solution to everyone. For the person who really does need spare change to cover an urgent need, the socks won’t help them. If they are real people, and really should be treated as such, I can’t feel too comfortable or proud with handing them something that dehumanizes them by assuming I can meet any of their needs. It does seem a little better than simply ignoring my neighbors and pretending that they don’t exist.

Try to make a sock kit of your own. See if there is something you could do to improve on it.

Posted by: David Stewart | January 12, 2015

Who is in the 1% ? And should we care?

Living in the west, income inequality has become a hot topic over the past few years. This was made abundantly clear by the way so many people resonated with Occupy Wall Street protests.  More and more power is being concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest.

But what about globally? How much money do you need to make in a year to be in the very top 1% of earners globally? Here’s what I found out:

$34,000

It turns out this number isn’t easy to compute, because the cost of something like an ox cart in the US might be quite different than in Viet Nam. It’s also hard to figure out because economists don’t agree with how to compute it. I pulled this number out of a post on the Motley Fool, which referred to a book by an economist named Branko Milanovic, who published the fact in a book in 2011. But it’s a good bet that the real number is close to this.

This guy Branko has a new study out these days which should make you think.

twinpeaks_zps60f4d157

This chart is extracted from the paper, and which shows what Branko and Paul Krugman call the “Twin Peak” world we are living in. It shows global income growth over the 20 years from 1988 to 2008 – basically from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Great Recession.

The middle income earners in the world have seen the most growth. This is mostly due to the emerging middle class in countries like China and India. And of course the 1% has grown. But there is a huge gap in the middle, the 10 – 20%, which represents working class earners in developed countries like US and Europe.

Krugman observes that this mirrors the situation in the 1930s. Poor income growth after the Great Depression caused discontent and built support for racism and fascism.

I’m no economist, but this should make all of us extremely nervous. If true, it means economic justice is a security issue for the planet. If true, it means that anyone in that global 1% should be thinking clearly about ways that they can address poverty, health and literacy issues for the rest of the 99% of the world. It means that the poor are not just God’s concern, it ought to be ours as well.

I’m not thinking we need whole-scale wealth redistribution, how about just a little humanity?

By the way, my reading on this uncovered the Global Rich List, which should make you feel better about where you fit in with the world’s income levels. Check it out.

Posted by: David Stewart | January 9, 2015

Why Garagiste works for me – and might for you

Gargagiste (n) – 

1. a small-scale entrepreneurial wine-maker, originally from the Bordeaux region of France, esp one who does not adhere to the traditions of wine-making

2. potentially your best friend in the wine world

Celler Cecilio, Gratallops, Spain

Wine cellar in Spain. Flickr: davest

Living so close to world-class wine country, I have had the privilege of getting to know some talented and passionate winemakers and enjoying their wine. I would think I know something about wine, but then I would go to my sister’s house and get really confused in her wine cellar. She would talk about her great Burgundy or Bordeaux wines, and I would get totally confused. What kind of wine is Burgundy? What kind of grapes is it made out of? How does it compare with what they make in Oregon?

Fortunately, I got the chance to do a work rotation in southern France (I know, what a hardship). And on a weekend, I was able to check out some top winegrowing regions. Armed with some first-hand information (and a geek’s love of intricate detail), I became a little smarter. I’ve also done some reading of a coupld of key books, and feel like I now have a better handle on the kinds of wine available from different regions.

Cheap 1st cru in Beaune, Burgundy, France

Flickr: davest

So if you get to visit these regions, how do you enjoy that wine after you come home? Wine stores, bottle shops, supermarkets have plenty of imported options. Too many options! How can I figure out what to buy? I frankly get intimidated with rolling the dice and buying wines that I don’t know will satisfy.

My wine education and international buying has been really helped by Garagiste.com.

It’s about as low tech as it gets on the web. There is no online ordering, no catalog of available wines, no ability to order wine at all. Instead, you get a daily email describing a particular wine. If you reply to the mail, you can buy some of it. First come, first served.

But, oh, what email! It’s like some frustrated liberal arts major / story-teller got their thesaurus juiced up into overdrive. The mails are always entertaining, as much for their florid hype as their wine storytelling.

Price and value of the wine is usually quite good – they seem to focus on the $15 – $25 wines with an occasional wander into other price ranges.

I have been buying wines for a couple of years now from Garagiste, and I have not been disappointed in the quality or value of what I have gotten. And most useful is the chance to get a couple of bottles from some of the regions I am learning about without breaking the bank.

There is a fairly balanced article about Garagiste that appeared a couple of years ago in the New York Times Magazine. It’s a very good read.

But like anything, there are drawbacks:

  • Shipping: I bought a red wine from Garagiste from the French region of Gigondas for $26.43 per bottle. When it arrived, I decided I really liked it. I noticed that my local wine shop has it for $28. So I got a good deal, right? But hang on, Garagiste will then charge me extra for shipping. They hide the cost, because the shipments only happen in the spring and fall when the weather is decent, but your smokin’ deal might not be so good after shipping.
  • Delayed gratification: Because the wine doesn’t get shipped until the spring or the fall shipping times, you need to be patient. It can be a lot of fun getting that box shipped to you, but it’s not for the impatient.
  • Limited quantities: Suppose you get your wine and you really like it. What if you want more? Usually there isn’t any more to go around, and you are out of luck.
  • Losing the “float”: Unfortunately, the reality of buying your wine and letting Garagiste hang on to it in their cellar is that they get to take your money immediately. The banks call this the “float”, like the time after writing a check and before the money is taken out of your bank account.
  • “Hey, what’s this for?”: Those addictive little emails make it a bit too easy to order wine. Add to that the implicit fear that if you don’t get your order in quickly on today’s offer, you will be out of luck since they provide the wine first-come / first-served. I have not regretted any of the wine I have purchased, but I did get a few comments from the family’s Chief Financial Officer about what I was spending money on. Ooops.

Fortunately if you are in the Pacific Northwest and you have a reason to visit Seattle, you can request a pickup of your wine from Garagiste and save on shipping. This is a great way to preserve that good deal you were so excited about.

Now I just need to hope my daughter goes to grad school in Seattle …

Posted by: David Stewart | January 8, 2015

When self-editing fails

I was talking just yesterday with a colleague about the comments made by Microsoft’s new CEO about women and pay raises which caused a big controversy. He was called out for them and apologized publicly. “I answered that question completely wrong,” he said later in an email.

I just finished listening to the virally popular first season of the Serial podcast. An amazing piece of long-form reporting on a single story, the reporter Sarah Koenig spent over 40 hours interviewing a convicted killer, Adnan Syed, over a year’s time. In a letter after the interviews, Syed told Koenig that he had weighed every single one of his words with her, to ensure that he was not trying to sell his innocence in any way. That’s a lot of very careful talking. As of this writing, he is still in jail.

And as I’m writing this, the world is reeling over the brutal shooting of 12 people in Paris, who worked at a satirical publication called Charlie Hebdo. As far as we know at this point, the motive for the attack appears to be revenge for cartoons in the paper which were intended to be provocative and … well … satirical.

Words have tremendous power. And not just the words themselves, it’s also in the delivery. I learned early in life that “it’s not just what you say, but how you say it.” A lesson I learned very early in my career as a manager is that the passion I have for something can get out of control, leading me to say something I shouldn’t or in a way which hurts people needlessly. The net effect of this is to hurt my ability to lead without actually having any positive effect.

I’m not paid to be a satirist or a comedian. I’m paid to be a manager and a technologist and a leader.

On this blog and on the several social media sites I interact with, there are many many things I intentionally avoid writing about. This can be somewhat tricky, particularly since controversy attracts more attention.

  • Some of my friends post things on social media which make me very angry, disgusted, horrified. Often, it’s taking a political position which I disagree with. Calling them out, disagreeing publicly, even in a joking way, rarely leads to anything but a mess. Since nothing is achieved to educate or change anyone’s mind, why do it? I have to keep repeating the mantra, “MUST … NOT … FEED … TROLLS.”
  • There are political sensitivities about technical topics as well.
  • There is a lot of stuff that goes on at my work that is too sensitive to talk about, much less write about on social media. Everyone has this to deal with, whether they work at a non-profit, do volunteer work, or have any kind of social connections.
  • I’m fairly selective the aspects of my internal spiritual landscape that I write about online. Mostly that kind of stuff goes into my personal journal.

In spite of this strict self-editing, I fully admit to saying things which can cause unnecessary pain or send the wrong message. Either in the substance or the delivery.

As embarrassing as it to get called out for saying something insensitive or ill-considered, I do appreciate the people who have pointed these things out to me. I’m a richer person for it. Thanks.

Posted by: David Stewart | January 7, 2015

Living well

I went running at 5:30 this morning and was amazed at how much traffic noise I could hear from the highway which is a mile and a half away. One of those days when the atmospheric conditions were perfect for it, I suppose.

Back when my wife and I were starting our family (1987), a local builder announced that the horse pasture above our neighborhood was going to be developed into a neighborhood of new houses.

Houses for horses? No, a suburban neighborhood of modest single-family homes. We knew the little house we were living in at the time would be pretty cramped if we added kids, and our quiet little street was going to become a major access route for the new neighborhood.

So we decided to buy one of those new pieces of property and build our own house.

A much older and wiser friend suggested that we should try to get as much house as we could reasonably afford, so we wouldn’t outgrow it. Now in those days, there was a simple measure for affordability: Would your mortgage payment plus other debt payments exceed some percentage of your monthly take-home pay. Simple!

Oregon vineyard

Flickr: davest

It’s now 28 years later. We’re still in the same house. We have been blessed to enjoy continuous employment and few financial disasters, for which I am exceedingly grateful. Very, very, very grateful!

But our children are now grown up and out of college. Should we consider downsizing? We no longer have a mortgage payment, so there wouldn’t be much of a monetary savings there.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I have friends at work who have houses outside the city. For example, one associate has been telling me about his recent move to a house between Dundee and Newberg, smack in the middle of Oregon wine country. His commute to Hillsboro is about the same as mine is from Beaverton. And he gets a little more piece and quiet.

But there are some significant downsides:

  • We find ourselves in downtown Portland multiple times every week. Places like Newberg, Dundee and Dayton (where my sister used to live) are a full hour to drive to Portland, rather than the 20 minutes we enjoy today.
  • As a runner, training out in the country is doable, but I suspect a bit more dangerous, with fewer sidewalks around.
  • I kind of think we would see neighbors less. I’d like to engage more with our local community rather than be more isolated.
  • What about stuff like going to the gym or grocery store? Of course there are options even in the country, but I suspect it takes a bit more planning.
  • Quality of life for me is as much about the relationships I have with people as much as the house where I am living. I suspect that we would probably have to create a whole new web of relationships. Is that worth a little more peace and quiet?
  • I have this sneaky suspicion that I would be tempted to buy a more expensive place rather than actually downsize.

For the moment, I’m choosing to live well. For now, for me, this means being content with where we live and where we’re planted. I would like to believe we could move if we had to. Not now.

Posted by: David Stewart | January 2, 2015

Where I go to learn about wine – Best of 2014

I’ve seen that look in the wine isle at the grocery store. Countless bottles lined up staring at you with their mysterious label names. Maybe you just want a bottle of something for dinner that won’t be repulsive to you. You know in the past what you had before that you liked, can you find it? Find something similar? Maybe just go with that cute label with the kangaroo?

Often I see people scan the bottles, shake their heads and leave empty handed.

When you want to learn more about wine, it can be more than a bit intimidating. Where to start?

Here are some great places to start.

  • Wine Folly – This blog is consistently excellent at explaining wine concepts and illustrating them with infographics, pictures and videos. You can browse through various wine making regions, or learn about basic topics like how to pick the right glassware and how to pour wine without making a mess. I subscribe to this blog and regularly enjoy the posts.
  • The Wine Economist – Don’t get scared now. I know mixing economics with anything can be the kiss of deadly boredom. Surprisingly, Mike Veseth does a delightful job thinking big thoughts about business in the wine world and blogging about them instructively. Check out his classic book, “Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two Buck Chuck and the Revenge of the Terroirists.
  • The Reverse Wine Snob – There is a ton of tasting information here about wines which are reasonably priced and very accessible in the US. I have to admit that there is so much information which comes out here, it’s too much for me to keep up with regularly.
  • Terroirist – More in the oversharing department, this blog bills itself as a daily wine blog, and they totally live up to it. Every day they post a summary of new wine posts on web sites, blogs and media sites. A fantastic way to catch the daily pulse of the online wine world.

Many wine shops or online wine distributors send out regular email blasts about what they are offering. I subscribe to a few of these, and find them helpful as well. Many wineries produce their own e-newsletters as well.

Here are a couple of oddball blogs I visit as well:

  • Hosemaster of Wine – This is strictly an irreverent comedy blog written by a Sommelier and wine blogger. Most of the entries use NSFW language, so I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. But some of the entires are roll-on-the-ground funny.
  • Vinography – I really really wish this blog would fix its darn RSS feed so I could read it from my chosen RSS reader, theoldreader.com. The content is usually good, but I hate it when sites are not properly designed or maintained.

I really wish there were more blogs focused on Oregon wines. These are a few to check out that I have just started reading.

  • Wine Harlots – I’ve just started checking out this Oregon-focused wine blog. The posts are generally excellent.
  • The Real Wine Julia – Julia Crowley is based in Eugene, Oregon, and has been a local newspaper / television / blog commentator on wine.
  • The Wine Snob – Yes, I know I recommended the Reverse Wine Snob above, but this one doesn’t seem too snobby or purist. The writer was in the trade, as they say, in South Carolina and recently moved to Carlton, Oregon, ground zero for Willamette Valley wines. This one also shows a lot of promise.
Posted by: David Stewart | December 28, 2014

Corkage – Scandal? Or reasonable?

I’m all for a bargain. I don’t feel compelled to spend a lot of money on something if the value isn’t apparent to me (or if it would mean spending money I don’t have, what they used to call spending beyond my means). So I’m really very happy when I can score an artisan’s excellent wine at a killer price. What I call finding a value artisan.

The Willamette Valley of northwest Oregon has a lot of artisan winemakers, small-batch production of bottles driven out of their passion for winemaking.

One of the nice things about saving back a few bottles of what you really like in a cool, dark place is that you can be always ready to supply a bottle of wine for a special occasion. Birthdays, anniversary, Christmas and Easter – for me these call out for a wine I have been saving.

Bringing a bottle with me

In Oregon, it’s quite legal and acceptable for customers to bring to a restaurant a bottle of wine for dinner. This isn’t the case everywhere in the world: In France, for example, you would never, ever bring a bottle of wine to enjoy during your meal. I was never quite sure if this is the law or custom, but I was emphatically assured that it’s just not done. In some states in the US, it might not be legal either.

It’s also customary for the restaurant to charge a nominal fee, called “corkage”. In my modest urban sprawl of a home town (Beaverton), I asked a waiter at a local place what they charge for corkage – “Fifteen American dollars,” was the reply. Some places don’t charge anything at all.

$15 is actually on the reasonable side; the typical charge in the Portland area is $20. Given that most restaurants will basically charge twice or more of the retail cost of their wines, you will almost never be able to get a bottle on their wine list for only $20. And if you brought something you like, it’s a good deal.

One place I know in Portland charges $25, and if the wine you brought is on their wine list, they won’t open it. Some corkage fees are a scandal to me: The French Laundry in California charges $150 their corkage. (This is actually less than any of the bottles on their menu.)

Why charge anything at all? Wines with a screw cap don’t even require much time or effort from the waiter.

But I began seeing things a little differently when I started to think about wine as part of the overall dining experience. A thoughtful chef will design a menu with flavors that complement each other, a harmonious blend of textures and temperatures. And this harmony may include the wine.

What if I were to bring in my own freshly caught salmon into a restaurant and asked them to fix it for me? Suppose I dug up a head of lettuce from my garden and asked them to make a salad out of it? What’s worse, what if I bought a frozen salmon from the grocery store and asked them to prepare it?  After all, I can get a much better price for fish than they are charging me. If the meal turns out to be terrible, is it their fault?

But I still will bring my own bottle with me if the restaurant will allow it.

Over time, I have worked out a few rules for BYOB:

  • Bring something special to you. Don’t grab some cheap plonk from the shop just to save money.
  • Be cool about it rather than snotty. They don’t have to allow your wine into their place, after all. Smile, thank them and be polite.
  • I always offer the waiter to bring a glass for themselves if they want a taste. They don’t always take me up on it, but sometimes they do and they usually appreciate it.
  • If they ask if the wine needs to be decanted, I don’t feel bad about saying “yes, please.” This is particularly true for older bottles which might have some sediment. And the extra time it takes to pour out the bottle into a decanter makes me feel like I’m getting a bit more for my $20.

Bon appetit!

Posted by: David Stewart | December 26, 2014

What I learned from a decade of journaling

It started with a challenge. That’s so much the way it works with me. I hear about some heroically foolish endeavor with real or imagined benefits, and I’m in with it. Although unlike crazy dietary regimes or the 30 day challenge to do 100 push-ups per day, this is one I have kept with. It’s quite personal to me, so I’m not sure I will hit the “publish” button on this blog post. And I’ve reached a milestone of sorts.

10 years of notebooks filled. Time to go shopping for another MoleskineBack then, It went something like this: Read a few chapters of the Bible every day with the goal of listening and understanding what you might be hearing from God. Then write a short journal entry about it. The idea is to throw some dirt out there with some water, seeds and sunlight and see what happens.

The challenge was to do this exercise in personal meditation for five days a week, all year long. And if you kept with it, you will have found that you had read the entire Bible through in a year. If you miss a day or a week, no big deal, just pick it up again.

Spiritual journaling was not a new idea to me at the time. I probably first encountered it 35 years ago. People would tell me how excited they were about the kinds of insights they were getting from their journaling. But, I thought, hey, that’s just not for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I always felt like I needed a lot of growing. I would listen to my own thoughts or speech and regularly cringe at how awful I sounded in my own ears when I would interact with people. Periods of wallowing in bitterness and anger. Or flights of unrestrained ego inflation just to experience humiliation and regret. But writing a journal? That seems a bit too hard-core for me.

In 2004, after various fits and starts, I began regular journaling. The proof is in the stack of ten books I have filled up. I did a quick estimation, and it looks like I have written about 520,000 words. Over a half million words. And I’ve read through the Bible once a year for 10 years.

I won’t say every day brings brilliant insights. Sometimes it’s all I can do to scribble something obvious and move on. But many many times, I’m astonished by what I learn from what I write.

What did I learn from a decade of journaling? As the Rembrandts sang in the theme from Friends, “When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year…” then it’s quite amazing to look back on what I was thinking about at the time. For example, 2010 was a really awful year for me – I was going through a massive breakup of some long-standing personal relationships, which was creating all kinds of pain. Today, the pain is but a memory, but the 2010 journal is a record of the pain, an atlas of sorts for the geography of suffereing. I tagged a bunch of the better pages with sticky notes for future reference. All of this personal reflection would have been lost without the journal and the habit of journaling.

I really have a long way to go. I don’t have it all figured out. I need to do a lot more reading and journaling and growing. But if you have been thinking about writing a journal or you tried at one time but have put it on pause, I would gently suggest that you pick up the pen and try it again.

I can’t recommend it too strongly, because frankly the way my brain is wired might not be like yours.

But for me, the turn of the year means its time to shop for a new notebook.

Posted by: David Stewart | December 20, 2014

Put a cork in it

I’m truly amazed at the kind of passion generated by the simple question of corks vs screw caps.

Used corksIn ancient times, wine containers were capped by all manner of things, such as cloth soaked in olive oil. The cork came along in the 1600s just as glass bottles were also becoming popular. But in the latter part of the 20th century, the so-called Stelvin Closure became available as a replacement for both cork and the foil cap on wine bottles.

Some people probably heaved a sigh of relief: no more searching to find a cork screw or struggling with the mechanics of uncorking. Nearly all of the production of wines from New Zealand and half of Australian wines use twist-caps. There are a few wineries in the US which have adopted them, but almost none of the (vast) production from Europe uses screw caps.

The argument for screw caps goes to quality: There is a nasty defect in %1 – %3 of wines due to 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA), which is associated with a chlorine interaction with wine. The percentage of TCA “cork taint” used to be higher during a few years when the cork producers in Portugal reduced some of the quality of their product. Now it appears to be all but eradicated from the cork producers.

Why care? Well for some of us, drinking wine is not about the juice in the bottle. It’s a totality of sensory experience. This includes the wine, the label and yes, even the pulling of the cork. It’s quite telling that wineries which use the screw cap often use cork for their higher-end product. It’s because most people presume that a twist-off cap can’t be atop a truly high quality wine.

I’m not so much of a snob that I won’t buy wine that is topped with a Stelvin. On the other hand, I have not bought much wine or joined the wine club from wineries which predominantly use screw caps.Used corks
What about TCA or cork taint? I realize that a lot of wine producers suffer because of consumers returning bottles because they are corked. So they figure the screw cap saves them on returns. Actually I can think of only one or two bottles at most in my life have ever been corked.

“How would you like it if I stripped off your skin and stuffed it into a bottle?” – a Facebook comment from a friend. Eww. This implies that the poor cork trees are experiencing pain when their bark is pulled off. Should there be an eco-concern here? I’m actually led to believe that the cork trees are not harmed in any way by harvesting cork and usually can be harvested repeatedly. Cork tree plantations typically form a habitat for many species. And they do seem more renewable than metal caps.

If you want to know more about corks vs screw caps, the Wine Folly blog has a really terrific post about it.

Posted by: David Stewart | December 18, 2014

Taking running to the next level without getting injured

There are a few rules of thumb in training for 26.2 mile marathons. Iron-clad assumptions. Do your long slow distance runs every week. Hydrate properly. Wear the right shoes. Do speed work to get yourself faster.Cascadeshalfmarathon10K2012example.jpg

But unfortunately, I was finding that following a normal training routine was breaking me down. After nearly a decade of injury-free racing, I was starting to get injured regularly. Plantar fasciitis. Hamstring pulls. Strains of the iliopsoas. These would knock my training off track, sometimes for months.

Is it possible for me to meet my running goals without injury? Or should I just hang it up?

Fortunately, I have not had to give up yet. My coach has made some really good changes to my training, which has helped me to train well while avoiding some of the worst of the injuries. Here are a couple of things which have really helped. (By the way, I’m not at all an expert on any of this stuff. I recommend that you talk to an expert, like a running coach).

Track work replaced with fartleks. If you want to run fast, you need to run faster in training. The usual way this is accomplished is on a 400 meter track. You run repeated fast loops around the track at a particular pace, interspersed with slow loops. This alternating fast-slow builds strength, speed, and endurance. In fact, one common track technique is called “Yasso 800s“, after legendary runner Bart Yasso.

The problem is that my track workouts would often be where I would get injured.

Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning “speedplay.” My coach has had me alternate fast-slow segments like track work, but integrated into a regular run. This has a number of beneficial effects: since I’m putting it in the middle of a regular run, there is more variation in terrain than on a track. There is less of a tendency to force myself to hit a particular time per repetition, so I’m less likely to push my body too far. I’m also more likely to do a sufficient amount of warm-up and cool-down miles.

There are various ways to do fartleks, which you can research online.

Replace one day of running with the bike. Serious marathon training usually means running 6 days per week. My coach started replacing one of my running days with a day on the bike. 

Biking works well because it exercises some of the running muscle groups like the quads. And it helps build aerobic capacity. But it doesn’t stress out some of the joints and ligaments as running does. So you can continue to improving your training while giving the hamstrings a rest.

By “bike”, I’m referring to the stationary bike. I suppose you could bike outside instead, but I don’t really have a decent training bicycle, nor do I have the gear needed. The inside bike is a little boring, but for me, it’s probably safer.

Weight training. Yes, there should be no excuse for me not doing work in the weight room. But this was another good alternative to doing nothing on a rest day. Proper working out on weights tends to make the runner more injury-resistant. The trick is to do the workout properly. Here’s another good place to check things out with an expert. In addition, Runner’s World has a page of recommended strength training.

And if you do get injured … Don’t let it fester! Get in to a good chiropractor or other body work professional who is accustomed to working with runners.

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