Monthly Archives:

August 2016


A New Way To Run Strong

August 26, 2016

Throughout my running career, I’d avoided upper-body strength training as if it were the plague. I’d seen enough pictures of tiny runners dominating the sport to think a big chest and nice set of biceps could only slow me down. Now, 20 years later, my thinking has started to shift.

When I first started lifting, it wasn’t for my running. My sole intention was to get as big and strong as I possibly could. I went from exclusively running 140 miles a week, to running three days per week for 30 minutes, and lifting heavy weights six days per week. But something interesting happened along my journey to strength: Aside from putting on 25 lbs of muscle in just over four months, I started to feel better during my runs, even though I was running less.

It hit me in April when I was in London with Sara as she was preparing for the London Marathon. I had been pacing her runs by riding my bike in front of her to break the wind, but now that we were in London, I was bikeless and she needed a pacer. I nervously put on my lightweight running shoes for the first time in months, and gave it (what I was sure would be) a hopeless try.

As I was running with Sara at her marathon goal pace (roughly 5:30 per mile) I was expecting to have to drop out about two minutes in. But those two minutes came and went, and I made the run with surprising ease. Sure it felt slightly awkward with my heavier weight, but I noticed a newfound power in my legs and arms that I never felt during my professional running career. It is kind of hard to explain the sensation, but I think I may have been  tasting what sprinters must feel when they power through 100 meters. I felt like I had springs in my legs, and my cardio wasn’t nearly as bad as I would have imagined.

That was the first day the wheels in my head started to spin with thoughts of marrying weight training with running. And now, I can see even more how much energy weight training has brought not only to my running, but to my daily life. For starters, strength training helped me get my testosterone back to normal. It’s also brought a tremendous amount of power to my legs, which I feel noticeably on all my runs, and especially when sprinting and on hills. I also feel like I can recruit my arms to do more work when my legs are tired, allowing me to run faster for longer.

It’s also simply nice to feel strong. I like picking up heavy stuff now (like my kids!), and I no longer get sore from dragging luggage around at the airport. Still, there are some possible drawbacks with weight training for those trying to maximize their running potential. For example, you might gain weight which could lead to reducing your running economy. There is a tradeoff, however. Running is a mix of weight and power, and of course, you want to have power—so the key is balance. Making yourself as strong as possible (even in your upper body) while staying as small as possible should be the goal for those looking to run at their peak.

Our biggest breakthroughs often occur when we take chances. Yes, elite runners seem to be getting smaller, but perhaps that trend will only go so far—I don’t know. But it’s possible your biggest breakthroughs in running won’t come as a result of running more, but as a result of getting stronger through gym work. I have experienced firsthand how strength training can revitalize running, so maybe some time in the weight room can do the same for you. You won’t know for sure until you try.

food recipes ryan hall

Ryan’s Famous Muscle Milk Pancakes!

August 11, 2016

Here is our recipe for delicious Muscle Milk, teff, and cocoa pancakes. It is packed with protein and essential nutrients to help fuel a morning workout or whatever else you need to tackle during the day. The batter also makes healthy donuts!


  • 1/2 c teff flour
  • 3 tb cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash of Himalayan sea salt
  • scoop muscle milk organic chocolate protein powder
  • Stevia to desired sweetness (taste the batter before you make it)


Mix all above dry ingredients. Then slowly stir in enough water until pancake batter consistency is achieved. Pour all of the batter in a 10-inch heated skillet over medium heat. Flip pancake when air bubbles appear all over pancake. I like to flip it and take it off the heat after about 20 seconds and begin eating it directly out of the pan. It is still gooey in the middle which makes it strikingly similar to a molten lava cake. I like to top the pancake with 1 tablespoon Kerry gold grass fed butter. The pancake absolutely does not need syrup.



Expectations, Spring racing & family life 9 months in

August 1, 2016

By, Sara Hall

“I didn’t come out here to run 2:30” I told Ryan as we were talking through different race plans in the last few days before London Marathon. I had decided that after the Marathon Trials I wanted the chance to see what I could do after having such a good buildup (in weather cooler than 90 degrees).  I didn’t feel the need to prove anything to myself or anyone else, it was more to see the fulfillment of my labors and for the pure joy of getting to go the distance and take on the challenge.  London was a race I had witnessed Ryan come alive running twice, and I was excited to experience it myself.

Despite setting a new PR and achieving some personal breakthroughs in maintaining (close to) my pace the 2nd half entirely alone, I couldn’t help but be disappointed as I ran the exact time to the second (2:30:05) that I said would define an unfruitful trip. I chose to focus on the positives and choose gratefulness, and when I look back on the race is something I have to still consciously do.  But it sparked something in me when I realized my unmet expectations had stolen the joy I had gone there to experience.

Fast forward less than 4 weeks later, and I lined up in Occidental to try a 5k track race since the Olympic Trials were 5 weeks away and there wasn’t time to delay.  It was my first 5k in 3 years and I expected it to be embarassing, suffering lactic leg lock as I fought around the oval.  Instead I gained speed and momentum as the race progressed and ended up finishing strong and just shy of the Olympic A Standard.  Once again, my expectations had been wrong, but this time for better! Afterwards I wondered if I hadn’t anticipated being so underprepared but instead expected it to be easy and go well, if I could have dipped under that standard.  It was the opposite of London, but both left me wondering whether having performance expectations was even a good thing to begin with.

As with most things, I often find parallels with what I experience running and with the rest of my life, including my family.  Thus far our adjustment as a family and has far exceeded my expectations.  The challenges I anticipated have not been an issue. But it has not been easy- just less challenging and in different ways.

As you prepare to adopt, you hear a lot about “attachment” being difficult,  “acting out”, “shutting down” and other behavioral issues that often come from kids in hard places and I expected all of them. I expected it to take a while for my kids to be naturally affectionate- instead I got a child that literally attaches herself to me like a koala and prefers to be kissing (or, I kid you not, sucking on my face) as much as possible. This is a good thing, though sometimes I lose sight of that in the moment!)  In this ease of transition, a different challenge has emerged- because my kids have defied the odds thus far and taken everything in stride and openly loved us from day one, I now too often forget where they have come from.  I forget that these are not children who have been with me since inception and have grown up in suburban America and know how to do everything and all the social cues that we take for granted. If I’m not careful, that joy of how well we have adapted as a family can get stolen by new expectations just as it did in London.

Let’s take the issues of towels.  If my daughter sees a dog hair floating along our hardwood floors (we have huskies, y’all, enough said) she will use no fewer than 8 paper towels to pick it up. Conservation for the environment is not even a remote concept.  They also insist on bringing their face towels into the kitchen to be used there. And no matter how I try to protest or show them the towel holders on the kitchen island are their designated place the face/kitchen towels must always reside is on top of the gas stove.  This is a small and silly example of how when I lose perspective, my expectations change, and that can lead to frustration/disappointment.

Aside from the daily mistakes as they navigate this alien planet and all that comes with figuring out how to parent all these age groups simultaneously, I’ve accepted that having 4 kids period is not easy, which is a good perspective to keep (ever wonder why pre-race workouts always feel the worse? It’s because you expect them to feel easy).  Not easy, but worth it.  One of my daughters I swear has a constant IV of espresso into her veins and two are requiring huge efforts to get caught up academically, and many of my runs I’m thinking through how to get them to a place of thriving independently one day.  But the fact that these are my only problems is a testament to God’s abundant grace, and when I lose perspective I have to remind myself to take a moment to thank Him that these are the hardest moments!  These are the best-case-scenario challenges.

So what is the solution, is it possible to stop having expectations altogether?  I’m pretty sure that is impossible, our brains are
naturally hard-wired to make them. Plus I believe we should be living with hope and expectancy of good things, that is a life of faith. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1) I always want to have faith and hope, not settling for less of myself but being content with where things are at and not letting disappointment steal my joy. I want to be prepared for things to be hard and not always perfect, at the same time I don’t want that expectation to negatively shape my environment.

I don’t know (and if any of you do please chime in!) but I think the key in how to live in this tension is to step back, get perspective back and keep a heart of gratitude.  When a race doesn’t go the way I planned or my child is helping “organize” by stacking everything in a giant tower or hiding it in drawers, I take a step back and realize that running 2:30 was still a PR, and that my daughter’s willingness to show love by helping out is a major gift in itself.  Life will never look exactly as you expect it to, but through the twists and turns there is an invitation to let go of control and rigid expectations and stay open to finding the “gold” in every outcome.  A flexible heart can stay hopeful and full of faith, rather than tainted by past disappointments, and with it we can maneuver unmet expectations while still keeping our joy.


(**I am too lazy to imbed pictures. For related pictures, see my Instagram page @SaraHall3 🙂 )

RACE UPDATE: This blog was started a while ago and with most non-urgent things these days was shoved to the back burner of my life!  Since then, I ran the 5k at the US Olympic Trials and placed 14th in the final, which was not the supernatural race I was hoping for, but not a failure considering I could count the number of track races I’ve run the last 3 years on one hand.  I have turned my attention back to my true love, the roads, and am gearing up to run the TCS New York City Marathon for the first time! I have spectated this race for the last 10 years straight and felt absolutely wired by the electric atmosphere in the city and magical finish line in Central Park. It is a race I’ve always wanted to run but wanted to be ready for, and excited that this is the year to take on this epic challenge!