GET WELLNESS: Pick up a healthier life where your forgotten resolutions left you off


AURORA | The excuses fly shortly after the champagne corks.

Oh, I don’t have the time to exercise. Or the gym will be too crowded this month so I will start some time around Valentine’s Day. Or St. Pat’s. And there’s just too much that’s saggy and gray in the locker room, so I’ll skip it for now.

70500_AuroraMagP1COVER.1.17By this time, those New Years resolutions made are long forgotten. But it’s not too late to make good on your intent.

If you really want to change things up, to drop a few pounds, shave a few inches from the waistline or simply start feeling better, figuring out a way to make the reasons to get in shape outweigh that bulging bag of excuses is a trying first step.

But here are a few ideas that might help you finally brave the pool, the bathroom scale, the list of promises and all of the musclebound heart throbs at the gym. If you’re looking for a reason to read on: There’s an army of out-of-shape goobers at the gym this time of year. You are not alone, and if you stop with the excuses, you’ll soon be someone else’s inspiration.

REACH: Climbing out of that winter funk

They say young humans aren’t supposed to hang or swing from their arms, that our shoulder joints are basketballs balancing on golf tees — just waiting to tumble off and explode. That our fingers are delicate Popsicle sticks good for little more than to fire off smiley face-filled missives from our portable electronic devices. And that falling on our feet, ankles and legs could, like, break them.

That’s bull spit.

Because, the royal “they” also said we wouldn’t put a man on the moon. They said the Baha Men wouldn’t succeed. And, I’m sure, at some point, someone said that we wouldn’t be able to put a chicken inside of a duck inside of a turkey.

But here we are. Eating turducken and listening to “Who Let the Dogs Out” under a moon sporting several American flags. (Or, so they say.)

So why not hang from our occasionally cattywampus shoulders, using our doughy fingers, sometimes — just sometimes — falling into space or (hopefully) padded ground?

No good answer? Good, great, grand, wonderful — let’s get started.

Climbing is one helluva a workout and/or addiction, and this January is as good of a time as any to jump into the passion you never knew you had. It’s not a bad way to shed those stores of fruitcake hanging around your midsection, either.

To get started, especially in the dead of Colorado winter, you’re going to have to find your closest dojo. And it’s nearly impossible to find oneself much farther than sniffing distance from a bona fide, ultra-chic climbing gym these days — especially in the metro area. The U.S. indoor climbing industry grew by 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, adding 40 new climbing-specific gyms last year alone, according to the Climbing Business Journal. There were 388 commercial climbing facilities in the country as of Dec. 28, 2015, according to the publication. (The 2016 report was not available before press deadline.)

Despite the widespread proliferation of walls covered in multi-colored fruity pebbles, Aurora remains somewhat of a gym desert. Although the slow encroachment — one that could very likely result in a gym opening in the city in the next few years —  of beta-spraying climbers across the metroplex has resulted in gyms popping up directly along the city’s borders to the north and south. Übergrippen Indoor Climbing Crag opened earlier this year in Stapleton, and Rock’n and Jam’n 2 opened in 2012 in Centennial. There’s a bevy of additional options in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and most other easily recognizable datelines across the Centennial State.

(Aurora also holds the enviable position of being somewhat close to Castlewood Canyon State Park, where a bounty of sport climbing and bouldering options exist outside of remodeled warehouses.)

But let’s start with the gym this winter, shall we? (And I’m not sorry for promoting the gym culture, curmudgeonly traditional climbers. Like your significant other at the climax of an M. Night Shyamalan flick, the future is meant to be embraced.)

A monthly climbing gym membership hovers in the neighborhood of $70. But before you get your leg loops in a twist, know that membership often comes with dozens of other amenities, like locker and shower access, yoga classes, spin classes, weight rooms, tread mills and whatever other slew of cross training classes they happen to have on the schedule that week. That price isn’t quite as difficult to digest now, is it? If it is, that’s what Maruchan ramen noodles are for.

As for actually climbing, there isn’t much to say besides this: Just go for it. Grab some (gently) used shoes ($50ish) from an REI Garage Sale or the always-discounted Internet, a chalk bag ($5 – $15) and some chalk ($2). A harness ($50) and belay device ($20ish) can come later if you want to get a bit higher, but the basics stand as is. That should be the extent of what you need to quietly start pulling on plastic and feel enough blood surge into your forearms to make Popeye seem more petite than powerful.

Remember not to over do it: take it slow, breathe, watch and think about your feet. Don’t be hucking dynamic swings on every V0 just because you can and — most importantly — get after it, you sack of potatoes. It’s supposed to be fun, after all.

After the climbing bug manages to take hold of your entire psyche during your first few sessions, it would behoove you to subscribe to Climbing Magazine and Rock and Ice, and begin making daily posts in the comment sections of the respective publication’s websites. Snide remarks in Mountain Project forums are also encouraged.

Following that, you can start amassing enough unnecessary gear to fill a Quonset hut, eat nothing but organic nuts, grains and lean meats and, eventually — hopefully — sell the majority of your possessions to live in or around Yosemite Valley.

With that, you’re set. You’re a climber, or something. (You’re, at the very least, some 21st-century version of a climber, I think.) So what are you waiting for? Go! Fulfill your shoulder-popping, Baha Men-loving destiny. I’ll see you at the show when the boys, excuse me, The Men come to town for their inevitable reunion tour. Or maybe I’ll just see you at Castlewood this summer.

— Quincy Snowdon, staff writer

YOGA: Namaste your way to a better life

I’m not really a slow moving person. I flit about the newsroom like a hummingbird, my friends always complain I walk too fast when we gallivant around Colorado, and I’m perpetually over-caffeinated.

So undertaking a regime of yoga and meditation isn’t really in my wheelhouse. But, I’ve come to realize it’s those of us who don’t like slowing down that often need to the most.

Yoga can be frustrating for people who aren’t accustomed to sloth-like exercise. You do a lot of moving and stretching and go nowhere. But that’s only in the beginning, when you’re sitting with your legs crossed with one eye open while everyone else has their eyes shut (yes, I am that kid that always snuck a bite of mashed potatoes during grace).

I was confused for the first five minutes of yoga the first time I went to a class. They wanted me to concentrate on breathing and I rolled my eyes, as one does when confronted with their own overwhelming skepticism.

But once you leave lotus position and start moving, the goodness kicks in. That’s the only way I can really describe it — “goodness.” Your body is challenged to stay flexible but tight at the same time, the controlled breathing makes you relaxed and you’re forced to concentrate, which feels therapeutic for someone like me, whose mind is always racing.

But what makes yoga unique to other exercise is the meditative component. Even though phrases like “mindfulness-based stress reduction” and “insight-oriented meditation” often draw incredulous feedback from people who have never engaged in them, there’s a whole host of benefits to these meditative activities, says Liz Chamberlain, a psychologist at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

“For the skeptics, I would encourage them to actually look up mindfulness-based stress reduction. There is evidence that it can actually decrease your stress and your quality of living,” says Chamberlain, who specializes in mindfulness-based cognitive therapies for stress, depression and anxiety. “It helps you gain greater awareness in observing your feelings, emotions and thoughts … and when something comes up that feels stressful for you, you can center yourself and calm yourself and that makes you feel better.”

So let’s drill down to the bedrock: what the heck is mindfulness? Basically, it’s just taking the time to think about how you’re feeling. Yes, really, it’s that simple. You don’t have to sit on a cushion for 30 minutes a day and contemplate the meaning of life. It can be as simple as taking 10 minutes to focus on something you find relaxing.

“The first step to being more mindful is just being aware and noticing you would like to be healthier in that area or would like to approach a more mindful way of living,” Chamberlain says. “There are several ways to do that, whether it’s scheduling some meditation time … or maybe just spending a few minutes a day observing some quiet time or getting some scheduled exercise.”

For example, coloring books for adults have seen a recent rise in popularity because most people find coloring to be simple, yet soothing. You look at the picture, you select colors and just focus on staying inside the lines. That’s it. You’re so consumed with the activity, stressful thoughts don’t have time to worm their way in.

But whatever meditative activity you choose, it should be practiced even when you’re not stressed, Chamberlain advises. That way you can master the skills you need to calm down for the next time the universe decides to rain on your parade.

“Stress is everywhere, stress is always going to come up, it’s about how we manage it and how we approach it,” she says. “But the time to practice meditative thinking (and activities) is when you’re not in that fight-or-flight mode … and to be able to harness that practice and notice what your triggers are so that you know you can rely on that capability once you’re feeling stressed.”

Ultimately, meditation and mindfulness are really just types of exercise. But instead of blasting your glutes, you’re flexing your brain — and that’s equally as important.

“Wellness isn’t just about physical health,” Chamberlain says. “It’s about how you think about things, how you feel about things and your behaviors.”

— Susan Gonzalez, staff writer

GYM: Putting a new spin on the same old sweaty workout

That old saw about misery loving company can come in handy this time of year.

When you’re looking to get in shape, going alone is tough. Even finding the motivation to head to the gym, where you’re not alone but you may as well be when you pop the earbuds in and zone out on the elliptical, can be a challenge.

That’s where a fitness class can really help motivate you.

And first things first, if you are envisioning those Jazzercise courses your mom used to take while you stayed home and watched “Who’s the Boss?” while sipping a Tab, think again. Today’s fitness scene is not only quite a bit cooler but remarkably diverse — though often with fewer leotards and leg warmers, depending on your locale.

You can hit a kickboxing class where you not only burn a ton of calories but you also learn skills that will help if some creep snatches your purse or European carryall.

There’s Tai Chi, too. And look, Tai Chi was good enough for Dalton from “Road House,” so it’s obviously good enough for you.

And of course there’s Zumba, a direct descendant of the aforementioned Jazzercise class but decidedly cooler.

The problem with all of those, though, is mustering the courage to potentially embarrass yourself mightily. Hopping into a Zumba class with a bunch of toned, buff and way-too-graceful dancers doesn’t exactly sound like fun for someone just looking to finally climb off the couch and shed a few pounds.

So what if you know the social nature of a fitness class could help motivate you, but you’re feeling a little self conscious about shuffling into a class with folks who look like they should be on the cover of a magazine?

There’s actually an ideal compromise out there waiting for you, and it’s the sort of workout just about anybody can do.

Take a spin class.

Yes, it has all the perks of those other classes. There’s the social element where once you go a few times, the other riders will expect to see you, so the social pressure is there to help motivate you.

And the workout can be killer, helping you shave pounds and walk out with remarkably toned glutes.

But it offers something the others don’t: A modicum of privacy — and a chance.

When the class starts and the lights go down, you can barely see the other riders. And don’t worry, even if they could look at you and marvel at your slower-than-their’s pace, they wouldn’t because they’re busy pretending they’re Lance Armstrong minus the medicine cabinet.

Shea Roth-Nelson knows this well. A regular at the Shift Cycle shop in Stapleton Northfield, the 36-year-old mother of two said the classes are ideal for someone who might be a little anxious about taking a fitness class.

“No one is paying attention to what you are doing,” she says. “They’re just on their bike paying attention to what they are doing.”

Another perk: No matter the shape you’re in, you can handle a spin class.

Sure, you aren’t going to keep up with some trainer who is rocking calves like twin shot puts and thigh muscles you didn’t even know existed. But you don’t have to.

Pedal as fast as want, or as slow as you need. It’s your call, and nobody in the class is gonna care if you set a personal record that day or if you set a personal worst.

“It’s all about the workout you wanna get out of it,” Roth-Nelson says.   

— Brandon Johansson, staff writer

WORK: Feed your career to get your whole life in shape

OK, so maybe ahead of 2016 you were one of the few people who made a New Year’s resolution and actually made it happen.

Perhaps you dropped 20 pounds, got a new wardrobe and now step out the front door with some swagger these days, or you might have finally extricated yourself from a dead-end or stale relationship.

But maybe, just maybe, you aren’t totally content. Even with one or more of the aforementioned successes under your belt, there might still be something that makes it hard for you to get out of bed every morning. It could be your career.

The economy is definitely still tough and so when you have a job, sometimes it’s necessary to suck it up and just do it to keep the paychecks coming in. But for those who have some flexibility or an unquenchable passion to do something different, you’re in luck.

“We see a lot of students that come back for the opportunity to explore their passion,” said Victor Vialpondo, Dean of Academic Affairs for the School of Professional Sciences at the Community College of Aurora, which has students from their 20s to 80s, many training for new vocations.

“From my experience working with students, some folks that look for career changes are doing it because they have the opportunity to do it financially or their family doesn’t depend on the initial support,” Vialpando continued. “Now that their family has gotten on its feet or the kids are off to school, some people really like to have the opportunity to explore a passion.”

So first of all, figure out what your full skill set is and how soon you can move in a different direction.

Career coaches abound who can give you the psychological tools and direction that just might be enough to get you going, and having CCA in your backyard is an ideal resource. About 50 percent of students at the school come back to try to better themselves in their current field, while the other half aim to break into the top three industries that look the most healthy in the current economic climate: IT, health care and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Sometimes, though, the urge to strike out on your own can’t be ignored. Afterall, 97.9 percent of all businesses in the United States have fewer than 20 employees according to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, so plenty of people have that idea.

It can be scary to take that chance, but hey, you already lost that weight or moved on when you had to, right?

CCA has something for that, as it heard students’ requests to help start their own small businesses and did something about it.

Beginning in January, the school will debut the Entreprenurial Launch program — first for no credit, then later for credit — as designed to help people start their own businesses and get them off the ground.

The program allows students to start with an idea and investigate its viability, put the finances in place to get up and running (a partnership with the City of Aurora and others makes startup capital available) and learn about the ins and outs of running a business. They even go a step further: the school actually has a physical space to allow students to get the business up and on its feet while under the watchful eye of the staff.

Talk about a win-win situation.

“As far as we know, we are the only community college in the state that is offering this program and an incubator space,” Vialpondo said. “They will have the physical space to launch the business through the first six months to a year and still have the support of our faculty.”

It’s like riding a business bike with somebody to hold you up until you can take off on your own.

CCA hopes to have 12 to 15 businesses up and running in its space within the first year of the program, so get your thinking cap on. Afterall, this could be the thing that makes 2017 — and the rest of your life — quite perfect.

And hopefully you’ll need a new wardrobe for that new career and your slimmer waist line.

— Courtney Oakes, staff writer

NUTRITION:  Get a taste for good nutrition as well as the good life

Lauren Ott has a new dietary philosophy to add to that hackneyed list of fat-shedding regimens including, but not exclusive to, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Paleo, Whole 30, South Beach — the list goes on.

Though Ott’s addition isn’t nearly as sexy as the aforementioned weight-loss fads, it’s backed by, like, research. So, that’s helpful.

So-called “healthy gut” diets have become increasingly in vogue in recent years, and adding a few fermented foods that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in our bellies is one of the more concrete nutritional tips Ott, a registered dietitian at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, is offering to New Year resolvers in 2017.

The nutritional phenomenon of maintaining a fit gut — it’s less a diet than it is a guiding mentality — centers on nomming foods high in bacteria, such as yogurt, kombucha and keefer, to promote gut health. Long known to help curb appetites, these foods are being shown to increase overall health, too, according to Ott.

“These are things we’ve always been recommending, but now we’re seeing that more than keeping us full for longer, they’re promoting that healthy bacteria in our gut,” she said.

Indeed, an article published last summer in the World Journal of Gastroenterology begins by stating: “It is now well established that a healthy gut flora is largely responsible for overall health of the host.”

In an article published for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, Meghan Jardine, associate director of diabetes nutrition education for the committee, points to several other easily-obtainable foods that promote a healthy gut: bananas, beans, blueberries, broccoli, Jerusalem artichokes, kimchi and sauerkraut, polenta and tempeh.

On top of adding pro-gut foods in 2017, Ott urges January resolvers to shy away from any sort of diet that isn’t sustainable in the long-term. (See: Most dietary trends from the past 30 years.)

“Any diet that is not sustainable for the rest of your life is not a diet you should be on,” she said. “I would never be able to follow (Atkins) for the rest of my life. People lose tons of weight but they gain it right back.”

Ott said the primary problem with many of those more commercialized diets is that, while temporarily effective, they shock the metabolic system. Sometimes, that unexpected jolt can result in making weight “nearly impossible” to re-lose if (and when) it is gained back. Ott pointed to (and condemned) shows like “The Biggest Loser” for promoting that style of dieting.

“If we do this yo-yo dieting, studies show that starts to significantly impact our body composition, lowers our metabolic rate and makes it harder the next time,” she said. “I would rather a client stay overweight than do that whole yo-yo-ing of their weight — that’s how bad it is.”

In place of those jarring, boot-camp style schedules, Ott recommended pursuing a more moderate approach that allows for some indulgence, but remains heavy on planning. She recommends eating “within reason” about 80 percent of the time, and allowing for more excessive eating about 20 percent of the time. Even then, she emphasized those splurges should be as planned as possible.

“I’m a broken record about it: you’ve got to plan ahead,” she said. “Even if you’re planning to splurge, plan it ahead.”

To dial in that planning process, Ott recommends maintaining a cache of about 10 go-to recipes from Pinterest or Yumly that are quick and easy to make. She’s big on eggs — high in protein, low in calories and they keep well in the refrigerator. She’s also keen on meal-planning mobile apps, like MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, Fitbit and CalorieKing.  And if you’re insistent on following a certain dietary structure, she recommended the Mediterranean diet — high in fish and whole grains and low in red meat — and the DASH diet, which is designed to lower blood pressure. For the exercise side of the equation, she championed high-intensity interval training.

“You maximize calorie and fat burn, while minimizing the time you have to spend actually doing your workout,” she said.

Ott’s most underscored piece of advice for eating and living healthier this holiday season and into the New Year is to remain patient.

“I think my biggest tip — and this is probably a huge cliché — is to remember you didn’t gain the weight overnight, and you can’t expect to lose it overnight,” she said. “Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

— Quincy Snowdown, staff writer

DIET TIPS: Here’s what experts say successful weight loss looks like

After the New Years magic fades, late winter is a great time for a healthy, new start. But putting too much pressure on yourself to lose weight might not be the best way to start things off. That’s according to the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM), which certifies doctors in the field of obesity medicine.

Topping the list of this year’s weight loss tips is the suggestion to enjoy the New Year with family and friends and get your life in order – before pouring on the pressure to lose weight and get in shape. Here are ABOM’s 2017 practical weight loss tips:

1. Make a Q2 Resolution

Consider pushing back your New Year’s resolution a few months. Many of us are already energized with the New Year, making healthy behavior changes more likely to happen naturally in Q1 (January, February and March). But for most, this energy dissipates by March or April, and many New Year’s resolutions are long gone. Consider rolling with your new-found, new-year energy now, enjoy the time with family and friends, get new projects underway or out of the way, and then make a “Q2 resolution” in April or May, when otherwise you’d be fading.

2. Plan 30 Minutes of DailyActivity

The rest of the day is all yours! Purposeful movement should be on your calendar each day. If you don’t move it, you lose it (muscle tone); exercise is vital for long-term weight management. If you can handle moderate to vigorous exercise, that’s even better! This is especially important when fighting the tendency to regain weight after significant weight loss.

3. Get Seven to Eight Hours of Sleep Each Night

Going to bed and waking up at about the same time each day makes it easier to get your body into a sleep pattern. It also keeps stress hormones, such as cortisol, low and under control, and a good night’s sleep leaves you refreshed and ready for the next day.

4. Eat Protein and Veggies First at Every Meal

Studies show that starting each meal this way makes you feel fuller, longer. And having healthy protein for breakfast – think eggs or egg whites, nuts, low-fat dairy products and soy products – will energize the body and reduce your appetite throughout the day. Don’t start meals with bread or other carbohydrates, which can act as empty calories that don’t fill you up. If you must have them, wait until the end of the meal.

5. Aim for Daily Consistency

Many patients follow a weight-loss program quite well during the week, but struggle during unstructured time on the weekends. Strive for daily consistency, not necessarily perfection, as you move toward your goal.

If all else fails, see a board-certified Obesity Medicine doctor. A physician certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine has undergone the training required to better care for patients struggling with weight and obesity issues. This designation represents the highest level of achievement in the field of obesity medicine, and it ensures they have the knowledge and skills needed to treat the most prevalent chronic disease in America today.

— The American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) serves the public and the field of obesity medicine through the examination and certification of candidate physicians who seek recognition of their accomplishments and knowledge in obesity medicine.

RUNNING: Run for your life, and find one at the same time

It was Hump Day and I was following up a downright miserable slog the previous Sunday through the stickiest of Colorado clay at Green Mountain with a surprisingly brisk scamper along the Meadowlark and Plymouth trails of Deer Creek Canyon Park.

My pace and heartbeat were steady and my eyes trained as I picked my way first up, and then back down Pyramid Peak, all despite some snow and icy trail conditions, in addition to the regularly rocky terrain and the fact that it was, well, pitch black besides the small, bouncing ball of light coming from my headlamp. I’d put five, 10-minute miles behind me since I reached the trailhead just after sunset.

Then, with about two miles left, the full moon lifted from the horizon and began to peek out from the cumulus clouds to the east. It was a magnificent, deep golden color that matched the grid of lights from the city of Littleton below.

I stopped in my tracks and turned off the headlamp.

Far up in the mountain, I let loose and howled. The noise bounced and bounded its way down the side of the hill and disappeared into the vast, cold emptiness of southern Jefferson County below — along with all the week’s worries and anxieties.

I thought to myself, “Moments like these are what I run for.”

But then, I really resist that whole notion, the idea of running FOR something. I mean, sure, I enjoy the views, and it’s hard to dismiss the physical and mental health benefits of running.

Yet, the idea of having to run FOR something irks me, probably because of non-runners who always have the same response when you tell them you like to run long distances through high elevations and along jagged trails with technical terrains, sometimes in the dark.

“Why would you do that?” they say. “I only run if I’m being chased.”

Ha, ha. First time I heard that. Good one.

But still, the why of running is something I ponder a lot. And recently, it dawned on me: It’s not necessarily what we run FOR, but what we run FROM.

I’m a husband, now, and the father of a 4-year-old daughter who’s been on the trails since before she could walk.

But before that, I was, let’s say, a partier. That is, I was an addict. I drank and smoked. Sometimes I took hard drugs. They were afflictions not uncommon of former Denver bartenders and lifelong writers.

But when I finally began to recognize the emptiness of addiction and began longing for something more, for family and clean living, well, that’s when I turned to running, which I’d done with moderate success in high school about two decades before — prior to all that aforementioned hard living.

My foray into trail running started about five years ago during a four-year hiatus back to my home state, Pennsylvania. It’s since culminated this year with perhaps my most accomplished season: I finished my first Colorado 50K this summer (the Golden Gate Dirty 30 in Blackhawk) and, as of year’s end, I’ve logged more than 600 miles and 100 trail runs — most of them through the foothills of Jeffco open spaces.

I feel like I’ve come a long way, baby.

And while I wish I could credit it to sheer determination and steel resolve, that’s just not the case. I don’t run because I will myself to, I run because I must.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

Certainly, statistics show trail running to be one of the most increasingly popular activities, particularly in places like Colorado, where some of the best trails can be found along the Front Range in Jefferson and Park counties a half-hour or so from downtown Denver.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2016 Outdoor Participation Report, running, including jogging and trail running, was the most popular activity among Americans when measured by both number of participants and number of total annual outings.

That’s no surprise, considering how much there is to run from these days: political strife, overwork, traffic and technological fatigue, to name a few.

But again and again, I run to escape a former me who — left to his own accord — would have had slim chance of growing old with his wife and seeing his daughter flourish.

So, are there others like me?

I decided to pose the question to some fellow runners from the Colorado Masters Running Association — a group of mostly over-40 trail runners and walkers seeking camaraderie and a little friendly competition. The Masters hold monthly races. This year, I didn’t miss a single one. The responses were surprisingly forthright and frank. Anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns were high on the list. So was food and obesity. Cigarettes are an obvious vice to run from since, after all, it’s hard to be a runner AND a smoker. Validating the whole “running away” theory was Terry Miller, who said he actually hates running.

“The only thing I hate worse is being fat and slow,” he added.

But there’s also runners who are chased by less tangible demons.

“I run from the hurt and loneliness created in being isolated due to mental health struggles,” said Jen Byrne of Golden. “(It’s) ironic since I’m alone, but the rhythms of my heart and feet replace some of the noise and being out (on the trails) feels less isolated than my apartment.”

It turns out that isolation is a draw for many. Melissa A-ok — that’s what she goes by on Facebook — said she runs from chaos, from schedules and appointments and to-do lists. She found running to be cleansing, healing.

“Years ago, amid my whole life changing, there was a lake a mile from my house,” she said. “I was a beginning runner — a mile here, a lap or two around the lake, and a mile home.

“I have memories of some runs completely evoking emotion out of me, and on occasion (I’d fall) to the ground in tears,” A-ok added. “It was totally therapeutic.”

And at a time when popular culture keeps shoving death down our throats, it turns out that mortality, too, makes for a helluva inspiration. After all, even though we know we can’t escape the Grim Reaper, it’s sure nice to think we can put a little distance between us.

“I run from the ticking clock,” said Deanna Webster of Westminster. “Getting my feet on the trail and taking my body out of the straight lines and angles of suburbia brings me back to the moment. I see what’s in front of me, feel what’s around me, hear the silence and what breaks it — from the breeze in the boughs to the pulse in my veins.

“Time stands still when I run.”

Turns out, sometimes you gotta get moving if you wanna slow things down. But don’t take my word for it: Run along and find out for yourself.

— Jeremy Johnson, staff writer