Tag Archives: coffee

5 Reasons Runners Are Great Characters in Fiction

As many of you know, the protagonists in my stories are often distance runners.  This isn’t by accident, but rather because running is a great activity for a fictional character for a few reasons.  Allowing a character to go on a long run can afford him or her the opportunity to think, plan, improve physically, gain perspective, or even get involved in even more trouble.  But,  distance running characters are beneficial for other reasons.  Here are five reasons I like my main characters to be able to go the distance.


Distance runners are notorious goal-setters.  They are constantly trying to get past a certain mile or better their time.  They will push themselves to the brink and then pour it on a little more.  We all like to relate to characters who are looking to improve, or at least achieve a particular goal.  A distance race can be a lot like a great book.  As with running, even if the protagonist in a story comes up short it’s guaranteed something is learned from the journey.



Let’s face it – some of the best protagonists in books and film are a bit… off.  When discussing distance runners, we are dealing with people who say things that demonstrate they are quite mad.  They say things like, “It’s only a five-mile run.”  Or, “Cool!  I finally lost a toenail!” (Yes, that can really happen).  And they utilize a strange brand of logic where a cure for fatigue is to go for a run.  They may also decide a monsoon is just a great chance to try out their new waterproof running jacket.

Not to mention, I’m pretty sure distance running is one of the few endeavors in which grown men will put Band-Aids on their nipples and consider this act to be perfectly normal behavior.


Talk to any experienced distance runner and you will hear a story about having to overcome adversity.  Some runners took up the sport in order to overcome a personal crisis and others have had to conquer mental or physical challenges that affected his or her running.  It could be a major knee injury, a stress fracture, a something deeply personal.  Running in itself is an internal struggle that is much more than physical.  There is a depth to the undertaking, and isn’t that what we want in the characters for which we cheer?


I mean how many books or movies have a main character who goes twelve hours straight without using the facilities???  Runners know better.  They plan things out, know where the possible pit stops are located, and fuel appropriately.  Remember the show 24?  In nine seasons, I think Jack Bauer went to the restroom one time.  In fairness, he rarely ate or drank either.  While I like the Jack Bauer character, the best characters plan out their refueling and relieving ahead of time.  Sure, you can argue Bauer didn’t have a lot of time to plan before the next crisis hit.  But, come on.  It was Jack Bauer.  He had to know trouble was around the corner.


This is obviously a generalization, but one that is fairly accurate.  Most runners love to wake up with a jolt of caffeine and they certainly don’t mind a cold brew after a long run.  This is great for writing fiction (especially crime fiction) because we can all visualize a detective grabbing a third cup of coffee after a long night, or downing a beer while contemplating a case.  You can argue that coffee and beer may not be the best for a runner’s health.  You can try, but they won’t listen.  They will simply run away and chances are they are faster than you.

And don’t worry about them going for a long run after drinking a few cups of coffee.  They know exactly where all the bathrooms are located.


J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Twitter @JJHensleyauthor


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.



In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.


Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

Legacy cover



How to Exercise on Jupiter with Your Child

Keeping in shape can be a challenge.

Keeping in shape during the holidays can be incredibly difficult.

Keeping in shape during the holiday season, when you are the parent of a young child, can be a lot like trying to quell a toddler’s temper tantrum during the thunderstorm that caused the power to go out, prematurely ending an episode of Dora the Explorer.

So how do you exercise when the weather demands patience and your child demands attention?  I mean it’s not like you can exercise with your three-foot-tall bundle energy, right?

Over the past couple of years, the “exercise room” in my house also became the “playroom”.  So, I’d take my daughter down there in the hopes that she would entertain herself while I would lift weights or put in some time on our exercise bike.


Inevitably (and understandably), she would want me stop my bench press routine to join a tea party.  Or, she would ask me to stop peddling the bike so I could try the strawberry coffee she “made” for me.  Of course, not wanting to be THAT parent, I’d stop lifting to sip “tea” from a tiny blue cup or I’d stop peddling because… well, we all know that nobody in his right mind can turn down a nice cup of strawberry coffee.

One of the other games she likes is “being a giant” with me.  This is nothing more than her sitting on my shoulders while I stomp around the room.  But one day while we were enjoying our gianthood, I took a long stride and did a lunge.  Then another, then another, then another.  My daughter thought it was incredibly fun and I found it extremely tiring.  In fact, it was exhausting like… EXERCISE.  And without warning, the Pipsqueak Workout was born.

Below are a few simple exercises you can enjoy with the most important person in your life.  To them, you are everything.  To you, they are everything… including great workout equipment!

Obviously, the safety of you and your child are the most important thing.  Do not attempt any of these exercises unless you are absolutely certain that no harm will come to you or your little one.


Silly Squats:  Put the child on your shoulders (or back) and make sure they are secure.  Stand up.  Keeping your back straight, perform a few squats.  Each time you stand, make a sound like rocket launching, or cuckoo clock, or whatever.

Lion Lunges:  As I mentioned with the “being a giant” game, put your child securely on your shoulders and take long strides across the room.  Make absolutely certain you can maintain balance.  Roar like a lion with each stride.  It will make you feel fierce and primal and keep your kid laughing.



Creature Curls:  While standing, have your kid reach up and grab your hands.  Gently lift your child up by curling your arms.  Don’t do this too many times, as you don’t want to hurt your child’s shoulders.  If you prefer, hold your child under him arms and curl his bodyweight that way.  Make monster sounds with every repetition.  Because monsters are strong.  Probably.


Pee-wee Pull-ups:  If you have access to a pull-up bar, lift your child so she can reach the bar.  While standing behind her, have her grab the bar and try to pull herself up.  Of course she won’t be able to do this, so you will have to lift her above your head for each repetition.  This is great for your shoulders, upper-back, and triceps.  And you kid will feel superhuman because she will think she can rattle off a Gummy Bear-load of pull-ups.


Crazy Crunches:  Get in your normal crunch position.  Then have your toddler/pre-schooler lay on you in the same position.  Start performing crunches and marvel at how much harder they are when you have an extra 30 pounds of weight on your chest.


Planetary Pushups:  You are both on a planet where the gravity is extreme.  Pushups are going to be extremely difficult, due to the gravitational pull.  Or… maybe it’s the kid on your back.  Have your child lay face down on your back while performing pushups.  Not only is it a good workout for your chest and arms, but it works your abs while you try to stabilize a wiggly toddler who is clinging on to you.  If your kid holds on by grabbing you around the neck, you get extra points for completing the exercise while being deprived of oxygen on this strange planet.



Tag!  You’re Tired!:  Imagine there is a circle on your floor (maybe a 10 ft diameter) and that you and your child are not allowed to go outside of that circle.  Tell your child you are playing tag and have them start by being “it”.  As your kid tries to tag you, you will have to jump, dodge, bob, weave, and slide.  You will be amazed at how quickly this little agility exercise can wear you out.  Once you get tagged, you’ll need to chase your child.  There is no way she will stay inside the imaginary circle, so enjoy your new sprint workout.


It’s also possible to turn these exercises into a learning opportunity for your child.  Have your child count the pushups or or recite the alphabet during crunches.  Have her say a different color for each squat or a farm animal for each curl.  Be creative.

But most importantly, don’t do any of this if your child isn’t having a blast.  It’s always better to pack on a few pounds rather than being the jerk who forces his kid to “have fun”.  Believe it or not, your kid doesn’t give a damn if you can do 10 pushups or 100.  If most of your curls involve lifting a tiny blue tea-cup, then you are doing just fine.

How do you balance parenting, exercise, and everything else?  Leave a comment!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, and Measure Twice. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

RESOLVE was a finalist for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers organization, was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Suspense Magazine, and is one of Authors on the Air’s Best Books of the Year.

Twitter @JJHensleyauthor


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

Measure Twice 750 x 1200 jpeg