Archive for the ‘ Running ’ Category

Winter Cross-Training

pilates benefits women  I’ll admit it, sometimes it’s just too dark and chilly out to go for a run. And although I still get my butt into gear to run regularly, I also work in more cross-training in the winter. I hardly ever feel like going to the gym during warmer days, so the winter months make an ideal time to build up other areas that will complement and improve my running.

Pilates – I love pilates. It is one of the best ways I’ve found to strengthen my body, keep me healthy, and make me a better runner. I take a weekly class at my gym that’s an hour long and kicks my butt every time. The key is to find a teacher that you are compatible with and that can push you in areas you can’t push yourself. I found a teacher who totally rocks and mixes up each class with challenging moves and isn’t afraid to add pilates props like exercise balls, rings, or bands to increase the difficulty of the moves. Also, pilates really focuses on your core which is essential for healthy running and staying injury free.

Strength Training – This is another great way for runners to build up muscles that assist in becoming stronger and staying injury free. Also, it’s really fun for me to see the looks of the guy dominated free weight area as I bench press next to them. ๐Ÿ™‚ While there are a million things I could write about when it comes to strength training, there are two primary points to keep in mind: 1. Women who lift weights will not get huge, man-like muscles (unless they are purposefully working toward a competition or using *ahem* supplements) and 2. Please consult someone, like a trainer, who knows proper form before beginning any sort of strength training routine as bad form can lead to injury and won’t be as effective.

Yoga – Great for flexibility, yoga pairs nicely with pilates in improving your health as a runner. Once again the integral aspect is to find an instructor that can challenge you while providing good modifications to poses so you don’t over-extend your body into injury. There are several types of yoga too, so find the one that fits you best.

Spinning & Swimming – I combined these last two as cross-training areas in which I’d like to improve. I love to bike in warmer weather, but tend to set it aside during the colder months. Same with swimming. Both, however, are great ways a runner can keep fit cardiovascularly and easy to do if you belong to a gym. And if you want to make an investment, buy a bike trainer that you can hook your road bike up to and use inside your house – great cross-training without ever leaving the comfort of your home!

Happy Running! ๐Ÿ˜€

Running Toward the New Year

Male Runner in Snow ย  2013 is fast approaching and with it a fresh page on the calendar. While I’m a big proponent of making year-long resolutions as it easier for me to stick to goals if I make and follow through with them throughout the year, there is one special running goal I have for 2013. Run at least one race each month for the entire year.

I’ve thought about accomplishing this goal for a while, but haven’t been able to follow through due to various circumstances. 2013 is going to be the year.

Lately, my free time has been spent searching online for races in my area for each month of 2013. I’d like to run shorter races each month culminating in a half marathon or marathon next fall. Not only will the shorter races be fun, but they will help prepare me while I’m training for my longer race in the fall.

I’m sure I’ll set additional running goals, but this is my primary one. Do you have any running or fitness goals for the new year?

Happy running! ๐Ÿ˜€

Banding Together – Runners and All

  Thousands of runners were disappointed by the eleventh hour cancellation of the NYC Marathon due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Having trained for months, made travel arrangements, and making sure every piece of running gear had been meticulously chosen, it’s no wonder.

I live in NJ and see firsthand every day the destruction that the hurricane meted out in the NJ/NY area. I lost power for six days and was welcomed the morning after the hurricane hit with sixty-foot trees strewn across the roads, houses, and yards. Telephone poles snapped in half with live power lines dangling precariously in every direction. And I had it lucky. Some people in my area still don’t have power because the damage is so extensive and I know of one family a few miles down the road that had their house sheared in two by a fallen tree.

I’d see disasters on the news, but it was the first time I’d ever experienced one firsthand. I hope never to again…

NY was hit just as hard with transit systems being shut down for days and flooding and loss of power in many areas. Even with all this I understand why Mayor Bloomberg wanted to still hold the race. Events such as the epic and historic NYC Marathon have a way of bringing people together in times of crisis; rallying the troops for a common good. But I think it was a better idea to cancel it.With the marathon happening only days after the hurricane hit and the city still reeling from the impact, it seemed like a misappropriation of resources (generators, water, volunteers, etc.) when so many people lost so much.

But the cool thing in the face of all that happened is the way many runners rallied, after what I’m sure was disappointing news about the cancellation. Hundreds of runners jumped on the Staten Island ferry with backpacks loaded with supplies and ran around the island distributing goods and helping hands. For me it was truly amazing to hear stories such as this because to me that’s at the heart of what running is all about. Yes, there are many reasons why people lace up, but, as the growing quantity of running charities can prove, it’s about community. Helping each other. Supporting each other through the ups and downs even if it’s just with an encouraging word or a listening ear. So to see these runners take something disappointing and turn it around to still make their experiences meaningful, well, it makes me proud to say that I’m a runner.

Happy running, friends! ๐Ÿ™‚

Why Do You Run?

I was thinking the other day about running – well, I think about running every day to be honest – but that day in particular I thought about why I ran. Then I thought about how it’s interesting how everyone runs for different reasons. Some people run away from things. Some people run to things. Some people run because they can’t help themselves. One of the reasons why I read so many memoirs, especially running memoirs, is because I find it fascinating to read about what makes people become runners and how running has shaped their lives and who they are today.

Why do I run? Here are my top ten:

1. TO STAY FIT – Running is a great way to tone muscle, improve heart and lung function, and lose weight.

2. MENTAL HEALTH – Let’s just say I’m a much nicer person and feel better about myself if I’m able to run on a regular basis. ๐Ÿ™‚

3.  TIME TO PROCESS – Because I internalize a lot running helps me to process my thoughts both with my life and on whatever I projects I’m working on – especially my writing!

4. SOCIALIZING – It’s great meeting new people at events and races and through the online running community. There’s always a new friend around the corner.

5. PUSH MY LIMITS – Whenever I think I can’t give anymore I push myself a little farther. This has helped me in life whenever I’m exhausted and think I can’t do any more.

6. BUILD CHARACTER – Running has helped show me ways to be calm under stress, become stronger, and learn more about myself.

7. SET, AND MEET, GOALS – Signing up for races has been a great way for me to learn to budget time, meet short-term and long-term goals as well as feel proud once I’ve accomplished those goals.

8. GIVE INSPIRATION – I’ve gotten to talk to so many people about running and living a healthy lifestyle that people notice that I’m different and want to follow suit!

9. ALONE TIME – Because I process so much internally, running gives me the opportunity to think and get into a good frame of mind.

10. BECAUSE IT’S FUN! –  Let’s face it, all these reasons are an integral part of why I run, but it’d be a lot harder to run if I didn’t enjoy so much. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy running! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Fav Fall Races

  Although I enjoy running in all seasons, fall is by far my favorite. Everything smells great, the air is cooler (but not yet freezing), and I just feel invigorated by all the colors that come with the changing season. And with each fall comes a whole slew of great races one can participate in.

While I’m sure there are many races near you, you can’t throw a stone and not hit a 5k these days, these are some of the more notable ones I’ve found.

Runner’s World Half & Festival, October 19-21 – This the first, hopefully annual since I can’t participate in this one this year, running weekend and festival hosted by Runner’s World. Located in Bethlehem, PA, it’s seems destined to be a huge success. Running favs and authors such as Dean Karnazes, Kristin Armstrong, Matt Long, Bart Yasso and Marc Parent will be in attendance. Not only can runners enjoy a 5k, 10k, half-marathon or all three for the hat trick, but there will be movies shown, seminars, speakers and the quintessential pasta dinner. All perfect ingredients for what I’m sure will be a fabulous running weekend.

Baltimore Running Festival, October 13 – Another East Coast running extravaganza, this running festival is very popular. Every entrant gets a sweet Under Armour race shirt, plus entry to the celebration following the race which features live music, activities, food and drink. Enter the 5k, half, or full or register for the Maryland Double, runners who participate in a half or full in both the Baltimore and Frederick Running Festivals. Finishers of the Double receive a really cool looking medal that, for a nominal fee, can be engraved with your name and times at the finish. Cool!

Seattle 5k Beer Running Tour, September 9 – With an onslaught of what I deem kitschy races – zombies, paint throwing, warrior, mud, nude, costumed – I have to say that this would be one I would participate in. More laid back with stops at quirky sights around Seattle, this running tour (they don’t call it a race), begins and ends at the Fremont Brewery where free brews will be distributed upon finishing. And since having a cold beer at the end of my long weekend runs is definitely one of my running incentives, I’d happily participate in this brew happy event.

Run Rabbit Run, September 14 & 15 – For those of you who are very ambitious I haven’t forgotten you! This trail run through Steamboat Springs, CO, features a 50-mile run Sept. 14 and a 100-mile run Sept. 15. Otherwise known as ultrarunning, for those of you who, like me, are content to run somewhat shorter distances, these races are often a combination of trail and road running with aid stations along the route. To top it all off, this is the caveat that is featured on the website: A word of warning: These are not beginnerโ€™s runs.  You might find the uphills and downhills fairly steep. You may find thereโ€™s a lot of them.  You will spend a lot of time at an altitude of nearly two miles. There may be snow. There may be rain. It may sleet, or be wet, or windy, or then again, it may be hot. There may be wild animals out there, some of them a lot bigger and scarier than a rabbit. Yikes! Think I’ll be a cheerleader for any runs like that!

Happy running! ๐Ÿ˜€

Olympic Women’s Marathon

ย  I’ve been looking forward to the Olympic Women’s Marathon for a long time. I’m an avid follower of Runner’s World and loved following the USA Olympic hopefuls on their journeys to the Olympics. It’s inspirational to read about these great athletes watching them train and become extraordinary competitors.

I set my DVR to record the live marathon this morning when it began at 6am (while I’m an ardent follower, I still value my sleep!). Then, avoiding all things Facebook, Twitter, and other potential spoilers, I eagerly sat and watched like a hawk as 116 women from 67 countries vied to become the next gold medal winner.

I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t had a chance to watch, but it really was a great race. The course itself was amazing as it took the runners through twists and turns through the streets of London. It also marked the first time that the marathon didn’t finish in the Olympic stadium instead finishing near Buckingham Palace on the Mall. And to add to all the unusual turns, it POURED for quite a while at the beginning and end of the race. Crazy!

While I’ve loved watching much of the Olympics, there is definitely a special place in my heart for the marathon. Can’t wait to watch the Olympic Men’s Marathon next Sunday! ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy running!

Eat & Run and the Allure of Vegan Living

  I recently finished Scott Jurek’s new memoir, Eat & Run. I love reading memoirs, especially ones that center around sports or athleticism of some kind. Jurek is a renown ultrarunner (ie. running longer than a marathon distance, 26.2 miles). He’s won many events he’s entered such as the Western States 100, Badwater (135 miles through Death Valley), and the Hardrock 100. In his book, Jurek chronicles his adventures and passion with ultrarunning and the people that most influenced him on his journey to ultra-greatness.

What’s even more impressive than not only finishing, but winning all these races is that Jurek does it all on a plant-based, vegan, diet. No meat. No dairy. Nada. Wowee! Before Eat & Run, I read Finding Ultra about another ultrarunner named Rich Roll. He also competes at an elite level while basing his diet completely on plants. Both these men make compelling arguments for living a vegan lifestyle. They also both impressed upon their readers how simple and, more importantly, profoundly healthy it can be, Jurek even includes recipes at the end of each of his chapters. But when I see a pancake recipe that calls for seven (SEVEN!) different types of flour, I’m a little hesitant that this is the lifestyle for me.

I’m a vegetarian, so perhaps I’m a little unjustly judgmental here, but I’m not sure I could ever convert 100% to a vegan diet. While I don’t eat a ton of dairy I definitely eat enough of it that it would be a big change for me. As I read these books I contemplated making the switch, but at the end of the day between the time it would take to find and learn how to make non-diary meals, the hassle of not having as broad a menu selection when eating outside my home, and knowing that I buy 99% of my dairy at local or family owned farms, I don’t think it’s worth it to me. But that’s really the crux of it, while it’s not right for me I can see why people would chose to switch to vegan living and I give them props for taking the time and energy to live what many deem a healthier lifestyle.

Happy Running! ๐Ÿ™‚

Newton Running Clinic

ย  I wrote a post a few months ago that highlighted Newton Running Shoes and their growing emergence on the running scene. Last week I went to a running clinic at a local running store named The Sneaker Factory that was sponsored by Newton. One of the guys running the clinic was Ian Adamson, adventure racer, ultrarunner, and Guinness World Record holder. He was a great guy, very friendly and I was able to chat with him for a while before the event began. We talked about why he thinks Newton’s are a better running shoe, why I didn’t necessarily need my Nikes (these were my questions, he never tried to push me into buying anything!), strength training for runners among other things.

There are a lot of articles, and more popping up every day, on the benefits of running in a “minimal” shoe, ie. a shoe that doesn’t have a thick heel that essentially throws off your running gait and makes your muscles over compensate for your altered gait thus increasing your chances for injury. I’m always a little incredulous when a new trend pops up and wait to see if a. this is something that would work for me and my body and b. to see if there’s more to it than just a fad following. But the more I read and talk to guys like Ian, the more I’m realizing that it’s time for me to make the switch. Ian also mentioned not switching 100% in the beginning, but combining your runs with maybe a mile at first in a minimal shoe with the rest of your mileage in your normal shoes. I’m sure there are other philosophies as well, but that sounded like a logical method to me!

In addition to chatting with Ian, he and his colleague took the group outside to practice some drills that essentially mimic how you should be running. These drills, with practice, should allow you to run the way your body is meant to rather than the heel striking way many of our bodies have been conditioned to run due to added heel support in the majority of running shoes. To find more on how to run naturally check out Newton’s Run Better page or the book Natural Running by Danny Abshire.

Happy Running! ๐Ÿ™‚

Summer Running – Beating the Heat, Part II, Gear

Part of staying cool during summer runs is dressing right. My running gear has morphed through the years (and will probably continue to as running gear continues to change and improve) both through the new products that come out/that I discover and my knowledge of what gear works best for my body when I run. Aside from the water bottles/hydration belts that I’ll comment on below, I could easily see myself becoming one of the women who wears their workout gear to Starbucks instead of just during a workout simply because my running wardrobe is that comfortable.

Head to toe (including accessories, minus undergarments) here’s a list of my favorite summer running gear:

ย  Nike Zoom Vomero 6 – I’ve tried several different types of shoes and this is the shoe that I’ve found works best for my gait – I supinate, ie. my foot tends to roll out when I run. The Vomero is designed for us supinators and has extra support on the outside to keep me injury free.

ย  Smartwool Lightweight Socks – I am in love with all things Smartwool. As a runner you quickly realize the difference and importance of having socks that keep your feet cool, comfortable, cushioned, and blister-free. There are a lot of running socks out there each one promising you the best comfort, but I’ve always gone to Smartwool simply because I’ve never had any issues with them. Long runs, in the heat, pounding asphalt, can really put your socks to the test and my feet have come through happy and blister-free.

ย  Nike Women’s Running Shorts – These shorts have great wicking material that keep the sweat away. They’re loose enough to not be baggy but give plenty freedom of movement. They also come with built in pockets which for me is a must as I often drive to my favorite shady trails to run and need a place to store a car key and a gel pack.

 

ย  Nike Fast Pace Women’s Running Tank Tops – I just discovered these shirts this year and love, love, love them! It’s hard for me to find running tank tops that are wicking and not super tight and these fit the bill perfectly. Not only do they keep the sweat away, but they hang loosely, not baggy, and are longer than a typical women’s tank top. Not to mention I love wearing bright colors and these come in a variety of cheerful (Hey, look there’s a runner!) hues.

ย  Sweaty Bands – It’s important to keep my hair out of my face as I run. I tend to sweat, a lot, especially in the heat and humidity of summer, and need something that will not only hold my hair back but will stay securely in place so I can focus on my run instead of fixing my hair every two miles. I’d heard great things about Sweaty Bands and ordered one to see if they were worth all the fuss. They are. I have a few now that I rotate through and they’re great. They can be also be rinsed in a sink, but I don’t put them in the washer as they tend to get stiff when they dry.

ย  Nathan Sprint Water Bottle – So here’s my disclaimer for these last two items: I am horrible when it comes to drinking and running unless I’m in a race. I drink water non-stop whenever I’m not running and while I’m well hydrated, I should drink more on my runs, especially in the heat. To confess even further whenever I’m doing a long run in the heat I make my girlfriend ride her bike and drink her water. Ha! It’s ridiculous. That being said, this water bottle and the hydration belt below are the two items I plan on buying this season. First, Nathan makes great products for runners and from the ones I’ve looked at in the store, this seems to fit my hand the best without being too constricting or hot. Best for runs when you don’t need multiple water bottles.

ย  Fuelbelt Hydration Belt – I tried this belt on recently and think it will work perfectly for my long summer runs. The breathable, padding makes it fit comfortably on my waist without moving around and chafing. It also has a removable race pocket that’s perfect for keys, cash, and gel packets. Fuelbelt also makes a four-bottle option as well.

 

 

 

Happy running! ๐Ÿ˜€

Summer Running – Beating the Heat, Part I

ย  First day of summer and the weather responded by climbing into the 90s replete with humidity. Lovely. I’m much better at running in cold weather than I am in heat. At least in cold my body gradually warms up to a point where I’m comfortable running. In the heat, however, it’s easy for your body to overheat and that can be dangerous if not fatal. Yikes!

Here are some tips I’ve gleaned over the years and try to implement throughout the dog days of summer:

1. Run early in the morning – This tends to be the coolest part of the day before the sun has baked the world all day.

2. Dress smart – Wearing light colors that will reflect the sun’s rays away and loose fitting clothing that breathes as you run. Also, fabrics other than cotton that will wick away sweat and keep you cool are a great idea too.

3. Water, water everywhere – Drink. Water. Lots of it. Your body craves more water more in the heat and the more hydrated you are the more your body will function as it should without shutting down. Shutting down bad. Water good!

4. Choose your path wisely – Asphalt radiates heat in the summer and while you probably won’t endure the sneaker-melting stories that you hear from the Badwater Ultramarathon it definitely will make your hot runs even hotter. If you know it’s going to be a hot, muggy day and the only time you can run is after work, choose a trail instead of hitting the road. You can find shade and running surfaces that reflect more heat than they absorb.

5. Protect your skin – Don’t forget to wear sunscreen whenever you go out. Sunglasses also help protect your eyes from the sun’s glare.

6. When all else fails, run (egad!) inside – Treadmills are often not the best friend of the outdoor runner, but when the mercury rises and the humidity envelopes you like a blanket it might be the smartest choice.

Remember your safety is your top priority. Training is key, but training smart is even better. Stay cool and happy running! ๐Ÿ˜€