Posts Tagged ‘ Training ’

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. 🙂 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! 😀

Summer Running – Beating the Heat, Part I

  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! 😀

Are Newtons the Next Running Craze?

   I have a confession to make. I’m a sucker when it comes to neon workout gear. So when I saw the latest issue of Runner’s World and its article on Newtons running shoes with all the glossy, brightly colored photos of brand spanking new shoes, I was a goner. Utterly. Hopelessly. Done for. I am that person that advertisers hope to attract. The raccoons of the human race. The ones that see something bright and shiny and must have it. Ok, maybe I’m not that bad, but that was my initial reaction. And that coupled with my interest and intrigue with the concept of minimalist running, made me want to read all about Danny Abshire and his neon shoes.

Without reiterating the entire article, Abshire wanted to make a shoe that would “Make you run like you were born to run” (a slogan on the Newton website). After years of research and development, Abshire made the latest addition to the Newton family of shoes, one that has a lower heel-to-toe drop that promotes a forefoot strike. Ideally, one should run on her forefoot not her heel which, developed properly, will make you more efficient and less prone to injury.

One of the problems of transitioning from a cushioned shoe to a minimalist one (be it a pair of Vibrams or Newtons) is that users are often still running with the same gait as before and therefore not running more naturally and still run the risk of injury. But if a shoe can almost force your gait to change, like the Newton heel drop design, then maybe that’s a good thing. I’m not convinced one way or the other in regards to minimalist shoes vs. more cushioned running shoes, but I do think that Newtons are going in the right direction. Maybe my next pair of running shoes will be a pair of neon Newtons. 😀

Happy running!

 

 

Resistance Band Exercises

There are different types of resistance bands, some more flexible than others and some with handles. Choose something that is relatively inexpensive and mid-range in flexibility to begin with. I’d recommend something without handle as well because it gives you more freedom in how hard/easy your workouts are. As your body adjusts to these exercises and grows stronger (and it will!) move your grip closer to each other on the band to increase the resistance. Start small – 2 sets of 8 repetitions, for example – so you don’t burn yourself out and stop after a day.

Here are a few arm exercises using a resistance band to get you started:

Bicep Curl – Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width distance on the band. Use either a palm upward grip or a hammer grip (thumbs toward the ceiling) to hold the band. Move your arm at the elbow to curl the band toward your chest. Lower toward your hips and repeat.

Side Lateral Raises – Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width distance on the band. Extend your arms out to your sides until they are parallel to the floor. Your body should be a “T” shape. Lower to your sides and repeat.

Front Lateral Raises – Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width distance on the band. Extend your arms in front of you until they are parallel to the floor. Lower to your sides and repeat.

Rear Shoulder Raises – (I’ve seen this done sitting and standing. I prefer to do them seated, but choose whichever is more comfortable.) Sit on a bench or chair so your feet are ninety degrees to the floor. Place your feet shoulder width distance on top of the band. Begin by holding the band in front of you. Move your arms in an upward sweeping motion until they are flush with your back. Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together when you do this. Lower your arms back in front of you and repeat.

  Tricep Extension – Grab one end of the band. Raise your arm so your elbow is pointing toward the ceiling and the band is hanging down your back. Grasp the band with your other hand so that your palm is facing outward and your hand is resting around the middle of your back. With your top hand, extend your arm toward the ceiling, trying to get it as straight up and down as possible. Lower and repeat. Reverse hand positions and repeat with your other side.

These exercises are ones that I’ve used many times in the past and enjoy the results I’ve gotten from using them, but I am not a certified fitness trainer. Please consult a personal trainer or physician if you have any questions.

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Personal Training

One of my goals for 2011 is to run a marathon. A race that is 26.2 miles long. This was also my goal of 2010 but due to poor training I suffered from an IT band injury early on that waylaid these plans. (The IT band is a tendon-like band that stretches from your glute muscle/hip area and attaches to your tibia. When it gets inflamed it causes pain around the knee.) Of course it took me way too long to actually stop and rest and rehab my IT band which meant I just made it worse before I actually got any better.

This year I’m almost back to a hundred percent and have done a couple short runs without pain. I’m hoping that by going slower than I normally would and not pushing as hard as the rest of my body would like to, I can rebuild and come back stronger than before. I realized that if I wanted to accomplish this I needed a little extra help. That was why I enlisted the help of Angie, my new personal trainer/running coach.

As a reader, I read a lot about injuries and running and how to best approach both. I also talked to a lot of different people about my injury and asked for recommendations. Every single person I talked to, all training professionals in running, had different advice. Every so often an article would coincide with another article or a another book, but for the most part I tried a million different things because “I know someone who had an IT band problem and he said that – FILL IN THE BLANK – worked and he was running again in a month!”

Yeah. Right.

Let me save you some time and grief if you ever get an IT band injury – the only surefire solution is REST. If you don’t rest it will get worse. Other than that every body is different so what “most definitely” works for Joe doesn’t mean it will work for Josephine. You have to take the advice that’s given and do what you can to stay in shape while letting your body rest and heal. Other than rest, two factors made a huge difference for me: 1. Finding the right pair of shoes for my feet (every foot/running style is different) and 2. Using a foam roller. A high school track coach told me that one of his athletes had IT band issues and what typically happens is that scar tissue begins to form causing persistent problems. Once I began rolling my leg out on the foam roller every day (I thought I would pass out it hurt so much – it feels kind of like a ongoing charlie horse), I started feeling a major difference. My pain and tightness both subsided! Yay!

This may be way too much info, but just in case you too suffer from running injuries I wanted to be thorough. 🙂

Bottom line – to continue working my way to running a marathon, I knew I needed help. I heard about Angie and her running program NuFit through the magazine Runner’s World. She is a certified running instruction, yoga instructor, and nutrition consultant. She is based out of Seattle but has a great website that I thoroughly perused. She offered remote personal training packages that would include an 8-week training schedule, weekly check-ins, and nutrition tips. While she would be my guide, I needed to be self-motivated as well as hold myself accountable to sticking to the schedule. Sounded like the perfect fit for my personality! I figured this was the kick I needed and after several emails back and forth decided to go ahead with the personal training.

I’m in week one and am loving it! I feel better already (although exercise will do that regardless) and feel like I’m on the right path for this new year. I’ll continue to give you updates on my progress as well as any setbacks (like I missed a day already because I was sick) so stay tuned.

But I want to know – have you ever used a personal trainer?

Fitness Friday!

I have to say that one of my favorite things about being a runner is getting to eat carbs without feeling guilty. 🙂 It’s important to have a healthy diet to that balances your workouts. You need to find foods that provide elements like vitamins, carbs, healthy fats, and proteins. I’m constantly reading Runner’s World and scouring vegetarian and healthy cookbooks for great recipes and foods that will give me energy and strength I need to be fit. It’s a big topic and one I’ll revisit since there’s just too much info to cram into one blog. And I’m always learning something new that I try to fit into my diet.

Most recently it’s been my desire to move away from processed foods. Not easy. I realize this will be a long road of little changes along the way, but as long as I’m moving in that direction I feel it will lead to healthier eating habits.

I’ve started making little things like granola and protein smoothies and have gradually added more baking to my repertoire, most notably – bread! Mmmm…Homemade bread is perfect for any number of tasty meals – french toast, any number of sandwiches and paninis or just as a side for a steaming bowl of soup, salad or pasta. Yum! My most recent bread was a whole wheat bread, but I’ve made the classic white and a yummy cinnamon raisin.

I’ve included links to my favorite bread recipes below:

Homemade White Bread/Homemade Wheat Bread – I use the same recipe for both and just substitute wheat flour for white flour as it is such a great recipe!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I also was reading the October issue of Runner’s World and came across a series of wonderful (and more importantly simple) recipes for homemade pasta sauces and dishes. Click HERE for a link to the article and for a link to the recipes click HERE.

Now all I need is a pasta machine and a bigger kitchen and I’m golden! 🙂

Do you have a favorite healthy homemade recipe?

Fitness Friday!

Welcome to Fitness Friday!

I’m dedicating every Friday to something fitness related whether it be training, event related, nutrition or just a topic I find interesting. I’m also going to answer any questions you ask. You can ask through this blog or just email me at runnersami[at]hotmail[dot]com.

I’ve been interesting in fitness all my life. About ten years ago, I got really serious about being healthy and since then have done research on the best ways to accomplish that. It’s always a work in progress as I am constantly learning new ways to be fit, but I’m happier and healthier than I have ever been. Fitness isn’t just about working out and staying in good physical shape, it’s about making sure all aspects of your life are healthy. That means keeping mentally, emotionally and spiritually fit too.

I will also be posting any pertinent links to articles, websites or events in my blog on Fridays as I find them.

This week, as we are entering into a very popular time of year to run races, especially marathons and half-marathons, I wanted to post a few food runs that I found in Fitness magazine that I thought were funny.

1. Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon – October 2, disneyenduranceseries.com, Run the half and stay for the after-party during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival.

2. Hershey Half Marathon – October 3, hersheyhalfmarathon.com, For all those chocoholics who need a little incentive to run there’s a Chocolate Aid station that helps you reach the finish line.

3. Portland Marathon – October 10, portlandmarathon.org, Grab a cold pint at mile 21, then run at your own risk. This city boasts 32 breweries which makes for a perfect race location for beer lovers.

4. Krispy Kreme Challenge – February 2011, krispykremechallenge.com, The most vomit-inspired race I’ve ever heard of – runners head from the NC State University Memorial Bell Tower to the nearest Krispy Kreme (2 miles), devour a DOZEN, then head back in under an hour – YIKES!

Have you ever heard of any weird races or run in one?

Until next Fitness Friday – Runner Sami

Pinching the Cup: My Five Top Tips for Beginning Runners

I don’t come from a family of runners. In fact, when I run races they tend to scoff. Why on earth, they say, would anyone want to run on Thanksgiving morning? And when I ran my longest distance last year at the Philadelphia Broad Street Run – a 10-miler – and I told them my time, my mom asked why I stopped to pee as this added to my time and my brother said he could run that race faster than I did. Ah, families.

But I love my family (I mean, what family is perfect?), so I smile and  my girlfriend defends my honor (my hero!). All these factors made it that much sweeter when my sister called me a couple of days ago and said she wanted to run a race with me – and, after I picked my jaw and cell off the floor where it had fallen from my hand in shock, I said I would love to!

My sister has had two children and is on a mission to get fit. She had been lifting weights, but wanted to add some cardio into her routine. Wanting a goal and a way to shock the other members of our family (more on that in a minute) she asked me to run a 5k with her. Her idea is this: We both register for a race that the rest of the family can attend. I tell them to come out and cheer me on, then she shows up, suited up in running attire, and shocks, awes, and amazes the fam with her first 5k run.

Like Sarah, I think that many people start running later in life. Many want to try it, but don’t know where to start. I wanted to post something that would help those interested in lacing up for the first time get moving.

Here are my Five Top Tips for Beginning Runners:

1. Start slow – For any runner running too fast, too far, too often will not only injure you, but it will burn you out mentally and emotionally and most likely prevent you from wanting to continue with your running mission. My advice is to start with a walk/run combo. Gradually increase the run to walk ratio until you can run at a comfortable (ie. not labored breathing) pace for 5min. Increase the amount you run/pace you run by NO MORE than 10% each week as you feel comfortable.

2. Stretch – I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do this! Stretching improves your flexibility and helps to keep you injury-free. For some great stretches click HERE.

3. Cross Training (XT) and Rest Days – I am a big proponent of incorporating both XT and Rest days into your running regime. Doing this allows for your muscles to have ample time to recover as well and strengthen muscles in a variety of ways. My favorite XT activities are biking, which is great for the legs and has helped me become a stronger runner, and weight lifting – especially those that will strengthen your core as this is most likely to make you a stronger runner and keep you injury free. BONUS: The more you build muscles, the more fat you burn when you do cardio activities. For some clutch weight lifting exercises click HERE.

4. Diet – Whether you are interested in running for weight loss or because you enjoy being active, your diet is an important key to becoming a successful runner. You’ve probably heard of “carb loading” before a race, but make sure you test what foods work best with your system BEFORE the night before the race. Every body is different and will respond to different foods as such. Meals high in fiber the day before (or the morning of) are never a good idea. HERE are some eating suggestions, but the best advice I can give is to try what works best with your body and go with that.

5. Gear and Guides – As with starting any new activity you can become inundated with information and “helpful” suggestions. From shirts to shoes to shorts, the apparel for runners is vast. Then you get into accessories with reflectors,GPS watches, water belts, and sunglasses. It can be overwhelming! Here’s what you should do: Find your local running store, tell them you’re a beginning runner, and start asking questions. The vast majority of people you will talk to will be runners themselves and know the answers to a lot of your questions. (DO NOT go to those grotesquely huge “sports” store to ask as they will not be helpful) Local running stores will often have postings of group runs or individuals looking for running partners if that is something that interests you.

The only item that is a necessary part of healthy running is a good pair of running shoes. These you can get at your local running store as well. Every foot is different and thus everyone needs a different type of shoe. This is one of those occasions where you should spend the extra money (ballpark $100) for a quality shoe as these will help you become a better runner and keep you injury-free. For additional questions I always turn to Runner’s World – both the website and the magazine (most libraries carry subscriptions) have a lot of great advice.

And – some parting words of wisdom – DON’T FORGET TO PINCH THE CUP! Hydration whenever you run is key and most 5k races (and ALL races farther than that) will have water stations along your route. Here’s the key that another runner told me after much water dribbling on my part – If you pinch the cup in half, it creates a smaller opening allowing you to drink and get hydrated while not pouring the majority of it down the front of your shirt. Sweet!

Happy running my friends!

What Now?

Congratulations! You’ve officially completed the first steps on your way to running a successful race – whether it be finishing one or just setting a new PR.

Now what?

Well, now comes the tricky part. Unless you’re some sort of super human (which I’m convinced some elite runners are) training is ROUGH! Good news though folks – here are some key ways to make the journey to reaching your goals easier:

1. BUDDY UP – One of the best ways to stick to your running program (unless you’re a complete lone wolf or a hermit) is accountability. Having a partner in crime will keep you on track and make the process more fun. So find that a sucker, er, friend, who will log those miles with you and stay by your side to the end.

2. REST – Don’t, don’t, don’t forget to rest. It is vital both to keeping you healthy and strong and prevent you from burning out.

3. STRENGTH TRAINING – Get ready to pump some iron! Training with weights – especially focusing on your core muscles – will help you become stronger and keep you less prone to injury. Pilates is also great way to build a strong core and my favorite way to build up my abs and back.  I took a fabulous running & Pilates class that taught me a lot about how much Pilates goes hand-in-hand with running – thanks Beth!

4. STRETCHING IT OUT – Another great way to keep from injuring yourself is stretching. Yoga is the balance and flexibility partner to the core strengthening Pilates. Check out the article on Flexibility from the Runner’s World website.

Keep on running! 🙂

The Art of the Treadmill

People have mixed emotions about treadmill running. For me treadmill running is a necessary evil I must occasionally endure in order to become a better runner. It’s like a visit to the doctor – you don’t really want to but you understand that it’s often necessary to keep your body running smoothly. And there are benefits to treadmill running for sure and it’s definitely warmer this time of year and it doesn’t require my toes to go numb.

But one of my personal favorite about running on the treadmill is regulation. After shedding ten pounds of outer layers, I step onto that grey and black torture device, er, machine, and tell it exactly what I want to accomplish with my run today. The only thing stopping me from reaching my daily running goal would be power failure – from me or my treadmill. It has always been difficult for me to judge my running pace when I’m running outside. But with a treadmill I dictate what I would like to run, then it’s up to me to just keep my legs moving.

On a treadmill, I can run hills, I can run tempos, I can run distance, faster, slower, both, it does it all. And while I do have a Nike+ ipod device that is amazing (more on that later), it doesn’t practically force me to keep the same pace for my entire run.

Yesterday, I really tested my limits and ran at an 8:20 pace for 3mi (DAY 1 training for the marathon). It was a great, albeit difficult, run and I felt I had accomplished a great feat when I had finished – like braving the malls around the holidays, but better. My biggest foe – as always – is myself. I’m constantly bored on a treadmill. The same scenery even if it’s only for 25 minutes makes me want to scream. I have my ipod, I have my self-motivational pep-talks, I have my hip running gear, but, alas, none of that matters when the road I’m traveling is a never-ending loop of boredom.

So while running on a treadmill can be beneficial and I will from time to time continue this practice if only to become a better runner, if you need me you’ll find me outside pounding the pavement with a big smile on my face.