Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Run to the Top Podcast: The Value of a Coach with RunnerDude Thad McLaurin

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Stephanie Atwood, the host of the Run to the Top podcast on Stepnice wanted to chat about the vaule of having a Run Coach. So I said sure! Stephanie is currently located in Mexico, that made the interview kind of cool too, knowing we were talking Running across two countries. 

We mainly talked about the value of a run coach, but we also hit several other running related topics. When you have a chance, I hope you'll check it out. Maybe even listen to it on your next run!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Tips for Staying Safe and Beating the Heat

Most of the country has been experiencing a tremendous heatwave. For the South this often means a double whammy because we have heat along with the high humidity and high dew point. Heat can really take a toll on a runner, especially for runners who are in training for their upcoming fall marathons. The only saving grace is knowing that in the fall, when the temperatures drop, they'll feel faster and stronger. 

But what's a runner to do in the mean time?

Well the first thing is ongoing good hydration. Be sure to drink throughout the day, the day before a long run. Be careful not to over hydrate and risk flushing out your electrolytes. Drinking moderate amounts of water throughout the day and eating something salty like pretzels works well or just ingesting one sports drink during the day before your long run along with the drinking water throughout the day will help prevent depleting those vital electrolytes. If you don't want the added calories, plop in an electrolyte tablet into one of your servings of water. If you are a coffee or tea drinker (and yes, soda too), you can drink those, but do not count them as a water source. Those drinks often work as a diuretic. So drink your tea, but also drink your water. A good self check to see if you are well hydrated is when you void (pee) check to see if it is translucent. If it's translucent you are pretty well hydrated. It can have  a little tint of color, but if it's dark in color or opaque (you can't see through it), then you are not well hydrated.

The morning of a long run (about 1.5 hrs before the run), be sure to get in at least 20oz of water. (Drinking it 1.5-2hrs prior to the run will give it time to pass through your body so you can void before the run.) Drink water throughout the run up until about 45-60 minutes. Then begin using sports drink in order to help replace vital electrolytes (mainly sodium and potassium) needed to ensure good hydration and keep muscle cramps at bay. If Gatorade or the like tend to give you stomach distress, try adding electrolyte tabs like NUUN to regular water. If you do this it will help to provide the essential electrolytes you need, but you'll then need to make sure you're getting your fuel (carbs) from another source such as gels, chomps, chews, or regular food like pretzels. 

Secondly, slow down. You will anyway, so you might as well not fight it. And no, you're not being a weenie when you slow down due to the heat. There's a physiological explanation. Even if you're running in mild temperatures (say around 60 degrees your core temp will begin to increase as your body "warms up." One way your body works to cool itself is to send more oxygenated blood into the tiny blood vessels of the skin (the capillaries). Well, as you already know, your body has a certain amount of blood, so when it sends more blood to one area of the body, that means it decreases the amount in other areas of the body. In this case, when more blood moves to the skin, less is available in the working muscles. Less blood in the working muscles means less oxygen getting to the mitochondria in the muscle tissue where it's used in the energy-making process. Not only does that mean less oxygenated blood getting to the muscle, it means less blood available to carry away the waste products of the energy production (i.e., lactate). This combination spells fatigue and you begin to slow down. 

The other day I ran when it was 70°F which in NC during the summer is chilly! LOL! So you think that would have been a great run, but it was terrible. Reason? The Dew Point was also 70°. Dew Point is the temperature at which water condensates on your skin. Normally when you sweat, the body cools itself when the sweat evaporates from your skin. When the Dew Point is high, however, the sweat will not evaporate. It just stays on your body. So you're body can't cool off. That's why some runs you're pretty dry while others, your really soggy. So, as mentioned above, when your  body can't cool itself through the evaporation process, it will divert oxygenated blood to the skin to cool you down. That means less oxygenated blood going to your muscles, explaining why you feel like a slug and why you're not meeting your training paces. When the dew point is high, forget your watch and paces and run by feel. 

In the those milder temps, not as much blood is diverted, so you don't really see much of a difference. But as the temp climbs and the dew point increases, your body works harder and harder to cool itself off, and less and less blood is sent to the muscle. It's like a salmon swimming upstream. No matter how hard you try to "pick-it-up" your body just begins to peter out. Use the chart below to set your expectations for a workout based on the Dew Point.

Beyond a crappy run, running while poorly hydrated can put a runner at high risk for some some pretty severe health issues. Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke are three heat-related illnesses that can effect runners.  Below is a description of each along with what to do for each condition.


Causes: Loss of electrolytes and accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles.
Conditions: Muscle cramps and/or spasms, heavy sweating, normal body temperature.
Treatment: Drink water and sports drink, slow down, massage affected area. 

Causes: Intense exercise in a hot, humid condition and loss of electrolytes.
Conditions: Profuse sweating, possible drop in blood pressure (less than 90 systolic, the top number), normal or slightly elevated body temperature, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, decreased coordination, possible fainting.
Treatment: Rest in a cool place, drink water and sports drink, if blood pressure drops below 90 systolic, call EMS, avoid activity for at least 24 hours, refrain from running or exercising in the heat for at least one week. 

This is a medical emergency!
Causes: Intense exercise in a hot, humid condition, older age, dehydration, obesity, wearing heavy clothing, running in the heat when you have an infection or fever, certain drugs such as amphetamines, diuretics, beta blockers, cardiovascular disease, poor acclimatization, high blood pressure.
Conditions: High body temperature (106 or higher), lack of sweating characterized by dry, red skin, altered consciousness.
Treatment: Call EMS! Rest in a cool place, remove clothing to expose skin to air, apply ice packs or cool water to groin, underarms, neck (stop if shivering). 

Some other tips to consider when running in the severe heat:
  • Run with a buddy or group. Running with a buddy allows you to monitor each other on a run. You might not be able to recognize that you're suffering signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke because your judgment might be altered, but your running buddy can recognize the signs and start providing aid and/or seeking help.
  • Don't let a buddy talk you out of providing aid or seeking help if you feel they are suffing from heat illness. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • Run with a phone. I know many do not like running with a phone, but a phone may be what saves the life of runner. Getting medical help quickly can make a huge difference. Be sure you charge your phone before heading out on your run.
  • Tell someone where you're running and then stick to that route. That way if you do encounter a problem and don't return in a timely manor, your friends/family will know where to look for you.
  • Carry a hand held water bottle or wear a hydration belt or backpack for longer runs
  • Stash water on your route for a long run. Have a backup plan if the water is gone when you get there. (i.e. carry a phone so you can call someone to either pick you up or bring you water). If you have a 20-miler and the water you stashed at mile 12 is gone, DO NOT try to run the rest of the run with no water!
  • Carry some money with you. Put a few bills in a zippered baggy and pin it inside your shorts, stash it in a running belt or put it in a pocket of your handheld water bottle. Many times, I've gone into a convenient store dripping wet to by buy emergency water/Gatorade while on a run.
  • Plan routes that take you by public water fountains.
  • Become certified in Frist Aid. The American Red Cross provides classes in first aid and CPR.

Note: If you're looking for a running group in the Greensboro, NC area, RunnerDude's Fitness offers weekly free open runs on Wednesday nights at 6:00pm and Saturday mornings at 6:30am. All paces welcome. For the Saturday run, coach RunnerDude is "on call", restocking water coolers put on the route as well as checking on runners during the run. Runners can text, call or message RunnerDude during the run if they find they are in distress or need assistance. For more info on the weekly group runs, click here.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The "I Have Not Time To Workout" Workout

Don't have time to workout? Don't have access to a gym? Try this 22min workout. Each exercise works 2 different areas of the body. For each exercise do 6 rounds of 30secs work 10secs rest, then take a 1-min rest before doing the next exercise. Try this workout, then makeup some of your own.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The New Normal: Running Over 50

53 And Feeling Good!
It's funny how age sneaks up on you. I've been running for almost 35 years (man that in itself makes me feel old). Started when I was a college kid in 1984.  Really didn't get serious about trying to set PRs until my early 40s. Set my 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and Marathon PRs when I was 42.

When you're in your 20s, the 40s seem really old. When you're in your 40s you realize that's not really old. You actually realize that you can be pretty competitive, even if it's just with yourself. If you check out the ages of many of the really good elite endurance runners, they're not in their 20s.

Then all the sudden you reach your 50s and the 20-year-olds seem like babies and you realize you're children are grown, you're now a grandfather and you're a parent again, but not for you kids but for your own parents. I've heard it called the "sandwich years." You're sandwiched between your adult kids still needing your support and guidance and your parents who now need assistance.

The 50s, however, is a great time. But just like when you were a teenager going through a growth spurt, you often feel awkward, confused, and out of place. Sometimes I forget that the runners I work with are 15-20 years younger than me. That is until I mention something like JJ from Good Times, Luke and Laura, or that the original One Day At A Time  TV show starred, Bonnie Franklin. Bonnie Who?

While I don't know that latest "in" movie or reality stars, recording artists, or socialites, I don't feel old.

Feeling and looking old are two different things, however. After turning 50, you experience little "reality moments" like when you find yourself sitting and watching TV one day, and you look down and, "OH MY GOD!" you're the person in the crepey skin ad! When? How? Why? You start googling franticly cures for crepey skin only to find that short of surgery and spending lots of money on snake oils, it's just a part of nature and heredity (thanks Mom and Dad).

Or better yet, you get that race finish line picture back and you realize your quad looks like a wrinkly balloon that's lost its air hanging off the side of of your thigh. It's almost like you've been cursed by the old gypsy women in the Stephen King novel, Thinner and you're slowly turning into a lizard.

I was sitting with my middle child one afternoon and I noticed her looking at my face. Then she says, "Dad, your skin is like leather." Then realizing that the comment may not have been that flattering, she follows up with...."Fine Italian leather." That one still makes me chuckle.

Or how about those mutant hairs that sprout on your ears! What's up with those?

So, once you get over the shock of the "new normal," you realize that it ain't so bad. Age, while it might start to show on the surface, really is more of a state of mind. Running in your 50s, 60s and above is just like any other thing in life. If you want to be successful and injury-free you have to put your mind to it and be committed. That's true of any age but maybe a little more so as a seasoned adult. The only difference is the approach to your training. As we get older, we have to  have to listen to our bodies and respond appropriately.

While you can still run long and keep a good pace, the focus of your running may change. Runners in their 50s, 60s and above often share with me that it's more about the experience and being with other runners. That sense of community and support. Runners really are one of the most inclusive and welcoming people I know. I had client (who is also a cyclist) tell me that when you visit a new running group, more than likely someone from that group will approach you, look you in the eye, smile, say hello, introduce him/herself and then introduce you to others in the group. This same client also shared that when you come to a new cycling group, if someone approaches you, there is no eye contact or hello. Their eyes immediately go to your bike and to checking out your equipment. I'm so glad I'm a runner.

Research shows more and more that runners who run their first marathon in their 50s tend to stick with endurance running and continue to do more full marathons or endurance runs. Runners who run their first marathon in their 20s or 30s, tend look at it as "one-n-done" and have less of an urge to do more. That's one reason why the over 50 group is one of the fastest growing groups in running today.

So, if you're in your 50s and new to running, it's not too late. And to those of you who've been running for years and are now in your 50's, you've got a lot a good running years ahead.

Keep the following tips in mind to keep you healthy and injury-free.
  • If you're a new runner, take it slow. Join a beginning running program. Check out the program before your sign up. Not all beginning running programs are for beginning runners. Programs for beginning runners should ease you into running, starting with short run segments of a couple of minutes mixed with walking segments and over the course of several weeks weaning you off the walking and increasing the length of the run segments. The focus should be on increasing endurance, learning good running form, and building your confidence as runner, not on pace or distance.
  • If you've been running for years and you're entering your 50s and 60s, you can still have ambitious goals and run those races you have on your bucket list, but respect the "new normal." Listen to your body. If your body is saying , "Uncle" take the day off, even if  your training plan says otherwise.  Incorporate more rest between runs to allow for proper recovery. Less weekly mileage can often reflect in faster race times and less injury. No need to keep high mileage weeks if you keep being sidelined with injury.
  • In addition to less weekly mileage, mix up your runs. Have a variety of runs, some short and easy, some hard and fast, some long. Research shows that runners that include a variety of runs in their weekly mix do better on race day than runners who either run all their runs easy or run all their runs hard. The reason has to do with adaptability. The bodies of runners who mix it up are better able to adapt to any situation or condition faced on race day than runners who don't mix it up.
  • Hydrate and fuel properly, before, during, and after your runs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Stretching and Rolling: Important and Often Ignored

How many times have you finished that long run, hopped in the car, only to hobble out once you get home. Stretching. We all know we need to do it, but few of us ever do or do so on a consistent basis. The underlying benefit to stretching is flexibility. The more flexible you are, the less tight you are. The less tight you are, the less risk of injury. Stretching helps prepare your body for exercise as well as wind-down from exercise.

Pre-exercise stretches need to be comprised of dynamic stretches or "moving stretches." Dynamic stretching actively moves the body in similar movement patterns to those that will be used in the upcoming exercise. So for running, dynamic stretches could include a 5-minute brisk walk or slow easy jog. They could also include various warm-up running drills such as high-knee, butt kicks, skipping, side shuffles, etc.

Static or traditional stretch-n-hold stretches can be done after dynamic stretches (if a runner is still feeling tight), but static stretches are of better use after a run. I tell my runners to think of their muscles as taffy. If you take the taffy out of the fridge and try to manipulate it cold, then the candy will break. But if you let it warm-up some then when you try to stretch it, it will give and bend. Your muscles are very similar. If you try to do more traditional stretch-n-hold type stretches before a run without any type of warm-up, then you may actually pull a muscle or set yourself up for pulling a muscle during the run.

So, now you know to hold off on the static stretches until after your run, but which ones should you do and how should you do them?

The focus of this article is on post-exercise stretching. There are various theories how to do the following stretches, but what I've found to be pretty effective is to hold each stretch for 30-40 seconds. Never bounce into a stretch. Ease into it. Once you've acclimated to a particular distance in a stretch, then you can try extending the stretch a little further. Go only to the point of "feeling the stretch" which may feel a little uncomfortable, but never painful. NEVER stretch through pain. You many cause a problem that previously didn't exist or you may exacerbate an existing condition.

The following stretches are by no means the only effective stretches that can be done. These are several of the stretches I've found to be effective with myself and my runners.

Adductor muscles run along the inner thigh and help pull the legs toward your body. These muscles along with the outer thigh muscles (the Abductors) often get ignored strength-wise as well as when stretching. It's important to keep these muscles stretched and flexible as much as the more obvious running muscles such as the quads and hamstrings. Any one of the following three stretches is good for loosening up the adductors.
1. Sit with your legs stretched out to the side as far as possible. It's okay if your knees are slightly bent. Exhale as you slowly lean forward between your legs with your hands stretched out in front. Hold the stretch for 30-40 seconds, breathing evenly during the hold.
2. Lie on your back with your legs up in the air stretched out against a wall. Gradually increase the stretch between the legs. This is particularly effective after a long run in getting the blood that may have pooled in your legs recirculated helping to reduce inflammation.
3. This stretch not only helps stretch the adductors, but also the muscles in the groin and hip. Sit on your bottom with the soles of your feet touching. Grab your feet with your hands while placing your elbows on your knees. Use your elbows to gently press down on the insides of your knees to activate the stretch .

Often ignored, the Glute Medius or hip muscle is often the culprit when it comes to IT Band issues and/or Runner's Knee. A tight or weak glute medius can cause both conditions. This stretch is more subtle than the other stretches. Gravity does most of the work. Lean your right shoulder against a wall. Cross the right leg behind the left ankle. Then lean into the wall. You should feel a subtle stretch along the outside of the right hip and thigh. Repeat with your left side.
Overworked and/or tight quads can cause issues such as Patellar tendinitis which causes pain-to-the-touch below the knee.
1. To do this stretch, lie face down on a mat. Reach back with your left hand and grab your left foot. Gently pull your foot toward your buttocks. Repeat with the left side.
Note: This stretch can also be done standing, however, I've discovered a much better stretch when doing this laying down.

2. For a more advanced stretch, grab both feet at the same time pulling both feet toward the buttocks simultaneously.

Tight hamstrings and glutes are very common in runners. This can cause a domino effect of problems. Tight glutes can put more demands on the hamstrings which in turn puts more stress on the calves and so on all the way down to the plantar fascia. Keeping the glutes and hamstrings loose can help prevent a whole host of problems.
1. Research has shown that the traditional toe touch with the locked knees puts a great deal of stress on the lower back. An alternative is to place one foot on a step, wall, or car bumper. The position both hands in the fold of the leg. Looking straight ahead, slowly bend forward at the hip while at the same time pulling your toes toward you. This creates a great stretch along the hamstring without the stress on the lower back.
2. The knee hug is great for stretching the glutes. Cross your right knee over your extended left leg. Then hook your left arm around your right knee and gently pull your knee toward your chest. Repeat with the left knee and right arm.
3. This stretch is great for the hamstrings, glutes, and piriformis. Lie on your back. Bend both legs and then cross the right leg over the left knee. Reach through and grab the back of the upper left leg and gently pull it toward you. You'll feel the stretch in the hamstring and glute of the right leg. Repeat the process with the opposite leg.

Hip Flexors are one of the most overused muscle groups in the body. If you have an office job and sit most of the day, then you're flexing your hip flexors that entire time. Then go for a run after that? You can see where some problems might arise. Never stretching the hip flexors can result in a slight pelvic tilt putting stress on the lower back and causing a whole host of muscle issues.
1.  Bend down on a mat with your left knee bent and your right leg extended behind you. Place your left hand on the inside of your left foot. Your right hand should be about shoulders-width from the left hand.  Gently lean forward. You'll feel a slight stretch of the hamstring in the left leg, but the main purpose of this stretch is to open up and stretch the hip flexor of the right leg. Repeat the process with the left leg extended and the right leg bent.
2. A similar version of this stretch can be done by placing one foot on a wall or car bumper and leaning forward to stretch the opposite leg's hip flexor.

Tight lower legs can cause everything from pulled calf muscles, to Achilles Tendinitis, to plantar fasciitis. The following simple stretches can help prevent all of these issues.
1. Place the right foot perpendicular to your body. Extend your left leg out in front of you with your heel on the ground and your knee locked. Put your hands in the fold of your leg and gently bend forward while pulling your toes toward you. Repeat the process with the right leg extended.
2. Place the toe of your left foot  and both hands against a wall. Extend your right leg behind you as far back as you can while still keeping the heel on the ground. Repeat the process with the left leg extended.
3. Similar to #2, this stretch stretches the soleus (the deeper calf muscle). This stretch begins like #2, but instead of extending the right leg behind you, put the toe of your right shoe against the heel of the left foot. Then squat down as far as you can. You'll feel the stretch in the area of the Achilles Tendon of the right foot. Repeat the process with the left foot.
4. The plantar fascia is a fibrous band of tissue that runs from the heel of the foot to the ball of the foot. A tight  plantar fascia can often result in a sore heel, a sore ball of the foot or soreness anywhere in between. To stretch the plantar fascia, place your toes on the edge of a step. Hold onto a rail or use a broomstick for balance. Gently lower both heels below the horizon of the step. This stretch will also help loosen the Achilles Tendon as well as the calves.

The following stretch includes everything but the kitchen sink! This stretch will help to stretch the hamstrings, glutes, hips, calves, and Achilles Tendon. If you want bang for your buck, this stretch is for you.

To do the stretch, lie on your back with one leg in the air. Place a resistance tube, long towel, yoga strap, or belt around the raised foot. (I'm using a jump rope.) With the knee locked, gently pull the raised leg as far as you can while exhaling. To get even more out of this stretch, try slowly flexing and releasing the foot while the leg is extended.

Note: If you are new to this stretch and need a little more support, try placing the raised leg against a door frame. The flat leg will be laying through the doorway.)

Sometimes stretching just doesn't seem to do the trick. Adding a massage tool such as foam roller, a massage ball or a roller stick will be more effective. If tightness is due to a trigger point or "tight spot" within the muscle, elongating the muscle by stretching may not release this tension. A trigger point is the result of myofascia (connective tissue) adhering to the muscle, causing tension. You can often physically feel these spots in the muscle. Lying on a foam roller or massage ball to apply direct pressure on the tight spot will often help to relieve this tension. Lying on a foam roller, massage ball and moving the body back and forth across the tight spot is very effective too. A rolling stick can be used standing or sitting. Instead of lying on the stick using body weight to help increase pressure on the trigger point, you use the roller stick much like a baker's rolling pin by holding it in your hands and rolling back and forth across the tense area.

Massage tools such as foam rollers, massage balls, or roller sticks can also be used to loosen up any muscle groups. Runners may find it effective, if they are prone to tightness in a particular muscle group such as the calves, hamstrings, or quads, to "roll" them out before a run.

It's a good idea for runners to routinely use a combination of dynamic stretches, static stretches, and a variety of massage tools before and/or after running as "pre-hab" to help prevent injury.

Below are some great massage tools available at Omega Sports right here in Greensboro!

Trigger Point MB5 Massage Ball

Addaday Pro Massage Roller

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

There Is a Method To His Madness: Creating a RunTheBoro Route

If you've been participating in the recent RunTheBoro Saturday runs, you may have wondered (and some of you have even asked me) why are there so many turns in the runs? Why so many hills? Why did we go in this neighborhood or that neighborhood. How do he make the routes?

These are all excellent questions. Along with lots of coffee and lots of time, I do have some guiding principles when I create the RunTheBoro routes.
  • Sharing History
  • Exploring Neighborhoods
  • Sharing Art and Culture
  • Fellowship

Hills and turns may definitely be in the run, but they are not top of mind when creating the routes. My main goal is for participants to come away from a run learning something new about their city. We are so busy with our lives that we often don't venture out of our little bubble. I want to get RunTheBoro participants out of their bubbles, explore neighborhoods they've never been to, and learn about Greensboro's rich history.

One of the coolest and most rewarding parts of RunTheBoro is hearing longtime residents, say to me, "I never knew that about Greensboro." "I didn't know that existed." "I didn't know that road went there." "So that's where that's at." "I've lived here all my life and never knew some of this stuff."

Some runs are more aesthetically pleasing than others, but if there is one thing I've learned, beauty takes many different shapes and forms. There is shiny new beauty, there is gently worn beauty, there is thread-bare beauty, there is historical beauty, and there is artistic beauty. You'll find all of the above in the RunTheBoro runs. I want runners to explore neighborhoods they might otherwise never have a reason to visit. One hidden treasure that I shared about in a recent run is the Grove Street People's Market that is open 6-8pm on Thursday evenings in the spring and summer. After mentioning it in one of the RunTheBoro Newsletters, several of the RunTheBoro runners went and checked it out. That's what RunTheBoro is all about...connecting with runners and runners connecting with the community. 

Some routes do have a lot of twists and turns and in a normal run, that might not be ideal, but in a RunTheBoro run it's a necessity. History may seem like a straight line, but in reality, there are interwoven twists and turns that make up our rich past. Our Saturday runs reflect that richness.

History isn't flat either.  We've all experienced rough climbs, much-needed plateaus, and swift descents in our lives. Those ups and downs make up our complex past which is also reflected in many of our runs.

RunTheBoro runs are not about pace. Far from it. They are about discovery.