Friday, December 26, 2008

Getting To The Core

When I was a teenager, my parents were always telling me to stand up straight. You see, I tended to slump. Being a typical teenager, I just thought they were nagging and I ignored them. Plus, it actually felt uncomfortable to stand up straight. So, I slumped. Wasn’t until many years later (when I saw a picture of my bad posture) that I decided to do something about it. This was around the same time that I had joined a local gym. I began to do crunches to strengthen my abs and I began to see my posture improve. I also began to see my endurance while running improve.

Ever have one of those “Ah-hahh!” moments? Took a while but I finally realized that the mid-section or “core” is the support for your entire body. A strong core provides good posture as well as a solid base for the rest of your body to do its job properly. When you run, the power your legs receive originates in your core and moves down to your legs. I initially thought working your abs was how you strengthened your core. It definitely plays a part, but you need to go beyond the abs to optimize your core strength. The goal shouldn’t be to have a 6- or 8-pack but to have a solid core. If you get a “pack” in the process that’s cool (I’m still waiting for mine, LOL!) but it shouldn't be the goal.

There are a lot more muscles than just the abdominals that make up the core. Core muscles consist of the muscles that run along the trunk and torso and generally include the following:
Rectus Abdominis—the "six-pack" muscles that everyone strives for Erector Spinae—three muscles that run from your neck to your lower back
Multifidus—found beneath the erector spinae
External Obliques—positioned on the side and front of the abdomen
Internal Obliques—found beneath the external obliques, running in the opposite direction
Transverse Abdominis—muscles that protect your spine and provide stability; found beneath the obliques
Hip Flexors—a group of muscles (psoas major, illiacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, and sartorius) found in front of the pelvis and upper thigh
Gluteus medius and minimus—found at the side of the hip
Gluteus maximus, hamstring group, piriformis—found at the back of the hip and upper thigh
Hip Adductors—found at medial thigh.

The great thing about building core strength, is that it doesn't take a lot of equipment. There are many exercises that involve no equipment such as crunches, plank exercises, push ups, V-sits, lunges, and squats. Others require basic equipment such as dumbells, a medicine ball, a ballance ball, and other equipement found at any gym. I recently purchased a medicne ball (8lbs.) and have begun to incorporate exercises using the ball into my weekly routine. The December 2008 issue of Men's Health has a great pull-out poster featuring 10 medicine ball exercises from the UNC Tarheel Basketball team training handbook. At first the exercises seem too simple, but the next day you'll discover just how effective the exercises are. Stick with it though and you'll start to see and feel the benefits of the work you're doing. Fitness guru, Mark Verstegen, has a book on building core strength, Core Performance, that I highly recommend. Blue Benadum also has a great routine for building core strength. It’s tough, but it’s good. Check it out at For a core routine designed for runners try this plan from

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Log It!

In need of an online log to keep track of your running? Check out This awesome site lets you keep track of your training plus a whole lot more. The best thing about the site is that you can log all your workouts (running, cycling, swimming, and weight training) as well as create custom workouts to track other activities. After a run, just log in and add your workout. Another cool feature is the ability to measure your running routes and create elevation profiles. The mapping tool is very easy to use and a heck of a lot cheaper than a GPS device! They also provide a bank of running routes from other runners all across the country. So, if you have business trip in Philly, you see what routes other runners have submitted for the area. Another really helpful tool they offer is the ability to analyze your data through colorful graphs. I’m a visual learner, and seeing my progression (or lack there of) in a graph is really helpful. You can also search by specific workout entries using different criteria. And, you can track your shoe mileage so you won’t get injured from running in shoes past their prime. The site also provides a great running community where you can join a “running group” and get advice whether you’ve just started running or your training for a marathon. You can also meet other runners through the community and share running tips, ask questions or just talk about whatever.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Running Gifts

Need a gift for a runner? Or, are you a runner who needs ideas of what to tell others to get you?

Try some of these sites for unique gift ideas:
Inspired Endurance: Jewelry for the endurance runner
Cafe Press: T-shirts, sweat shirts, mugs, stickers, etc.
Running Expo: Shoes, apparel, heart monitors, cards, art, etc.
Seat Shield: Waterproof, odorproof seat covers
Lock Laces: Elastic lacing system
Running Funky: Uniquely colorful activewear
Transpack: Athletic backpack
Running Diva Gift Bag: Loaded with running gear just for her
Frosty Runner Gift Bag: Loaded with gear for the cold-weather runner
Marathon Training Gift Bag: Loaded with gear for the marathon trainer
For U Mothers: Gifts for mothers who run
Well Baskets: Gift baskets for the nutritional needs of athletes
Skirt Goddess: Running Apparel for women
Mission On!: Skin care products for athletes

Check out these sites for good deals on shoes, apparel, gear, etc.:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

See Dane Run!

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that it allows you to converse with people you may otherwise never encounter in person. One such person I've recently befriended is Dane Rauschenberg. If that name sounds familiar, you may recall back in 2006 a guy that ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks. Dane is that guy. He is one of only three people to ever run 52 marathons in a calendar year. He successfully completed his goal (dubbed Fiddy2) on December 31, 2006, in Springfield, MO. His average finish time for the 52 races was 3:21:16. But his accomplishment goes way beyond the 52 races. While running he also raised money for L'Arche-Mobile, an international federation of communities in which people with a mental handicap and those who help them can live, work, and share their lives together. Dane's goal was to raise $52, 000.

Having a full-time job and being a father of three, I often find it hard to fit my running into everything else that's going on in my life. So I asked Dane how he does it.

"As for fitting things in, I have always been of the belief that you fit into your life all that you truly want to. If it is important to you, then you will make it happen. While running the 52 Marathons I was working full-time in patent licensing, fund-raising for Fiddy2, ran my website, wrote race recaps, conducted interviews and did my very best to live a normal life all at the same time. This is not meant to brag but only show what can be done when obstacles are only seen as something to make the journey more worth while."
What's on the horizon for Dane?

"My aspirations currently include continuing to push the boundaries of my current endurance while trying to always get faster. I am often asked why I do not try for that one "fast marathon" and stop racing so much. To me, this question misses the point. Obviously speed is something we all wish to obtain but it is not the be all and end all of racing. If I had just focused on being a faster runner I would have never had the unbelievable experience I did in 2006. Yet, at the same time, contrary to what many think is the proper way to race, I continue to get faster. In fact, I am going for a big PR on Sunday(12/7), just one week removed from my 3:10 pacing effort in Seattle. More specifically, I am looking to run across the country in 50 days hoping to raise awareness for childhood obesity. I would like to test some of the famous ultras out there such as Comrades and Western States. I would like to do one of those 24 Hour relays like Hood to Coast as a solo runner. The only limit to what I want to do is whether I can obtain the sponsorship to cover my expenses. The world is really my oyster at this point."

Want to learn more about Dane's experiences during Fiddy2? Then check out his book, See Dane Run! Also, check out his blog, DaneGer Zone. Dane says he wrote the book in part "to show that you needn't be a runner your whole life in order to chase a running dream." Dane excelled at swimming in high school, played collegiate rugby and then procured an amateur boxing record, all before running became such an integral part of his life.

Keep it up Dane! And, keep us posted on the across-the-country run for childhood obesity awareness. I was very overweight as a child and truly know the importance of helping kids learn early the positive effects of living a healthy life.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Connecting with Other Runners

Have you ever noticed how non-runners just don’t get it? How many times have you been excited by a race you’ve done and when you tell a non-runner, their response is, “And you did that by choice?” Or how about when you tell a non-runner that you just ran a marathon and their response is “Did you win?” That one always gives me a chuckle. That’s why surrounding yourself with people who love to run, is so important. Recently a new person was hired where I work, and it’s been so refreshing to have a fellow runner to share goals and accomplishments with who can relate. You can find that support by joining a local running group or check with your local running store. They often host long runs or other events that bring runners together. One of the local running stores here in Greensboro, NCOff ‘n Running Sports—does a great job of providing a variety of weekly runs as well as sponsoring a multitude of local races. The Internet is another place to connect with other runners. In a previous post, I mentioned Athlinks as a good site to keep up with your racing results as well as connect with other runners. Recently, I discovered another great online community for runners—Runners' Lounge. Runners' Lounge is a friendly meet-up space for runners to connect with other runners, talk about running, and share running resources. You can create your own profile, form groups, share your running and race stories, pick up some tips, and leave some advice and encouragement for other runners. Check it out when you get a chance!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Group Runs...It's Good for Ya!

Do you struggle to maintain a regular exercise schedule? I sure do. I’ve discovered that I do much better when I run and/or exercise with friends. Isn’t it amazing how a long run (or any run for that matter) with a group seems to go by faster and is much more enjoyable than going it alone? Whether you’re starved for attention, need that extra diversion to help get you through those last few miles of a long run, or you enjoy the camaraderie or competition of running with others, it does seem to help. Actually it may even be good for your brain to run with others. Recently scientists found that the generation of new neurons (neurogenesis) is increased in the brains of rats when they were exercised in groups. Rats exercised in isolation showed no new growth. Whether this is true in humans or not, I don’t know, but I guess it's another good reason for planning some runs with friends. If you’re in Greensboro, NC come run with us, The Blueliners. (See the info in the right sidebar). If you’re in another town and looking for a group to run with, check out