Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is Asphalt Really Better Than Concrete?

Both asphalt and concrete are pretty dang hard, but asphalt is a little better to run on than concrete. Some say Asphalt is 10 times softer than concrete. Jim Fortner stated in an article he wrote for The Final Sprint that you can feel the difference between the two surfaces by hitting each with a hammer. Most likely you'll leave a dent in the asphalt while more than likely nothing will happen to the concrete. Basically concrete is crushed rock and because of this has no give and as a result is very jarring to the body when you run on it.

So what are the different types of running surfaces and which are better to run on? Actually there are quite a few. Some are better to run on than others, but unless you're a multi-millionaire and have your own state-of-the-art track, you're probably like me and forced to run on one or more of the following types of surfaces.

Dirt or small gravel trails are great for running and are much easier on the body. Trails, however, often contain obstacles—fallen branches, unlevel surfaces, tree roots—that can cause trips or falls, so run cautiously. The first time I ran on a trail, I fell flat on my face in the first mile. Every runner gets initiated on the trail by falling at some point, but, as long as you're tuned-in and watching where you're going, it can be a great way to add variety to your weekly runs.

This is a great surface to run on because it's softer and much easier on your joints. Be sure to run in short grass not long. You may want to scope out the area before running, making sure there are no hidden holes or divots.

Tracks can be constructed using a variety of surfaces from dirt, to asphalt, to state-of-the-art Tartan Tracks made of all-weather synthetic polyurethane. Tracks are good because they are flat and some such as a Tartan Track will provide some cushion. Tracks are also great if you need to gauge your pace for specific distances such as during an interval workout.

Treadmills can be very boring, but that have an upside—they're cushioned, flat, safe (as long as you're paying attention and not checking out the hot guy/gal beside you), and great when weather or heat doesn't permit outside running. The down side is that they don't give you a true sense of outdoor running. You can regulate the percent of incline to better mimic outside running, but treadmill running tends not to strengthen the muscles that help with balance and coordination. So, if you do a lot of treadmill running, be cautious when you head outdoors. If you're a treadmill runner, add some strength training to help with balance and coordination.

Often streets and greenways are paved using asphalt. It's definitely a hard surface, but not as hard as concrete. Many experts suggest running no more than 2/3 of your mileage on asphalt.

Typically sidewalks are made of concrete. This is probably the hardest surface and most unforgiving surface you can run on. If you have a choice, avoid running on concrete. Many reoccurring injuries can be traced back to running consistently on concrete.

Slanted Surfaces
Slants can occur no matter what the surface is made of. Running on a slanted surface is fine for short distances, but consistently running over long stretches of slanted surface can cause a variety of biomechanical problems and injuries such as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). Runners and cyclists often fall victim to ITBS which is characterized by sharp or burning pain on the outside of the knee, thigh, or butt.

So, when you can, find some routes that provide a little cushion and give your body a break from the pounding of the pavement.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Speed Workouts—Not Just Intervals

Several recent posts have focused on intervals. Research has shown that a weekly speed workout will greatly improve your speed and endurance as well as help you become a more efficient runner. Basically, speedwork at its core is a period of intense running intermingled with slower recovery runs. Intervals are great and one of the best ways to increase speed and endurance, but they're not the only type of speedwork. Below are four types of speedwork sessions—Intervals or Repeats, Fartleks, Tempo Intervals, and Hillwork. The training plan you're using may call for just one of these types of speedwork or it may have you alternate between two or more. If you ever feel your speedwork is getting too routine and/or boring, then try swaping it out for a different type of speed workout to help refresh yourself mentally and physically.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Winner of the $25 RoadRunner Sports Gift Card Is...

Congratulations to Brian Hail, the winner of the $25 RoadRunner Sports Gift card. Brian was one of about 40 runners who emailed RunnerDude their experiences with various energy supplements. Each runner was assigned a number in the order that his/her email was received (1st email = #1, 2nd email = #2, etc.). The winner was selected by using the True Random Number Generator at Random.org. Brian was the lucky participant whose number matched the number generated.

I was amazed at the number and variety of energy supplements used. Some of the runners had good experiences and some had not so good. Most of the brands I had heard of, but I was introduced to some new ones as well. Here are some of the supplements mentioned:

  • FRS
  • MRI Black Powder
  • Hammer Gel
  • Heed
  • Perpetuem
  • GU Gel
  • GU Chomps
  • Coffee
  • Quercetin (not FRS)
  • Emergen-C
  • Jelly Belly Sports Beans
  • Enlyten
  • PowerBar's sport drink
  • Gu2O
  • Gatorade Endurance
  • Crank eGel
  • Succeed S!Caps
  • Endurox R4
  • Clif Shot Bloks
  • Cytomax Gel

Need an Interval Workout?

After the recent post "The Benefits of Interval Training," many readers contacted me wanting to know more about intervals and what kinds of interval workouts were best.

Dictionary.com defines an interval as an "intervening period of time." That's really important to remember, because an interval is not just the high-intensity sprint. Equally important is the slower recovery jog/walk interval. It's important not to overlook the recovery jog/walk. It's during this slower interval that the heart and lungs learn to work together to add oxygen back to the muscles helping to break down the lactic acid produced during the sprint interval.

Basically intervals are measured either by time or distance. They can be as short as 15 seconds in activities like HIIT(High Intensity Interval Training) or as long as 20 minutes for aerobic interval training. There are several popular interval workouts favored by runners. Here's a few I've tried:

• Yasso 800s—Created by Bart Yasso, the race services manger at Runner's World, a Yasso 800 workout is directly tied to your marathon goal time. If you want to do a 3:30 marathon, then you run a series of 800m intervals in 3mins:30seconds. Your recovery intervals in between each 800 is the same amount of time as you did your 800. So basically a 3hr:30min marathoner wannabe will run an 800 interval in 3mins:30secs then do a recovery jog at a much slower pace for 3mins:30secs and then repeat with the another 3:30 800. Note: These are tough!

• HIIT(High Intensity Interval Training)—IntervalTraining.net explains that..."the first difference of and HIIT workout is in time, excluding warm ups and warm downs last no longer than 20 minutes. This may seem like a very short space of time but believe me; if you do the workout correctly you will be exhausted by the end of it. The goal of HIIT is to hold an anaerobic state for a long cumulative time (click here to see what this means). It’s designed with rest intervals to allow you to sprint harder for longer. Take this as an example, if you were to sprint for 100 meters, you would go full out for about 15 seconds (depending how fast you were). In an advanced HIIT workout you would probably spend about 7 to 8 minutes going full out in a 15 minute workout. If you are a beginner you should start with 4 to 6 minutes total workout time." IntervalTraining.net provides 30-second HIIT and 60-second HIIT workouts. Both provide workouts for the beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced runner.

• RunnerDude's Workout—Several years ago I used a set of interval workouts I got from a Runner's World Marathon training plan. It kicked my butt, but it helped get me a PR in a half and full marathon that year. The set consists of six different interval workouts and for the most part, the workouts increase in intensity. To begin with, I'd recommend doing the workouts in order (Workout #1 = Week 1, Workout #2 = Week 2, etc.). Later on after completing all six weeks of workouts in order, you can play around with mixing up the workouts however you'd like.
Workout #1—5x1000m @5K race pace with 2-minute recovery (walk or jog) in between
Workout #2—6x800m @10K race pace with 90-second recovery (walk or jog) in between
Workout #3—Three sets: 1x1200m @ 10K race pace with 1-minute recovery, 1x400m @5K race pace with a 3-minute recovery (walk or jog) in between each set
Workout#4—4x1600m @10K race pace with 3-minute recovery (walk or jog) in between
Workout#5—8x800m @10K race pace with 90-second recovery (walk or jog) in between
Workout#6—400m @ 5K race pace (30sec recovery); 800 @ 10K race pace (90-sec recovery); 1200m @10K race pace (2-min recovery); 1600m @10K race pace (3-min recovery); 1200m @10K race pace (2-min recovery); 800 @ 10K race pace (90-sec recovery); 400m @ 5K race pace

Now if you're completely new to running and this all sounds Greek to you, don't worry. Here's a little cheat sheet:
200m = 1/2 lap (~1/8 mile)
400m = 1 lap (~1/4 mile)
800m = 2 laps (~1/2 mile)
1000m = 2.5 laps (~5/8 mile)
1200m = 3 laps (~3/4 mile)
1600m = 4 laps (~1 mile)

The FIRST marathon training plan lays out exactly what pace to run it's intervals, but many interval workouts just say run this interval distance at your 5K pace or run this interval distance at your 10K pace. Well, have you ever tried to figure out your pace for a 400m interval based on your 5K pace? Makes my brain hurt! If you're a math whiz, you can calculate it out, or you can go to McMillan's Running Calculator and let it do the work for you. Once at the site, simply select 5K (or 10K) and enter your best time and then voila! you have every imaginable distance/time calculated out for you. It actually varies the times for middle-distance runners and long-distance runners. For example, for your speed workout (if your best 5K time is 22:00) you'd run a 400m at 1:34.7 to 1:38.8 (middle-distance runners) and at 1:36.6 to 1:42.2 (long-distance runners).
Keep in mind that it may take a few speed workouts before you're able to run the calculated speed.

It's very important to think of your interval workout as three parts—1. Warm-up, 2. Interval Workout, 3. Cool -down. A 10-20 minute easy jog (1-2 miles) is sufficient to get your muscles warmed-up an limber. Starting an interval workout cold is an injury just waiting to happen. Also, on the back end, you'll recover faster if you give yourself about a 10-minute cool-down.

Remember that it will take some time for your body to get use to speed work. So don't be discouraged if you aren't able to complete some of the workouts, especially early on. Just keep at it and you'll get there. I guarantee you'll be amazed at how your other runs improve both in endurance and in speed.

Don't have a track nearby? I don't either. I found a large parking lot that makes a big loop. One loop equals 800m. Look around, maybe you can find a "makeshift" track near you too or try doing your interval workouts on a treadmill (set the incline at 1% to better replicate outside running).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Underwood Brothers Hard at Work Recruiting the Next Generation of Runners

One of the best things about being a runner is that you can basically eat whatever you want. You burn it, you earn it. Words to live by. In this video, the Brooks camera crew observes as Carl and Karl—the Underwood Brothers—(otherwise known as the Running Superfans) introduce this basic philosophy to some neighborhood kids.To follow their mission to spread running, visit http://www.runningsuperfans.com/

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Benefits of Interval Training

My Marine Corps Marathon training is kicking in soon and the FIRST training plan that I'll be using along with my running buddies has us scheduled for an interval workout each week. I know interval workouts help increase your overall speed, but I wondered what other benefits you gain from doing a weekly interval workout. Here's what I found.

You'll burn more calories. Yep, that's right. Recent studies (i.e., American College of Sports Medicine), show that short intense runs such as intervals or fartleks can be very beneficial to weight loss. The Mayo Clinic also says that the more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you'll burn — even if you increase intensity for just a few minutes at a time.

You'll increase your endurance. As your cardiovascular fitness improves you'll improve your aerobic capacity which means you'll be able to exercise longer and more intensely.

You'll be able to better adapt to the demands of an endurance race. Interval training works both the aerobic and the anaerobic system. During the intense running of your interval workout, your muscles use stored glycogen for energy. This is the Anaerobic system at work. Because the anaerobic system doesn't use oxygen, it gives off a by-product called lactic acid which results in that burning sensation you feel in your muscles. When you jog for recovery in between intervals, your heart and lungs work together to add oxygen back into the muscles, breaking down the lactic acid. This is the aerobic system at work. Doing intervals on a weekly basis helps teach your body to build up a higher tolerance to lactic acid buildup. It also strengthens your heart. In a nut shell, this means improved performance and improved endurance. So speed work actually helps endurance runners become more efficient runners.

You won't need any fancy equipment. All you need is a track, but actually you don't even need that if you can find a flat area and measure your repeat distances. Getting to a track can sometimes be difficult for me, but I discovered that the parking lot at one of our local parks is a half-mile loop which is basically 800meters. Perfect for interval training.

You'll make your training week more interesting. Not only will you have a different experience to look forward to, you'll eventually begin to see how your other "regular" workouts are beginning to benefit from your interval training.

You'll feel amazing after an interval workout. During the workout you may be cursing, but afterward, the sense of accomplishment is very rewarding.

Consistent interval training can help to lower your resting heart rate. The more blood pumped per beat the less your heart needs to beat each minute. The more blood pumped per beat the LESS your heart needs to beat each minute. That's a good thing!

Advice from the Marathon Legends

I've had the chance to shake the hands of some of Running's greatest legends. While I didn't get to say much more than "Hello" (because I was in such awe) I will always appreciate and never forget meeting such elite athletes. I still have my 1998 New York City Marathon bib signed by Frank Shorter wishing me well in the race the next day. Other running legends I've had the privilege to meet during my marathon journeys include Grete Waitz, Alberto Salazar, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Dean Karnazes. Listed below are some words of wisdom and advice for all runners from these running greats.

Frank Shorter—Remember that the more consistent you are in your training, the less you must rely on a perfect training run every day.”

Check out this great video clip of Shorter giving some solid marathon running advice.

Grete WaitzRunning should become a long term thing. Make it a part of your lifestyle. Running is a great activity. I still get the same satisfaction of accomplishment no matter how fast I run. Don’t expect to enjoy every run, but enjoy what running does for you.”
Check out this clip recapping Grete's 9 wins at the NYC Marathon.

Alberto Salazar—“You've got to be prepared to train as hard or harder than anyone else, but you've also got to complement the training with recovery time.”
Check out this clip of Salazar's 1981 record-setting win at NYC.

Joan Benoit Samuelson— “During the marathon, I would see myself running easily on my favorite ten-mile loop. Then I would picture myself on a six-mile loop, followed by another ten-mile trail run. Dividing it up in my mind that way made the race seem shorter and more enjoyable.”
Check out this video clip of Joan winning the very first women's Olympic Marathon.

Dean KarnazesWhat I've found is that I'm never more alive than when I'm pushing and I'm in pain, and I'm struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there's a magic.”

Check out this clip of Dean telling a group how to run 200 miles.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hey Runners! At a Loss for How to Eat Better in Our Fast Food Culture? Check This Out!

As a runner and just a regular Joe trying to eat better and stay fit, I'm often faced with a busy hectic life (we have three kids ages 8, 13, and 17) and sometimes fast food is the quickest option, even though it may not be the best option health-wize. My runner side really struggles with this especially when I'm in training and I'm trying hard to put quality foods in my body. As a father I also struggle with wanting to make sure I'm feeding my kids healthy foods.

So what do you do when you're at the drive-thru, faced with 500 options staring at you from the menu board? I don't know about you, but even on my most coherent days, I have trouble reading those things (couldn't possibly be due to my 44-year-old eyes). So often what comes out of my mouth is the easiest thing for me to remember—"Combo #1." Which usually this means something fried, with fries.

Well recently I stumbled across a great social site called WellSphere that's for people who have or who are striving for healthy lifestyles. Wellsphere’s mission is to help millions of people live healthier, happier lives by connecting them with the knowledge, people and tools they need to manage and improve their health. I joined the site and was quickly checking out all kinds of running and fitness-related communities and various members' blogs. Cool stuff!

To get back to that drive-thru ordering dilemma....WellSphere has the coolest widget called "Wellternatives" that you can download to your website or blog that lets you key-in a fast-food item such as "McDonald's Big Mac" and it will show you the total calories, carbs, fat, and fiber counts as well as suggest a better option from the menu. For example a Big Mac has 539 calories, 29 grams of fat, 45 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of fiber. Wellternatives recommends that you eat a double cheeseburger because it contains 439 calories, 23 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of fiber. The suggested item saves you 100 calories, 7 grams of fat and about 9 grams of carbs. Now of course you would be even better off ordering the grilled chicken sandwich without mayo, but what the Wellternative widget does is suggest something comparable to what you had intended to order. Probably if you really want a burger, you're not going to order the chicken, but you may order a slightly healthier burger.

The Wellternatives widget is located in the right column of the blog. Give it a try. Plug in some fast foods and see what suggestions pop up. Even if you don't go with the better option, just seeing the stats on the item you plug in can be enough to keep you from ordering your original choice. If you like it, you can click on the "get widget" link and add it to your blog or website. Or, just use the widget here on RunnerDude's blog.

10 Tips for Running to Lose Weight

Over and over research shows that adding exercise to a weight-loss program helps increase the amount of weight lost as well as increase the chances of keeping the weight off over time. On the flip side, if all you're doing is running and not modifying your diet, you probably won't see the weight loss you'd hoped for. To see the desired outcome of a slimmer you, you have to modify your diet and add the exercise. Check out the 10 tips below on running to lose weight.

1. Keep in mind that a longer run at a moderate speed burns a good amount of calories. Maureen McKinney (Medill News Service/Chicago Daily Herald) wrote in an article, "Statistics from the Weight Loss Control Registry, a research group that studies people who have successfully lost weight and maintained their weight loss, point to the need to consistently burn 2,800 calories through exercise each week in order to successfully lose weight. Rather than fast, exhausting runs, weight loss at this level requires longer, slower runs—about 25 to 30 minutes—spaced three or four times throughout the week. This doesn't mean a good speed workout or hill work doesn't burn a lot of calories, they do! But don't feel like your slower more moderate runs aren't benefiting you. They are! Also, if you're new to running, you'll need to work your way up to more intense workouts in order to avoid injury. So take it slow at first and work your way up and feel good about any and all the running you do.
2. Know your caloric needs. Use Active.com's Caloric Needs Calculator to help you. Then use their Nutritional Needs Calculator to help you break those calories down into carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Keep in mind that it's best to cut no more than 200 to 300 calories per day.
3. Try running in the morning before breakfast. This will force your body to use fat stores for energy instead of all the day's fuel intake.
4. Josh Clark from CoolRunning.com says, "By running, you step up your calorie use significantly, since the average forty-minute run burns about 500 calories. By eating moderate meals and grazing on healthy snacks throughout the day, you can keep your calories below the break-even point (about 2500 calories per day for the average runner) without ever feeling hungry.
5. Remember that running doesn't give you license to eat more. That will defeat the purpose. Don't get in the mentality of banking calorie credits... "I can eat that slice of chocolate cake, because I'm going to run 5 miles this afternoon." Allow yourself a treat from time to time, but don't connect it to your running.
6. If the scales are showing no weight loss or even a gain, whip out the tape measure. Your weight can fluctuate greatly when running, due to hydration levels. Taking regular measurements of your hips, waist, and thighs will give you a better idea of the progress you're making.
7. Add some resistance training to your routine. Not only does this help with improving bone density, it can help you burn more calories.
8. In addition to keeping a running log, keep a food log. Writing down what you eat tends to make you more accountable for what you eat. Also, just as your running log can help you track trends in your training, your food log will help you see negative as well as positive trends in your eating habits that you may not be aware of.
9. No matter what the TV ads say, there's no quick fix. It will take some time to see results. Don't get discouraged. At some point you may even experience a plateau in your weight loss. If this happens try changing your running schedule. Mix it up. Add a speed workout or a hill workout once a week. Throw in some cross training (cycling, elliptical machine, walking, swimming), anything that will throw your body a curve so it says, "Hey, wait a minute, this is different. What' going on here?!" Mixing up your routine will often help get you over that plateau.
10. Find a running coach and/or personal trainer. Being accountable to someone else other than yourself can often keep you on the straight and narrow or in this case, the slim and trim.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Energy Supplements—Tell RunnerDude What You Think And Win Chance at a $25 RoadRunner Sports Gift Certificate!

One of the hot new energy products to hit the market is FRS. FRS is endorsed by athletes such as Lance Armstrong and Derek Fisher. FRS's appeal is its "revolutionary" blend of antioxidants and vitamins that FRS claims to enhance your body's energy system, fueling you up when you need it while supporting your immune system. The FRS products have been clinically shown to increase endurance, provide sustained energy, and improve focus, plus an added bonus is that there's not supposed to be any jittery feeling or crash—just prolonged energy that helps keep you focused and fully charged. Quercetin is the "secret weapon" (an antioxidant found in foods like blueberries, apples and grapes). It's supposed to enhance your body's energy system and is why FRS is supposed to keep you feeling energized longer. FRS also contains—B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12, along with C and E.

RunnerDude is interested in your experiences using any of the energy supplements on the market, especially FRS. If you've used any energy supplement, let RunnerDude know how it worked for you by emailing your comments to runnerdudeblog@yahoo.com by Saturday, June 27th. Your email will be entered in a drawing for a $25 RoadRunnerSports gift certificate. The drawing will be held on Sunday, June 28th.

Beach Running 101

This week I'm at the beach for the big family vacation. There's 12 of us (grandparents, my brother and his wife and family an my family). It's a summer tradition to make the trek to Emerald Isle, NC for a week of relaxation. My parents have been renting the same big house each year. Lots of fun.

Even though I'm on vacation, I try not to lag too much in my running. I usually don't run as much as during a regular week nor do I run as hard but I still like to get in a few runs. Running on the beach I've discovered, can be quite the workout.

Here's a few pointers I discovered while on the run.

RunnerDude's Beach Running Tips:
1. Put on sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. My sunglasses are prescription, so I have no choice, but even if you don't wear glasses, the shades will keep harmful UV rays from your eyes as well as help keep the wind from blowing sand in them.

2. Wear your normal running clothes. Don't run in your swimsuit. You may experience some chaffing which wouldn't be too pleasant the next time you hop in the ocean.
3. Unless you're adept at barefoot running, wear you running shoes and socks just as you would on a regular run. Even if you're fine with barefoot running, I wouldn't risk stepping on a shell or a piece of glass that someone has left on the beach. Actually, if you have them, your trail running shoes are probably your best bet for beach running.
4. Be prepared for a slower pace than your regular run. If it's windy like it was this morning, then you'll be a lot slower. Also, running in the sand, even the hard-packed sand by the water, tends to slow you down a little.
5. Try to run around low tide when there's more hard-packed sand on which to run. The hard-packed sand near the water makes for a more stable run.
6. Keep your eyes open for shell hunters and little kids darting back and forth. I almost took out a 4-year-old on my run.
7. Keep an eye out for holes! Abandoned sandcastles or ones that have been wiped out by the tide may have holes. If you're not careful, you'll be in one with a sprained ankle. Not a good thing for vacation time.
8. Probably a good idea to run by time rather than distance. Often that pier you plan to run to is much further away than you think. If your regular run is a 40-min 5-miler, plan on running 20 minutes out and then head back. You're on vacation. Who cares if it's not exactly 5 miles.
9. Just because you're at the beach doesn't mean you have to run on the beach. Check with the local information center to see if there are any local running routes or greenways for you to use. On Emerald Isle, NC, they've built a paved path that follows the main road which runs through some pretty shaded areas.
10. Shake the sand out of your shoes entering the house or you'll get yelled at.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day to All the Running Dads Out There!

Father's Day is a day of celebration of Dad. It is a day to honor your father, as well as any man who as been a father figure in your life—stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers, "Big Brothers." Doesn't have to be much but let your dad or the "father-figure" in your life know how much you appreciate him. Take him for a run!

Need a Reason for Why You Should Start or Keep on Running? Here's 10!

On the fence about starting a running program? Or, are you already a runner and need a little reassurance that what you're doing is really worth it? Then check out the following 10 health factoids about the physiological benefits of your running.

1. Your Weight—The more calories you eat without burning them off, the more of them that will be stored as fat. Running is one of the best ways to burn those extra calories.

2. Your Metabolic Rate—Your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) is the amount of calories you burn when you're not being active. One essential key in weight loss is to up your RMR. Running has been shown to be one of the best way to boost your RMR

3. Your Bones—Weight-bearing activities (including running) are great ways to increase or maintain bone density. This is very important as you get older as well as for women who tend to be more prone to osteoporosis.

4. Your Heart—Your heart is a muscle and needs to be worked out just like your other muscles. Problem is, the only way to work out the old ticker is through aerobic exercise. Running is a great way to do this. Also, by running you can lower your resting heart rate (RHR). A lower RHR means your heart isn't having to work as hard to pump the blood. Research shows that just running 5-10 miles a week can decrease your change of having a heart attach by 20%!

5. Your Blood Pressure—The amount of pressure put on the arterial walls with each heart beat is blood pressure. The higher the pressure, the higher your chances are for heart disease. Being overweight and stress are two main causes of high blood pressure. Running is a great way to keep obesity and stress less of a factor in your life.

6. Your Cholesterol—Your body has good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). Your body needs both kinds to function, but when you get an over abundance of LDL cholesterol it can "clog" or harden your arteries slowing or even stopping the flow of blood. HDL cholesterol is "good" because it helps to clear the LDL cholesterol from the arteries. Research shows that running as well as other vigorous exercise helps increase your HDL levels and reduce your LDL levels.

7. Your Aging Process—Running can help prevent muscle and bone loss. Ever hear the expression, "If you don't use it, you lose it?" Will that's very true when it comes to bone and muscle mass. Running is great for keeping your bones and muscles strong and healthy. Running has also been shown to promote the human growth hormone which is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. This hormone stimulates growth and cell production in human beings.

8. Your Decreased Change of Disease—Running can reduce your risk of stroke, breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and heart attack. New research also shows that running can delay the onset of dementia.

9. Your Coordination—Running takes you on all types of surfaces that are flat and uneven, especially if you run trails. A runner has to learn how to gain control over his/her body to keep from stumbling and falling. This improved coordination helps prevent falls when not running. This becomes of particular importance as you get older.

10. Your Sanity—Running not only provides the many aforementioned physical benefits, it also provides you with a mental escape, time to think, or not to think, time to enjoy the outdoors and time to be with friends.

No excuses now. Get out there and run!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Want to Up Your Running Game?

Circuit training is a great way for runners to up their game by improving their strength, flexibility, and stamina.

The following circuit training session works all areas of your body—Upper, Core, Lower—and consists of 8 exercises. Each exercise is performed for 20 reps (unless otherwise directed) followed by a 20-second rest period before moving on to the next exercise. At the end of the circuit, there's a 90-second rest period before completing the circuit again. The complete circuit session of 8 exercises is repeated 3 times The circuit will work all areas of your body—Upper, Core, Lower, and Total.

If the circuit is too challenging at first, try decreasing the number of repetitions of each exercise from 20 to 15 or 10. To increase the difficulty level of the circuit, increase the number of repetitions of each exercise from 20 to 25. Another way to increase the difficulty level is to up the repetitions of the complete circuit from 3 repetitions to 4 or 5 repetitions.

Adding a weekly circuit-training session to your routine will have you running strong in no time!

1. The Lunge—Stand with your feet at about hip's width. Step forward with the right foot. Once the foot is planted, continue to move forward until the right knee moves over the foot. Your left knee should be moving toward the floor. Repeat with the left leg. That's one repetition.

Challenge: Try a Box Lunge—stand on a bottom step that's about 8-inches high. Step forward with your right leg. When your foot is firmly planted, continue to bend your knee until it's at 90°. Reverse the movement by pushing up and backward off the right foot back to the step. Repeat with the left foot. Balance is the key with this advanced exercise. Use those core muscles to help stabilize your movements.

2. Calf Raise—Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step with your heels hanging off the step. Slowly, rise up on your toes. Your body should make a straight line from your ankles, to your knees, to your hips, to your shoulders. Slowly, lower yourself back down. That's one repetition.

Challenge: Try tucking your left foot behind your right heel and do 10 reps. Then, tuck your right foot behind your left foot and do 10 reps.

3. Squat Jump—Stand straight, arms at your sides bent at 90°. Do a deep squat with your arms at your sides bent at 90°. Leap upward with a burst of energy as high as you can go. When you land, go immediately back into your deep squat. That's one repetition.

Alternative: To add an upper body element, get in the starting deep squat position and then put your hands out in front of you with your fingers touching the ground. Then, when you leap upward, raise your arms above you head and extend them as far as you can. Then return to the starting position upon landing.

4. Single-Leg Pelvic Lift—Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms at your sides, palms down. Cross your left leg over the right leg so that the left ankle is resting just below the right knee. Slowly lift your pelvis toward the sky while tightening your glutes. Continue lifting until your back is straight but not arched. Slowly return to the floor. That's one repetition. Do 10 reps with the left leg crossed and 10 reps with the right leg crossed.

5. Push-Ups—Lie face down on the floor. Place your palms on the floor at about shoulder level, fingers straight forward. Your elbows should be kept close to your torso. Lift your body just a little so that the weight is balanced on your toes and your palms. Your back and legs are a straight line. Push up so that your arms are almost fully extended. Do not lock the elbows; they should be slightly bent. Return to the starting position. This is one Repetition.
Alternative: To work the triceps and back, bring your palms closer together so that the thumbs and index fingers of each hand touch creating a diamond shape underneath the chest on the floor.
6. The Bridge—Begin by lying on your back with feet on the floor hip distance apart and your knees bent arms by your sides. Next, contract your stomach muscles and pull your hips up by tightening your glutes until your body forms a diagonal from knees to your chest and shoulders. Hold for 5-10 second. Then drop your hips 5 to 6 inches to the ground while keeping your stomach contracted. Be sure to maintain proper form by keeping your back straight at the top of the exercise. Pause briefly, then repeat. This is one repetition. Begin with 10 repetitions and work your way to 15 or 20.

Challenge: When you're at the top of the exercise and your pelvis is lifted, straighten each leg (one at at time) while still keeping the pelvis level.

7. The Clam—Lie on your left side with both knees bent at a 45° angle. Rest your head on your left arm. As you exhale, lift your right knee up, keeping your ankles together. Hold for 10 seconds. Slowly lower the leg back down. Repeat 10 times. Then flip to your right side and repeat the process by lifting the left leg. Repeat 10 times.

Challenge: Tie a resistance band around your thighs (above the knees) and repeat the same movement.

8. Side Plank—Lie on your right side, ankles together, your torso propped on your right forearm. Lift your body up until you form a diagonal line from your ankles to your shoulders. Hold for 20 seconds. That's one repetition. Flip to your left side and repeat the process. Do 5 reps on each side.

Challenge: Once you're in the diagonal position lift the top leg toward the sky with your toes pointing forward; then return. Repeat 5 times on each side.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Running.....a Necessity of Fatherhood

Wednesday I had a great run. Did a 5-miler in 36:00. I was on top of the world! Don't worry; I refrained from flinging my arms up in the air yelling "I'm the king of the world!" Leonardo DiCaprio, I am not. Plus the park rangers may have hauled me off. Anyways, it's funny how something as simple as HUMIDITY can so quickly knock you off your throne. I ran yesterday and was a lot slower. It was in the upper 80s and the humidity was killer! And, I'll probably be even slower today since it's supposed to be in the mid 90s!! So unless it's the treadmill (Please, no! Not the treadmill) slower is going to have to be just fine.

I guess when you've been cooped up in the house all day with three kids and trying to get them to clean the house, do yard work, etc... before going on vacation next week, and getting not much in return but looks of "You talkin to me....You, t-a-l-k-i-n-g to me?", one tends to want to speed up to release the stress. Going back to thrones, I think we have enough empty toilet paper rolls among all the bathrooms in our house to build a fort! I found myself playing Jenga with them the other day (someone took the newspaper out, what else was I supposed to do?) I think I need to inform my kids that it's Recycle, ReNew, ReUse, not Recycle, ReUse, Throw-on-the-Floor. I'm also coming to believe that Linda Blair (spinning head and all) would make a good poster child for all 13-year old girls.

And so, I run, run, run. Running is definitely a necessity for fatherhood or motherhood, for that matter. I'm not sure how parents who don't run (or do some other type of physical activity) deal with the demands of parenthood. That 3o minutes to 1 hour of running is good for me as well as the kids. It's amazing. No matter how hot or humid it is, a good, hard run releases the daily stresses helping to put everything in perspective.
So, after my run I realized, who else has such fun entertainment while doing their "business"? Sure beats reading sales flyers. Hmmm...Jenga, building a fort, Ooooo.... making a log cabin, a castle! Now, for the Linda Blair syndrome. Not sure running's going to help that one. Any suggestions? Ahhhh fatherhood.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Need to Set A Running Goal? Let The Circle Help

Are you a goal-oriented person or do you need to set some goals to help get yourself motivated to run? In either case, I have the perfect site for you! TheCircle.org is a new goal-oriented social network with resources and support that can help you achieve your goals. How does it work? TheCircle.org is a free site that gives registered users access to Circles where you can meet others with similar interests who may have already done what you seek to accomplish and who can share advice and encouragement to help you to succeed. As a registered user, you can ask questions and get insights on what steps to take to accomplish your goal.

Each Circle has a mentor that hosts a weekly blog and acts as a guide and moderator for the circle. Mentors are people who have a passion for and an above average knowledge of the subject matter related to the circle in which they participate. They offer their time and knowledge to help members learn more about the subjects they are interested in and to help members become more fulfilled people. Mentors may be professionals or just lay persons with training or experience that gives them special knowledge about a certain subject area.

TheCircle asked RunnerDude to be the mentor for two of their running-related circles—Run for Fitness and Long Distance Running. I'm excited to have this opportunity to connect with even more fellow runners, share the knowledge I've gained over the years, as well as learn from the circle members.

The idea for TheCircle.org grew out of a book written by Joe Mellett in the early 1990s called The Circle. The book is an inspirational work that offers those in need a way to organize their life to achieve goals and, ultimately, to get to know one self better. The book will soon be published on this website and will be found under the Tools section. Understanding that self improvement does not mean going it alone, and in fact, that a mentor or guide, as well as a social group of people with similar interests, could aid one in taking the steps necessary to achieve a goal, Joe had the idea of creating a website where people could share their advice and encouragement to the end that all involved come away with a sense of self-fulfillment. TheCircle.org LLC was formed in 2006 to create this website built on Joe’s ideas of self-improvement, self-fulfillment and community.

The site is growing with new members each day. I encourage you to check it out. While you're there, take a look at their other circles. They cover a wide variety of topics such as fitness, hiking, training for a triathlon, competitive swimming, sewing, travel, relationships, stress management, and much more.

Don't worry, RunnerDude's Blog isn't going anywhere. It's going strong (thanks to you, the readers) and daily posts will continue as well as the fun contests that you've made so successful.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From My House to The White House

Today's post isn't exactly about running or fitness, but it is about determination, perseverance, and commitment—all traits of a runner. Zach Bonner, a red-headed 11-year-old from Tampa Florida walked through my hometown (Greensboro, NC) yesterday in the pouring down rain. Zach's on a mission. He's walking from his home in Tampa to the home of the President—The White House—in Washington, D.C. He's making this 1, 225-mile trek to raise awareness of and money for the thousands of homeless children in our country.

My local newspaper (The News & Record) quoted Zach saying, "Some kids like to play baseball, some kids like to play soccer. This is what I like to do." Laurie Bonner (Zach's mom) has walked alongside her son for most of the journey, which has been spread over a couple years. Zach first began his journey to the White House in 2007 by walking from his home in Tampa to Tallahassee by walking about 15 miles a day. Then in the fall of 2008, he walked from Tallahassee to Atlanta. He is now mid-way through the last 668 miles from Atlanta to D.C. Zach hopes to reach The White House in early July. Zach, who has received many service awards such as the Presidential Service Award, is looking forward to meeting President Obama.

This trek to The White House isn't Zach's first experience with community service. Back in 2004, after Hurricane Charlie hit Florida, Zach got involved in the recovery effort in his town. In 2005, Little Red Wagon Foundation (Zach's non-profit organization) was created to help underprivileged children. Zach makes backpacks and fills them with food and supplies and gives them to homeless and street kids. He's distributed over 1,200 of these packs across the country. To learn more about all the great things Zach and The Little Red Wagon has done for kids [click here].

Zach and his amazing journey have gotten the attention of some notable personalities such as singer Elton John who has pledged $25,000 for the cause. Zach wants to use that money as well other funds he's raised on his journey to help remodel an old apartment complex he hopes will one day house homeless youth.

Check out the video clip below to learn more about Zach and his cause.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

RunnerDude's "Most Worn-Out" Running Shoe Contest!

I'm so excited to tell you about the next contest for RunnerDude's Blog! The biggest reason I'm so excited is that Brooks Running has offered to supply the contest prizes! Brooks will give the winner his/her choice of one pair of Brooks running shoes and a Run Happy Mesh Cap. Plus the 1st and 2nd Runner-Ups will each receive a Run Happy Mesh Cap! These caps are really cool!

Well, from the title of this post, you've probably already figured out the theme of this contest. Most runners become very attached to their style of running shoe. Some never stray from style or brand. For some it's even hard for them to part with a particular pair of shoes. Even though they know they're way beyond being safe to run in, they still hang on to them. Elizabeth Quinn from About.com recommends "that you replace running shoes between 350-550 miles depending on your running style, body weight, and the surface on which you run. Lighter runners can get closer to the upper end of the recommendation while heavier runners are harder on shoes and should consider replacement shoes closer to 350 miles."

This contest is a chance to honor and celebrate those loyal trainers that have served you well, but are past their prime. Take a photo of your most "worn-out" pair of running shoes and email them to RunnerDude at runnerdudeblog@yahoo.com by July 1st. That gives you about 2 weeks! On July 2nd, the photos of the top 5 most worn-out running shoes will be posted on the blog for the RunnerDude's Blog Readers to view and vote on. Voting for the posted photos will open on Thursday, July 2nd and will stay open until Sunday, July 5th! Can't wait to see some of these shoes!

In an effort to be green and help others at the same time, consider donating your gently used shoes to Soles4Souls. Don't send your completely worn-out shoes, but if you have some shoes that someone else could still get some wear out of, this organization can put them to good use. [Click here] to find out more about this awesome organization.

Run for a Cause—But Be Careful

The Ronald McDonald House has a great slogan for their Run for Ronald McDonald House Charities—"For Many It's Not Just About Making It to the Finish Line...It's About Making A Difference." Today a large portion road races (from 5Ks to marathons) are fund-raisers for charities. It's a great way for a charity to raise the much needed funds to help them operate or to fund research. The new marathon here in my own state, The UnitedHealthCare of the Carolinas North Carolina Marathon helps raise funds for Foster Friends of NC a nonprofit organization that helps foster children be able to have experiences such as camp, dance lessons, or art classes.

The running community has a big heart and the turn out for many of these races is huge. Not only do these races help provide funds for the various organizations, some help provide a structured training program for many new runners to run their first half-marathon or full marathon. One of the first organizations to provide such a program is The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training® (TNT). Over the past 20 years, TNT has grown with over 389,000 participants, from first timers to seasoned athletes. The program now includes training for marathons, half marathons, triathlons, 100-mile century bike rides and hiking adventures.

These charity marthon programs are for great causes but please heed this warning: Enter these programs with a clear mind and a mindset ready to put yourself through some grueling training. Running a marathon has been somewhat romanticized over the years. While raising money for these awesome charities is a noble cause, you don't want to become a running casualty for the cause. Some programs such as TNT have certified coaches that provide training and clinics on fitness, nutrition, gear and injury prevention as well as guide you on your weekly training. Others however basically provide you with a guaranteed marathon entry if you raise X amount for them. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think these organizations are being underhanded at all. I just don't think some of them truly understand what is demanded of you when you run a marathon. There's a huge difference in training for a marathon and completing a marathon.

As a rule of thumb, most marathon training plans expect a runner to have a weekly mileage of at least 20 miles with a long run of 6 miles before even starting a marathon training program. Depending of the individual it could take 6 months to a year to get to that point. Often, the charity training programs have people who've never run. From what I could tell, none of the charity running programs require a certain mileage base before beginning their program. Most marathons officially close after 6.5 hours. In order to finish within that timeframe, you'd need to run at least a 15 min/mile pace.

My intention is not to dampen any spirits or keep people from supporting their favorite charity. But, I do want non-runners and new runners to know exactly what they're getting into. The fundraising demands for some of these races are quite intense. For some, a couple thousand dollars have to be raised per participant. Some runners get caught up in the fund-raising and forget about the training. Both (fundraising and training) should have equal focus.

If you're an experienced runner, jump right in with both feet and get to training! If you're a newbie, I highly recommend using this year to build your mileage base and pick a charity and race to support in fall 2010. Also, check out the training programs for the various charities. If you're a new runner, select one that's going to provide you with support and training. If the charity of your choice doesn't offer that support; then you need to be willing to find it elsewhere such as your local running club or running store.
If you're new to running, I think you should look at this venture as two-fold. First you're helping raise money for an awesome charity that will in turn help many others. Second, you're helping yourself get on track for a healthy, fit lifestyle. You don't want to help one (the charity) while at the same time hindering the other (your health). You want it to be a win, win situation!

Listed below are a few of the many charities that offer half and full marathon programs. Check them out!
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training®Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon Nov. 2009; Women's Running Magazine Women's Half Marathon Nov. 2009; Honolulu Marathon Dec. 2009; Disney World Marathon Jan. 2010; P.F. Chang's Rock n Roll Marathon Jan. 2010
Team Ronald McDonald House CharitiesBank of America Chicago Marathon October 2009
Team Challenge Crohn's & Colitis FoundationRock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon December 2009
Arthritis Foundation's Joints In Motion Training TeamReggae Half and Full Marathons Dec. 2009; Walt Disney World Half and Full Marathons Jan. 2010
St. Jude Hero Charity AthletesZooma Denver Half Sept 2009; Bank of America Chicago Marathon Oct. 2009; Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 2009; US Half Marathon Nov. 2009; St. Jude Memphis Marathon Dec. 2009
Children's Tumor Foundation Endurance TeamPhiladelphia Distance Run Half Marathon Sept 2009; Portland Marathon Oct. 2009; Rock n Roll San Jose Oct 2009; Twin Cities Marathon Oct. 2009; Hartford Marathon Oct. 2009; Bank of America Chicago Marathon Oct. 2009; Long Beach Marathon Oct. 2009; Columbus Marathon Oct. 2009; Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 2009; New York City Marathon Nov. 2009; Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon Nov. 2009; Las Vegas Marathon Dec. 2009; Tucson Marathon Dec. 2009; Disney World Jan. 2010

The video clip below will give you more insight into the Team in Training Program.

Check out the video clip below to learn more about the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's Team Challenge program.

Check out the video clip below about the Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion program.