Monday, March 29, 2010

RunnerDude's Runner of the Week: John

If you've not joined the running community Athlinks, you really need to check it out. It's a great place to keep track of your race results not only for running but for triathlon, cycling, mountain biking, swimming and adventure racing. It's also a great way to connect with other endurance athletes all over the country and the world for that matter. Athlinks is how I met John Blewis, this week's Runner of the Week. John's story is an awesome story of rebirth. What he's accomplished in a little under a year is amazing. Read on to find out more about John and his story.

RD: Where are you from?
John: I am from Buffalo, NY originally, but now I live in sunny Southwest Florida, in a town called Lehigh Acres just outside of Fort Myers. My heart will always be in Buffalo though. You should never forget where you are from. Except during football season! Just kidding. I love that town. I am a big hockey fan so of course the Buffalo Sabres are my team. For those that follow hockey anyways.

RD: You've had quit a year. Tell us a little about yourself and how you decided to make such a huge change in your life.
John: I have a pretty busy schedule, since including running as a permanent part of my life. I am the General Manager of a large Glass and Aluminum Company in Fort Myers, FL. We do work all over the United States and the Caribbean. Not such a bad gig! I really love going to work everyday, the challenges of each day are always a little different and it keeps you on your toes. It is definitely a must to have a good attitude in my position and running has certainly helped me maintain that in many ways. I have also found great enjoyment in cooking, and take pride in building things with my hands and mind. It always gives you a sense of pride when you look back at what you have accomplished after you have completed it, just like finishing a great run! I have learned as I get older now, (36) how to appreciate life a little more. I have a great soul mate and two beautiful girls to help take care of , who inspire me to be a better man everyday. They are my rock in life!
Growing up in Buffalo as a little kid, I played Ice Hockey. I was a sprinter in track and field in High School, and thought the 800M was such a long race back then. I ran the 400, triple jump, long jump and the 200 a few times. Hockey was my sport however. After my senior year of High School I never ran again really!
Went to the military, got married, bought a house, had some kids, ate a lot of food, gained a lot of pounds, drank a lot of beer, smoked cigars and tried to do everything to destroy my body it seemed. This behavior went on for years and years until last January for me. I was working out of town in the Bahamas and was just inspired one morning to do something better with my life. I already had the "good job" and wife and house and kids, everything was great in life except for ME! I was not the person I knew I could be. I wanted something more out of life, something that made me proud of me, instead of the things that I have acquired in life. You know those things that you could replace if they were stolen or lost. We sometimes get caught up in the things we don't have in life instead of focusing on the things we do have in life. I was the perfect example of that.
So I decided that I was sick and tired, of being sick and tired! So I worked on myself. I changed my outlook on life, my health, my attitude and my focus. I started running that day in the Bahamas. I think I only went about a half a mile and it felt like 5 miles to me. When I got back to my condo out there I felt so good. It gave me a new feeling of accomplishment. It didn't matter to me how far I ran or how fast. Just that I finished my run.

RD: That trip to the Bahamas kind of provided the spark, but was there anything else that got you into running?
John: In mid May of last year a friend of mine was talking about doing a 5K and jokingly I said "I can do that!" I got some rolling of the eyes and stuff of course. You see I weighed 239 pounds last year in May. I am 6ft. I wasn't in good shape, but had some muscle still. Two weeks later I ran my first 5K. It took me over 30 minutes and I was ready to curl up in a ball and weep when I was finished. It was so exhausting. There were people running it in 15 and 16 minutes. I thought they were like Olympians or something. I was just so happy I was able to cross the finish line. The feeling is so exhilarating. I have been running ever since then. It has been almost a year of running for me now.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running?
John: For me I enjoy the long runs. It really helps me relax the mind and to relieve any anxiety that was built up during the week. I can just leave it all out on the pavement as I watch the sun come up on a Saturday morning, birds chirping and palm trees swaying softly from the light breeze as it cools my skin. It is just plain PEACEFUL!

RD: What are your favorite training foods? How has running affected your diet?
John: I love the pasta! Spaghetti and whole grain pasta is my favorite. Chili has be at the top of the list to. I love spicy food, but as a runner I felt I should cut back on that a bit before it catches up with me on the road. I have not done any of the "Fad" diets, as I understand nutrition better now that I have done my own research. A lot of great tips right here from you Runner Dude! It really is not rocket science. Burn more calories than you take in. I have just controlled my portion sizes and never touch carbonated beverages. I have seen may people try pills, diet plans, surgeries and others ways just to try and cheat the body into losing weight. Nothing keeps it off better than good old hard work!

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
John: I am a lone runner for a couple reasons. It lets me think to myself instead of having to carry a conversation with someone. I need to focus on whatever I do. Now with that being said, I do have runs when I talk to a lot of people, usually on the longer ones. I like to make people laugh. Laughter is necessary in everyday life.

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
John: Since I have only been running for 10 months or so, I have not encountered to many odd or funny things. Well, just a couple weeks ago I was doing my Tuesday interval run and this guy on rollerblades dressed up in full hockey gear, helmet, gloves, shoulder pads, stick and no jersey was barreling down the asphalt towards me. That was pretty odd! I actually saw him again this past weekend on my long run, this time just with gloves and stick. Still odd! Hey at least he was exercising! It was about 7:30am

RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
John: My biggest running accomplishment has to be the desire to start running! Since last May I have completed 7-5k's, 3-10k's, 1-10 Miler and 3 Half-Marathons. I have decided back in January of this year to train for my first full Marathon! I am running in the Buffalo Marathon, May 30th, 2010 which is exactly one year from my first 5k that I could barely finish. Training has been going really well. I have done numerous hours of research on how to run without getting injured and have followed a plan every step of the way. Luckily for me I have only encountered one hip ailment early on, and a measly blister on my heel once. Now do I recommend running a marathon within a year of running again. Not really! I have such a desire to accomplish something great! I am looking forward to crossing that finish line! All the hard work is going to pay off, I just know it!

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
John: I have gone through 2 pairs of New Balance so far. One 769 model and the new 760 model so far. Just this past Saturday I went to the local Run Shop and they hooked me up with the Brooks Defyance. I Supinate slightly and am a mid foot runner. I thought of the Newtons but I figured now was not the time to really break in those shoes. I heard it could take a bit to get used to the technology. I plan on staying with the shoe that is the most comfortable no matter what the brand is.

RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year?
John: My favorite race distance is actually the 10K. It is the perfect balance of speed and endurance. There are not too many of those in my area, though. One is actually coming up in a couple weeks here in Naples and Hal Higdon is going to be signing his books. Plus one of the coaches of the U.S.A bobsled Gold Medal team in Vancouver will be there. He is a local hero from Naples. I am just not sure if I should do it considering it will be my 11th week of training for the Marathon. What do you thing Runner Dude?
RD: Hmm...a 10K a month or so before your marathon, is probably fine. You could replace it for one of your tempo runs or one of your "shorter" long runs.
RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
John: We can all make excuses of why not to do something we should be doing, whether it be going to work daily, dieting, exercising, spirituality, calling family more often and of course others... but the choices we make right now will have implications on the rest of our life, positively or negatively. We need to take the effort and force ourselves to be better as humans. Our lives can be filled with joy or sorrow so why not live each day at its full potential. Open the door for someone, be the first to say hello when you pass by someone, smile more, help that elderly person at the gas station, call someone you have not talked to in a while just to say hi. We forget how simple life is in our busy lives. It will make you feel good to do little things like this and in the process you may learn to appreciate life a little more often.

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
John: I have had a lot of support from many people since I have started running. All whom have had made sacrifices in there own lives to help me better mine. I wanted all of them to know how much I appreciate everything they have done for me. It does not go unnoticed at all! I did have something exciting happen to me over the past couple months too. A writer from Time Magazine had a blog she put out about people running there first marathon so I replied of course and told her a little bit about my story. I had a 30 minute phone interview with her last month about it and the story is supposed to be published in the next magazine. TIME MAGAZINE!!!! I thought is was scam at first because things like that do not happen to me. I did my research on the reporter though and she is completely legit! She emailed me last week to let me know it is in proof reading and she will send me the link on the story as soon as it is printed. It is very exciting and a bit overwhelming.
RD: TIME, that's awesome! I'll be on the look out for your article. Hey, pass my name along to your TIME contacts. LOL! (Readers: [click here] to check out the TIME article on John!)

Well, I don't know about you, but John's story has helped rekindle my already steadfast love for running and fitness. To make such a huge transformation in just a year is incredible. I know John's family loved the "old" John, but is now extremely proud of the "new " John. Keep it up man, and I look forward to the Buffalo Marathon recap!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No Pain No Gain....Doesn't Apply to Your Knees!

As a runner or any athlete for that matter, you often here people say to "Work through the pain." or "No pain no gain." For the most part that's true, especially if you're exposing your body to something new, be it running for the first time or changing up your normal running workout routine by throwing in some intense speed work. Your body is going to react with some soreness. This for the most part, is what's supposed to happen. You're breaking down muscle and it's the repair of that muscle that makes you stronger.

However, when it comes to the knees, you need to throw that logic out the window. If there's anything in your body that you want to protect it's your knees. Think of you knees as Mother Nature's gift of shock absorbers to your body. With every step you take when running, your body receives an impact of several times your body weight. Your knees work to help absorb some of this force.
The problem with knee injuries is knowing what exactly is going on. It could be the knee joint or it could be the surrounding muscles, ligaments, cartilage or tendons or some combination of any or all of that "stuff." Best to let a sports doc determine the problem rather than guess your self.

I used to have an 18-year-old Ford Bronco II. That thing was ugly, but it sure was fun to drive. No air and it would hardly do 60 on the highway, but it was a good old truck. Every time we'd hit a bump in the road you'd feel it and go flying. My youngest used to sit in her car seat in the backseat and yell "Weedoggie" "YeeHaa!" "Do it again Daddy!" every time we hit a bump in the road. That is until the shocks went out. Oh man, then every time I hit those bumps, you didn't bounce, you just felt like you hit metal to blacktop. No fun at all. That's exactly what your knees can feel like once you've damaged your knees' shock-absorbing abilities. Problem is that you can't just drive into your local garage and ask for new shocks for your knees. The Bronco? Well, yeah, it lasted a few more years.

So, to avoid the Bronco II Syndrome, when you're feeling pain in the knee and it doesn't go away in a day or two, get yourself to the doc. Yep, he may say you have to stop running for a while in order for things to heal, but that's better than going to the doc after it's gone on too long and have him/her tell you to stop running altogether.

Running in itself is not bad for your knees. More and more research is showing that that old non-runner's excuse of "Oh, I don't run, it's bad for my knees" just ain't so. But, there can be things such as a biomechanical problems (like severe over pronation) that can contribute to extra stress on the knee which eventually will result in knee pain.

Mother Nature was pretty ingenious when it came to designing the knee. Your knees aren't just bone against bone. (That makes me hurt just to think about it.) In between those upper and lower leg bones and the petella is cartilage and something called the synovium. When you think of the synovium, think of a ball bearing. That's basically what it acts like in the knee. The synovium absorbs fluid called synovial fluid and it's this fluid that makes it so that the bones move smoothly over each other. There's even more cushioning called bursae. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that are found around your knee joint. Actually you have bursae near or around most of the joints in your body. Ever hear of bursitis? That's a condition that happens when one of more of your bursae around a joint become inflamed.

Have you ever been for a run and then later when you try to get up your knee or knees have stiffened-up so much that you can't stand? Or maybe you've been on a long drive or sat in a movie and the same thing happened? If the stiffness is so bad that you can hardly stand, that's not just regular exercise-related stiffness. That could be something much worse called Plica Syndrome. Plica is tissue that sits around both sides of the knee cap. If you've ever fallen and landed on your knee, especially if you twisted your foot in the process and ended up with a sore knee, more than likely it's due to bruising of the plica tissue. A little rest and it usually heals and goes away. However, if the pain is the result of a biomechinacl problem like severe overpronation or maybe a really weak posterior chain (the muscle groups along the back side of your body - glutes, hamstrings, calves) this can cause your knee not to track properly which can inflame the plica tissue causing severe pain.

Some of you may be thinking...well it's just that tissue that's sore, no big deal. Well, if you let it go too long, it can definitely become a big deal. Over time, that inflamed plica can develop scar tissue and get thick. Once this happens rest and ibuprofen ain't gonna fix it.

So, let's back up a little... the biggest lesson from this post is, if you're knee hurts either from stiffness, soreness, dull aches or sharp pain....go get it checked. Better safe than sorry. Remember that old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tired of Earbuds That Don’t Fit?

Do you enjoy listening to music or podcasts while on a run? I sure do, especially if it’s a long solo run. Whether it’s to help pass the time, distract me, or keep me on pace, music sure helps. Problem is I have small ears and as a result, I have a hard time finding earbuds that will fit my ears and not hurt after a short time. I’ve tried the over-the-ear variety and they just usually jostle loose shortly after my run begins.

Well, I can happily report that I no longer have earbud woes. I’ve finally found a product that fits, stays in place, doesn’t irritate my ears, and works. They're called yurbuds™. (No, that’s not a misspelling.) yurbuds™ are custom sized earbud enhancers (produced by yurtopia LLC) that increase comfort, don't fall out, and enhance sound quality. They fit right over your existing earbuds or you can purchase yurtopia’s version of earbuds called yurphones™ that come equipped with the custom yurbuds™.

yurbuds™ come in 6 different sizes, but no worries about having to guess which size is your size. During the online ordering process, you’re prompted to send a digital picture of your ear with your current earbud in place or if you don’t have earbuds, you simply take the picture with a quarter placed near your ear. This helps the yurtopia determine which size is perfect for your ear. Sounds involved, but it’s not. I did it and received my yurphones™ with the fitted yurbuds™ in just a few days. They fit great!

During my first experience with yurbuds™, I wore them just about all day, while listening to my mp3 player. During that time, I took them for a spin on a short 4-miler and later in the day wore them during a workout at the gym. Since then, I’ve worn my yurphones™ and yurbuds™ on several long distance runs. No pain, no slipping, great sound, and due to the great fit, they prevent sweat from getting in my ears.

A single pair of yurbuds™ sell for $19.95 and a pair of yurphones™ equipped with yurbuds™ sell for $29.99. To check out yurbuds™ for yourself go to yurtopia’s website

yurbuds™ get's 5 out of 5 "Dudes" for being such a great product and such an easy solution to a problem for many runners.

Note: yurtopia LLL provided a free pair of yurbuds™ for testing purposes and requested an impartial review in return. I was in no way paid to write this review nor was I encouraged to write a positive review. This review is merely a report on my personal experience with yurbuds™.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

RunnerDude's Runner of the Week: Mark Cooper

Recently I made a new running friend in Mark Cooper, who lives across the big pond. Mark is 27 years old and lives in Scotland. He describes himself as "just an average guy who discovered over the last couple of years an overpowering desire to push myself to my mental and physical limits. I am certainly no athlete but I am committed and focused on making my visions a reality." That's a bit of an understatement. After reading my interview with Mark, be sure to keep reading to learn about the amazing adventure he is set to embark upon in May.

RD: Where are you from?
Mark: I live in Edinburgh, Scotland

RD: Share a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? Hobbies?
Mark: I work in a law firm called DLA Piper, in my spare time I play guitar and sing in a band called The Nature Boys, I am a qualified Scuba Diver and also love to go climbing and cycling. Generally anything outdoors!

RD: How long have you been running?
Mark: I started running properly in late 2007.

RD: What got you into running?
Mark: I had been a 20-a-day smoker and heavy weekend-drinker and one day I decided without notice to stop all of this and get fit. Running appealed to me because of its low cost and the fact that I have always loved the outdoors.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running?
Mark: Apart from the two items above I love the fact that for most runners the competition is only against yourself and your PB. I think there is a wonderful spirit in running especially long distance kinds as everyone knows how difficult it actually is to run a full marathon. You have to really dig deep, for most of us the last 10K of a marathon is run with your heart not your head.

RD: What are your favorite training foods?
Mark: I generally try and stick to a slow carb diet, cous cous is a favourite, I try to avoid sat & trans fats found in most sugary snacks. If you go natural and fresh then you cant really go to wrong. I get a lot of recipes from a book called Go Faster Foods written by Kate Percy. It is a great tool for training.
RD: I've corresponded with Kate and have reviewed her book. Couldn't agree's a great resource!

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
Mark: I like to run with others but this is a rare thing to happen for me as I do most of my running before work and and on Sunday's when about half of the population of Scotland is in bed nursing their headache from the night before, I miss those days sometimes! Only sometimes though ;-)

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
Mark: The funniest thing I ever seen on a run was when I was on a morning run through a local park at about 7am and an elderly woman walking her dog came up to me and stopped me to ask the time, she then went on to ask me what event I was doing in the Olympics. That made me laugh. They would wipe the floor with me!

RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
Mark: Most people think that my biggest accomplishment would be my first marathon distance and while this stands out I would have to say my first 5K race in 2007, I had given up smoking and cut down drink considerably and finishing this run showed me how far I had come and I have never looked back.

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
Mark: I usually mix it up when it comes to shoe, I have custom made orthotics to even out my feet so as long as they are neutral I will give them a go. I am currently using Mizuno Wave Rider 12's, I like the look and feel of them. I might try a pair of Nike Free next.

RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year?
Mark: I love taking part in the organised BUPA Great Run's in Edinburgh. The 10K one is always a stand out with a great atmosphere. I am really looking forward to taking part in the Chris Hoy Half Marathon this year. There is also a possibility of me turning up to this event in a Mini disguised as a Highland Cow. Peter Vardy has donated a support vehicle for my trip, they have really been a huge help. Check out the Highland Mini, if you want a giggle....

RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
Mark: No matter your age, fitness level or experience, stick with it. It is going to hurt in the beginning as any activity you haven't taken part in for a while will. I would encourage running over any other activity purely because I have gained so much from it. The feeling you get after a run is unmatched by any other activity. You push and commit 100% and when you cross that finish line and its all been down to you, your body and your mind, then you will understand why running has such a universal appeal. For me it is a passion and I believe that anyone can run as far as he/she wishes to, if they stick with it and have the drive. Basically work hard and push yourself and you will reap the benefits.

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
Mark: The only regret I have about running is not running earlier in life but from reading a lot about the sport I have found that most runners reach their peak at about my age and this continues on until very late in life. I guess what I am trying to say is that no matter your age or fitness levels you can take up running, but you should do it sooner rather than later.

Mark is such a humble guy. He didn't even mention in the interview above the awesome journey he's about to embark on. In May 2010, Mark will start the first of 50 marathons in Amsterdam. He will finish 8 weeks later in Barcelona - by then he'll have run an amazing 1,300 miles for charity. [Click here] to see a map of Mark's route. Mark is aiming to raise £25,000 for the Edinburgh Headway Group through various forms of media coverage and fundraising events taking place in the build up to the proposed May 1st start date.

Since 1982, the Headway Group have been providing support to people who have suffered a head injury or some other form of acquired brain injury such as a stroke. Over 40 people attend Headway House (based in the grounds of the Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh) each week. Others are helped by their Befriending Project which provides trained volunteers to encourage and help brain injured people back into the community to enjoy the simple, social pleasures they have lost since their injury. The organization also supports relatives who care for the injured. To donate to Mark's cause and to help the Headway Group [click here].

Why the Headway Group, you may ask? Mark's mother, Sheila, passed away in 1997 from a brain haemorrhage. The Headway Group was the charity who helped his family during that difficult time.

Be sure to check out Mark's website to find out more about this amazing young man and his upcoming adventure. Below is the latest video diary from the website.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Have You Entered the "Stink Test?"

If you're a runner, then more than likely you have some clothing that has that awful B.O. smell in it that no matter what you do to it, it just won't go away. There are some good detergents on the market now that do a pretty good job of getting rid of that odor, but wouldn't it be great to have a technical fabric that prevents the odor from happening in the first place?

Agion Active is the newest in “anti-stink” treatments for clothing and gear, invented by Boston-based Agion Technologies. In the future, you’ll see sportswear companies selling clothes that have Agion Active manufactured right into them, eliminating odors and making the world a much fresher-smelling place.
Agion Active was developed to provide intense defense against odor – and is the first and only textile treatment that handles microbial based odors and ambient, absorbed odors. This dual confidence shield clearly outperforms today’s other odor technologies.
Agion is actually letting consumers try out this treatment for themselves, by visiting and participating in a “Stink Test.” You'll receive a shirt treated in Agion Active for you test out on your own.
Agion Active dares you to give it a try and push this shirt to the limits, wearing it while doing any sweat-inducing activity you can think of. Then, smell the shirt – they guarantee the side that’s been treated with Agion Active won’t stink at all!
People that test it out and tell their stories are automatically entered into a contest to win an outdoor adventure vacation for two.
So, give it a try! It's a rare opportunity to be in on the product development. Let them know what you think and get a chance at winning a great vacation prize too!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Ungirt Runner

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a wonderful poem in a 2004 Running Times article ("The Poetry of Running" by Roger Robinson).

The poem was written by a 19-year-old English army officer, Charles Hamilton Sorley, during World War I. At age 20, a sniper's bullet took Charles Sorley's life shortly after arriving on the front line in France. [Click here] to read more about the author of the poem and his story.

The Song of the Ungirt Runners
We swing ungirded hips
And lighten’d are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
’Neath the big bare sky.

The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land.

(The complete poem can be found in Robinson's book Running in Literature: A Guide for Scholars, Readers, Runners, Joggers and Dreamers [Breakaway Books, 2003])
This poem came to mind several times yesterday as I helped my running group (The BlueLiners) man a water station at the North Carolina Marathon in High Point, NC. Because of the location of our station and because of the design of the course, we got to see the half marathoners and full marathoners at mile 4. Then we saw the half marathoners again on their 10th mile and then we saw the full marathoners again as they approached their 23rd mile.

The first time we saw all the runners was amazing—a huge onslaught of happy, cheerful, energized runners with that racing gleam in their eyes. The title of the poem uses the phrase "ungirt runners." From Robinson's article, I learned that Sorley used "ungirt" to refer to moving ungirt or free. Robinson explains that in War War I, "the British army then wore coarse heavy khaki, encumbered with belts and cross straps, and bound their legs in tight wrap-around 'puttees.'" Sorley was dreaming of a time when he could run freely not marching bound in his uniform.

Somehow the hundreds of runners I saw yesterday reminded me of "ungirt runners." They were running freely not bound by life's stresses. Some serious and steadfast and others happy-go-lucky, but all with the same determination to finish.

That's what running is all about. Each runner may have a different short-term goal, but we all have a commonality—the love of running.

Although, I loved having the opportunity to give back a little to the running community by helping at the water station on an unusually warm day, I couldn't help but want to jump in the pack and experience the thrill of the being an ungirt runner.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The S.B.B. Rule—A Benefit of Running

Running has a lot of benefits, many of which I've lauded on the blog—heart health, aerobic fitness, overall fitness, healthy competition, running buddies. The list could go on and on, but one of the unwritten, not often talked about, but every-runner-knows benefits is the S.B.B. Rule Not ringing a bell? Maybe this will help....Spit. Burp. Break Wind. Every runner knows that while on the run, it's entirely acceptable to spit, burp, and break wind. It just happens. No way around it. If you run, at some point in time, you're going to need to S.B.B. and oh yea, don't forget the SN (Snot-Rocket)!

Usually these bodily functions occur on the run with little fanfare, because of the understanding of this unwritten rule. Well, in most cases. If one of the guys in my running group (let's call him Lester) had Indian food the night before our run, we usually give him a good ribbing (and keep our distance). Ha! Anywho, normally, the 5th-grade humor is left at home and we all just know it's going to happen to us all at any given point in time, especially on those really long runs.

Running etiquette says that a runner pulls to the side of the pack when he/she needs to spit or launch a snot rocket. If it's a windy day, the runner needs to pull off to the side as well as navigate to the back of the pack as to prevent a running buddy from becoming the victim of backdraft splatter. And if you have to flatulate, well, being in the lead of the pack is probably not the best position....pull to the back of the pack. But as long as you adhere to these few rules, no one cares about S.B.B.s on the run.

I feel, however, that I need to make a few clarifications, especially for the newer runners. This unwritten S.B.B. rule only applies to the great outdoors. Now, we all have ooopsies while on the treadmill at the gym, and those are forgiven. But, restraint must be exercised while in enclosed areas.

A recent treadmill run at the gym was the real catalyst for this post. I arrived at the gym at 5:00PM not really expecting to see an open treadmill. But low-and-behold, right in the middle of a sea of occupied treadmills was a free one on the second row. Well, I quickly sprinted for the free machine. After hopping on and doing a minute or so of brisk walking to get warmed up, I noticed an odd odor.

My first reaction was to take a whiff of my own workout clothes. Nope, not them. They were clean. Yet, this odd odor was getting stronger. Then I heard that tell "tail" noise....a toot! Not one, but a rapid succession of them. Toot, toot, toot. tootie-tootie-toot!

Okay, I quickly realized why my prized treadmill was free. It was downwind of a toot queen on a treadmill directly in front of me! This lady was letting them fly faster than a sniper with a machine gun! Difference being this "sniper" wasn't hidden. She had on ear buds and I guess she was thinking, "Out of sound. Out of smell." NOT!

Well that was the fastest 4-miler I've ever logged on a treadmill. A PR. No lie! But I don't recommend it as a training tactic.
So please, remember that when you're on a treadmill, you're not really going anywhere. There's no sudden breeze to whisk your fowl air away. And please have pity on your fellow runners who may be down- or side-wind of you. The S.B.B. rule only applies when running in the great out doors!

It's kind of funny. I went back to the gym the other day, and the same lady was there. And guess what? There was a vacant treadmill behind her again. I used an elliptical machine that day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

RunnerDude's Runner of the Week: Joe—Part 2

Yesterday I posted the first half of an interview that Lara from Saturday Morning Zen conducted with Joe, the amazing marathoner and blogger who is running two marathons in thirteen days as a cancer fundraiser for his friend Dom. This is the second half of the interview. When you’re done reading, please consider clicking over to Run For Dom and donate by sponsoring a mile of one or both of Joe’s marathons.

Lara: These are Dom’s Lessons, then. We can do so much more than we thought we could, because we’re healthy, and we’re alive. That seems like a pretty good message to impart.
Joe: Agreed, Lara. I think we all have times in our life that we thing about being a better “me”. This really was a wake-up call for me that life is really precious – the most precious thing that there is – and whatever I can do to honor Dom and help his family get through this challenge so he can see his kids grow up, help make a dent in their medical bills or contribute to the kids’ college funds… This is a small price to pay for the lesson I was taught this August.

Lara: People can support your efforts by sponsoring a mile in either Boston or Pittsburgh, or both. How would they do that?
Joe: We’ve had people donate anywhere from $26.20 ($1/mile) for one race, $52.40 ($1/mile) for both races and have sponsored an individual mile for a $100 donation and above. The “Sponsor a Mile” initiative has been really neat as a friend, family, sisters etc. can pick out a mile of either marathon that they want to “name”. The donors are listed on my blog and right now there are 7 miles that are unclaimed for Boston, and 9 unclaimed miles for Pittsburgh. I’m going to have the “Sponsor” lists with me on the course so I can think about the people who have donated while I race. Just today, a friend of mine from Alabama sponsored mile 24 at Boston. He asked if I would play the song “Maniac” on my iPod during “his” mile. It’s moments like that over the course of 26.2 miles or 3 hours and 20 minutes (give or take a few) that you draw on for a quick smile or some encouragement to keep pushing when the race gets tough. 26.2 miles is a challenging distance that really tests every runner at some point, and the more friends that I can have with me along the way, the better!

Lara: You mention “Maniac” will be on your Playlist; what else will get you through the miles? And, can someone suggest a song for you?
Joe: Absolutely! I am always looking for new music and would enjoy the encouragement. It’s funny; I have music I run to, and music I listen to – and their paths do not cross very often. I listen to faster, “louder” music when I’m running; Green Day, The Clash, Social Distortion, but I’m much more mellow when I’m just hanging around the house. Then, I listen to Bruce Springsteen and Pat Green. I have a funny story about music and racing. I’m originally from Philadelphia where Rocky isn’t just a character; he really exists in the collective minds of Philadelphians. For the Pittsburgh Marathon last year I wanted the theme from Rocky to come up in my list right around mile 20 based on my Boston qualifying pace. I hit it really perfect and was about .35 miles into mile 20 when it came on my Nano. I was running next to a guy for a couple of miles who was also trying for a Boston Qualifying Time, and we had chatted a bit. He was 10 years younger than me and needed to run a sub 3:10 to qualify (I needed sub 3:20, one of the few benefits of being a 41 year-old marathoner at the time). When the song came on he caught me smiling and asked me why. I told him that the theme from Rocky just came on my earphones. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Dude, can I listen?” It was the funniest moment of that race and I remember it like it was yesterday. Unfortunately a BQ (Boston Qualifying Time) was not in the cards for him that day, even though he was a really strong runner. If he hasn’t made that time already, I know he will.

Lara: HA! I can just imagine him running next to you, wanting to share your earbuds! That’s a great visual… two hot, sweaty guys running along in silence, connected by a cord of technology that’s jammin’ out the theme song from Rocky…
“Runners are passionate people by nature, and nobody knows how to make a difference like runners do.”
Joe: That’s the part that is so great about races. There are only a handful of people actually competing against each other – everyone else is competing against themselves, which is what makes it such a great experience. I actually dropped one of my water bottles around mile 13 and knew I couldn’t go back for it because I was trying for that specific time. About 50 strides later a runner tapped me on my shoulder and handed me my water bottle. He had sprinted to catch up to me when he saw me clap my hands in a bit of anger when it hit the pavement… that’s what it’s all about. I think about him as well a lot. He helped me to my 3:17:43 time also. Marathoning is a sport that everyone thinks is a “solo-mission” but the fact is nobody is alone out there.

Lara: That’s pretty accurate for the adventure of life, as well… we all think we’re so alone, and we don’t always realize just how many people are truly supporting us. Which leads to my next question: You’re “Joe” from Joe_RunForDom. Are there other people out there who have offered to dedicate a marathon to Dom as well?
Joe: Great question Lara – I just got an e-mail this week from a young woman who is a friend of Dom’s brother Matt. She and three of her friends are going to run the Relay portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon and are going to be getting folks to support Run for Dom through their efforts. I’ll be getting another page set-up for them at under the “other fundraising efforts” tab, and donors will be able to keep up with them as well. I’m hoping that a few more runners or running groups want to get involved – with the races now 9 and 11 weeks away respectively – now is the time to get cracking if we are going to do it.

Lara: And what about people that aren’t able to run Boston or Pittsburgh? Can they run solo or form a Relay team in another race and have that count as a fundraiser for Dom?
Joe: Absolutely! That’s one of the amazing things about runners; we are always looking for a cause to run for. Runners are passionate people by nature, and nobody knows how to make a difference like runners do. I would love to have as many friends and supporters as we can find toe the line for Dom. He is truly a remarkable young man. I refer to him as “All-Time” because that is what he is. All-time. He’s had more than 9,700 visitors to his personal page that’s hosted by the Caringbridge organization. I wish more people could really get to know Dom as I do. I know that if our roles were reversed, there isn’t a thing in the world he wouldn’t do for my wife Dawn and me.

Lara: It sounds like you’ve known him a long time.
Joe: My wife Dawn has known Dom basically their entire lives. She and I have been together for 15 years and married for 10. I’ve known Dom since Dawn and I first started dating. I met him in the parking lot of a Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game. He was there with a ton of his buddies at the tailgate and I really only knew Dawn. Dom spent a couple of hours talking to me and getting to know me when he could have been hanging out with all of his buddies. I’ve never forgotten that about Dom; because Dawn was such a close and important person in his life, he wanted to get to know me, because I must be pretty special too. Funny thing is, it was Dom who was the special one.

Lara: You’re pretty humble about that. I have a feeling it was more about “kindred spirits” recognizing each other.
Joe: Maybe Lara, maybe. All I know is that I plan on him being around for a long, long time.

Lara: Is Dom going to be at the Pittsburgh race finish line?
Joe: (Laughs) I’m actually angling for his mother to cook my pre-race meal on Saturday night, too. With a name like D’Eramo, you know the pasta is legendary!

Lara: That’ll be the best pre-race meal you’ve ever had! (Laughs)
Joe: And her Christmas eve dinner this year was incredible.

Lara: Speaking of family, how’s Dom’s family doing with his illness? You said he has a wife and two small kiddos…
Joe: It’s been really hard. His wife, Val, is doing a great job keeping Dom’s spirits high, but when you’re recovering from such an aggressive surgery there are plenty of tough days. His kids provide a pretty big energy boost for him though. Sierra is 3 ½ and is completely adorable. She actually took my blood pressure with her doctor’s kit when I was there at Christmas! And Nico is 9 months old now is such a cute little guy. He was the recipient of the first baby bottle I’ve ever provided. True!

Lara: I can only imagine that there are so many family and friends rallying around this family. It seems only right that with all the good thoughts, energy, medical treatment and will, that he’s going to get better. It’s almost too much to think of the alternative. He HAS to get better.
Joe: Absolutely. On Christmas Eve a few months ago, when all his friends and family held hands to say grace it made a circle around the entire downstairs of his parents’ house. Kitchen to living room to dining room to hallway and back to the kitchen – it was pretty amazing to be a part of that circle of love.

Joe is raising money for Dom’s cancer treatment. People can sponsor a mile for Boston or Pittsburgh, or both. Donations have ranged from $1/mile in one race to $100+ for a particular mile in one of the races. People are putting together Relay teams and raising funds for Dom’s battle to kick cancer’s ass to the curb. All of this is so that in a few years, Dom will be there to pick his kids up from kindergarten.

You can visit Dom’s personal site on’s website and offer good wishes to him and his family. To sponsor a mile, visit and Donate. [Click here] for more info on linitis plastica.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

RunnerDude's Runner of the Week: Joe

This week's RunnerDude's Runner of the week interview comes from a guest blogger, Lara. Lara is a runner and host of her own blog Saturday Morning Zen. Lara interviewed an awesome runner named Joe. Joe is on a very special mission and he's using his running to help achieve that mission. Read on to find out more about Lara and Joe.

Sometimes you meet a person and there’s just something about them that strikes a chord. Maybe it’s the way they thoughtfully answer a colleague’s question, or how they offer sincere encouragement to their students, or even how they rush to hold the door when someone is fumbling with their heavy load.

With the advent of social media and the Internet, some people we get to know and love are folks that we’ve never actually met face to face. Social media is so inter-connected that you can become friends with someone through Twitter, Facebook, DailyMile, and the blogosphere. This is how I met Joe Marruchella.

I came across Joe’s blog by way of a comment he left on, a blog we both visit regularly. Struck by the thoughtful way he commented on a post, I clicked on his name, landed on his site, and started reading. After I finished reading the entry I got up to walk around and clear my head, then came back to read it again.

The premise of his blog is simple; Joe’s dear friend Dom was recently diagnosed with a horrible form of cancer. To raise money and awareness for Dom, Joe is running two marathons in thirteen days. He had already qualified for the Boston Marathon when Dom was diagnosed with cancer last summer, so Boston is the first of his two marathons. Dom lives in Pittsburgh, the place where Joe met his future wife who also happens to be a close friend of Dom’s. So it made sense for Joe to choose to run the Pittsburgh Marathon. All signs point to Dom being at the finish line in Pittsburgh this Spring.

A lot of people get cancer. Every person that is affected by this brutal disease has a compelling story. The first thing about Joe’s blog that stood out was the title; “Joe is Running for Dom”. His name on Twitter and DailyMile is Joe_runfordom. He has linked his online identity to Dom’s as a way of raising awareness and funds for his friend’s cancer treatment. I’ve seen this from parents whose child is seriously ill, but never from a friend.

Over the past two months I’ve been a faithful reader of Joe’s blog, following both his marathon training and Dom’s progress and set-backs. With Joe’s first marathon only six weeks away, I approached him and asked if he’d be willing to do an interview with me. He graciously accepted, and now I’m honored to share the content of the interview with the world at large. It is my hope that a few people will be as moved as I have been by this story and will sponsor a mile or two, for Dom.

Due to the length of the interview, this will be posted as a two-part story.

Lara: Joe, you surprised me when you said that you weren’t always a runner, and that there was a period in your life where you called yourself “Fat Joe”. How did you turn from “Fat Joe” into the amazing runner that you are now?
Joe: Well, “Fat Joe” made an appearance when I turned 34 (I’m 42 now). I was traveling for work about 35-40% of the time, eating late meals, not exercising and the food quality was not the greatest… lots of big meals, desserts and the like. I’m 5′ 8″ and at one point weighed 176 lbs. Not good! The worse part was I just didn’t feel healthy. I was always an athlete growing up, playing baseball, basketball, football – but never running. I didn’t even know how to start. But I was determined to do something about my weight and lose a few pounds before going on a vacation to the Outer Banks in 2005. I started walking on my lunch hour which gradually morphed into running 1/2 mile, walking 1/2 mile… by that fall I was running three miles about 4 times a week. I changed my diet (which included swearing off all fast food, which I am proud to say I have not had a single fast food meal in about 5 years). I stopped drinking Coca-Cola, cut a few other things from my diet, and the pounds came flying off. Now, my race weight is about 137 pounds and my body fat percentage is about 6.3 percent.

Lara: You sound incredibly healthy! You dropped 39 pounds and a lot of body fat; when did you decide to start racing?
Joe: Great question! I was on the road traveling with the CEO of my company, who is a great mentor and friend. He caught me coming into the hotel from my morning run in NYC and asked how my run went. I told him it was “okay”. He then asked why it was “only okay”; didn’t I enjoy it? I told him not really, I was only running because we had eaten a big dinner the night before and I needed to burn some calories. He said that the reason I didn’t enjoy running was because to me running was punitive. I needed to run for a reason OTHER than burning calories. That I should in fact run a race, and not any old race, a big race – a MARATHON! I honestly thought he was crazy. But when he talked about the experience that he had – it started to sound not only possible, but truly amazing. I flew back to Texas the next day and during the flight home I decided that I was going to train for a marathon. The second I walked in the door I told my wife what I was going to do, and dove headfirst into trying to figure out the first steps; how to train, who to listen to, etc. I remember my run that Saturday morning (my next run) – which in a lot of ways was really my “first run”. I had a purpose, I had a goal and I absolutely loved it. It was only 4-miles, but it honestly changed me from “a guy who runs” to “a runner”. I am so grateful that my CEO took the time to talk with me that day.

Lara: So you’re saying that it took a literal “Reason to Run” to make a difference in how you approached the thing that you did for your health.
Joe: Absolutely; having a reason really provided a great perspective. It was my ATTITUDE toward the activity, not the activity itself that needed to be adjusted. Don’t get me wrong; I like rest days – they are an important part of training and they help you get stronger and stronger as a runner. Without a break every now and then you are only tearing your body down and not giving it a chance to come back stronger. But I LOVE my run days. I could hardly get to sleep last night looking forward to this morning’s 16-miler. I know that sounds a little crazy, but 100% true.

Lara: And now, you’re running for Dom, a friend of yours who has cancer.
Joe: You bet Lara, and I’ll tell you that this one hit me like a ton of bricks. Up until this point I had been pretty fortunate that the people that I am close to are healthy. Other than a scare with my father about five years ago (who is doing great and turned 81 this month – Go Dad!) I have not had a lot of health-related challenges in my life. Last August my wife called me in tears because our friend Dom had just being diagnosed with cancer. He’s 39 years old and has a wife and two little ones at home. I felt like someone put a hundred-pound weight on my chest. I spent the better part of a week trying to make sense of it – but as you can imagine, there really is no sense to make of it. I felt like I had to do something to help Dom and his family as he was in literally the fight for his life. I was on a Sunday long-run of about 10 miles, not training for a race in particular (I had just completed the Pittsburgh Marathon three months before getting the news about Dom). He was actually one of the friends and family members to come to the post-race breakfast in Pittsburgh that day. On my 10-miler I kept thinking about how great it would be to go back to Pittsburgh in 2010 and run Dom’s hometown race. But with it being only 13 days after the Boston Marathon that I had worked so hard to qualify for.. what could I do? I remember the exact spot on the trail that I have run literally hundreds of times when I thought “Why not run them both? Why can’t I run Boston and then Pittsburgh 13 days later?” If you want big rewards you have to take big risks. If I could put myself out there and take on a challenge like that, surely people out there would be interested in hearing about Dom’s battle and support me in honoring him. That’s how Run for Dom started; on an August morning in Austin at Brushy Creek Park, down by the lake.

Lara: What kind of cancer does Dom have?
Joe: Dom has linitis plastica which is a rare, invasive cancer that attacks the organs. Dom’s stomach and spleen were affected the most. His initial diagnosis was very bleak; 100% mortality rate and not a long life expectancy. After visiting several specialists he found his doctor at Pittsburgh Medical who is a pioneer with this type of cancer. In December Dom underwent successful surgery that was quite invasive. His stomach and spleen were removed, along with parts of his intestine and parts of a few other adjoining organs. He had a Hot Chemotherapy Bath that bathed all of the areas affected, and is now approaching the second of three chemotherapy treatments and that will mark the end of his treatment course. His PET Scan three weeks ago was 100% clean. His doctor is extremely happy with the results from the surgery, but Dom is really struggling with nutrition now. He has a lot of pain and nausea when he eats and/or drinks, so since his surgery in December, he gets most of his nutrition through a feeding tube. It takes him about eight hours to take in 2,000 calories. After my 16 mile run this morning, I ate almost that much at breakfast… unbelievable.

Lara: I have to pause here because this is hitting me pretty hard. It’s incredibly difficult for a healthy person to imagine the intensity of this disease. Dom is 39 years old and is supposed to be in the prime of his life.
Joe: I know Lara; it makes me so thankful to be healthy and able to do pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want. What the hell was I doing eating McDonald’s Double Cheese-burgers and lying around the house. FAIL!

Lara: So this is a wake-up call of sorts; health can be pretty fleeting. When you go out on your training runs for the purpose of running two marathons in 13 days, is it possible that you’re giving yourself the health and exercise that Dom can’t have? If you BOTH can’t have it, at least one of you is living the healthy life?
Joe: That’s an interesting point Lara; I’ll tell you one thing that has changed about my training runs that I attribute to training for Dom. There is a hill along one of the routes I run, it is a really good hill to train on because it forces you to practice running downhill for almost a full kilometer with not a single flat place. It’s steep enough that you have to lengthen your stride, but not too steep that you have to “brake” the entire way down. It’s perfect practice for the start of the Boston Marathon where the early portions of that race can really destroy the quadriceps over the first few downhill miles. Up until I started training for RFD (Run For Dom) I had run up that hill exactly one time. It seemed unfair. Too steep, too long, no breaks, no recovery. Since I started my 16-week to Boston, 18-week to Pittsburgh training schedule I run up that hill every Sunday and I place it in the last 1/4 of whatever distance I am going. I run that hill now and think only about Dom. How if, given the chance, wouldn’t he relish that hill? Would he celebrate it? Run up it and at the top, laugh to himself at just how easy that was compared to the other things he is going through? So that’s what I do now once a week. That hill gets shorter and shorter, flatter and flatter every time I go up it. Heartbreak Hill in Boston at mile 21? I’ll have a little something for that one when the time comes.

For the 2nd half of the interview, [click here.]


Seems like lately, many of my running buddies, both local and cyber, are being plagued by hamstring injuries. The problem with hamstring injuries, is that they hurt like hell and take a while to heal. Neither does a runner want to deal with. Telling a running not to run for a few weeks, is like taking their first born.

So why are runners (especially long distance runners) plagued by hamstring injuries so often? Well, there can be many causes—going out too fast and too strong without properly warming up, not properly fueling the body, dehydration, lack of strength in the posterior chain (back, glutes, hamstrings), and being quad dominant. And then there is always the odd injury for which there is no apparent reason for the cause.

From my reading, schooling, and talking with other runners, being quad dominant and having a weak posterior chain are probably the two biggest causes of hamstring injuries. I've mentioned it in previous posts how so often runners do not include resistance training into their weekly routine. Runners often shy away from the gym because they feel they're getting enough exercise on the run. They also don't want to bulk up.

Runners need to change their perception of the gym. They also need to realize that many resistance exercises can be done using body weight or light weights at home. And no, doing resistance training will not turn you into a bulky "Arnold" and no you won't gain an Austrian accent in the process.

A December 2008 Running Times article does a great job of explaining the issue of quad dominance. In a nutshell, quad dominance happens when the "quad muscles overpower the action of the hamstrings in the movement of the leg during a running stride."

Long distance runners log a lot of miles. That constant repetitive action puts an overload on the quads causing them to become more dominant than their antagonist—the hamstrings. When your hamstrings become significantly weaker than your quads, then Running Times says one of two things may happen:

1) Your hamstrings will tear as a result of not being able to take the load developed by the contracting quadriceps and momentum from hip extension
2) You will run slower as a result of diminished power from the hip flexors and knee extensors as the hamstrings have to contract earlier to be able to break the ensuing movement.

Hamstring injuries are slow to heal and often, once you get them, they'll reoccur over and over. The recurrence, however, is usually due to the runner not addressing the real cause of the problem......weak hamstrings. That's where resistance training can play a huge role in overcoming or preventing this problem.

First of all, for everyone (not just runners) strengthening the posterior chain (the muscle groups found on the back side of the body) is most beneficial. Having a strong posterior chain can help prevent a whole host of injuries especially later down the road as we age. The posterior chain mainly consists of the erector spinae muscles (the lower back muscles), the glutes (butt muscles), and the hamstrings (upper backside of the leg).

Exercises that target the hamstrings include:

Dumbbell Squats

Touch-n-Go Squats

Bulgarian split squats

Good Mornings


Stability Ball Leg Curls

Standing Leg Curl with Ankle Weights
ankle weights leg curl balance and stability, weight training

Friday, March 12, 2010

Egg on My Face

The other day, I was at the grocery store with my 9-year-old daughter. We were in the dairy section trying to find a dozen "crack-free" eggs. (No, not looking for eggs from chickens in rehab, just looking for eggs without cracks in them.) After looking through the 5th box, my daughter said, "Dad, what are these?" She was pointing to a carton of brown eggs. I just told her what my dad always told me, "Oh those are farm eggs." Then she asked, "Why are they brown? Are they any different than the white ones?" Without much thought, I responded, "No, honey, they're the same, one's just brown and one's white." Luckily that must have sufficed, because she then moved on to asking about Greek yogurt. I was glad, because, in that brief conversation, I realized that I really didn't know much about brown eggs or if there really was any difference from the more common white variety.

Well, you know me, when I got home, I started digging. Come to find out, there was some truth to what my Dad had told me. Basically white eggs come from white chickens and brown eggs come from brown-ish chickens. Most of the companies that mass produce eggs use white chickens (the White Leghorn). Most small or local farms use brown-ish hens (Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire and Plymouth Rock chickens) which lay brown or brown-speckled eggs.

Then I discovered another interesting fact. Some chickens have a coloring that may make it hard to determine (just by looking at them) what color egg they'll lay. So how do you tell? You look at their earlobes! Yep, their earlobes. According to, "the pigments in the outer layer of the eggshell will always approximate the color of the earlobe of the chicken that laid the egg." So, you're probably thinking, "Where is a chicken's earlobe?" So did I. Well, basically they're not lobes in the same sense as a human earlobe. A chicken's earlobe is the area on each side of the chicken's face. If that area is white, then most likely that chicken will lay white eggs. Who'd a thunk?!!

Let me guess. The next question rolling around in your head is probably, "Is one color more nutritious than another?" Good question. According to the Egg Nutrition Center in Washington, D.C., there is no difference. The nutrition chart they provide doesn't distinguish between white and brown. There does seem to be some controversy over this, however. Some groups propose that brown eggs are more nutritious. In the March, 2010 issue of Prevention, the article " 50 Healthiest Everyday Foods" states that "pasture-raised eggs may have 35% less sat fat, 60% more vitamin A, and 200% more omega-3s." This factoid shows a brown egg labeled as "Pasture-raised." I guess that's because more small farms who may be into producing "pasture-raised eggs" use hens that produce brown eggs. If there is a difference in nutrition, I'm thinking it probably has more to do with how the chickens are raised and what they're fed not the color of the egg (just my editorial).

Regardless of whether you eat brown or white, eggs are a great source of high quality complete protein. Great for runners since protein helps with muscle repair. For many years there's been concern over eggs, cholesterol, and heart disease. The Egg Nutrition Center in Washington, D.C. states that "30 years of research has never linked egg consumption to heart disease." They go further saying, "A 2007 study of 9,500 people reported in Medical Science Monitor showed that eating one or more eggs a day did not increase the risk of heart disease or stroke among healthy adults, and that eating eggs may be associated with a decrease in blood pressure. Also in 2007, researchers showed that egg consumption contributed less than 1 percent of the risk for heart disease when other risk factors were taken into account. The researchers concluded that broad recommendations to limit egg consumption may be misguided, particularly when eggs' nutritional contributions are considered."

And get this..."Not only have decades of research shown no association between egg intake and heart disease risk, but eggs are an excellent source of choline, which plays an important role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease."

So, now you know all there is to know about white eggs, brown eggs, and their nutrition. And, as a bonus you learned that chickens have earlobes. I don't know about you, but my day is complete!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

RunnerDude's New Favorite Book: The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth

If you haven't already picked up on it, I'm an avid reader of fitness, running, and nutrition material. My wife would say I have enough books sitting in our kitchen alone, to open a small book store. (She's probably right.)

I've learned through all the reading I've done, that you have to be really careful not to get swayed by some underlying product that's being sold. So often, the information presented while still (usually) factual is often slanted to support a particular diet or fitness trend. That's why I was so delighted when I came across The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden, Ph. D., C.N.S. (Fair Winds Press, 2007). It's not a new book, so many of you may already be familiar with it. I've seen it several times at the book store, but on a recent jaunt to the local Barnes & Noble for my daughter to select her next Vampire series book, I had a lot of time on my hands. So, I got a cup-a-joe and found a chair in which to chill. Beside me and my chair was a display of "diet and nutrition" books. So, I picked up The 150 book and began to read.

A tagline on the cover reads, "The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why." I'm thinking okay, "that may be an over promise." But, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it pretty much was that—an unbiased presentation of information on 150 really healthy foods.

Of course Jonny Bowden is wanting to sell the book. It does come with a free CD and it pitches his website where he has all kinds of health-related goods and books for sale. But, as far as the book itself goes, it's a great resource on healthy foods you should be eating and why.

The book is organized into 14 chapters each on a different food area—Vegetables; Grains; Beans and Legumes; Fruits; Nuts, Seeds, and Nut Butters; Soy Foods; Dairy; Meat, Poultry, and Eggs; Fish and Seafood; Specialty Foods; Beverages; Herbs, Spices, and Condiments; Oils; and Sweeteners.

From the onset, Bowden makes it very clear that these are not the only foods good to eat. He just feels of all the foods out there, these are probably the healthiest for us. Among the 150 he's selected, some are given stars which denote foods that he feels are "superstars" in their area and deserve some special recognition.

For each food, Bowden presents in a very readable and informal manner the science behind the food, what's been reported/researched on its health benefits as well as some background about the food in various cultures. For example, did you know that broccoli is a member of the brassica family of cruciferous vegetables? You know, bok choy, cabbage, kale, and Swiss chard. Broccoli is "vegetable royalty" because it's an excellent source of a family of anti-cancer phytochemicals called isothiocyanates which fight cancer by neutralizing carcinogens (the "bad guys"). Bowden continues by listing the healthy benefits of broccoli specific to women (helps reduce risk of breast and cervical cancer). He continues with other nutritional benefits apart from it's cancer fighting accolades (good source of protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, beta-carotene, vitamin A, and lutein).

He also gives little "Worth Knowing" factoids that are pretty interesting to know. For example, did you know that carrots got a really bad and totally underserved rap by the low-carb folks because of their high glycemic index? Bowden continues the factoid by saying, " Actually, the glycemic index isn't very important—the glycemic load is. The glycemic index tests are done on a 50-g portion of carbohydrate, whereas the load tests are done on real-life portions. A carrot has only about 4g of carbohydrate, so its glycemic load—the only number that matters— is ridiculously low (about 3 on a scale of 0-40+). You'd have to eat a ton of carrots to get a significant rise in blood sugar."

Another thing that impressed me is that the majority of the 150 foods are ones that the average person is going to be purchasing. It's not loaded with a ton of exotic foods that you'd have to go to the Kingdom of Tonga to get. There were some that were new to me, and that's good. I like exploring new foods, but as for a resource, I want information on readily available foods—The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth does that.
So we left Barnes & Noble with Vampire and foodie books in hand. (Blood wasn't on the list of 150 foods.) I'm thinking the cast of Twilight may want to pick up a copy. They're looking kind of pale.

Check out The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Having this book may just change what goes on your next grocery shopping list.
Note: I purchased a copy of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth with personal funds. No payment or endorsement of any kind was involved with the review of the book. My review is strictly an independent review based on my opinion of the book.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

SHAKE IT UP, BABY! 5 Tips for Increasing Speed

When you're a new runner, each race is so exciting. Because you're new to the game, your learning curve and you body's adaptability curve is huge. So, you see progress with each run. And with each race your finish time decreases. That's an awesome feeling. All that hard work you've put in is really paying off.

Skip to a few years (and miles) down the road and you're not seeing as much progress and your times seem to have stagnated. What's the deal? I hear it and read about it all the time...."I run and run, but I just can't seem to get any faster."

The good news is that you havent' become weaker and no it's not that you're declining as a runner, it's just that your body has now adapted to the stress of your normal weekly routine and because of this acclamation, your body doesn't see the need to adapt any more. So what do you?

You SHAKE IT UP, BABY! What you're body needs is a jolt...a wake-up call. Listed below are 5 Shake-It-Up-Strategies one or more of which you can add to your weekly routine to help get you over that "stagnation wall" and on your way to setting a new PR.

1. Intervals:
One of the best ways to improve your race time is to add a weekly interval workout to the mix. This workout will be short mileage-wise, but it may be your hardest workout intensity-wise for the week. Typically the total mileage in an interval workout is about 3 miles (maybe 4 counting the rest intervals). Find a track (or a flat empty parking lot) where you can easily keep track of 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 1000m, etc., intervals. The parking lot at a local park near my house is a half-mile loop so it's great for doing 800s. Typically the longest interval is a 1600m (1 mile). Shorter intervals are usually run at your 5K pace and longer intervals are typically run at your 10K pace. The McMillan Running Calculator is a great tool to help you determine the speed at which you should do various interval distances. Just plug in the race distance you're training for and hit "calculate" and it will break down the training times for a zillion different distances. For me the times are a little fast, so remember that you may need to work up to the times they recommend. Any variety of interval distances in a workout will do. I like to mix it up.

Yasso 800s—Created by Bart Yasso, the race services manger at Runner's World—are great for marathon training and are 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!

I like variety, so when I'm training, each week I'll mix it up a little. Here's a typical interval workout schedule I like to use. It covers six weeks, and then I just start over with Workout #1 again. Give it a Try! Workout #6 is a killer!

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

2. Hill Work
Uphill running helps you learn to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers which will help you run at maximum intensity. Learning to recruit these fast-twitch muscles will help you during an endurance run when you need to ramp it up or when you need to pull yourself out of fatigue.
Downhill running is also great. Thanks to gravity, you naturally run faster going downhill. This is a great way to see what it's like to run at a faster pace and with a faster turn-over. This is hard to experience on flat ground. Just like adding extra miles, your body has to adapt to running faster. Ever blow it out at the end of a race and you feel like you have absolutely no control of your limbs? They're just flying everywhere? That's because you're asking your body to do something it really doesn't know how to do yet. Be careful, though. The decline doesn't have to be steep. A 5-7% decline is more than enough. You don't want to lose your balance and get an injury from rolling down the hill.

3. Faster Turnover
More and more research is showing that a shorter stride with a faster turnover rate is a more efficient way to run. It's less taxing on the body and helps to prevent heel striking which can cause a breaking effect that can actually slow you down (as well as not being very good on your feet, knees or back). So, don't worry so much about your stride length. Instead focus on improving your stride rate. Most elite runners have about 180 strides per minute. Check out your stride rate by going for a run and counting each stride for a minute. (Note: an easy way to do this is to count each time your right foot hits the ground for a minute and then multiple that number by 2.) Don't be shocked if you're nowhere near 180. But, just by focusing on cadence you'll be pleasantly surprised when you recheck your stride rate. I bet you'll see an increase. Don't be surprised if your legs are a little sore after working on a shorter stride. You'll actually kick in some muscles that may not have been recruited as much in your longer stride. Keep at it though. That soreness should subside after a few runs.

4. Tempo Runs
A tempo run is simply a run (usually 4-8 miles) that's run at a faster pace (typically a little slower than your 10K pace). Warm up for a mile, then do 2-6 miles at tempo pace and then do a cool-down mile. For example for a 4-mile run, run 1 easy warm-up mile, 2 miles at tempo pace, and 1 easy cool-down mile. Be sure to start with a shorter distance for your first tempo runs before working your way up to the longer tempo-run distances. Tempo runs are the bridge between those weekly slow runs and your fast-paced race. They help prepare your body physically for the demands of running at race pace as well as help prepare you mentally for the demands of running at a faster pace.

5. Drop 5-10 lbs.
Easier said than done, but dropping 5-10lbs will help increase your speed. Some research shows that it can decrease your race time by 1-2 minutes.