Friday, April 30, 2010

Full-Body Circuit Workout for Runners

Last week, I posted a workout video clip for strengthening a runner's core. This week I have a full-body circuit workout to share with you. It's funny sometimes how timely things can be. The day I taped the workout, I received the newest issue Runner's World and right on the cover it says in big letters, "Totally Fit: 10 Ways to Improve Core Strength, Flexibility, Endurance, and More." So, I guess, I'm on the right track.

Runners have strong conditioned legs as well as strong aerobic fitness, but to help prevent injury as well as to become an overall stronger and more efficient runner, some attention to all the muscles groups is important. The tiny little stabilizer muscles in the upper and lower legs are often overlooked as well as the adductor and abductor (inner/outer thigh) muscles. When a runner stumbles, steps off a curb the wrong way, or hits a pothole in the road, those little muscles and rarely used muscles are slow to react, because much hasn't been required of them in the past. The old say, "Don't use it, you lose it." applies here. That's when injuries often pop up and usually at the most inopportune times.

Runners that don't incorporate other forms of exercise (i.e., cross-training and/or resistance training) often have an imbalance between their hamstrings and quads (quads usually being too dominant) which can lead to pulled hamstrings and even knee issues. Weak anterior tibialis muscles (the little muscle running down the front of the lower leg) can often lead to shin splints. The exercises in my full-body circuit involve several lower body unilateral movements (1-legged exercises). Unilateral exercises require those little stabilizer muscles to kick-in to help keep your balance. There's also some plyometrics to help increase leg power as well as upper-body and core exercises to help you keep a strong running form and fight off fatigue.

The circuit is designed to be used during the base-building phase (that period of time when you're building a solid base of mileage) before you begin your official fall marathon race training. The circuit is intense and should not be used during the training phase when you'll be doing more intense aerobic workouts. Used during the base-building phase, however, the circuit can get you into tip-top muscular and endurance shape prior to your training. Start out by one cycle of the circuit. Over a period of several session, try to work up to three complete cycles of the circuit.

So, give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

RunnerDude Chats with Jeff Galloway

A week or so ago, Lisa a good friend and running buddy of mine shared the exciting news that Jeff Galloway is going to be the featured speaker at a benefit being held in High Point, NC for GO FAR, a nonprofit organization that teaches youngsters about making healthy choices as well as training them for their first 5K race. I've followed Jeff Galloway since I was a youngster. Even though I was never very athletic as a kid, I always looked forward to the Olympics every four years. The very first Olympics that I remember and remember in vivid detail was in the summer of 1972. I loved stretching out on the harvest gold shag carpet in front of our black-and-white console TV with the rabbit ears on top watching the athletes compete. I also remember that summer because we finally got air conditioning in the house (a window unit in the family room).
I was only 7, but I remember a lot about those Olympics—terrorists taking members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage, Olga Korbut's outrageous backbend on the balance beam, Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals, and Frank Shorter winning the marathon. I also remember three members of the US track team—Frank Shorter, Jack Bacheler, and Jeff Galloway—because they had all been on the same track team at FSU. Today, I can barely remember what TV program I'm watching when I get up for a snack, but for some reason, I can remember vivid details from just about all the Olympics since 1972—when I was only 7. Does that mean in 30 years, I'll remember what TV show I was watching?

So, in addition to sharing the good news, Lisa (who's involved in organizing the GO FAR benefit) said it might be possible for me to interview Jeff, if he was interested. Soon after, I contacted Mr. Galloway and luckily he was gracious enough to accept the interview offer. I've admired Jeff and his career for many years and this interview instills further my admiration for such a talented and committed teacher, trainer, and athlete. Read on to learn more about my conversation with Jeff Galloway...

RD: I see you have North Carolina roots. I believe you were born in Raleigh, NC. How long did you live in NC?
Jeff: I was born in Raleigh. I spent several of the best years of my youth in NC, off and on. My Dad was in the Navy, and when he was at sea, we stayed mostly with my mothers parents in Raleigh. My grandfather was Director of Vocational Rehabilitation for NC for about 30 years. He would pick me up after school and take me to his "farm" on Falls of the Neuse road.

RD: Several years ago, I read where you had been overweight and not very athletic as a child. When I read this, it really endeared you to me. In one of your bio’s you mention how as a youth, you “searched for the lowest level of exertion you could get away with in exercise.” That was me to a T! I too was an overweight child. I think I may have been the original couch potato at least until age 13 when I decided to make a change. Ironically that was the same age you made a change. If I recall correctly, an after-school program requirement kind of forced you to make a change. Share a little about that time as a 13-year-old (an overweight, non-athletic 13-year-old) having to join a sports activity.
Jeff: Yes, I was a fat kid. Like many children in Navy families, I attended 13 schools by the time I finished the 7th grade. At this point my father became a teacher, we moved to Atlanta, and my new school required each boy to work out with an athletic team after school every day. Because of the moves, I had avoided sports and exercise, did not have sports skills, had become lazy, and had gained a lot of weight.
My patchwork of educational experiences had not prepared me for the demanding and competitive academic environment at this Prep school, and I was struggling. The principal's comment on the report card was “A little more of a push next year and Jeff will make the top half of the class” I was already studying more hours every week than most of the students I knew, who were scoring better on tests. I believed that I was intellectually inferior.
During the Fall I tried football, which was a total disaster from my perspective, and that of my coaches. Before choosing a sport for the next quarter, I asked several of the other lazy kids for their choices and was surprised to hear that many had chosen Winter Track Conditioning. The consensus among the slackers was that the track coach was the most lenient in the school. “Tell him you are running on the trails, and you only have to jog 200 yards to the woods and hide out.”
I did just that for 2 days. On the third day, an older athlete I liked, looked at me and said “Galloway, you're running with us today”. I quickly came up with my strategy: as we entered the woods I planned to grab my hamstring, claiming a muscle pull. But the jokes started right away, and I kept running to hear the punch line. As I began to get really tired, they started telling gossip about the teachers. I didn't last long the first day, but pushed a bit farther with them day after day and started joining the political and psychological arguments.
Most of these cross country runners were on the academic honor roll. But the controversial arguments led me to believe that I was just as intelligent as the others. Each academic period my grades improved and I too, made the honor roll. More important, I had become a member of the group and set a new standard for myself due to group expectations.
I was most surprised about how good I felt after a run. The after-run attitude boost was better than I had experienced after any activity, during my young life. The camaraderie and fun during those runs kept me coming back and after 10 weeks I was hooked on endorphins and friendship. I continue to be...over 50 years later.
It was commonly known, even back in the 50's, that over half of the cross country team members were among the best students and leaders in school organizations. University of Illinois Professor Charles Hillman, as reported by Newsweek magazine, noticed that the woman's cross country team set the curve on his neuroscience/kinesiology tests every semester. So he started a study of elementary children comparing physical activity with academic achievement. He discovered that the kids who were fitter, were also the best students. Various studies, around the world, have found the following:
  • Regular exercise increases the level of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) necessary for learning, memory and higher brain activities

  • Regular aerobic exercise stimulates growth of new brain cells, at any age

  • Regular vigorous exercise causes existing nerve cells to work quicker and more efficiently

  • Even one 30 minute aerobic exercise session stimulates areas in the brain needed for critical thinking and produced better test results than before the exercise.
RD: Speaking of fitness and academics, your book FIT KIDS—SMARTER KIDS is a wonderful tool to help kids learn how to make better choices and become physically fit. I wish I had had a copy when I was a youngster. I’m sure your childhood experience was a key factor in your decision to write FIT KIDS, but what other factors contributed to your writing the book?
Jeff: I started writing FIT KIDS—SMARTER KIDS to help families, teachers and kids gain control over their fitness, vitality and attitude. After a meeting with several experts in this field at CDC in Atlanta, I was told to look into the connection between regular exercise and better academic performance. I list some of the many studies, showing this, in the book. It is clear that if teachers, school boards and parents want their kids to learn better, they need to encourage them to exercise—it unlocks brain cells.

RD: FIT KIDS is all about making fitness a family affair. If kids see their parents being active, they are much more likely to be active themselves. You definitely practice what you preach. Your wife Barbara is a very accomplished runner herself. How about your two boys, Brennan and Westin? Are they runners too? Share a little about fitness and your family.
Jeff: Barbara and I met on the track, she worked in the first Phdippides stores, and we were married about a year later. That's been 34 great years. Brennan and Westin both ran in high school and college and still run. Westin ran the 800 for Wake Forest and had a great collegiate experience there.

RD: Another aspect of “Jeff Galloway” that I find so intriguing is that you’re a spokesman for the average runner and walker. With your amazing credentials, you could spend 100% of your time working exclusively with elite runners, but instead you devote much of your time to the everyday runner. Your commitment to sharing with others how to make running a lifestyle that can stay with them a lifetime is awesome. What inspired you to move in this direction? Why reach out to the regular everyday runner (like me)?
Jeff: My father (Wake Forest grad) founded an innovative school, and struggled against odds to make it a success. He worked with individual kids, teachers and parents, to help each unlock learning blocks and assume responsibility for his/her own education. I saw the joy he received as individuals were empowered. I found the same joy in helping individual runners solve problems and tell me the amazing empowerment they receive as they push past their challenges without injury. I hear from about 100 runners every day, and have found solutions to almost all of the problems experienced.

RD: The Galloway RUN-WALK-RUN™ method has its critics, but the fact is it’s helped thousands of runners successfully complete marathons all over the country—the world for that matter. Most critics are silenced when they learn that experienced runners have even PR’d using the method. I think it’s an awesome alternative to the traditional method of race training. How did the method evolve?
Jeff: You're correct—every year I hear from hundreds who qualify for Boston by using run-walk-run. We started using it in our Galloway Training Program groups in the 70's as a way for couch potatoes to finish a marathon, without injury, in 6 months. But more and more of the veterans used it to recover fast, doing what they wanted to do even after very long runs. During the last 15 years, we've fine-tuned it to help everyone stay injury free—even the Boston qualifiers.

RD: I hear from runners all over the country and try to share as many of their stories on the blog as I can. Their stories are so inspiring. Just the other day after a run in the park, I bumped into a friend of mine, Joyce (who's an avid walker). She's in her 70's and she was telling me how frustrated she was that over the winter she wasn't able to walk as much as usual due to all the bad weather we've had. She was upset, because she was now off her walking pace by several minutes. I want to be like Joyce and get mad when I'm off my pace when I'm 74. What an inspiration! You’ve coached runners of all abilities all over the world. Share a little about one or two runners you’ve coached or worked with that for whatever reason made an impact or impression that’s stuck with you over the years.
Jeff: In my various books I have written the stories of many "heroes" who overcame major challenges to finish marathons. In every case they discovered hidden strengths that improved the quality of their lives in many ways. Lee Kilpack for example, started running at the age of 59 to recover from a round of chemo therapy. She discovered a life enrichment that took away the depression of the cancer threat. She is not free of cancer today but is much happier, more energetic, loves life each day—which was not the case during her pre-cancer/pre running years. Iris Vinegar joined our Galloway Training group in Raleigh at the age of 74, to fulfill a "bucket list" goal. She discovered a new self understanding that "age is just a number". More than a dozen marathons later, at the "number" of 82, Iris looks better, feels better and runs smoother than ever. Among the studies cited in my RUNNING UNTIL YOU'RE 100 book are those showing that each hour you exercise, extends life statistically by 2 hours. The quality of life enhancement is an even greater benefit.

RD: Man, if gaining 2 hours of life for every 1 hour of exercise doesn't help get people to exercise, I'm not sure what will. Many sedentary people give the excuse that they don’t have enough time to fit in running or fitness, yet you manage to stay fit, and still run competitively even with a schedule that has you presenting workshops all over the country most months of the year. How do you manage to fit in the running and exercise needed to keep you in shape?
Jeff: My experience, which is backed up by research, shows me that my daily run helps me solve problems quicker, do more work during the day than when not exercising. The last 4 presidents exercised daily. If you're using the excuse "No time for exercise", then ask yourself "Am I more busy than the President."

RD: What tips or advice do you have for all the readers who are just beginning a running program or maybe still in the thinking-about-running phase?
Jeff: First, try to find a group. In our Galloway GETTING STARTED groups, most tell us that they would not stay with the program if they didn't have their group. If you just have one friend, form a 2 person group.
Start by running for 5-10 seconds/walking for the rest of the minute. Start with 10 minutes and increase by 3-4 minutes each workout (every other day). After you've reached 30 minutes with no problems, increase the running to 10-15 seconds/walking for the rest of the minute. After 3-6 sessions, if you wish, increase by another 5 seconds of running/decreasing the walking by 5 seconds. Never try to run continuously—use walk breaks from the beginning to give you control over your fatigue.

RD: What’s new on the horizon for Jeff Galloway? Will you really still be running at 100?
Jeff: Yes, my goal is to run until I'm 100 and, at 64, I'm well on my way. Since 1979, I've not had a running injury—that's when I started taking walk breaks. Every day I communicate with an average of over 100 runners. As I hear about the ways my suggestions have reduced injuries, sped up recovery, improved finish times, I fine-tune my methods used in my running schools, Galloway training programs, wonderful retreats and e-coaching. I pledge to never stop looking for ways of enhancing the running experience—which enriches life.
Keep an eye out for Jeff's newest book CROSS COUNTRY due out in the fall.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Runners, On Your Mark!

This Saturday (May 1, 2010) in High Point, NC, around 1,000 kids (mostly 4th and 5th graders) will meet for quite an event. You see these kids have participated in GO FAR (Go Out for a Run), a nonprofit organization that teaches kids about healthy habits and character building. The program also trains the young participants for a 5K race which is the culmination/celebration of the 10-week program.

Many of the GO FAR programs are hosted after school by physical education teachers at elementary schools in the area. GO FAR is spreading across North Carolina and the organization hopes it will eventually be available nationally.

As a member of the GO FAR board, it's exciting to see these kids on race day, all excited to apply their training to a real race. Below is a video clip of the Fall '09 GO FAR 5K.

If you're in the Triad area (High Point, Greensboro, or Winston Salem, NC) on May 20th, consider supporting GO FAR by attending a special benefit that will feature Jeff Galloway—world class athlete, Olympian, and the creator of The Galloway RUN-WALK-RUN™ method. Jeff's also the author of several books on running and fitness including Fit Kids Smarter Kids and he also writes for Runner's World magazine.
The event will be held at the Natuzzi showroom in High Point, NC. Beer, wine, and finger foods will be served. Tickets sell for $20 for an individual and $30 for a pair. A free ticket will be given to all GO FAR donors of $75 or more. Proceeds from the event will help GO FAR reach more at-risk kids. If you live in the area, tickets can be purchased at Off 'N Running Sports in Greensboro. You can also contact Lisa Watts at

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to interview Jeff Galloway. Turns out we had similar experiences as youngsters with weight and lack-of-fitness issues. Be sure to check the blog tomorrow for the posting of that interview.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Runner of the Week: Sage Rountree

I've corresponded with this week's Runner of the Week, Sage Rountree, a few times over the past year. Back in May '09, I posted a review of a book she had written The Athlete's Guide to Yoga (VeloPress, 2008) as well as on the video of the same name by Endurance Films. Then the following July, I posted another review on her newest book, The Athlete's Pocket Guide to Yoga (VeloPress, 2009). I was impressed by Sage's knowledge of yoga and running as well as her willingness to share the information with me. After all she's written for top publications such as Runner’s World and Yoga Journal and has published articles in Running Times, Inside Triathlon, and Endurance Magazine.

I finally met Sage in person, a couple of weekends ago when I attended a USA-Triathlon sponsored workshop on supplemental training activities triathlon coaches can use with their athletes. The workshop was divided into three parts-Yoga, Resistance Training, and Running Drills. Sage lead the Yoga portion of the workshop. She was very personable and even though I was the only participant that needed a little "help" in a yoga position or two, she guided me in a very supportive manner. My body felt awkward but not my being. Thanks Sage!

Read on to learn more about Sage and her experiences as an internationally recognized authority on yoga for athletes and an expert endurance sports coach as well as being an athlete herself.

RD: You're located in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC area. Are you originally from that area?
Sage: I've been here ever since grad school, having been sucked into the university town vortex. Happily, it's a great place to be stuck. Before living here, I grew up in Winston-Salem, NC, and I was born in chilly Buffalo, NY, long enough ago to vaguely remember the Blizzard of '77.

RD: I'm sure people ask all the time, but is "Sage Rountree" your birth name?
Sage: Yes, they do, and I can see why, especially since I became a yoga teacher! I was born Sage Hamilton (my parents, in search of a flower name, got my name from the Burpee Seed Catalog), and I married the wonderful Wes Rountree for my last name. He tried to convince me not to take his name, because it's so hard to spell (there's no "d," and he's no relation to the very cool Richard Roundtree).

RD: I see you have a Ph.D, but I seem to recall you telling me it was in something like English Literature. What brought you into the world of yoga?
Sage: Prenatal yoga, when I was ready to feel the connection that yoga fosters. Before that, I'd had a few frustrating experiences with yoga—frustrating not because they were bad, but because I found them much harder than expected.

RD: What are the benefits of yoga to someone who runs?
Sage: Yoga confers whole-body strength; flexibility for fluid range of motion through the running stride; and mental focus. All of these directly complement running.

RD: If a runner (who's never experienced yoga) wants to join a class, what's the best form of yoga to look for, if there's not any sessions specifically geared for runners or athletes in his/her town?
Sage: It can be tough to choose a class, because without guidance you might stumble on something that's too slow-paced (and therefore boring), or too fast-paced (and therefore disheartening), and think that's all that yoga has to offer. My best advice: keep trying till you find the right fit. To help in that, you should look for classes that will teach you the proper alignment. These may be called "Hatha," "Beginners," "Alignment-Based," or "Iyengar." I really like the Anusara style as a good fit for runners; it focuses on alignment and on plenty of backbending, which, done carefully, can have huge benefit for runners.

RD: Your books The Athlete's Guide to Yoga and the The Athlete's Pocket Guide to Yoga are great tools. How did writing the books come about for you?
Sage: I'd long wished aloud to my husband that I could find a book that explained how to mesh endurance sports and yoga. One day, he posited that I should write the book myself. All the books on my shelf at the time were published by VeloPress, so I approached them, and the rest is history.

RD: In addition to being a renowned yoga instructor and frequent contributor to Runner's World and Endurance Magazine, you're also a triathlon coach. How long have you been a triathlete? What drew you to the sport?
Sage: I did my first triathlon in 2005, thinking the training would be a welcome break from training for road marathons, and it was.

RD: What got you into Triathlons?
Sage: The fun of the new, and a desire for cross-training after a season where I incurred a stress fracture. I came for the variety, and I stayed for the friendly people and the crazy joy of doing three things in one event.

RD: What do you enjoy most about the tri? The swim? The bike? The run?
Sage: I like funky swims, like the 53-degree rough chop we enjoyed at the 2008 Age-Group World Championships. Like yoga, they put me totally in the moment (the drive for survival will do that!). But the run is always my favorite part, both because I love running and because my cycling is so mediocre that I get to feel fast as I catch the cyclists who don't like to run.

RD: What are your favorite training foods?
Sage: Plain old original PowerBars (the classic, chewy ones, called PowerBar Performance Energy), in Peanut Butter or Honey Roasted Nut. Tried and true, they've worked for me for so long. I'll eat most of one for breakfast before a race or hard workout, or as snack or lunch on the bike. I've also come to love, much to my surprise, the flavor of the PowerBar Double Latte gels. They don't taste so much like coffee to me as like caramel. Ah, sugar!
Speaking of sugar, I'm also very partial to afternoon tea—scones, muffins, and the like—when I'm in heavy training. My children were completely spoiled as I trained for Ironman Coeur d'Alene last year; we went to various bakeries and coffeehouses for snacks almost daily.
RD: Scones for training. I like that! Now I have a good excuse when I pick one up with my morning coffee. Guess I need to find a race to train for too, huh?
RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
Sage: Both. I have a fantastic group of women I run with most weeks; I love it for the camaraderie, for the humor, and for the extra push. I like to dissociate and focus externally in the early stages of a workout or race, and I can be very chatty. I also like the work of bearing down and focusing that I get in my solo runs. To that end, my ideal long workouts—bike or run—involve riding or running to meet a group, doing the middle section with them, and continuing on alone.

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
Sage: The Frosty 50K at Salem Lake this January was run on a very, very cold day—14 degrees at the start, and not much warmer at the end. For hours, I enjoyed listening to the sound of the ice on the lake. Sometimes it gurgled like a toilet in distress, which was funny; sometimes it wailed like a musical saw, which was odd. That sound really stands out as a memory from that day.

RD: What’s your biggest running and or triathlon accomplishment? Why?
Sage: It's cliché, but probably requalifying for the Boston Marathon at the Boston Marathon.
RD: That's an awesome accomplishment. I'm still trying for the qualifying time to get there in the first place. Maybe this fall at Marine Corps it will happen for me.

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
Sage: I've been running in the Adidas Supernova Glide for a while now, and I really like them. My favorite shoes ever were the Asics Gel DS Trainer 12s. Rest in peace, friends.
RD: It's funny, but the discontinuation of a faithful running shoe, is like the death of close friend.

RD: Do you have a favorite race that you run each year?
Sage: The UNC Wellness Center Super Sprint Triathlon, which takes place across the street from my house, is a logistical favorite. While I prefer long-distance races, I actually place better, comparatively, at short races. Some of my past favorites are gone now, the Coach Bubba 20K in Durham and the Carrboro Classic Long-Course Duathlon. They've gone the way of the Asics Gel DS Trainer 12s.

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?
Sage: Work together. Accountability and positive peer pressure will help you build the consistency you need to let your body adapt to the (good) stresses of running.

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
Sage: I was a very nonathletic child and came to running while in graduate school. We had a big chocolate Lab who needed a lot of exercise. I'd take him on walks in the woods, then run to stay with him. That running grew very slowly, and what a gift that was. While it's noble to set a lofty goal—couch to a marathon, say—your body will adapt better if you take things slowly, organically, and for the pure joy of it. Keep it a treat, like running in the woods with a beloved dog, not a chore.

Thanks Sage for sharing with us a little about your amazing life and your gift of yoga that you share with athletes of all levels. To learn more about Sage, be sure to check out her website as well as the new website for The Carrboro Yoga Studio. The clip below gives a sneak peak into the studio.

The Carrboro Yoga Company from Mary Lide on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Runner's Core 10 x 10 Circuit Workout

An often overlooked but vitally important key to successful running is having a strong core. Whether you're a beginning runner or a seasoned runner, having a strong core will support good running form, delay the onset of fatigue, and produce more energy output for your legs.

When "core" is mentioned, abdominal muscles are usually what come to mind along with the image of airbrushed Calvin Klein models. Pretty rippled ab muscles aren't what we're shooting for here. Now, if you get them in the process, that's a bonus, but I'm talking more about strengthening all the muscles in and around your torso—obliques, lats, transverse abdominis, erector spinae, as well as the rectus abdominis (the abs).

Crunches are often what come to mind when core exercises are mentioned. While the trunk flexion motion of a crunch may produce pretty surface abdominal muscles, it doesn't do a lot to provide for a strong core, mainly because the movement is not a very natural movement. How many times a day to you bring your head up to your knees? Probably not very often. But, how often to you reach up, reach diagonally, turn from side-to-side, reach down, reach down diagonally? My guess would be hundreds of times. To build a strong core you need to move your core through a wide-range of natural movements, moving through all the planes of motion.

Below is a 10-exercise workout that includes a variety of simple core-strengthening exercises using a medicine ball. The workout is designed as a circuit. A circuit is a series of exercises that you complete consecutively with no rest in between. This circuit is a 10 x 10, meaning that there are 10 exercises for which you each complete 10 repetitions. If you don't have a medicine ball, no worries. A light dumbbell will do or even a laundry detergent bottle! Take a look, try it out and let me know what you think.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Unsung Hero: The Beginner Runner

Sometimes it really is easy to forget all that it took to get where you are today. Whether it be growing a family, getting an education, building a career, starting a business, or becoming a runner. Once you get to a certain level of "comfortableness" you often forget all the hard work it took to get there.

The beginning running group that I'm leading at RunnerDude's Fitness has really reminded me of all that it takes to get out and run. The five ladies (ranging in age from 14 to 49) are amazing! Whether you're young and never exercised or "more seasoned" and never exercised it really doesn't matter. In both cases it can be very intimidating. In speaking to each member of the group individually during their fitness assessment, they all shared the same concern, "Can I keep up?" "What if I'm the slowest one?" "Are the other ladies older? younger? fitter?"

When you decide to join a running group or any fitness group for that matter, a person really is taking a big step. It takes a lot of oomph and guts to put yourself out there for all to see. Self-doubt and lack of self-esteem can sometimes overwhelm someone new to fitness.

That's why it's so important to find a supportive group of other beginners or at least in a group where more experienced athletes will be nurturing and supportive of a beginner. This group of ladies are really rocking-it. Once they met and realized they all were truly beginners, they relaxed. They're doing a 10-week run/walk program that will have them running the distance of a 5K by the end of the 10 weeks. We're not working on speed or time. Simply building endurance and confidence. They're gaining tremendously in both areas. We've begun our second week of the program and they've all ready picked up the pace (on their own).

All the ladies have expressed a new sense of pride in what they're accomplishing. Two ladies have reported losing some weight which was a goal of theirs and that's been even more motivating. One of the younger runners is no longer experiencing that mid-run fatigue that sometimes sets in especially with new runners. She's beginning to see that her body really is adapting and becoming conditioned. This group has no whiners. They're talking proudly of the delayed onset muscle soreness as if it were a badge of honor. Last night there was a light rain, I was kind of expecting the group to be a no-show, but to my surprise they appeared and the run took place as normal. That's a runner.

Watching these ladies brought back all that it took me to get into running. I had completely forgotten my "secret runs." As a child, I was overweight and somehow I missed out on the athletic gene. (My brother got a double dose of it.) In 8th grade we had to run the mile as a part of PE. Back then, I wouldn't be caught dead in a pair of shorts. My legs rubbed together and the inseam of the shorts would ride up in the crotch and I just looked goofy. Plus back then, "fat kids" clothes for some reason only came in plaid. So, if you can, picture an overweight non-athletic kid with a mop of brown hair running around the football field in a pair of Sears plaid Toughskins pants. I'm not even sure I had on sneakers. More likely, it was a pair of Wallabees or Earth shoes (remember those?). I was a sight I'm sure. Ran that mile in 18 minutes! I wasn't last though. There was one kid behind me.

Something happened that day. I realized that I could actually run. I was dead, but I actually made it. For a few weeks after that, I went on secret runs. I even bought a pair of "running shoes" from Pic-n-Pay. I think they had plastic uppers. After school, before my brother got home, I'd run in my neighborhood. Ran down Orange Street onto Church Street and back. T-shirt, plaid Toughskins and my Pic-n-Pay best. Probably wasn't more than a mile, but I ran.

That summer after 8th grade, I decided I wanted to lose weight, before going on to 9th grade at the high school. So, my mom and I went on Weight Watchers. I lost a little over 40 lbs that summer. I was plumb skinny by the beginning of school. I got caught up in the weight loss and kind of stopped running, but later that year in 9th grade, I had to run the mile again and this time I ran it in 9:00. I was shocked and amazed. I had cut my time in half!

I ran a little after that, but it never amounted to much. I lacked the confidence to try out for track. (Once a fat kid, always a fat kid). 5Ks and 10Ks really didn't exist back then, or if they did, I didn't know about them. Actually I never knew there was any thing other than team sports. I had watched my brother play baseball, football, basketball, and tennis, so all I knew were team sports. The one thing I knew for sure was I wasn't cut out for competitive team sports. Two years of baseball and 1 year of football, proved that to me.

It wasn't until my freshman year in college that I realized people ran and competed in 5K and 10K races. The cool thing about this new revelation was that the competition was really against yourself. The elites competed against each other, but everyone else ran for fun, fitness, or to compete against themselves. I found my niche.

The courage of the 5 ladies in my beginning running group, helped me remember my roots and really appreciate where I had come from as well as appreciate even more their courage for joining the group and giving it their all. rock!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Runner of the Week: Christopher Wilno

Over the past year-and-a-half of writing this blog, I've interviewed some amazing runners, like Grannie Annie who started running at 50 and by 66 had run her 70th marathon and at least one in each of the 50 states! Then there was Noah, who lost 60lbs in 5 months and who's being an awesome healthy role model for his young son and thousands of others who've heard his story. And now there's Christopher Wilno. Christopher has turned hardship and family tragedy into an amazing life journey and has inspired many a runner. Read on to find out more about his amazing story.

RD: Where are you from?
Christopher: In my head I am from Atlanta but at 43 years old, I have spent most of my time in Los Angeles. I was born in Florida, moved to Chicago for one year and then spent 4th-10th grades in Georgia. I moved to Los Angeles in 1982 and still reside there.
RD: Share a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? Hobbies?
Christopher: Most of my career has been spent in Finance. I exited college in 1991 and entered the world of public accounting where I stayed until I was promoted to senior manager at KPMG. At that point, I left for a company that I helped to take public. From that point through 2008 I was always in a finance position as a controller, VP Finance or CFO. In April 2008, the company I worked for was acquired by Synnex, Inc. All of Finance was absorbed and, although I was offered a job within Finance it would have required a move to Northern California. I was not ready to uproot my family at that time so I turned it down. I was instead offered a position as Director of Product Management and have been in this role ever since managing a $1 billion portfolio of consumer electronics.

Outside of work, I love to run and bike. I am desperately trying to learn to love swimming but I am not there yet. I swim but it is work for me. I love all sports but primarily baseball, basketball and football.

Outside of work and my own training, much of my time is spent as a marathon coach for Team in Training. Coaching and fighting cancer is a big part of who I am. Since 2004, I have personally raised over $70,000 for Team in Training while completing 3 marathons, 2 Century rides and 3Triathlons (one of these was Ironman distance). I have completed more races than these but these are all the events for which I fundraised.

RD: How long have you been running?
Christopher: Depending on how you look at it, 27 years or 6 years.

RD: What got you into running?
Christopher: My very first exposure to running was in Atlanta as part of the wrestling team for my high school. It was very limited exposure but I mention it because it left a mark on me. I remember thinking there was a great deal of mental toughness needed to keep moving forward. When I later moved to Los Angeles, I dropped other winter sports and joined the cross country team. This move came out of nowhere but I think it ties to my exposure to the sport in Atlanta. Sometimes it only takes limited exposure to affect someone's life and a few miles in Atlanta made an impact on me. I ran cross country and track for my junior and senior years. In a short period of time, I was running 16 minute 5K's and sub 5 minute miles. As I think back, I am amazed at how fast a young body can adapt. I had horrible shoes and no idea what a good or bad time was. I just ran. I remember going out early into my running career with the more experienced folks on the team. It was a fartlek workout and about 5 miles in, these experienced runners turned around and I still remember the shock on their face to see I was still there. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. It was a moment that made me think I might actually be okay at this sport.

I wish I could say I stuck with running after high school but this did not happen. I stopped fairly cold turkey in 1984 and did not take up running again until 2004. I had always wanted to run a marathon and a series of events that hit my family over an 18 month period brought me the opportunity. In late 2002 my father was diagnosed with leukemia. I spent a lot of time flying from CA to South Carolina where my parents were to help support my Dad during this tough time. While he was battling, my wife became pregnant which was amazing. One unexpected blessing this news brought was providing my father another reason to keep fighting despite the torture chemotherapy was bestowing upon him. Unfortunately, on August 1, 2003, one day before the due date for Isabella Soleil Wilno and one day after my wedding anniversary, my little girl passed away before ever taking a breath on this planet. It was needless to say a awful day. My wife still endured labor knowing that the outcome was not going to be a happy one. I also had to make the toughest call of my life to tell my father that he would not be holding his granddaughter anytime soon. This marked a turning point for my father as he lost a little of that fight to live. Shortly after the loss of my daughter, my father was pronounced terminal and was given a few months to live. I quit my job and spent the next few months with my father. In January 2004, my father lost his battle.
Shortly after his passing, my wife became pregnant again with my son Jaden and shortly after this she was diagnosed with cancer. We had the tough decision of risking our baby or my wife. We chose to fight the cancer after my son was born. I am happy to say that a few years later, my son Jaden is very healthy, my wife and I have had another child, Thalia and, although the cancer returned in November 2009, I am happy to say she is currently cancer free.

To take this back to running...during the final few weeks of my father's life, I decided that I would run a marathon. I have no idea why. I think it is because it is something I wanted to do but was always afraid to do. My father was always amazing at sports so it was my gesture to attempt something beyond myself and do it to honor his life and all he did for me. To get started, I found a little store on Hilton Head Island, Go Tri Sports, and set off to buy shoes. When I got there, I walked in to meet the owner of the store. His name was Al...coincidentally my father’s name. I proceeded to tell him the story about my father and he handed me a purple and green flyer. This flyer was from Team in Training.......a program I knew nothing about. He was a coach and told me the program was to teach people to run a marathon while raising money to fight blood cancer....the disease that ultimately would take my father’s life. It was amazing. My desire to run a marathon for my father became even more meaningful now that I could raise money to fight back against this horrible disease. While a long story........this is my entry back into running after a 20 year break. I have been running and with Team in Training ever since. I am now a coach and try my best to give back and make a difference in people's lives and ultimately make a difference in this world.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running?
Christopher: There are so many things I like about running which ties to all the reasons that I run and ties to my coaching with Team in Training. From a personal perspective, I really feel whole when I am running. Running, and training in general as I try to stay Triathlon fit, really defines who I am. It is in many ways an escape for me...not an escape from reality but a way to work things out, leave stress from a long day on the road and be fit for my family. It is a sport that theoretically does not get easier because you are always pushing yourself to go faster or farther. It may get easier to run a certain pace, but when your body go faster so you are constantly challenged. Running builds mental toughness and really tests who you are as a person.

While this may sound a little odd, running keeps me somewhat connected to my losses. This was very true right after I lost my daughter and father. When I was running, I felt like I was with them. I felt like they would come join me on the road and keep me safe. It probably ties to the Team in Training experience because when I was tired or sore, I had my daughter, father and wife's battle to keep me in focus and drive me to push forward. I remember my first marathon finish line well. I was having a bad day and had to draw on every bit of my story to push forward. I crossed the finish line, found my wife and burst into tears. I felt like my daughter and Dad were there at the finish line to share the moment and to this day I like to think my Dad takes a break from some golf course in Heaven, grabs my little girl and comes down to watch me cross every finish line.

I also enjoy running because I think the community of runners is amazing!!! Everyone is so supportive of each other and supportive of those that are thinking about entering the sport. I think we are a welcoming bunch because we know the impact that running can have on one's life. As part of Team in Training, I have seen running change lives and even save lives. Yes, some of this change is tied to fitness and health but I think it goes well beyond this. I have seen running get someone off the couch that didn’t think they could make a difference in the world. I have seen running get someone out of the despair caused by the loss of a husband to murder. I have seen running teach so many that we are capable of anything we set our minds to. I keep all of this close to my heart every time I set out for a run. When I go around my neighborhood and see someone running that I know wasn’t running the month before, I like to think I might have had an impact on their decision to hit the road simply by seeing some else take those steps first.

People come to Team in Training for many different reasons and I think many of these reasons apply to running in general. Some come because they are overweight and need something to kick start their life. Some come because they are tired of hearing society tell them what can’t be done. Some come because of some personal hardship that they believe running can help them push beyond. Some come simply to meet new people. Running can meet every one of these needs. It can be the catalyst that leads you to a different lifestyle. It can teach you what you CAN do. It can help you work through and past hardship and it certainly can take you to some amazing people.

RD: What are your favorite training foods?
Christopher: I am probably not the best to ask about food because I am not the healthiest eater in the world. I have always been very skinny and struggled to gain weight but during my first Ironman this became exponentially worse. I was training so hard that I was losing weight. I compensate, I ended up eating 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day just to maintain. To this day, I still eat quite a lot of food and have not quite figured out how to eat that much and have all the calories be good for you. Don’t get me wrong…..I am not eating candy all day but I certainly am not afraid to pull out some Ben & Jerry’s S’mores flavored ice cream and down a pint.

When I am actually running, I train with Gu (Vanilla or plain flavor), Shot Bloks (all flavors), and Nuun sports drink. I also lose a lot of salt when I workout so I supplement the above with Endurolyte Electrolyte replacement pills. On the bike, the only thing I do differently is that I use Carbo Pro in my Nuun sports drink to supplement carbs and calories.

After a long workout.........I eat whatever I want. I will always get some type of strange craving on long runs or rides and will eat to that craving. During training for one of my recent races, the last 5 weeks of hard training lead me to a Chili cheese dog, fries and a root beer float. My son was very grateful for this craving!
RD: 5,000-6,000 calories...and skinny....a lot of people aren't liking you right now. LOL!

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
Christopher: I lead a very busy life so most of the training I do for myself is solo and at very odd hours. I work 60-70 hours a week and I coach and am a Dad and am a husband so I try to train at hours that interfere as little as possible with the rest of my life. There are very few people that want to run at 11pm or 4am so I generally am on my own.

My group runs come on Sundays as part of coaching for Team in Training. Most of my teams are approximately 100 or so athletes and I try to spend time with everyone on the team.

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
Christopher: When I am training for an event, I will not let anything get in the way of my workouts. During one season, I was scheduled to get in a 19 mile run but it conflicted with my friend’s wedding. This particular wedding was held on a Friday night and ended sometime around midnight. While my wife thought I was insane, along with everyone else at the wedding, I wore my running clothes under my suit. When the wedding was over, my wife dropped me off near the beach with a fuel belt and off I went for a long run home. My path home happened to take me past every bar in Southern California. Needless to say, between midnight and 2am there are a lot of drunk people at the bars. On this particular night they all seemed to be out on the patios as I ran by. I must have heard 'Run Forrest Run' no less than 50 times. It was the drunk battle cry of the evening.

RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
Christopher: From an overall perspective, my biggest accomplishment is being a coach for Team in Training. It is amazingly rewarding and a way to honor the losses and battles that brought me to running. To have the ability to affect lives is a blessing I do not take lightly. I have been a part of teams that in total have brought no less than 500 people across the finish line and combined we have raised millions of dollars to fight cancer.

From a personal perspective, I would say the slowest marathon of my career is my biggest accomplishment. It was part of my first Ironman. It was 100 degrees for the race and I do not do well in heat. I cramped so bad on the bike that I actually fell over from the pain causing me an inability to pedal. I sat for about 30 minutes with my bike and I only left at news that medical was on their way to see me. I was afraid they would shut down my day and I was not going to let that happen. I fled the scene despite horrible cramps and made my way to the bike finish. I remember heading out onto the run and hearing my wife offer words of praise telling me "You've got this Baby". I remember looking at her shrugging my shoulders because I really did not know if my future held an Ironman finish. I tried to run but it did not take long before my legs went into horrible cramps. A lot of folks were having bad days. The dropout rate was very high from the oppressive heat. I fell down on many occasions from the pain but I always managed to pick myself back up and keep going. I experimented with every run-walk interval combination I could think of and sadly ended up at a 30 second run - 2 minute walk......this was all my body could handle. It was pitch black before I could hear the crowds cheering letting me know I was near the finish. I remember some guy in the crowd yelling those infamous words you hear near the end of a race "Great job, you are almost done". I remember going right up to him, grabbing his shirt and asking exactly where the finish line was. I was very close to a complete collapse and was trying to make sure that collapse did not happen until I crossed the finish line. This kind gentleman clarified the location of the finish line so when I felt it was safe….. I started running it in. I gave a few high 5's but realized quickly this was a bad idea as I almost fell down from the impact. Four hours after I should have finished the Ironman, at just under 16 hours, I crossed the finish line and was crowned an Ironman. About 2 feet after crossing the finish line I collapsed and was carried to the medical tent. I remember a pain I didn’t think possible from cramps alone. It took four people to seize my muscles while I clung to an iron gate writhing around. My time on this particular day was not anything to be proud of but I did not give up when many people would have. On this day, I lost 16 pounds which is a lot of anyone let alone someone as skinny as I am. My body just shut down and, honestly, it was a mess for a few weeks into the future. It was this race that led me to preach that it is not always your fastest time you are most proud of.

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
Christopher: I wear Saucony Grid Hurricanes. I have been through many shoes and this has been the best performer for me. I pronate and don’t have the best feet so I prefer both motion control and cushion. If I am not running but like to kick it in some running shoes I will wear K-Swiss K-Ona shoes.

RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year
Christopher: Marathon is my favorite distance because of the mental and physical challenge it requires to finish. I coach both the half and full marathon and am proud of the finishers of both distances. I just find the journey to the marathon finish much more challenging and, as such, much more rewarding. On any given day you can kick the marathon's ass, but on any other given day, the marathon can kick yours. I truly believe that 26.2 miles can change your life!

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?
Christopher: I would first say to be patient when starting into the sport. It takes 4-6 weeks for your body to adapt and for you to see positive results. As a coach for Team in Training, the hardest part of the season is the first few weeks because of the initial struggle folks have in the transition from non runner. If your very first run is a struggle, how could you possibly finish 26.2 miles. This is natural conclusion, but far from the truth. The world is not a different place on your second run or your third run or even your fourth run. In 4-6 weeks, however, you will go out for a run and, 3 miles into that run, will realize that it was remarkably easier than that first workout of your running career. It is at this point that you will start to get joy out of running. It is also at this point that you can first see the affects running will have on your life. You ran 3 miles and your entire being was full of doubt but you pushed through that self doubt and made it happen. This happens time and time again over the course of training for any race. Doubt comes and you learn to shove it aside. This thought process begins to invade all that you are. People tell you something is not possible and you shove them out of the way to show the world anything is possible. If you trust that all this can come from running, why not start running today!

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
Christopher: The only thing I would like to add that although some of my circumstances above are tough to read and sad in nature, I am not one to focus on negative. The events above taught me that blessings come from even the worst of times. Yes my daughter passed away and yes it was and continues to be something that can bring a tear to my day but the event also gave my father comfort when it was his time to go. He believed that he would get to meet Isabella and that made his exit from this world much more tolerable. Isabella’s passing also led to a lot of tests that ultimately led to the discovery of my wife’s cancer. If she had not passed, my wife’s cancer could have kept growing undetected. This cancer could have ultimately cost my wife’s life. I like to believe that my little girl knew all of this and volunteered for heaven.

Cancer taking my father’s life was also a sad moment but also brought with it many blessings. It brought me back to running. It brought me to some amazing people and it brought me to an amazing organization where I have affected many lives. I like to think that cancer regrets it’s decision to attack my father because it picked the wrong guy’s son to mess with.
So, if some sadness or hardship enters your life, please be patient. The blessing or blessings may not immediately present themselves but I am confident they will appear. Keep your head up and your eyes open. You are where you are meant to be.
Thanks Chritopher for sharing your amazing story! You truly are an inspiration! Be sure to follow Christopher on Twitter at! For more information on Team in Training, [click here].

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Beware of the Ambition Trap!

If there's one thing that can get a runner into trouble, it's ambition. Now don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with being ambitious. Ambition has built sky scrapers, discovered cures for diseases, founded institutions of higher learning, and even invented The Clapper. "Clap on. Clap off. The Clapper."

But sometimes ambition, drive, and excitement can make the most intelligent person take some short cuts leading to some pretty bad outcomes. Sometimes runners fall victim to that same ambition trap. Only problem here is that the trap can often lead to injury.

Before starting any race training plan, a runner should have a solid base. The mileage of the base can vary from person to person as well as from race goal to race goal. If you google "base mileage," you'll probably find a variety of suggestions for a variety of race distances. I recommend that runners wanting to join one of my race training groups have a weekly mileage base of 15-25 miles for at least a month if they're planning to train for a 5K, 10K, or a half-marathon. For a marathon, a 20-25 weekly mileage base is good to have under your belt.

Okay, so the idea of a solid base before beginning a race training plan makes sense and most runners at least know about the importance of a base. So where does the ambition trap come into play? It usually rears it's ugly head in two different scenarios.

Scenario #1: The New Runner
We've all see it. A friend of yours has been running for a couple of weeks and things are going pretty good. He's been bitten by the running bug. Awesome! So, he decides to run a 5K or a 10K. He probably doesn't even know how many miles that is, but he wants to race... be a real runner. You try to talk him into getting a few more miles under his belt, but he's so smitten that he sign's up for the next race (the following weekend). It's race day. You're coming out of the port-a-potty and you see your friend at the front of the Start donning the 100% cotton race shirt (tucked in) he received in his packet about 30 minutes earlier. He's pumped! You're sick. He spots you a few rows back and motions you to move on up "where there's more room." You decline. Then the starting pistol's fired and your friend ducks for cover causing a few runners to jump over him while reeling off the most 4-letter words you've ever heard in 10 seconds. You run by your buddy, grab him by the scruff of his crisp Beefy T and get him to his feet. He replies, "Who got shot?!" You want to cry, but you just keep running. Your friend, now on his feet, bolts past you. You shake your head. A half mile into the race you see your buddy with a medic on the side of the road, 3rd degree road rash covering his face from the fall he took after losing consciousness from lack of oxygen. The medic gives you a thumbs up, so you keep running. Monday at work, you're not surprised to learn that you're buddy has given up running. The classic case of too much too soon.

Scenario #2: The Race-a-holic
There's usually one in every running group. You know, the guy that has a race planned for every weekend. There's nothing wrong with racing frequently, but maintaining a solid base during this racing frenzy is vital. Sometimes the ambitious racer will get a false sense of conditioning. For that first marathon, the runner's married to his training plan and as a result has an awesome race. The dedication paid off. The rest of his family might be ticked at all the running he's done, but the fruits of his labor provided a bounteous run. Stoked with this accomplishment and pumped with motivation, he finds himself scouring the Internet for upcoming races in the hotel before leaving for home. Again, there's nothing wrong with this. The ambition trap only rears its ugly head, if "Joe Runner" doesn't allow enough time to recover from the previous race as well as maintain a good base mileage during the period of time before the next race. Joe may think, "Hey, I just ran a marathon. I'm already trained. No need to kill myself like before." Joe has a point. He may not have to train the same way or as long as he did before, but he still needs to maintain his level of conditioning with a good weekly base as well as some other key workouts such intervals and the long run. If Joe rests on his laurels and doesn't maintain his racing fitness level, he's probably not going to have the same experience as the first race. If it doesn't catch up with him in the next race, it most likely will in the 3rd, or 4th race. It will come out of nowhere....the legendary WALL will smack him in the face. Even, the elites have seasons to their training. It may appear that they race nonstop yearround, but there's definitely a method to their madness.

If you're a new runner, log some good mileage before racing. If you want to experience a 5K or 10K race sooner, go into it with the idea that it's just another regular run. It will be hard, but hold back and use it as a learning experience to find out what it's all about. Then use the motivation you gain from that experience to continue building your base before starting a training plan for the "real" race you'll run later in the season.

If you find yourself wanting to race frequently, make a plan. Avoid racing off-the-cuff. Prior to race season scope out the races you'd like to run. Make a list. Then star the ones you definitely want to run. Next circle the ones in which you'd like to set a PR. Now evaluate your list. How many races do you have? Is there enough recovery time in between the ones you've starred? How about the ones you circled? Or did you circle them all? Go back and make yourself circle only the ones for which you really want to blow it out and set a time record for yourself. There should probably only be 2 or 3 (if that).

By doing a little planning, you'd be less likely to overtrain or actually undertrain because you have too many races back to back. This pertains to the 15:00-pace novice marathoner and the 6:00-pace experienced 5K racer. Both are susceptible to the Ambition Trap. Outsmart it with a little planning, keeping a good base, and allowing yourself ample rest and recovery time.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground." I think that applies nicely here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Have the Breakfast Blahs?

You've heard it before, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." But who has time to eat a big breakfast? If you're like me, you're feeding kids, making lunches, brushing hair (while your little one screams), making sure everyone has on clean underwear, reminding everyone to brush their teeth, and then loading everyone into a minivan before chauffeuring the little angles to two different schools. Shew! I'm tired just thinking about it. Breakfast for yourself can often get lost in the shuffle. This can lead to lack of energy by mid-morning and/or ravenous snacking before lunch because you're starved.

So, how do you go about making breakfast the most important meal of the day. Well, first of all you need to pitch that IHOP version of breakfast (pancakes, eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits) out the window. "Important" doesn't mean gut-busting. "Important" also doesn't mean spending a lot of time slaving over a hot stove.

Stocking your pantry with healthy breakfast options is key. Often we make sure that we have plenty of foods for school or work lunches on hand as well as a variety dinner options, but other than bread and milk, the breakfast items often get overlooked. When you go shopping, it's a good idea to divide your list into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Miscellaneous categories so you don't neglect any area, especially the breakfast items. Also, if you make a point of listing breakfast items to purchase, then you'll be less likely to just grab a box of Fruit Loops and a gallon of milk and think your breakfast shopping is done. Listed below are a few good ideas for items to add to the Breakfast section of your shopping list:

oatmealsteel cut is probably the healthiest because it has more fiber, but quick-cook is fine and so is the instant, just be sure to get a brand that's not too high in sodium
nutsalmonds and walnuts are great choices
nut butters—almond and peanut are good choices
quinoa—quick-cooking whole grain (often found in the rice section) that's high in protein. Often used as a rice or pasta substitute, but it also makes a great hot breakfast cereal.
cream of wheat—a great source of iron and calcium and only takes about 3 minutes to prepare! Great with nuts and/or a little maple syrup on top
whole-grain, high-fiber cold cereals—any brand is fine, some come with added nuts which is fine too.
100% whole grain bread— this can be loaf, bagel, English muffin, whatever suits your fancy (Check the ingredients list of products that say "made with whole grain." If whole grain is first or second, it's probably okay, but often with "made with whole-grain" the whole grain is very little. Ingredients are listed in order of abundance. So whatever is listed first is the most abundant in the product.) Whole-grains will give you sustained energy for your day unlike refined and processed grains.
yogurt—traditional and/or Greek (which is denser and higher in protein); avoid the "dessert yogurts" with all the bells and whistles, they're often loaded with extra fat and sugar
in-season fruits—strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, etc.
year-round fruits—bananas, oranges, apples, grapes
canned or frozen fruits—be sure to buy fruits packed in "natural juices" and not heavy syrup
lowfat cottage cheese
eggs and/or egg substitutes—eggs aren't the evil bad-health culprit that we once thought they were. Eggs are a great source of complete protein. Leaving out the yolk is a great option. If you normally eat two eggs, try using one whole egg and one egg white. You probably won't notice much difference. They're are also several egg substitutes on the market that are pretty good.
lowfat or skim milk or soy milk

Invest a little prep time each week to make your busy mornings a little less hectic and help ensure you have the time to eat a nutritious breakfast. Take about 30-minutes over the weekend and chop up a variety of nuts and store them in a zippered plastic baggy. Nuts are a great way to add more "meat" to a cold or hot breakfast cereal. The added protein will keep you fuller feeling longer. Put berries in a colander and rinse with cold water. Shake out the excess water and then put the berries in zippered baggies. Toss a few of the bags in the freezer then you'll have some berries ready to pop in a breakfast smoothie. suggest that you use the "strive for 5" rule—5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein—when preparing breakfast. They explain that by balancing carbohydrates (preferably from whole grains, fruit and vegetables) with some protein and a little healthier fat you'll do a better job of staving off hunger, plus you'll have more energy for the first part of your day. The following are two of the great examples that gives of balanced "strive for 5" breakfast ideas providiong at least 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein:
Multigrain waffle (you can buy these frozen now) topped with 1/2-cup fresh fruit and 1/4 cup plain yogurt with 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of ground cinnamon stirred in. (265 calories, 48 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 11 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 12 mg cholesterol, 386 mg sodium.)
Yogurt breakfast parfait made with 6 ounces low fat "lite" yogurt, 1/2-cup fresh chopped fruit and 1/2-cup low-fat granola. (302 calories, 65 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, 10 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium.) For more examples, be sure to check out the website.

For those really busy days, keep some high-fiber granola bars on hand. Fiber One makes a good high-fiber bar. Grab one of those and a piece of fruit as you head out the door and you'll have your "strive for 5" and a pretty good start to your day. A lot better than that cream-filled chocolate covered doughnut from the convenient store. I promise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Contest!

Back in March, I reviewed a product that I just love called yurbuds™. I have small ears and it's been difficult finding earbuds that stay in place. Problem solved with yurbuds™! They fit, stay in place, don’t irritate my ears, and they work. 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™.

The great people at yurbuds™ have graciously sponsored the Next RunnerDude's Blog contest! They're providing a pair of yurphones™ that will be fitted with the custom-fitted yurbuds™ for each of 5 winners! That's amazing! To learn more about yurbuds™ and the parent company yurtopia LLC, be sure to check out their website.

How To Enter:
To enter for a chance to win one of the 5 pairs of yurphones™ /yurbuds™, simply email RunnerDude at by midnight Thursday, April 29. Be sure to put "yurbuds" in the subject line and put your first/last name in the body of the email. Each email will be assigned a number in the order that it's received. The True Random Number Generator will be used to select the luck winner which will be announced on Friday, April 30th.
Good luck everyone and thanks yurbuds™!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

RunnerDude's Runner of the Week: John Flynn

Think you're not a runner? Think you're too out of shape to run a marathon? Think fitness is too unattainable? Then read on about John Flynn's journey to fitness.

RD: So John, you're not too far from my neck of the woods.
John: Yep, I'm originally from South Carolina, but currently living in Raleigh, North Carolina
RD: Share a little about yourself. What do you do for a living in Raleigh?
John: I'm a software developer. There's tons of technology work here in Raleigh. But I don't think a career or a particular hobby should define who you are. I have a great family (wife and two kids) and really enjoy triathlon training and racing.
RD: How long have you been running?
John: Since 2008 really. Ran the mile on the track team in high school, but only broke 6 minutes a few times. Now that I've found endurance and the joys of 9 minute miles it's gotten really fun!
RD: I hear ya man. Fast is good, but there's something about running long that's very satisfying.
RD: What got you into running?
John: In December 2007 I stopped smoking. I totally replaced one addiction for another one, and signed up for my first triathlon a few days after I put the cigs down. It was a sprint, and I had 8 months to train for it. My mother thought I was going to have a heart attack. When I first started training I could only do 20 minutes on the elliptical and I thought I was going to die. 40 lbs later (lighter?) and I finished that first sprint in 2:02:30. Then in 2009 I did the same sprint in 1:31. Crazy stuff. Now I'm hooked on the improvements—in my times, health, speed, and waistline.
RD: That's truly awesome man! You rock!
RD: What do you enjoy most about running?
John: I like it all, anytime, anywhere. Outdoors, treadmill, heat, cold, alone, or in a huge race. I like monitoring my form. I like the badass status and confidence I feel after a 20-mile run or a 7:30 mile. Most of all, I like that it keeps me from smoking.
RD: What are your favorite training foods?
John: Favorite recovery dish has to be Chicken and Dumplings. You need a 3:1 ratio of carbs and protein after a hard workout and that will warm you up and fill the belly right. On the run I like Heed, GU, Roctane, e-Gel, and endurolytes.
RD: Dumplings....hmmm, now that's a new one. May just have to give that a try!
RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
John: 16 miles into my first marathon, I was crossing the Kentucky/West Virginia state line in the Hatfield & McCoy family reunion marathon when a guy (looked like a character out of Dukes of Hazard) in a rusted out pickup truck was driving the opposite way down a one lane mud road from the way we were running. Out of maybe 20 runners within sight, he looks at me and offers me a hit on a joint he was currently smoking. I declined and kept on running. Thinking about it now, 16 miles into a marathon that might not have been a bad idea! Still, funny things like that happen to me in races. I love it.
RD: Oh man, If I had heard "Dueling Banjos" in the background, I think I would have PR'd in that race! LOL!!
RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
John: Got to be the marathons. I just finished my second a few weeks ago and it was awesome. Full marathons are the standard by which any and every runner can measure themselves. Say what you want to about fast 5k's. My goal is Ironman next year so I need marathons.
RD: Awesome goal man. Let us know which Ironman you're running and keep us posted on your training progress!
RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
John: Love the Mizuno Wave Inspires. The 2008 model is the most comfy running shoe I've ever had.
RD: Hope you bought 8 pairs back in 2008. LOL! Seems like when you find your favorite shoe, Murphy's Law kicks in and they change the model or discontinue it the next year.
RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year?
John: Got to be the 26.2 baby! My new favorite is the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC. It's mostly trail with about 6 miles on the roads.
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: I talk non-runners into getting out there all the time, and it always makes me smile. Most people don't think they can do it. I used to be one of them. Now I know that there will also come a day when I can't do this anymore. But today is not that day.
RD: Hey John, I know runners in their 80s still running 5Ks, 10Ks and even marathons. Heck the oldest person in the very first marathon I ran (NYC) back on '97 was 95!! He ran a 5.5hr marathon. So, you've got quite a few miles left in you yet!

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
John: Set goals for yourself that are so high you don't think you can actually reach them. Then when you nail it, the goal becomes even more special. I did not expect a 33 minute PR at my last marathon even though that was the stated goal. Then I got it. Sweet! My next mountain to climb is a Full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run - all in one day). It seems like torture and is completely unattainable for most people. That's why I want to do one. If you reach for something higher than you think you can grasp, you might just surprise yourself.
Thanks John! You certainly are an inspiration! We look forward to hearing the recap of next year's Ironman experience!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Confused Then Amused

Today I attended a seminar on supplemental training to use when coaching triathletes. The seminar was divided into three parts Yoga, Core/Strength Training, and Running Drills. The sessions were great, especially the yoga session presented by Sage Rountree. But, the last part of the seminar that focused on running left me a little confused at first and then a little amused.

Remember the high waisted jeans with the tight ankles, poofy legs, and zippered pockets of the late 80's and early 90's? Then not long after, the waist seemed to drop below the naughty level for girls while entire boxer-clad bottoms began appearing on the boy's side. I'll never forget the time my little girl told me she saw her teacher's thong when she bent over! I'm hoping that since the older guy that auditioned on American Idol sang his "Pants on the ground. Pants on the ground. Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground." that maybe the tide will turn and maybe just maybe the new fad will be to wear your pants on your hips.

That little rant was to make the point that things come and go. That's kind of the feeling I was getting during the last part of the seminar today. The running instructor was trying to tell us that the newer forms of running (Chi Running, the POSE method, barefoot running, or any method that had "regular runners" trying to run with shorter strides and a mid- to forefoot strike) weren't for everyone and might do more harm than good. He continued to explain that the shorter stride and mid- to forefoot strike was really only accomplished by the fastest elite runners.

At first I was confused, because what I was hearing was contrary to all my recent learning. Then I was amused. Personally, I think the instructor just doesn't like the newer techniques. He seemed a little old school. Don't get me wrong. I respect "old school." But, I believe there's room for newer schools of thought too. I had to dig deep, but what I was eventually able to take away from his session was "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Now that I can relate to. I'm of the belief that if you like something and it works for you and you're not having injury after injury, then go with it. Some of the best runners (Joan Benoit, Bill Rogers, Paula Radcliffe) have unconventional running gaits. Joan Benoit actually has a forefoot landing on one foot and heel strikes on the other. Go figure. Should someone have tried to "fix" her gait? Why? It worked for her and she's a living running legend!

If barefoot or minimalist-shoe running works for you, heck, then break out those tootsies and hit the road. If shorter strides and forefoot landings work for you, then get those legs of yours spinning like the Roadrunner (Beep! Beep!) and make some dust! If running with a 50lb log on your back is your thing (yes, there's a guy that runs like that in my town), then by all means be the best Brawny Man you can be.

The thing to keep in mind is, "Is my method working?" If you have a really long stride and you heel strike, and you're having a lot of heel or lower leg problems, then you probably need to shorten your stride, or try more of a mid foot plant, or try a different shoe or no shoes. If a shorter stride is causing calf issues, then try lengthening your stride a tad. If that 50lb log is causing back problems, ditch the log. We're all different. What works for one may not work for another. Sometimes it takes trial-and-error to find what works best for you.

My buddy Josh, had chronic ITB problems. He finally ditched the shoes and became a barefoot runner and hasn't had that injury since (almost frostbitten toes, yes. ITB problems, no).