Sunday, August 29, 2010

Upper-Body Workout for Runners

Friday's post talked about the importance of a strong upper body for runners, especially as we age. The post gave a workout for the core and today I have a workout for the upper-body (arms, chest, and back).

As a runner, the focus of the upper-body workout should be to gain muscular endurance. So, go with lighter weights and higher repetitions. 10lbs to 15lbs dumbbells are sufficient for this workout. You can also use light or medium resistance bands or resistance tubes instead of dumbbells.

The workout consists of a 7-exercise circuit. Do each exercise (10-15 reps) one right after the other without taking a break. Once you've completed all 7 exercises, take a 1- to 2-minute rest; then repeat the circuit a second time. If you're new to upper-body exercises, then begin with 10 repetitions. Each day add an additional rep until you get to 15 repetitions. Also, if upper-body exercise is new to you, begin with one cycle of the circuit for the first week. During Week 2, complete two cycles of the circuit. If you're advanced, try three cycles of the circuit.

It's fine to pair the upper-body circuit with the core workout on the same day. Try doing the core workout in the morning and the upper-body circuit in the evening. You can also rotate days. For example you could do the upper-body workout on M,W,F and do the core workout on T,TH,S. The great thing about circuit workouts is that they're quick. You'll have a strong core and upper body before you know it and you'll start to see the benefits in your long runs too!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Simulation Run

There's a run goin' on right here
A simulation to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your runnin' shoes too
We gonna simulate your run with you

Come on now
Let's all simulate and have a good run
We gonna simulate and have a good run

It's time to run together
It's up to you, what's your pleasure
Everyone around the world

Come on!

Okay, okay, I'll stop. Ever get a song stuck in your head and you can't get it out? Well today I heard Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" and I've been humming it all day. That song was new when I got my license as a teenager. Yes, it was probably even on an 8-track tape. LOL! I can still see me now toolin' around in my Mom's '76 Dodge Colt. Man that must have been some sight. I was either playing Kool & The Gang or John Denver cause they were the only two tapes I had. Don't laugh. So, I had a diverse array of music in my little "play list." It was better than the AM radio in the car. Ha!

Since I had this song stuck in my head, I decided to put it to good use. You probably noticed that I changed a few words. "We gonna simulate and have a good run." Simulation runs are one of the best tools a runner can have in his/her half-marathon or marathon training plan Simulation runs can take two forms. Both are great.

The first type of simulation is a Race Pace Simulation. If your long runs are long and slow, your intervals are ultra speedy, and your tempo runs are close to a 10K pace, when does your body get experience running at race pace? It usually falls somewhere in between all those other paces. Those different workouts will definitely prepare you to handle your race pace for the endurance run, but if you haven't practiced running at that pace or simulated running at race pace, then it may be hard for you to quickly get to your race pace and maintain it consistently on race day.

There are a couple of different ways to do a race pace simulation run. One way would be to take a regularly scheduled tempo run and instead of running the faster tempo pace, run your race pace. So for a 6-mile tempo run, do a one-mile warm-up 4 miles at race pace, then end with a slower one-mile cool-down. Another way to do a race pace simulation run is to take one of your regularly scheduled long runs and do the first half at your normal long run easy slow pace and then do the second half of the run at race pace. Doing the faster portion of the run in the later half is particularly good, because it helps train your body to know how to "pick-it-up" later in the run.

The second type of simulation run is a Race Course Simulation Run. If you live near the actual race course, the best thing to do is skip the simulation and actually run the course or parts of the course for some of your training runs. If you don't live near the race site, no worries, do what you can to simulate the course. Go to the race website and check the race description. Some sites (especially marathons) will give a mile-by-mile description of the course. Then check to see if there is an elevation map. Here you can see the number of uphills and downhills that are in the race as well as their degree of incline and decline. Now you won't be able to replicate the race course entirely, but do what you can to find a route in your area with a similar elevation. Also, if the race is entirely on concrete, it may be a good idea to do a run or two on concrete. If the race has sections of hard-packed dirt, try to find a local route with a similar surface.

Basically, with the race course simulation run, you're tying to expose your body to all the topographical conditions possible. Now if you live in a flat area of the country and your race is in San Francisco, you may be hard-pressed to find a similar route. That's when a treadmill might just be your best friend. You can easily replicate the hills at the particular mileage points on the course while on the treadmill.

The simulation runs (pace or course) don't need to be the entire length of the race. They should, however, be a fairly good distance so your body and mind will be able to benefit from the runs.
So, get out there....simulate and have a good run!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Running Strong As You Age

I hear it all the time...."I'm just not running like I used to." It's a given. We all age and as we age the activities we do may change and the ones we stick with doing may not have the same intensity as they once did, but there's a lot that one can do to keep that intensity alive as long as possible. Actually a lot longer than you might think.

I'm 45 and silly me thought that as I got older, the competition would begin to wane. Oh contraire! The exact opposite is happening. I used to place in the top three in my age group quite frequently at local races, but that's getting harder and harder to do. Once I moved into the 45-49-year-old bracket, the competition got a lot tougher. There are a lot of fast runners in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

What's the key? Well, the other day, a client of mine mentioned how surprised he was to learn how muscle-specific different sports can be. He's a runner in his 50s and he's a really good runner. He's coming to me to improve his upper body and core strength and endurance. He is right, different sports can be pretty muscle-specific. It's not until you try a different sport or do some general fitness training that your realize maybe you're not in as good a shape (overall) as you thought.

Soccer is probably one of the best sports for full-body conditioning. You're using just about every muscle in your body as well as moving your body through the three different planes of movement--frontal (lateral movements), sagittal (forward movment like running), and transverse (rotation and twisting). It also involves a great deal of cardio from the constant moving around and running involved in the sport.

Runners tend to think it's all about their lungs and their legs and while those are major aspects of running, that's not all there is to running. A strong core and upper body is also needed to ensure powerful movement in the legs and in maintaining good running form. Youngsters in their 20s and early 30s tend to be involved in multiple activities--golf, tennis, soccer, softball, Frisbee football, volleyball, working out at the gym, etc. Because of this variety of activity, the upper body gets a good workout without the individual realizing they're strengtheing their upper body and core. Then somewhere in our late 30s, 40s and 50s, due to work, family, just life in general, many of the activities fall by the wayside. Somehow many manage to hang-on to running. Maybe it's because we can fit it in whenever. Maybe it keeps us sane. Maybe it's because it's cheap. But, over the years, that core and upper body fitness begin to wane. Don't use it; you lose it. Probably wasn't that obvious because as runners we tend to be lean. But lean doesn't always mean fit.

A runner needs muscular endurance in the upper body and core just as much as in their legs. You're swinging your arms just as much as your legs are moving forward. There's no resistance to your arm movement other than some air, but they're still moving. If your upper body doesn't have muscular endurance then a domino effect can begin to happen. First the arms fatigue causing you to round your shoulders and slump. This puts more stress on your core. If your core is not strong, then it will begin to fatigue as well, causing even further decline of your running form. By now your legs are taking the full brunt of the domino effect. Not only has the core stopped providing a strong support and power system for the legs, now the legs are having to deal with poor running form and soon fatigue will consume the legs as well. What's that I see? Could it be? Yep! The dreaded WALL! You're about to smack right into it.

Not only can you hit that dreaded wall, you can begin to suffer from injuries like calf pulls or strains, issues with your Achilles heel, IT band problems, pulled hamstrings, muscle cramps...the list goes on. Sound familiar? Are you beginning to have issues in your legs that you never experienced when you were younger? Could be specific to your legs, but it could very well be related to something higher up--a weak core and/or upper body.

So, what's an older runner to do? Invest a little money in an exercise mat, a medicine ball (or a set of dumbbells or weight plates) and work that core! Whatever the resistance form you choose, it doesn't need to be very heavy. An 8lbs, 10lbs, or 12lbs medball will do fine. 10lb, 15lb, or 20lb dumbbells will work nicely too. Use the core workout and your new toys to work that core. If you don't have a medball most of the exercises can be done with just body weight, a dumbbell, or a weight plate). Do the workout 2 or 3 times a week and you'll be well on your way to a much stronger mid-section. Check back in with the blog on Sunday for an upper body workout for runners.

Note: Remember, if you have any upper-body health-related issue or this is the first time you've attempted an upper body workout, it's recommended that you check in with your doctor first to get his/her approval.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ask The Author Contest: Matt Fitzgerald

Recently, I reviewed the new book Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel by Matt Fitzgerald (2010, VeloPress). The main gist of the book is learning how to trust your instincts when running. This book taught me a lot about the importance of tuning into your body and really listening to what it's telling you.
I'm a planner and a scheduler, so I doubt I'll give up my training plans, but the book helped me view my training plains more as a guide rather than the law. It also helped me not feel so bad when I do less or more than my schedule dictates, if it's based on what my body's telling me I can handle.
Matt has generously agreed to participate in a RunnerDude's Blog Ask the Author Contest. For the next week (8/22 - 8/29), email your questions related to the book, Matt's ideas on the whole idea of the mind-body method and running by feel, or just on running/training in general to Be sure to put "Ask the Author" in your email's subject line. Also, be sure to include your full name along with your question. All of the submitted questions will be forwarded to Matt. The submitters of the five best questions (selected by Matt) will receive a free copy of Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel!

The winning questions will be featured on the blog with Matt's responses!

So, don't delay! Send me your question! Don't forget, the deadline is Sunday, August 29th!

Thanks Matt!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ankle Strengthening Workout for Runners

A sprained ankle is no fun for anyone, but especially a runner. Sprains usually take a while to heal and runners just don't like staying away from the run that long.
A sprained ankle usually coincides with a sudden sideways or twisting movement of the foot. Often sprained ankles are associated with sporting events, but they all too frequently occur during everyday activities. We're all just an awkward step or an uneven surface away from a Sprain.

Did you know there's a rating scale for the severity of ankle sprains? The scale is based on the types of symptoms you're experiencing and the severity of the injury to the ligament in the ankle.
  • Grade 1 Ankle Sprain: This basic type of sprain stretches the ligament beyond it's normal state. The symptoms tend to be limited to pain and swelling. You can usually walk without assistance, but running or jumping may be difficult.
  • Grade 2 Ankle Sprain: This sprain is caused by more severe partial tearing of the ligament. The swelling and bruising is typically worse than that of a Grade 1 Sprain. You may be able to walk a few steps unassisted, but it's pretty painful.
  • Grade 3 Ankle Sprain: This sprain occurs when there's complete tearing of the ligaments. The ankle is very painful and walking is usually very difficult. Your ankle feels very unstable as if it may "give-way."

A Grade 1 Sprain, will usually subside and heal with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), but if you exhibit the following symptoms, a trip to the doc it probably warranted.
· Not able to walk on your ankle
· Severe swelling
· Symptoms linger beyond a couple of days
· Experiencing pain in other areas than the ankle such as the foot or above the ankle

Sometimes the symptoms of a Grade 3 Ankle Sprain and those of an ankle fracture can be hard to tell apart without an X-ray, so when in doubt, see your doc.

So, what's a runner to do? Well, the best case scenario is to avoid ankle sprains all together and the best way to do that is to strengthen your ankles. The following video clip will take you through four simple exercises using an exercise resistance band that will help you strengthen all the small stabilizer muscles around the ankle area. The exercises will also help promote more flexibility in your ankles. Think of these exercises as "Pre-hab" to help prevent injury and avoid having to to "Re-hab" exercises.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Benefits of Running As You Age? You Bet!

Well, my oldest child turned 19 this past weekend and I'm feeling kind of old. Of course my three kids (10, 15, and 19) consistently remind me that I'll be half a century in 5 years. LOL! Kids gotta love em, right? The other day, my son (who is now taller than me) was counting the gray hairs sprouting on top of my head. I believe there are at least 19 (one for each year of his life). These white hairs all seem to be clumped on the crown of my head, just out of reach to easily pluck (believe me I've tried).

The other day I was getting my hair cut and the lady cutting my hair, said in a high-pitched voice, "Oh look everyone! An Angel Lick!" For a second I thought this lady had gone loopy and had see an angel figure in the hair that had fallen on the floor or something and wanted to take a picture of it to sell on eBay. But no, she was referring to the white hairs on the top of my head. She said when they clumped like that, it's called an "Angel Lick." Lucky me. Most people have a guardian angel. I just get licked by one.

Well, I may be getting older, I guess we all are, but I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. I'm definitely more fit than when I was in my 20s. I think it has to do with running. You know, people are spending thousands of dollars on Human Growth Hormone injections because that's supposed to be the new fountain of youth. And, research has shown that HGH does help stop cell degeneration and destruction. Have you ever seen that ad with the guy in his 60s or 70s with the body like Arnold? Not sure if that picture's doctored or not, but HGH is what he's supposed to be taking. Well, I don't want a body-builder body when I'm 70, but I do want to stay healthy and fit as I get older.

Guess what! If you're a runner and a runner who does intervals, hill work, or some resistance training, you're actually producing human growth hormone and it's free! Women produce more than men, but along with testosterone, men also produce human growth hormone. Not only does HGH help fight cell degeneration, it also helps counteract the effects of cortisol. If you only run long, slow, steady miles your body can release cortisol which can eat away at your muscle mass. But testosterone and HGH produced through highly intense workouts like intervals, tempo runs, fartleks, hill work, and weight or resistance training helps to counteract the cortisol, keeping your muscle mass intact. Running has a whole host of other benefits too.
People who run tend to...
  • experience less bone and muscle loss as they age
  • have lower blood pressure
  • deal better with stress
  • have a lower risk of stroke, breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and heart attack
  • have healthier arteries (better elasticity)
  • have stronger immune systems
  • have better weight management
  • have good coordination and stability (which can help to prevent falls later in life)
  • have more endurance and stamina
  • have better mental acuity
  • be more confident in their everyday lives
And, it's not too late! Just because you're in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s or beyond, doesn't mean it's too late to take up running. If you haven't exercised for some time, you'll need to get your doctor's clearance and approval, but after that you're good to go. Find a running club or a beginning running group in your area (In Greensboro, NC give me a call or check out the website.) Being in a supportive group when you take up running for the first time can make a big difference in your success. Doesn't have to be a formal training group. It can just be a group of your friends.
No matter the method you adopt, start out slowly maybe with a walk/run format. Walking more at first and then gradually adding in some short runs. Eventually you'll be running more than walking and before you know it you'll be running a 5K or something! I read all the time about individuals who took up running for the first time in their 50s or 60s and are now running marathons in their 70s! Take Grannie Annie (Ann Singer) for example. At age 50, overweight, under exercised, and wondering what she was going to do with the second half of her life until age 100, she decided to start walking. It wasn't long before she took up running. By age 65 she had run at least one marathon in each of the 50 states! In total she's run over 70 marathons! Ann may be the exception, but she sure is motivation to keep active. Go Annie!

Okay, I've talked myself out of feeling old. I'm 45 and I've run 10 marathons and in training for my 11th. I've run dozens of 5K, 10Ks, half-marathons and other race distances and I plan on living to 100 like Annie, so , Wow! I'm just a babe in the woods with my running.

I do have to admit that the 19 years of my son growing up just flew by. No more tying up the hallway with an entire container of dental floss making a web being Spiderman. No more making a maze of connect-the-dots on the kitchen floor with a permanent marker. No more painting the backyard fence with a rainbow assortment of enamel paints just to see what it would look like. No more digging a hole in the side yard and covering it with leaves to "catch a deer" only to catch his uncle instead. No more telling his little sister that she was adopted (which she wasn't).

Oh, I'm sure there's more adventure on the horizon for the next 55 years, right?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Hills Are Alive!

The hills are alive,
With the sound of footsteps
With grunts they have born for a thousand years

The hills fill my ears,
With the groans of runners
My gut wants to puke
Every step I take
My heart wants to beat
Like in spastic shock
As I lie on the ground looking up to the trees

My lungs give a sigh
As they wheeze and collapse
From the torture they've endured

Okay, Okay, I'll stop. I'm guessing you know what I'm talking about. And no it's not the Von Trapp Family singers. Although, you know, Julie Andrews did do an awful lot or running with that brood of kids she tended. I'm thinking they probably were there first to wear team uniforms. I'm thinking that curtain fabric didn't' have much on today's techno-fabrics though. But I digress.... the point of this post is to talk about hills.

When you mention speed workouts, things like intervals, repeats, fartleks, Kenyan Out-and-backs, and tempo runs come to mind for many runners. But hill workouts are often overlooked by the average runner. Now this could be on purpose. You know, kind of like when Maria chose to have the kids sing even after the Captain strictly forbid music in the house. Sometimes, like in the case of Maria, it's for the good and then other times it's more of an avoidance which can be more for the bad. Many runners avoid hills because, well dang-it, they're tough. They make you sweat. Your heart races. You feel like you're going to pass out. And you ache all over. Man, those symptoms could be for either someone in love or someone with the flu.'s time we stop avoiding such a great workout. I read in Matt Fitzgerald's book, Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running By Feel, about famous distance runner, Haile Gebrselassie's (aka: Geb) favorite workout. It happens to be a hill workout. Well in this case, it's actually a Mountain workout. Let me clarify a bit's a 90-minute run straight up Entoto Mountain. He says he likes it because it's his toughest workout. He also likes it because once he gets to the top, he loves the feeling of accomplishment that he's conquered the mountain.

Well, you don't have to go to Africa and run a mountain to get in some good hill workouts. A moderate hill with just a 5-7% incline will do nicely. Doesn't have to be long either—100m, 200m, 400m, any length will do.

Okay, Geb's story may have motivated you just a little and you may be pondering where the hills are in your neighborhood by now, but you may still be wondering why you should subject yourself to such a hard workout. Well, hill work provides a whole bunch of benefits (almost as many as there are Von Trap kids).
  • Help increase your VO2Max (how well your body takes in and utilizes oxygen)
  • Strengthens your calf muscles which help propel you forward
  • Increases your power and speed
  • Helps increase endurance (especially longer hills like Geb's mountain)
  • Can help increase your stride or foot turnover
  • Helps improve arm movement which is key in helping drive you forward develops maximum
So how do you do a hill workout? Well, there are very formal workouts that you can research and follow, but it really doesn't have to be that complicated for us Maria's of the running world. Typically shorter distance runners stick with short hills (something up to 100m) and distance runners may run hills that are 100m, 200m, 400m or longer. But you know, if you're a distance runner and the only hill near you is 50m, you can still get in a good workout.

The hills don't have to be very steep either. A modest grade of 5-7% is good. You should be able to carry out a fairly normal stride when running the hill. You'll exert more energy, but it shouldn't be so steep that you look like you're doing the Olympic ski jump. Find a moderate hill with a distance that will allow about a 30sec+ run.

So find a good hill and run up it. That's pretty much it. Well, okay, run up it more than once. Well actually run up it about 6-10 times. Start small and over time, work your way up to the higher number of repeats. Basically, treat the workout like an interval workout at the track. Kind of like a 6x200m. Run the hill at a brisk pace (depending on the grade of the hill, your 5K or 10K pace). Then walk or jog back down the hill and repeat. If you're running a long hill try running uphill for 30secs, and then walk down for 30 secs, then run up for 30 secs, then down again for 30 secs. Gradually you'll make your way up to the top of the hill covering the entire length of the hill.

Don't limit yourself to just running one hill either. If you live in an area with hills, plan one of your hill workouts to be a continuous run that's along a route with numerous hills of different grades. There's a park near my neighborhood that has a 1.5-mile loop around a small lake and half of the route is very hilly. Two or three loops around the lake makes for a great hill-run.

Don't have any hills where you live? Then hop on a treadmill and set the incline to 5-7% and run for 30 secs then reduce the grade to 1% and walk or jog for 30secs and then repeat for 6-10 times. Ta dah! Hill work!

So, get out and run some hills! Make those hills come alive with the sound of footsteps!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Running By Feel

I love to read. Anything—fiction, nonfiction—doesn't matter. And you can probably guess that running books (yes, fiction and nonfiction) are frequent reads of mine. Just check out the Book Reviews page on the blog and you'll see some of my favorites. Not every running book do I completely agree with, but in every book, I take away something (be it a nugget or a huge clump) that I can use to better my own running or the running of my clients.

Recently, a friend of mine at VeloPress, asked me to read one of their newest titles—Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, by Matt Fitzgerald. I've read several of Matt's books, including Brain Training For Runners. If you've read Brain Training for Runners, you may be wondering how Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel may differ. The titles do seem similar.
As with most everything, evolving science and research continues to shed new light on theories about running. In the Preface of Run, Matt explains how he feels Brain Training was somewhat of a rough draft for Run. He goes on to say, "I have a good feeling that the philosophy that is manifest here is one I will hold on to as I continue my pursuit as a student of the sport of running."
He's not worried in the least that some of what he writes in Run may contradict information shared in previous books because that means the sport is evolving and growing as we learn more and more about the sport.

Matt shares that the core of Brain Training (the idea that the brain is the seat of all our possibilities and limitations as runners) remains unchanged. Run goes further utilizing newer research that shows we don't have to be "brain scientists to harness this power and become better runners." Through the book, Matt shows us how one can improve his/her running by feel. He explains how our perceptions, intuitions, and feelings coming to our conscious minds from our unconscious brains tells us all that we need to know abut how to run faster and farther. The key is knowing how to read the messages.

One of the most enlightening parts of the book (for me) is shared at the very beginning of the book. Matt talks about the great Ethiopian distance runner Haile Gebrselassie, lovingly known by running fans around the world as Geb. I won't ruin the experience by sharing all the details, but just learning a little about how Geb trains and actually how most African runners train verses, how western runners train, is extremely interesting.

The main gist of the book is learning how to trust your instincts when running. This book may be hard for some runners to tackle, especially if they're looking for a plan. Run, won't provide exactly what to do on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. It won't tell you whether to do fartleks, intervals, hillwork, easy runs, or long runs. But what the book does do is help you learn how to listen to your body and how to enjoy running more, even if it hurts.
This enjoyment or love for the run even when it's tough is key in fighting off fatigue. One of Geb's favorite workouts is his toughest—hill training. He says it's his favorite because 'it's the one that gives you a lot of problems. Pain. Breathing too much. Struggling too much." He goes on to say that he doesn't enjoy it during the workout, but after he finishes it, he enjoys the confidence the workout has given him. Notice he doesn't talk about VO2Max, or using energy systems more efficiently. He just loves knowing that he can do it. He's then able to apply that confidence in other areas of his running.

Run is divided into three parts—Learning to Listen, Mastering the Practice of Mind-Body Running, and The Finer Points of the Mind-Body Method. A multitude of research and information is shared throughout the book, but Matt does a great job of meshing the research with anecdotal evidence making the book very readable.

Hey, maybe that voice in your head isn't you going bonkers from too much training. Maybe it's your brain trying to tell you something. Whether you're a newbie or a master runner, if you want to improve your running, learn more about yourself and your body, and possibly maximize your running potential, I highly recommend you pick up a copy and read Run.
Note: Although I was provided with a copy of Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, I was in no way encourage to write a positive review, nor did I receive any compensation for writing this review. This review is based on my own experience reading the book.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Motivation on the Run and a Place for Your Key Too!

Do you have a mantra that keeps you going from day to day or maybe that inspires you on those long runs or tough interval workouts? Mine is "No fear. Persevere!" I know, kind of hokie, but it works for me. For other runners, thinking of an individual may be their inspiration. Maybe they're running in support of a sick friend or loved one. Or, maybe they're running for an absolute stranger as a part of a fundraising group such as Team In Training.

Doesn't really matter the cause, but having a mantra or a person that you're running for can be a great inspiration. Sometimes that inspiration can be even greater on those tough runs than a Gu packet.

A blog reader, put me in contact with a friend of hers (Ryan Bennett) who has created a cool new product that will help you spread the word about a cause or just help keep you inspired and motivated while your training or running that big race.

Ryan has created Heart on My Arm. Ryan says that Heart on My Arm was created to help people stay motivated while training and performing in athletic events and fundraising activities. Our core belief is that the people we love and are inspired by can help us achieve accomplishments we might have once thought impossible.

What is Heart on My Arm? It's a unique arm band with a zippered pocket and a clear plastic sleeve in which you can insert a photo or your running mantra. Or if you're a running group, you could put the logo for your group or your group's mantra. I've also found it useful for training. I stick my pacing chart in the plastic pocket so I can see my pace times on my long runs. The plastic keeps it protected and dry. Here's some other reasons Ryan says Heart on My Arm is unique:
  • Capture your motivation in a picture or quote
  • Zipper pocket holds your mp3 player, keys and other items
  • Ideal for everyday training and use
  • lightweight fabric keeps you cool and comfortable
  • Throw it in the washer, air dry, and it's good to go
  • Two Sizes to fit every arm
  • Customized armbands available for groups and teams
The bands come in two sizes (small and large). I tested both. I have a pretty small forearm for a guy and I found the small a little snug. The large size seemed to work better for me.

Heart on My Arm makes a great treat for the runner in the family or for the members of your running group. The inspiration aspects of the band are awesome, but one of the reasons I like the band is a very practical one--it provides a great place to put my car key!
Be sure to check out Heart on my Arm at their website and tell them that RunnerDude sent you. At the website you can share your story of how you used the arm band to motivate you on your runs.

Happy Running!

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Healthy Energy Bar That Tastes Good?

I've posted numerous times on the importance of fueling your runs and refueling after a workout. Your body needs quality energy to support your training, especially on those tough long runs or those speed workouts. And it's just as important to refuel to help support and ensure fast muscle recovery.

There are a ton of sports nutrition foods on the market. Like most anything, there's quality and then there's junk. Some sports bars are mainly glorified candy bars (full of fat and sugar), while others may be healthy but taste like cardboard. If you're like me and been running for any length of time (over 25 years, man I'm feeling old), then I'm sure you've tried them all. And if you're a connoisseur of sports nutrition, you've probably honed in one or two brands of that you prefer. If you're like me, once you've found something that you like and that works for you, you're hard-up to change.

The other day, I was contacted by Erin DeMarines. Erin is a competitive triathlete, certified nutritional consultant, certified sports nutritional consultant, certified personal trainer, and fitness model. Erin's also the founder of E-Fit Foods, Inc. and the creator of 3BAR. 3BAR has grown to become a leading energy bar of triathletes and people seeking a "clean, natural, low sugar, wheat and gluten free, and vegan energy bar.

Okay, I can hear the wheels screeching to a halt. I know, I heard all those "healthy" terms—clean, natural, vegan—and you're thinking two things....flower child and cardboard. I know, I know. But there's one thing I learned in my 45 years—most anything is worth trying once. You miss out on a lot of good eating, fun, and life if you're not open to trying new things. So, when Erin asked if I would like to test out 3BAR, I said, "Why sure!"

I received three different flavors of bars to try—Blueberry Blast, Tropical Tri, and Cocoa Crunch. The flavors sounded good. First thing I do when I try out a new energy bar is read the label. First thing I read was "vegan, kosher, wheat free, dairy free, gluten free, trans-fat free, cholesterol-free, GMO free , all natural....... my initial response to that was, "Healthy." My second response was, "Ut oh....cardboard nightmare!" But the last descriptor said, "Great Taste!" So, I held out some hope.

Before digging into a bar, I decided to read a little more about how the bars came to be. Come to find out Erin based the recipe off of a cookie recipe from her grandmother. She tweaked and refined it while making it for her personal training clients. The demand from clients grew until eventually 3BAR was born. Well, anything that begins with a grandma, has to be good. Right?

I received 6 bars (2 of each flavor—Blueberry Blast, Tropical Tri, and Cocoa Crunch). I'm currently in training for the Marine Corps Marathon as well as running with my groups I'm coaching, so nutrition and fueling is really important. Plus the North Carolina heat and humidity is really zapping me of my energy. Three times I ate a bar before a long run and three times I used the bars for refueling after an intense workout.

I'm happy to report the bars worked well in both situations. Before the run, it gave me what I needed for the long-haul without making me feel too full nor did it give me stomach issues on the run. When I ate them afterwards, they were easily and quickly digested and really seemed to help in my post run recovery.

The best thing is that even though the bars are free of just about everything, they are pretty dang tasty. My favorite flavors are the Tropical Tri and the Cocoa Crunch. Nothing wrong with the Blueberry Blast either, I'm just more of a chocolate and nut guy. The Cocoa Crunch has chocolate and peanut butter and the Tropical Tri has almond butter, chocolate and coconut.

So, can a bar that's vegan, kosher, wheat free, dairy free, gluten free, trans-fat free, cholesterol-free, GMO free , and all natural taste good? Hell yeah! Give it a try. Check out the website. Also check out this video clip where Erin talks about 3BAR herself.

Note: While I was contacted by Erin DeMarines to test and review samples of 3BAR, I was in no way compensated for the review nor was I encouraged to write a positive review. The review is based soley on my personal experience using the product.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Runner's Palate: Sweet Potatoes & Apples

Last week, I posted on the benefits of the potato as a training food for runners. That post got quite a bit of feedback in support of the spud. Several readers mentioned how much they enjoyed eating sweet potatoes as a training food. One reader, Ashley, described (in a comment she posted) a recipe she makes with sweet potatoes and Granny Smith apples that sounded awesome. So, I asked her to share it with us on the blog. It's simple to make and a great source of Vitamins A and C, Potassium, complex carbs, and fiber. Here's Ashley's recipe:

Sweet Potatoes and Granny Smith Apples

A little background: This recipe evolved from a recipe I found on line. Originally it called for ground mace, butter, and about 3x the brown sugar. I quickly learned that ground mace is not for me, must be a learned taste. So the next time I made it with cinnamon and a tiny bit of cloves. Then I decided to try it without butter, didn't even notice it was missing. Then I decided that the granny smith apples made it sweet enough that I could cut back on the brown sugar as well. This has been a hit with everyone I've made it for. It's easy to prepare and doesn't require exact measurements so it is easy to adjust the amount you want to make. The recipe below makes enough for about 8 servings.

2 Large Sweet Potatoes
2-3 Granny Smith Apples
Brown Sugar
Ground Cinnamon
Ground Cloves

Tools Needed:
Covered baking dish
potato peeler

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1 to 1.5 inch scallops. Place in a pot, cover with water and boil until tender, about 10 mins.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling preheat the oven to 350. Core and dice the apples, leave the skin on the apples.
  3. Once potatoes are tender drain water from the pot.
  4. Place the potatoes in a single layer in the bottom of the baking dish then add a layer of apples.
  5. Take 1 heaping tablespoon of loosely packed brown sugar and sprinkle evenly over the apples.
  6. Sprinkle some cinnamon and cloves over the brown sugar, I use more cinnamon than cloves but you can add according to your own tastes.
  7. If you have more sweet potatoes and apples repeat steps 4-6.
  8. Cover and bake for 40 to 50 minutes until apples are soft.

Thanks Ashley! I made this over the weekend and it tastes great! Be sure to check out Ashley's website Adventures Of Running Mom.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Runner of the Week: David

This week's Runner of the Week is David Pittman. David has a great blog of his own and has a great story to tell about his own running milestones as well as the various reasons for his running. Read on to learn more about David.

RD: So, David, where are you from?
David: Originally from Central Indiana farmland (about 20 miles northwest of Indianapolis), now living in suburban Chicago

RD: Share a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? Hobbies?
David: My first job was as a high school English and journalism teacher, which is where my love for writing and telling stories originates, but for the last 21 years, I’ve been in high-tech marketing. Until this year, I worked mostly for small companies, but in February my 350-person company was acquired by 450,000-person IBM. I’m now part of “Big Blue”!

RD: How long have you been running?
David: Wow, it’ll be 36 years this fall. When did I get to be so old?!
RD: You and be both man! Been over 25 for me. Where did all that time go (or miles) go?

RD: What got you into running?
David: One day, my 7th grade basketball coach pulled me aside and said, “Son, as a basketball player, you’d make one heckuva runner.” At first I thought he was complimenting my fast-break abilities (I could fly!), but then I realized he was telling me I really wasn’t very good.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running?
David: Oh my, where to start? My health and well-being are important to me, and running keeps me fit and reasonably stress-free. I have an enormous sweet tooth - running keeps me from ballooning to the size of a VW Beetle.
But what I enjoy most about running is the fact that I, like any other runner, can make a positive difference to other people. For the past eight years, I’ve run with the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation team of runners and triathletes. In that time, I’ve raised over $45,000 to fight cancer. I originally joined the DetermiNation team as a way of dealing with my sister’s cancer having come out of remission. I knew I couldn’t cure Sharon's cancer myself, but I could provide funds that would help someone get to a treatment, or help a family cope with the stress of being care-givers, or help a researcher who might one day find a cure. [Click here] for more on this story. By the way, everybody always asks about my sister. She has once again kicked cancer into remission and is doing very well.

RD: What are your favorite training foods?
David: I’m not obsessive about any particular food. When I’m in the heavy training time for a marathon, my body just sort of naturally craves food that’s good for me -- fruits, veggies, yogurt -- and let's me know it doesn't appreciate my one true love: french fries. However, I do love me a good ribeye now and then!
Before a race, any race, I eat a bagel with peanut butter (crunchy, by the way. I don’t even like to acknowledge the existence of “creamy”). After weekend morning runs, I love pancakes! Actually, to be more precise, I love pure maple syrup. Pancakes are just a very efficient and tasty syrup-delivery system.
RD: You and my wife have the cruncy peanut butter thing in common. I don't get it. LOL!

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
David: I run most of my training miles by myself. My time running is when I solve the problems that seem insurmountable any other time, whether that’s how to meet a pressing deadline at work, or how to raise a teenage daughter, or how to convince my wife that I really need to go away for a long weekend in the Florida Keys to run a relay race with 5 other guys.
When it's time to race, I really enjoy participating with friends and family. Several people in my extended family are runners: a brother-in-law, a niece and two nephews on my wife’s side, and two nephews on my side. We’re spread across four states, but we get together frequently at races, either to run with one another or to cheer on one or more of the others. We’re all very competitive and enjoy the occasional side bet on which of us will do best. Bragging rights can last a loooooong time.
RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
David: I've had some good ones over the years, and most of them involve peeing.
Pee Story #1: Earlier this year, I had the honor(?) of running the Seven Mile Bridge leg of the Keys100 relay. This famous bridge is a two-lane road that is the only link between the keys and the Florida mainland. My relay leg started just after noon on a blisteringly hot, humid day. I had a 24-ounce bottle of water on my belt and carried another 24 ounce bottle in my hand. By the time I'd reached halfway across the bridge, I'd finished one bottle and had to pee ... badly! The end of the bridge was still about 30 minutes away. There I was, at the top of a bridge, with cars whizzing by in both directions -- and me peeing over the side.
Pee story #2: A couple of years ago I was preparing to run the local 4th of July 5K that I do every year. I had jogged a nice warm up then slammed a few cups of water. I glanced at my watch and saw there were 6 minutes till start time, so I sprinted over to a vacant port-o-let for one last squirt. When I was about halfway through, I heard the report of the starter's pistol. My watch said there were still 4 minutes to the gun! I finished as quickly as I could, then flew out the door and across the parkway just in time to be the very ... last ... person ... to ... start.
RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
David: Without question, my biggest running accomplishment was recording a 3:28:42 at the 2009 Chicago Marathon. Why, because that broke the 3:30 time I needed to qualify for the Boston Marathon! I used to be a middle-of-the-pack guy. (In fact, of my 8 marathons, exactly half are over 4 hours.) Until 2008, I never thought I would ever have a chance of qualifying for Boston. But in 2005, I had surgery to repair an ACL I tore playing volleyball. I worked hard at rehab for a year, then ran the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon ... and finished in a very disappointing time.
After that, I “retired” from marathons and focused on half-marathons. Whaddya know, I started getting faster. And faster. In December 2008, I ran 1:35:13 at the St. Jude’s Half Marathon in Memphis, beating my previous personal record by 8 minutes! At that point I thought, “Hey, if you continue to work hard, you can go to Boston!” For the next 10 months, my mantra was, “Three twenty-eight will be great.” When I crossed the finish line at Chicago and saw 3:28:42 on my watch ... wow, I can’t even describe how amazingly fantastic that felt. [Click here] for my race report.

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
David: For two years, I’ve been “playing the field.” Right now I’m alternating between Asics 2150, Saucony ProGrid Omni and Mizuno Wave Inspire. My next pair is likely to be Saucony Kinvaras, but I am strongly considering going “barefoot” with Vibram FiveFingers KSO or Bikila.

RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year?
David: For sheer enjoyment, I’m really into half marathons right now. They’re easy enough to train for without huge miles, but they’re also challenging. They also give you enough time and distance to enjoy a city. In the past seven months, I’ve run halfs in Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana and Washington. My “go to” half is the Indy Mini Marathon. It’s the largest half marathon in the country; it’s back in my old stamping grounds; and it is, in my opinion, the best organized large race in the country. But for the ultimate feeling of accomplishment, give me a marathon. And for a marathon I would love to do every year, take me to Boston!

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?
David: You can do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, large, small, blind, have one leg or no legs. You can do it. IF ... you want to.Oh, and by the way, the feelings of self-confidence and accomplishment you will get from trying are soooo worth it!

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
David: My Twitter name is @DP_Turtle, and people often comment about my "pace" as a turtle. That's funny, and I really enjoy it. But truth is, pace is only 1/3 of the story behind the "turtle" name. Back in 2003, when Sharon's cancer returned and I decided to fight it through running, I came up with a "hook" to gain people's interest. (Hey, I'm in marketing - would you expect anything less?) Thus was born Turtles Against Cancer. The turtle metaphor has a three-pronged meaning:
  1. My pace at the time was just enough to put me smack dab in the middle of the pack. While my speed has improved, I'm still no Meb or Ryan.
  2. I likened the fight against cancer to the parable of the tortoise and the hare. We won't defeat cancer overnight, but slow and steady wins the race.
  3. This is the best part - Sharon makes these delicious chocolate confections called turtles: pecans swimming in caramel and drenched in chocolate. Mmmmm! My big hook is for a donation of at least $50, you get a box of turtles. With Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know whut yur gonna git, but with mine, you always know it's gonna be tasty!
Lastly, people occasionally ask me, "Don't you ever get tired of running?" or "When are you going to stop?" My answers are "No," and "When I die." I really love running. I love those days when I head out for a run by myself on one of my regular routes, then suddenly realize that I don’t quite know where I am. I've drifted so deeply into my thoughts that everything looks different. I love feeling strong and healthy. I love being within single digits of my high school graduating weight.I have two dreams for the future. In one, I'm standing on the starting line of a marathon, and people all around me are whispering "Man, that old guy looks great! I hope I can still run a marathon when I'm his age."
The other dream involves my daughter. Last year, she joined the junior high cross country team. She loved it and is looking forward to this season. When I watch her run, I remember standing on the side of the road at mile 24 of the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon. As I stood there, waiting to cheer on my friends, I saw a beaming young woman in a yellow T-shirt that read, "I'm running with my dad." Alongside her was a man in his 60s, wearing an ear-to-ear smile and a yellow T-shirt, "I'm running with my daughter." In my dream, one day, I'm that dad.

Thanks for sharing your story David! You've given me inspiration that one day, I too will be at Boston! Be sure to check out David's blog!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Great Local 5K in September!

If you live in the Triad, NC area (High Point, Greensboro, Winston Salem), or anywhere for that matter, mark your calendar for September 25th. That's the date of The Lion's Rip Rourin' Run/Walk for Vision & Hearing 5K taking place in Country Park in Greensboro, NC, presented by the Greensboro Lions Club in partnership with Precision Timing Systems.

The 5K "Safari Run" course will take runners around the Country Park Lake loop, continuing on a challenging trail, and then finishing behind the Lewis Recreation Center. The Walk will circle the Country Park Lake loop twice. To register for the race [click here]. If you have questions about the event, contact Joy Reavis at

Created in 1917, the Lions Club is the world’s largest non-profit service organization and provides financial support and services to the visually and hearing impaired. The Greensboro Lions Club supports projects such as NC Eye and Human Tissue Bank, clinical eye research at Duke and Wake Forest, and the Boys and Girls Home at Lake Waccamaw, in addition to providing eyeglasses, financial assistance for eye surgery, and hearing aids to those less fortunate. For more information, including how you can become a member, please visit

DID YOU KNOW that every 7 minutes, someone in the U.S. will become blind or visually-impaired? About 175,000 people in NC are blind or visually impaired and about 28 million Americans have hearing loss and only 1 out of 5 use a hearing aid. You can help by participating in the 2010 Lion’s Rip Roarin’ 5k Race/Walk for Vision & Hearing. Every gift of $100 can help someone less fortunate in our community with—free eyeglasses or hearing aid, or free eye or ear exam.

Before you head to the race, dig around in that junk drawer and BRING YOUR OLD EYEGLASSES to recycle! Look for the Collection Box or give them to a Lions member.