Sunday, May 29, 2011

RunnerDude's Favorite Socks: FEETURES!

Socks are a lot like shoes, everyone has their favorites. Mine happen to be a brand called Feetures! I had my first experience with Feetures! when an online sports clothing company, sent me a few pairs to try. Try I did and I was hooked. There are a couple of rules of thumb when it comes to socks.
  1. Avoid 100% cotton
  2. Choose technical man-made fabrics such as polyester, Lycra, nylon, Coolmax, Dry-Fit and/or a blend of the fabrics. There are also several good natural-fiber fabrics that make good socks such as Smartwool and bamboo.
  3. Wear socks that are close fitting to avoid chafing.
I was immediately impressed with the snugness of the Feetures! socks I had been sent. They were very supportive as well as very effective in keeping my feet dry (and that's no small task). That was about 3 years ago and I've been wearing Feetures! ever since, picking up a new pair here and there.

Just recently I discovered that Feetures! (the company) is literally right in my back yard! Feetures! is a family owned and operated company located in Conover, North Carolina, a community of 7,500 in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains about 1.5hrs west of me. Hugh Gaither founded Feetures! in 2002 after spending 25+ years with a leading manufacturer of athletic socks. He believed that there was an opportunity to create a better performance sock that took advantage of the latest in sock technology. That same spirit of innovation drives Feetures! today. Feetures! continues to harness new technology with the goal of producing the best performance socks in the world.

So why do I like them so much? First, it's the fit. Power bands of Lycra are strategically placed throughout each sock so that they contour to the shape of each person’s foot. This individualized fit delivers the perfect amount of compression so that each sock hugs the foot in a comfortable, supportive way. The result is that the socks stay firmly in place and eliminate movement between the foot and sock that often results in blisters.

Second, Feetures! socks have something called “Perfect Toe” technology that's a trade-marked seam-free toe closure. The “Perfect Toe” is hand-linked so both the inside and outside surface of the sock are completely smooth, eliminating the irritation and discomfort caused by traditional toe seams. As a result, the socks provide protective comfort on those long runs.

Finally, Feetures! are great at wicking moisture from your feet. Feetures! use a variety of technical fibers such as iWick and Durasoft, to create a comfortable moisture-free environment for your feet. These technical fibers constantly work to move moisture away from the skin process, in order to keep feet cool, dry, and odor-free.

I've tried several of the models and really like them all, but my favorites are the original no-show with a tab and the new Elite low cut. The Elite has something called a Sock-Lock support system that works so well, it almost feels like you have no sock on at all!  

So, if you're looking for sock or you're ready for a change, be sure to check out my favorite socks--Feetures!

Note: While Feetures! did provide socks for me to sample I was in no way encouraged or paid to write a positive review. This review reflects my personal experience using the product over the past couple of years.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

RunnerDude's 10 Race-Day Preparation Tips!

Race-day preparation is key to your success on the big day. Here are 10 ways to gear up, get ready, and cross the finish line strong.

1. Enjoy the Taper
For many runners, the decreased running during the taper can be very unnerving. Avoid replacing the runs with lots of cross-training. The taper is designed to allow your body to recuperate, rebuild, and be fresh for race day. Adding in extra cross-training at the last minute can cause your fitness level to dip and actually lessen your race-day potential. Enjoy the taper and focus on getting yourself mentally prepared for the race.

2. Fuel Up
During the last three days before an endurance run such as a marathon, a runner's carbohydrate intake should increase to 70 to 80 percent of his/her total daily caloric intake.
  • Day 1: The first day of the carb-load should consist mainly of complex carbs (i.e., whole grain breads and pasta). By loading up on complex carbs the first day, you have time for them to be processed and voided well before race day.
  • Day 2: Taper off the complex carbs and switch over to simple carbs. Be careful though. Don't load up on tons of fruit and the like, if you're not used to eating lots of fruit. Also avoid loading up on simple carbs that contain a lot of saturated fat (cookies, doughnuts, pastries). The extra fat will slow down digestion and make you feel sluggish. This is the time to eat regular pasta and use white bread for your sandwiches.
  • Day 3: Continue with the simple carbs. Eat your last major meal 12 to 15 hours prior to the race. This meal should be comprised of easily digestible foods that will pass through your system before the race. This is the time for the big plate of regular pasta. Avoid heavy cream sauces and stick with basic marinara sauce.
FYI: Each gram of carbs can store 3 grams of water. So, to make sure you get complete carb storage, drink four to eight glasses of water each day. You may gain a pound or two during this carb-loading phase, but most of this extra weight is water and will actually help keep you well hydrated during the race. Plus, you'll sweat out those extra pounds on the run.

Practice: Eating before a race can be a tricky thing. Test different foods for your carb-loading phase well before race day. Pick one of your longest training runs and pretend it's "race day." Try a mini-carb-loading phase before this run. This will give you the opportunity to see how long different foods take to pass and which ones to avoid because they "hang around" too long.

Note: Diabetics and others with specific health problems should consult with their doctors about the best foods to eat during their carb-loading phase.

3. Hydrate
Hydration can make or break your race. Use the following tips to ensure you're properly hydrated at the starting line.
  • Find out what sports drink will be provided during the race. If you're able, train using the same sports drink provided by the marathon. If your system doesn't tolerate the featured race drink or you'd just prefer to use something different, be sure to plan out how you'll carry or have access to your preferred hydration source. Some options include, wearing a hydration belt or stakeout family members or friends along the course ready to hand you your preferred fluids.
  • Never use the featured sports drink in a marathon if you did not use it in your training. The different brands of sports drinks contain varying amounts of carbs and electrolytes. Some contain other components such as protein. If you've not tried these products during training, you don't want to risk causing stomach issues on race day.
  • Don't over-hydrate. Throughout the day before the race, drink water when you are thirsty, but don't overdo it. Drinking 4-8 oz of water each hour works well. Remember, you'll still be carb-loading on this day. Make sure some of your carb intake includes salty simple carbs like pretzels. Also eat a banana or two for the potassium. This will help ensure that you're not flushing out your precious electrolytes that you'll need during the race. Do not drink alcohol the day before the race. This can dehydrate you.
  • Drink 16 oz. of water two hours before race time. This will provide enough time for the water to pass through your system and the excess be voided well before the start.
To read the remaining tips, go to

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hill Workouts--Learn to Love 'Em!

Hills. You either love 'em or hate 'em. Most hate 'em. I tend to be in the minority and actually look forward to the hills in a run. Granted a flat course is great for a PR, but my body actually tends to fatigue quicker on a flat course. I think I need those hills to activate different muscle groups while giving the "flat-road-running muscles" a break. Sometimes a well positioned hill is just what I need to pull out of a running funk. Of course, you need to be conditioned to those hills, so when they appear they'll be a help and not a hindrance. I think it's many runners' avoidance of hills that make them dislike them so when the come upon one. Their bodies aren't ready for the physical demands of running a hill.

There are a variety of hill workouts that are great to sprinkle into your training mix. Actually, even if you're not in training for a race, adding some hills to your regular routine can really do wonders to your endurance and pace. It can also jack up your metabolism and help you avoid that extra weight gain that often comes with constant low-intensity mileage. Running hills involves all the leg muscles--calves, glutes, hamstrings and quads. When running the hill, you repeatedly fire all these muscles with basically no rest until the walk back down the hill. This builds speed and muscular endurance. It also involves activating some muscle memory so during a race when you come upon that sudden hill, your muscles won't be shocked that you're asking them to run up the hill at full force.

Google "hill workout" and you'll get a zillion different versions. I have three that I like to use with my runners--short hill repeats, intermediate hill repeats and long hill staggered intervals.

Short Hill Repeats:
Find a hill that has a 5-10% grade that's about 100m. (Not sure how long that is? It's a hill that takes about 30-45secs to run.)  Before the workout, do a 1/2-mile to 1-mile easy warm-up run to get your heart rate up and warm-up your muscles. (Never hop out of the car and charge a hill. That's a hammie pull just waiting to happen.) After the warm-up, position yourself at the bottom of the hill. Run to the top as fast as you can. Think 5K-race pace. You'll be running in or close to an anaerobic state instead of an aerobic state, so you're lungs may feel like they're burning and your breathing will be pretty rapid. Try not to let your breathing rate get out of control. Even though you'll "feel the burn" your breathing should consist of good deep inhales and exhales. Once at the top of the hill, turn and walk back down. This is your recovery period. Once at the bottom of the hill, turn and charge back up. A 4 x 100 workout would mean you're doing four 100m uphill repeats (doesn't count the walks back down). I recommend starting with the 4 x 100 and work your way up to a 10 x 100.

Intermediate Hill Repeats: 
This workout is basically the same as the short hill workout but it's done on a longer hill. Not a steeper hill, but one that has about a 6% grade and will take you about 90 secs to run (about 200m). Begin with the warm-up described in the short hill workout. After the warm-up, position yourself at the bottom of the hill. Your pace will be fast, but not quite as fast as the short hill repeat workout. Think 10K-race pace. Once at the top of the hill, turn and walk back down. This is your recovery period. Once at the bottom of the hill, turn and charge back up. Don't forget to use a good strong arm swing as you run up the hill. Arms bent at 90 degrees, swinging beside not in front of the body. A 4 x 200 workout would mean you're doing four 200m uphill repeats (doesn't count the walks back down). I recommend starting with the 4 x 200 and work your way up to a 10 x 200.

Long Hill Staggered Intervals:
This is a tough but awesome workout. Find a long steady hill that's about a 1/2-mile long. The grade can be about 5-7%. Before the workout, do the warm-up described in the short hill workout. After the warm-up, position yourself at the bottom of the hill. Your pace will be fast, but not quite as fast at the short hill repeat workout. Think 10K-race pace. Run up the hill for 30 seconds, then turn and walk back down the hill for 30 seconds. Because you're walking, you won't make it back down to where you started. After the 30-sec recovery-walk down the hill, turn and run fast back up the hill for 30 seconds. Repeat this staggered interval process until you reach the top of the hill. For the first workout, one trip to the top of the hill will be fine. Eventually work up to 2 or 3 total hill climbs.

One hill workout a week is plenty, especially if you're doing other quality workouts such as a tempo run or long run. Hill workouts are pretty low impact, especially as compared to downhill running. However, people still often get injured doing hill repeats. Usually this comes from having weak hamstrings or glutes. It's a great idea to do some leg conditioning exercises to build some leg strength before adding hill workouts to your plan. Squats, hamstring leg lifts, lateral lunges, and step-ups are great exercises for building posterior leg strength.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

4 Tempo Run Workouts to Tune Up Your Training

Are you running several times a week, but don’t seem to be getting anywhere? Slowing down? Endurance waning?  

Your body eventually acclimates to a particular pace and/or distance. So overtime, you won’t get what you used to out of that regular 5-miler every other day. Stagnation sets in. So what’s a runner to do?

Easy! Spice it up with a tempo run. A tempo run is basically a fast run, but just trying to run fast from start to finish usually isn’t very effective. Like most things, a little structure to these “faster runs” will provide you with the results you’re looking for.

Every run doesn’t need to be a tempo run. That will only increase your chance of overtraining and injury. It’s hard to believe, but just adding one tempo run to your weekly routine will quickly begin to increase your speed and endurance.

How does it work? Tempo runs help push out your lactate threshold (that burn you feel in your legs when you run fast). Tempo workouts teach your body to more quickly clear out the lactate buildup delaying or preventing that fatigue-causing burn. Tempo runs also help increase your VO2Max (your body's ability to take in oxygen and use it to make energy in the muscle). Continued use of tempo runs actually signals your body to make more capillaries in the muscle. More capillaries means more oxygenated blood getting to the muscle.

The distance of tempo runs can vary, but 4-8 miles is a good range. If you’re new to tempos, start with a shorter distance and work your way up.

[Click here] to read the rest of my article at and learn about the specifics of each of the four tempo workouts.