Sunday, January 29, 2012

Anaylze It! The Answer May Be Just a Spreadsheet Away!

I love the Yogi Berra quote, "You can observe a lot just by watching." Although humorous, there’s a lot of truth to Yogi’s statement. Problem with running is that it’s hard to watch yourself.  Which reminds me of something Thoreau said, “It is as hard to see one’s self as to look backward without turning around.” You can learn from watching others, but it’s pretty dang hard to watch yourself without tripping and causing bodily harm. And that ain’t good.  So, if you’re having some issues with your running, what are you to do?

Well, you can read lots of books and there are a ton out there, many with great information (just check out the Book Review section of the blog). But, while all that info is great, it still may not apply to you and your specific issues. You can visit a running coach like me and he/she can give you great info, but unless I’m with you running every day, I’m still only able to speak to you in generalities which reminds me of something Mark Twain said, “All generalization are false, including this one.” (I love that.) 

So, read the books and check in with your running coach or sports doc. All that info will make you more informed and a better runner, but then take it a step further. You need to analyze yourself.  Keeping a running journal is a great way to record your running habits. For years (before the dawn of laptops, PDAs, tablets, iPhones and apps) I religiously kept a running journal. I’d record my weekly mileage and jot down information about the weather, my mood, and so on.  This was a great way for me to mentally reflect on my runs.  The problem was that it was hard to track any trends in my running.  Good or bad.

Fortunately, today there are tons of apps and websites out there that let your track all kinds of information about your daily running. I use many of them myself. The only thing I’ve found lacking in them is they’re still not catered to me. Any running is all about me, right? LOL! Well, when it comes to figuring out why I’m having this ache or pain or that, it’s definitely all about me. 

I’ve found that tracking my runs on a spreadsheet can be very helpful. Someone once said, “Half of analysis is anal.” There are no words more true. So, I’m not recommending that your speed hours tracking minute details of every run (unless you just like doing that), but if you’re having some issues and can’t seem to find the answers to resolve them, then sometimes taking a closer look at your running habits over a short period of time can really be enlightening. 

Customize your spreadsheet by creating column headers for each type of run you do (trail, road, sidewalk, etc) as well as type of workout (easy, long, tempo, intervals, hillwork) and distance. Then add weather conditions, your various shoes, time of day (morning, midday, afternoon). Next, add more columns for other factors such as if you fueled pre- and post-run, stretched  pre- and post-run. Then add columns for aches and pains (sore knees, sore ankles, sore hips, sore whatevers.) Finally add columns that rate the run (Jubilant, Great, Mediocre, Horrible, etc.).  The rows down the first column (on the far left of your grid) are where you’ll record the date of each run.
Now you're ready to start recording your data. For a month, after each run scan across the columns and put a check mark in each column that applies to that specific run. 

Here comes the fun part. The thrill of the sort!  Spreadsheets are so wonderful because you can sort the data. Sort by the various column headers and see what trends appear. For example if you’re having issues with your knees, then do a sort by the “Sore Knee” column and only the runs in which you’ve checked “Sore Knees” will appear. Now you can scan the data and see what other data surfaces. You may see that every time you have sore knees, you’re also wearing that older pair of running shoes. Or, maybe it’s only on the days that you’re running on the sidewalk. Or maybe it’s the days you’re wearing the older shoes and running on the sidewalk. In either case, you can start to see certain trends and now you have something tangible to help you make modifications. This will quickly help you see patterns in your running that you can avoid or try to repeat.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Winner of the Nike Show X1 Sunglasses Is...

Matthew Halip!  
Congrats  Matthew!

Thanks again to SunglassesShop.com who partnered with RunnerDude's Blog for this awesome giveaway--a pair of Nike Show-X1 sunglasses (valued at $150).

The Nike Show-X1 is perfect for any sport, but particularly running. These shield lens sunglasses deliver grip, stability and comfort. They feature interchangeable lenses, adjustable temples and Nike Max Lens Technology for precise views at all angles. Ideal for training any time of year. They're also functional for winter sport, golf, tennis and cycling. The adjustable ventilated nose for stability and reduced fogging make them a great choice for runners. Only the patented design of Nike Max Optics has zero distortion straight ahead and minimal distortion across the complete curve of the lens. Other lenses only claim accuracy straight ahead. Nike Max Optics were created to give athletes superior vision in a substantially larger average field of view because sport doesn't happen in a straight line.

When you have a chance, please check out their website.


Your support and readership of the blog means so much. If so inclined, a vote of support for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your readership!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

10 Tips for Injury-Free Running

1. Track your shoes' mileage. Worn out shoes can often contribute to and/or exacerbate pain in the ankles, knees, and hips. Like the shelf-life of the loaf bread in your pantry, your shoes have a "road-life." Instead of time, shoes are best checked for "freshness" by the miles put on them. A good rule of thumb is to buy new shoes every 300 to 500 miles. This will vary from person to person. A small person with a neutral gate may get closer to the 500 miles while a heavier/taller runner may breakdown his/her shoes more quickly and only get 300 miles.
2. Have more than one pair of running shoes. To extend the life of your shoes, having two pair is a great idea. Alternate your runs between the two pairs. Or, you could also have one pair suitable for longer runs and a lightweight pair for your faster speed workouts. Having two pairs is also helpful when you've had a rainy or muddy run. While one pair is drying, you can run in the alternate pair.
3. Only run in your running shoes. Wearing your running shoes to work or for your daily routine, can quickly break them down. After my running shoes are past their running prime, they become my knock-about-shoes. Then when they're too worn out for that, they become my yard work shoes.
4. Have a gait analysis done. Make sure you're wearing the right pair of shoes for your foot strike. Many running shoe stores and running coaches offer running gait analysis as a service. They'll have you run on a treadmill and/or outside and analyze how your foot lands when you run. Whether you roll inward, outward, or have very little or no roll will help them determine if you need a neutral, stability, or motion control shoe.
5. Stretch, Stretch, Stretch! Pre- and post-run stretching is very important in helping prevent injury. Dynamic stretching such as walking, an easy jog, butt kicks, side shuffles, walking lunges, and high knee are all examples of dynamic stretching. If you still feel tight after the dynamic stretches, then you can do some of the more traditional static (stretch-n-hold) stretches. After your run, static stretches for the quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors are appropriate. If you've been sitting at a desk all day or driving hours in the car, you can become very tight. It's important to loosen up those muscles before taking them for a run.
6. Drink up! Proper hydration is vital in helping to prevent muscle cramps. If you're dehydrated before you begin your run or if you become dehydrated during your run, you increase the risk of depleted electrolytes. Potassium (an electrolyte) is needed in order for your muscles to relax after they've contracted. If you begin your run with depleted potassium levels or you deplete them while sweating on the run and don't rehydrate while running, you increase your chances for cramping of the calves,  quads and/or hamstrings. 

To read Tips 7-10 click here! 

Cast Your Vote! If so inclined, a vote of support for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your readership!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Most Beautiful Colleges for Runners

Have a kid looking at colleges that's a runner? Or maybe you're the runner and you want to be able to run when you're visiting your kid at school? Or maybe you're the high school runner looking at colleges to attend next year or the following year? If so, check out the 14 Most Beautiful Colleges for Runners as selected by Best Colleges Online.

Ranking colleges is always difficult, but definitively ranking them based on something as subjective as beauty is impossible. Bearing in mind that every true and loyal alumnus/alumna thinks his or her school is the best, we made our picks for the 14 most beautiful college campuses for runners. We did our best to pick from all four geographic regions of the country, and we assumed optimal weather conditions (you’re welcome, northeast). Here are our picks, in alphabetical order:

Northeast

  1. Colgate University

    Colgate claims to have one of the fittest student bodies in the nation. You can run inside the brand new Trudy Fitness Center, but you should run outside. Set in the beautiful Chenango Valley of New York, the campus sports gentle hills, a classy mix of old and new buildings, and the lovely, five-acre Taylor Lake surrounded by oak trees. In the fall, this place looks like a postcard.
  2. Swarthmore College

    The Scott Arboretum covers over 300 of the campus’ 425 acres and contains over 4,000 kinds of plants. In other words, the school is one giant garden. Take a jog down oak-lined Magill Walk, hit the running track on College Ave. that’s lined with flowerbeds, or do stairs at the grassy, shady Scott Outdoor Amphitheater.
  3. Williams College

    If you like to run, you’ll have plenty of company at Williams. At this small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, over half the students play a sport. And who could blame them — the 450 acres boast spectacular views of the Berkshire Mountains, coupled with beautiful architecture and well-manicured, rolling hills. Join the crowd and hike up Mount Greylock on Mountain Day.

South

  1. College of William & Mary

    If you want to run where Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe once walked, come here. One look at the buildings and it’s clear this school is historic. The impressive Wren Building is the oldest school building in the U.S. at over three centuries of age. The campus is also home to the gorgeous Wren Chapel, the elegant Brafferton building, and the picturesque Grim Dell Bridge. Take a jog around the pond and take in the azaleas when they’re in season.
  2. Florida Southern College

    FSC is another winner in the world of architecture, unsurprisingly as the campus was the only one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A run here will take you by the largest collection of his works in the world, including the eclectic Annie M. Pfeiffer Chapel, and the newly-restored esplanades, a 1.5-mile stretch of covered walkway.
  3. Furman University

    Furman is a runner’s dream. Originally a men’s academy, today both sexes enjoy the beautiful 450-acre campus here in Greenville, South Carolina. For a short run, there’s a two-mile trail through the woods around the sprawling lake in the center of campus. Marathoners can get their kicks on the 11-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail. Or just venture out across campus and take in the Place of Peace (a former Buddhist temple) or the Asia Garden, with its pond and bamboo trees.
  4. University of Virginia

    This campus was designed by Thomas Jefferson, and for a self-trained architect, he did an outstanding job. In 1973 the campus Rotunda was restored to his original design, and it is a fantastic landmark on this already historic campus. Stately Cabell Hall could almost be Constitution Hall, and the Chapel looks like something out of Westminster. But don’t shortchange the campus’ natural beauty — a jog through the gardens in spring or fall would be hard to beat.

    Being that RunnerDude is from North Carolina and a UNC-Chapel Hill grad, I'd be negligent and rude not to include some of our State's beautiful campuses...
  5. The University of North Carolina

    At the heart of campus stands the visual symbol of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For many years the Old Well served as the sole water supply for Old East and Old West dormitories.
    In 1897, the well was given its present decorative form at the direction of President Erwin A. Alderman, who described his beautification project as largely derived from the Temple of Love in the Garden of Versailles. In 1954 the well was given added beauty with brick walks, plantings, and benches. Students can bring good luck with a drink from the Old Well on the first day of classes. The perfect water stop for runners!
  6. North Carolina State University

    Enjoy a part of history when your run by State's famous Memorial Bell Tower. A letter from Vance Sykes (Class of 1907) to E. B. Owen, then serving as alumni secretary, is credited with the movement to construct a monument to those alumni killed in World War I. The memorial committee appointed Architect William Henry Deacy to design the tower in 1920. Its blending of Romanesque features and Gothic verticality are reminiscent of the towers of West Point. The 115-foot monument, called "a legend in stone" contains 1,400 tons of stone set on a 700-ton concrete base, and exceeded $150,000 in cost.    
  7.   Duke University 

    Duke offers many places to run including Duke Forest and the beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Often spoken of as "the crown jewel of Duke University," Duke Gardens occupies 55 acres in the heart of west campus, adjacent to Duke University Medical Center. It is recognized as one of the premier public gardens in the United States, renowned both for landscape design and the quality of horticulture, each year attracting more than 300,000 visitors from all over the world.

Midwest

  1. Iowa State University

    In 1999, Iowa State was awarded the title of Medallion Site by the American Society of Landscape Architects. The campus has been praised for its use of trees and plants to tie together its mix of classic and modern buildings across the luscious 490 acres. Take a run past Lake LaVerne, through Reiman Garden, and circle back to watch the sun set on Beardshear Hall.
  2. University of Notre Dame

    This storied university is dotted with iconic spots like the famous Golden Dome. An easy two-mile jog around St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Lakes lets you take in the waters that give the school its full name, Notre Dame du Lac. For longer routes, seek out the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, a beautiful park and replica of the famous French shrine.
  3. University of Wisconsin

    Located on the banks of Mendota Lake in Madison, UW has a wonderful campus for runners and walkers alike. The main campus is nearly 1,000 acres and features the Lakeshore Nature Preserve on the north point. The Lakeshore Path is your destination for scenic running. It takes you up and down Picnic Point, the mile-long peninsula jutting out into the lake, and down the lane known as Willow Walk, named for the shady willow trees lining the path.

West

  1. Lewis & Clark College

    Nature is the star at Lewis & Clark College. Situated on a hilltop immediately adjacent to Tryon Creek State Park in Portland, the school is a breathtaking forest vista. Students are split on whether the reflecting pool with the view of Mount Hood, the ravine area, or the Rose Garden is the most stunning place to take in on a run. Don’t miss the terrific architecture of the sixteen-sided Flanagan Chapel.
  2. University of California, Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz in the Santa Cruz Mountains of sunny California has it all: redwood trees everywhere, grassy hills, incredible views, and footbridges over ravines. With 2,000 acres of sheer outdoor goodness, one might expect the buildings to be an afterthought. Instead they are an accomplishment in their own right, with each college having its own unique style.
  3. University of Montana

    With majestic Mount Sentinel rising in the background, UM in Missoula consists of 200 acres of gorgeous Rocky Mountain real estate. The wide open areas and big, blue sky are as much a part of the beauty here as the vibrant green lawns and shady paths like Memorial Row. Check out the Kim Williams Nature Trail that starts at the north end of campus takes you along the Clark Fork River.
  4. University of Oregon

    The home of the Ducks in Eugene is another Pacific Northwest gem. With 3,000 trees in over 500 varieties, you’ll find plenty of shade for runs, not that you’ll need it given the cool mountain air. Visitors are regularly stunned by how green the campus grass is. And with an array of nice, modern buildings, plus two halls designated as historic landmarks, UO celebrates both the old and new schools of architecture.
What is your favorite College Campus for running?
There are tons of schools across the country with awesome campuses for running. Some small, some large. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know about about the great colleges in your area that offer great routes for runners.

Cast Your Vote! If so inclined, a vote of support for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your readership!