Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Skinny on Fat

Researching the information for an earlier posting—"The Energy Bar Standoff" (March 20, '09)—left me wanting to know more about the good and bad of fat. Okay, I know what you're thinking....This guy has way too much time on his hands. At the moment, that's probably true, however, I think it's important for my fellow runners to know the skinny on fat. Bottom line is you need it. Not all of it and not all of it in the same amounts, but you need it.

Similar to your favorite superhero comics, there are the good guys and the bad guys. The "good guys" are comprised of the liquid or soft monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and Omega 3 fatty acids. These types of fats play an important role in your overall good health.
Monounsaturated Fats: olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds
Polyunsaturated Fats: vegetable oils (i.e., safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils), nuts, seeds
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: salmon, mackerel, herring, flaxseeds, flax oil, walnuts
The "villains" are comprised of the hard saturated fats and trans fats. These fats are considered villains because they increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood and a high level of cholesterol in your bl
ood is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Saturated Fats: Animal products (i.e., meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard, butter), and coconut, palm and other tropical oils
Trans Fats: partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commercial baked goods (i.e., crackers, cakes, cookies), fried foods (i.e., doughnuts, French fries), shortening, margarine

Whoa! I know what you're thinking....You mean I can't eat chicken? seafood? cheese? The answer is, "Of course you
can." Those foods are listed as villains because they do contain saturated fat, but that doesn't mean you can't eat them. Actually, you need a certain amount of saturated fat for proper digestive function, growth, and several other processes. Also, the saturated fat foods listed vary greatly in the amount of saturated fat they contain. For example, beef has a lot more saturated fat than chicken breast.

The key is eating more of the good fats than the bad. Trans fats should be avoided completely. Most sources I found said that individuals should limit their intake of saturated fats to less than 10% of their daily calories, however, in 2006, The American Heart Association did lower that percentage to 7%. The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee strongly advises the following fat guidelines for healthy Americans over age 2:
Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35% of your total calories each day
Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories
Limit trans fat intake to less than 1% of total daily calories
The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day, for most people. If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams a day.

Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark's Food Guide For Marathoners, recommends that healthy marathoners have a diet with about 25% of the calories from "primarily healthful" fat. So, for an 1800 calorie diet, a runner could use 450 of those calories on fat (31.5 of which could be from saturated fat). She also says that runners should include a little fat in each meal because not only does it help in the absorption of certain vitamins, but it can also help enhance performance. Clark says that runners who boosted their intake of healthful fat from 17% to 30% of calories were able to run longer and also had less inflammation afterwards. (To order your own copy of Nancy Clark's Food Guide For Marathoners, see the "My Picks" carousel under the Runner's Market on the right side of the blog.)

So, what are the most important things to remember from this posting?
  1. Fat plays a key role in overall good health (well, except trans fats).
  2. Some fats are better than others.
  3. Eat more unsaturated fats than saturated.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Run Because...

Recently I joined Twitter—a free social messaging utility for staying connected in real-time. Basically, you message other twitterers by answering the question "What are you doing?" in 140 characters or less. My Twitter name is "RunnerDude_" and I've used the site to connect to my fellow runners, health nuts, and fitness buffs. On a member's homepage, there's a constant scroll of his fellow twitterers' comments. It's oddly mesmerizing to read how individuals feel about their runs and workouts or just their everyday routines. Reading about their various daily experiences in running, it got me to thinking about why people run in the first place. So, I twittered my fellow twitterers and asked them to finish the following statement, "I run because..." Below are their responses. The contributors' twitter names are at the end of the comments. If you're already on Twitter, look them up. If you're not yet a twitterer, consider joining. It's a great way to connect with fellow runners and others from all different walks of life.

I run...

"because I am addicted to the post run euphoria."npalefsky

"because as cheesy as it sounds, it frees me—mentally, physically, spiritually."ottovoss

"because I like the shirt that says 'runners do it faster'."RunnerHeidi

"because it always makes me feel good. Even when the run doesn't. Weird huh?!?"Lurtz

"because it's the only time I'm truly alone with my thoughts, and I can work a lot of things out in my head."clhennessey

"because I love feeling fit, love burning calories, love the hi-tech clothes, love competing, and love winning the occasional age-group award!"runner510

"because I'm training for triathlons....IRONMAN"SteadyState

"because the law is after me and I gotta keep one step ahead. Oops, here comes the police now, gotta go"itsDice

"because it helps me realize my physical potential and I've met some amazing people through it!" amlemus

"because it is my peace! Listening to my breath, footsteps, music, my time. Love the challenge of adding miles. GOALS!"tortaliz

"because of the enjoyment, but also to try and lower my pace times to improve overall triathlon times."kimokali

"because it makes me a stronger person- inside and out. I run because it feels good. I run because I can."alitherunner

"because of the opportunity it gives me to set goals & challenge myself and hopefully to inspire others to do the same."mawoolard

"because it keeps me fit and sane. It provides me the solitude to think or not to think."RunnerDude_

Friday, March 27, 2009

Shoe Review: Karhu Fluid Fulcrum Ride

A few weeks ago, it was that time again—buying new running shoes. For years I wore Mizuno. That is until my shoe was discontinued and its replacement just didn't work for me. So I moved on to Saucony. Same story. My shoe was tweaked and just didn't work the same. So, this go-round, I decided to try something different.

I was reading my Runner's World April '09 issue and ran across an ad for the Strong Fulcrum Ride by Karhu. Karhu? Never heard of that shoe company. The ad was announcing the shoe had won "Best Debut" from Runner's World. So, I dug out my March issue of RW which had the new spring shoe review. The article featured a couple of Karhu shoes. I've been running for over 20 years, but somehow I've managed to miss this brand. Evidently it's been around since 1916 and is legendary in Finland.

Karhu's unique feature is its Fulcrum Technology. This design is supposed to reduce wasted vertical forces, minimizing the time the heel is on the ground; provide a natural ride and feel through the three phases of the gate cycle—feel, ride, stride; and promote the foot's natural abilities. I've been reading a lot about the benefits of avoiding heel striking and landing on your forefoot instead. Since the Fulcrum Technology helps decrease the time the heel is on the ground, I thought I'd give this brand a try. Plus, the shoes look really cool!

After reading the review of the Karhu Strong Fulcrum Ride and the Fluid Fulcrum Ride, I decided the Fluid best met my needs, and ordered a pair. In a few days I was tearing into the box and slipping on my new kicks. They felt really good from the get-go. They have a slightly lower profile than what I'm use to. Due to the Fulcrum Technology, there's not the need for a thick heel. I've run an 8-miler, 5-miler, and 6-miler in my new Karhu's and they feel awesome. Usually there's a "breaking-in" period for me with new shoes, even if it's a new pair of the same brand I've been using. But with my Karhu's, they felt good from the first run. The Fluid Fulcrum Ride is for a neutral runner. It has a cushioned but supportive feel. The toebox is roomy and the heel has a snug fit. It did take me a little while to get use to being lower to the ground, but that soon passed.

So, if you're looking to change up your running kicks, give Karhu a try! You'll be pleasantly surprised. Click here to find a dealer near you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Good News for Runners!

Turns out it's not just doing memory games or working crossword puzzles that help keep you sharp as a tack as you age. Running or any kind of aerobic exercise helps boost your brain size and maintain your brain wiring as you age. Or, at least that's what the latest research shows. According to a recent article in the Nutrition Action Health Letter (April '09), about one in four people in their 80's (about one out of three in their 90's) has dementia. Arthur Kramer from the University of Illinois says you can "push yourself back two to three years with six months of aerobic exercise."

For six months, Kramer had a group of people aged 60 to 80 do either 45 minutes of aerobic exercise (mostly brisk walking) three days a week or 45 minutes of stretching and toning exercises three times a week. The members of the aerobic exercise group showed increases in the volume of gray matter in the prefrontal, temporal, and parietal regions of the brain and the hippocampus (the memory region). The hippocampus region is important for "relational memory." Kramer says "that's remembering where you met somebody, where you read something." He says we lose that kind of memory as we age. Kramer and his team analyzed data from 18 trials to see if aerobic fitness training would help improve older people's thinking skills. What he found confirmed his belief—yes, it does.

Runners like us definitely have an advantage, because we're use to hitting the pavement, but Kramer says you don't have to run marathons to see the benefits. Some of the study participants could barely walk a block when the study first began. But, by the end of the study they were all walking for 45 minutes and some were even running. He's even studying people who can't walk. He says, "If you can't move your lower body, you can still move your upper body."

Does strength training produce the same result? Well, Kramer says there just aren't the studies yet to prove or disprove that theory, but he goes on to say that anything an older person can do to become stronger and prevent falls and avoid breaking bones will be beneficial.

Not only does aerobic exercicse help with memory, it also cuts your risk of getting diabetes and hypertension or having a heart attack or stroke.

So, get out there and run! Now, where did I put my keys?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Yoga For Runners

Mike, a running buddy of mine was telling me how great yoga is, especially for runners. I had heard about the benefits of yoga—flexibility, relaxation—but had never given it much thought, especially related to running. After my conversation with Mike, I kept thinking about yoga, so I decided to do a little research.

There are several different branches of yoga, each with its own unique focus. Hatha yoga emphasizes concentration and consists of gentle stretching and strengthening exercises. Pranayama yoga uses breathing exercises and breath control to enhance vitality and energy. Mantra yoga uses the concentrated repetition of a word or phrase to aid in the control of the mind.

Many people choose yoga as a means of relaxation which is often hard to achieve in today's fast-paced, hectic life. So, it's not surprising that many modern-day stress-reduction techniques are based on yoga principals. Relaxation definitely bodes well for your health. Research shows that regular participation in mindful exercise such as yoga produces positive effects on people experiencing hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, pain, anxiety, and depression.

There's a lot more to Yoga than relaxation techniques. The regular practice of yoga can improve your performance in other activities (i.e., running). Knowing this, I began to wonder if there were any yoga programs specifically designed for runners. I was very delighted to find Yoga For Runners: The Essentials, a DVD produced by Christine Felstead. Christine was a runner for over 20 years. She began to wonder if something was wrong with the fact that she could run for miles and miles but couldn't bend over to tie her shoes. She decided to give yoga a try. She was hooked. It profoundly changed her life. So much so, that she became a yoga instructor.

Christine has created a wonderful yoga program specifically designed to meet the needs of runners. Her program helps offset the negative effects of running—stiffening of the joints and muscles. It also helps reduce injury as well as cut down on recovery time from racing, endurance running, or just an intense workout. Not only does the program increase a runner's flexibility, it also strengthens muscles in the body that aren't used in running, improves breathing, and deepens the mind-body connection.
The non-intimidating video is divided into four segments—Foundation, Lower Back, Hamstrings, and Hips. Each section presents a series of yoga holds, movements, and breathing techniques. Christine does a great job of describing how to do the various holds so that the novice can digest it all with ease and not feel overwhelmed. Knowing that flexibility-challenged runners may need some modifications to the various holds, Christine provides tips to help make many of the moves more comfortable. The fact that the other participants in the DVD are runners as well as Christine herself being a runner, made me feel confident that they understood me and my needs as a runner.

Whether you're new to yoga or have had some yoga experience, Yoga For Runners: The Essentials is perfect for any runner wanting to improve his/her overall conditioning and flexibility. I highly recommend you check out the Yoga For Runners website and order your own copy of the DVD. Yoga For Runners instructors can be found in Ontario and Alberta, Canada as well as in London, Italy, and Chattanooga, TN. Maybe I need to participate in one of her teacher training programs, so we can get more classes down here in the good old USA. Thanks Christine! (To order your own copy of the Yoga for Runners: The Essentials DVD, see the "My Picks" carousel under the Runner's Market on the right side of the blog.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quest for Hope 5K

Looking for a good 5K to run in April? Check out the Quest for Hope 5K and 1mile run in Greensboro, NC. Race day is April 18th. Sponsored by Dynamic Quest of Greensboro, the race helps to raise funds for LifeSpan, an organization that transforms the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities by providing education, employment, and enrichment opportunities. Through sponsorship of the run, Dynamic Quest hopes to raise funds for LifeSpan Circle Schools and support Lifespan in providing the highest quality of care for children through their pre-school programs. Please consider helping out by being a sponsor, walker, or runner!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Energy Bar Standoff

Energy bars sure have come a long way since I first started running in the 80s. I remember thinking the first one I ever ate tasted like a piece of cardboard and I think I chewed on it for hours! Well 20+ years have brought vast improvements to energy bars at least in taste and texture. Recently I saw that Snickers had an energy bar. Because a candy company had entered the energy bar market, I began to wonder how good these bars really are. So, I did a very unscientific study. I purchased several of the popular energy bars and did a nutrition label comparison as well as a taste test. I found some interesting results as well as probably gaining a few pounds.

Shortly after digging into the nutrition label information , I realized I needed to back up and do a little research on fat and calories first. Basically, what I discovered is that you should keep the fat content of your foods to 30% or less or in other words no more than 30% of your daily calories should be from fat. You also need to be aware of the types of fat you're eating such as trans, saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. Trans fats and saturated fats are the bad guys and unsaturated fats are the good guys. No more than 10% of your daily fat intake should come from saturated fats and you should avoid trans fats altogether. The average daily calorie intake for a 30-year-old man is about 2,500 and for a woman the same age, it's about 1,940. A man eating 2,500 calories should eat no more than 83 grams of fat (747 fat calories) of which no more than 8.3 grams (75 fat calories) should be from saturated fat. A woman eating 1,940 calories should eat no more than 65 grams of fat (585 fat calories) of which no more than 7 grams (59 fat calories) should be from saturated fat.

So how does this correlate to an energy bar being good for you or not? Well, basically, the fat calories should be no more than 30% of the total calories and the saturated fat calories should be no more than 10% of the total fat calories. It's very important to look at the types of fat, because a bar could be at the max for total fat calories or maybe even a little over, but if those calories are coming from polyunsaturated and/or monounsaturated fats then that bar is going to be a lot better for you than one that's under the 30% but has over the 10% saturated fat calories.

The chart below shows the nutrition content for 7 major energy bars. For fun, I also included the nutrition information for a popular candy bar—Snickers. The chart reveals that most of the bars hover around having 30% of their calories from fat. Cliff Bar and PowerBar Harvest had the lowest percentage of calories from fat at 18%. The saturated fat content of almost all the bars well exceeded the 10% mark. Optimum Energy Bar was the lowest at 13%. This bar had a fairly high percentage of calories from fat but 87% of the fat calories are from unsaturated fats. Interestingly enough, the Snickers candy bar had a lower percentage of saturated fat than all but two of the energy bars. But, don't run out and stock up on Snickers bars. It still has 26% more saturated fat than it should.

You know it dawned on me that the real magic of an energy bar is its convenience and portability. A banana slathered in peanut butter makes a great energy snack and most likely packs just as much muscle repairing protein and cramp preventing potassium as an energy bar. It's a heck of a lot cheaper too! But, I have to admit, it wouldn't travel too well on a long run. As convenient as energy bars are, they can reak havoc on some runners' digestive systems. So, be sure to test out new bars well before race day.

Which bar is my favorite? Well, taste-wise, Cliff Builders was the best, but it has way too much saturated fat for me. My favorite over-all bar would be the PowerBar Harvest. Still a little heavy on the saturated fats, but its overall percentage of fat from calories was low as well as its total fat content. And, it tastes pretty good too!

There are some great bars out there that pack a lot of energy and/or recovery-rich nutrients, but read the nutrition labels carefully to make sure you're not doing more damage than good.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Make Your Feet Happy. Don't Skimp on the Socks.

Socks for running sure have come a long way since I started running in the mid 80s. Actually when I started running, I don't even recall there being any socks specifically made for running. In the mid 90s I began noticing brands like Thorlos and The Wright Sock . The original Thorlos were designed with extra thick padding in the heel and ball areas of the socks for increased cushioning. You often had to buy a size up in your shoe to accommodate the extra-thickness. The Wright Sock company produced a double-layer anti-blister sock. These socks were designed with two thin layers of material. The interaction of the two layers absorbs the friction instead of it being transferred to the feet where it would normally cause blisters. Both sock companies still exist and have made numerous improvements to their products including using lighter-weight, moisture-wicking, high-tech materials and adding more styles (no-show, anklet, crew, etc.) to their lines. Thorlos still makes their original thick sock as well as lines with moderate-cushion and thin-cushion. The Wright Sock has even added a cushioned version to its line.

Today, there are several running sock companies—Balega, Injinji, Wigwam, DeFeet, Bridgedale, Feetures, Drymax, etc. Not to be left out, most of the major running shoe companies produce their own lines of high-tech running socks—Nike, Adidas, Pearl Izumi, Asics, Brooks, Puma, New Balance, etc.

So, what are the best running socks? There's probably no one sock perfect for every runner, so take some time to evaluate your needs and select the sock that's best suited to you. The main thing is to avoid socks made of cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture, keeping your feet wet, making perfect conditions for blisters. All this moisture also makes the perfect home for bacteria causing stinky feet and shoes. Look for socks made of synthetic materials that wisk the moisture away from your feet. Also, look for socks with few or no seams, especially around the toe. Double-layer or snug-fitting socks tend to help decrease blisters. The price of running socks can vary widely. Before you buy 5 packs of those expensive cool-looking socks, it's probably not a bad idea to buy one pack, try them out on a few runs and see how they work before investing in more. Happy feet make for happy run.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Social Running...It's Okay!

The other day at a group run sponsored by a local running store, a friend of mine overheard a "serious runner" commenting on my running group—The BlueLiners. "They're just a social group" was the comment, said with a little distain in his tone. I was a little surprised to hear this. Runners are usually more supportive of fellow runners. Maybe he's envious of the camaraderie he's seen of our group as we pass by. Whatever the reason for his opinion, I'd just like to go on the record and say that there's nothing wrong with socializing being a part of any running group. In fact, I think it's a crucial element. If everything is 100% running, training, racing, faster, harder, better, then I think you increase your chances for an early burnout.

Besides, learning about the lives of your fellow running buddies helps to build some of the best friendships of you'll ever have. I bet I could send out an email to my fellow BlueLiners asking for help with something and I'd get 80% of the group responding within 5 minutes. Now, some of those responses would be witty retorts, but most would be genuine responses offering assistance (even the witty ones would want to help). The BlueLiners group is a very diverse group of runners. Some run purely for the social interaction, others are trying to lose weight/get fit, while others have specific racing goals in mind. The age ranges from the 20s to the 60s. On our Saturday morning long runs, we begin as a group and eventually break into various pacing groups. Afterwards, we head for coffee and bagels! Some group members also meet early Tuesday and Thursday mornings for a 5-mile run.

I’ve discovered that I do much better when I run and/or exercise with friends. It's amazing how a long run (or any run for that matter) with a group seems to go by faster and is much more enjoyable than going it alone. Whether you’re starved for attention, need that extra diversion to help get you through those last few miles of a long run, or you enjoy the camaraderie or competition of running with others, it does seem to help. Actually it may even be good for your brain to run with others. Scientists even believe that the generation of new neurons (neurogenesis) is increased in the brain when a person exercises in a group.

I've learned so much (running lessons and life lessons) from the youngens to the elders of the group. Plus, for "just a social group" we have some pretty good stats. At least 10 of the group (that I can think of) have run Boston (some more than once). One BlueLiner even won her age division at Boston. Not too shabby! Go BlueLiners!

Go forth! Be social! Have fun! Run!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dryer Sheets Are A No No!

A pair of shorts and a singlet have been a runner's uniform for decades, but no more do you have to worry about ending your run with the 5lbs of sweat your cotton T-shirt and tube socks have collected. The technical fabrics of today's running garments are designed to pull water away from the body to the surface of the garment where it evaporates. Because of this ability, you stay dryer and your clothes dry faster. Another advantage is that technical fabrics are light-weight and less bulky.

Be sure to try on your running clothes before buying them. Every runner is different. What works for one runner might not work as well for another runner. When picking out a garment, try to find one with few seams or seams sewn using a flatlock stitch to keep rubbing and irritation at a minimum. Also, think about which length of shorts will feel the most comfortable and meet your needs. Racing shorts usually have a much shorter inseam (2" to 3") than shorts for everyday running (4" to 10"). Racing shorts are often designed with a full-, half-, or quarter-split along the sides of the legs to provide better freedom of movement. Pay the same careful attention when selecting tops. Make sure the garment doesn't rub or irritate you in the armpit or neck area. Sometimes extra seams added purely for design purposes can be irritating.

One downfall of technical fabrics is that they tend to retain body odors which can be very hard to get out. Regular laundry detergent usually doesn't remove these odors. Don't fret; there are special detergents especially made to remove sports odors. WIN is one brand that I've used and it works well. Check to see if your local sporting goods store carries it or order it driectly from wwwdetergent.com. Don't forget to check the garment tags. Some garments (especially socks) have been treated with an anti-microbial substance to help keep the BO at bay.

One more tip to keep in mind regarding your high tech running clothes—never use fabric softener sheets. The fabric softener chemicals in the sheets will clog the technical fabric making it less effective in wicking away the water. So, either dry your running clothes in the dryer without the dryer sheet or just hang them to dry. Because the fabric is designed to resist water absorption, they're practically dry right out of the wash, so hanging them to dry usually takes just minutes.

Don't worry; buying good quality, high-tech-fabric running clothes doesn't have to cost you a fortune. Target carries a line of running clothes for men and women from Champion that wear well, look great, and are very affordable. You can also purchase the clothes directly from the Champion Website.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just Breathe

Ever notice how experienced runners look like they're running with little effort and their breathing seems just as normal as if they were standing still? That's because they've mastered deep breathing and have discovered a breathing rhythm that works for them. Using deep breathing techniques and having a good breathing rhythm is key to becoming an efficient runner. It's also key to more enjoyable runs.

The good news is that efficient breathing techniques can be learned by anyone. Runners may use different methods to achieve deep breathing and to find their own breathing rhythm, but the ultimate goal is the same—breathing properly to get the right amount of oxygen to your muscles increasing endurance.

Spending a few runs focusing on your breathing can ensure more enjoyable and relaxing runs. To begin, start running at a slow pace. Focus on your breathing as you take in a long slow breath. Then release this breath with a long slow exhale. To make this easier, try inhaling over 3 strides and exhaling over 3 strides making a complete breathing cycle 6 strides. There are no hard and fast rules. Depending on your stride, your breathing cycle may take 4 strides or 8 strides. If associating your breathing with your stride doesn't work for you, try counting—3 counts/inhale, 3 counts/exhale. With practice, this will become second nature and you will no longer need keep track of strides or count.

Which ever technique you use the main goal is to control your breathing so that you're breathing from your diaphragm or "belly breathing." Controlled, deep breathing will help prevent those annoying side stitches too. Belly breathing gets more oxygen into the blood stream, increases lung capacity and endurance. Once you have your breathing under control, you'll experience more enjoyable runs. You'll also be able to then focus on increasing your speed and/or distance.

Check out the video clip below for a recap of breathing for runners from Les Whitley, director of Velocity Sports Performance in Franklin TN.

How to Control Breathing While Running -- powered by ExpertVillage.com

Sunday, March 8, 2009

No Better Time Than the Present

Are you a non-runner? Have you been thinking about running but think you're too overweight, too old, or think you'll look funny in those little running shorts? Well stop thinking and just get out there. All runners, even the ones that look like Nike models, had to start at some point. And yes, they too felt awkward, clumsy and probably hurt like hell when they first started. But, rest assured that feeling soon passes when you see your goal of a fitter you becoming a reality. You don't have to be a Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Carl Lewis, Lolo Jones, or Usain Bolt in order to benefit from running.

Think you're too overweight? Think again. A friend of mine and fellow running buddy, Wayne, once was overweight. He's 38-years-old and has weighed as much as 220lbs. Before he started running, he weighed 205lbs. He's been running now for 2 years and his weight is down to an amazing 165lbs! Wayne ran his first marathon (The Outer Banks Marathon) last October and did it in 4:08! That's 18 minutes faster than my first marathon! What motivated Wayne to finally start running and lose weight? His desire to set a healthy lifestyle for his children, to be a better husband, the desire to eliminate a history of family medical problems, and a 40" waist. Joining nine of his friends and colleagues in a weight-lose challenge also gave him the motivation to start.

Think you're too old? Think again. The Runner's World article "Running Through the Ages" (March '08) shows how a runner's body strengths, weaknesses, and nutritional needs change over time. It profiles 14 runners aged 17 to 85. One thing that struck me about the senior runners, is the age at which many of them started running. 67-year-old Seiko Tamura started running at the age 44. John Keston (83-years-old), started running at age 55. Margaret Davis (85-years-old), started running in her late 70s. Margaret has run eight marathons (5:37 PR at age 80) and 11 half-marathons (2:42 PR at age 80). She says the best part of her running is that she gets people thinking, "If I she can do it, I can do it." I also once read about a lady who started running in her 70s. Her plan was to "add a mailbox each day." You see, each day she would run a little further by making it to the next mailbox in her neighborhood. Eventually she added enough mailboxes that she signed up for a triathlon!

Still need a little push to get you out there? Maybe the following 10 reasons for running will be just what you need.
  1. Running helps you lose faster as well as maintain your weight once you've reached your goal weight. Few activities burn as many calories and burn them as quickly as when you run.
  2. Running is great for your heart. Did you know that if you run 145 minutes a week, on average you decrease your chance of having a heart attack by 40%/ Sounds like a lot, but that's only 21 minutes of running a day or run a little longer every other day.
  3. Running helps increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind).
  4. Running helps boost the immune system.
  5. Running helps fight the aging process by reducing bone and muscle loss that comes with growing older.
  6. Running helps reduce stress.
  7. Running is fairly cheap. The biggest investment will be a good pair of running shoes.
  8. Running can be as personal or as social as you want it to be. There's an entire world of friendly welcoming runners eager to help you in your journey.
  9. Running can be a great exercise for the whole family.
  10. Running builds confidence.

Not sure where to start? Check with the local running clubs and/or running specialty stores in your community to see if they have any programs for beginning runners or try using The Runner's World 8-Week Beginners Running Program. This plan is designed to get you to the point of running 30 minutes (about 2 miles) at a slow pace. Once you get to that point, you'll be ready to increase your mileage by 10% per week.

Before making any changes to your normal routine, please consult with your physician.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Running...A Saving Grace

Well, I'm living proof that no one is immune from the current economic woes. Three weeks ago I was laid off from the job I'd held in the educational publishing field for 12+ years. No warning, just boom! Fourteen colleagues and myself were told to pack up, it was our last day.

It took about a week for the punched-in-the-stomach feeling to subside. During that week I was basically in a daze not knowing exactly what to do. Then I ran. For me running is the best medicine. It provides a feeling of empowerment and freedom that comes with knowing that your legs and body are strong and capable. For some reason I can think better about life's problems as I fly over the miles. The longer the run, the better. Gives me time to work on solutions to those big nagging problems. Speed runs are great for tearing through aggression and anger. Focusing all that emotion into speed work and hills really helped.

You know, I think running through this trying time has helped improve my attitude. During week two, I felt less tension, less depressed, less fatigued, and less confused. Athough I can't completely ignore the fact that I need to find a job, running gives me something else to focus on, allowing me to see something besides being unemployed.

I still don't have a job, but I feel confident about finding one and running (and the support of a lot of friends and family) has helped me gain this attitude. If you happen to know of a job for someone with a background in writing/editing, project management, and some internet skills, let me know!

Strength Training Good for Runners

Ever notice how Olympic sprinters and Olympic marathons have completely different body types? Sprinters look more like body builders with massive leg muscles and glutes as well as powerful arms. Marathoners are often lanky and have very lean muscle. Why the difference? Both runners have very different jobs. Sprinters need those muscles to give them that huge burst of speed from the get-go while marathoners need endurance not massive muscle strength.

Well, most of us are not Olympic sprinters or marathoners and many of us use running as our main or only form of exercise. While this is fine, everyday runners will benefit by adding some strength training. In the December 26th posting, "Getting to the Core," I touted the benefits of building a strong core. A strong core provides good posture as well as a solid base for the rest of your body to do its job properly. When you run, the power your legs receive originates in your core and moves down to your legs.

Overall strength training can help prevent injuries, increase muscle endurance, as well as strengthen weak joints and muscles. Increasing your overall strength can also help minimize fatigue (especially in your upper body) which can help improve your endurance. Strength training is a little different for runners. A runner's strength-training program should consist of more repetitions and less weight (resistance). A runner isn't concerned with bulking up so lifting or using heavy weights isn't the key, but rather using lighter weights or less resistance, repeated 10-12 times each set, building to 3 sets is the key.

Research shows that strength training for runners should mimic muscular patterns associated with running. So, in addition to good core-strengthening exercises, exercises such as one-leg squats, high-bench step-ups, one-leg hops in place and lunges (all of which closely mimic the overall body posture and muscle mechanics of running) are good ones to add to your routine.

For some great running-specific strength-training exercises, check out RunningPlanet and Runner's World.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are You a Nutella Nut?

In the February 26th posting, "Sooner Is Better Than Later," I listed Nutella as an alternative to peanut butter for post-run refueling. Well, Nutella fans started coming out of the woodwork! I received several emails from readers praising their favorite spread—Nutella. Then what do I find plastered on the front page of the Life section of our local paper, The News & Record, but the headline "Spreading the Nutella Love." Evidently this little odd-shaped jar of hazelnut and chocolate spread has quite the following. According to the article, Nutella's Facebook page ranks third in number of fans (over 2 million). Only Barack Obama and Coca-Cola have more fans. And guess what tomorrow (2/5) is?— World Nutella Day.

Nutella began in 1946 when Pietro Ferrero began grinding hazelnuts to extend his cocoa supply for his bakery. Hazelnuts were plentiful in the region of Italy in which Ferrero lived. This really wasn't anything new. Locals had been doing this to help stretch out the imported product (chocolate) since the 1800s. Ferrero, however, took it a step further creating a spreadable mixture. His creation was officially named Nutella in 1964 and the rest is history.

So in honor of this tasty spread, slather some on a bagel or English muffin after your run or workout tomorrow (Feb. 5).

Never Thought I'd Say This...

.....but I'm starting to not mind the treadmill. Still can't believe I put that into words. I've never liked running on the treadmill. A 4-miler on the treadmills seems like an 8-miler to me. But North Carolina's unpredictable winter weather and it getting dark so early has made treadmill running a must in order for me to keep my running schedule going.

One afternoon bored silly and on my 3rd treadmill mile, I thought, hmm, if I speed it up I'll get this over with quicker. I increased the speed and ran at that level for a quarter mile. Then I decreased it for a quarter mile. I felt great! So, I ramped it up even more for a half mile. I continuded this speed-up, slow-down process and what was supposed to be a 4-miler ended up being an awesome 5-miler. I was so surprised how spicing it up some with some repeats, actually made the treadmill workout enjoyable.

Evidently lots of other runners already know about this technique, but in case you're like me and haven't been in the loop, I thought I'd share. So next time you find yourself watching the clock counting the seconds till your treadmill run is over, try running some fartleks or repeats and I guarantee you'll be just as surprised as I was.

Check out this clip from 4-time Olympic Trials qualifier and Runner's World contributor, Budd Coates. He shares a challenging half-mile repeat workout for the treadmill. (Click here to view video clip.)

Another thing that's helped is finding a good workout download for my Ipod. In the February 18th post, "Get Movin' With a Workout Mix" I shared how pleased I was with the workout mix I downloaded from The Biggest Loser Website. It really does help break the monotony as well as provide a good beat to keep your pace up.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Runner's Palate: March Recipe

Quick & Easy Runners Chicken Primavera
This meal is so versatile, you'll love it. All you need is grilled chicken tenderloins, multi-grain pasta, some frozen veggies and a few spices. That's it! The multi-grain pasta and the protein-rich chick peas and chicken make this dish perfect for a post-run meal. It also keeps well in the fridge so, make extra and take it to lunch the rest of the week.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
1 can of chick peas (garbanzo beans)
1 pack of Birds Eye Steamfresh Vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Carrots mixture)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
Grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil and the chopped onion in a large skillet on medium heat. While the onions are heating up, cook the chicken tenderloins. I use a George Foreman Grill. It cooks them fast and the excess fat is drained off. If you don't have a grill, you can cook the chicken breasts in the skillet along with the onions. Cut the cooked chicken into bite-sized chunks. When the onions have become translucent, drain the can of chick peas and add them to the onions. Pop the Birds Eye Steamfresh Vegetables into the microwave and cook as directed (about 5 minutes). Drain the pasta and add a little olive oil and stir. Then add the pasta to the onions and chick-pea mixture. Also add the chicken and steamed veggies. Season the mixture with Lawry's Seasoning salt to taste (doesn't take much). Stir until everything is combined. Plate the pasta mixture and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Is whole-wheat pasta too heavy and bland for you? Try Mueller's Multi-Grain Pasta. Still provides the hearty complex carbohydrates needed to refuel your body, but it's not quite as dense as whole-wheat pasta.
Don't care for chick peas? Leave them out or try a can of corn instead.
Don't care for frozen veggies? Use fresh. Replace any of the vegetables I've suggested with your favorites. I've used a mixture of snow peas, water chestnuts, carrots, and broccoli that tastes great too!
Don't like the added sodium from the Lowry's Seasoning Salt? Use one of the Mrs. Dash salt-free seasoning products.
• Want to add even more flavor? Try marinating the chicken in a Mrs. Dash® Marinade prior to grilling.

Josh Cox Breaks the American 50k Record Video

Athlete for a Cure, Josh Cox not only breaks the American 50K record on January 18, 2009, in this video, he reminds us about all of the good in sports and competition.
Josh Cox Breaks the American 50k Record Video

Posted using ShareThis

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Best of Both Worlds

While standing in the corral waiting for the start of the 2005 Honolulu Marathon, I saw the oddest thing—a barefoot runner. He had a pair of flip flops stuck in the waistband of his running shorts. I thought to myself, "This guy is a nut!" There was no way this guy was going to finish the race, especially on the roads in Honolulu. You see, they use lava rock in the pavement, so it has a bumpier surface than what we're use to in the states. Well, I saw the guy after the race and he looked great. I asked him how he did, and he finished about 30 minutes ahead of me! He was a native islander and he said he had always run barefoot. I still thought he was a little looney.

Oddly enough it was just a few months later that I saw Nike had come out with Nike Free, a shoe they pitched as being the next best thing to running barefoot. Nike suggested using the trainers to help strengthen your feet. They looked a little odd, but sure enough, I started seeing runners, wearing them.

Well, now I've come across something even closer to barefoot running—Vibram Five Fingers. These "shoes" look like gloves for the feet with individual toes and a formfitting quarter-inch-thick sole. They first arrived on the market in 2007 as a climbing shoe, but runners latched onto them quickly. The Vibram Five Fingers is the best of both worlds.
If you've wanted to give barefoot running a try but have been wary of blisters or stepping on something that might harm your footsies, then you may want to give one of these a try.