Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Plantar Fasciitis? Try This...

Chances are if you're a runner, you've either experienced plantar fasciitis or know someone who has. This painful, nagging, and hard-to-get-rid-of injury affects the plantar fascia—the band of tissue that begins at the heel runs under the arch and splits off and attaches to the metatarsals. If you're an excessive pronator or if you have arch problems, then the plantar fascia picks up the strain. Problem is that the plantar fascia isn't really able to stretch so instead it tears. When these little tears heal, scar tissue is created. Scar tissue stretches even less. See a vicious cycle starting? Usually what the runner feels is pain under the heel. I also felt pain at the metatarsals. Often the pain recedes as you begin to walk or run, but once you stop and you've been still for a while that nagging pain returns. When I had plantar fasciitis, I noticed it the most in the morning when getting up. I looked like a little old man hobbling around until my feet loosened up.

So what do you do for Plantar Fasciitis? There are a variety of things a doctor might have you try such as ice, taping, wearing heel pads, orthotics, flexibility exercises, physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, and possibly even surgery. My doc had me put heel cups in my shoes and he gave me a couple of stretching exercises to do. One involved putting a towel on the floor in front of my foot and using my toes to scrunch up the towel and draw it toward me. The other exercise involved slowly flexing my toes back, stretching the plantar fascia. All of this helped, but the thing that helped bring the most relief was a little gadget called a Foot Wheel.

The Foot Wheel falls into that ever growing "Why Didn't I Think of That" category of mine. Basically it's a small metal rod that's about 4-inches long. There's a hard plastic wheel in the middle and one on each end of the bar. How does it work? Place the wheel on the floor and then roll your foot across the wheels. That's it! I've read where you can do the same basic thing by rolling your foot along a soup can or a tennis ball. I've tried these methods and both helped, but with the Foot Wheel, I was able to really hit those pressure points getting a better stretch of the plantar fascia.

If you're experiencing plantar fasciitis, then be prepared the first time you use the foot wheel. It hurts like hell! But bite the bullet and roll your foot (the entire length) along the wheel making sure to hit all the pressure points. After a few days, the pain while using the wheel started to subside and better yet, I started to notice my plantar fasciitis symptoms disappear. I had my first and only case of plantar fascitis about 7 years ago. I've used my lil foot wheel every night since then. I keep it beside my bed and the last thing I do before hitting the hay is to roll both feet several times along the wheel. I really do believe that doing this has helped keep my platar fascia limber and injury-free (knock on wood). Making sure I don't pack too many miles on any one pair of shoes has also helped. You see, my plantar fasciitis was the result of running a really long run on an old pair of worn out shoes. Never a good idea.

I've seen the Foot Wheel sold at marathon expos and at several different online running sites. I bought mine online at RoadRunnerSports.
For more detailed information regarding plantar fasciitis, check out the video clip below.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bug Off!

One of the most annoying things about summer running, for me anyways, is the pesky bugs. Because I sweat so much, I usually end up running shirtless (otherwise I'd be running with an extra pound or two). Problem is the glistening sweat on my back works as a natural bug attractor. I might as well be a strip of fly tape running down the greenway. If there's a horsefly to be found, you can bet its' hovering around me. There is one strip of the greenway I run that's home to one such horsefly. The dang thing must be 10 years old, because every year in that very same stretch, I get hounded by that horsefly, or one of its descendants all of which must have the same genetic trait—the pester RunnerDude trait.

I've discovered that it's a must to have gel-free hair on a run. So I've had to give up my stylish coiffed do's. Oh, the sacrifices a runner must make for his craft. A gel-free head helps but some of those lil buggers still persist. So, I've finally resulted to using bug spray. I've discovered there's an entire line of water-resistant bug sprays for the sports enthusiast. After trying several brands, I've discovered that I like Cutter's Backwoods Water-Resistant Sports Formula (unscented) and Cutter's Advanced Sports Formula the best. I usually use Cutter's insect repellent if I'm running in the early morning or late afternoon when I'm not concerned about over exposure to the sun. I've discovered that BullFrog has an insect repellent/sunscreen combo in its Mosquito Coast brand that's good to use if I'm running later in the morning or in the early afternoon. If you just need a good sports sunscreen without the bug repellent, BullFrog's Marathon Mist works really well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Good, Good, Good, Good Hydration!

Man, what a beautiful North Carolina day. Went for an 8-mile run at 1:30. I know, probably not the best thing to do, running in the middle of the day. Since I've been out of work, the "honey-do" and "daddy-do" lists have gotten longer and longer so, I take the time to run when I can get it. Today it happened to be at 1:30. Not only was it a beautiful day, it was a hot one too! 85°F with an UV Index of 9. Luckily the humidity wasn't as high as it will be in the summer. This is unusually hot for an NC spring, but I'll take it!

My run reminded me of two things. First, I should always tell someone where I'm running. In this day and age of texting, emails, and voice mail, it only takes a few seconds. But did I think to do it? Nope. Not until I was at about mile 4 (about the time the deer bolted out in front of me and just about ran me over, which happened just prior to me jumping over some kind of snake that slithered in my path) did I remember I should have texted my wife or kids where I'd be running. My lovely encounters with nature made me realize that even on a simple run, anything can happen. Best, to let your friends and/or family know where you'll be in case something happens. I should know better since I have this odd knack for attracting wild animals during my runs—wild geese, bees, deer, a rabid coyote, a copperhead, raccoons, a mocking bird with a vendetta against me, a hawk, and a loose bull.

The second thing is to make sure you hydrate well, especially during the hotter months of the year. Luckily I had the foresight to stop and get some Gatorade before my run. I also picked up a bottle of chocolate milk for my post-run recovery drink. I had been sipping on a bottle of water earlier in the morning, so I felt pretty good at the start of the run. By mile 4, I was feeling the heat and was sweating like a pig. I should have been sipping on the Gatorade while running, but nevertheless, I downed half the bottle and saved the other half for the return. Other than feeling a little drained, from the heat, my run went well. I had hydrated prior to the run, during the run, and had my recovery chocolate milk after the run.

Most of us sweat when we run and most of us sweat even more during the hotter months. If you're like me, you sweat a whole lot more! In a previous posting "Fuel for the Long Run" I provided info on how to figure out how much you need to drink based on how much you sweat while running. As a runner, you need to be aware of how much your sweat on various runs, under various conditions, and at various times of the day. Especially if you're running a lot. Use the test below to help determine your sweat rate.

Sweat Rate Test:
1. Weight before running; record the amount
2. Run for 60 minutes
3. Weight after running; record the amount
4. Calculate the difference of the two weights; record the amount
5. Each pound lost = 16oz of fluids
6. Record the temperature and pace of run

Runners also need to be aware of the signs of severe dehydration such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, not only for yourself, but so you'll be able to identify the symptons if a fellow runner is experiencing heat-related problems.

MedicineNet says that heat exhaustion usually develops after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate intake of fluids. The elderly and people with high blood pressure are prone to heat exhaustion as well as people working or exercising in the heat. Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and/or fainting. With heat exhaustion, the person's skin may feel cool and moist.
Cooling off is the main treatment for heat exhaustion. Drinking cool, non-alcoholic liquids may help as well as taking a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath. Getting into an air-conditioned environment will also help. If the conditions worsen or have not subsided within an hour, seek medical attention. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it may lead to heatstroke which needs immediate emergency medical attention (call 911).
The Mayo Clinic says that heatstroke is the most severe of the heat-related problems. Like heat exhaustion, it often results from exercise or heavy work in hot environments combined with inadequate fluid intake. Children, older adults, obese people, and people who do not sweat properly are at high risk of heatstroke. Other factors that increase the risk of heat stroke include dehydration, alcohol use, cardiovascular disease and certain medications. Heatstroke is life threatening because the body loses its ability to deal with heat can't sweat or control the body's temperature. Symptoms of heatstroke include rapid heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, elevated or lowered blood pressure, lack of sweating, irritability, confusion or unconsciousness, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, headache, nausea, and/or fainting.

If you suspect heatstroke, call 911 immediately! Then try to move the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned space. Then cool the person by spraying them with cool water or wrapping them in cool damp sheets, fan the person, and if possible try to get the person to drink cool water.

Nipples in a Pickle?

Nipple—such a funny little word. Not so funny for many runners. The chafed nipple has been the angst of runners for decades. This painful side effect of running was probably unknown to many non-runners until the hilarious episode of The Office where they decided to sponsor a fun run. Amazing how something so small can be the source of so much pain. I saw one runner at the San Francisco Marathon a few years back that looked like the victim of a drive-by shooting—two dark red stains streaming down the front of his singlet. OUCH!! I could barely look at him. I could only imagine the pain he must have felt.

What's the cause of this painful problem? Chafing. When fabric rubs against the nipple, the nipple becomes irritated, then chafed, or worse. Many runners don't experience the dreaded chafed nipple until they begin doing longer runs. The longer the time the fabric has to rub against the nipple the higher the chances of irritation.

So, what's a runner to do? First thing, make sure your running tops are not made of cotton. Cotton absorbs and retains moisture which can increase the irritation. When wet, cotton also tends to be abrasive against the skin. Finding non-cotton running apparel shouldn't be too hard these days with all the technical fabrics available. Look for tops made of polyester, nylon, or spandex. Some trademarked technical fabrics include Lyrca, CoolMax, DriFit, FitDry, ClimaLite, and PlayDry. Be careful though, just because a top is made of a technical fabric doesn't mean you're safe—design and fit also plays a big part. Look out for irritating seams. Flatseam stitching will help minimize chafing. Also, decide if you're a tight-fit or a loose-fit. I've discovered that shirts or singlets that contain Lycra or spandex and are designed to have a body-hugging fit, cause less chafing. The fabric doesn't move around as much creating less friction and irritation. However, body-hugging fabrics aren't for everyone. Some runners prefer loose-fitting tops so that if the irritation begins, they can lift the fabric away from affected area.

You've tried various types of fabrics, loose-fit, snug-fit, and you're still getting runners' nipple? Then you might be in need of one of the many products designed to stop nipple chafing.

Lubricants: Bag Balm, Udder Cream, Body Glide , Sportslube, SportShield, SportSlick, are all products designed to lubricate and provide a protective barrier between the nipple and the fabric. Petroleum jelly is also a favorite. Be careful though, some of these products may leave stains. These products are also good to use on other areas of the body where chafing may occur.

Protective Coverings: NipGuards are popular with many runners. NipGuards adhere directly to the base of the nipple and are 100% guaranteed not to fall off until you decide to remove them. The premise is simple. You cover the nipple and they don't get chafed. Many runners also use regular adhesive bandages such as Nexcare or Band-Aid. If you decide to go this route, be sure to select one of the many waterproof varieties on the market. Once, I used circular waterproof bandages and they worked fine. So fine in fact, that when I removed my shirt, I had two miniature water balloons attached to my chest. All I needed were some tassels and a dancer's pole. :-)

If you do experience severe chafing, treat the area like any open wound. Even though it will be painful, you'll need to wash and clean the area to prevent infection and then cover with a breathable bandage. Applying an antibiotic cream or ointment may be helpful too.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ice, Ice, Baby

It's amazing how something so basic can be such an amazing cure-all. I'm talking about ice. Even with all the anti-inflammatory creams and oral medications on the market, ice remains one of, if not the most, effective anti-inflammatory treatments for sports related injuries as well as to impede recovery from intense workouts.

The first thing many runners want to do after a long intense run is to hop in a hot shower or a warm tub, especially in the winter. But, that's actually the worst thing a runner can do. Although it may feel really good to slip those worn out legs and tired little toes into a warm bath, what actually happens may make things worse and slow down your recovery. The hot water actually increases the blood flow increasing swelling worsening the inflammation. Ice does the exact opposite. The coldness helps to decrease the blood flow, decreasing the chances of swelling. That's why when you sprain your ankle you put an ice pack on it—to keep the swelling down.

Runners can benefit from applying the same basic principle after an intense workout or long run. An ice pack can be applied to a specific area or you can take an ice bath. You don't need a fancy store-bought ice pack. In fact, a zippered plastic baggie filled with ice or even a bag of frozen peas works much better because it will conform better to the area. Frozen peas work well because the individually frozen peas stay cold longer and there's not as much condensation on the outside of the bag like you get with the ice cubes in the zippered bag. I'm actually sitting on a bag of frozen lima beans as I write this (I'm out of peas). I did a long run this morning and my lower glutes are feeling it. Apply the ice for about 15 to 20 minutes. If at all possible, it's best to apply the ice pack immediately after the workout.

Ice baths are great for decreasing inflammation in both legs at once. This is very effective after an intense speed workout or after a hard long run. It's the same basic premise as the ice pack, just on a grander scale. Fill a tub with enough water to so that when you sit in the tub your legs will be covered when sitting flat, legs outstretched. Then add an ample amount of ice. Next, sit in the tub and slowly stretch your legs out in front of you until they are fully submerged. Be prepared. It's COLD!! 10-15 minutes max is all you need.

Below my contribution to the July 2010 Runner's World "Ask the Experts" feature on using Ice Baths. Check it out!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You Want Me to What-lek?

Okay, admit it. Even though you know you may never be the next Usain Bolt or Lolo Jones, you probably have at some point wished you could improve your 5K, 10K, or half marathon race times. No matter what the race, just running more and faster is only going to take you so far before you plateau.

So, what can you do? Depending on what type of runner you are, try to target a good weekly mileage for yourself. This could be 15, 25, 30, or 40+ miles depending on your level of running experience and the types of races you enjoy the most. Be realistic and set a mileage goal that's obtainable without completely wiping you out. Once you have a good weekly base mileage established, start devoting one of those days to some speed work. No need to freak out. Speed work doesn't mean you have to dawn a unitard jumpsuit that the Olympic track stars wear. Maybe one day, but for now just keep on your regular running shorts. Speed work just means you're going to devote one of your weekly runs to some type of increased speed. Speed is relative. Increase speed for a new runner is going to be very different than speed for an experienced runner.

I know what some of you are thinking...."I can't do speed work, because I don't have access to a track." WRONG! Tracks are great for speed work, in particular for doing intervals or repeats(see Speed Work 101), but you can get in a good speed workout without a track. How? By doing Fartleks. Yes, I spelled that correctly and no you're not going to increase your speed by breaking wind as you run.

What is a fartlek? Fartlek is a Swedish word that means "speed play." Basically, incorporating some short periods of increased speed into a regular run is a fartlek. There are no rules to the length of a fartlek, but they are usually fairly short in distance such as 200-400m. Since you won't be on a track, just pick some landmarks for the beginning and ending of each fartlek. Maybe start your first fartlek when you pass the Smith's house and end it when you get to the gas station on the corner. Once you finish a fartlek, drop back to your normal running pace to recover; then repeat with another fartlek. It's hard, but make sure you drop back to regular pace after each fartlek. These little speed sessions sprinkled throughout your run will help improve your speed as well as your anaerobic threshold. Shannon Sena, a New Jersey corporate fitness manager, marathoner, and coach says, "You need to periodically train at close to your anaerobic threshold in order to advance that threshold and teach the body to run faster before fatiguing."

So, give it a try. I mean, really, how often are you given permission to fartlek? And, you don't even have to say excuse me!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Run a Half and Help a Great Cause!

Are you a runner and want to contribute to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation? Then participate in Team Challenge. Team Challenge is the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s new endurance training program. This exciting new fundraising program trains you to run or walk a half marathon while helping the Foundation raise funds to find a cure for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It may be too late to get in the needed training for two of this year's races (Kona Half Marathon-June 28, 2009 and Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon-July 19, 2009), but there's still plenty of time to train for the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon-December 6, 2009. If you're an experienced runner and want to try for this year's race, the official Race registration has SOLD OUT on the event sites, but you can still get your registration by joining Team Challenge!

Check out the awesome video clip below that has runners in the program describe their experiences with Team Challenge.

Not a runner, but want to contribute to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation in some way? Then you should join us this spring for the Take Steps for Crohn's & Colitis Walk in your area! Enjoy a casual two-to-three mile stroll and community celebration while we raise money for crucial research, bringing us closer to a future free from Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. More than 1.4 million American adults and children are affected by these digestive diseases. While many suffer in silence, Take Steps brings us together in a fun and energetic atmosphere, so we can make noise and be heard.

Click here to register today. Walk as an individual or as a team! With no registration fee, we ask walkers to raise our national average of $125 and qualify for our Take Steps t-shirt. The more money you raise, the bigger the incentive prize! Sign up today and become a leader in CCFA's mission to cure Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases.

Are you into cycling? Join Get Your Guts in Gear for their 2009 Rides for Crohn's and Colitis! You can ride or join the support crew during these 210-mile, three-day cycling adventures.

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis eight years ago. Luckily medication and a healthy lifestyle have helped keep my UC in remission for about five years. There is a heredity element to Crohn's and UC and I have three children. None have shown signs, but I didn't have symptoms until I was 36. IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) tends to run in families. Studies have shown that about 20 to 25 percent of patients may have a close relative with either Crohn's or ulcerative colitis. If a person has a relative with the disease, his or her risk is about 10 times greater than that of the general population. If that relative happens to be a brother or sister, the risk is 30 times greater.

It is estimated that as many as one million Americans have IBD -- with that number evenly split between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Males and females appear to be affected equally. Crohn's disease may occur in people of all ages, but it is primarily a disease of adolescents and young adults, affecting mainly those between 15 and 35. However, Crohn's disease can also occur in people who are 70 or older and in young children as well. In fact, 10 percent of those affected -- or an estimated 100,000 -- are youngsters under the age of 18.

Because of its nature, IBD doesn't get talked about a lot. You probably know someone suffering from IBD and don't even know it. Walking in a Take Steps event, running a half marathon with Team Challenge, or riding 210 miles with Get Your Guts In Gear are great ways you can help support this awesome organization. Thanks! -RunnerDude

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Loopy Labels

Have you tried reading a food label lately? With today's cleaver advertising, even a "nutrition nut" can be mislead by food label claims. In general, I try to be very conscious of what I'm eating. When training for a marathon, I usually increase the carbs and protein. When looking at the protein and carb content of foods, I usually skim over the other ingredients listed on the nutrition label as well as the list of ingredients. You'd be surprised sometimes at the amount of "bad" fat and/or sodium in some foods. And, what exactly does "low-fat" mean? And how about "light" And why do some foods claim to be "fat-free" when I see a fat listed in the ingredients?

Well, there are actually government guidelines for when these so-called "helpful terms" can be used. Bottom line, "light" may not be as light as you think and "fat-free" doesn't necessarily mean there's no fat.

Based on the FDA guidelines I created the Food Label Decoder below to help you be a more discerning shopper on your next visit the grocery store.
When you pick up something "light-and-healthy" take a closer look to see exactly what you're getting. Light-and-healthy could make you big-and-unhealthy if you're not careful.

Good luck!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Eww Yuck! Blackened Toenails

Raise your hand if you've ever had a blackened toenail? Or better yet, had one completely fall off as a result of running? I'm guessing there are a lot of raised hands. Novice runners are usually shocked and surprised while experienced runners wear them with pride. So what causes this odd occurrence?

Usually the root of the problem is an ill-fitting shoe. Toenails can become bruised and/or irritated when they either touch the front end of the shoe or brush against the top of the shoe. I earned my first and only blackened toenail in my first marathon. I did two big no no's. First I wore a fairly new pair of running shoes and secondly they were too small. You learn from your mistakes, right? Well, the cause of my toe woes is one of the most common causes of blackened toenails—shoes that are too small or too tight. Shoes that are too large, however, can also be the culprit. If there is too much room in the toebox and your forefoot isn't held securely in place, then your toes are going to bang around hitting the end and/or top of the shoe.

The reason the toe turns black is pretty simple—it's a bruise. The banging of the toenail against the end or top of the shoe causes soreness and/or irritation and if it continues long enough, then bleeding occurs beneath the toenail. If this happens, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few months of the blood to work its way out. For many runners, the blackened toenail will actually fall off. Don't worry, it grows back. The trapped blood provides the perfect conditions for a bacterial infection, so if the condition of the toe worsens and/or it's taking a long time for the nail to heal, visit your doctor and have it checked out pronto.

Even though many runners prize their blackened toenails like a rite of passage, it's best to do what you can to avoid getting them altogether. The best way to avoid the blackened toenail is to make sure your shoes fit. Use the following tips to help you get the best fit:
Sizing—running shoes often run a half-size to a full-size smaller than dress shoes, so you'll need to go up a half-size or a whole-size in many running shoes. For example, I normally wear an 8.5 or 9 dress shoe, but in a running shoe I typically wear a 9.5 or 10. Also keep in mind that wearing thick socks such as Thorlos® Running Thick Cushion Socks or wearing some type of orthotics may cause you to go up a half- or whole-size. RoadRunner Sports does a great job of letting you know in their catalog and online shoe descriptions whether to order a half- or whole-size larger. I've found that you can also call most of the online retailers and they're very helpful in providing sizing information. The best way to ensure a good fit is to purchase your shoes from your local running store. I've found that the independent, locally owned running stores usually have more knowledgeable staff than the big chain stores. Sometimes the online deals are just too hard to pass up, especially these days. But, to ensure the best fit, especially if you're trying a different brand or model, you may want to try on the shoes at your local running first before placing the order. (While you're there, be sure to support your local running store by purchasing some other running supplies and/or gear.)
ToeBox Wiggle Room—make sure your toes have some wiggle room in the toebox. They should not feel restricted in any way. But also make sure there's not too much wiggle room. Just like your mom used to say, there should be about a thumb's width between the end of longest toe and the end of the shoe. I usually go a step further by bending my foot (as if in mid-step) and then checking to see how much room I have between my longest toe and the end of the shoe. This extra step has really helped ensure I get a shoe that's the right length for me.
Snug Midfoot—make sure that the shoes fit snuggly around the midfoot area. They should feel supportive and secure not tight or restrictive.
No Slip Heels—there should be no slipping on the heel.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Don't Forget to Cross-Train!

A few days ago I wrote about the importance of sleep for runners. Another important element of training that often gets neglected by runners is cross-training. A typical training plan will incorporate a couple of rest and/or cross-training days. Remember what I said in the previous posting; be sure to use your rest days for rest. But, what should you be doing on your cross-training days? You know when you go to the all-you-can-eat buffet and there stretched before you is an entire bounty of goodies? You also know how that bounty includes some healthy choices and a whole lot of not-so-healthy-choices? Well, cross-training is just like that.

Running is a high-impact activity and it can take its toll on your body. Thus the need for cross-training: low-impact activities that continue to strengthen the body and workout the cardiovascular system without pounding your joints. Cross-training also allows you to work on other muscle groups that might never be addressed with just running. This helps your overall conditioning and makes you a stronger runner.

On your cross-training days, you need to make sure you're making "good choices" for your cross-training activities. Even though your cross-training activities will be low-impact, you can still become injured. Know your limitations. For example, if it's three weeks before your marathon, you probably don't want to start using the stair master machine at the gym for the very first time, nor do you want to bench press that 300lbs for the very first time. Listed below are some typical cross-training activities.

Cross-Training Activities for Running:
Walking (treadmill or outside)
Elliptical Trainer
Deep Water Running
Rowing Machine
Nordic Track Ski-Simulator
Weight Training

Be sure to add a variety of cross-training activities to your training routine in order to obtain more balanced, overall conditioning. If you have two cross-training days a week in your training program, try to alternate upper body and lower body cross-training activities such as using the elliptical machine and the rowing machine. Or, include an activity such as yoga that may workout both the upper and lower body.

If you belong to a gym, consult with one of the fitness instructors and let them know your need for some cross-training activities to compliment your running program. They'll be able to help select the cross-training activities best suited for your needs.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Inspiring Kids to Run

Not too long ago a good running and blogging friend of mine, Lisa Watts, told me about a really cool program—GO FAR—that helps kids train for and run their first 5K. As we talked, I discovered that the program was developed by a friend of hers—Robin Lindsay. I met Robin when she joined my running group for one of our Saturday morning long runs. I got to know her a little better when we both volunteered to help stuff envelops for a fundraiser for the upcoming NC Marathon. Her story is so inspirational that I asked her to share it with you, the readers of RunnerDude's Blog. Read on to find out how this truly unique and important program—GO FAR—came to be.

I’m amazed how life events and unplanned occurrences can sharply change the path of our lives. In 2003 I was a veteran Physician Assistant practicing medicine in a small adult clinic, seeing patients with primarily chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis. I was tired of non-compliant patients and watching my patients deteriorate to the point of kidney failure and amputation of limbs from poor diabetes control, and ongoing joint and back pain from being obese and inactive.

I left the small clinic to work in a local university, excited to be working with energetic, healthy young adults. Instead, what I found in my first year as health director at the university was 19- and 20-year-olds struggling with similar problems of inactivity, poor eating habits and extra weight. On evaluation, found their blood pressures were high and their blood sugars were slightly elevated. They complained of many of the same things that the older patients I once evaluated.

About this time, I was training for my first marathon with Team in Training, in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I love their method of training: every week you set and reach a new goal with the support of coaches. Somewhere in the middle of that training I had a “shower moment”: that instant when, as you’re shampooing, you come up with an awesome idea. I realized I could train impressionable elementary age kids in a similar way, teaching them to set goals and reach them, train them in the basics of how to complete a 5K road race and include nutrition training, character building and other aspects of training. And so GO FAR (Go Out For A Run) was born.

GO FAR is a 10-week curricul
um taught by teachers or parents who volunteer a few afternoons a week. Each week the children walk/run, increasing their running or speed walking time in each of the 10 weeks until the finale, a 5k run/walk. They also learn about the importance of good character, goal setting and other aspects of physical fitness.
Oh yeah, back to life changes. I quit my PA job to be a full-time volunteer with GO FAR and to help get more children active and to stay healthy. The program has grown from 16 kids in 2003 from one school to more than 1,000 children in 25 schools in 3 states. I want to see the program spread still farther. Once children train in the GO FAR program and participate in their first 5k, they generally are hooked. —Robin Lindsay

Want to start a GO FAR running club in your school, camp, club, or church? Visit Robin's Website at for more information.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sleep, Do Runners Get Enough?

Good sleep and lots of it provides time to renourish the mind and body. It also gives you more energy and can make you less moody and irritable. Heck, it can even help you live longer! So, why do so many of us get so little of it?

Did you know that good training and a good bed are probably the two most important things to a runner preparing for a race, especially an endurance race? Research shows that most people need more sleep, but runners in particular need lots of sleep. Actually as you increase your mileage during training, you should also be increasing the amount of sleep you're getting. Your muscles use sleep to repair themselves. If you shortchange yourself on sleep then you'll be running on tired legs. Running on tired legs means running slower and less efficiently. What do most of us do when we're running slower? Be honest. We often push ourselves harder. Do you see a train wreck about to happen? One way to prevent this tragedy is to make sure you take those rest days that are scheduled in your training plan. No cross-training on your rest days. Use those official "rest days" for exactly that—REST. And, get 8-10 hours of sleep.

Many runners have reported that actually when they cut their mileage a tad and increased the number of hours they slept, they improved their race time. Richard Stark, a coach with the Running Arizona training program in Tempe said that one runner he knows cut his 2:30 marathon time down to 2:18 just by doing exactly that—a little less running and a little more sleep.

Trying to sleep the night before a race is an entirely different story. Nerves can take over keeping the novice and even the elite runner from getting a good night's sleep prior to race day. In the clip below, running coach, Pat Connelly from LA Roadrunners and Valencia High gives several good pointers on how to ensure a good night's sleep before a race.

Marathon Race Day: How much sleep is needed the night before the race?
It's interesting how much sleep runners actually get prior to a big race such as a triathlon. Many will only get 2-6 hours of sleep even though they'll be racing 9-14 hours. In the clip below, see what many triathletes said about their projected hours of sleep just before the Ironman in Kailua Kona, Hawaii.

Hugo Rivera at gives the following four guidelines to ensure a good night's sleep:
1. Avoid activities that involve deep concentration or high physical exertion just before bedtime.
2. Avoid watching disturbing shows at night on TV.
3. Avoid eating a large meal at night.
4. Attempt to totally relax at the same time each night.
For more information on sleep in general, check out this clip from CBS's 60 Minutes.

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Take a Break and Laugh

Runners can sometimes get way too serious about their running, especially when in the heat of training. It's good for your training to take a break, even if it's just for a few minutes. No better time than the present for that little break. Take a look at the clip below from about brothers Carl and Karl Underwood as they train for an ultramarathon. I dare you not to laugh.

Check out other Carl and Karl Underwood videos here:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Vive la Verve!

The energy drink enigma has intrigued me for a while. Most are loaded with sugar and caffeine. Some of top-of-mind brands are Red Bull, Full Throttle, and AMP Energy. When they first appeared on the market, I figured they were a novelty item that would make some business man a lot of quick money and then the drinks would disappear as fast as they appeared. Kind of like the McRib sandwich...doesn't taste very good, but everybody wants one when it's put back on the menu, then "poof!" it's gone. But, I was wrong. Looks like energy drinks are here to stay and seems like everyone is trying to get a part of the action. Hooters even has an energy drink - Power Trip! Well, just like most things these days, there's good and bad and as a discerning shopper, you have to weed through the offerings to find the good stuff.

There's been a lot in the news lately about the dangers of energy drinks, especially for our youth. So my ears perked up when a Twitter friend of mine, Ryan Bittorf (Tweeter name: SanDiegoFitness) told me about a new energy drink, Verve!, that's loaded with "healthy energy." I was a little skeptical, so I asked him to send me a sample. I'm a diet soda fanatic, so I asked him to send me the sugar free version. While I was waiting for it to arrive, I did a little research and man was he right! Verve! is packed with an entire host of vitamins and minerals for a natural energy boost. The chart below shows you just how Verve! (sugar free) stacks up against Red Bull (sugar-free).

Looks like both drinks provide a boost, but Verve! provides a whole host of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In addition to what's listed in the chart, Verve! also contains a proprietary mangosteen, organic glyconutrient rich aloe vera and organic green tea blend: Reconstituted Mangosteen Juice (Garcinia mangostana L.)(fruit), Aloe Vera Gel (leaf), Green Tea (leaf) (decaffeinated), Mangosteen Extract (pericarp) (standardized 10% xanthones) and a proprietary plant-sourced mineral blend: Carbon (Organic), Calcium, Sodium, Sulfur, Magnesium, Chloride, Bromide, Fluoride, Iodine, Potassium, Niobium, Aluminum, Iron, Phosphorus, Silica, Manganese, Boron, Strontium, Titanium, Tungsten, Copper, Zinc, Tin, Zirconium, Molybdenum, Vanadium, Chromium, Selenium, Nickel, Cobalt, Lithium, Gallium, Barium, Yttrium, Neodymium, Hafnium, Cadmium, Thorium, Antimony, Cerium, Tellurium, Beryllium, Samarium, Dysprosium, Erbium, Bismuth, Gadolinium, Cesium, Lanthanum, Praseodymium, Europium, Lutetium, Terbium, Ytterbium, Holmium, Thallium, Thulium, Tantalum, Germanium, Gold, Platinum, Rhodium, Rubidium, Ruthenium, Scandium, Silver, Indium.

I downed my sample before my regular Saturday long run. I normally have a cup of coffee, but this time I decided to try the Verve! It had a nice taste. It kind of reminded me of a sparkling orange drink. Not overly sweet, but I could tell it was heartier than just sugar and carbonated water. I definintely noticed a nice boost during my run. The one benefit of the sugar-free energy drink was that I never experienced that sluggish feeling I get when coming down from the sugar rush that I usually experience with full-leaded energy drinks. All-in-all I was very pleased with the taste and the energy boost that the Verve! (surgar free) energy drink provided me.
If you're looking for the added jolt to get the most out of your run, you might as well be putting good stuff in your body, not just caffeine. The only drawback is you won't find Verve! in your local convenient store; you have to order it online. Also, if you already take a lot of supplements, you need to make sure you're not overdoing when using Verve. Check out the Fox News clip on Verve! below.

For more scoop on the energy drink market as a whole, check out this clip from CBS News.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Picture (Video) is Worth 1000 Words

In a previous post Which Shoe's Right for You? I described three types of running gates - neutral, overpronator, and underpronator. Sometimes a visual, better yet, a video clip, can help clarify something that may be a little hard to picture in your mind's eye. I found that to be the case for myself when reading about the various types of running gates. That is, until I discovered three video clips produced by Runner's World. The close-up view of runners exemplifying the tree different types of gates plus the added use of slow motion special effects, clearly reveals the difference between a neutral, overpronator, and an underpronator gate. After looking at the video clips below, use the cool Runner's World Shoe Finder Widget located in the right nav of the blog to help you find the perfect running shoe.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


In the recent posting "Fuel on the Run," I mentioned a food called Uncrustables® as a pre-run and post-run food option. If you didn't click on the link to find out more about what this unusual suggestion was all about, you might be surprised to know that it's simply a PB&J (peanut butter and jelly sandwich).

My wife used to attend Pampered Chef® parties when they were all the rage in my town about 10 years ago. At one of the parties she bought this funny contraption that looked like some type of flower-shaped press. I asked her what it was and she said it was a fancy finger-sandwich press. Just what we needed. Something that made fancy sandwiches and wasted half the bread and taught our kids that the crust wasn't something we were supposed to eat. I think we used the press once for a birthday tea party for my daughter.

Over the next few years, I'd come across that press in the "junk" drawer and chuckle. Then one day while I was in the frozen food section of the grocery store, something caught my eye that looked a lot like those dainty little finger-sandwiches my wife made for that birthday tea party several years back. Smucker's® (the jelly and jam company) had packaged a frozen version of the same exact pressed sandwich, filled them with peanut butter and jelly, and called them Uncrustables®. I stood there dumbfounded and thought, "Dang, what a great idea." Of course I didn't tell my wife that. I bought a pack to show my wife and kids and every now and then we'd buy them for a novelty to put in the kids lunches.

It wasn't until last year that I discovered another purpose for these pressed little sandwiches: pre-, during-, and post-run fuel! Neal Leeper, a running buddy of mine, is an avid marathoner who doesn't care too much for the sports gels. He discovered from a triathlon friend of his that Uncrustables® make a great food to eat during a long run. Because the sandwiches are individually packaged and because the sandwich itself is pressed around the edges, they transport and keep surprisingly well on the run. Just pop one in a small fanny pack on your hydration belt and you're good to go. The carbs from the bread and the jam and the protein from the peanut butter make perfect fuel for a long run. They also make a great pre-run mean as well as a post-run snack.

Now I place that dainty pressed little finger-sandwich in the same category as Wite-Out®, Post-it® Notes, and the Pet Rock....Why didn't I think of that!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bid to Run with Joan!

It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to run with a former Olympic marathon gold medalist, Boston Marathon record-setter, and thirty-year phenom in the sport of distance running. Go to and bid on a run and catered lunch with Joan Benoit Samuelson, the featured guest for the NC Marathon. The item name is "Run and lunch with Joan Benoit Samuelson for charity." Marathon organizers are taking the top 10 bids, beginning at the recession-bargain rate of $35. The winners will meet at noon on Friday, May 1, at the Piedmont Environmental Center, High Point, NC, for an easy jog and then a catered lunch.

All proceeds go to Foster Friends of NC, the nonprofit that is organizing the marathon, half-marathon, and 5k. Foster Friends works to improve the lives of Guilford County children in foster care by filling requests for such things as camp tuition, yearbooks, martial arts classes, and prom dresses.

Great mother's day gift for your favorite running mom. Great incentive gift for a friend, family member or an employee who's training for the marathon.

Fuel for The Long Run

The long run. The nemesis of the marathon runner's training plan. You either can't wait for it or you dread it depending on a lot of factors. Most runners, particularly beginning runners, know the importance of hydrating before running and after running, but proper fueling before, during, and after the run? Not so much. Runners having unsuccessful long runs often complain of nausea, fatigue (bonking), muscle cramps, or barely being able to move hours after the run. Not all, but many of these symptoms can be avoided with proper fueling before, during, and after the run.

Hydration: Proper hydration actually begins the day before a long run. You don't need to drink gallons and gallons of water, but you do need to make sure your taking in lots of fluids the day before your long run. If the well is dry, drinking 8oz. of water just before your long run, ain't gonna hack it. Water is the most important part of any run especially the long run. Runners need to consume water before, during and after the run. There's no exact prescription for hydration that fits everyone. Each person is different and your hydration needs can vary from run to run depending on how much you sweat, the temperature, and your pace. Calculating your sweat rate is a great way to get a good handle on your specific hydration needs. To begin the test, weigh yourself just before beginning a 60 minute run. Record your weight. Run. Then reweigh yourself and record the second weight. It should be less than the first. Calculate and record the difference. In addition to the weight difference, record the outside temperature and the pace of your run. Each pound lost equals 16oz. of fluids. So, if you lost 2 lbs. on your run, you'd want to hydrate about every 15-20 minutes by drinking about 6oz. of fluids on future runs under similar conditions. It's a good idea to repeat this test under various conditions and speeds so you'll know how to modify your fluid intake depending on how hot it is or how fast you're running.

Sweat Rate Test:

  1. Weight before running; record the amount
  2. Run for 60 minutes
  3. Weight after running; record the amount
  4. Calculate the difference of the two weights; record the amount
  5. Each pound lost = 16oz of fluids
  6. Record the temperature and pace of run

Water is good, but sports drinks help offset electrolytes lost when you sweat. They also provide fuel for your muscles. Some experts suggest carrying one bottle of water and 2-3 bottles of sports drinks in your hydration belt. Having the bottle of water can help you rid your mouth of that dry feeling often a result of many sports drinks. It's best to train using the sports drink that will be provided during the marathon unless you plan carrying your own. Never drink a sports drink during a race that you haven't used while training. You never know how your body may react to something new. If your system is sensitive to sports drinks, you may want to try taking small sips more frequently such as drinking 2oz every 10mins instead of 6oz. every 15-20mins. Again, experiment with this during a training run, not during the race. If you plan on hydrating using the water stops during the race, slowing down or walking to ensure you get in the fluids is fine. Drinking from a cup on the run is very different than sipping from your water bottle.

Before the Run: What you eat before an endurance run can greatly impact your performance. No food or too little food before a long run can result in fatigue. It can also cause you to burn more m
uscle which can result in injury. Lots of runners don't eat prior to a run because they fear the dreaded upset stomach. But eating just enough to stave off that hungry feeling isn't going to cut it, especially with many miles ahead of you. Just like you train to increase your mileage, you need to train your body to eat something prior to running. What you eat and how much will vary from runner to runner. You don't need a heavy breakfast, but a combination of carbs and protein is a good plan. Some prerun foods to try include:

  • a bagel with peanut butter
  • a whole-grain waffle with peanut butter
  • two graham crackers with peanut butter whole-grain cereal with skim milk (FYI: test on a short run; milk doesn't set well with some runners)
  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Uncrustables
  • a sports bar (check the label and make sure it's not loaded with saturated fat)

The reason you need to eat is that you want to give your body some fuel to use before having to use its reserves. If you start off using your reserves and they get depleted, fatigue will soon follow as well as the dreaded "bonk." Fat is needed and is important in the absorption of nutrients, but avoid eating high-fat foods before a long run. These foods take longer to digest and will make you feel like a slug and may even cause you to feel nauseous on your run.

During the Run: For runs lasting more than 60 minutes, it's a good rule of thumb to take in 30-60 grams of carbohydrates every hour. Use the chart below from Runner's World to help you select some foods good for during your run.

After the Run: Eating 300 - 400 calories with a three-to-one mix of carbs and proteins within 30 minutes after finishing your run will help ensure a quicker recovery. During a long run, you deplete your glycogen stores as well as create microscopic tears in your muscle tissue. Eating a carb/protein mixture helps to restore the glycogen and repair those tiny tears. Some experts support eating 50 grams of carbs within 15 minutes of finishing your run. Good post-run eats include:

  • a glass of low-fat chocolate milk
  • a bagel with peanut butter
  • a smoothie made with fruit and yogurt
  • brown rice pudding with sliced banana
  • whole-grain cereal with skim milk
  • Uncrustables