Saturday, February 27, 2010

Got Office-Chair-Itis?

Have you ever had this experience? You're sitting at your desk all day....8-10hrs later you try to stand up.....your body's seems permanently forged into the sitting takes several steps around your office before your back straightens and your knees unlock.

I have to admit I have. Most likely, if you're reading this post, you're a runner, triathlete, cyclist, or in some way active and fit or working towards fitness. Imagine now, that you're not an active person and you sit in the same position, day after day, week after week, month after month. Not a good picture, huh? Sitting at a desk and working on a computer all day is often the culprit and cause of bad posture. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, if you're not active and exercising during your non work time, then you're not going to have the muscular endurance to sit all day. Yep, that's right—muscular endurance for sitting. Your core muscles, such as the erector spinae muscles, the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, latissimus dorsi, and oblique muscles are mainly made of type 1 muscle tissue. They're the epitome of endurance muscles because they're always "on" working to keep you upright as well as to hold in all your "innards!" Well, if you're not actively working to keep your core strong, then it can take a toll on those muscles and eventually gravity wins and you begin to slump (usually forward in the direction of your computer screen). [Click here] for a good workout for your core using a medicine ball.

Secondly, because you spend so many hours in the seated position, you can get tight hip flexors. There are several muscles that make up the hip flexors most of which originate on the ilium (your hip bone) or pubic bone and insert at various places on the upper and lower leg bones. These muscles help you flex at the hip. When you sit, you're actually in a flexed position. So, after 8-10+ hours of being in this flexed position, your muscles tend to stay flexed when you try to stand up. That's a big reason why you're slumped forward when you try to get up. Eventually you're able to loosen your hip flexors and stand up. Over time, however, you can actually start to have a slight forward pelvic tilt. Over even more time, that tilt can become even more pronounced.

Good news is that most people can correct and/or prevent this just by strengthening their core and adding hip flexor stretches and exercises to their daily routine. As a runner it's vitally important to have a strong core. Your core is the source of all your running energy. A weak core will allow fatigue to set in much sooner than a strong core. Once your core gets fatigued, you'll begin to lose good running form. Once you lose your running form, that can spell disaster in a race.

Also, as a runner (who may also be working a desk job for many hours a day) you need to remember to "unflex" those hip flexors. Not only do you need to take a break periodically during the day to stand up and stretch, you also need to do the same before a run. Before you begin a run (especially after a day of office-sitting), be sure to do some dynamic stretches (actively moving stretches not static stretching). This can be as simple as a very easy light jog around the parking lot. Other times (if you're going for a longer or more intense run) you may want to do a series of simple running drills such as high kicks, butt kicks, side shuffles, karaoke shuffles, etc. Not only will this warm-up your muscles, it will also get your heart pumping and your blood circulating to all your muscles before your run.
Below is a clip from LiveStrong showing three good hip flexor stretches. These are great for during the day, at the end of your day, or after your run.

Running cold on a stiff body can spell I-N-J-U-R-Y real fast, so take a few pre-run precautions. You'll be glad you did come race day, when you're injury free.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Champion Running Clothes—Affordable, Comfortable & Effective!

Back in January, I featured a post on a great program sponsored by Champion—the Champion Innovation Lab. The Innovation Lab provides a group of real everyday runners some of their newest technical fabric running clothes to test out while training for the Walt Disney Marathon. Champion is genuinely interested in these runners' feedback and their likes and dislikes of the various clothing items. Champion values their input and actually uses the feedback in their product development. How awesome is that?!

Champion sent me some of the same items to test as well—shorts, track pants, and tops. All the clothing items are made from Champion's doubleDRY technical fabric. I'm happy to report that all the items meet the RunnerDude's test of approval. The long-sleeve shirt I tested was light-weight and perfect for layering. On one run, I wore the shirt as a base layer with a fleece outer layer on top. The shirt performed very well in wicking the sweat from by body through the shirt into the outer layer (too bad my fleece outer layer wasn't made of Champion doubleDRY). On another run (on a milder day) I used the top by itself and again, it did a great job of keeping me dry. The shorts and pants worked equally well. I liked that the shorts had a little length to them. I wasn't too sure about the pockets, but I ended up really liking them as well. I didn't really notice they were there, and they came in handy for my sports gel. The only thing that would have made the shorts even better would be if they came with a doubleDRY brief liner. I believe the track and vented versions of their running shorts come with liners, but the pair I tested did not.

Overall I was very pleased with the doubleDRY performance and the shorts, tops, and pants all get a 5 RunnerDudes rating! Add the affordability on top of the great performance and Champion running clothes are a great deal!

New Contest!!
I'm happy to announce that Champion is sponsoring the next RunnerDude Contest! The prize will be a clothing item from Champion's sports line! There will be two winners—one male and one female. To enter, all you have to do is email RunnerDude at by midnight (EST) Saturday, March 13, 2010. The winner will be announced on the blog on Sunday, March 14, 2010. Be sure to put "Champion-[male or female]" in the subject line and your name in the body of the email. Please remember to include your sex (male/female) to make certain your email goes into the right category for the drawing.

Note: Champion provided the clothing items used in this review. I received no compensation for writing this review and I was not encouraged by Champion to do a positive review. This review is simply a recap of my experience with the product.

Monday, February 22, 2010

RunnerDude's Runner of the Week: Gina

I feel like I can call this week's runner (Gina) an old friend, even though, I've never met her in person. Gina has been following the blog almost since its beginning. I've also enjoyed following her blog (Running Grandma) as well as being Twitter, FaceBook, and DailyMile friends. Gina's own running experiences as well as her constant encouragement and support are an awesome thing. Read on to find out more about Gina.

RD: Gina, I know you live out in the northwest. Oregon, I think. Exactly where in Oregon do your hail from?
Gina: Aumsville, Oregon (just East of Salem). We're actually in the country about halfway between Salem & Aumsville.

I know you're an avid runner, but tell us a little more about yourself.
Gina: I'm 56 years old, married, and have 3 grown children. I have 4 granddaughters, ages 14, 11, 10, and 9. I am not working outside the home at this time, but spend 7 hours a week volunteering at a homeless shelter for women & children. I also make quilts for the shelter, making at least 40 a year to give to the women as Christmas gifts. I also make quilts for a shelter for teens coming out of the gang lifestyle. I'm blessed to be able to use the talents God has given me to help others. I also enjoy reading and, of course, the computer.

RD: Man, Gina, you are one busy lady! I'm surprised you have time to fit in your running. When did you take up running?
Gina: I began running in the Fall of 2006, at the age of 53. Better late than never.

RD: After 53 years, what got you into running?
Gina: A good friend of mine began changing his lifestyle to a healthier one and started me thinking about my completely sedentary life. I first began strength training and using the elliptical, and then finally took up running. It has changed my life.

RD: What about running do you enjoy the most?
Gina: The best thing about running is how it makes me feel, not only physically, but emotionally, mentally, etc. When people talk about "runner's high", they aren't kidding. It's real and a documented physical fact. When I can't run, I actually get depressed. Gee, I never thought I'd say something like that? hahaha!

RD: One of the things I talk about a lot on the blog is food and fueling the body for your runs. What are some of your favorite running/training foods?
Gina: Before I run (about 2 hrs) I have a bagel with peanut butter and an Activia yogurt. I hate to say it, but I also have a Diet Coke. During my longer runs, I use PowerBar gels and water only. That's all I am able to stomach. I like them because they are thinner and easier to digest. After my run, I usually have a recovery drink (if it's a long run), chocolate of course! Then later I'll have my favorite after run lunch - peanut butter & jelly sandwich. I'm such a child at heart.

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with others?
Gina: I am a lone runner, mainly because it fits into my lifestyle best. I'm not against running with other people and enjoy it sometimes, but I'm a slow runner and don't like to hold anyone back.

RD: Many of the blog readers know, I've had some interesting encounters and funny things happen to me on my runs. What's the funniest/most interesting thing that's happened to you while on a run?
Gina: I'm not sure I should say this, but I will. LOL! I had a wardrobe malfunction. Let's just say it was a little mishap with a new sports bra I'd never worn before. Thank God I run in the country where there are few people around. hahahaha!

RD: What do you feel is your biggest running accomplishment?
Gina: I think my biggest accomplishment is actually my slowest marathon - the Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon last October. I had a serious bike wreck 3 weeks before, was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion and bruised ribs. The marathon is held in Susanville, California and is over a mile high at the start, ending at about 4200'. I train at about 500' so it was VERY difficult for me. I ended up walking about 22 miles of it and still had an average heart rate of 178 for the entire 6 hours and 45 minutes it took to finish it! I'm amazed sometimes at my stubbornness! My motto is "Finish or Die!"
RD: Man, Gina. You do have one strong will and some kind of determination. I'm thinking we need to nickname you The Gina-nator!

RD: Do you have a favorite brand/model of running shoe?
Gina: Right now I am running in Newton shoes. I have tried different brands and think I like these the best. I am a natural forefoot runner so these help me do that.

RD: Is there one race distance you prefer over another?
Gina: I'm not sure I have a favorite race distance. I seem to be hooked on marathons right now. Crazy me. I usually try to run the MLK Stride Toward Freedom 5K and the Keizer Iris Festival 5K here in Salem each year.

RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
Gina: I would (and DO) tell people to get out and do what you can. It sure beats sitting around and not doing anything. I am not a competitive runner and when I started, I NEVER planned to run a race. I just wanted to become healthier. If you can't run due to a physical problem, then walk or do some other cardio exercise. Doing so will add years to your life and will make your life much better. Find someone who will hold you accountable, preferably someone who will exercise with you. That makes all the difference. I will never go back to not exercising. Yes, I hate it at times, but I love how it makes me feel. The worst thing you can do is not start; just begin and go at your own pace. You'll be glad you did, I promise.
RD: I love that phrase...."the worst thing you can do is not start; just begin and go at your own pace." Whether it's your first time putting on running shoes or you're just trying to get the gumption to go on that 20-miler, those are awesome words to live by.

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
Gina: Running and exercising (biking too) had never been a part of my life. I was never athletic in school. I actually got bad grades in P.E. I never thought I could do anything physical and hated the thought of it. Forcing myself to get out of my comfort zone was really hard, but I did it gradually. I'm very stubborn and will stick to something like glue once I've made up my mind to do it. However, I know I could have easily given up if I didn't have the support I get from my running friends on Twitter, FaceBook & Dailymile. They are the only support I have and I SO appreciate them.

Gina, I must say, you have been a wonderful source of inspiration for me over the past year while I've gone through a job layoff and a life/career transformation. I'm sure you've been the same kind of inspiration for many, many other's who've found your blog, know you from Twitter, FaceBook, DailyMile, or are lucky enough to know you in person. Thanks for sharing your story!

Be sure to check out Running Grandma, Gina's blog.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

So, How Many Calories Do I Need?

People are always surprised when I calculate out how many calories they need when they’re training. An average woman need about 1,200 calories just for her resting metabolic rate. That’s just what your body needs to run all it’s systems. She’ll need about another 600 calories for normal daily activity. So basically, not counting any exercise, the average female needs about 1,800 calories a day.

Now comes the shocker—the calories needed to support your training, stay healthy, and maintain your weight. On average you need about 100 calories per mile. This actually varies depending on how much you weigh. If you weight 120lbs you’ll need about 95cals per mile. It goes up about 15cals for every additional 20lbs of weight. So, a 180-pound individual will need about 140cals per mile.

For ease, lets say the female from earlier weighs 120lbs. The extra calories she’d need on a day she’s running a 6-miler would be 570cals. Her total calorie need for the day would be 2,370cals (1,200 + 600 + 570). This surprises many people, because they’re used to seeing diets that have you eating something crazy like 1,500cals a day. Now remember the 2,370cals is on a day you’re running a 6-miler. If you’re not running you won’t need those additional calories.

Why do you need those calories? Well, think of it as fuel. Let’s say you typically put $40 gas in your car each week. If one week you decide to drive across the country, that $40 of gas isn’t going to get you there. Same thing with calories. Not only do you need those calories for fuel, you need those calories for rebuilding and repairing muscle tissue after your run. In this case less is not more.

Now if you want to lose weight, you can decrease your calorie intake some in order to shed some pounds. Decreasing your calorie intake by 3500 calories in one week (500cals per day) should result in a 1lb weight-loss for that week. I can see the light-bulbs coming on….many of you are saying, “Cool, I’ll just not add those extra 570cals for running and I’ll be good to go.” Problem is, doing that doesn’t account for the calories you’re going to burn on your run. So you’ll end up with a huge calorie deficit and by not adding the extra fuel it’s going to take longer for you to recover from your run.

Nancy Clark (author of Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners, Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2007) recommends that you should first calculate your calorie needs and then target 80% of that total calories in order to safely get the needed calories for daily living and your added exercise and still lose weight.

Here’s an example using the female runner from above.
1,200cals (to support metabolic rate) + 600cals (to support normal daily activity) + 570cals (to support 6-mile run) = 2,370cals (to support this day’s activity while maintaining the athlete’s weight).
80% x 2,370cals = 1,896cals (cals needed to support the daily activity and lose weight).

Many people (athletes or not) complain about feeling hungry throughout the day, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. One way to help avoid this hungry feeling is to try eating more frequently throughout the day. Instead of 3 traditional meals, try having 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day. You’re not going to be eating more calories, but you’ll spread it out over the course of the day. Your body actually burns calories while it’s digesting, so if you feed the fire more frequently, it keeps that engine burning longer.

If it’s easier, to still think of your 3-meals a day, that’s fine. Just make those meals smaller and then add a healthy snack in between those traditional meal times. Also, be sure to eat foods that are going to provide you with energy and have lasting power. Whole grains, nuts, fruits and veggies are great choices. Quaker makes a great oatmeal (Quaker Weight Control Instant Oatmeal) that I eat every morning. The name is a little misleading. The reason it’s “weight control” is because it has more protein than regular instant oatmeal which helps keep you fuller longer. A handful of raw almonds make a great mid-morning snack. Drink a glass or water with them and it will cause the nut fiber to expand helping you to feel fuller. Almonds also help to build your immune system. Lowfat yogurt as a mid afternoon snack is a great choice. Greek yogurt is packed with protein and really does the trick in keeping hunger at bay for me. Just be sure to get the 2% or no-fat variety.

So, it’s a little work, but keep track of your caloric needs, especially if you’re training and doing a lot of running. Your body will thank you and the fruits of your labor will show up in your training and in your renewed energy!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Running, Resistance Training, and Weight Loss

In the last post we learned how sprinting and endurance weight training can help keep a runner from eating his/her own muscle (which can occur from the release of cortisol during long slow runs). There’s also another benefit of speed work and resistance training. Both boost your metabolism which means increased calorie burn. If you burn more calories than you’re taking in, then guess what? You’ll lose weight.

In order to lose a pound of fat in a week, you need to decrease your calorie intake by 3,500 calories weekly (~500cals a day). This can be done by eating less, but it can also be done by burning more calories. Exercise and watching what you eat go hand-in-hand and this combination is the best way to lose weight. It may not be ultra fast, but it will work.

Now be careful not to fall back into the trap of thinking that running will do all the work for you. Remember, the best way to get a good calorie burn is by doing some type of speed work mixed in with your regular weekly runs. Slow steady running (with no other form of exercise) is going to release that bad old cortisol which can eat away at your own muscle. With less muscle, you’ll burn fewer calories which all allow that fat to creep back on you.

Now initially with regular steady running, you may see some weight loss, but unfortunately a lot of that may be muscle loss not fat loss. Slow steady running and not eating can also cause you to gain weight. Have you ever tried to lose weight by just not eating, but instead of losing weight you gain? Your body needs fat to survive. The protective covering (myelin sheath) around your nerves is actually made of fat. If you suddenly stop eating, your body thinks it’s starving and will go into a self-preservation mode. Normally, if you run out of carbs, your body will turn to fat stores for energy, but if your body feels it is starving it will preserve the fat by using muscle tissue for energy. Your muscles are little calorie-burning engines. If you have less muscle tissue, those engines aren't going to be working as hard and your metabolism slows down. This decrease in caloric burn can actually cause weight gain. Can see a viscous cycle happening? If you’ve ever watched The Biggest Loser, one common thread you hear over and over is that “you have to eat to lose weight.” You can’t just eat anything, but if you’re working out while you’re trying to lose weight, you have to remember that you have to fuel and refuel your muscles before and after a workout.

Resistance training also has an added benefit to weight loss. Studies have shown that once you stop running, the extra calorie burn pretty much stops too. Weight training, however, has shown that the calorie burn actually continues for 9 or more hours after completing the workout. So, you continue to burn more calories even after your workout. Sweet!

All of this information does not mean, “Don’t run.” It simply means, “Don’t just run.” In order to keep you a healthy runner and promote muscle growth and regeneration as well as keep your metabolism ramped up, and main your weight (or even lose some), you need to mix it up with speed work and resistance training.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sprint and Lift!

For year and years, the thought was that long slow runs were the best way to burn calories. Well, long slow runs will burn calories but there’s something else that happens during long slow runs. Something called cortisol is released. Cortisol actually can eat way at your muscle tissue. This can slow your metabolism causing you to burn fewer calories, and you can actually start to gain weight.

Have you ever heard a fellow runner say, "I run and run, but I can’t lose weight"? I bet if you dug deeper into their running routine, they’re probably running the same mileage at the same low-intensity pace week after week. Now while this is good aerobic exercise, it could be doing harm to their metabolism and muscle mass.

So what’s a person to do? The solution is really easy and some of you may already be doing it. Just mix up your routine with some speed work and some resistance training.

Speed work doesn’t have to be on a track. You can do speed work by throwing in something called fartleks into a regular run. A fartlek (I know you’re snickering) is nothing more than speeding up and slowing back down to the original pace over and over during a run. Fartleks can be timed (run at regular pace for 2mins and run a fartlek for 30 seconds or a minute or whatever time increments you like). Fartleks can be measured by distance (run at regular pace for 1 mile and run a fartlek for ¼ mile or whatever distance increments you like). Just remember that after the fartlek to pull back to the pre-fartlek pace. Repeat this process several times during a run and you’ve had a good speed workout. Be sure that your fartlek pace is around your 5K race pace. You can also do a more formal speed work by doing interval workouts at a track such a 6 x 400m). Hill workouts and tempo runs are also good to ramp up the intensity. Research has shown that short intense speed workouts burn just as many (if not more) calories as a long slow run and you don’t get the cortisol release.

A non-running activity to add to the mix is resistance training. I know, I know. It seems sacrilegious for a runner to advocate a non aerobic activity, but hear me out. Resistance training is a fancy way of saying weight training. Weight training or resistance training doesn’t have to consist of just dumbbells and barbells. It can be your body weight. Course, sometimes I’ve been called a dumbbell, but I’m sure I’m the exception.

Now, I know many of you still have ruffled feathers over the non-running activity thing, but be assured; I’m not talking about Arnold-building, bicep-bulging, scary-looking, meathead-with-no-neck kinds of workouts. Arnold and those other big boys used something called hypertrophy training. That’s training designed to create those big bulgy muscles. Runners can use something called endurance training.

Endurance training uses lower weight and higher reps. For this type of exercise, you’ll be using less than or equal to 67% of your one rep max. Basically that’s a weight that you can handle for about 12-15 reps. Or, you don’t even have to use any weight other than your body weight. Exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts are great resistance training exercises for runners (with or without weights). Upper body exercises are just as important. Ever been on a long run and your arms get fatigued? If you’ve increase their muscular endurance along with your legs, you’re going to delay fatigue much longer than just focusing on the legs. Core exercises are great too and are extremely important in maintaining proper running form which will help fight off fatigue.

Another key to endurance weight training is that there’s very little rest time in between sets (30 seconds). So give it a try. Lighter weights, higher reps, less rest time in between sets. Now endurance resistance training may not officially be an aerobic activity, but I guarantee that it will get your heart rate up and you breathing hard. Give it a try and you’ll see.

Now as an endurance runner, you’re going to do some long slow runs. In fact you’re going to be doing a lot of them, especially if you’re training for a marathon or ultra marathon. So what gives? Well that speedwork and resistance training also have other added benefits. Sprinting and other forms of speed work, causes the body to release human growth hormone factor which has been called nature’s fountain of youth. It helps your body build muscle tissue as well as repair muscle tissue quicker. Resistance training does a similar thing, it also helps to release human growth hormone factor (more in females) as well as testosterone (more in males). Both of these help build and repair muscle tissue. So, mixing-up your weekly routine with some speedwork and some resistance training helps to counteract the bad effects of cortisol released during a long slow run. Not only that, it also makes your weekly workouts much more interesting!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

So What Is A Good Base?

Okay, so after yesterday's post, you know why a good base is needed before beginning a marathon training program, but what does "good" mean? Base mileage will vary from runner to runner and whether you're a beginner or an experienced runner will play a factor too. But a good rule of thumb for a solid base is to be running 4-5 times a week with an average total weekly mileage of 25-35 miles.
It's fine to mix it up during your base-building phase with fartleks, tempo runs, hill work etc. But, mainly the mixing-it-up is to help keep it fresh and fun, not for training purposes. In other words, your goal during the base-building phase isn't to kill yourself in each workout. You're just building miles, letting your body get acclimated to the miles and building endurance.

Keep in mind that the average weekly miles of 25-35 for a good base is just average. It's not what you'd necessarily begin with (especially if you're a novice). Your first week of base building mileage may only consist of 15 miles. Just as your marathon training plan has you ramp-it-up throughout your training, your base-building will also increase, not in intensity, however, but in volume.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your weekly mileage increase to no more than 10%. Ramping up the miles too soon can cause injury. Your first week of base building might include 4 days of 3- to 4-milers for a total of 15 miles. The second week, you may keep your "during the week" miles the same, but increase one of the runs by 10%, making that day's run your "long run." Eventually you'll work your way up to running three to four 4- to 8-milers during the week and a long run of 10 miles. Remember these (for the most part) are low intensity miles. Save the intense workouts for when your marathon training kicks in to prevent from peaking too soon.

How many months of base building should you have? Well, again, that will vary from runner to runner. For a first time marathon runner (who is also fairly new to running), 6 months is a good time span for base building. Then the based building will be followed by 4-5 months of training. For a more experienced runner, 5 months of base building is a good goal to shoot for. For the old pro, 4 months is a good goal to shoot for.

One of the biggest mistakes a runner can make in marathon running, is to think the training begins with the 16-20 training plan he/she has downloaded off the Internet. Nothing wrong with the plan, but I can almost guarantee, if you asked the creator of the plan, he/she would say that their plans assume you have a solid base before beginning.

Remember that base-building is your conditioning period. It's your preseason training time. You're prepping your body so that when you start your "real training" you won't put your body into shock.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Strong Base = Strong Marathon

Now's the best time to start preparing for your fall marathon. What's that sound? Is it the sound of jaws dropping? Yep, now is a great time to start preparing for your fall marathon. Notice I said "start preparing" not "start training." I've mentioned it in previous posts that base building is key to a successful marathon. Many a bad marathon experience can be traced back to lack of building a solid base. So before you start your marathon training in May, June, or July, take the next 3 months to work on building a strong base.
Okay, I hear the mumbling. You're wanting more specifics. The "Whys?" Well there are a couple of "Whys." Fist of all, it's during this time that you're conditioning your body to being on the road or the trail. Just because you can run a 10-miler at race pace once doesn't mean that your body has adapted to running at that distance or pace. In fact it takes 4-6 weeks of running that 10-miler at that pace for your body to adapt to that distance at that pace. Giving your body this time to adapt as you build your mileage means you're allowing your body to gradually get acclimated to the added stress which will help prevent injury. This doesn't mean that you have to run that same 10-miler for 4-6 weeks straight. What it means is that 4-6 weeks down the road (when you may be running a 18-miler) your body has actually adapted to the 10 miles and now it's in the process of adapting to the higher miles.

Too much too soon is often the cause of many running-related injuries. A good rule of thumb for increasing weekly mileage is to increase it by no more than 10% per week (adding the extra mileage to the longest run first and shortest run last).

Secondly, base building helps your body to actually increase the amount of oxygen in your blood stream which in turn increases the number of mitochondria and capillaries you have. So why is that important? Well, everybody knows that it's important for runners to fuel themselves with carbs. In the body something called glycolysis happens which is the breakdown of carbohydrates (either glycogen that's stored in the muscles or glucose delivered in the blood). The end product of this process is something called pyruvate.

Pyruvate is what's used to resynthesize ATP (the real energy source of the body). If you've depleted your oxygen levels in the blood (or you just don't have good oxygen levels to begin with), your body will convert the pyruvate to lactate. If you haven't incorporated lactate threshold training into your plan and this occurs, then you might experience a burning sensation in the muscles and begin to slow down. Trained runners, however, can actually use the lactate as an energy source, but even that will only last for a short time.

The best method for sustained energy is for the pyruvate to be shuttled into the mitochondria where it will be converted into Acetyl-CoA which then will go through a series of reactions eventually resynthesizing ATP creating energy. This is known as the oxidative system (more specifically the Krebs Cycle). The body can also take fat through the Krebs cycle to produce energy. Actually fat makes a great fuel source because 1 gram of fat produces 9Kcals and 1 gram of carbs only produces 4Kcals. In either case, oxygen is the key factor.

Sounds really complicated, huh? Well, basically if you've fueled well with complex carbs and have good levels of oxygen in your blood, then you're gonna get that energy-making stuff where it needs to go to make more energy so you can keep going. One good way to make sure you have good oxygen levels is by increasing the number of capillaries you have. You do that simply by running more. Your body will take care of the rest.

Have you ever seen a sprinter that's a great marathoner? Probably not. A big part of the reason you don't see that crossover is because sprinters have a lot more Type 2 (force production) muscle. But another reason, is that they use a different energy system. Their bodies aren't concerned with long-term energy needs. They use the phosphagen system which provides quick energy.

So why do distance runners benefit from speed work? Great question. Well speed work helps a distance runner push their lactate threshold levels higher. It helps a distance runner's body learn to deal with lactate when it's produced. The body will more likely know what to do with it and convert it to energy instead of just making you feel sluggish and fatigued. It also just helps the body know what it feels like when/if you need to kick it up a notch during a race. So be sure to add speed work (intervals, hill work, fartleks, etc.) into your "real" training this summer.
Take advantage of these next few months before your "real" marathon training begins to prepare your body for the hard work ahead by working on that base. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Runnerdude's Runner of the Week: Stan

This week's featured runner hails from my hometown of Greensboro, NC. I've known Stan for about 12 years and we have kids about the same age. Several years ago I ran with Stan a time or two, but at the time, running didn't seem to be his thing. Fast forward to 2009...I bumped into Stan while working the NC Marathon expo last May. Wow! What a transformation! Stan was never overweight, but he had definitely lost weight since that last time I had seen him and he looked like a runner! He and his daughter had signed up to run the GO FAR (Go Out For A Run)5K that was being held in conjuction with the marathon. GO FAR is a nonprofit organization that gets kids trained for their first 5K. Running is definitely Stan's thing now. Check out his story.

Featured Runner: Stan Park
RD: So Stan, I know you’ve lived in Greensboro, NC for quite a while, but where did you grow up?
Stan: Grew up in Lincolnton, NC and have resided in Greensboro since graduating college in Chapel Hill for last 21 years.

RD: Share a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? Hobbies?
Stan: I will have been married to the same woman for 20 years in May. We met in college (UNC) and are blessed to have 2 daughters—a freshman in high school and a 6th grader. I am a partner in insurance firm—Craft Insurance Center. I run our Employee Benefits department—we help employers manage their health care cost. It has been an interesting time with health reform. I am involved at our church—Westover. Member of Nat Greene Kiwanis (of Neal Leeper fame) past board chair of the Enrichment Fund for Guilford County schools, board member of Reading Connections (adult literacy) and also Spears YMCA and board member of the Better Business Bureau. Like to read, garden and workout.

RD: Man, Stan, you’re a busy guy! How long have you been running?
Stan: Off and on for a while—ran track in high school—but that isn't saying much. Ran some 10K's about 18 years ago. Really serious in the last 20 months.
RD: What got you back into running more seriously?
Stan: Need for physical fitness. This last venture into running is a result of realizing my children needed more physical activity—after about 9 months of realizing telling them to exercise was not real effective, I made the conscious decision to change my behavior (without any fanfare) and model healthy lifestyle. 40 lbs and 20 months later—not only am I in great shape, but my oldest is on the high school cross country team and forbids soft drinks in her teenage body, my wife has completely changed our diet and is a regular at Y (and has done some mild trail running) and my youngest is committed to swimming and running along with a great diet for an 11 year old. So I think my main "thing that got me into running" was my family.
RD: Being a model for your kids and family is awesome man. Besides seeing how your running as benefited your family, what do you enjoy most about running?
Stan: It is peaceful—I enjoy the sense of accomplishment, the redemptive feeling of fatigue, the mental challenge that surpasses most any other experience we can have.
RD: You mentioned your 40-lb weight loss. That’s awesome. I used to be “the fat kid” till I lost 40-lbs in high school. So, I can relate to how good that weight loss feels. Eating right is a big part of training. What are your favorite training foods?
Stan: I like a bowl of Kashi cereal before I run. Best post-run snack is my own creation. Grabe some oatmeal (liberal amount), add Skippy natural peanut butter, some raisins and chocolate soy milk, and then mix it all up—partake in the great flavors!
RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
Stan: Mostly I have been a lone runner. It suits my time schedule best and I like focusing on my running and not letting my competitive instinct overtake all runs. I recently started running with a local running group called the BlueLiners (named after the blue line on the pavement where we start our long runs; also happens to be the color of the line that marks the Olympic Marathon course)—it has been surprisingly great. Good conversation and some dependability in knowing others are wanting to run on these really cold mornings. It also helps with pace—good to talk with those who are into the sport. Most of my friends just don't quite get it.

RD: I’ve been attacked by Canadian Geese in flight, had to jump over a copperhead snake, been stung in the mouth by a bee and crossed paths with a rabid coyote on my various running adventures. What's the funniest or oddest thing that's happened to you while on a run?
Stan: Usually jumping deer during dark evening runs always puts a jolt into me. It wasn't funny but before the Fun Fourth run, I ate my bowl of Kashi (as usual) and I thought the milk smelled bad, but I was more focused on the race (it was my first since my return to running). I started feeling a little odd at the very end of the race—turns out the milk was really spoiled. The next 24 hours were awful, but I finished the race.

RD: What's your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
Stan: Mainly sticking with it. I completed a short triathlon in August and placed 2nd or 3rd in my age category—it was a good feeling. Mainly though the change in my overall health and my family’s positive response to it has been the most rewarding accomplishment related to my return to running.

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
Stan: I am still working this out. The folks at our local running store (Off’n Running Sports) have been very helpful. I’m currently breaking in a pair of Asics—previously wore Saucony—think I like the Asics better.

RD: What's your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year?
Stan: Not sure yet—but I really enjoy trail running. Did the Triple Lakes Half Trail Run in October. I think I enjoy it because it reminds me of my childhood running through the woods. I like the mental aspect of being aware of every step and being in the woods is awesome. Yeah I think trail running is probably my favorite.

RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
Stan: First, you can do it and you won't regret it. Start slow—maybe even on a bike or elliptical (I like the elliptical a lot.) Getting your weight in check before subjecting your body to the rigors of running might be helpful. I have said to many who have asked me about my avid running, “You have to look at a commitment in totality. Then you have to basically look at each day and determine when am I going to work this in.” Our lives are too hectic to be stuck on a regimented plan. If you focus on a regimented time to work out and that time passes, then you miss the workout. It’s better to be focused on the dedication to working out and find the time each day, no matter if it’s the same time every day or not. You have to be flexible with your workout schedules, but inflexible with the desire and commitment.

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
Stan: Not sucking up—but I read RunnerDude’s Blog practically every day. It has been a nice connection to the running community and is one of the top valuable tools on the Internet. I think it is a great space for new and experienced runners—I appreciate your dedication. Goals—finish my first marathon in March—Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC.
Thanks for the interview Stan! It's awesome knowing that RunnerDude's Blog has been so helpful! I hope it has for other runners as well! See ya at the BlueLine!

Friday, February 12, 2010

What Exactly is Easy? Comfortable? Hard?

If you read a lot of running training plans, you'll soon become very familiar with the phrases "easy pace", "comfortable pace" and "hard pace." Or you'll read about "easy days" and "hard days." Those are really broad vague terms and the authors of those books aren't just using those terms to avoid having to pin themselves to specifics. The reason those vague terms are used is because every runner is different. We come short, tall, thin, overweight, slow, moderate, and speedy. There is no "one size fits all" in running.

Given all of that, it still doesn't help too much when a plan says run 5 miles at an easy pace. Is that 8-minute miles? 9? 10? The fact is, any one of those could be the correct answer. The best way to interpret "easy" and "hard" is to use something called the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale or the RPE scale. The original RPE scale (sometimes called the Borg Scale) used a rating scale of 6-20 (not sure what happened to 1-5). Basically level six was at a resting rate, level 7 was very, very light, 13 was somewhat hard, 15 hard, 19 very, very hard, and 20 maximum effort.

A more recent version of the RPE scale uses a 0-10 rating system. This one is easier for my brain to handle and when you're running, you really don't won't to be bothered with having to remember an odd rating scale. This newer version goes as follows:

Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale
0—NOTHING AT ALL (at rest)

I like to modify this newer scale even further to the following 0-5-point scale.

RunnerDude's RPE Scale
Level 0— an easy warm-up walk around the parking lot before or after your run
Level 1—that easy 1-mile jog you do as a warm-up or cool-down at the beginning or end of a run
Level 2—a run at conversational pace; a great pace for long runs; about 65-75% of your max heart rate
Level 3a challenging pace; typical pace for tempo runs, fartleks, or hill work; about 75-85% of your max heart rate
Level 4—the pace of longer interval distances (800m-1600m repeats); about 85-90% max heart rate
Level 5—your maximum speed; this is the speed of shorter intervals (200m-600m); about 90-95% max heat rate; rest intervals of at least twice the distance of the running interval should be included between each effort intervals

So basically, "Easy" and "Hard" refer to effort. Keep in mind that this doesn't always correlate to distance. You can have an easy long run or a hard long run. You could also have an easy 2-miler or a hard 2-miler. It all depends on whether you're running at a Level 2 or a Level 4 effort level.

Keep in mind (especially if you run with a group) that each runner is going to have different interpretations of effort. A Level 3 run could be a 7:30-pace tempo run for one runner and an 8:30-pace tempo run for another runner. Both paces could be a challenging effort for each runner for his/her experience/ability level. Not to say you shouldn't run out of your comfort level from time to time. (One of the best ways to get faster is to run with a faster runner.) But, on the other hand don't get discouraged if you're about to die on someone else's "easy run." Kind of like "one man's junk is another man's treasure...."one runner's easy run is another runner's hard run."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Run. Be a Host Family. Help a Chid.

Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities. Each year, thousands of children visit volunteer host families in 13 states and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend Fresh Air Fund camps.

One of the Fresh Air Fund's biggest fund raisers is the NYC Half-Marathon. Last year, Fresh Air Fund-Racers who completed the NYC Half-Marathon raised almost $80,000! Over the past three years as a charity partner for the NYC Half-Marathon, the Fund-Racers have raised more than $300,000!

On March 21st, the Fresh Air Fund-Racers will take to the streets at the2010 NYC Half-Marathon! There's still room if you'd like to participate as a Fresh Air Fund-Racers . Your participation will make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of Fresh Air children! There is limited space for this amazing race as it draws closer. If you would like to run, please register here right away.

If you're not quite ready for a half marathon in March, think about being a host family for a Fresh Air child this summer.

In 2009, The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. The Fresh Air Fund relies on donations to provide memorable summers to NYC children. The Fresh Air Fund needs hosts for the summer of 2010. More than 65% of all Fresh Air children are reinvited to stay with their host family, year after year.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences.

Friendly Town host families are volunteers who live in the suburbs or small town communities. Host families range in size, ethnicity and background, but share the desire to open their hearts and homes to give city children an experience they will never forget. Hosts say the Fresh Air experience is as enriching for their own families, as it is for the inner-city children. There are no financial requirements for hosting a child. Volunteers may request the age-group and gender of the Fresh Air youngster they would like to host. Stories about real Fresh Air host families and their New York City visitors are just a click away!

Click here to learn more about becoming a host or call (800) 367-0003!

To get a better idea of just how effective the Fresh Air Fund can be, check out Brandon's story.

Monday, February 8, 2010

RunnerDude's Runner of the Week: Bob

For this week's interview, we've traveled from Mexico all they way to New Jersey! Bob is a wonderful example of how even if you've been running for years, you can change it up and keep it fresh and fun! Bob has a great story to tell!

Featured Runner: Bob or @downtownrunner (on Twitter)

RD: Hey Bob, your Twitter username is @downtownrunner. Tell me a little about that.
Bob: I have a blog with a similar name where I talk about running (often barefoot) in lower Manhattan.

RD: Where are you from?
Bob: I was born and raised in San Diego, CA. But now I live in New Jersey (Joisey for short).

RD: Share a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? Hobbies?
Bob: I am 51, happily married to a wonderful lady, and am the father of four grown kids. I manage a technology department for an agency in Lower Manhattan, New York City. After God, my wife and kids, my two passions are running and photography. I'm your basic geek, from a long line of geeks.

RD: How long have you been running?
Bob: 35 years.

RD: When did you start running?
Bob: In high school gym class our coach gave a little talk about heart disease and a famous study about a group of firefighters. Those that ran were a lot healthier. So I decided to go out for the cross country team. I was never very good (read fast) but it was good for me and a lot of my friends were on the team too so it was fun.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running?
Bob: The feeling of accomplishment and knowing that I'm doing something that is good for my health.
RD: What are your favorite training foods?
Bob: This is a tough one. Does ice cream count? I like to eat (too much). So much to choose from. Let's see, some of them would be yogurt, almonds, chili, and chia seeds. Oh, and Clif bars, peanut butter crunch. :)

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
Bob: I almost always run alone. It's not that I wouldn't enjoy running with a group, but my schedule and situation makes it difficult. I often run during my lunch break which is unpredictable from day to day. I don't mind being alone though. Usually I listen to music, think, clear my head, etc. Recently I've become much more aware of things like form, breathing techniques, etc. So there is plenty to think about and work on.

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
Bob: I'm probably boring on this one. Although, there was that one time I almost got trampled. I live in a fairly densely populated suburb, far from any woods. One morning I was out running through town before dawn. I was crossing a tiny brook via a road bridge when out of nowhere came a big buck deer. He bounded across the road toward me. Just before he reached the sidewalk he turned slightly and then jumped the railing and disappeared. In 18 years of living here I've never seen a deer again. But probably the best thing that happens now is the looks that I get when I come running down the street or sidewalks of NYC with my winter gear on and no shoes. Everyone all bundled up with their earmuffs, over coats, and Ugg boots all wide eyed because they can't understand why someone would willingly be barefoot. And running. And smiling. And enjoying every second of it. Priceless.

RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
Bob: There are probably two equally important (to me) accomplishments. The first was my first half marathon. That was during college, back when there were very few races. My roommate and I ran the race. I don't even remember my time. But at the moment it was a major confidence builder, not only with running but in other ways too. Difficult things in my life seemed less daunting.The other accomplishment would be recently transitioning from shod to barefoot/minimalist running. It wasn't an easy thing for these feet and calves to adjust after 34 years of conventional shoes. I had daily pain for about 2 months as the muscles, tendons, and blood supply developed. I almost gave up. But I kept at it and studied how others had done the same thing. Now, on the other side of the transition, I feel like I've had an epiphany of sorts. Like a whole new world to explore. Like I've learned how to run all over again.

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Silly question, I suppose since you run barefoot, but do you have a favorite shoe or minimalist shoe?
Bob: Almost a year ago I heard about barefoot running. Along with thousands of others I then read Born to Run. So I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. I've never looked back. I run barefoot when I can, in VFFs when I can't. I haven't worn conventional shoes in about 6 months or so. In fact, my old shoes don't fit now because my feet have grown stronger and my toes have straightened out.Recently I bought a second pair of VFFs which I wear almost every day to work. They are super comfortable and light, and help continue the process of the strengthening of my feet and ankles.

RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year?
Bob: I'm probably best at 10K. I find I get a second wind at about 4 miles which serves me well at that race distance. My town here in NJ has an annual 5K that I always run. It's fairly small but its still fun. It's in April so its a good start to the racing season. I am starting training now for a half marathon in May and then hopefully my first marathon in the Fall.

RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
Bob: I'd tell them they will get back more from running than they put into it. That if they start out slow, stick with it for 2-3 months, there is no way they will regret it. But make it fun. Don't push it.

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
Bob: Not too much else, except thanks to the RunnerDude for his blog and this opportunity to say hi to his readers. If anyone has any questions feel free to contact me through my blog.

Thanks Bob!

If you'd like to be featured as a weekly runner or you know of someone that would make a good candidate, email me at

Happy Running!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Moisture and Odor Begone! Stuffitts to the Rescue!

The other day, I got an email from a sales rep about a new product great for athletes. Emily, the manager at our local running store (Off'n Running Sports) had told her about the blog and suggested that I might like to know about their product—Stuffitts Shoe Savers. The email was brief, but basically it said they wanted to send me a pair of Stuffitts to try out. Basically, Stuffitts help keep your shoes moisture and odor free. Well, if you've been reading the blog for a while, then you know that I'm a regular waterworks when I run and I'm usually drenched afterward, especially during the summer months. So, I quickly responded, "Yes! Send them on!"

When I received the package and opened it, I was greeted with the pleasant aroma of cedar. Yep, basically stuffitts are foot-shaped sacks filled with cedar chips. It's a simple principle, but man do they work! The sacks are constructed of a technical fabric that allows the moisture from the shoes to pass through and be absorbed by the red cedar chips.

It's February and I wanted to test the Stuffitts at their max, but I knew I wasn't going to get them as wet as I would have during a summer run....until I remembered the snow and slush outside. So, I got in a run and got my feet good and wet. After my run, I rinsed off the dirt (which got my shoes even wetter). Now typically when my shoes get wet like that, I take the laces out, pull the tongue back and set them turned over atop a heat vent and know they won't be ready to wear for at least a day.

This time, instead of pulling my shoes apart and using the heat-vent method, I slipped in the Stuffitts. The research on the Stuffitts' website says that about 60% of the moisture will be absorbed in about an hour. So, I checked after an hour and while I can't be scientifically positive that 60% of the moisture was gone, I can report that I was amazed at how dry they were! My run was about 7:00AM and they were already pretty dry by 9:00AM! By the time I went to bed, they were dry! Plus they smelled good!

Wondering what to do when the cedar looses it absorbency? I was too. You can order replacement bags of the cedar chips. The chips are nicely enclosed in sacks that you slip into the zippered technical fabric enclosures. So, there's never any messy cedar chip debris to deal with. If you use the Stuffitts on a regular basis, it's recommended that you replace the cedar bags every 6 months.

How much does all of this cost? The initial purchase of a pair of Stuffitts is $24.95. About what you'd pay for a pair of athletic shoe insoles. A pair of replacement bags is $9.95. Not too bad, especially if it'll extend the life of your shoes!
To find out even more about how Stuffitts work, check out this video clip below from Daily Grommet.

Note: Although, Stuffitts contacted me and sent me a free pair of Stuffitts to try out, I was not paid to do a review nor was I encouraged to write a positive review. My review is strictly a report on my experience using Stuffitts Shoe Savers.

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Contest! Win an Endorphin Warrior Gift Certificate!

Recently in the post "Dig Deep and Persevere," I mentioned that I wear a bracelet with the word persevere on it that motivates me when I'm in doubt. In just the few days since I posted that story, I've gotten tons of email from readers wanting to know more about the bracelet and where I got it. Even the company that makes the bracelet saw the post and contacted me.
So, this post is dedicated to the maker of the bracelet—Endorphin Warrior. Endorphin Warrior's aim is to delight and inspire you—the lifetime athlete, runner, walker, endurance athlete or fitness enthusiast—with content and original products that express the joy and value of working out, endurance training and the body in motion. They're passionate about creating fun, meaningful and exceptional products that will help you enjoy your training even more…inspire you toward your true potential…and help you express the active lifestyle you love and live.

In addition to bracelets, you can also find pendants, rings, T-shirts, hats, key rings, and more. You can find jewelry specific to running or triathlons too!

I hope you experience as much encouragement from your Endorphin Warrior selection as I have.

Endorphin Warrior was so delighted with the post that they've offered a $25 gift certificate for the next RunnerDude's contest! Awesome!

To enter, simply email RunnerDude at Be sure to put "Bracelet" in the subject line of the email and put your full name in the body of the email. Each email will be assigned a numbered in the order that it's received. All the numbers will be entered into the True Random Number Generator which will select the winning email. Email entries will be accepted until midnight (EST) on Saturday, February 13th! The winner will be announced on Valentines Day! Good Luck!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kick That Carry-Out to the Curb!

Ever have one of those nights when your tired, you need to make dinner and you realize you haven't done the grocery shopping yet? Okay, okay, put your hands down. Your first reaction (or mine anyway) is to call Papa John's Pizza! or Chinese! But I promised myself to try and cook more at home to help save money and to ensure we as a family are eating better. We usually do pretty well. We're trying to avoid those "slips" when it's just easier to pick something up.

So, determined and on a mission, I opened the pantry door and looking at the odd selection of cans, boxes and mainly empty space, I started trying to piece together a meal. Well, I had enough slow-cook long grain brown rice to feed half the family, but I moved some stuff and discovered a box of quick-cook brown rice that would feed the rest of the family. So what if one takes 5 minutes and the other takes 45-minutes to cook. That was the base of the meal. What next? Hmm, a can of black beans (expiration date? shew...still good.) Oooo, a can of navy beans. Is that what I think it is? Holy-moly, it is! A can of kidney beans. Everything is brown. I'm not a fan of mono-chromatic meals. Needs some color. Ahhhh a can of corn. Tada!

Now to check the fridge....need something to add some flavor and a little more color. Well, there you go, that onion-half left over from dinner 2 days ago. Cool! a bag with 10 carrot chips in it! And a half of a green pepper that's not mushy!

So, the chopped onions, green pepper, and carrots got sauteed with some olive oil before dumping in the drained kidney, black, navy beans, and corn. The house even smelled like home-cookin'! I think it's the onions that do that. A dash of chili powder, a pinch of red pepper, some seasoning salt to taste. Yum! All I needed now was some good crusty whole-grain bread. So while the one batch of rice was still cooking, my 18-year old son zipped to the store for some bread. Okay, so we did pick up one thing, but it was healthy.

The only thing that would have made the meal even better would have been if each member of the family had taken a Beano pill before eating. Other than that, I'm thinking maybe I'll do this every Thursday night. I'll call it "Pot Luck Thursday" cause we'll be lucky (and grateful) for whatever goes in that pot.

Sitting, here now, feeling full (and a little gassy), I've realized that this meal is actually pretty good for runners. The meal is full of protein, fiber, complex carbs as well as being full of vitamins and minerals. And believe it or not, it looked and tasted good! If you wanted a little more protein, you could chop up some leftover grilled chicken or saute some hamburger burger. Or, instead of rice, use Quinoa. Chickpeas would also work well in this mixture.

So, the next time you're faced with pick-up or an interesting hodgepodge meal, try the hodgepodge. You might be pleasantly surprised. (Side note: don't feed the dog the leftovers (or these leftovers anyways). You'll regret that decision. Just take my word for it.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Support Team USA in Vancouver!

Team USA contacted me to see if I'd mind spreading the word about Team USA and the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. While there's not much running going on in the winter Olympics, if you're like me you're still glued to the TV watching the skiing, luge, bobsled, and ice skating, just to name a few. So, of course I said, "Sure!" They have some really cool ways for you to participate and be updated on the events during the games.

On February 12, the world will gather to watch top athletes from around the globe compete in the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Athletes from Team USA, who have been training their entire lives will take the stage to represent our country. Anyone who registers on will have access to the latest info and will receive exclusive updates throughout the games.

During the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee invites you to be part of the action! Sign up now to receive exclusive access information, previously available only to the U.S. Olympic delegation.You will receive the following insider information during the Games and beyond:

  • Daily Report (via e-mail) of the latest sports performances and athletes to look out for in the coming days during the Games
  • Mobile text alerts, including updated medal tallies during Vancouver 2010 and invitations to the USOC retail store located at the USA House in Vancouver
  • The latest on Team USA hopefuls as they strive for Vancouver, London and beyond

Victory in Vancouver is a state-by-state, hometown-by-hometown effort to help the U.S. athletes who are our fellow Americans and neighbors achieve their dreams of winning top honors at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada!

It's been almost 80 years since Team USA won the most gold medals at the Olympic Winter Games, and they're ready to do it again. Your gift today can bring the United States to Victory in Vancouver! Be a part of this historic bid for Olympic glory with your gift to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Receive a Team USA fleece jacket FREE with a donation of $20 or more. For America's Olympic and Paralympic Teams, the Olympic and Paralympic Games don't take place every four years — they're every day! When you give to Team USA, you help all of our athletes: Olympic and Paralympic. They use your support to get ready for the world's most intense competition.

Proudly display your support for Team USA with this U.S. Olympic fleece jacket! To donate, just click on the banner below!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dig Deep and Persevere!

You know, I doubt any of these old boys were runners, but they sure were on to something..."If your head ain't in the game, you might as well not even try."

Success at anything is actually a state of mind. Success is an attitude that can deal with obstacles that come your way. Instead of barriers, success looks at those obstacles as challenges and figures out ways to navigate around them. Success is a journey not a field trip. Success understands that it takes time to reach a goal. Success understands that momentary disappointments are just that—momentary. Success is celebrating growth no matter how big or small. Success is commitment, resiliency, determination.

Being laid off from my publishing job of 13 years a year ago left me feeling less than successful, but some wonderful things came out of it. I know that sounds crazy, but it forced me to redefine myself. Sure I was mad, sad, and depressed for a short time, but feeling that way was so exhausting. I finally realized that I was given the best gift possible—the ability to go for what had only been a dream—turning my passion for running and fitness into a career. I would have never left the security of a job with benefits to pursue a dream, but when that job's been taken away, why not go for it! And so I did. Once my head was in the game and I had a vision and a goal to strive for, meaning returned to those 13 years. Stepping stones. It's not been easy and we've eaten our fair share of the no-name-brand mac-and-cheese and canned green beans, over the past few months, but it's been a wonderful adventure as well.

Running can be one big fat obstacle (challenge) too, even for the seasoned runner. Whether you're starting running for the first time in your life or you're coming back after 6-months of no running due to an injury, it can be a challenge. Your mindset can make or break your success at starting or restarting your running, or beginning that 5K or marathon training program. Don't focus on what you perceive to be your limitations. Instead, allow yourself to see what you can achieve while at the same time being realistic with your time-frame expectations. Rome wasn't built in a day.

We all have our limitations, but if you focus on those limitations instead of the possibilities, then you'll never get out the door. After being laid-up for a month after a surgery several years ago, I could have easily hung up the ole running shoes. But instead, I decided to train for a marathon. Training was slow going and my race time was far from a PR, but it is one of the most memorable races (Country Music Marathon '03) I have ever or will ever run. I've been hooked on country music ever since!
Instead of settling with my limitations, I discovered many of those limitations were self-imposed. This realization would have never happened if I hadn't persevered. I now wear a bracelet that says, "Persevere." Whenever I have doubts, I give that bracelet a glance and it helps me refocus and push those doubts aside.

You can buy the most expensive running shoes on the market, you can hire the best running coaches and personal trainers around, you can purchase fancy state-of-the-art gym equipment, or join the most expensive fitness center, but if your head ain't in the game, it will be all for naught. Somehow, someway, you have to dig down deep and find the will, drive, and determination it's going to take to commit to that running or fitness program. Sure, surround yourself with positive and motivating people, but don't depend on them for your motivation. You should be your own biggest motivator.

Before you can motivate yourself, however, you need to understand what you're motivating. Defining your reasons for running or exercising can help you not only clarify your goals but give you a foundation for your motivation. Have you ever gone to a new restaurant and tried to order off the menu? For me, it's kind of hard. The menu is all a blur. I don't know where to look first. If I'm not careful, I'll may make a poor choice and not enjoy my meal. That's like beginning a running or fitness program. If you don't know why you're doing what you're doing and you don't have a well thought out plan, then you don't know where to start or even why you're doing it in the first place. And chances are you're probably not going to enjoy the experience. So, take some time to think about your reasons, then set some goals, then make your plan. Dig deep and succeed! I know you got it in you!