Friday, July 29, 2011

Runner of the Week: Jeff

It's been a while since I've featured a Runner of the Week. I'm happy to return the feature with an awesome runner and person, Jeff Williams. Some of you blog readers may know him better at Detroit Runner host of the blog of the same name.. Jeff is pretty new to the fitness world. He started exercising for the very first time in 2009. In about 2 years, Jeff has done a 360 with his fitness and health. Read on to learn more about Jeff "Detroit Runner" Williams and his running and fitness quest...

Over two years ago I went to get a medical exam for my life insurance.  The insurance company put me in a high risk category.  I didn't like it!  It also didn't help that I was turning 40 as well.  So I decided that I needed to do something about it.  My life had been work, come home, eat dinner and snack...and snack....and, yes, you guessed it, snack.  Then I went to bed.  There was really no physical exercise in my life.  Unfortunately what that did was increased my weight to about 195 pounds(I'm only 5' 6") and gave me high cholesterol(280!!!).  I knew I needed to do something about it so I bought myself a pair of running shoes, started walking and started eating healthy.  I walked for probably five months and lost about 30 pounds but could lose no more.  Then I started to lift weights which really did help get me fit but I was not losing weight.  So I thought, I'll start running!

I started by trying it on the treadmill but I could not figure out what was wrong.  I would run but I would just get too tired after a minute and have to start walking again.  I took things outside but the same thing happened and I could not do it.  I talked to my brother-in-law who is a doctor and a runner and he said "slow down!".  That was it, it helped tremendously!  I was just going too fast and losing energy too quick.  My first run was about six houses long.  Haha!  I remember huffing and puffing out there.  Each day I would go out for a walk and try to run one additional home.  I kept doing that until I could get through a block, then two blocks, then my subdivision street until I could get to a point where I could run for 30 minutes at a time and so on.  As I progressed I also lost the weight really fast and by the time I was nine months into the start of my exercising, I signed up for my first 5k and had lost 65 pounds and reduced me cholesterol to 140 points!  I have since put on about 5 pounds but have managed to keep the weight off since I started two years ago.

My wife was very supportive and we purchased an American Heart Association cookbook which my wife uses daily for our meals.  The racing is what really did it for me.  I loved it!  It kept my interest and gave me goals to work on.  I felt incredible every time I finished a race even if it was not my best race.  I wanted to PR every time.  Haha!  Crazy, I know.  I moved through the 5k to the half marathon in about seven months and raised almost $3,000 for a local hospital for my first half as well.  I figured if I'm going to do a half marathon, I might as well do some good for others at the same time.  It also secretly helped keep me motivated because there was no way I was going to tell people that donated money that I did not finish the race.  

I did not realize it at the time, but I was actually pretty good at running.  I did my first half marathon(which was hilly!) in 1:45:55.  Not super speedy but very respectable.  I have since run four 5k's, four 10k's, three 10 mile runs and three half marathons.  I also did my first full marathon in May(Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan) with my running buddy with a time of 4:12:17 less than two years after I started exercising and I'm currently training for my second marathon, the Detroit Free Press marathon in October.

Running has completely changed my life.  Also, my family has helped support me throughout the process.  In addition, the running community and the many blogs I read are great sources of motivation.  Blogging about my progress also helps me - kind of like therapy.  I love talking about running with other runners and my blog ( is a great place to do that.  Runners are very supportive of each other and I have met some great people over the last couple years.  I hope to be able to run for the foreseeable future and I do what I can get other other people involved in the sport.

Thanks Jeff for sharing your story! Be sure to check out Jeff's blog Detroit Runner!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Caffeine—Friend of Foe?

Many a runner swear that downing a cup-a-Joe before running helps performance. I too am a coffee aficionado and you probably wouldn't want to be around me before I've had my morning cup. So I did a little digging into coffee and running. Turns out coffee's not the villain it's sometimes made out to be..

A Running Times article shares a couple different theories on the subject. Basically it says that some experts believe caffeine improves endurance by increasing the enzyme activity for fat metabolism. By using more fat, a long-distance runner's glycogen stores last longer allowing him/her to run farther. But caffeine also seems to help runners of shorter distances. So what's the deal? Other experts credit the enhanced performance on caffeine's stimulation of the central nervous system, which increases alertness and concentration. One pretty cool study even shows that stimulation of the central nervous system can effect the perception of effort. So, drinking that cup of coffee may make that faster pace you're running after your morning coffee seem easier than a on day you didn't have your java infusion.

But coffee is a diuretic, right? So should we be concerned about dehydration? Caffeine can cause dehydration, but guess what? Research shows that caffeine is less of a diuretic in people who drink caffeinated beverages on a regular basis. Wee Doggie!! The key is making sure to get in enough water throughout the day not counting your caffeinated beverages of choice.

The experts do warn, however that you should only consider using caffeine if you're already in good shape, eat a good diet, and don't have any medical problems such as high blood pressure. If you're a sedentary person, downing a coffee tanker before rolling off the couch probably isn't going to make you the next Prefontaine.

Now, having said all of that, the upside of coffee for runners, doesn't mean you get to lose all common sense when you're in line at Starbucks before meeting your buddies for that morning run.

I often stand in awe at my local Starbucks as I hear customers shout their orders in what seems like a different language while the talented baristas absorb it all and fill the orders pronto at lightening speed.  Sometimes I get tickled at the orders. It's almost like the customer is either trying to sound the most impressive or trying to stump the barista. Then there are other orders in which I just shake my head, because of the number of fat grams and calories it must contain.

There lies the key, moderation. It's fine to splurge once in a while on a "dessert" type coffee, but I'm at my Starbucks most mornings and I see the same people order the same drinks topped with whipped cream morning after morning. I'm a basic bold coffee kind of guy. I usually add a tiny bit of cream, but that's it.  Actually, I'm so predictable with my order, that Mark (the barista) usually has my order ready by the time I get to the counter without me even telling him what I want.

Recently I noticed a pamphlet by the cream station in my Starbucks titled "Nutrition by the Cup." I was fascinated by its contents—nutrition info for the various types of coffee drinks. A basic black coffee has only 5 calories. Add a serving of half-n-half (about 1Tbsp.) and you add about 18 calories and about 1.5 grams of fat. Not too bad. Add one pump of flavored syrup and you've added 20 calories. How about some chocolate drizzle? (5 more calories). Not into chocolate? How about some caramel? (15 calories). How about some sweetened whipped cream? (short = 50 cals/5g fat; tall = 60 cals/6g fat; grande/venti = 70cals/9g fat). Feeling all "healthy" and want to add some protein powder? (30 calories)

Then there's the classic expresso drinks. A short caffee latte has 70 cals with nonfat milk; a venti has 170 cals with nonfat milk. The favorite caffee moca without whipped cream has 280 calories if made with nonfat milk (340 cals if made with 2% milk).

This info made me think of some of those drink orders (that I can't pronounce) that had at least 4 things added to them. Depending on the order, there could have been 100+ calories added to that simple 5 calorie cup of coffee.

So, enjoy the caffeine and get that boost for your run, but be mindful of the empty calories and extra fat that may actually slow you down on the run.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Reader Appreciation Contest!

As a small token of my appreciation for all the support you, the readers, have given RunnerDude's Blog, I'm happy and honored to give everyone a chance to win one of two $50 Gift Cards!

Each and every day, I hear from runners all over the world. Some of you share your amazing stories of how running has helped you overcome life obstacles. Others share running goals achieved. Others ask training and injury related questions or share awesome recipes. I love and welcome it all. Spreading the world of running to anyone and everyone who will listen is a passion that I hope to continue for a very long time.

If you or someone you know would make a great Runner of the Week to be  featured on the blog, I'd love to hear your story of the story of your buddy. If you have ideas for posts or have running related questions, I'd love to hear those too. Just email me at

When you have a chance, check out RunnerDude's Blog as well as all the other awesome running blogs on The Top 100 Running Sites and the Website TopList!

To Enter the Contest.....
To enter the contest, simply email me at Put "Reader Appreciation" in the subject line of the email and then put your full name in the body of the email. Enter by midnight on July 31st. Each email will be assigned a number in the order that it's received. Then the TrueRandomNumberGenerator will be used to select the two winning emails. The two winners' names will be announced on the blog on Monday, August 1st, 2011. To be fair, only one entry from each person will be accepted. Additional emails sent will not be included in the drawing.

Best of luck and thanks for the support!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Trust. Believe. Conquer!

It's that time of year. The excitement abounds as thousands of runners begin their training for half and full fall marathons. The experienced endurance runners are glad to get back into the training routine. First-time marathoners are excited to finally conquer that elusive distance, but shaking in their boots (trainers) over the prospect of what lies ahead.

When I give a new marathoner his/her training plan, inevitably her eyes widen to saucers when she sees her projected goal finish time and the various training paces and workouts that will get her to that goal.

Then the actual training begins. That first group tempo run isn't so bad. "I can do this." The first couple of long runs aren't so bad. "Okay, this is manageable." Then comes that first 15-miler. Murphy's Law dictates that it always happens on the hottest day of the year. Paces slow to a crawl. Legs cramp. Spirits dampened. "How in the hell am I gonna make 26.2 miles when I'm crawling back to the car at mile 15?!" This is when my inbox becomes full of emails about everything from hydration, to ankle issues, to self-doubt. I love helping each runner work through the issues. Self-confidence is usually the biggest hurdle to clear.

This is the "Marathon Circle of Life." (Can you hear the Lion King theme music in the background?) If you're in a RunnerDude's Fitness group training program, then I bet you any one of them will tell you what will come out of my mouth at this point in the training....."Trust in Your Training."

Yep, Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is a marathon runner. I remind them of the base they worked on prior to beginning their training plan. Then I remind them that it takes 4-6 weeks to acclimate to a particular distance or pace. So when they have that first rough 15-miler at week 4 or 5 in their training, I remind them that believe it or not, they'll be thinking that's an easy run around week 10  when they're doing their first 20-miler. And what do I say after that first rough 20-miler? Yep, "Trust in your training, you've got 8 more weeks to acclimate to that 20."

In the grueling hear-and-now of training, it's almost impossible to see the progress you've made much less realize the continued progress you'll make as you stick to your plan.

Sometimes a mantra is helpful to get you through the rough patches of training. The RunnerDude mantra is Trust. Believe. Conquer. your training. yourself.
Conquer....your goals.

This works so well for me that I had some wristbands made to give my runners. Just a little reminder of just how strong an athlete they really are in mind, body, and spirit. (Shh....they don't know they're getting them yet.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Searching for a Personal Trainer in Greensboro, NC?

RunnerDude's Fitness
Do you live in Greensboro, NC? Are you looking to improve your level of fitness and improve your quality of life in a safe, small studio setting with a well certified, knowledgeable, and supportive personal trainer? RunnerDude’s Fitness offers that and a whole lot more!

RunnerDude’s Fitness is dedicated to helping you meet your fitness goals through one-hour and half-hour one-on-one and partner personal training sessions for...
Beginning Fitness Training
General Fitness Training
Senior Fitness
Fitness Assessments

RunnerDude’s Fitness also provides individual and group training for runners and walkers including...
Fitness Walking
Fitness Training for Runners
Beginning Running
Race Training for 5Ks to Marathons
Online Training
Customized Running Training Plans

RunnerDude’s Fitness also provides group corporate training at prominent companies as Volvo Trucks and Volvo Financial where he works with employees in fitness walking, beginning running and soon to be an intermediate running group.

Why Choose RunnerDude's Fitness? The owner and trainer, Thad McLaurin, provides a relaxed, fun, non-intimidating training in a small informal studio setting. Thad knows that beginning fitness for the first time or returning after being away for a while can be very intimidating. Don't be mislead, you'll get a great workout, but one that's nurturing, motivating, and confidence-building. Thad's goal is to "Education not Intimidate." He won't be yelling in your face. Thad also feels it's important to explain why the exercises you're doing are beneficial to you and your health. So, not only will you become fit, you'll learn more about your body and your musculoskeletal system. You'll also learn proper technique so when you workout at home or in your own gym, you'll feel confident you're doing the exercises safely.

Still Not Sure? Check out the information below about Thad, then call (336) 288-6155 or email him and set up a free consultation. You'll get to check out the studio and talk with Thad for an hour. You can share your fitness goals and Thad can share information about the various training programs available to best meet your needs.

About the Owner/Trainer:
Thad McLaurin (aka: RunnerDude), his wife Mitzi, and their three kids have lived in Greensboro, NC since 1998. He's come a long way since being "that overweight kid" as a youngster. After Weight Watchers® and a 40-pound weight loss in high school, he discovered running during college and has been passionate about running and fitness ever since. (Over 25 years!) It all started with the '84 Great Raleigh Road Race 10K. He wasn't fast, but he had a blast and was hooked. 13 years later, Thad caught the marathon bug. His marathon quest began with the '97 NYC Marathon. Fourteen years later, he's run 11 marathons all over the country from NYC to Baltimore to Nashville to Honolulu, and then some and is currently training for his 12th.

A UNC Chapel Hill grad, Thad began his career as a 5th grade teacher before moving into the world of Educational publishing where he worked as a writer, editor, and book development manager for 13 years. Thad combines his love of writing with his love of running and fitness by hosting RunnerDude's Blog. He's a contributing writing and Thad was also featured in the "Ask the Experts" section of the July 2010 Issue of Runner's World magazine. He's also had the wonderful opportunity to interview some of running's greatest legends and personalities.

Thad's also active in the community and has been a member of the executive board for GOFAR, a nonprofit organization that prepares youngsters to run their first 5K!

Thad is well credentialed with his Personal Trainer and Nutrition Consultant diploma certifications from NPTI (National Personal Trainer Institute), his ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) personal trainer certification, his RRCA Running Coach certification, and his USA-Track & Field Level 1 Coaching certification. He's also current with his Red Cross adult CPR/AED and First Aid training.

For testimonials from clients click here and check out

Read More About RunnerDude: Guideposts magazine recently featured an article on Thad and his life transition into the fitness world. [Click here] to check it out.

For more information about RunnerDude's Fitness, the various training programs, and pricing, go to or check RunnerDude's Fitness out at
RunnerDude's Fitness: Running and Fitness for Everyone!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

7 Training Tips for Your First Half Marathon

So, you've run a 5K, maybe even a 10K, and now you’re ready for something more challenging like a half marathon. Good for you! The half marathon is a great distance. It’s long enough to feel challenged, but not so long that training for it completely consumes your life.

Below are a few good training tips for your first half marathon.

1. Build a base. One mistake new runners often make when paring for a half-marathon is thinking that the 12- or 14-week plan takes you from the couch to the finish line. All half-marathon training plans that range in length from 10, 14 or 16 weeks assume that you’ve already built a weekly mileage base of at least 15-20 miles. Your longest run should also be at least 5 miles. Anything less than this weekly mileage or longest run mileage will overwhelm your body’s ability to acclimate. If you have a solid base under your feet, then when you start your training, you’ll only be acclimating to the demands of the training workouts. If you have a weak base coming into the training, then you’ll actually be asking your body to build that base while at the same time as acclimating to the new training demands. That’s overtraining or an injury just waiting to happen.

2. Pick a plan. Twelve weeks is a common length of many half-marathon training plans, however do a Google search and you’ll find plans that range from 10 to 16 weeks. I prefer to use a longer plan (14 weeks) with my runners. The extra weeks allow for a little wiggle room if a runner gets sick or has a  slight set back or injury. If this is your first half-marathon, I strongly recommend a plan longer than 10 weeks. This will give you more time to acclimate to the training demands.

Not only do the plans vary in length, they also vary in content (the types of workouts, weekly mileage, and the number of times you run each week). Study the various plans carefully before picking one. First, find one that meshes well with your work and family schedule. If the plan has you running every day and you know that’s not going to happen, then that plan is not for you. Second, find a plan that matches your running fitness level. If the first long run in the plan is 8 miles and your current longest run is 4, select a different plan. Often plans are labeled for Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced or Experienced, but even then, read through the plan carefully and make sure it fits your current running fitness level.

3. Think quality over quantity. Running lots of miles each week is one way to prepare for a half-marathon, but lots of miles can increase your chance of injury. I have my new half-marathon runners run four times a week. Two of these runs are what I call quality runs and two are base maintenance runs. The quality runs consist of a mid-week tempo run and a weekend long run.

The types of tempo runs vary, but basically they begin and end with a 1-mile warm-up /cool-down and the in between miles are run at a pace about 30 seconds slower than 5K pace. The Tempo portion is an uncomfortable pace. This helps your body increase VO2Max (your body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen at the muscle layer to make energy) as well as push out your lactate threshold (that point at which you feel that burning sensation in your legs). Increasing VO2Max and pushing out your lactate threshold helps make you a more efficient runner as well as help fight off fatigue longer. A tempo run can range from 4 to 8 miles, and the types of tempos can vary.

Three good tempo workouts include: the traditional tempo (described earlier), race-pace tempo and tempo intervals. Race pace tempos are very similar to the traditional tempo, but instead of running 30 seconds slower than your 5K pace, you pull it down a notch to your half-marathon race pace. This is a great workout for giving your body a chance to experience what it feels like to run at race pace. Saving your race-pace tempos for the longer 6, 7, or 8-mile tempo runs works well. Tempo intervals begin and end with the 1-mile warm-up/cool-down, but the in between miles are broken into 5-mintue fast/5-minute slow intervals. The fast interval (fartlek) is run about 20 seconds slower than 5K race pace and the slow interval is run at your slow easy long-run pace. This teaches your body to learn how to speed up and/or slow down when needed during the race. For more specifics on these tempo workouts, click here.

The long run is just that…long. This run should be run at a pace that’s about 1-minute slower than race pace. That’s hard to do sometimes, but by pulling back, you help your body build endurance without wearing it down. To help curb the urge to run faster as well as teach your body that you can pull out some speed at the end of the race, I have my runners up the last 1 to 2 miles of the long run to race pace or slightly faster. Most half-marathon training plans will take the runner up to 12 or 13 miles. There’s no need to do a run longer than 13 for a half.

The two weekly base maintenance runs are short runs (4 to 5 miles). These are designed to keep the weekly base miles going and to help keep the runner limber between the quality workouts. These runs are also run at a slower pace (45 seconds to 1-minute slower than race pace).

To read the 4 remaining tips, go to

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Do You Spell R-E-L-I-E-F??

From time to time most runners will experience some type of stomach distress while on a run. The causes of stomach distress while running are many. Anyone can be caught off guard by the lunch that didn't agree with them or the stomach bug that's been going around the office. That type of distress, usually means a trip to the rest room and maybe a day or two laying off the running until the ole tum tum gets to feeling better. While other stomach issues may be the reoccurring type that can really affect a runner's performance on an ongoing basis.

Below are several common stomach distress issues experienced by runners as well as a few recommended remedies. The remedies may not work for everyone, but they may be worth trying just in case it's the "cure" you've been looking for.

Nausea #1—While running, blood goes to the parts of the body where it's needed most....the legs. When this happens, the lining of the stomach isn't receiving its normal blood flow causing an overload of stomach acid resulting in the runner feeling nauseous.
Remedy: Taking an antacid such as Tums, Rolaids, or Maalox prior to your run may help neutralize the acid.

Nausea #2—You don't want to feel stuffed, but neither do you want to feel starved on a run. Running on an empty stomach can cause nausea that comes when the hunger pangs kick in.
Remedy: Eating a 200-400 calorie snack about 1.5-2 hours prior to your run can provide you with the needed energy to sustain your run as well as keeping the hunger pangs at bay. The snack should consist of mostly complex carbs and a little protein. For a short run the 200 calorie range will do. For a long run or a more intense workout such as hill repeats or intervals, the 400 calorie range will do.

Nausea #3—Carbs are the fuel needed for energy production. However, like most things...too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Today we're bombarded with sports drinks, gels, chews, beans, wafers, shots...the list goes on and on. All the ads make it seem like you need a constant influx of carbs while you run. You do need properly fuel your body before, during and after your run, but your body is pretty miraculous. Your liver is able to store about 2000 calories of glycogen (carbs). If you're eating a diet rich in complex carbs on a daily basis, then chances are you're doing a pretty good job of keeping those glycogen stores full. Those 2000 calories will provide for about 18-miles worth of energy before the stores are depleted. The trick is not letting the stores get too low. Runners that let the stores become depleted run the risk of bonking or "hitting the wall" on those really long runs. However, that doesn't mean downing a GU every 20 minutes. Ingesting too many carbs too frequently can cause stomach cramps. Washing down a concentrated sports gel with 6-8oz of water instead of sports drink can help the body absorb the carbs without overdosing on carbs. When you overload your body with more carbs than it needs, you can cause your body to release too much insulin causing a "yo-yo effect" with your blood sugar resulting in nausea. 
Remedy: Eat a 200-400 calorie snack of complex carbs about 1.5-2 hours prior to you run. During the first 45-mins to 60 minutes drink water. After this length of time begin drinking sports drinks to provide the needed carbs and electrolytes. About every 45-60-minutes take a gel (if desired), but be sure to wash it down with water not sports drink. Be sure to test different combinations of sports drinks and gels. Some runners, may find that a sports drink with carbs and electrolytes will be enough to sustain them on a run. Others may find a combination of sports drinks and gels work. While still others may find that a sports drink and solid food like pretzels work best for them. Be sure to do your testing well before race day.

Stomach Cramps/Indigestion—As mentioned in Nausea #1, the body diverts blood flow to where it's needed. Running shortly after eating slows the blood flow to the stomach, which in turns slows or stops the digestion process. So any food eaten just prior to running will more than likely just sit in your stomach, go no where, and do nothing but cause stomach distress.
Remedy: Eat about 1.5-2 hours prior to your run. 

Diarrhea—Loose bowels are pretty common amongst runners, especially on longer endurance runs. The cause can be anything from anxiety to diet.
Remedy: Try various relaxation techniques from meditation to yoga to help relieve stress and anxiety prior to a race. If you're traveling to a race, try to arrive at least two days prior to race day. This will give your body time to adjust to its new surroundings. Also, you'll be less stressed about finding the race expo, the starting line, etc.  Eat high-fiber meals about 2-3 days out from race day. This will help stock your carb stores and give the high-fiber foods time to pass through your system prior to race day. Switch to more simple carbs the day before and morning of the race. Avoid foods that cause peristalsis

Sloshing Stomach—Ever feel like you're drinking a lot on a run, but the water just stays in your stomach sloshing around? Sodium is one of 5 electrolytes needed by the body to help keep things in balance. Sodium plays a vital part in hydration and water balance in the body. On long and/or really hot runs, you can actually deplete your sodium levels through sweating. Once depleted, your body has no way to transport that water sitting in your stomach to the rest of your body, so it just remains there sloshing around.  

Remedy: Drink water for the first 45-60 minutes of a run, but then switch to a sports drink containing electrolytes. Also, be careful not to overhydrate the day before the race. If you're drinking too much water the day before, you can run the risk of flushing out your electrolytes before you ever get to the start line. Drink throughout the day before the race, but just not to excess. Also, eating salty foods such as pretzels along with the water can help to ensure good sodium levels on race day.