There seems to be tremendous interest right now in the health effects of sugar in our diets. Many people say that it is sugar, rather than fat, that is leading people to be overweight. Documentaries like "Fed Up" talk about both the addictive nature of sugar and how the idea of "eating better and exercising more" makes little sense when the environment makes it practically impossible to eliminate sugar additives from your diet in the first place. No matter how hard you try, the deck is simply stacked against you, so the thinking goes. So 21 days ago I set ...
When your running schedule calls for a break, use the time off wisely.
Runners have a strange relationship with rest days. Early in the year, it’s hard to get them to take a day off because they fear they’ll lose momentum. Later in the year, when their training loads are heavier, those same runners might be grasping for days to take a break. But no matter how far along you are in your training, resting is important because it keeps fatigue from building up and lets the body lay a solid foundation for the work to come. Here are five things you can do to rest, refocus and relax when your running schedule calls for a rest day:
1. Take a yoga class.
Yoga offers great benefits to runners. For one, stretching and lengthening leg muscles undoes some of the damage caused by repetitively tightening those same muscles when running. Stretching in a structured class environment ensures you’ll stretch your entire body, rather than just those trouble spots like your legs. Perhaps more important, yoga helps clear your head and focus on your breath. When practiced correctly, yoga combines a centering, clearing and calming environment with movement and balance exercises. Together, these factors make yoga the perfect rest day complement to your high-energy daily runs.
I’ve often wondered if I should change the name “rest days” on my running schedules to “focus days.” Off days provide much needed time to think and reflect on your progress, your goals and your motivation for running. As the months wear on, failing to take a break to check in with yourself can ultimately lead you to a sad state called burnout. As a runner for nearly my entire life, I look forward to rest days to reflect on how I’m doing, talk with friends about their running and make sure things are on track for my season. Spending some time quietly reflecting on the joy of running goes a long way when it comes to recharging our mental batteries and allowing us to do more when we get back to it the next day.
Getting out for a run when the weather sucks is tough! Today I give you my advice on making those workouts happen when you’d really rather not.
This is episode number 9 of RUN Time and the first in our 2016 running video series. We’ve got loads more on tap that should be coming out almost every week!
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Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running-Advice.com and RUN Time
Does running on a treadmill make you feel like a caged animal, spinning your wheels like a hamster, perhaps? Does it bore you and hamper results? While many runners have those feelings, the treadmill doesn’t have to be such a drag. And, it’s actually a powerful tool – when used correctly – to do some great indoor workouts.
1. Set the incline to 1.5 to 2 percent.
Start by setting the incline on the treadmill to at least 1.5 percent. (Use 2 percent if your treadmill only increases the incline in full percentage points.) This is important because running on a flat treadmill reduces the effort substantially compared to running outside. This little bit of incline helps compensate for the lack of wind resistance and variation in outdoor ground surfaces that make running more challenging and “active” when you’re outside.
2. Vary the pace and incline.
Architecting a good treadmill workout means changing the tempo and effort level. If you’re running one pace for the whole workout, you’re not giving yourself much of a workout. First, warm up for several minutes. Then, increase the pace every one or two minutes. When you really feel warmed up and ready to run, take the pace up to a challenging level for one to two minutes. Then, back it off for one minute to recover. Repeat that routine a few times, depending on the length of your workout. You can follow the same pattern with the incline to simulate hills. The intensity should be enough that you are counting down the time for the interval to end, but not so much that you risk falling behind the pace and potentially falling off the treadmill.
Ready to take on the new year with some running resolutions that will make you stronger and faster? By setting some simple goals for yourself, you can do just that. Here are four easy-to-monitor, year-long resolutions to get you started:
Nothing sharpens your racing skills better than getting out and doing it. In fact, too many runners have a yearly goal race and then are wracked with terrible nerves on race day. You can solve this problem by simply adding one race to your schedule every month. That way, you’ll go through the process of registering, picking up your bib, getting dressed and racing once every four weeks. Not only will you get lots of practice, but you’ll also get used to running under the pressure of competition. Don’t worry: These can be local 5Ks or other low-key (even free) races. Something is better than nothing!
2. Reserve one day a week for stretching.
Runners should place a heavy emphasis on stretching and lengthening muscles to undo some of the tightening caused by running. A great way to do this is to set aside one day each week to stretch – and nothing else. The best thing to do is to take a yoga class on this day, but you can also just go to the gym and spend a good amount of your normal workout time (say, 45 to 60 minutes) stretching your body. Doing this will give you a nice, relaxing recovery day, too.
When sorting through the features of the latest generation of fitness devices, runners might pause and ask, “Do I need that?” I wondered just that myself this fall, when I noticed that a number of fitness trackers, including the new Microsoft Band, started including VO2 max as a metric.
Fitness devices are intended to improve our health and training performance by giving us useful information such as how fast our hearts are beating and how many calories we burn. But much of this information is only marginally helpful in shaping how we train. For example, although most of us understand the concept of calories, many of us don’t eat solely to replenish the calories we burn in a workout. We may feel better about ourselves if we work off some of what we’ve eaten, but we don’t necessarily stop gulping the sugary morning coffee drink after seeing how many calories we’ve burned.
VO2 max has been used for many years in assessing the aerobic capability of athletes. The test measures the maximum amount of oxygen that an athlete consumes during exercise. Think about the efficiency of a car and the size of its motor. (However, keep in mind that VO2 max is not a measure like maximum horsepower or torque that calculates the engine’s ability to produce raw power.) Rather, VO2 max measures oxygen consumption, which is used in aerobic exercises like distance running. It doesn’t tell us much about our power during anaerobic exercises like a running sprint. So, while VO2 max gives us a picture of the power of our “engines,” it’s not telling us how fast we would be “off the line.”
To test VO2 max, athletes typically hook up to an apparatus that measures how much oxygen they breathe and how much oxygen and carbon dioxide they exhale during exercise. This is a direct measurement of how much oxygen is going in and how much is actually being used when athletes run. VO2 max is reached when oxygen consumption stops rising – even when the workout gets harder. The measurement is helpful because it allows athletes to determine how intense their training should be – and to monitor their VO2 max over time.
If you’ve got an electronically-inclined runner on your holiday shopping list, you may be wondering how to pick the best running gadget for him or her this year. Loads of electronics out there promise to improve health, track information and even calculate arcane pieces of information such as your VO2 max and “ground contact time.” But, by homing in on what really matters for runners, you can simplify the shopping process. Here’s what to know about the various options before you start your spree:
1. Fitness and Activity TrackersThe Fitbit and FuelBand makers of the world would have you wear a device on your wrist that gives you a panacea of health-related information. Most of such fitness trackers use a pedometer to count your steps and integrate with a software application that can display information such as the number of calories you burn each day and how much sleep you’re getting.
While activity trackers are good for general information, many runners find them less useful than purpose-built sports watches. The information from a pedometer is typically based on counting steps, so it’s hard for many of these devices to differentiate between walking, jogging or running – each of which burn progressively more calories. Fitness trackers also won’t work well for tracking information about sports such as swimming or CrossFit, where the feet aren’t moving around that much.
Grade for runners: C
The news this year has been all about the smartwatch, from the Apple Watch to the Samsung Gear to the Moto 360. Most of these devices include fitness-monitoring features, such as heart rate monitoring and step counting.
The primary drawbacks of these gadgets for many runners are twofold. First, to take advantage of the watch’s features, you may have to carry your phone along with you on your run. Many runners don’t want to carry an expensive, potentially large, device with them. Second, some of the devices may not appreciate getting doused in sweat or rain on a daily basis. My own experience with the Moto 360 taught me that wearing a smartwatch with a leather band leads to a very grimy, yucky-looking band in no time flat.
Grade for runners: B-
Between social engagements, shopping and cooking – in addition to year-round daily activities – runners and other athletes have to work hard during the holidays to keep exercise from falling off the calendar. Add holiday travel to the list and many runners miss their workouts. As a life-long runner who has visited dozens of foreign destinations, I’ve learned how to keep running on the go. Here are my five tips to help you do the same:
1. Use long layovers wisely.
Any time I have more than three hours between long flights, I try to plan a workout during the layover. You can do this by researching fitness centers near the airport with day use drop-in fees. Before you hit the road, do a quick Internet search for “gyms near” the airport and call or email them to see if you can pay a fee to exercise at their facility. While few airports have gyms on-site, many airport hotels do. For example, the Hilton Chicago O’Hare offers a drop-in fee at its gym, which is a short covered walk from most of the terminals. Just make sure you pack a workout outfit, shoes, a lock and a towel in your carry-on bag. In addition to making the layover feel shorter, working out will energize you more than lazing around during extra in-transit hours.
2. Bring an apparel variety pack.
It sure is a hassle when you have a specific workout planned only to find out that the gym at your hotel doesn’t have the piece of equipment you need, the pool is closed for repairs or wild animals prevent you from running outside. The latter happened to me in Thailand, where a tiger had been spotted roaming the jungle near my hotel. The staff suggested I forgo my run. (Advice accepted!) The key to staying active is to be flexible and bring what you need for different types of workouts. You might want to pack a swimsuit and goggles, for example, in case your only option is a pool. I try to bring cycle shorts when I travel in case all of the treadmills are busy and I need to hop on a bike instead.
With many of the big fall marathons behind us, a lot of you runners may be feeling a mixture of elation at accomplishing your goal and a sort of sadness that comes with completing such a large “project.” Some of us coaches call this heavy feeling the “post-marathon blues.”
But wallow not. The feeling is normal – and can pass. The key to shaking it is to get moving again with new goals and plans. Here are four ways to dust yourself off and get your head in the (new) game:
1. Line up next season’s schedule.
First, move your thinking from the past to the future. The best way to do that is to get out the calendar and pick some races that catch your eye. Perhaps you’ve noticed other runners posting about races on their social media accounts. If one sounds appealing, jot it down on the calendar before you forget. A bonus of planning now? Many races have early bird registration prices, not to mention they may eventually sell out. While the calendar doesn’t have to be set in stone yet, working out a high-level plan is a good first step to getting excited about the next phase of your training.
2. Set new goals.
Too often I hear about runners moving forward by simply registering for the same race they just finished. “I’ll try again next year,” they tell me if the race didn’t work out the way they thought it might. Instead, set some goals based on what you learned from your last performance and aim to make positive improvements. For example, a concrete goal might be something like, “I will improve my nutrition and hydration practices in the next race so I don’t run out of energy during the late miles.” Write down these goals and make working toward them a priority.
If you’re looking for my article on tips about the New York City Marathon that ran in US News Health, here it is:Runners from around the world are about to converge on New York City for the TCS New York City Marathon, and they will all have something in common: They want to have the best experience possible. The marathon is huge, loud, packed with deep crowds and lined by some of the city’s most iconic sights. For the uninitiated, it is an inspiring – if a little bit overwhelming – experience. If you’re one of them, take heed of these tips and get the inside track:
1. Bundle up.
While the forecast looks good for this year’s race, the weather in New York City can be unpredictable. Some of my most intense memories of the New York City Marathon are of nearly freezing before the start in the staging area at Fort Wadsworth. Plan to spend hours out in the weather prior to the start with little to no shelter. There are a few tents, but for the most part, runners are out in the open and exposed to the wind and potentially cold temperatures. You may want to wear some old clothing, such as heavy cotton sweat pants and a sweatshirt, and then discard them at the start. In the past, race organizers have collected abandoned clothing and donated it to shelters. That way, you’re keeping yourself warm doing something good for the community at the same time.
2. Don’t be late.
Race organizers have devised an effective plan to get the thousands of runners out to the start, but it’s up to you to make sure that you’re on the correct ferry or bus. If you miss your ride, you may have a really difficult time getting to the start. I have heard stories of people thinking that they could “grab a later ferry,” only to find themselves out of luck. Every seat will be full, so stick to your assigned slot.
3. Bring only what you need.
Security will be tight this year at the New York City Marathon, as it has been at most major marathons over the past few years. If you’re thinking about bringing anything other than your running gear and energy supplies, you should check the prohibited items list on the marathon’s website. Keep in mind that sleeping bags and tents – which seem like appealing ways to stay warm at the start – aren’t allowed.
4. Understand the first few miles.
The start of the New York City Marathon is a massive undertaking that uses multiple waves and multiple corrals in each start. The course is actually split into three separate routes for the first few miles, with all of the courses eventually converging. What this means is that if you are trying to see or meet someone on the course, you need to understand that you might not be talking about the same “mile 5.” Also, keep in mind that there are separate color-coded mile markers on the course until mile 8, after which they all finally converge.
If you’re looking for my article on tips about the Chicago Marathon tha ran in US News Health, here it is:Runners know the Chicago Marathon as one of the greatest marathons in the world. With about 40,000 participants, it’s one of the largest races and its flat course can make for fast times.
As someone who has run the Chicago Marathon a number of times and prepared more than 500 runners for the race – including a group of 150 that I will be coaching this Sunday – I know there are a few things that set seasoned Chicago Marathon veterans apart from those who haven’t run the race. Here are some tips to give you the inside track:
1. Arrive early.
Getting into the starting area in Grant Park has always taken some time. You’ll be navigating throngs of people, covering a lot of ground and dealing with many closed streets that can wreak havoc on your travel plans. Since the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, race officials have significantly heightened security at the start area. You’ll now need to undergo a security screening in order to get into Grant Park, so give yourself an extra half hour on top of the time it takes you to get to the park.
2. Follow gear check instructions carefully.
Listen to race organizers about the types of bags you can use for gear check, and make sure you only bring what will fit in your bag. Most races, including the Chicago Marathon, provide clear plastic bags for gear check to make security screening quicker. This means that they may not allow you to bring your own backpack or another opaque bag.
3. Ensure you’re in the correct start corral.
Start corrals are assigned according to your estimated finishing time, with the fastest runners starting first. The Chicago Marathon is strict on ensuring that people only go into their assigned corrals. If you feel you need to change your corral assignment, contact the race organizers ahead of time or ask an official at the Race Expo. No changes will be allowed on race morning in Grant Park.
4. Keep your pace steady during turns.
The first few miles of the Chicago Marathon course include many right and left turns. The crowd will tend to slow down as it approaches these corners and then speed back up after them. This changing speed can be quite fatiguing, making the first few miles feel like an interval workout. Focus on keeping an even pace, and move to the outside if that’s not possible.