Movie Review — McFarland USA #running #moviereviews

running advice bug Movie Review    McFarland USA #running #moviereviewsIt isn’t very often that a good movie about running comes along. McFarland USA is indeed a movie about running and it’s a very good all around movie too. I think you runners will enjoy it.

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Disney’s McFarland USA

McFarland is the underdog story of underdog stories, as a newly formed team of high school cross-country runners from an impoverished farming community face pretentious rivals in the first-ever California State Cross-country meet. Set in 1987 in the rural town of McFarland, California, we go along for a ride with a bunch of young runners that are long on natural talent and work ethic, even while they are not taken seriously by their rivals. The story is about forming a team, working hard and winning against all odds.

0 Movie Review    McFarland USA #running #moviereviews

As with all sports movies, there’s more to McFarland than running. In truth, this story is maybe half about running. The other half of the movie is a story about cultural integration, family dynamics and understanding. This story is where we build our relationship with both the running coach and his students and that’s where this film really shines. McFarland is a picture with a lot of heart and its from that heart that we develop a deep affection for the runners and really pull for them as they try to win. We care about the team by the end of the film, because we care about the characters and really want them to succeed. This is the level on which McFarland succeeds as a movie as well.

McFarland features a somewhat typical fish-out-of-water premise to begin with: a teacher and coach moving to a small, rural town in which he and his family are pretty close to the only non-Hispanic residents. He’s blessed, in true “couldn’t have been written better if it were fiction” style with the last name “White” which quickly gets him the nickname “Blanco.” While the first act of the movie unfolds a little slowly, it’s nice to see that the outsider is not riding in on a white horse of infallibility. Quite the contrary, he’s the bud of many jokes and makes some big mistakes early on. This really is a story of learning that works both ways. By the end of the second act, this movie is hitting on all cylinders and we are invested and pulling for the team.
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Does masturbation impact running performance? #running

running advice bug Does masturbation impact running performance? #runningEvery once in a while I get a letter or email from a reader that I just can’t set aside. I mean I love answering email, but there are questions and then there are questions and I’ve got a good one for you today. Now this question has to do with masturbation and running; I should start by saying, even before providing the question, that I have no “hands-on” knowledge or experience with masturbation myself. But then coaches many times have to provide advice about “gripping” subjects with which they themselves have not had to “wrestle.”

[NOTE: Sadly, there’s not much serious information out there on this topic, because most people that have written about it tend to want to only joke about it. I’ve already made my tongue-in-cheek comments and for the rest of this article I will try to actually answer the question.]

Question mark scratch head 228x300 Does masturbation impact running performance? #runningThe question came from a young reader in another country and I will paraphrase:

“My question is how does masturbation affect my running. My legs tend to be sore after doing it. About 2K into my runs I start to feel better, but it does affect my times. I mostly try to refrain from doing this, but we all have those moments. Also, after masturbating, I have this uncontrollable urge to work out. I just want to do the right thing.”

So first of all, I think that I can start by saying that there is no direct impact between running fitness and masturbation. Fitness for running is developed through a mixture of cardio-vascular capacity and the muscular strength in the legs and other major muscle groups that power the body forward. We could start by saying that masturbation doesn’t really “tax” any of the major muscle groups used by runners, depending I suppose how you do it. Masturbation is mostly a hand-arm thing and running is mostly a leg-stomach thing. Perhaps excessive masturbation might give you carpal-tunnel syndrome in your wrist, but it’s not going to fatigue your legs much. Masturbation may in fact leave you feeling fatigued, but this has no impact on your running fitness. On other side of the coin, masturbation is said to relieve stress for many people, so it might actually help some people before a race, but then let’s not see anyone trying this in public.
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Five Tips to Improve Your Travel Workout Experience #fitness #running #workouts

running advice bug Five Tips to Improve Your Travel Workout Experience #fitness #running #workoutsLet’s face it, when you travel your workouts often suffer. Travel screws with your daily routine, impacting things like your schedule, access to your favorite running routes or the gym equipment that you have at home. Having just come back from a quick trip to Asia, I have five more tips fresh in my mind that will help keep your workouts on track and make the whole experience better for you.

pushup girl 300x200 Five Tips to Improve Your Travel Workout Experience #fitness #running #workouts

Exercises like push-ups can be done anywhere with no equipment

Tip 1 — Develop a backup exercise routine that you can do literally anywhere — Whether you find yourself in an airport, on an island with no gym or just holed up in a hotel room, sometimes you will have no access to any equipment, the outdoors or a safe place to get out for a run. In these cases, I always have a set of exercises that I can do without any equipment to get myself active anywhere. Here’s an example of full-body workout that you can do anywhere. Do three-to-four sets of the following exercises doing as many as you think is wise for your fitness. You may want to start at 10 each:
– Push-ups
– Sit-ups
– Burpees — this is a combination exercise that includes a squat, push-up, thrust and jump. Certain to raise your heart-rate immediately.
– Squats
– Side-lunges

You’ll be surprised how much of a workout you can get doing simple exercises like this, especially when varying the number and the pacing. You can also add weight by grabbing something in your possession when doing some of these; I have used my back-pack for instance when doing squats or side-lunges. Heck put your laptop or a heavy book on your chest to add weight to your sit-ups.

Some other good exercises that you could do here include box jumps (to a bench or even onto a hotel bed if you’re careful about not falling over backward) and pull-ups if you can find a bar of some kind. (NOTE from Joe: shower-curtain rods do not generally support body weight.)
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Coach Joe Goes CrossFit — Part I — Picking a “Box” #CrossFit #Running #Fitness #Triathlon

running advice bug Coach Joe Goes CrossFit    Part I    Picking a Box #CrossFit #Running #Fitness #TriathlonOver the past couple of seasons I have been asked a number of times if CrossFit would be a benefit to my runners and triathletes. Since I hadn’t tried it myself, I thought it was time to get some in-depth experience with it and provide you all the answer: will CrossFit benefit you as a runner or triathlete? Oh, the things I do for you, my dear readers. Over the course of the next few months I’ll be weighing in — both literally and figuratively — to tell you what I think of the whole experience.

I went into this with my mind open, ready for a new challenge and certain that I would be humbled a few times in the process. So far, I’m right on track.

DSC 2041 Edit 2 300x300 Coach Joe Goes CrossFit    Part I    Picking a Box #CrossFit #Running #Fitness #Triathlon

Coach Joe at T9000 CrossFit

According to Wikipedia, CrossFit is “promoted as both a physical exercise philosophy and also as a competitive fitness sport. CrossFit workouts incorporate elements from high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, girevoy sport, calisthenics, strongman and other exercises.”

From a methodology stand-point, CrossFit makes good sense for both runners and multi-sport athletes. CrossFit puts an emphasis on several things that benefit endurance athletes. First, CrossFit aims to strengthen the body, in particular the core, hips and legs. From a power production stand-point on the bike and run this should be a benefit to many athletes. In addition, CrossFit puts an emphasis on stretching and flexibility, especially around the hips. Being able to increase the range of motion of those tight runners’ hamstrings and quads will hopefully reduce injuries and lengthen strides. And finally, CrossFit includes a great deal of shifting between activities. Quickly moving from muscle-group to muscle-group — typically done under time pressure — is good to help triathletes with their transitions on race day.

My strategy was to get started: pick a gym, get myself enrolled and add this to my workout routine in the early “strength building” portion of my season. Ultimately, I wanted to add 2-3 CrossFit workouts to my week during the three months of January through March when I’m focused on building base and strength and my racing activity is moderately low. In my case, I traded off my 2-3 traditional “weights” workouts in the gym for my new CrossFit routine.

Picking out a “Box”
The first thing that you’ll need to do is find a CrossFit gym, which is called a “Box” in the CrossFit lingo. You may be surprised, or even a little over-whelmed with the number of choices you may have. In my local area there were almost too many to count. I visited a number of Boxes and decided based on three factors: 1) proximity to my house, 2) a structured introduction program and 3) a welcoming attitude. Thankfully, CrossFit T9000 in Hillsboro, happened to be the closest one to my house, but it also turned out to have one of the best introduction programs I experienced. There’s a lot to learn and many of the skills require a close attention to detail. Those Boxes that invest in you up front are helping you to avoid injury and get more out of the workouts once you get started.
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Product Review — Jabra Sport Pulse Bluetooth Wireless In-ear Heart Rate Monitor #running #fitness

running advice bug Product Review    Jabra Sport Pulse Bluetooth Wireless In ear Heart Rate Monitor #running #fitnessI was kind of intrigued when I was offered a chance to test the new Jabra Sport Pulse in-ear heart rate monitoring system. I wondered how well a heart rate monitor would work when placed in the ear rather than worn around the chest on a strap. And I wondered whether this would be a handy device to offer to runners that want to try a heart rate monitor integrated into their earphones. After about six weeks of use, I can say now that there are pluses and minuses to using a system like this. Let’s delve into this today.

Jabra Sport Pulse 1 300x200 Product Review    Jabra Sport Pulse Bluetooth Wireless In ear Heart Rate Monitor #running #fitness

Jabra Sport Pulse Bluetooth In-Ear Heart Rate Monitor

As the name implies, the Jabra Sport Pulse is designed first and foremost to offer heart-rate monitoring. It is also a set of wireless Bluetooth earphones that can be used for listening to music. The product includes software applications for both Apple and Android to operate both of these functions with your Smartphone (more on this later). The head-phones act just like any other Bluetooth device in that you pair them with your phone and then can easily reconnect them by turning them on when you want to use them. Overall, set-up was a snap and very intuitive. Literally the only thing I couldn’t figure out in the first few days was how to turn them off after use. (I found out later that you hold down the center multi-function button until they power down.)

Once up paired with your phone, the Jabra Sport Pulse software app will launch when you connect to your phone. The interface is very intuitive. You can track running, cycling, walking, hiking and several other sports. The app prompts you in (in my opinion) a sultry female voice with a British accent, which I found charming at first and then later found sort of annoying. She pops in pretty often to tell you how far you’ve run and how fast, although it occurs to me that she never actually gives you your heart rate. Heart rate information is displayed on handy graphs showing the amount of work in different heart rate zones and all of your workouts are stored in the app for later reference. There is also a piece of software called Jabra Sound that acts as a music player should you need one. I found that the earphones worked just fine for streaming music from Pandora and listening to MP3s from my Amazon Music player.

Now let’s get down to the pros and cons of using this solution. First among the cons is that this is an in-ear solution, which means that it wouldn’t be allowed in many events such as triathlons where headphones are against the rules of competition. A second problem with the in-ear solution is when training in a group setting, you’ll have something in your ears. Just like any other headphone, people may avoid talking to you or you may have trouble hearing them when they do. When I used these headphones in my spin class environment I found myself pulling them out to talk to people, even when I wasn’t listening to music. You do still hear a fair amount of ambient sound with them inserted in the ear, but it’s hard to hear people talking in loud exercise-equipment rich environments just the same.
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Should you go see Unbroken for the running? #Unbrokenmovie #running #marathon #moviereviews

running advice bug Should you go see Unbroken for the running? #Unbrokenmovie #running #marathon #moviereviewsI get pretty excited when a movie comes along that incorporates running as one of its story elements. There have been some great movies about running, or that featured running heavily (e.g. Forest Gump), as well as some real dopes. After seeing the trailer for Unbroken (#UnbrokenMovie) I got revved up by a story about Olympic runner Louis Zamperini. I got out my notepad and headed for the multi-plex to see if you runners might like the film.

unbroken jack oconnell2 300x195 Should you go see Unbroken for the running? #Unbrokenmovie #running #marathon #moviereviews

Jack O’Connell as Louis Zamperini in Unbroken Photo by David James – © 2014 – Universal Pictures

First things first, the trailer advertising the film is 2 minutes and 36 seconds long. A full forty seconds of the first minute features the running story. That’s more than a passing mention. You can certainly come away with the idea that this is a movie about running, but it really isn’t. It IS the story of an Olympic runner and it IS the story of war hero who suffers horrendous torture as a prisoner of war. However, out of the lengthy two hour and seventeen minute (2:17:00) movie only about 10-12 minutes is actually about running. (Side note: I find the timing interesting here in that Paula Radcliffe’s most recognized women’s world record in the Marathon is 2:17:18. Co-incidence? She actually ran her fastest marathon in 2:15:25, or about two minutes less than it took to tell this story.)

Back to the running. I’ll first give the filmmakers props for doing a nice job shooting the few running scenes in the film. Capturing runners is tough to do, because they’re moving — and they move fast. That means that you need to have the cameras in motion and keep them stable while doing so. Most movies about running minimize this by having the runners run past stationary cameras, which means you get quick glimpses of the action rather than sustained shots. But here, we see some nice sustained action shots of the runners racing around the vintage dirt tracks of the era. The long-spiked style shoes look authentic enough and leading actor Jack O’Connell looks right at home whizzing around the track.

So how do they do with the history as it relates to Zamperini’s running? Again, they do a passing job. They compress the story by sort of rolling a number of important races into one. The film shows Zamperini being spiked in the shin and then surging to win a high-school track competition. This more famously happened in a later competition when Zamperini ran his personal best mile in college at the University of Southern California (although it may have happened any number of times in that era.) Also, the announcer concludes the call of the race in the film by saying, “… and with that, he qualifies to go to the Olympics.” That’s not quite true. In this particular race, Zamperini did set a world interscholastic mile record of 4:21.2, but this did not qualify him for the Olympics. It wasn’t until two years later in 1936 that he qualified for the Olympics in what can only be described as one of his most amazing performances. In the 1936 Olympic Trials, Zamperini finished in a dead-heat tie with American Record Holder Don Lash in record high-temperatures. The race was so hot that several runners collapsed during the race. I really question why the writers would leave out this performance, but then with the film at 2:17:00 in length, we can probably guess.
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New Year, Not So New You; Making Changes that Stick #running #triathlon #fitness

running advice bug New Year, Not So New You; Making Changes that Stick #running #triathlon #fitnessI want to get behind the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, I really do. But to me the New Year’s Resolution is kind of the marketing hype of personal improvement. We see this in fitness centers and gyms being swollen with people for the first month of the year and then returning to their previous levels. We see this in the fact that many New Year’s resolutions get broken within weeks, days, or even hours of being made. We go through the act of thinking up New Year’s resolutions because people tell us we should and that’s quite simply the wrong reason.

4thofjuly New Year, Not So New You; Making Changes that Stick #running #triathlon #fitnessNew Year’s resolutions are about effectuating change in our lives. Underlying the desire to try something new must be a motivation to change. We not only need to put a stake in the ground to get thinner, faster, eat better or drink less. We need to want to change the behaviors in our lives enough to overcome the habits that we’ve formed and to get to the end result we’re searching for.

Here’s the thing. We start the new year with all of the tools that we had, or didn’t have, on December 31st. If you are a person that knows how to effectuate change in your life then you can make changes that stick. If you don’t know how to make changes, or don’t have the motivation to really change, then you stand as much chance sticking to your resolutions as two dry pieces of paper sticking together in a desert.

The positive side to this is that we can make changes anytime. We don’t have to wait until December 31st to change a part of our lives. All we need are those tools that will help us stick to the changes that we want to make in our lives. I can give you three tips that will greatly help in setting and making changes in your life.

Tip 1 — Set a Specific Duration for your Goal – Experts say that if you can change a behavior for just 21 days, you’ll make a change to behavior that lasts. I like to make goals for one month, especially when trying something new. By staking a specific time to the change, such as trying a new diet or adding a new workout, you can mentally tell yourself that you are doing this or that thing for a short period of time and in that time you’ll be able to experience and see the results of the change. When you get a chance to feel the impact of the change on your life, it makes it easier to keep it going for another month and so on.
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Five Ways to Improve Your Vacation Workouts #running #marathon

running advice bug Five Ways to Improve Your Vacation Workouts #running #marathonI’ll be honest. I have a love-hate relationship with vacations. I love going on vacation; I hate the fact that even though I am supposed to be so “un-busy” that I typically struggle to keep up my workouts when I’m away. Vacations are, by their nature, times when we are out of our routines. So in that vein, our workout routines tend to suffer. I just returned from a long vacation and I put some of today’s tips into practice for myself. I came back more fit than when I left. That makes my relationship with vacations a lot more loving.

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Running in Costa Rica in 2012. Photo: Corrin Miller

Today I offer you five ways to help you make something of your vacation in terms of your fitness. Next time you travel, think about trying some of these fun alternatives to get in some quality workouts!

Tip 1 — Do something you can’t do at home — Vacations take us to far-flung places and new environments, so let’s get out there and try some new things folks! My current trip was to Hawaii and I have often dreaded running in the heat while there. This time I mixed it up and did a series of workouts centered around the breach. I did a number of open-water swims, taking advantage of the warm water that we don’t have at home in Oregon, and the soft sand of the beach. For my beach workouts I concentrated on technique and strength building (e.g. I slowed way down in the soft sand and focused on my form), to do something I just can’t do at home: run in the sand with waves splashing at my feet.

Tip 2 — Break up the routine — Runners are creatures of habit. I kind of cringe when I walk into a hotel fitness center and see people plodding along on a treadmill when they are in a beautiful place that warrants being outside. Use the fitness center for things like weight training or core work, but take advantage of the change in scene if you can. Exploring a new place is fun and it also is a change of pace from those routes that you run day in and day out back at home.

Tip 3 — Go short and fast — Is the family waiting for you to take them to Disneyland? ‘No time to go for a long run’ you say. Get out and do something short to get your engine running. You’ll feel better as you make your way through what will likely be busy days filled with lots of walking. I feel a lot better about myself doing even a 20 minute run than nothing at all. I think you will too.
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Suggested Alternatives for High Intensity Interval Training #running #triathlon

running advice bug Suggested Alternatives for High Intensity Interval Training #running #triathlonA reader named Karen writes to us this week asking about alternatives to get in her higher intensity workouts (speed or quality work) while reducing the impact on the lower body. It’s true that high-speed running does place a great deal of stress on the muscles and joints of the lower-legs. The benefits gained in strength and fitness from these workouts generally outweigh the risks, but as Karen’s question points out there are instances when it makes sense to avoid too much pounding on a particular part of the body. Here’s her question:

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Spinning: great alternative for low-impact, high intensity training


I was the first kid on the block to have a joint replaced- I got the joint below the big toe replaced when I was 38 (years of 4″ heels followed by a botched bunionectomy.) I’ve been told by a good orthopedic surgeon that people can only get one toe joint replacement – when this one goes, you can’t get another. After the replacement goes, all they can do is pin the joint in a slightly bent position so as to do as little damage as possible to the knee, hip and back.

The best way to avoid wearing out the replaced joint is to avoid unnecessary pounding – so basically, no running. Are there other ways to achieve HIIT goals that don’t involve sprints?

That big toe sure is important in running, especially when running fast. Push-off and balance comes starts with the big toe and when people’s big toes don’t flex right, we can see all kinds of issues, including lower-back problems. The body is a chain of connected parts that pull against a lever and when there isn’t enough flexion in the toes, the whole chain upward toward the lever can have problems.

So first, keep in mind that maintaining good flexibility through the legs and feet will really reduce the impact on your joints. The stiffer your muscles are, the more pounding that you’ll put onto your feet, toes and heels. Or said another way, the more flexible you are the more fluid and resilient your body parts are, which puts less pressure and impact on them. You want to be springy, not stiff, to run.

The good news is that there are plenty of other ways to get high intensity training in without running. My favorite are spin classes on a spin bike. Spin is very effective in doing intervals, getting the heart rate way up, and burning a lot of calories in the process. When I’m really training hard, I aim to do 2 or even 3 spin workouts per week, because my body can’t handle working out on the track more than 2-3 times a week. This lets me do additional high intensity work without the pounding and potential for injuries.
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Will I finish the marathon tomorrow? #running #marathon

running advice bug Will I finish the marathon tomorrow? #running #marathonI was speaking to a group of runners a couple of weeks ago and one of them jokingly quipped: “If I asked Siri, will she tell me whether I will finish the marathon tomorrow?” I thought about it for a minute and then thought, ‘I should really try that!’ Well the results weren’t great. Google likewise didn’t come up with much in the way of conclusive answers. So I decided to answer this all important question: “WILL YOU FINISH THE MARATHON TOMORROW?”

DSC 3133 XL 300x200 Will I finish the marathon tomorrow? #running #marathonI know what you’re thinking: there’s no way that Joe can predict whether any particular person is going to finish a marathon or not. There are just so many factors that come into play. But honestly, I can break this down into a five question test and for the most part say whether you’re going to finish a marathon or not.

First let’s set the playing field for you. The finish rate in most large marathons is about 80-90%. That means that among those that start the race about 8 out of 10 people finish the race. This may seem high to you, but in reality most people that attempt a marathon have done some level of training and get themselves to the finish-line. Finishing here is not measured in speed — we’re talking finishing “at all” and it may not be pretty. But that means that most people finish the race. The question we now jump into is what happens to those last two people and what throws those rates way out of whack.

Question 1: Did you train for the marathon? Most people read that question and say, “duh, of course I trained for the marathon. It would be insane not to train for a marathon, right?” Yeah, that’s true, but it happens. I have walked many a marathon with the last person in the race and they tell me that “I just didn’t train.” For whatever reason — whether they were too busy, too sick, too unmotivated — it just didn’t happen. My favorite all time story was a women in here late-60s that had been on a cruise that stopped in Anchorage on the day of the Mayor’s Marathon and she “just did it” because it was happening that day. SHE FINISHED! ANSWER: if you haven’t training, the odds that you won’t finished skyrocket, but even then it is possible to finish.

Question 2: What is the weather going to be on race day? The number 1 reason beyond all reasons that drop the finish rate in a marathon is if the weather is unseasonably hot. When the temperature is above 75 degrees, the finish rate starts sinking. This is especially true in places where people haven’t been exposed to warm weather — like in Chicago in the Fall. Hot weather can drop the finish rate by 10-20%. ANSWER: if the temperature goes way up, your odds of finishing drop, but so long as you hydrate and slow down, you can still finish.
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