Add These Moves to Your Running Workout

Running is one of the most repetitive forms of exercise. You simply put one foot in front of the other. You can vary speed and terrain, but not much else. Therefore, to become a better runner, it’s imperative you add more movements and strength training into your workout schedule. Fall and winter are the perfect times to hit the gym  because of dire weather. Here are a few must-do moves:

Kettlebell Squats

Kettlebells are becoming popular among weightlifters and most gyms have invested in them, or you can also easily purchase a couple of different weight sizes from a local retailer. Hold the kettlebell to your chest with both hands holding the bar. Position your feet a little more than shoulder width-apart and begin to squat down with feet firmly planted on the ground. Do three sets of 15.


Photo Courtesy of ACE

Side Lunges

We’re all seen lunges where you take a step forward, bend your back knee and lower your body to the ground. However, this mirrors the same forward movement as running. Try move to the side to strengthen hips. Take a side step and bend down. Rise up. Take another side step and bend down. Do two sets of 15 steps on each side.

Photo courtesy of Fitness Republic

Photo courtesy of Fitness Republic


Your core is one of the key areas of strength of a runner. Planks work on tightening your entire core and also work your glutes–something often forgotten about during your running training. Try holding a plank for 30 seconds to start and then working up to 60 seconds. You’ll find yourself a little sore at first, but it’s worth it when you see the difference it’ll make in  your running form.

Photo courtesy The Slender Student

Photo courtesy The Slender Student


What Runners Can Do To….

girl runningRunning can burn a lot of calories, get your heart rate up and keep you in shape. Some runners find it frustrating, however that they don’t really gain muscle from it and some other fitness gains aren’t to be had. Here are some suggestions:

You want to gain more lower-body muscle:
Run hills. Adding in hill training can work both the quads, hams and calves. It can start to bulk up the upper leg muscles in ways running on flat terrain can’t. Find a one-mile hill and run up and down it a couple of times a week. Not only will it make you faster, it’ll make you stronger.

If you find this cumbersome, add in one hiking workout per week. You don’t even have to run. You can simply walk fast and get a good workout. It’ll give you a break from running, but you’ll still see tremendous fitness gains.

You want to gain upper-body strength:
Running is mostly a lower body workout. You do swing your arms, but there isn’t any weight-bearing exercise involved. Instead, add in upper body movements. During your speed workout, which you should be doing once per week, before you rest between speed drills, do 15 push ups.  You can even do push ups after a regular run. Do it right before you stretch. This is in addition to any weight training you do (if you do).

Do you have a dog and/or a small kid? You can also add in dog walking and stroller pushing to your runs. This works out your upper body.

You want to build more coordination:
If you want to start doing more trail running, it’s a good idea to develop some coordination skills. To mix up your workout and develop your coordination, taking tai chi, which is a form of slow, flowing movements, can help. It also helps to slow bone loss, which can keep you running for longer.



Weight Training for Runners

blog-fitnovatives-050814-1I once interviewed a successful endurance athlete who said strength training was more important than cardio. She’d give up an hour run for 30 minutes of weight training; it was the most essential workout of her week. I found this quite surprising as we all follow our running schedule in a regimented fashion and most runners I know will skip weights to get in more mileage. She says do the opposite.

Every week she did what she called the “Dirty Thirty,” 30 minutes of hard core lifting. Because we’re runners and don’t want to spend hours weight lifting at the gym, it’s best to maximize your time. The best way to do this is to work out multiple muscle groups at once.

Here is a workout to try incorporating into your running schedule. Once a week is good and maybe bump it up to twice a week if you have time.

Dirty Thirty
5 minutes warm-up on treadmill, increase pace every minute.

Do not sit on a flat surface the entire lifting session. Rather, stand or sit on a resistance ball to engage your core.

15 lunges while carrying barbells and as you step forward, curl. As you bring your legs together, lift your arms over your head. Repeat.

What it works: Legs, glutes, biceps, back.

15 squats with barbells at your sides. As you stand up, lift the barbells over your head and bring them back to your sides.

What it works: Glutes, biceps, back.

Do a set of 15 upright rows. No stopping.

What it works: Shoulders.

Stop and do 20 scissor kicks to work your core and rest your arms.

15 lunges and this time hold one barbel with both hands over your head. Bend your elbows so the barbel falls behind your head. Each time you bring your feet together, lift the barbel over your head.

What it works: Legs, glutes and triceps.

15 squats ballet style (standing with feet apart like a duck, considered second position in ballet) and hold a barbell in between your legs with both hands.

What it works: Calves, glutes.

Do 15 upright rows.

What it works: Shoulders.

25 crunches with your legs in the air for extra work.

Keep repeating this until 30 minutes is over.

Half Marathons to Run in 2017

new zealand 2Yes, races cost money. I like to view races as thousands of calories burned and thousands of memories made, my friends look at it as thousands of dollars lost. I guess I’m a glass-half-full kind of gal when it comes to races. I love racing. It forces me to rise early, get my workout done at a faster pace than I would run on my own, water and sports drinks are handed to me by nice volunteers, I feel supported by the crowds and other runners, I get a medal to commemorate my finish (that granted, gets stuck in a bag in the back of my closet), and I feel a sense of accomplishment that I reached another goal (despite my horrific finish time).

Here are three to consider for 2017:

561761_3980390742837_446598658_nDisneyland Half Marathon. Taking place Labor Day weekend, the Happiest Race on Earth traverses through the Happiest Place on Earth: Disneyland. You’ll run through Disneyland, California Adventure Park, into Angels Stadium where the crowd noise will astound you, and receive your best race photos. If you don’t care about time, you can stop and have your photo taken with Disney characters, the automobiles from “Cars,” and the famous Disneyland castle.

Kauai Half Marathon. Naturally, any race in a tropical locale will make anyone’s running list. Also generally held over Labor Day weekend, the Kauai marathon is a tough course with hot temperatures–be prepared to sweat. You’ll race through this garden island’s green scenery, through a road with tree branches forming a tunnel of sorts for runners, and end up right next to the Pacific Ocean. For those more ambitious, a full marathon is offered with approximately eight miles of climbing. My hat is off to those who dare.

Salt Lake City Half Marathon. It is easy to PR at the Salt Lake City Half Marathon held each April. With 11 miles of downhill, your quads will hate you, but your Garmin will love you. I love the cherry blossoms that blow in the wind as I run by, the clean air at a higher elevation, the snow-capped mountains and ending at a shopping center.

Happy running!

Cross Training Options for Runners

indexFall starts the day after tomorrow. It’s my favorite season–despite the shortened days. I do like to mix up my workouts from running in the heat to doing some new sports as cross training. The weather has turned a little sour where I am and look forward to participating in these sports soon:

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing involves working your entire body and burns more calories than running because of the tough arm movements. Your body both pushes and pulls and you cannot zone out in the way you can with running long distances. You must concentrate and keep focused.

Calories burned:
Because cross-country skiing is a total-body workout, it is the ultimate calorie burner. You can burn upwards of 950 calories per hour.

Why it’ll help running:
New leg muscles are developed and your quads are strengthened. It also works your core, one of the most important groups of muscles to a runner.

Ice Skating

You don’t need to wear the fancy, sparkly costumes as you see with figure skaters in the Olympic Games. Rather, you can just hit your local ice skating rink to work your leg muscles. Ice skating is very challenging on the ankles, something typically underdeveloped in runners.

Calories burned:
If you skate moderately fast, you can burn 400-500 calories per hour.

Why it’ll help with your running:
Skating involves a pushing motion and it’ll work and strengthen your IT band–one of the most commonly injured muscles among runners.

Alpine Skiing

While you may prefer snowboarding for its trendiness, alpine skiing actually mirrors running more as you must push off one leg at a time when not moving downhill.

Calories burned:
A moderate skier can burn around 400 calories per hour.

Why it’ll help you with your running:
Often runners and sprinters who train on the track lose the hill training. Skiing will give you a benefit of a sport moving downhill, working your quads.


Get Your Veggies this Fall

indexI once interviewed a well-known vegan endurance athlete who swore a plant-based diet helped him win triathlons. He was lighter, well nourished and could easily drop pounds with eating vegetables and nuts. It really got me thinking about following a vegetarian diet despite my love of chicken. Now I try to add in several non-meat meals a week, including a “Meatless Mondays.” I now find myself looking for the vegetarian option on menus and find meat rather heavy, generally.

Although I don’t think you need to go to the extreme of removing meat from your diet if you love it, you can add in more vegetarian meals chock full of vegetables that offer plenty of protein.

Try these options:

For breakfast try adding in a green smoothie a few times as week. The smoothies can help remove metals in the body and cleanse you out, allowing your organs to absorb more healthy nutrients. Here are a couple of recipes. The first one is simple for those non-cooks.

2 cups water
2 cups spinach or kale
2 cups any type of fruit (watermelon and banana work well)

Pour in water into a blender, add in fruit one cup at a time and blend. Add in spinach one cup at a time and blend. Enjoy.

Blending the water and fruit first make it easier for the blender not to get the food stuck.

Real Simple’s recipe:

2 tablespoons lime juice
2 cups spinach
1 1/2 cups frozen mango
1 cup green grapes

Combine the lime juice, ½ cup water, the collard greens, mango, and grapes in a blender and puree until smooth, about 1 minute, adding more water to reach the desired consistency.


Carry a plastic pouch of nuts, seeds, and edamame for protein. It will also help you feel full faster.


Cook a meal of colorful vegetables, such as kale and peppers of several colors. According to Jennifer Iserlof, known as the Skinny Chef, “To get the most out of your veggies, don’t overcook them: 15 minutes or less on high heat (400°F in the oven or in a hot skillet) or under 25 minutes in a 350°F oven.”

You can also cook them over high heat for one minute, add a pinch of salt and then reduce and cook for an additional two minutes. Iserlof doesn’t recommend steaming as it takes the texture of the vegetable out.

Running Terminology 101

Goodshoot 1It’s back to school time. Labor Day weekend signals the unofficial end of summer and everyone is getting back to regular schedules. Whether you are in school yourself or have friends/children who go back, this blog post is dedicated to the lifelong learners. It offers a little running terminology 101.

Ever notice the strange lingo runners use? If you’re new to the sport of running, you may hear a few of these words used at track practice. Here are a few of the definitions to keep you knowledgeable:

FARTLEK-A Swedish term meaning speed play, it is a training method that involves varying intensity. It’s what you’ll likely do at a track workout. You’ll run fast, faster, then slower, etc. It shocks your body and in turn, makes you faster.

INTERVAL-This is similar to Fartlek. It is a faster pace of running that brings up your heart rate and challenges your body.

TEMPO-Tempo is still a fast pace, but not as fast as internal. You’ll still run hard, but not with an all-out sprint.

GEL-Packed into little nutritional packets, gels provide the necessary nutrition and calories you need to make it through a long run. Generally ranging from 100-110 calories each, gel packets come in different flavors and with or without caffeine to provide a little extra spike of energy.

SPIKES-Running shoes with actual spikes on the bottom to help grip the track easier. These are made just for track runners—typically sprinters and short-distance runners.

COMPRESSION SOCKS-Although they may look like soccer socks, long and pretty unusual, they are designed to compress the muscles. This allows for faster recovery and less lactic acid build up while running.

LONG RUN-Distance runners generally include one or two “long runs” per week to build up endurance. These can last from six to 30+ miles, depending on what type of race the runner is planning to complete.

MARATHON-Although the word “marathon” is pretty standard in the everyday language, many confuse the length. They assume any running event is a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles in distance and does not vary. A half marathon is exactly half that: 13.1 miles. Not all running distances are marathons—only those measuring 26.2 miles.

LADDER-This is an interval workout of increasing interval lengths, i.e., 200 meters, then 400 meters, then 800 meters.

PYRAMID-This is an interval workout of increasing and then decreasing interval lengths, i.e., 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, 400 meters, 200 meters. You go up and then you come back down in equal distances.

LACTATE THRESHOLD-This is the level of intensity that causes blood lactate to rise and muscle efficiency to fall with fatigue. The result? Lactic acid.

Get Your Sleep

dog sleepingWith summer coming to an end soon, at least unofficially with Labor Day weekend in a few days, it’s time to end staying up late at night partying and enjoying your summer vacations. Now we have to get back to work and school. Back in 2015, the National Sleep Foundation listed the new number of hours you need for sleep:

  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

How should you get your proper amount of sleep? Try these methods:

Put away your computers, iPads and phones off. Turn them completely off to avoid the light. These give off extra light that can keep your brain functioning and not allow it to shut off. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers found e-readers can disrupt sleep by giving off a blue light that can suppress melatonin–the hormone that controls are day-night cycles.

Drink a sleepy time tea. You can find these at a local grocery store. They can help calm you and warm up your insides, thus preparing you for sleep.

Consider taking melatonin. It can help you relax and fall asleep. You can find it in any drugstore where vitamins are sold.

Do your running at least three hours before bedtime. This will help allow your blood to flow at a normal pace and your heart beat to return to its resting rate.

Keep your room cool. When it’s still hot outside, you should keep your room at a cooler temperature. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a bedroom temperature of 60 to 67 degrees F for sleeping.

Keep your hands and feet warm. Moving your blood to the extremities can help put you to sleep faster.


Top 10 Moves to Add to Your Workout

Photo courtesy of Fitness Republic

Photo courtesy of Fitness Republic

I know I’m guilty of this: focusing on running instead of other training. If I have heavy mileage to get in, I don’t put in the effort to workout in any other fashion. I once interviewed a top female endurance runner/triathlete who said she would give up a run to do weight lifting because it had that much more impact. She’d do what was called “The Dirty 30” and spend 30 minutes one to two times per week lifting. She said it was her most important workout of the week. Here are some suggestions of movements you should start incorporating now:

1. Squats: Even if you don’t add weight, squats help tone your glutes, which often don’t get strengthened during running.

2. Sideways lunges: Running only involves forward movement. You should do workouts in a multi-planar fashion.

3. Frog leaps: Jump up and lift your legs to your chest at the same time. This works your core muscles while working out your legs.

4. Twists: Sit on the ground and twist side to side. Clasp your hands and touch the ground with each twist. This works your core and tightens it for running.

5. Burpees. Jump down and lay in a plank position and then pop up and jump. Repeat. Works your core and legs.

6. Jumping rope. Works your calves, core and balance–all three you need for running. Try jumping for five minutes as a warm-up  to weight lifting instead of a quick run.

7. Backwards lunge. Works your glutes. Try going forward, sideways and backwards to move in all planes.

8. Runner’s lunge. Bend one knee and stretch the other behind you. Always keep your bent knee in line with your ankle. Do this after you’ve finished your run when your muscles are nice and warm. Hold each side for 30 seconds and no more.

9. Crunches on a stability ball. Runners don’t focus on balance, so use a stability ball whenever possible during weight training/core training.

10. Plank. Lie on the ground and then pop up onto your elbows and toes. Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds. Try adding this into a training run. At every mile, stop and hold a plank pose. If you train on a track, this works perfect.

Books to Read This Summer

IMG-20130716-00010Although the number of summer weekends are dwindling, we still have plenty of time to take a break from running and lounge on the beach and take extra long naps. If your schedule allows for any downtime coming up, these books may provide some entertainment during your free time.

Here are a few recommendations:

My Best Race
I am excited for the recent release of “My Best Race” by Chris Cooper. As a “Chicken Soup for the Soul”-type book, I am inspired by the stories of elite runners who’ve reached the pinnacle of sport. I admire their tenacity and appreciate their words of support. You don’t often get to read their stories or discover the personalities behind the athlete. I will be firing up the Kindle before races to feel motivated to cross the finish line.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
A friend of mine handed me this book, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” by Haruki Murakami. Murakami was already an established, bestselling author who just happened to also be a runner. This fast read caused me to pause and remember why I love to run. He also touches on triathlons, my other endurance love.

Born to Run
As one of the recent bestsellers on endurance sports, author Christopher McDougall discusses the growing world of ultra racing, focusing on a particular Indian tribe. This book also helped set the barefoot craze in motion. “Born to Run” almost makes me contemplate a 100-mile race, but then I run a marathon and decide “nope” pretty quickly. I met McDougall back on his original book tour and he doesn’t look like a typical runner, which makes me like him even more.

Happy reading!