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

Benefit:
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

Benefit:
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

Benefit:
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.

Sources:
http://www.xcskiindiana.com/articles/health.html

http://www.mycaloriesburned.com/calories-burned-ice-skating/

http://www.mycaloriesburned.com/calories-burned-skiing/

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.

Snacks:

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

Dinner:

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.
Sources:

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/collard-greens-smoothie-00100000095094/index.html

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/cooking/healthy-eating/2014/07/skinny_chef_how-to_tips_for_a.html#incart_related_stories

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!

Eating Better During the Summertime

I tend to crave sweets in the summer. I think the hot weather makes me want all kinds of treats. This obviously is not good for my health. I started researching what I could do and came up with creative alternatives for my diet while still quelling my screaming sweet tooth:

Unhealthy treat: ice cream and frozen yogurt
Swap: Try using thick and flavored Greek yogurt. You can find even find chocolate flavored. Mix in some cut up fresh fruit like strawberries, mangoes and kiwi. It’ll be like a trip to the frozen yogurt shop but a little healthier. Greek yogurt does come with added sugar, but it’s better than all that cream used for the sweeter treats.

Unhealthy treat: popsicles
Try mashing up fresh fruit and putting them into popsicle trays and filling it up with low sugar juice. Then freeze. You can also do the same thing with thick yogurt. Granted it’s kind of a childish treat, but it’s fun for summer.

Unhealthy treat: popcorn
I like to watch outdoor movies during the summer and have found that air-popped popcorn is just as good and then I add a little bit of trail mix to it. It gives it that sweet and salty combination without all the added butter. Plus, it adds in some protein from the nuts.

Unhealthy treat: summer fruit pies
With berries in season, I see more strawberry and blueberry pies popping up at the grocery store and being brought to backyard barbecues. You can smash up granola to the consistency of pie crust and layer fresh berries on top of it. Then add a dollop of whipped cream on top. Most whipped cream is only 15 calories per serving.

Unhealthy treat: S’mores
If your summer includes bonfires and making s’mores, you can substitute chocolate for peanut butter and low-fat graham crackers.

Happy eating!

Food Runners Should Try

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looking for a little change to your diet? Try these foods out:

Matcha Tea

I keep hearing more online about matcha tea. My friends are raving about it. But what is it? Matcha tea is the equivalent of 10 cups of regularly brewed green tea. That sounds insane right? Think of how much caffeine that is in your body all at once. Turns out, it’s a good thing.

Matcha tea provides 137 times more antioxidants and 10 x more nutrition than regular green tea. You don’t have to keep drinking 10 cups all day long to reap the powerful benefits.

Other benefits to runners include:

  • Improves physical endurance by 24%
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Relaxes the body after a hard workout
  • Enhances mood and aids in concentration–allowing you to focus on that speed work
  • Provides necessary vitamins to keep you healthier
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Doesn’t cause that jittery caffeine feeling because the energy it gives you comes from its natural properties.

Eggs

Eggs provide about 10% of your daily protein needs. Runners need protein to repair muscles after a long run. For those weekend long runs, try coming back home and boiling an egg or scrambling them and put them on top of wheat toast.

Black beans

Black beans are helpful to runners because they provide both protein and carbs. And, the carbs are released slowly into the body and can help boost performance because they will provide constant energy.

They also can regulate you. As any runner knows, gastrointestinal issues are the worst and can destroy you in a race.

Salmon

I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of omega-3s and eating clean protein, like what salmon can provide. But salmon also helps runners because it can assist in balancing the body’s inflammation response. If you’re not a chef, you can buy it precooked and canned.

Happy eating!

 

How Running Can Help You Psychologically

imagesWe all know running can boost your fitness, help you lose weight and create a stronger heart. But did you know running can assist you in other ways?

In a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a simple 30 minutes on a treadmill can lift the spirits of those suffering from major depression. They took 40 participants and divided them into a control group and a group who walked for 30 minutes on a treadmill. All were recently diagnosed with major depressive disorder. They then took surveys before the test period and at 5-, 30-, and 60-minute intervals after their half-hour periods of rest or exertion.

Only the group who exercised noticed a positive change in feelings.

In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that a daily morning running routine improved sleep and psychological functioning. Researchers used 51 participants assigned to either a running group or a control group. The running group went running every morning for 30 minutes at moderate intensity during weekdays for 3 consecutive weeks. Researchers measured sleeping patterns in both groups.

Results showed the running group had improved sleep and stayed more positive throughout the day.

A 2007 study in Physiological & Behavior showed that running releases the same neurochemicals as taking drugs. And obviously, it’s a whole lot healthier.

So even 30 minutes a day can help improve your move and help you sleep better. It also follows the American Heart Association’s recommended daily activity.

Sources:

http://news.utexas.edu/2006/01/17/education

http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(12)00111-5/abstract

http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0031938407002016?via=sd&cc=y

Juicing for Your Summer Diet

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the half the country supposed to be under a heat dome this weekend, you may find yourself lacking energy and/or the motivation to run. Although the days remain long, sometimes you can’t muster the desire to workout when the temperatures take their toll. Here are a few ways to keep your energy high throughout the dog days of summer:

Start with green juice. You’ve seen the health enthusiasts drinking their green juices and there’s a reason: They provide loads of vitamins and minerals and many find they can lose weight by adding them to their diet.

Try this recipe, which is the simplest I’ve found:

3 cups water
2 cups spinach or kale
3 cups of fruit–watermelon, mango, pineapple, apple, banana or any combination

Pour three cups of water into a blender, then add the greens one cup at a time so the blender doesn’t get overloaded. Then add in the fruit at the end one cup at a time. Enjoy.

Keep moving. If you work in an office, add in 15-minute walks into your calendar. At most offices I’ve worked, people keep an extra pair of running shoes under their desks and slip them on for regular walks. It can also be a way to stay social if you invite work colleagues to join. In the summer, it’s best to do this in the morning before it gets too hot and you ruin your nice work clothes or try the stairs in your building if they are cool enough. But treating your walks like meetings, you’ll more apt to do it.

Keep peppermint oil nearby. If you stare at a computer all day or like most people, at your Smartphone, peppermint oil helps with headaches triggered by staring at the screen all day.

Eat every three to four hours. If you don’t have the energy to cook, try variations of juices such as the one above or bring nuts and fruit in small packets to make it easy and accessible.

Source:
http://mashable.com/2014/07/21/nutritionist-office-tips/?utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Mashable+%28Mashable%29&utm_cid=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_medium=feed&utm_source=feedburner