Spikes: What You Need to Know

Spikes: What You Need to Know

So much goes into training for the big event: time spent on the track, conditioning, hard nutritional and health choices are made. You make training the priority and envision success, the glory of first place through literal blood, sweat, and tears. If you have done all this, and yet do not have the proper track and field gear and running shoes, then all the effort you have put into training could be compromised.

Though proper fit and wearing a shoe specific to your gait nuances is important, when you buy your track and field running shoes, you must buy shoes with the proper spikes. Having the proper spikes can literally be the the difference between being first, or seeing the back of the first place winner. Finding shoes with the proper spikes doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are the various types of spikes and their uses.

A General Rule

As a general rule, when you are buying spikes, the spikes that you need for long distances will have flatter and less aggressive profile shapes; those spikes that are for short distance will have a sharp profile. The type of material you will be running on will also affect what kind of spikes are both allowed, and will give you the best traction.

Types of Spikes:

Pyramid Spikes (when posted, put pictures of each type)

Pyramid spikes are exactly as they sound, pointed and usually rounded on the sides. The most common used size is ¼-inch. These spikes can be used on outdoor and indoor tracks. Pyramid spikes are most like the very first track spikes that were invented in 1890 by Joseph William Foster, founder of Reebok. These spikes are generally used by long distance runners.

Needle Spikes

Needle spikes are great for rainy track conditions and work the best for lightweight runners. Though these spikes can give greater traction, you must be careful if you use these, for they can dig in too deep, and cause the runner to slow down. Needle spikes are generally 3/16-inches in length, but longer spikes can be found in ¼ inch and ⅜ inch. These spikes are also considered the the best for sprinting, because they are generally located on the toes and can help keep the runner’s foot pointed forward.

Christmas Tree

Christmas tree spikes are not as popular as needle spikes. The staggered profile of these spikes can help the runner have proper traction without sticking too deeply into the track. These spikes are illegal on some tracks due to the concern of ripping up new tracks. These are also called compression spikes.

Related Gear

When you are using track and field running shoes with spikes, you may want to invest in other related gear, such as a spike wrench: spike wrenches can help you tighten your spikes if needed, or replace missing or damaged spikes.

Before you invest in spikes and other related track and field gear, be sure to ask your coach what they would recommend; remember, the type of track, the event you are competing in, Mother Nature, your weight, and your preferences affect what type of spike you should buy, as well as your experience level. If you are looking for quality track and field gear to take your game to the next level, shop First to the Finish’s online store. We have track and field running shoes, apparel, and much more!


Running Movies

imagesI wanted to do a fun post and step away from the research studies for a week or two.

This past Christmas weekend I had a Netflix marathon and spent more than a few hours of binge watching (shamelessly). Although I am not advocate of sitting around and leading a sedentary life, sometimes it does a body good to relax and refresh the mind. If you find yourself with a little downtime, here’s a few to keep in mind:

1. Chariots of Fire. With the most dramatic and one of the best theme songs of all time, you’ll be hitting up iTunes and downloading the music right after you see it. It’ll give you an excuse to go for a run after you watch.

2. Spirit of the Marathon. I watched this in a movie theater when it was being released to the public. It’s a sweet documentary with real-life folks who decide to run a marathon. They do feature an elite runner, but also the everyday people you see running down the streets of races.

3. The Long Run. This film is about a man trying to turn an amateur runner into a champion. It’s fictional but it’ll make you think it’s real.

4. McFarland, USA. This is the most recent of these titles and stars Kevin Costner as a running team coach who takes a group of immigrant students and transforms them into a distance-running dynasty. It’s based on a true story.

5. Endurance. Disney contracted with the top eight 10K runners during the 96 Olympic games and captured Olympic footage for a documentary about the winner. Haile Gebrselassie was the winner and the crews headed for Ethiopia. It’ll inspire you to run a little faster.

6. Forrest Gump. Although not a running movie, it does show Forrest running across America and his legions of running followers. It’s worth a second (or tenth) viewing.

Should You Use Your Smartphone When Running?

smartphone6Should you use your smartphone while running? We all see runners with their phones strapped to their arms probably listening to Pandora or Spotify. But do smartphones help or hurt your workout? Researchers at Kent State University wanted to know the same thing.

In a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found listening to music did result in a higher heart rate than not. Plus, the participants enjoyed adding music to their workouts. Not surprising, talking and texting kept the heart rate at a lower level.

According to the study, “It appears as if listening to music and, to a lesser extent, talking may have benefits on the duration and/or frequency of exercise due to their ability to increase enjoyment,” researcher Dr. Andrew Lepp said. “However, if an individual’s opportunity for exercise is constrained by time, then it appears best to avoid talking on a smartphone during planned exercise.”

The set up:

Forty-four young adults (33 females, 11 males) each participated in four 30-minute exercise conditions (texting, talking, music, control) on a treadmill in random order. During each condition, the treadmill speed display was covered and researchers kept the grade at zero (flat road). However, participants could alter treadmill speed to whatever pace they wished.


Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

imagesEverybody’s wake up juice may have some extra benefits. In addition to getting you to work or school on time, coffee may help you stick to your fitness plan as well. The jolt of caffeine does do a body good.

In a new article published this month in the journal Sports Medicine, University of Kent researchers suggest caffeine can help you keep those fitness-focused New Year’s resolutions.  

Although the majority of people have already given up their resolutions, most quitting within the first two weeks of January, Professor Samuele Marcora, Director of Research at the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, may have discovered the antidote.

It has historically been difficult for humans to exercise, especially long term because most people lack time, energy and motivation. We are also evolved to conserve our energy, so even with the good intentions of exercising, it goes against what we have become.

However, using caffeine helps reduce perception of effort when we work out, which can make exercising easier. It may also help with people needing other drugs to keep them energized–drugs with much more harmful effects.

In another study out of the University of Georgia, a morning cup of coffee could help improve athletic endurance. Published in December 2015 in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Simon Higgins from the College of Education screened more than 600 articles on caffeine and found nine randomized control trials that specifically used coffee to improve endurance.

Higgins found that between 3 and 7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of caffeine from coffee increased endurance performance by an average of 24 percent.

In the nine trials he discovered, participants either cycled or ran vigorously after they drank their morning coffee. In a majority of cases, endurance was noticeably improved after coffee.

So drink up and don’t feel badly! If you aren’t a coffee drinker, tea or sucking down on those caffeinated gels will help.




Runners: Stave off Calories During the Holidays

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This time of year wrecks havoc on the diet—from holiday parties filled with fried finger foods to sit-down family dinners with all the trimmings and neighbors dropping off sugar cookies laden with colorful frosting, it’s so easy to blow through your daily limit of calories within hours. Runners generally watch their food intake to keep themselves in proper shape, except it’s very difficult for even the most rigid to stick to their diets. Here are a few ways to help keep fat and calories at bay during the toughest season:

Change your baking habits. Oils add in extra fat that you don’t need to keep cakes moist.

Do this:
Puree apples and citrus fruits and use the juice as an alternative to oil. It will not ruin your cakes; rather it makes them even moister and tastier because the fruit adds a flavor that oil cannot. Try it and see for yourself—you’ll want to share the results by baking for your friends and giving that as a gift.

Go into parties with a game plan. Know your weakness and fill up on healthy foods before diving in to something bad.

Do this:
Before you attend parties, eat something high in fiber, like apples, cooked pumpkin, sweet potatoes—this makes you feel fuller longer and you’ll no doubt eat less when you attend the party. The worst thing you can do is show up feeling ravenous as you’ll head straight to the dessert table.

During parties, fill up half your plate with crudités such as carrots and celery. Even if you want to, add a little dip. Although dip is typically high in calories, it’ll at least help you eat your vegetables. Be sure to place it on the side and not pour it all over the food. If the party offers hummus to accompany veggies, that’s even better as that offers protein.

Watch your beverages. Limit yourself to one drink or “spike” it with something low calorie.

Do this:
Try mixing drinks with a little diet soda; lime flavor generally works best or just use sparkling water. It’ll add a little carbonation to the drink, making it feel like Bubbly, but it’s actually just taking out half the calories. Pour a half glass of the carbonated drink and then the rest of the glass with a juice/adult beverage. You’ve just cut half the calories.

While it’s hard to stay true to the diet, it’s completely possible with just a few changes.

Happy Holidays!

Lose the Winter Pounds

imagesRunning burns a significant amount of calories per hour, more than most other forms of cardiovascular exercise. As it is an all-over body movement, you also use your own body weight to keep your forward motion–as opposed to elliptical machines and bicycles that assist you in exercising. Because of this, running works not just your leg muscles, but your core and arms as well. In short, to rid yourself of added pounds packed on during the cold winter months, running will allow you to dump that weight faster than most other workout options. To get even faster results, try adding these into your running workout:

Interval training. This is a type of training using speed to burn more calories, make you faster and make your heart stronger. It is one of the most painful workouts, as you must push yourself to the top of your heart-rate limits–but it’s worth it. Try this workout at a track:

Warmup 800m (jog)
400m x 4, each 400 getting faster. You must limit yourself on your first 400 as you still need to have energy to get faster on each lap. Don’t go all out at first or you won’t have the breath to finish.
Rest 2 minutes
400m at interval speed (fast and unable to hold a conversation)
Rest 1 minute
400m at tempo (fast, but able to hold a conversation)
Rest 1 minute
400m at interval speed
Rest 1 minute
400m all out with whatever you have left
800m cool down. You can walk the cool down if you need.

Switch your workout times. If your schedule allows, run in the evening one day and the morning the next. This does not give your body much recovery time, but it will build endurance. If possible, try not eating too much before your morning workout. You’ll be relying on your energy stores and burn fat. Switching up your workout times also shocks your body and puts it into better shape–you’ll avoid plateauing.

Add in some plyometrics. This includes high knees jumps, jumping jacks, jumping rope, anything that involves jump training to maximize your leg muscle’s power.

Happy training!


Giving Thanks for Running

cornstockI love this time of year when the seasons change and everyone appears a little merrier and brighter. I especially enjoy Thanksgiving, my favorite day of the year. While the emphasis is always on the dinner and all the trimmings, I try to also focus on the “Thanks Giving” part and give thanks. Here are a few reasons I am thankful for one of my favorite and most productive ways to spend my time–running:

I am thankful I am able to run. This is the most simple reason of all–I am grateful that I have a body that allows me to do what I love to do. A number of years ago, as I headed to a nearby trail head to run up a small mountain, I passed a woman in a wheelchair unable to cross the street because drivers either didn’t see her or just didn’t want to stop. I stopped my car, got out and stopped traffic so she could safely pass. This brought tears to my eyes because I realized how blessed I was and that this was not my reality. I was on my way to run a mountain and she even couldn’t cross the street. I know at anytime my running could be taken away from me and I never lose sight of that truth.

I am thankful to have an outlet to let my mind go. As an introvert, I constantly have conversations in my head; I cannot quiet it down and too much noise occurs in my brain all the time. Running is the one thing that lets my mind just wander and I don’t really think about anything. In this respect, running is quite meditative.

I am thankful for friends I’ve met through running. I now have friends in England, Ireland, Asia and across the United States because of my experiences running around the world. We all share that common bond and I’ve found runners to be pretty cool people.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m Grateful for Running

After this week’s events, just one week ago today a new administration for the U.S. was announced, we all are still in a collective shock. Some have taken to the streets to voice their opinion, some are happy and some are sad or mad. I’m trying to focus on positivity in a heated nation. Here are some of the things I’m grateful for, especially with Thanksgiving coming up next week:

I am grateful for my muscle retention. Although my muscles atrophied over the past year, I still know how to at least jog and my muscles rebound quite nicely despite resting them for a little too long. I’ve put them through numerous marathons and they remember the fight to keep going.

I am grateful for the progress in running shoes. As someone who suffers from severe plantar fasciitis, I appreciate the developments made in shoes for people like me. I have specialized insoles and support where I need it most. Without this, I may not be able to run.

I am grateful for friends I meet through running. Some of my best memories are the people I’ve met at races or attending international events. Marathons themselves are horrendous and painful, but the people keep me going and cheer me on to the finish. I am lucky to have a hobby in which I meet people from all over the world.

I feel grateful for the ability to see the world on foot. As someone who enjoys attending international races, I’ve tranversed through back-end neighborhoods and into very untouristy areas, allowing me view pieces of the world generally unseen by visitors.

I am grateful for the runner’s high. Many times I’ll go for a run feeling a big sluggish and end up with more energy than when I started. I know this is true of many runners. I love that high and find myself craving it. It’s unlike any sport–I’ve not found something like this with any other workout.

I hope you cherish every moment you can run. You never know when it’ll be taken away.

Election Day Work Out

It’s Election Day! Happy voting! To work off your stress tonight, try a HIIT.download

We’ve all heard about the newest fitness phenomenon. No, I’m not talking about CrossFit, but HIIT–the acronym for high-intensity interval training. In HIIT, rather than endure long workouts to receive fitness gains, you workout in short bursts that take your body to the maximum. Although runner’s still leave in that weekly long run, HIIT can benefit runners on a time crunch and even make you in better shape in less time.

New evidence suggests high intensity workouts are even more powerful than previously thought. In a new article being published in Annals of Internal Medicine, high-intensity workouts show a clear benefit in those wishing to reduce glucose levels.

Researchers studied 300 abdominally obese adults to determine separate effects of the amount of exercise and the intensity on abdominal obesity. All participants were asked to either perform short, high intensity workouts or long, lower intensity workouts five times a week for 24 weeks. As for diet, all participants were asked to eat a healthy diet, but keep their caloric intake the same as usual.

At the end of the study, all lost the same in inches in the waist, but the high intensity exercise group reduced their two-hour glucose levels.

Dr. Ross, PhD of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University in Ontario, said results show high intensity can reduce glucose levels and higher intensity isn’t for those in shape.

How to create your own HIIT workout:

1. Increase incline on a treadmill and speed up the pace.
2. Run 1 mile at full speed and then stop to do push ups, crunches, etc. Then run 1 mile at full speed and stop to do push ups, crunches, etc. This allows you to run faster miles and tires you out faster because of the break in between.
3. Incorporate FARTLEK into your running workouts.



Running Tips to Stay Warm from Olympians

imagesAs the weather starts to turn cold and the time changes this weekend (boo!), I found some tips from various Olympians on how they stay warm during their workouts and pulled out ones applicable to the sport of running. I will definitely be trying them!

Do the Windmill
“There’s this super-quick tip that helps with cold fingers: Windmill your arms. It forces all the blood to the tips of your fingers and your hands get instantly warm within 5 seconds. It’s pretty cool.”
—Scotty Lago, Snowboarding Halfpipe

Focus on Breathing
“I practice a lot of different breathing techniques like Kundalini breathing. My feet used to get so cold, and through the right breathing it’s gotten so much better.”
Jamie Anderson, Snowboarding Slopestyle

Shrug Your Shoulders
“It brings blood flow to your fingers. It’s something that I do a lot.”
—Elena Hight, Snowboarding Halfpipe

 Wrap Your Neck
“The majority of your body heat is released through your neck, so make sure to have a good balaclava or a bandana.”
—Nick Goepper, Freeskiing Slopestyle

Double Down on Long Underwear
“When we’re training outside we wear tight speed suits—there’s not much insulation. I always wear two layers of long underwear and that helps. Layers are pretty much key. It doesn’t look like much can fit under there but we manage.”
—Travis Ganong, Alpine Skiing

Jump Around
“Move your body in any weird fashion to get blood flowing. We go to a lot of areas that are very, very cold and I’ve seen a lot of different ways to stay warm. A lot of them look very awkward, but they work.”
—John Teller, Freeskiing Ski Cross

Swing Your Limbs
“We do all kinds of arm and leg swings. It looks like you’re dancing on the snow, but it works pretty well.”
—Andy Newell, Cross Country Skiing

Happy training!