Using HIIT in Your Running Training


As fall approaches (the unofficial season begins Labor Day weekend–next week!), you may want to start thinking about shaking up your workout routine. Back in school, you may have access to a track after class lets out or maybe if you aren’t a student, the track is finally open and not under lock and key. Below describes a new trend in workouts.

A popular acronym found in the running world is HIIT. Although the running industry seems filled with odd vocabulary words such as FARTLEK, tempo and bonk, we generally don’t see as many acronyms. This new one stands for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)—meaning, performing short speed workouts for various time periods.

If you’re training for a marathon, for example, you do most of your training at a level of 5 or 6—tough, but not high exertion. In HIIT, you go all out—running up your heart rate to the point it feels like it’ll pound outside of your chest. You sprint and give the interval your all. They are performed at a level of 7 or higher and vary from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, which is about all your body should be able to handle. If you can go for longer, you aren’t trying hard enough.

You then recover with the equal amount of time, or longer if necessary, (which it is often.)

It is a good idea to incorporate a HIIT into one running session a week. You may not look forward to it, but it’ll help you with speed and endurance all at once. You’ll strengthen your heart and find yourself getting stronger in your running. It also increases both your anaerobic and aerobic fitness levels, decreases fasting including and increased insulin sensitivity—great for a pre-diabetic like me, and reduces abdominal fat—also good for your overall heart heath.

It’s a win-win situation. It’s just hard work.

Try this:

Warm up for 5 minutes

Run at tempo for 4 minutes

Run at high intensity for 1 minute

Walk for 1 minute

Repeat four times: 4 minute tempo run, 1 minute high intensity, walk 1 minute

Cool down 5 minutes

This workout works on a treadmill or track best.

Good luck with your training!


Running Mistakes

imagesThis weekend I completed two half marathons and for the first time, I felt tremendous arm pain from running. It was only my right arm but the pain was so intense, I almost bought a sling to keep me from moving it. Even the slightest move caused total agony. I couldn’t figure out what it was until I started doing a little research.

Turns out, I was holding my car key in my right hand (as I am right handed) and clutching my fist for 13.1 miles made my entire arm sore. I sometimes do carry a water bottle or a key in my hand, but perhaps I’ve hit an age where little things like this won’t work anymore. Carrying anything is a mistake.

I’ve rounded up some running mistakes people make:

Running in asymmetrical fashion
If you come down harder on a certain side, you are setting yourself up for hip pain. Try looking at the bottom of your shoes first. Does one side look more worn out? This is an indication you push down more on one side. You may not even be aware of it, but it’s something you should check for to save yourself pain down the line.

How to fix: It is best to visit a running store to have them videotape you and see your running style. They can fit you with proper shoes as well based on your gait.

Not aligning your legs
Your knees should obviously stay in line with your hips, but this isn’t how most people run. If your hip muscles are weak, they won’t support the knees, which will cause your knees to bow inward–setting you up for knee problems.

How to fix: It is a good idea to go to the track and have someone videotape you to watch your body alignment. You should also start hitting the gym and doing exercises to build up the gluteus maximus. Try adding squats and lunges to your routine.

Not swinging your arms
In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers found that swinging the arms during running reduced energy by 3 percent compared with holding the hands behind the back, 9 percent compared with holding the arms across the chest, and 13 percent compared with holding the hands on top of the head. Some runners try to hold their arm swinging to conserve energy or swing to much to burn more calories–this does not work researchers found.

How to fix: Do not start any run feeling tense. Relax your body so you will run in a natural fashion. Do not carry anything in your hands to disrupt your natural swing.



When Races Go Wrong

heat_0This weekend I participated in a half marathon race. Of all the half marathons I completed, this was the hardest. The weather turned from a nice cloud cover to a heat advisory all weekend. Race directors even offered vans to escort runners to the finish line because of the anticipated number of dropouts. Ambulances raced to the course for those suffering from heat exhaustion and finish times increased exponentially.

I finished in my worst time ever. I almost stopped to take a break–something I’ve never done in a race, ever. I could barely walk at mile 12, when the course turned into a hill that kept going for the last mile. The heat really got to me. Here are a few other moments when races did not go as intended:

In 2008, I ran a half marathon in the desert of Arizona. Police officers directed runners to keep running on a road, rather than turn to a trail, which was the actual course. We all ran an additional two miles off course. Once we figured out what happened, runners were running over hills, jumping over a wire fence, anything to get back on the proper course.

In 2006, I did a half marathon in which the buses didn’t show. We had to wait for an hour and a half for a bus to pick us up. This meant I started the race super late after the official start. I had to run in between the walkers and try to jump around people.

In 2010, in a holiday 12K, the police officers were all new to directing traffic for races. They thought they were supposed to stop the runners and let cars pass. Therefore, they held up large groups of runners to let cars go. The race directors were not happy and apologized at least.

In 2011, I was doing my first ultramarathon through trails. I got lost and couldn’t figure out which way to turn when I came to a fork in the trail. I made the wrong choice and ran an extra mile.

What are some of your race fails?

New Findings in Exercise

race-day-720x288Every time I log in to social media, I find links to relevant new studies on exercise. Here are a few you may glean some content from that you can use in your training or daily life in general:

Drink Beet Juice
Downing beet juice before you go out for a run may help you improve performance and blood flow. In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, male subjects drank beet juice for 15 days had lower blood pressure and more dilated blood vessels at rest and during exercise. “Blood vessels also dilated more easily and the heart consumed less oxygen during exercise with beet juice consumption,” the researchers said.

Sports Helps You in School
A new study out of the University of Montreal shows participating in extracurricular activities makes you a better student, even as young as kindergarten age. Sports teaches you the discipline needed to become a good student. “By time they reached the fourth grade, kids who played structured sports were identifiably better at following instructions and remaining focused in the classroom,” said study leader Linda Pagani. So if someone says sports takes away from school, tell them no, it doesn’t.

Drink When Thirsty
In a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, researchers discovered drinking too much water is dangerous. For those who’ve never heard of hyponatermia, it’s when your body has low blood sodium. This occurs when you have more fluid than sodium in your body, which often occurs when running outside in the heat.  We always hear “stay hydated” from every running coach, runner and even non-runners, but researchers discovered you could drink when you become thirsty and don’t run the risk of hyponatremia. It is possible to drink TOO much.


Safety Tips for Runners

Goodshoot 1

I watched a Netflix documentary this weekend that I found captivating. It’s called Desert Runners and I highly recommend it. It follows four “regular” runners (non-athletes) as they attempt to run through the four deserts of the world in various ultramarathons. I want to watch it again because it really captured what that world is like and the production was unparalleled–not to mention highly motivating at getting me off my couch.

One disturbing element to the documentary was a young girl who was grabbed and nearly assaulted as she ran alone through the Sahara Desert. It made me think of my own safety precautions to take while running, especially as the days start to get shorter.

For those running enthusiasts, however, it doesn’t matter if the sun sets at 10 p.m. or at 5 p.m., they run no matter whether its light or dark. If you are one of these runners, here are a few safety precautions to take in the dark:

1. Bring your cell phone. While we all hate to carry extra weight, the GPS tracking device can assist if you get lost and need to phone for help. One way to combat the weight is to download a playlist program such as Pandora and listen to it while you run. You can skip bringing your iPod and bring the cell instead.

2. While listening to Pandora (or an iPod or radio), try running with one earbud out of your ear. You can then listen for cars and any suspicious noises.

3. Wear reflective gear. Gone are the days of wearing large, heavy construction jackets. Now you can find lightweight reflective material that you’ll not even notice. Wearing blinkers is also a good idea.

4. Stay on the sidewalk. If you can’t find a high school track or somewhere completely devoid of traffic, be sure to stay on the sidewalk instead of running in the street. Depth perception is off at night and you may be closer than you appear to drivers.

5. Change up your route. You never know who is watching. Changing up your route will make you less vulnerable to stalkers.

Runners: Are You Overtraining?

imagesWe all have tried a little too hard in our training, given 100 percent for far longer than our bodies can properly handle. Mentally, we feel the need to push harder with each workout to get faster and stronger, but that is far from the truth. In actuality, overtraining leads to burnout–and you will end up without the ability to run and too tired to finish even your daily responsibilities. Below are some symptoms of overtraining. If you feel any of these, it’s best to back off and take at least two days of rest or perform some light cardio.

No appetite. When you are running hard and fast each day, you’d think that your appetite would increase. In overtraining, your body is too restless to properly digest food and thus, it doesn’t want nutrition. You really need to be careful if this happens because your weight can drop too low and you’ll be too weak to continue your sport.

Feeling sore often. If you wake up in the morning and your arms and/or legs are sore and tired, even after a good night’s sleep, what’s happening is your body isn’t recovering properly after your workouts. It’s best to keep your feet up for a couple of days and let your body heal.

Tired all the time. In addition to feeling sore, you’re tired all day long. Whether you sleep seven or 10 hours a night, it’s not enough to shake you out of the funk. This again is your body not properly recovering. Try eating more protein for muscle repair and not running for a couple of days. If that’s too hard, try light cardio with an elliptical machine or rowing machine and don’t push yourself.

Your heart won’t stop beating quickly. A racing heart means it’s stressed. Stop stressing your body and lighten up on your workouts. You’re doing more harm than good.

Happy (proper) training!


Foot Problems of Runners

thTwo weeks ago, I traveled out of state and ended up with severe pain I couldn’t walk. I tried to run for the first time this past weekend and no surprise, I spent the rest of the day in bed in tremendous discomfort. Runners suffer from loads of health issues, from IT band problems to bad knees, but feet are often overlooked. This makes no sense as it is the feet that strike the ground and always do the brunt of the work.

Here are three of some of the most common problems runners face with their feet:

Plantar fasciitis

The fascia, a band of tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes, can become inflammed. This makes your foot feel like its on fire.

How to help:
-Ice it with a frozen water bottle. Put the water bottle on the floor and roll the middle of your foot over it. Do this constantly throughout the day.
-Stay off of it.
-Be careful with how you buy your shoes. It is recommended you purchase them from a store with an ability to videotape your running. This allows the staff to analyze your gait and form and find the proper shoe to lessen injuries.

Heel spurs

Abnormal growth of bone on the bottom of the heel bone can come from inappropriate shoes and from running.

How to help:
-See a foot specialist for a heel pad or orthotics.
-Look for shoes with shock absorbing soles to lessen the impact on your heel.

Ball of Foot Pain

This is, quite simply, inflammation in the ball of the foot. Usually running or ill-fitting shoes is the cause of the problem.

How to help:
-Look for shoe inserts. See a specialist for this or a running store with experts. Do not look for over-the-counter options that you’d find at a drugstore.
-Ice it.
-Take anti-inflammatories.

Be sure to stay off your feet when issues occur or you can make the problem worse.


Try Adding Kettlebells to Your Running Workout

What are kettlebells? You may see these iron cannonball-shaped weights at your local gym. While they appear revolutionary—something more glamorous than your standard dumbbell—they are far from it. Since the 1700s, kettlebells were used by Russians to demonstrate strength by lifting and swinging them. Times evolved and now kettlebells are used by daily gym enthusiasts and endurance athletes to build necessary muscle.

Feeling a bit skeptical on this new lifting technique? This study may help sway you. The American Council of Exercise conducted a study with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. Thirty healthy, fit male and female volunteers were used to conduct the study—all were aged from 19 to 25 and all had previous strength training backgrounds. These 30 volunteers were divided into two groups: 18 were in the experimental group and 12 were in the control group.

First, researchers measured assessments in strength, cardio and balance. Then, twice a week for eight weeks, the experimental group took an hour-long kettlebell class with certified trainers. Results were measured at the end of eight weeks.

Results proved significant improvements in aerobic capacity, leg press strength, core strength, among other fitness gains. Aerobic function improved an average of a 13.8 percent increase. The greatest increase was in abdominal core strength—this increased 70 percent.

Runners need that strong core to keep their balance. Many runners just focus on their ability to run long distances or sprint at high speeds. In actuality, you must add strength training to your workout to maximize your body’s potential.

With kettlebell training, you receive greater results with the same amount of work as traditional strength training. Because you want to focus more of your energy running, this could be the perfect addition to your workouts.


Hydrating While Running

Marathon Hamburg 2006During hot summer months, runners will tend to drink too much water. Although you think you need to stay hydrated, overhydration can easily occur. When this happens, you are at risk of developing hyponatremia–low blood sodium resulting from too much hydration. A new study suggests endurance athletes should drink when thirsty.

Appearing in the June issue of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers convened at the third International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference, and published their recommendations. They revised their previous advice due to the two deaths of high school football players from dilutional exercise-associated hyponatremia in Summer 2014.

The newly-published statement now emphasizes a balanced approach to drinking water, especially during the hot months when hyponatremia is often more pronounced. Researchers suggest only drinking water when you are thirsty, rather than keep drinking throughout a tough workout. 

“The release of these recommendations is particularly timely, just before sports training camps and marathon training begins within the United States — where the majority of EAH deaths have occurred,” said Dr. Tamara Hew-Buter, PhD of Oakland University.

Why is it important to be aware of your hydration levels? If you cannot sweat or urinate excess H20, you are at risk of your sodium level interfering with normal regulatory processes. This spells bad news for your body. Symptoms of hyponatremia include vomiting and headaches, and even seizures.

Those EAH deaths were preventable and not forcing hydration can do more good than harm. Drinking when you need it and not when you think you do, can help runners at risk of hyponatremia.


Love to Snack? This Computer Game May Help

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

As runners, our appetite levels rise when we are in the middle of our training. However, we often snack a little too much when we aren’t on a hardcore schedule. It’s easy to keep eating the same amount of calories during the off-training season. If this describes you, an online computer game may help control your snacking impulse.

In a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers from the University of Exeter and Cardiff University used 41 adults and had them complete four 10-minute sessions of playing a game involving snack control.

How the game works: Users avoid pressing on pictures of certain images, such as photos of heavy foods, while they respond to other images, such as images of fruits. The goal is to trick your brain into associating heavy, calorie-laden foods with stopping.

Participants were weighed and given food-rating tasks and diaries to complete one week before and one week after the training.

The results showed that participants lost an average of one and a half pounds and consumed around 220 fewer calories a day with a simple computer game. In addition, the reduction in weight and unhealthy snacking was maintained six months after the study.

“These findings are among the first to suggest that a brief, simple computerized tool can change people’s everyday eating behavior,” said lead researcher Natalia Lawrence of the University of Exeter. “This opens up exciting possibilities for new behavior change interventions based on underlying psychological processes,” said Lawrence.

Ten minutes isn’t too long to spend changing the way your brain looks at food.

You can watch this YouTube video to find out more information abut the game.