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.


Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

girl runningIt is now officially summer and many of you may have upcoming vacations. If your schedule allows for any downtime, such as taking a long flights or lounging at the beach or by the pool, 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 Runalmost 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!

You Should Run Like a Kid

imagesWe are used to running for extended periods of time, especially that one long run each week. But if you are pressed for time, you actually should change your workout from a moderate pace to short bouts of high-intensity training instead.

A recent study published in the journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental suggests what we’ve all been hearing about HIIT (high-intensity interval training): It may have a better effect on your overall health than long, moderate workouts.

Mirroring the way children exercise, workout hard for a short time and then rest, is actually better for you.

In this study, adolescents had their blood sugar, blood pressure, and fat metabolism measured at intervals over eight hours and consumed a fatty meal for both breakfast and lunch. Participants were told to exercise at a moderate and high-level of intensity for four different periods. Both moderate and high intensity exercisers performed the same amount of work. Researchers found high-intensity was more effective in improving blood sugar levels, fat metabolism and blood pressure in adolescents after consuming a fatty meal.

Dr Alan Barker, of the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre, Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter, said: “Children and adolescents tend to perform brief bouts of exercise. This study shows that the intensity of this pattern of exercise is important, with high-intensity providing superior health benefits than moderate-intensity exercise.”

What does this mean for running? Running four miles at a moderate pace may not be as effective as running four one-miles hard broken up throughout the course of a day. You will reap greater rewards in shorter bursts than something longer. Breaking it up like this may also keep you motivated. Knowing you only have run one mile is something much more reasonable.




Do Runners Have Amnesia?

imagesCA32IXH9Completing a marathon can feel exciting, but no doubt, it hurts. Still, most runners choose to sign up for more. A new psychological study offers some explanation of why, by finding that some marathon runners seem to develop selective amnesia and forget what the true experience is like.


The new study was published in the journal Memory. Przemyslaw Babel, a professor of psychology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, focused on the marathon because the experience combines pain with emotions.

The Research:

At the finish line of the 2012 Cracovia Marathon in Krakow, Babel asked 62 of the finishers to rate the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain they were feeling right after they finished, as well as their general emotional state.

The runners reported a moderate intensity and unpleasantness of pain at the time, averaging about a 5.5 on a scale of zero to 10.

Then either three or six months later, the same runners were asked to remember how much pain they were in after they finished the marathon.

Their memories proved  quite different than how they responded three to six months previously. Most of the runners recalled the race as being much less painful than they said at the time, averaging a three on a 10-point scale.


The runners who had reported less happiness at the race’s end later remembered their pain more accurately than those who felt elated after crossing the finish line, even if their pain at the time had been about the same.


According to the study, “The results of the current study suggest that memory of pain and affect is influenced by the meaning and affective value of the pain experience. This may help us to understand why the previous research on the memory of pain were so diverse.”


Snacks for Runners

FTTF_Background_3-BIGI can’t count how many gels I’ve taken over the years. I find them the best source of fuel for a long run and easy to digest. However, I wouldn’t mind shaking it up a bit. Sometimes I find myself out of gels or I’m traveling and forgot to pack some and wonder, what can I do?

I found a few snacking alternatives you take while running that shouldn’t be hard on the stomach.

We see these at race aid stations–one of the few foods you see distributed. Bananas offer plenty of potassium runners need to excel at this sport. However, they are hard to carry and can get mashed pretty quickly if you keep it in a pocket of your running shorts. Try mashing it up and spreading it over a whole wheat tortilla, like your own fruit quesadilla. Keep it in a Ziplock bag and stick this in your pocket instead.

Elderly people drink this when they have trouble digesting foods. It offers a high number of calories but is easy on the digestive system. If you are doing long runs of 15+ miles, you need the calories and this is a fast way to get them.

Are you someone who loves the sports jelly beans? I eat them sometimes for my workouts and try not to feel guilty that I’m using a dessert to fuel my exercise. However, I should be swapping that out with raisins instead. A study by Louisiana State University found them as effective as those jelly beans.

Green Tea
If you’re tired of Gatorade or looking for a healthier, less sugary choice, green tea has been known to improve endurance and V02 max. You can fill up a water bottle and get a friendly flavor than regular water.


Half Marathons to Add to Your Racing Calendar

race-day-720x288This year I crossed the half century threshold in number of half marathons finished. While I view that as thousands of calories burned, 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 feel nothing but positivity when I race–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).

Out of my first 50 half marathons, here are a few of my favorites:

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.

Safari Half Marathon.  
For anyone wishing for a vacation out west, San Diego offers this little gem of a half marathon taking place in May. Though the course is challenging, the rewards are worth the effort. You’ll run past a vineyard where owners serve Gatorade out of wine cups, runners dress up as animals and Tarzan characters, and end up right in the middle of Safari Park–an adventure park/extension of the world-famous San Diego zoo. About 40 minutes north of San Diego airport, the race starts near Escondido, Calif.

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!

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.

Are Treadmills Good for Your Health?

imagesA number of years ago, I was running on a treadmill and tripped. My neck fell right into the handle bar causing me to jerk my head and hit it against the interface. This made my entire body fall onto the tread and because the machine was moving, my body moved backward and then plopped onto the floor. Not only was this embarrassing, but painful. I could barely move from the neck injury.

I am hardly alone. Recently, the treadmill-caused death of David Goldberg made national news as he was someone of high profile. This has brought treadmill safety back into the spotlight. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, only 30 reported deaths from the use of treadmills occurred between the years of 2003 to 2012. However, injuries are quite common.

In 2014, injuries associated with treadmills numbered 24,400 and caused the largest amount of injuries than any other piece of exercise equipment. A New York Times article states, “the vast majority of injuries from sports equipment were related to overuse — for example, an injured tendon from a long run on a treadmill.”

How can you prevent an accident?

Most injuries stem from errors of the user. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Pay attention. If you are the type of person who zones out while running, perhaps treadmill running isn’t for you. Losing your balance is one of the most major types of treadmill injuries and comes from people who step off to the side or get back on a treadmill without slowing it down first.

2. Don’t run barefoot. This can cause a stress fracture in the leg. Wearing running shoes will give you better traction for the tread.

3. Stop making funny YouTube videos. I see it all the time at the gym–people videotaping their friends dancing on treadmills or creating pranks to get people to fall.


4. Be aware of the red stop button for emergencies.

It’s common sense, but practice safety always!


A Little Exercise Goes a Long Way

Goodshoot 1We all know the benefits of exercise and how running enhances our lives for the better. From muscular bodies, keeping the weight off, to giving you more energy, running provides a wealth of advantages to your life.

Now you can tell your more sedentary friends and family that even a little exercise will still reap gain. In a recent study published late last month in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, participants who spent more time on the sofa than doing anything that raised their heart rates, changed their lifestyle to incorporate 30 minutes of walking each day. Results showed this reduced their risk of dying over a three-year period by 33 percent.

Researchers wanted to know what the minimum threshold was to achieve any kind of health gains. “We know prolonged sitting is associated with poor outcomes,” Dr. Srinivasan Beddhu, a kidney specialist at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City and lead author of the new study told Live Science.

They did find that activities such as standing or writing did not provide any health benefits. Basically it comes down to this: move.

To complete this study, Dr. Beddhu and his team researched activities of more than 3,600 adults representative of the U.S. population. During the three-year study, 137 died from various reasons. Those who exercises more were less likely to die.

“We are not advocating for a total of two minutes per hour of light activity,” Beddhu said. “If a person is already doing 10 minutes per hour of light activity, going to 12 minutes per hour might further decrease their mortality risk.”

So tell your less-inclined-to-exercise friends: a little adds add to a lot. Try making subtle changes to get out and move.


What You Should Know About IIFYM

If you’ve been around the health and fitness community for any length of time – particularly online – you’ve more than likely encountered “IIFYM.” Short for “If It Fits Your Macros,” this term has spread across the internet and has gone from being a pithy piece of nutritional advice to defining a whole diet. So, what exactly is IIFYM and what should you know about it before fully embracing the concept?


What It Means

According to, IIFYM got it’s start on the forums. Dieters would post a question, asking if they could have a particular food, and the popular answer became a simple “IIFYM.”

The idea represented by those five letters is that you can essentially eat anything you want, as long as it stays within your limits of total calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates – macronutrients (macros). Eventually, this simple phrase spawned an entire diet and subgroup within the fitness community.


The Problem

The idea behind IIFYM – sometimes called flexible dieting – has definite merit. Allowing yourself the freedom to enjoy “treats” occasionally without being overly concerned with what you’re eating is a proven way to prevent discouragement and burnout while dieting.

And, for many people, this is all that IIFYM means. But for many others, the phrase has become an excuse to indulge in junk food… IIFYM. Writing for Breaking Muscle fitness expert Kyle Hunt, himself a flexible dieter, made some interesting comments on this. Hunt even states that this is a misconception about IIFYM that started with memes on social networks, depicting all sorts of junk food, put out there just to poke at clean-eaters. But the truth is that there are people who jump on the IIFYM wagon using these memes to set their dietary standards.

Flexible dieting is a liberating and effective way to eat. But you should not ignore quality of calories. If you were to compare 200 calories of walnuts to 200 calories of potato chips, the walnuts would doubtless give you a better nutrient profile. There is also the concern that chips – and many processed foods – contain artificial additives that increasingly demonstrate negative health effects. Many processed foods, for instance, contain emulsifiers that studies have shown can damage gut bacteria in a way that significantly increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and digestive conditions. The same can be said for artificial sweeteners.

The problem, then, is not IIFYM itself but rather the way that some misguided people use the phrase. As puts it, “A more precise meaning of IIFYM would ‘if you have gotten high quality food and have reached your general macronutrient targets, there is nothing wrong with indulging in food.'”

By all means, enjoy your food and do not feel like you need to heavily restrict your diet. But don’t go to the other extreme and disregard the quality of a calorie.