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/

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

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!