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.

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!

Change Up Your Running

imagesIt’s finally fall. It is a cloudy day today and I feel like I’ve entered into my favorite season after a rather long summer. Football is on TV and I am drinking pumpkin spice lattes.

At this time of year, I try to shake up my running to keep my body energized after coming from a hot summer where I got worn out from even trying to run short distances. Here are some workouts to try if you feel the same need.

1. Speed training on the treadmill. With the weather turning a bit sour in many parts of the country, perhaps you need to take your running indoors. Here is a FARTLEK:

5 mins: Warm up
3 mins: Tempo; 2 mins easy x 4
5 mins: Cool down

This makes a total of 30 minutes, which isn’t too long on a treadmill. You can cover a few miles if you push your body hard enough.

2. Outdoor hill training. As the leaves change, I try to find hills with lots of fallen leaves to give me something pretty to enjoy as I run. Try to find a hill that climbs approximately a mile or longer. You’ll run a mile on it and then turn around and go back down. It’s best to have a Garmin for this workout, as going up hill will slow you down, so it’s hard to gauge your speed versus distance.

5 mins: Warm up on flat ground
1 mile up hill. You can speed walk if necessary.
1 mile sprint down. Go easy if this hurts the knees.
1 mile up hill.
1 mile down.
5 mins recovery on flat ground. You can walk if you need.

You’ll hit about 4.5 miles on this workout and really shock your body. Your heart rate should rise pretty high. Don’t push going up hill too hard. Save that for the down hills.

3. Track training. Most high schools are now back in session, so they open up the tracks at night.

800 meters warm up
2 miles going faster every 400 meters.
400 meter cool down.

You’ll really need to pace yourself to be able to pick up every lap.

Happy fall training! Enjoy the shorter days before they become even shorter!

Trying Out New Running Methods

Goodshoot 1I once interviewed a very famous, world champion endurance athlete on techniques he’s learned over the years. He told me something that really stuck: In training, he’d eat a big bowl of nachos with cheese and other excessively evil foods just before a long run. Naturally, he’d vomit during the run and his stomach would shut down. However, this taught him to keep going even in the worst of pain. That way, come race day, when he’d eventually start to bonk, he’d have trained his body well to handle any kind of disgusting pain and could always make it to the finish line.

While I haven’t trained to this extreme, my thoughts do run (excuse the pun) to this interview when I’ve had maybe one too many fries before a long run and I suffer gastrointestinal distress. I think it’s important to shake up the running routine and try something new every so often. Here are a few techniques I like to take:

I do a race that isn’t timed. Many female-only mud runs are making their way to cities near you, and they’ve done away with timing. It’s nice to take my time in a race and not worry about what my Garmin says. I just hang out with my girlfriends and take the opportunity to really enjoy running without caring about the finish clock. If we hang out a little long at a particular obstacle, that means we get to spend a few extra minutes together.

I run at night. I run best during mid-day when I’m a little more awake than just after I roll out of bed with no caffeine… or just after work when I need some time to digest the day. Mid-day seems to be when I’m most alive. But I shake it up and run after 8 p.m. to shock my body. I don’t think my body appreciates the shocking and neither does my alarm clock, as  I hit snooze a few extra times (running at night invigorates my blood so I don’t fall asleep easily). But I feel like it makes it harder, and harder is always a good thing. That means I’m not falling into a running rut.

I run my entire time up a hill. Near my house is a long, treacherous four-mile hill. It’s ugly. It’s brutal. Bikers curse it; runners’ legs scream at it. But we all make our way up it no matter what the pain. It makes my legs stronger and more appreciate of flat roads.

Try out something new and see what happens!

Runner’s Knee: What is It?

ankle sprain, pain


No doubt you’ve experienced a number of running-induced pains. From back pain to leg cramps to fasciitis, most of us can ramble on the ailments we’ve dealt with by participating in this sport. This post focuses on runner’s knee. I’ve heard about it, but don’t know much about it so did some research.

What is runner’s knee? 

It is pain that you feel around and under the knee cap, which occurs because the knee cap isn’t properly moving in the correct place. Because you need your knees to run, continuing on with this pain can only make things worse over time.

What can you do to avoid it? 

1. Weightlifting is the best way to proactively avoid runner’s knee. Building up the muscles around the knee cap will help it hold in place. You should work on the quadriceps, especially the inside quad muscles. People with pain tend to run abnormally, which causes weak quads. Also, work out your IT band.

Once or twice per week, focus your weightlifting routine on legs.

Do monster squats. To complete a monster squat, hold a barbell over your shoulders and squat all the way down. It’ll be tough to come back up from this position so make sure the barbell isn’t too heavy or you risk improper form. Also add in the leg press. Start pressing with a closer foot position and move to a farther foot position to work your inner and outer thighs.

IT Band:
Lie on your side on your floor. Bend the knee of the bottom leg while keeping the upper leg straight. Lift the upper leg again, isolating motion to the hip. Do these leg raises 10 times for 2-3 reps.

2. Watching how you bend your knee. Stand in front of a mirror and do a single leg squat. If your pelvis drops to the opposite side, you could be straining your knee. This can be improved by simply being aware of it and running with your hips in line and focusing on not allowing one of your hips to drop below the other. Running square will keep your hips aligned and in turn, your knees aligned.

Hopefully you can avoid this painful problem with these easy steps.

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!


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.