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!

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

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!


New Running Ultramarathon Record

I_Love_New_York_svgWhat have you been doing with your life? I certainly haven’t been running like this:

On September 12, 2016, 29-year-old ultrarunner Pete Kostelnick left the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall at 8 a.m. to run across the United States. Why? I can’t come up with a good reason other than to challenge himself and say he did it.

He did. On October 24, 2016 at 5:30 p.m., he ascended the steps of New York City Hall’s and broke the world record for running across America. It took him a mere 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes. He’ll be in the next Guinness Book of World Records.

How he did it:
He slept in an RV at night until about 3 a.m. He would then run 40 miles at a 9 to 10-minute per mile pace, avoiding the heat of the day. This was no doubt especially helpful through the middle plain states where temperatures are still quite high. He’d then take a short lunch break and then run another 30 miles. After 70 miles per day, he’d sleep and recover. Everyday involved about 14 hours of running every day, seven days a week.

He did take one day off and ran less than 70 miles on two days total. At the end of the trip, in New Jersey, he ran 87 miles to New York in one day to ensure his world-record time.

Kostelnick had a support van that would meet him every two miles with nutrition and first aid. On October 16, his van was in an accident and totaled. He kept going while his support crew quickly tried to get new transportation.

He battled snowstorm, heat and 35-mile per hour winds. It didn’t seem to slow him down as he kept up with his 70 miles/day run.


Add These Moves to Your Running Workout

Running is one of the most repetitive forms of exercise. You simply put one foot in front of the other. You can vary speed and terrain, but not much else. Therefore, to become a better runner, it’s imperative you add more movements and strength training into your workout schedule. Fall and winter are the perfect times to hit the gym  because of dire weather. Here are a few must-do moves:

Kettlebell Squats

Kettlebells are becoming popular among weightlifters and most gyms have invested in them, or you can also easily purchase a couple of different weight sizes from a local retailer. Hold the kettlebell to your chest with both hands holding the bar. Position your feet a little more than shoulder width-apart and begin to squat down with feet firmly planted on the ground. Do three sets of 15.


Photo Courtesy of ACE

Side Lunges

We’re all seen lunges where you take a step forward, bend your back knee and lower your body to the ground. However, this mirrors the same forward movement as running. Try move to the side to strengthen hips. Take a side step and bend down. Rise up. Take another side step and bend down. Do two sets of 15 steps on each side.

Photo courtesy of Fitness Republic

Photo courtesy of Fitness Republic


Your core is one of the key areas of strength of a runner. Planks work on tightening your entire core and also work your glutes–something often forgotten about during your running training. Try holding a plank for 30 seconds to start and then working up to 60 seconds. You’ll find yourself a little sore at first, but it’s worth it when you see the difference it’ll make in  your running form.

Photo courtesy The Slender Student

Photo courtesy The Slender Student


What Runners Can Do To….

girl runningRunning can burn a lot of calories, get your heart rate up and keep you in shape. Some runners find it frustrating, however that they don’t really gain muscle from it and some other fitness gains aren’t to be had. Here are some suggestions:

You want to gain more lower-body muscle:
Run hills. Adding in hill training can work both the quads, hams and calves. It can start to bulk up the upper leg muscles in ways running on flat terrain can’t. Find a one-mile hill and run up and down it a couple of times a week. Not only will it make you faster, it’ll make you stronger.

If you find this cumbersome, add in one hiking workout per week. You don’t even have to run. You can simply walk fast and get a good workout. It’ll give you a break from running, but you’ll still see tremendous fitness gains.

You want to gain upper-body strength:
Running is mostly a lower body workout. You do swing your arms, but there isn’t any weight-bearing exercise involved. Instead, add in upper body movements. During your speed workout, which you should be doing once per week, before you rest between speed drills, do 15 push ups.  You can even do push ups after a regular run. Do it right before you stretch. This is in addition to any weight training you do (if you do).

Do you have a dog and/or a small kid? You can also add in dog walking and stroller pushing to your runs. This works out your upper body.

You want to build more coordination:
If you want to start doing more trail running, it’s a good idea to develop some coordination skills. To mix up your workout and develop your coordination, taking tai chi, which is a form of slow, flowing movements, can help. It also helps to slow bone loss, which can keep you running for longer.