Category Archives: Running

What To Buy The Runner “Mom” In Your Life

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and because there are sooo many moms out there that are now running (casually and competitively alike) I figured it was a great opportunity to recommend some fantastic gifts for the active and/or running mom in your life. Here’s the list, which ranges in price, as well as activity level and interests.

  1. Fruit or vegetable delivery from a national chain and/or local stand. I’ve seen a few of these offers on Groupon lately as well as advertised via email. This is a great option for the healthy mom in your life. Add some color and unique vegies/fruits with this convenient and thoughtful gift. Options include: Harry & David’s Organic Fruit of the Month Club or here in Florida Annie’s Organic Produce Buying Club of South Florida. Prices depend on option you choose.
  2. The Nike+ Fuel Band is brand new and a pretty interesting concept. The device is worn snug on your wrist and tracks your activity for the day…turning it into “Nike Fuel.” You start off with a goal of how much movement you want and the lights turn red, then yellow, then green as you near that point of desired exercise. It’s $149 but if even if it just serves as a reminder to start working out and moving, it’s worth it!
  3. AdvoCare Products: Is the running mom in your life looking to tone up and lost weight? Get her on the AdvoCare 24 Day Challenge program – and better yet, do it with her! It’s amazing what someone can accomplish in just 24 days. Help motivate the mom in your life by getting her started on a quality lifestyle, diet program. The 24 day program (complete with recommended add-ons) can cost around $250.
  4. The ultimate gym bag! The Gaiam Everything Fits in the Bag is eco-chic and can keep anyone organized. Just $60, this is an easy gift for the active mom in your life!
  5. Who doesn’t love leggings?! They are comfortable yet cool; light yet covering; and useful for whatever activity or non-activity someone is doing! For under $30, these Yoga Foldover Leggings can be yours!
  6. EA Sports Active for Wii! So much fun yet hard and great for working out in the home and burning calories! It’s under $33, but remember, you still need the Wii!
  7. A 60-minute massage! Yes, how could I forget. Dr. David Rudnick of the Chiropractic & Sports Rehab Institute in Boynton Beach offer regular massages as well as Raindrop Massage! I’ve had the latter and it is truly amazing! Learn more here.
  8. And no running mom gift list would be complete without the jogging stroller! So here is just one option. Of course, do you research as there are many out there and it’s important to find the right one so you actually use it!

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Running!

Epsom Salt Baths…Who Knew?!

Your body is tired; your legs are sore; you are stressed; and you have a race coming up. What should you do? Try an Epsom Salt Bath. Runners swear by them and lots of others are becoming fast believers. I mean, if you can’t trust a runner who is taking a bath mere hours before the biggest race of his or her running career, who can you trust? Below, I’ve included a few other tidbits as to why soaking in a hot bath full of Epsom just may do the trick. (You can alternate between ice baths and Epsom Salt baths; just leave some time in between so there is no chemical burning of the skin from the temperature change!)

  1. Most know of the importance of iron and calcium for our bodies, but what about magnesium? It is the second most abundant element in human cells and the fourth most important positively charged ion in the body. Magnesium helps the body regulate over 325 enzymes and plays an important role in organizing many bodily functions, like muscle control, electrical impulses, energy production and the elimination of harmful toxins. And most of us are deficient in magnesium, so soaking in a bath with Epsom salt, which is high in magnesium, is one of the easiest ways to get a quick lift.
  2. Epsom salt, known scientifically as hydrated magnesium sulfate, is rich in both magnesium and sulfate. While both magnesium and sulfate can be poorly absorbed through the stomach, studies show increased magnesium levels from soaking in a bath with Epsom salt! Magnesium and sulfate are both easily absorbed through the skin. Sulfates play an important role in the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins and the proteins that line the walls of the digestive tract. They stimulate the pancreas to generate digestive enzymes and are thought to help detoxify the body of medicines and environmental contaminants.
  3. Researchers and physicians suggest these health benefits from proper magnesium and sulfate levels, as listed on the web site of the Epsom Salt Industry Council:
    • Improved heart and circulatory health, reducing irregular heartbeats, preventing hardening of the arteries, reducing blood clots and lowering blood pressure.
    • Improved ability for the body to use insulin, reducing the incidence or severity of diabetes.
    • Flushed toxins and heavy metals from the cells, easing muscle pain and helping the body to eliminate harmful substances.
    • Improved nerve function by electrolyte regulation. Also, calcium is the main conductor for electrical current in the body, and magnesium is necessary to maintain proper calcium levels in the blood.
    • Relieved stress. Excess adrenaline and stress are believed to drain magnesium, a natural stress reliever, from the body. Magnesium is necessary for the body to bind adequate amounts of serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of well being and relaxation.
    • Reduced inflammation to relieve pain and muscle cramps.
    • Improved oxygen use.
    • Improved absorption of nutrients.
    • Improved formation of joint proteins, brain tissue and mucin proteins.
    • Prevention or easing of migraine headaches.

Directions

  • Measure 2 cups of Epsom salt into a standard bathtub. Instructions on the package will provide dosage for smaller baths, bowls and foot-soaks.
  • Fill the tub with hot water, checking the temperature to make sure it is safe and comfortable for soaking in. Swish the water around to dissolve the Epsom salts.
  • Soak the sore muscles or body in the Epsom salt bath for 15 minutes or so. The recommended minimum time is 12 minutes, three times each week, according to the Epsom Salt Council.
Sources 
Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/health-benefits-of-epsom-salt-baths.html#ixzz1uU0zmgHX

 

Wait…You Want Me To Take Time Off?!

Yes! It’s a shocking but truly critical part of training and running. You must take time off! Now, I’m not preaching for anyone to take off every other day or every weekend – and still expect to improve their running…but I am saying that moderation is important and therefore rest is a critical part of improving as a runner and athlete. Your body needs it to heal; and your head needs time off at times as well for a break!

Here are some of the reasons why a runner may need some time off from running:

  • A Planned Break: It’s been a long season with lots of hard training and racing. It may be the end of the school year and therefore end of the track season; it may be the conclusion of winter 5K and marathon racing in South Florida; and/or a full year of back to back to back marathons without sufficient race. All of this leads to the opportune time for a planned break in your training. In high school, Coach Rothman instructed us to take two weeks off from running in between Cross Country and Track. This meant immediately after Cross Country states or regionals, we took exactly two weeks off before beginning our training (low mileage to start) in preparation for Spring track. We did the same in the Summer right after Track and before the long summer of mileage build-up as well. Between High School and College, I personally took off approximately four weeks as instructed by my new college coach. (Looking back…I should have spent some time during those four weeks doing alternative exercise/activities and not just laying on the couch. It may the return to summer training much more difficult! Learn from my example!)
  • Aches & Pains…Or Worse…An Injury: Listening to your body as a runner is so important – potentially more than any other sport. All of us have aches and pains at times and you need to  know when something is hurting more than it should and/or for a longer period of time than it should. You need to know when simply applying ice or going for a massage will do and when you need to visit a trainer and/or doctor. When an injury happens, the doctor or trainer will often tell you to take off upwards of two or four weeks…so do yourself a favor and take off a few days, a week or more on your own when you are feeling a pain that you know isn’t going away. And in the meantime, try out some cross training. (Check out our recommendations/ideas here.)
  • Other Reasons: Taking a break may also be needed if you feel tired, sick, or that your training it in a complete rut and there is no way to get out. Sometimes in this case the running break will help you more mentally than anything!

According to experts, in the hierarchy of training, breaks rank right up there with threshold runs, intervals, reps, and steady running. All have a purpose and when placed in proper sequence can and will ultimately build on one another. Leading to a stronger runner, and a better you!

Remember, breaks from running are also a great opportunity to look into cross training. Take the time to bike, swim, roller blade, ski, etc. This may also be a good opportunity to focus on your strength training exercises and increasing the number of trips you are making to the gym to “just lift.”

Tips To Improve Your Running

Jason Fitzgerald

I just read this great post by a marathoner, coach and blogger at StrengthRunning.com. I’ve pulled out some of my favorite tips courtesy of Jason Fitzgerald, but feel free to read the entire post here.

Don’t want to read on but want your own specified 5K beginner training program, click here.

  • Do a long run! It doesn’t matter if you’re training for a 5k, triathlon, or ultramarathon – the long run is one of your most important workouts of the week. Aim to run anywhere from 20-30% of your total weekly mileage during your long run, depending on your fitness and goals. The long runs boosts your aerobic capacity and allows you to run faster for longer. It helps you become more efficient, creates more mitochondria (the energy producers of your cells) in your muscles, and strengthens your cardiovascular system. (Melissa: I personally have trouble getting in long runs on my own so I schedule them for Sunday and plan to run with my running group (SouthFloridaRuns.com). Oh, and I get them done early! Before I can change my mind and before the sun gets too brutal. Remember the purpose of the long run isn’t to do them so fast. It’s to get in the mileage at a good, solid pace. Meaning – don’t go too slow or you won’t get the benefit and you’ll be out there all day!)
  • Run twice a day. Running twice a day is an advanced strategy for reaching the next level of performance. I only recommend it for runners who have at least two years of consistent training behind them. In addition to adding volume to your schedule, which will help increase your aerobic capacity and running economy, adding an easy morning run will help you prepare for afternoon workouts. After you’re comfortable running easy twice a day, a morning run will help you shake out the kinks and increase blood flow before an afternoon fast workout. This was a staple in my college years and something I continue to practice today. (Melissa: Common in college, running twice a day is the easiest way to get in extra mileage – especially if you are expected to hit upwards of 70-80 miles per week. It’s amazing how an easy 3 miler 5-6 days a week can add nearly 20 miles to your total.)
  • Dynamic Stretching and Core Strength: The warm-ups prepare your body to run by increasing your heart rate and blood flow to your legs. Isn’t that what a “warm-up” is supposed to do? (Melissa: Both we hardly did when I was in high school but since then Coach Rothman has added them to the routine. It turns out static (or sitting) stretching before you run isn’t that good. Save it for after the run. Before the run – keep yourself moving.)

The Road Warriors

Brandon Mercado is one of the kids on the Spanish River Cross Country and Track teams that I’ve truly enjoyed coaching. He is not only a dedicated runner, but a great, kind and respectful kid. He and his best friend Ramiro Melendez or “Romo” that I have also gotten to know this year have been working toward a huge goal – an 1800 mile run from Florida to Michigan. Their story is inspirational and I am proud to be a witness to it.

Please find a fantastic article from the Palm Beach Post, which features the boys, their mentor Brian Thomas and much more! Enjoy and thanks to the Palm Beach Post and Willie Howard for writing such a worthy piece.

Palm Beach County Road Warriors to run 1,800 miles to raise money for colon cancer patients

Photo from Palm Beach Post; Damon Higgins

By Willie Howard, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Two former Okeeheelee Middle School students, their track coach and three other members of the Road Warriors running team are preparing to run 1,800 miles from Greenacres to Michigan in June to raise money for colon cancer patients.

The two former Okeeheelee Middle students, Brandon Mercado and Ramiro Melendez, persuaded their coach and science teacher, Brian Thomas, to organize the long-distance run after hearing of a charity run from Michigan to St. Augustine that Thomas did in 2002.

Mercado and Melendez have since become competitive runners for their high school teams. Both are graduating this month, one of Thomas’ prerequisites for participating in the multi-state run.

“We stuck with it and showed him passion,” said Mercado, 18, who ran track and cross country for Spanish River High School and wants to become a physical therapist.

The other members of the Road Warriors team are Stephanie Schreiber, Thomas’ friend from Michigan; Ricky Montez of Palm Beach Gardens; and Mattie Maley of Lantana.

Thomas and members of the Road Warriors team will present their story to the Wellness Promotion Task Force at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Palm Beach County School District headquarters .

“This shows how passionate teachers influence our children,” said Paula Triana, co-chair of the Wellness Promotion Task Force. “He goes above and beyond.”

Okeeheelee Middle Principal David Samore said Thomas and other male teachers serve as mentors for boys at the school through a program called Bridges.

“There is no question in my mind that Brian Thomas is a life-changer for some kids,” Samore said. “This is a man who will put himself out there if the cause is a worthy effort.”

The Road Warriors plan to begin their run at Okeeheelee Middle on the morning of June 9.

They’re using their website, roadwarriorscorp.org, to raise money for the 1,800-mile trip and for the Colon Cancer Alliance, which uses donations to help patients with expenses as well as prevention awareness.

So far, they’ve raised $7,500 from private donations and the sale of T-shirts and wrist bands.

Running as a relay team, the Road Warriors plan to average 80 miles a day while moving north through eight states to their destination in Thomas’ hometown of Lake Orion, Mich.

They hope to arrive by June 30 and will post updates on Facebook along the way.

Okeeheelee Middle student Tyler Monsour is selling bracelets and donating a portion of the proceeds to the Road Warriors – an example of the ripple effect the run is having on Okeeheelee students.

Mercado and Melendez – who ran for Palm Beach Central – chose to support the colon cancer organization with donations raised through the long-distance run after seeing Okeeheelee Middle librarian Julie Greene recover from stage-3 colon cancer and start running half-marathons six months later.

“Brian and his young Road Warriors were always there with messages that helped me through training for my first half marathons,” Greene wrote in a letter on the Road Warriors’ website. “When I found out they planned on running from Florida to Michigan to raise money for colon cancer, I was honored.”

Florida Track & Field State Championships

Boca Raton News May 15, 1999: Florida High School Track & Field State Championship Meet Preview

Wow. It’s an amazing feeling to be back! It’s been 12 years since I was at the Florida High School Track & Field State Championships and it is great to be back! The energy of the fans and crowd, the friendliness of the officials, the enthusiasm of the parents and coaches, and of course the impressiveness and drive of the athletes is unmatched in my mind.

I am of course back now in a different position than I was 12 years ago but enjoying the experience nonetheless. Last time I was an athlete. In 1999, a two-time state champion in the 1600 and 3200 meter races; in 2000, a defending state champion (I didn’t repeat but did okay in the final races, medaling in both). This time around I am a coach. Coach to a high school senior, Nick, who is competing in tonight’s large school division 3200 meter race.

The experience and energy of the atmosphere here is the same – it’s excitement, it’s passion and it’s great athletics that I’m honored to be a part of! It truly makes you want to be better, work harder, and race more. I personally think this meet is going to serve as a great kick-off for a long summer of training and mileage. Because if seeing one female athlete (high school senior) race and WIN the 1600, 800 and 3200 (in amazing times) all in one night doesn’t get your heart pumping and wanting to compete, run, and win…than few other things will!

You can meet some of these same athletes at FLRunners.com, and see their amazing races, post-race interviews, etc. I think you’ll be motivated to be the best athlete you can be just the same…

The Dreaded (And Too Common) Shin Splints

Wondering what  the most common injury that I see these days on our high school running team? Shin splints! Almost everyone goes through them at some point – some much worse than others and some facing the pain for a much longer time period than others. The “shin splint” has also, a result, become the catch-all term for lower leg pain that occurs below the knee either on the front outside part of the leg (anterior shin splints) or the inside of the leg (medial shin splints).

The question is why and how to prevent/lessen them once they’ve hit.

I’ll start out with the why: 

A primary culprit causing shin splints is a sudden increase in distance or intensity of a workout schedule. This increase in muscle work can be associated with inflammation of the lower leg muscles, those muscles used in lifting the foot (the motion during which the foot pivots toward the tibia). Such a situation can be aggravated by a tendency to pronate the foot (roll it excessively inward onto the arch). Also, a tight Achilles tendon or weak ankle muscles are also often implicated in the development of shin splints. (This is another reason that slow mileage build-up is so important for the body.

So what do do with your shins once you are feeling the pain?

  1. Ice your shins to reduce the inflammation (or pain)! The best way, we’ve found, is getting small dixie cups and filling them with water; putting them in the freezer and once frozen take them out, rip off the lip of the cup and run the frozen cups up and down your shins for 10 minutes each. Take a break and do it again. Some people will say to stop running – but this option is unfortunately not possible for all of us! As an athlete, you need to decide how bad the pain is and whether you can push through or not. Injuring yourself worse is not a good option either.
  2. Gently stretch your Achilles if you have medial shin splints, and your calves if you have anterior shin splints. Also, try this stretch for your shins: Kneel on a carpeted floor, legs and feet together and toes pointed directly back. Then slowly sit back onto your calves and heels, pushing your ankles into the floor until you feel tension in the muscles of your shin. Hold for 10 to 12 seconds, relax and repeat.
  3. In a sitting position, trace the alphabet on the floor with your toes. Do this with each leg. Or alternate walking on your heels for 30 seconds with 30 seconds of regular walking. Repeat four times. These exercises are good for both recovery and prevention. Try to do them three times a day.
  4. If you continue running, wrap your leg before you go out. Use either tape or an Ace bandage, starting just above the ankle and continuing to just below the knee. Keep wrapping your leg until the pain goes away, which usually takes three to six weeks. Other options – if the pain is excruciating – are: cross-training for a while to let your shin heal. Swim, run in the pool or ride a bike. (See my post on pool running.)
  5. When you return to running, increase your mileage slowly. As I said, the cause of shin splints if often increasing your mileage too quickly.
  6. Also, make sure you wear the correct running shoes for your foot type specifically, over pronators should wear motion-control shoes. Severe overpronators may need orthotics.
  7. Have two pairs of shoes and alternate wearing them to vary the stresses on your legs.
  8. Avoid hills and excessively hard surfaces until shin pain goes away completely, then re-introduce them gradually to prevent a recurrence.
  9. If you are prone to developing shin splints, stretch your calves and Achilles regularly as a preventive measure.

Questions? Just ask!

Additional resources: MedicineNet.com

Are You At The Right Racing Weight?

I recently read an advertisement for a new diet program and thought I had to share…

As a runner or athlete, you know that every extra pound you carry costs time, wastes energy, stresses your joints, and affects your performance.

And you know that “dieting” doesn’t help much, either. Diets only leave you feeling weaker by starving your body of vital energy and choking off the nutrients you need for muscle growth and training improvement.

What’s worse: With diets, you run the risk of undernourishing your body and losing muscle along with fat. So what’s the answer?

Burn off excess fat, get lean and finally get to your RACING weight.

The ad happens to be for a new book by a Triathlete selling his nutrition program…It goes on to ask, could 5 or 10 lbs be standing in the way of your personal best?

WELL, the book brings up a good question and something that’s important for all athletes and especially runners. In high school, prior to my junior year, I never thought about weight. As Coach Rothman said, do the workouts, eat well and the weight will be at what it needs to be. It seemed so easy then. Junior year, however, I started packing on the pounds. I was growing up you could say. All of a sudden, I found that I needed to pay attention to what I was eating. No more sharing pints of Ben & Jerry’s with one of my teammates in the local Publix parking lot after every long run. It was during the winter of my junior year – between cross country and track – that I got my eating schedule under control. I was on a nutritional program that told me what and when to eat. It was a perfect balance of carbs, protein, fats, etc. I was eating enough that I felt energetic, yet not too much so I kept my body lean. Later on the in the spring, I ended up winning the Florida 6A Track & Field 1600m and 3200m State Championships. So you could say the program worked.

But was it easy from there? No, I definitely went through phases again through my senior year and through college of eating too much again, and then eating too little. My energy was low and my races suffered; or I was carrying an extra few too many pounds and my races suffered. The balance is tough for a lot of us. I am the first to admit it, and that’s why a program that tells you what and when to eat has always been ideal for me. It ensures that I am not eating too much and that I am most importantly not restricting too much! It also allows me to live my life and not worry about what I am eating and if I had too little or too much. Because who wants to spend their life thinking about what’s next on the menu?

Now, 12 years later since that junior year of high school, I am back on a program and enjoying it once again. I am seeing the results and I am feeling good. If you or someone in your life needs that guidance, I recommend the AdvoCare program. It’s a complete nutritional and eating plan that keeps you on schedule and on target to be strong and lean. More details here.

Still not believing me? See some of the results!

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Sofia from my high school running team after a "soaking wet run." She has already started drying her shoes!

It’s been raining in South Florida for what feels like four days straight! And many of us refuse to be kept inside (or on a treadmill) for so many days in a row…So we go out there and run in the rain! Our clothing and shoes end up soaked (as do we)! And drying most of our belongings is pretty straightforward…right? Well, not so with our sneakers/running shoes. How do you correctly dry your running shoes after they’ve been soaked in the rain?!

Well there is a right way (see below) and a wrong way (throwing them in the dryer at high heat and hoping they don’t melt or shrink!). Here is the correct way:

  1. Take your shoes off.
  2. Take the insoles out (orthodics too if you use them) and stuff the shoes with newspaper. (Make sure the shoes are filled with the paper but don’t stuff in so much that you change the shape of the shoe!).
  3. Place shoes in a warm, dry area with circulating air (near a vent, dryer, etc.) or out in the sun – as long as the rain has stopped! Back in the day, when you could fit your shoes under the refridgerator – this was a good option. Not sure you can still do that with most new kitchens.
  4. Change the newspaper after an hour or so – and maybe a couple hours after that, depending on how wet the paper gets. (Most likely will have to do this consistently until your next run – 24 or so hours later.

This is another good reason why we should all have at least two pairs of running shoes that we alternate. It’s good overall they say…and of course for reasons like this.

Of course, if all of this work is too much for you…and you live in a really wet climate where you are constantly drying your running shoes, you may want to invest in a “shoe dryer.” Yes they have them…Here is one recommended option! The Peet Shoe Dryer

Running Can Make You Smarter!

It’s true, running can make you smarter! Us runners have been saying it all along (right?!), but now there is proof! I read this article in this past week’s NY Times and had to share…

Here is the direct link to the article.

And here are some important notes I pulled out of it.

  • Using sophisticated technologies to examine the workings of individual neurons — and the makeup of brain matter itself — scientists in just the past few months have discovered that exercise appears to build a brain that resists physical shrinkage and enhance cognitive flexibility. Exercise, the latest neuroscience suggests, does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.
  • A team of researchers led by Justin S. Rhodes, a psychology professor at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, gathered four groups of mice and set them into four distinct living arrangements. Group 1: sensual and gustatory plenty; Group 2: sensual and gustatory plenty PLUS avenues/vehicles to exercise; Group 3: empty space just standard food, etc.; and Group 4: no sensual and gustatory plenty, but ability/vehicles to exercise. And in the end? It turned out that the toys and tastes, no matter how stimulating, had not improved the animals’ brains. Only one thing mattered: whether they had a running wheel! Now that’s persuasive!
  • And here is why: Exercise though seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay, much as it does with muscles.

I should add the article included much more information about the creation of new brain cells, etc. and whether this is happening…and the debate over they type of exercise needed (walking, jogging, running). Regardless, it’s another reason for us all to lace up those shoes and get out there running!