Sunday, April 3, 2016

Gearing Up for Summertime Running

Now that the fall and winter marathon and half marathon season is in the rear view mirror for most of us, it's time to adjust our training and set our sights on the shorter spring and summertime training runs and races.

That's not to say that we should ditch our long runs; as a matter of fact, in my opinion a nice 12-miler long run on Saturday or Sunday mornings should be maintained as part of a well-rounded program.

Where you live determines how hot the summertime weather will get. It's plenty hot here in south Texas; at its worst we can expect to be languishing in the upper 90s. That said, it is important to acclimate at a reasonable rate.
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The preferred method in the best of all possible worlds is to simply run every day. As the weather eases into ever warmer zones, so your conditioning will follow suit. Yes, you will start sweating like the proverbial pig but at least the heat won't be a shock to your system.

How Do Different Temperature Ranges Affect You?

Of course, every runner is unique an his or her responses to weather are as well. For example, I do not dissipate heat well but have many friends that do. That being said, there are some general guidelines on the effects of running in the heat and how those effects escalate discomfort and degrade performance.

The humidity in your area is also a huge factor. Evaporation off your body surface is key to cooling. Ideally, you want to be in a place where the locals defend their weather by saying, "Well hell yeah, but its a dry heat."

We should all be so lucky! With high humidity such as it is where I live, the air is already saturated so evaporation is at a minimum. The only trade-off is that we are not shocked by static electricity when we touch metal objects. Now that is something I could never get used to when Uncle Sam sent me to Colorado when I served in the Air Force.

The bottom line is that running during the summer is a monumental good thing. (See the Devo reference there?) The trails are open, the butt-busting ice is gone and we don't have to wear 10 pounds of clothes when we head out the door. So fellow road warriors, have fun and get your run on!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

From the Bottom Up; Running Shoes and More

Too often, novice runners are seduced by advertisements, manufacturer hype, and a perceived sense of fitness fashion. Hey, if it comes in neon, I'll take two. Unfortunately, that's the wrong tact to take. Running shoes need to be highly individualized.

It might seem like a strange thing; walking shoes and hiking boots have a wide range of applications. Running shoes, however, demand much more consideration because of the additional stress that running places on the body. To take it to the next level, trail running and long distance running will really test the merit of a runner's biomechanics.

But how do you decide which shoes are right for you? Granted, most of us can't afford to be fitted for custom footwear. So in the production shoe world, it is important to determine which shoe model fits your personal physiology and biomechanics as closely as possible.

Obviously, your local specialty running shoe store is the best resource to help you find the right shoe; NOT that guy at the mall (been there, done that; about 40 years ago a salesman who was working on commission ENSURED me that these shoes with velcro flaps were right for me).

So take my advice; trust a running shoe professional for an evaluation. Once you are dialed into what works for you, stay with that model in the future or the model the manufacturer replaces it with. They are notorious for simply changing model names.

What else should you be concerned with? Since the manufacturers have to cater to the masses and not the individual, some runners might need some custom work. This usually comes in the form of orthotics.

If you do do need orthotics, it would behoove you to get a custom pair fitted by a podiatrist that understands sports medicine. No, those machines at Walmart are not a good substitute.

Bottom line? Research, buy wisely, and stay healthy, people.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

How to Handle Side Stitches

Side Stitches. We've almost all experienced them. On a regular run they are frustrating. During a race they can ruin your day. But yes, with the right information you can stop side stitches.

The reason we get them remains open to controversy but most authorities suspect that it happens when the ligaments which run from your diaphragm to your your liver and other internal organs stretch.

The best way to stop them is to change your breathing pattern or alter your pace (slower, preferably). Of course the optimal situation is to prevent them before they happen. Different things work for different people but the usual recommendation is to hydrate well and not eat much before you run; the emptier your belly is the more room for lung expansion you will have.

If you want to impress friends at a cocktail party or when socializing around the post-hash keg, just tell them you've been experiencing ETAP (Exercise related Transient Abdominal Pain).

You might also be interested in stretches for curing runner's knee.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Are You Wearing the Right Running Shoes?

At the end of January there are still some New Year's Resolutioners hanging in there and losing weight. Good at you! But what do you have in common with many of us that have been running for years? You may not be wearing properly fitted running shoes.

Wearing the wrong shoes can result in injury and the medical costs associated with that, not to mention the depressing downtime. The best bet is to have an analysis done at a running-specific shoe store, not your typical mall outlet. These specialists can determine your special needs and perform a gait analysis.

You must determine whether you are a neutral runner, an over-pronator, or an over-supponator. You must take into account your foot width. Many manufacturers don't offer different widths. New Balance and Brooks are good bets for wider feet.

Once you have determined a shoe model that is right for you, you will know what to buy in the future. Since running shoe companies are notorious for retiring favorite models, you need to remember the key specs for your favorite. This will allow you to pick another model when your regular one goes away.

Don't be shy about asking the manufacturer about model changes; sometimes it is just a name change. For example, many, many years ago, my shoe of choice was the Brooks Chariot. The model didn't really go away, it was just upgraded and renamed the Beast.

How many miles should you put on your shoes before changing them out? That is largely a personal matter and you can't rely on looks. Knowing when you need new running shoes is a case of trial and error. I personally find 500 miles to be the right distance.

The bottom line? Don't gamble with your running shoe selection. Medical treatment is always more expensive than a new pair.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Supplements-- Are Getting a Bang for Your Buck?

As I see it, the main problem with supplements marketed to runners is that the industry is unregulated by the FDA, unlike drugs. And make no mistake, this is a huge industry. One source estimates that yearly sales hover at estimated at over $17 billion.

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With no real way to know what are in those supplements means you may be wasting money, not getting the results you expect, or in the worst case you could be harming yourself. If you decide to roll the dice you can only put faith in manufacturer's claims. Even if the claim is made that "studies have shown blah, blah, blah," in may cases the study has been funded by that very same manufacturer.

Many ads sound downright bizarre. For example, for a while now a supplement made from jellyfish claims to help brain function. By all rights jellyfish should be swimming Einsteins. But they're not.

This isn't to say that all the news is bad. Vitamins and some herbal supplements have undergone legitimate studies and do offer many benefits. Many have been independently tested and bear a label on the bottle. For example, says, "To further help consumers, allows manufacturers and distributors to use specific CL Seals to identify products that have met standards based on its product reviews."

The bottom line? Be skeptical and do your homework before shelling out that hard-earned money.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Informal Club Runs are Motivating

My running club holds informal group runs at the Seabrook Trails on Sundays so I showed up for it yesterday. I hadn't run with this particular group before, and I didn't really this time either.

Not that I didn't start with them. They were just too fast for me. Oy vey! There was a time when I would have pressed on with them, but the years and the miles have conveyed a bit of wisdom to the rational part of my mind. It happens.

But I did get to talk to my old friend Lou, who I hadn't seen for many years. He's always been faster than me, but one year I was able to hang with him for about the first eight miles of the Dallas White Rock Marathon. Awesome course.

Finding Your Own Pace

When the running club is large enough, these informal runs take on a real social flavor and there's several runners in each slice of the pace pie. Track interval workouts are the same way. This is where the motivational aspect comes in. In my view, the social aspect is as important as the psychological training aspect.

We all want to get faster, but it's important to temper the desire with a smidgen of reality and train scientifically, not haphazardly. And above all, keep it fun.

Case in point: a few years ago, the club was doing race management for a local 5K. Jay and I set up the course in the dark pre-dawn. Since we were going by clumsy handwritten course instructions, we set the turn-around cone about 50 meters too far out. Oops.

Curb Your Enthusiasm!

Should have been no biggie, right? Well, to most folks it wasn't. But the first guy through the finish chute was one of Houston's elite runners. You know, not fast enough to make a paycheck, but fast enough to score free "sponser" Powerbars every now and then.

He had a good enough sense of pace to know that the course was long, and he let us have it with both barrels. By golly, he was 3 seconds off his predicted finish time! Reason enough for a major temper tantrum. Very sad, even for this regional demi-God.

Sometimes being a middle-of-the-packer is its own reward. I'm blessed that talent and genetics haven't turned me into a Lord Farquaad.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Begin a Fitness Program on National Running Day

Despite the fact that fitness incentives and promotions crop up from time to time, we're still a country of chubbies. Sad but true. This week there's another drive to raise awareness. June 3rd, 2009 is National Running Day.

Find a Local Running Event

There are locally organized events all over the nation. Find a running event that you can participate in. Sad to say, the dialog box where you enter a state, zip code, etc. didn't work too well for me. Just scroll through the list and see if you can find one.

Can't find one? Doesn't matter a whit. You don't need something organized to begin a running routine. Running is a minimalist sport, yet it's one of the best ones for your heart, lungs, immune system, attitude and more.

Get Your Fitness Gear

At a minimum, you'll need a properly-fitted pair of running shoes and a pair of shorts. Cheap, eh? No greens fees, no gym membership, no gasoline and boat trailer tax. Once you really get into it, there are some really cool toys, er, ah, I mean accessories! Check upon it out:
  • Hydration. No doubt you've already got a basic plastic water bottle even if it's just the one from the grocery store, or a used Gatorade bottle. But there are handy water bottle belts. Check out Fuel Belt for one.
  • Identification and emergency medical information. This is one that a lot of runners forget. Anytime you wander from home, you risk a medical problem. It's easy to have that info on hand without getting it tattooed on! For an affordable wrist ID, ankle ID, shoe ID, or shoe pouch ID, check out
  • Heart rate monitor. These come in handy for training in specific zones based on your maximum heart rate.
  • Performance-enhancing MP3 recordings. I recently found this one and it's awesome. It uses gamma and beta waves to get you "in the zone" and boost endorphins, better known as the "runner's high".

So there you go. Motivated yet? Lace up those shoes!