Category Archives: Running

6 Tips for Running in Cold Weather

Falling temperatures and fewer daylight hours indicate winter is almost here. But they are definitely not an excuse to quit your outdoor running routine. In fact, running in cold weather will help you feel better, boost your energy level, and lose the unwanted weight before the bathing suit season.

Stay healthy and follow these ground rules to ensure your safety and boost performance this winter:

1. Dress in thin layers and choose the right fabrics

Running in the cold

When you’re running or moving at full intensity, you feel 20 degrees warmer than your starting temperature. So, when you’re dressing to hit the road, you should choose clothes that keep you warm without overheating and chilling.

Consider wearing several thin layers of clothing, starting with a layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, which wicks sweat from your body. Avoid wearing cotton because it holds the sweat and will keep you wet.

The right outer layer should help protect you against wind and precipitation, while still letting out heat and moisture. A breathable layer of nylon or Gore-Tex will do the job!

2. Protect your extremities

About 40% of your body heat is lost through your head and 30% escapes through your hands and feet.

When you’re running in low temperatures, make sure you always wear a snug-fitting hat, gloves mittens and wool socks that wick moisture away.

3. Run into the wind

Running during winter

To avoid catching a chill when you’re sweaty, start your run into the wind and finish with it at your back. You can even break this into segments, running into the wind for about 10 minutes, turning around to run with the wind at your back for five minutes, and repeating.

4. Be visible

With limited daylight, it’s more likely that you’ll be running in the dark during the winter. If you can, avoid running in such conditions. But if you have to run at night or early in the morning, wear reflective and fluorescent gear and dress in bright colors, specially if the landscape is covered in snow.

5. Take it easy and forget speed

When running in the cold, you’re at greater risk for a pulled muscle. On such conditions, warm up slowly and run easy.

If you prefer to run in the morning or in the evening, when the temperatures are much colder, try doing it twice a day instead of doing one long run where you might get very cold toward the end.

6. Change quickly after a run

As soon as you stop a physical activity, your core body temperature drops. The same happens if you get wet from rain, snow, or sweat. To avoid chilling or even hypothermia, change to some dry clothes – including socks, gloves and hat – as soon as you can and get warmer at a shelter with a hot drink.

Do you run outside in cold temperatures? Share your own safety tips for cold weather running in the comments below!

 

5 Good Reasons to Start Running Today

Running is considered as one of the most complete workouts. It’s not only good for your body, but it also helps you to improve your mood and clear your mind.

If you’ve been thinking about lacing up and you’re looking for some extra motivation to get off the couch, read on for 5 wonderful reasons to start running today.

#1 It’s so easy to start running

Start running today

There’s no exercise more natural than running. And starting couldn’t be simpler! All you need is a good pair of sneakers and comfortable workout clothes to get out there and run.

Yet, if you’ve never hit the road before, you’ll want to do it slowly. By starting at a fast and uncomfortable pace, you risk injuring your body and losing your motivation.

Therefore, to get all the health benefits that running has to offer, be sure to choose the right training plan. If you’ve never run before, start today with our Ease into 5K app.

 

#2 Running can prevent disease

As you already know, an active lifestyle helps you live a more healthy and disease-free life.

In fact, many studies have shown that regular exercise helps to prevent cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Also, regular joggers tend to have a lower blood pressure, good cholesterol levels, and a strong immune system.

And the health benefits of running don’t end there. Your regular runs reduce the risk of vision loss, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

 

#3 Running makes you feel better

Running eases depression and anxiety

Ever wondered why you feel much better after working out?

When you’re running, your brain releases endorphins and neurotransmitters that can instantly lift your mood. It also lowers the hormones that can contribute to depression. In fact, mental health experts use running to help treat clinical depression and other psychological disorders such as drug and alcohol addiction.

But that’s not all. Researchers found that just 30 minutes of running could boost sleep quality and concentration during the day.

 

#4 Running helps you lose weight

You know – and feel – that you’re burning calories while you’re running. But did you know that, from all those gym staples, the treadmill is the one that helps you blast the more calories?

According to the Medical College of Wisconsin and the VA Medical Center, the treadmill (used at a “hard” exertion level) torched an average of 705-865 calories in an hour.

Also, regular exercise boosts “afterburn”, which is the number of calories you burn after exercise. This happens when you’re running a little faster than your easy pace, and a little slower than your fastest pace.

 

#5 Running can add years to your life

Running helps you live longer

According to experts, all you need to do to add years to you life is work out 2.5 hours a week (30 minutes, 5 times per week). Studies show that people who meet just this amount of physical activity are 19 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who don’t exercise.

You don’t even have to run at fast speeds! So, even if you’re currently out of shape, you should be able to run, live longer and healthier!

5 Myths of the Marathon by Hal Higdon

Are some of the assumptions about our favorite race flat-out false?

Several weeks before this year’s Boston Marathon, an editor at a large East Coast newspaper approached me with an assignment to contribute to the paper’s weekly “Five Myths” feature: Five Myths About Easter; Five Myths About Mount Everest; Five Myths About The Oscars, etc. The editor wanted me to write: Five Myths About the Boston Marathon Bombings.

The assignment would have provided good exposure for my latest book, 4:09:43but I did not feel enough legitimate myths existed around the bombings to justify a “Five Myths” feature. The Oscars have been around forever, but the bombings happened only last year, too recently to develop a mythology. And quite frankly, focusing only on the horror of 2013 bothered me. I suggested to the editor that he broaden our approach to include all marathons. The editor said, no, and assigned the article to another writer.

Fair enough, but given the opportunity to select five myths about the marathon, not merely about the bombings, here is what I might have written:

  1. Pheidippides was the first marathon runner. Despite the popularity of the story of a single warrior/messenger running into Athens after the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC with news of the Greek victory—then dying—it never happened. The story only appeared in history books several hundred years after the battle. Pheidippides is part of a legend, albeit one that runners now happily embrace.
  2. 26 miles 385 yards was the length of the first Olympic marathon. The Greek shepherd Spiridon Loues probably ran around 24.5 miles, or 40 kilometers, in winning the first Olympic marathon in 1896. Three Olympiads later at London in 1908, organizers moved the starting line back to Windsor Castle so the Queen’s grandchildren could see the race. That odd 26.2-mile distance somehow became the accepted standard.
  3. Boston is the oldest and biggest marathon race in the world. Technically, the Olympic Marathon is one year older, but is only held every fourth year and in different cities. In the fall of 1896, New York hosted a “first” marathon, but that event failed to survive. Boston is the oldest continuously held marathon, although eight other marathons, including New York and Chicago are bigger.
  4. Women will never be able to run 26.miles. A long since disproven myth, but rules once prevented women from running more than 2.5 miles. Then in 1966, Roberta Gibb ran the full distance at Boston followed in 1967 by Kathrine Switzer. Today, women dominate many long distance races. According to Running USA, in 2013 61 percent of the 2 million finishers in half marathons were women.
  5. The Boston Marathon bombings were a hoax, never happened. Yes, this myth seems ridiculous, but conspiracy theories abound around many major events. The Moon landing was staged in a TV studio, right? Within a week after the bombings, a “book” appeared on Kindle suggesting that the Boston Marathon bombings were a hoax staged by the Federal Government.

While all the questions about the terrorists have not yet been answered—and may never be answered even after the trial—this is the saddest marathon myth of all. I was happy to have turned down the assignment from the newspaper editor. The marathon has enough legitimate myths without making up others linked to the bombings.

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for Runner’s World. His most recent book is 4:09:43: Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners, available in bookstores, online and (autographed) through www.halhigdon.com.

Five ways to get faster today (as told by runners across the web)

We’ve talked before about how you can perform better starting with your very next run and ways to avoid slowing yourself down for no good reason.  Both of those posts show that although most of what makes for a successful runner takes time and patience, there are some quick tips and tricks that can help you start getting faster right away.  Continue reading

Success Stories: Mark Rucker

At Bluefin, nothing makes us happier than hearing from folks who have had success with our programs.  Our users have accomplished some amazing stuff and we’re always honored and humbled any time we hear that one of our apps had played a part in helping someone get healthy or take their running to the next level. Continue reading

Four reasons to try yoga (and be a better runner)

Just like a couch potato might be completely baffled by your desire to go log miles every chance you get, a lot of runners just don’t understand the appeal of yoga.  Sure, running and yoga are both physically and mentally challenging activities that are great for fitness-minded folks, but there isn’t always a lot of overlap between the two camps — at least not as much as there should be.

Why should runners consider spending some time on a yoga mat?  We can think of a few good reasons.  Here they are!

Stretching shouldn’t just bookend a workout.  We all know that stretching is important, but how often do you do it aside from before or after a run?  Chances are, if you are stretching as part of your warm-up or cool-down, you’re more focused on limbering up or wrapping up your workout than you are with really pushing yourself to increase strength and flexibility.  Spending dedicated time working on your flexibility, especially on a day when you aren’t running at all, can pay dividends.  If you’re looking for some specific routines to get you started, there are a number of great posts over at Runner’s World that can give you some good recommended yoga moves geared towards runners.  

You’ll get stronger (physically).  Yoga is a workout.  If you’ve done it, you know.  If you haven’t, give it a shot and you’ll be sold.  But more important than the physical challenge of the yoga session itself are the amazing benefits that come along with having more flexible muscles.  Quite simply, the more elastic and flexible your muscles are, the stronger they’ll be.  If you really care about improving your strength and building speed in the real world, even a single day of yoga a week can be an unbelievable investment.

You’ll get stronger (mentally).  Any serious runner can tell you that a huge portion of the running equation is mental.  Whether you are pacing yourself out for a personal best or just toughing through a particularly challenging workout, what’s in your head can be every bit as important as what’s in your shoes.  And while running can be a great tool for sharpening your mental toughness, there’s a lot going on in the heat of a run that can distract you from learning who you are between the ears.  Yoga, on the other hand, is built around mental focus and allowing time to breath and concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment.  Give it a try and see if it doesn’t pay off next time you’re facing the wall during a tough run.

Yoga is great for preventing injury.  If there’s one thing that can separate successful runners from the pack over the long term, it’s injury prevention.  Taking responsibility for your body and making sure you don’t end up hurt is a huge part of being able to run hard year after year without ending up sidelined on the couch, derailing your training for weeks or worse.  Yoga will strengthen your core, help integrate your muscular systems, and make you generally less prone to injury.  It’ll also improve awareness of your body so that if something does start to give you trouble, you might pick up on it before you end up taking a funny step off the curb and finding out the hard way.

We came up with this post after reading this one from Stephanie Taylor Christensen at MindBodyGreen.  She’s a solid distance runner with a great perspective on yoga if you’re looking to learn more.

Race day countdown: how to prepare

“Gearing up” for race day can mean a lot of different things.  Maybe you’re talking about the ten-week training program you’re using to get ready for the big day or just your morning routine on the day of the event.  Regardless of where you are in your training or when your next race begins, we’ve got some advice to help you be as prepared as you can be.

One month out.  Depending on the kind of shape you’re in and the type of race you’re planning to run, one month can be all the time in the world.  Our Ease into 5K program gets you from the couch to a 5k in just 8 weeks, so it isn’t insane to be just reaching the half way point a month before your race.  Our shorter programs like Bridge to 10K can also do wonders to prepare you for the big day.  Regardless of where you stand, there are some pretty universal thoughts to keep in mind if you’re 4 — 5 weeks away from the starting line.

  • Have a plan.  We rattled off a few Bluefin training plans above and there are certainly more.  But even if you aren’t in the midst of a formal training program, it’s important to have a plan as you close in on your race.  At the very least, sketch out the next four or five weeks and make some decisions about how hard you want to run and what kind of distance you want to put in.  Laying it out in writing can help keep you on track and avoid either overtraining or preparing too little.
  • Hone your form.  Lousy running form will suck the life out of you on race day, making you work harder for every step and fatigue more quickly as a result.  If you’ve developed any bad habits — weak posture, short strides, tight shoulders — they aren’t going to disappear overnight.  Make some changes while you still have a few weeks to tinker with your running from.  We’ve written a couple of detailed posts about it…check them out here and here.
  • Eat like a champion.  Just like you aren’t going to repair slouchy posture overnight, you can’t fuel up your body by gulping down an energy bar an hour before your race.  If you’ve managed to dedicate yourself successfully to the healthy lifestyle of running, hopefully you’re up to eating well, too.  There are obviously tons of resources out there on the topic, but our old post on optimal nutrition for runners isn’t a bad place to start.

One week out.  Okay, so it isn’t quite race day, but you’re definitely getting close.  A lot of us don’t realize just how important those last 5 — 7 days really are.  Phoning in those final workouts or pushing yourself too hard just before an event are both common mistakes that are paid for with a slower time and a more frustrating race.  Here’s how to prepare with one week to go.

  • Find your race pace.  One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself before you hit the race course is to develop a good, solid feel for what your race pace feels like.  With the excitement and adrenaline of the big day coursing through your system, it will be very easy to forget your usual race speed and feel very out of sorts as the starting pack begins to spread out.  Using a pace calculator like this one from Run the Planet can help you decide on a goal time and training with that in mind can help your body learn what race pace feels like.
  • Taper appropriately.  Two temptations are coming to mind right now: running obsessively to prepare for your race and stopping altogether in order to rest up.  Both are mistakes.  Elite athletes know that a HUGE part of performing well on race day is managing the taper — adjusting your workout intensity as a race approaches in order to be at your best when it matters most.  Check out this post from Runner’s World for a nice overview of what your workouts might look like on each of the seven days before a race.
  • Get your ducks in a row.  The week before your race is also a good time to make sure all your paperwork is in order and that all the little logistical issues are worked out in advance.  Check your registration, figure out how parking works, and get your race day bag packed.  The last thing you need is unnecessary stress or confusion when you’re trying to focus on your race.  The more you can do in advance to get ready, the fewer distractions you’ll have.

One day out.  The day before a race isn’t really a time to get faster or make any dramatic changes to your running philosophy.  You’ve already put in the work and all that’s left is getting out there and doing your best at the fun part.  Still, there are some things to keep in mind in those last 24 hours that can help set the stage for a successful race.

  • Eat smart.  As we said above, there isn’t anything you’re going to eat right before a race that’s going to dramatically improve your performance.  We’ve covered the basics before, but the best pre-race diet advice we can give you is to avoid surprises.  Stay away from unfamiliar foods and those that have a history of disagreeing with you.  You don’t want to be feeling last night’s dinner as you work your way to the starting line.
  • Hydrate.  Again, hopefully this one is a habit, but it’s important to keep in mind the day before a race.  Keep that water bottle handy so that you go to bed at night well-hydrated.  If you’re feeling thirsty or experiencing symptoms like chapped lips, you’ve already waited too long to drink.  Grab some water ASAP!
  • Get excited!  Whether you’re a world-class marathoner or a weekend 5k warrior, race days should be the highlight of your training season.  There’s excitement, competition, and tons of camaraderie among runners, so be sure to milk the experience for all that it’s worth.  You’ve earned it!

Four Olympic running performances to inspire your next workout

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to appreciate the Olympics (though it probably doesn’t hurt).  And while we’re sure you could turn on the TV or hop online and find inspiration from all sorts of sports at any given time of day as long as the Games are on, we figured we’d take a few minutes to share with you some of the most inspirational Olympic moments from modern sports history.  Because it doesn’t matter if you’re training for a gold medal, a personal best, or to cross that 5k finish line for the first time, we can all take something powerful away from the great runners who have come before us.

Here are four powerful stories that just might inspire your next workout.

Michael Johnson causes lightning to strike (twice).  Every once in a while, an athlete will come along who completely redefines what is possible in a sport.  Michael Johnson did just that in 1996 when he took gold in both the 400 and the 200, making him the first man to every accomplish that feat.  Check out Johnson and tons of other inspirational (non-running) stories at greatist.com.

Moral of the story? Take the most you could ever imagine accomplishing with your training.  Then double it.  You can do it.

Derek Redmond finishes the race (with his dad).  Redmond had dedicated his life to training for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.  His dreams of gold were shattered mid-race when a pulled hamstring yanked him from contention in a heartbeat.  With victory off the table, Redmond pushed through the pain to finish the race, crossing the line finally with the help of his dad.  Here’s the video, which is well worth a watch.

Moral of the story? Winning really isn’t everything, but sometimes finishing is.

Jesse Owens stares down Hitler himself.  It was 1936 and the Olympics were in Berlin.  African American Jesse Owens faced the toughest crowd of his career when he made history in the face of the Führer himself.  He was given a once-in-a-lifetime shot and performed at his best.  Read the whole story over at Olympics30.com.

Moral of the story?  Don’t let anyone intimidate you on race day.  Win or lose, you’ve earned your place in the competition.  

Wilma Rudolph beats the odds, every single day.  It was the 1960 Olympics in Rome and to make a long story short, Rudolph dominated like no other. She set records and won gold medals.  But the truly remarkable story is the one that starts the day she was born — premature, small, and weak.  Her childhood was plagued with illness and injury, sometimes making walking — never mind competitive running — nearly impossible.  If you ever feel like the deck is stacked against you when it comes to getting fit, Rudolph’s story might be just the motivation you need.  You can read the whole story now on ESPN.com.

Moral of the story?  Life may not be fair, but no matter what challenges your body throws at you, you can find a way to succeed.

Hope you guys are enjoying the Olympics as much as we are.  Get inspired!

Three incredibly important warm up tips (you may not have considered)

We all know that warming up is important. It’s the key to avoiding injury and performing at your best. Still…we runners tend to be creatures of habit and there are definitely some finer points of warm-up philosophy that you may not have considered. Here are three thoughts that are well worth keeping in mind as you prepare for your next workout.

Warm-ups are critical when you cross-train. As a regular runner, you probably know just what you need to do to get loose and ready before your run. Your body knows the deal and is probably well-prepared for the physical demands of your typical workout. But what about non-typical workouts? Maybe you’re going to mix things up and go for a trail run or do some hills. Or maybe you’re jumping into a pick-up game of basketball, hitting the pool, or trying a new Pilates class. This is where you need to be careful. Cross-training puts demands on your body that are often outside of what it’s used to. Warming up thoroughly is the best way to reduce the likelihood of injury as you engage muscles in ways outside of your usual training routine. While you’re at it, it’s important to realize that since you’re using your body differently, you should be warming it up differently, too. Check out this series of posts from LiveStrong.com which give you specific warm-up routines for different activities, from swimming to basketball to dancing. Don’t let that softball game at the company picnic turn into an injury you’re going to regret.

When the weather is hot, warm up smart. We’ve talked before about how important it is to adjust your warm-up in the face of cold weather. It’s just as important to have a weather-appropriate approach to warming up when it’s hot outside, too — and the answer is definitely not to skip the warm-up altogether. While hot weather does mean it should be easier to get your body up to operating temperature, it doesn’t mean you can let the sun do the work for you. The heat outside will only warm you up from the outside in. To be ready to perform and avoid injury, you need to heat yourself up from the inside out. Runningtimes.com has some great tips for getting warm quickly without wearing yourself out, pointing out that you can get loose and ready without wearing yourself out before the workout even begins. Especially if you have a race day in your future, it’s well worth the read.

Workouts vary. Your warm-up should, too. Whether it’s focused and vigorous or quick and casual, a lot of us go through pretty much the same warm-up routine regardless of the workout to follow. That might not seem like a big deal (warm is warm, right?) but if you think about it, it’s pretty intuitive that different workouts should be supported by different warm-ups. There’s a great, detailed post over at runnersworld.com that lays out specific routines appropriate for various scenarios. An everyday run, for example, might warrant a simple build-up in intensity over a half mile or so. Speed work on the other hand — like high-intensity sprints — is better preceded by more vigorous activities like quick sprints and focused circuit work. They’ve also got some good advice for treadmill workouts and even race day.

Mastering your recovery

You train hard.  But when it comes to getting stronger and faster, it turns out that  how you go about recovering after workouts can be just as important as the work you invest in the first place.  Recovering smart can help you get the most out of your training, squeezing more strength and speed out of every mile you log.

Here are four ways to recover (smarter).

Eat right.  Especially when a big motivator for a lot of runners is losing weight, it can be tempting to look at nutrition mainly in terms of calories taken in and calories burned off.  But how much you eat is only part of the equation.  What you eat is really the name of the game.  Making solid nutrition a priority can be the difference between being a weekend warrior and a serious high-performing athlete.  “Fueling Up: What to Eat Before, During, and After a Run” is a post we published last year that lays out some very specific foods you can eat  throughout your day to give your body what it needs to (A) perform well during your run and (B) rebuild properly afterwards.  The short version? Carbs before, protein after.

Ease in.  Motivational quotes and inspirational sayings aside, your body really doesn’t care to “hit the ground running.”  Warming up slowly and following a steady build-up in intensity will reduce shock on your body, allowing your muscles to focus on getting productively stronger rather than simply recovering from the unexpectedly intense paces you just put them through.  “Post-Run Recovery Tips” on runningtimes.com gives some good strategies for easing in, including building up to your workout pace over 4 to 5 minutes and mixing up workouts between (for example) hilly and flat runs to avoid over-stressing the same muscles again and again.

Cool down.  You just worked your tail off, blew the doors off of your last run, and generally nailed your workout — surely you’ve earned a flop down onto the couch to catch your breath, right? No matter how much you may have earned it, resist the urge.  Just like your body doesn’t like going from 0 to 60 at a moment’s notice, it doesn’t like slamming on the brakes like that, either.  There’s a reason your Bluefin programs include a cooldown at the end of each workout.  “5 Ways to Cool Down After a Workout” from MensFitness.com stresses the importance of gradually tapering off your workout and stretching out afterwards, pointing out that screeching to a halt after intense training can lead to muscle cramps and big fluctuations in blood pressure.  A few minutes of walking and a good solid stretch can make all the difference.

Sleep well.  One of the most counterproductive things you can do is try to train while depriving yourself of sleep.  Those solid hours of shuteye are not only when your body reenergizes to prepare for the day ahead, but it’s also when it does a lot of the basic recovery work needed to rebuild tired muscles after a hard workout.  As much as it might up your street-cred at the office, charging along on no sleep with a big mug full of coffee isn’t hero stuff — it’s hurting your training.  How Running Affects Sleep (and Vice Versa) from Running Research News  has some very detailed information about the science behind sleep for runners that more than makes the case for getting a good night’s rest.  The good news is that getting enough exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve sleep quality, so running hard and sleeping well are absolutely compatible and even complementary.

Managing your recovery is critical to anyone who wants to take their running performance to the next level.  What do you do to bounce back between runs?