5 Winter Cross-Training Alternatives for Runners

Winter can be a challenging season for runners. But it also has to offer lots of opportunities to stay active, strong and fit, besides the most common option at this time of year: the treadmill.

Through alternative cross-training activities you can become a better runner by building additional strength and skills not offered by the straightforward movement of running.

Below, you can find 5 ideas that can change your training routine this season!

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is a great way to continue enjoying the outdoors while getting a complete workout. In fact, the motions and muscles used in cross country skiing are almost the same used in distance running.

Cross-country skiing works not just your lower body, but also your core, back, arms and shoulders and it helps building aerobic endurance with very little impact on the joints and tendons.

Many state and local parks and even some golf courses have trails to ski on. But if you prefer to move this activity inside, you can buy skiing on a gym machine.

Snowshoe Running

Running on snowshoes is a great alternative to your outdoor workout, but it takes some practice when you do it for the first time.

If done on a regular basis, it builds aerobic fitness and strength during the winter months. And once you’re back to regular running again, it will feel much easier by comparison.

Always keep in mind that snowshoe running is much harder than running on hard pavement. So instead of becoming frustrated and feeling out of shape, remember that it’s a different workout than road running.

Ice Skating

Ice Skating

Ice skating is a great addition to your workout routine and you can transform it into a social event and ask your family and friends to join you. This fun exercise will work your glutes, hips and core-areas we sometimes ignore during our runs.

At this time of year, it’s usually very easy to find a place to ice skate nearby.

Aqua Jogging

Aqua jogging is the same as running in the water and it is usually discovered by runners only after they get injured.

The water’s resistance affects your whole body, developing strength in your legs, back, shoulders, core and arms. It’s also great in boosting fitness and adding a non-impact element to your training.

Find a place in the pool where your feet can’t touch the ground and don’t forget to warm up and cool down for at least 5-10 minutes before and after.

Spinning

Spinning

There are several reasons why you should try cycling. It is non-impact sport, therefore easy on the joints, develops your aerobic capacity, improves stride cadence and builds strength in your quads, calves, hips and butt.

Many fitness clubs offer classes and equipment to help you achieve cycling fitness throughout the year, but if you’re not a big fan of gyms, you can always opt to do it at home.

Is your favorite cross-training activity on the list? If not, tell us how you keep fit during the winter months.

7 Tips to Improve Your Treadmill Running

A couple of weeks ago, we shared some tips for running in cold weather. Back then, the freezing temps were not stopping us from hitting the road, but recently the cold weather and the icy roads convinced us to move our workout to the treadmill.

We bet some of you are already doing your runs indoors, so we decided this would be the perfect timing to share some tips to make your treadmill running more effective, enjoyable, and safe!

Remember: you can still use your Bluefin apps when you’re working out on the treadmill!

Treadmill running

Choose the right treadmill clothes and running shoes

Because the temps indoors are higher, you’re likely to sweat a lot on the treadmill. Keep a towel handy, consider wearing lighter training clothes – such as a well-fitted technical T-shirt and a quality pair of shorts – and a sweatband or wristbands to catch excess sweat.
Even though the treadmill belt is a softer running surface, you can wear your regular running shoes, as long as they are clean. But you might be more comfortable wearing lighter, less cushioned footwear.

Hydrate during your run

When you’re running on the treadmill there’s little air resistance to help to keep you cool. Therefore, you can lose more water running on a treadmill then you would if you were running outdoors. To maintain good hydration levels, keep within your reach an easy to use waterbottle that you can operate with just one hand.

Don’t forget to warm up

It’s very tempting to just jump on the treadmill and start working out at your set pace. But you should allow time for a warm up to help make your workout as safe and effective as possible. To warm up right, walk or run at a slow, easy pace for 5-10 minutes.

Use incline to your benefit

Running on a flat treadmill (incline at 0%) is very similar to running down a slight decline on the open road. Since there’s no air resistance while running indoors, you should set the treadmill inclination to 1 – 2% to better simulate outdoor running.

But if you want to challenge yourself by increasing your base incline amount, avoid setting the incline to more than 7% – this may lead to Achilles tendon or calf injuries – and running at an incline of more than 2% for your entire run.

Always mind your posture

When running on the treadmill, try to maintain the posture you would have if you were running outside, by keeping your arms away from the handrail or console and at a 90 degree angle.
Also, the treadmill tends to pull your feet backward, so you’ll need to pull your feet from the belt before they are driven away in order to keep your body upright.

Focus on improving your stride count

Paying attention to your stride will help you to minimize the impact transferred to your legs and run more efficiently. In fact, elite runners can run about 180 steps per minute.
It’s very easy to determine your stride count. Just count how often one foot hits the belt in a minute and then double that number.To improve your stride count during your run, keep your stride quick and short, and your feet close to the belt.

Don’t forget to cool down

As it is tempting to skip the warm up, it’s also easy to hop off the treadmill when your workout is done. But if you want to prevent dizziness or the feeling that you’re still moving when you step off the treadmill, you should allow about 5 minutes to cool down. Before you get off the treadmill, do a slow jog or walk at the end of your run to allow your heart rate to go below 100 bpm.

Did you also stop running outdoors and start running on the treadmill? How did it affect your training plans?

5 Healthy Thanksgiving Eating Tips

The holidays are a time to be merry with those we love, drink, eat and… gain a couple of extra pounds. Thanksgiving is no exception. In fact, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average person gains one pound over the holidays and never loses it. No one wants that!

On the holiday season, stay on track with your healthy lifestyle while enjoying your Thanksgiving with these 5 eating tips:

1. Be prepared for Thanksgiving

Keeping yourself from eating on Thanksgiving is an unhealthy and non effective tactic. If you want to avoid overeating, instead of going into your Thanksgiving meal on an empty stomach, start your day with a well-balanced breakfast.

Eating a healthy breakfast jump-starts your metabolism, helps you get nutrients in before a great meal and keeps your hunger satiated, by preventing a sugar crash.

Opt for healthy and filling options, such as oatmeal with fruit, eggs and toast or yogurt. If you’re thinking on hitting the road on Thanksgiving, check out our pre-run suggestions.

2. A Healthy Feast

5 Healthy Thanksgiving Eating Tips

Your Thanksgiving meal doesn’t have to be unhealthy to taste good. Go through your favorite dishes’ recipes and replace all unhealthy ingredients with tasteful and healthy options.

Here are some of our suggestions:

  • Turkey is a great source of lean protein, but when eating it you’ll probably want to skip the skin.
  • Opt for olive oil instead of vegetable oil.
  • For a more nutritious option, consider mashing sweet potatoes – the orange variety – instead of regular potatoes.
  • When it comes to sauces, gravy is the better option. Canned sauces and cranberry sauce are very high in sugar content.
  • If you’d like to indulge in an alcoholic beverage, red wine is the best option since it is full of antioxidants.

3. Prioritize seasonal foods

On Thanksgiving, there is so much to try on the table that it is tempting to have a bit of everything. To enjoy all your favorite seasonal foods you have to prioritize the foods you love the most and don’t normally get the chance to eat.

Put on your plate the foods you want most first and if they didn’t satiate your hunger completely, go for more afterwards.

4. Drink an after meal tea

After dinner, put the kettle on and make yourself and your guests a cup of tea. This might not be the first after meal drink on your mind, but certain teas like ginger, peppermint, dandelion and green tea are great to aid in digestion.

Plus, this is a pleasant way of spending time with your friends and family, after the big Thanksgiving feast.

5. Work up that appetite

Even though this is not a true eating tip, it is probably the most important one.

If you go a little too far on Thanksgiving, do an extra workout later or the next day. And you don’t have to hit the gym to burn calories. Instead, go for a walk with friends and family, or play outside with the kids!

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!

 

What to Eat Before Your Run

Do you usually feel out of energy when you run? Before you lace up and get out there, it’s important to fuel your training with the perfect ingredients for optimal performance.

These simple tips will help you energize and get the most out of your workouts!

When to eat

What to eat before a run

When you begin your run, you shouldn’t feel neither hungry nor stuffed. In fact, eating before a run can cause cramping and not eating at all can lead to low energy levels while working out.

In general, after eating a big meal, you should wait 2 to 4 hours before running, and 30 minutes to 2 hours, if you just had a small snack. This is approximately the amount of time needed to fully digest your food.

 

What to eat before a run

What to eat before a run

There’s no ideal meal you should eat before hitting the road. Whether you’re a beginner or an athlete, you should always trial what works best for you. But when it comes to fueling up for a run, carbs are perfect allies.

For energy boosting meals before a run, choose something:

  • high in carbohydrates
  • that includes fluids
  • lower in fat, fiber, and protein
  • that has a reasonably high glycemic index score (GI). High-GI foods are absorbed faster and less strain is placed on the gut.

It might sound complicated, but it isn’t. Check out the chart below to learn what you can eat before get out of the door:

  • 2 hours before: 300- to 400-calorie meal containing carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Examples: cooked quinoa and grilled chicken; peanut butter and jelly sandwich; greek yogurt with fruit, nuts, and granola; or a cheese and veggie omelet with toast.
  • 1 hour before: 150-calorie snack containing easily digestible carbs and a little protein. Examples: whole wheat toast with nut butter; banana and small handful of cashews; or a small bowl of cereal.
  • 15 to 30 minutes before: small serving of easily digestible carbs. Examples: half a banana; applesauce; or raisins.

 

Which foods should be avoided

In addition to high-carb meals, you should always eat familiar foods, that you tolerate well and don’t feel too ‘heavy’ in your stomach.

Therefore, you must avoid rich, very fatty, spicy, or high-fiber foods, alcohol and drinking too much caffeine. These foods are well known causes of gastrointestinal distresses such as diarrhea and bowel upsets.

Want to add more tips to the list? Share your experience and 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!

Don’t Lose Your Journal During iOS 8 Update!

iOS 8 is here (or almost here)! Before updating, please take some steps to ensure your training history is safe.

While the vast majority of iOS updates happen without a glitch, sometimes an error happens during the update in which customers end up losing their workout Journal.

Our apps provide an easy way for you to backup your workout Journal via our RunHelper Connect service and ensure you don’t lose your training history. So here is a short guide for how to go about updating your iPhone / iPod touch and minimizing the risk of loosing your workout history.

Note:  If you are already using RunHelper Connect, you are all set as your workouts are automatically backed up (unless you manually turned auto backup off).

1) Backup your workout Journal with RunHelper Connect

Backup your Journal to RunHelper Connect

  1. Open your app
  2. Tap on the Connect tab
  3. Tap on the Join Now button and create your RunHelper Connect account. All users get a 30-day free trial!
  4. Tap on the Journal tab and then on the “Backup Now” button

2) Backup your iPhone / iPod touch with iTunes or iCloud

  1. See this article which describes various options on backing up your device.

3) You are now ready to install the new iOS!

iOS 8

If the iOS update process goes wrong and you end up with a blank Journal screen fear not! You can easily restore your Journal right from the app. Here are the steps to follow.

Restore Workouts

  1. Tap on the Journal tab
  2. Tap on the arrow button at the top right corner of the app
  3. Select “Restore Workouts”
  4. Select workouts to restore and tap the Restore button

In addition to backing up your data RunHelper Connect offers a lot more features like:

  • Access to RunHelper Connect Website
  • Workout Summary emails
  • Weekly progress emails
  • Ability to see all your workouts from all of your Bluefin apps at one place.
  • User Forums

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.

Hal Higdon Marathon Intermediate 1 and 2

We’re building more plans to fit your training style. Hal Higdon Marathon Intermediate 1 and Hal Higdon Marathon Intermediate 2 are available in the iTunes App Store.

Here’s the breakdown between the two new marathon apps.

Intermediate 1

26.2_I1_1024_RFor the experienced runner, this app offers yet another step up. You’ll go from 4 days of running to 5 days per week. The main difference between the intermediate programs and the novice programs comes on the weekends: a pace run on Saturday followed by a long run on Sunday. Plus you finish with two 20-milers, not just one. If you are serious about your running, Intermediate 1 may be the perfect program for you.

Intermediate 2

26.2_I2_1024_RThe gradual increase in difficulty continues. The simplest difference between Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 is more mileage. The app not only asks you to run somewhat more miles through the week, but you will run three 20 milers at the end, rather than two. Sound tough? It is.

 

No matter what your skill level, training for a half or full marathon shouldn’t be a stumbling block. Get your hands on a Hal Higdon app and you’ll be confident and prepared to run no matter what your starting fitness level may be. For details on all of Hal Higdon’s apps visit http://halhigdon.bluefinapps.com/

Image

Your Year in Review

Your Year in Review

For Connect members, we’ve made a special page highlighting your 2013 training! Check your inboxes or log in to your Connect account online to see your “2013 Year in Review” page.

We hope this year you’ll reach new distances, conquer new goals, enter more races, burn more calories, and have fun while doing it. Your successes inspire us to keep working towards creating new products to better your training experiences.

Not a Connect member? Create an account today and start the 30-day free trial. Upload all your workouts from within the app and we’ll send you your very own 2013 Year in Review. Sign up here.

Thanks for choosing Bluefin apps for your training.
Keep up the good work in 2014!

Alex, Tanya & the Bluefin Team