What you should know before running your first marathon

After the New Year’s contest we hosted on Facebook, we realized most of you are thinking about running a 26.2-mile race this year! Congratulations!

For some of you, this year’s marathon will not be your first and you’re already training for the big day. But if you’re a beginner there are probably a lot of questions on your mind right now.

We want to give you a head start by sharing what you need to know before training for, and running your first marathon.

1. Becoming marathon ready takes time and commitment

Training for a Marathon

Training for a full marathon takes time and is very demanding. Depending on your fitness level, your marathon training plan can last more than 18 weeks and suggests that you run up to 5 times a week. Take our App Bundle 5k to Marathon Progression Pack as an example. If you have no running experience, you’ll begin at a slower pace with a 5K training program and gradually move up to a more challenging running routine, until you’re marathon ready. This will take 44 weeks!

Your training plan will include weekends and long runs, which can be very tedious after a few repetitions. So the time commitment and mental challenge is something you should be prepared for if you want to start training for a marathon.

2. You don’t have to lace up every day

Even if you’re excited with your progress and can’t resist to get out there, you should never do more running than prescribed in your plan. Doing too much can lead to injury and overall burnout. Rest days are an important component of any training program, as they allow your muscles to regenerate and get stronger.

You can also build strength, fitness and prevent injury with cross-training, which is any other form of aerobic exercise that supplements your running, by allowing you to use slightly different muscles. Swimming, spinning, aqua jogging, yoga and Pilates are excellent cross-training activities you could combine with your running routine.

3. You might gain weight

While some people lose weight when marathon training, some actually gain weight! How is this even possible with all of the running you’re doing? The answer is obvious: your body needs food to fuel such a challenging fitness activity. But taking control of your cravings isn’t easy and you might find yourself eating more than you’re burning off.

If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, try to figure out how many calories you need and focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet.

4. You can get injured

Injured runner

You’ll spend a lot of hours training to become marathon ready, so there’s a chance that you will get injured along the way. Acknowledging this possibility will actually help you to be more aware of injury warning signs. Runners who think they won’t get injured during the training period end up making injuries far worse, by ignoring their body’s signs and pushing through pain.

5. You’ll have to train outside

The treadmill might be your best ally when the weather conditions make it impossible to run outside. But doing all your marathon training indoors may actually sabotage all your efforts.

Since the race is done outdoors and you never know what kind of weather you’ll get on marathon day, you should do some of your runs outside and in less than ideal conditions. The more prepared you are, the better, and this includes running in the cold, heat and rain.

6. You’ll have to buy your running apparel in advance

Don’t buy new running clothes, shoes or gear to wear for the first time on race day. You never know if your new running gear is going to make you feel uncomfortable.

We advise you to stick with your tried favorites and to do a two- or three-mile marathon-pace run in your marathon outfit and shoes, four or five days before the race. This will give you time to adjust your gear just in time for the full 26.2.

This advice applies even if you’re running to support a cause. In this case, stay away from the cotton T-shirts (that usually have the charity logo on it) and choose running clothes made out of a synthetic material that wicks sweat from your body.

7. You won’t forget it

Running a Marathon

Last, but not least, you should know that, despite all the inhuman efforts you’ll make, running your first marathon is a life-changing experience that makes you realize you CAN do anything!

Are you racing this year? What will be your first marathon?

How to achieve your New Year’s running goals

The arrival of a New Year inspires most of us to dream big. Many of New Year’s resolutions are related to health, weight loss, fitness and, if you’re reading this article, running.

But from past experiences, we all know dreaming big isn’t enough to accomplish New Year’s goals. Turn your running resolutions into reality with these simple strategies:

1. Choose realistic and manageable goals

New Year's Resolutions

Despite all the quotes we read that tell us we’re capable of fulfilling all our dreams, that’s not exactly the truth. Unfortunately, setting New Year’s goals that are not realistic for you is just setting yourself up for failure.

But those motivational quotes aren’t wrong either. In fact, your chances of achieving your objectives are much higher if you choose more manageable, realistic goals.

This also means you shouldn’t try to change many different things at once. To avoid exhaustion, focus on your key goals and the path you need to follow to accomplish them.

2. Set small and attainable milestones

Running a Marathon

If your goal for 2015 is a really ambitious one, like running your first marathon, set smaller and attainable milestones. For example, try running a 10K and a half marathon before your 26.2.

This method will help you track your progress and keep you motivated as you achieve other great accomplishments along the way.

3. Get organized

With your busy schedule, it’s much easier to find an excuse when you don’t have your workouts planned ahead. Look at your weekly schedule and decide when you’re most likely to have the time to do the activities that are going to help you accomplish your goals.

And when you get out there, make sure you track your runs and write down all the information you think is important in a journal. It will help you stay motivated and hold you accountable. You can use a simple notebook or save your runs from your mobile phone, with our running apps.

4. Share your Goals

Share Resolutions

Some of us like to keep our New Year’s resolutions to ourselves. There’s no problem with that. But did you know that sharing your goals can actually help you achieve them? Telling your friends and family members about your goals will make them seem more real and you’ll get their support along the way.

You can also join a running group in your area and meet with them for regular runs. But if you can’t find one, try to get a friend or family member to be your running partner. You can set similar goals and even run your first marathon together in 2015!

5. Reward Yourself

If you’ve achieved a milestone, reward yourself with something special that will benefit your running. You can opt for a professional massage, new running shoes or gear. Just stay away from unhealthy food or activities, that can damage your progress.

What are your running goals for 2015? If you want to race or just stay fit, check our apps!

How to become a Marathon Runner in 2015

At this time of year we all look back at our victories and fails of 2014 and set new goals that we hope to accomplish in 2015. If running a Marathon is on your bucket list, we want to help you cross it off in 2015!

That’s why we’ve just launched 5k to Marathon Progression Pack, an app bundle that contains the best training plan progression that will help you get to the starting line, even if you’ve never run before.

This bundle includes four apps already used by thousand to accomplish their workout goals: Ease into 5K, Bridge to 10K, Half Marathon Novice 1 and Marathon Novice 1.

5k to Marathon Progression Pack

After finishing these four training plans, you would have ran over 700 miles, spent 44 weeks training and you will be Marathon Ready.

Here’s how we’re planning to help you achieve your running goals in 2015:

Ease into 5K: from beginner to 5K racer.

Let’s be realistic. At this point, with no running experience, you’re not ready to race. You first need to build mobility and stability, while learning how to run without injuring yourself.

The best way to do this is with a run/walk interval program, such as Ease Into 5K. With our app you’ll start at a slower pace, but you will be running a full 5k without walking in just eight weeks.

This training program is excellent if you’re trying to adjust your busy schedule to a running routine. All you need is 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week to complete this training program.

Bridge to 10K: time to double your miles

Now that you can race a whole 5K, you’re ready to focus on increasing your running distance. Let’s make it 10K!

Bridge to 10K training program alternates between walking and running and is specifically designed for Ease into 5K app graduates. This training program demands a little more of your time – 3 times a week, from 53 to 70 minutes – but it will take you just 6 weeks of training to be able to complete a full 10K with no walking.

Half Marathon Novice 1: crushing your first 13.1

Running 13.1 miles is challenging. Before starting to train for a half marathon, you need to possess a basic fitness level which shouldn’t be a problem after the previous 14 weeks of training.

Based on Hal Higdon’s training plans, Half Marathon Novice 1 will get you ready to complete a half marathon in 12 weeks. To accomplish your running goal, you should run three days a week, cross train two days a week and allow your body to rest when scheduled. During this training program, you will be running two regular runs and one long run – 4 to 10 miles – each week.

The Half Marathon day is also the last day of this plan. After 14 weeks of training you’ll be able to get to the starting line with confidence, which will give you a feeling of great accomplishment.

Marathon Novice 1: you’re a marathoner

Completing a Half Marathon will really give you an idea of what you’re capable of and motivate you to keep going further. That’s exactly what you need at this stage because now it’s time to prepare for the big 26.2.

With Marathon Novice 1, you’ll train to reach this running goal in 18 weeks with the help of Hal Higdon’s running advice.

Of all four plans this is the most demanding. You’ll need to run four days a week and complete two regular runs and one long run, that ranges from 6 to 20 miles. The plan finishes with the Marathon race day and a goal crossed off from the 2015’s bucket list!

 

Download 5k to Marathon Progression Pack and get started today! Good luck with your training.

If you already own some of the the apps in the bundle, you just have to pay the difference to complete the bundle.

iOS 8 Health App Integration

I’m really happy to announce the release of the latest version of our running apps. This update addresses a few remaining bugs with iOS 8 and adds one of the most requested features by our customers: integration with HealthKit and the new iOS 8 Health app.

The Health app serves as a repository for all your health and fitness data and is a great tool to get a comprehensive view  of your overall fitness activity.

Our apps can write Distance and Calories Burned to the Health app. They can also read and write the Weight, thus allowing you to use our app to keep track of your weight or use any other weight tracking app that integrates with the Health app.

So, here’s how to setup the integration with the Health app:

  • Once you open the app you will see the following dialog:

Configure Health app integration

  • Tapping on the “Configure” button will bring the Health Access screen where you can turn ON which data the app can read and write:

Turn On

  • Tap on the Done button and you are set.

After you finish a workout the Distance, Calories Burned, and Weight (if you entered it) will be saved in the Health app, and the Health app dashboard will look like this:

Health Dashboard

If you wish to change the access permissions after the fact you can do so by opening the Health app, tapping on the Sources tab, and selecting the app from the list:

Change access settings

The new update, version 3.5.7, is available on the App Store and the following apps have been updated to work with the Health app:

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!