Author Archives: Alex

Check your tags — fabrics for summer runners

We’ve talked before about how to run smart as the temperature rises and ways to stay hydrated throughout the day.  Now that the Canada Day / Independence Day BBQ season has arrived, we’re once again reminded that it can get really, really hot out there — and that running effectively and safely requires being smart and thinking ahead.

We definitely recommend clicking through those links above for some basics of summertime running, but there’s another opportunity to improve your hot-weather running performance hiding right under your nose (or, more accurately, just behind your back).

We’re talking about your clothing tags, particularly on shirts, which will cover most of your surface area.  For a lot of people, cotton is the go-to fabric for both casual and workout gear in the summer.  If you’re not planning to sweat a lot and can wear something loose-fitting that allows your skin to breathe quite a bit, this might be fine.  But cotton is the last thing you want hugging your body when you’re doing longer endurance work (or just generating a lot of sweat).

It might seem like wearing a drenched shirt darkened from neck to navel in sweat should be a badge of fitness honor, but in reality that’s just a heavy layer of perspiration that isn’t allowing your body to cool itself effectively.  Synthetic materials — such as polyester, nylon, or spandex — will help wick away sweat and allow it to evaporate into the air, which is precisely how your body’s cooling system is supposed to work.  Putting a layer of spongy, sweat-absorbing cotton between you and the outside air makes things a heck of a lot less efficient.

So if you want to run as cooly as possible as the temperature rises (and perform better as a result) take a look at those tags tickling the back of your neck.  Making some strategic adjustments to your running wardrobe can made a huge difference this summer.

Three and a half (Awesome) alternative energy bars you can try today

On Monday, we talked about some natural, practical alternatives to traditional sports drinks.  Today we have some similar alternatives to those energy bars that are so tempting for grab-and-go nutrition.  If you look at the ingredient labels (aside from seeing lots of things we can’t pronounce), you’ll notice a lot of the times that the fat and calorie content is on par with the unhealthiest candybar on the shelf.  Here are some simple ways to get the benefits of a high-energy snack while avoiding the junk.

Snack smart.  Your snack doesn’t have to be shaped like a bar to provide solid, convenient energy.  Think ahead and grab some easy, self-contained fruits like bananas or apples, which are pretty much as convenient as an energy bar anyway.  Less handy but just as good are a container of diced pineapples or grapes.  These foods can leave your feeling lighter on your feet than an energy bar would.

Bake your own.  If you really like the idea of energy bars, you can save yourself some money and avoid a lot of extra additives by making them yourself.  There are TONS of recipes out there, so you should be able to find something online that meets your tastes.  Here’s one from, but there are plenty of different approaches to try.  On the whole, they tend to be pretty easy to make.

Mix something up.  If baking isn’t your thing and you just want to whip up something quickly, making your own high-energy trail mix is a great alternative.  Choose your favorite items and mix them up in a bag.  That’s all there is to it.  Some solid ingredients to consider are nuts, cranberries, almonds, raisins, and even chocolate chips for a sweet bonus (darker is healthier).

Skip it.  Unless you’re doing serious endurance work, chances are that you don’t really need a concentrated dose of energy before a workout (assuming you are eating properly otherwise).  Keep in mind, depending on your training goals, that there are usually a lot of calories packed into high-energy snacks — that’s kind of the point.  So unless you are training hard enough to work off the extra intake, you might want to consider focusing on mealtime as your main source of both calories and nutrition.

Three and a half awesome (alternative) sports drinks you can try today

In the past, we’ve always recommended good-old-fashioned water as the best way to stay hydrated throughout the day or during a workout.  Of course we also realize that sometimes you want a little extra kick, not to mention some additional vitamins and electrolytes your body can use to keep firing on all cylinders.  More and more, athletes are passing on the traditional bottled sports drinks in favor of more natural alternatives, skipping the artificial flavors (and neon coloring) along the way.

Here are three (and a half) easy ways to do exactly that.

Try coconut water.  In some circles, coconut water is being passed around as the latest superdrink — a high-potassium, low-sodium way to replace electrolytes and improve performance.  Realistically, it’s probably more on par with plain water in terms of hydration benefits, but if you like the taste and feel good about drinking it, by all means give it a try.  It’s a little pricy to be downing all day long, but makes a good post-workout treat or warm-up drink to mix things up a little.

DIY brewing.  About as easily as you’d make a pitcher of iced tea, you can brew up your own Gator/Power-ade replacement, avoiding the high sugar content and hard-to-pronounce ingredients.  Here’s a quick, natural recipe that starts with water, green tea, coconut water, or another base and adds salt for electrolytes and fruit for flavor.  This is one you can adjust for large or small quantities depending on what you need.

Quick mix.  For a faster, simpler version of the brewing approach above, you can actually just mix up a bottle, chill in the fridge, and be ready for action.  There are some good instructions over at that pretty much require you to mix and drink.

Even quicker mix.  Okay, this one barely counts as a sports drink, but it’s perfect if you’re in a hurry and water just isn’t doing it for you on a given day.  Try just slicing up (or dropping in whole) a few pieces of your favorite fresh summer fruit into your water bottle to add some flavor and vitamins.  It’s an unbelievably easy way to add some variety to your hydration without worrying too much about it.

Six legs are better than two — running with your pooch

There’s not a whole lot better than going for a good, long run with your dog by your side.  Though if you’ve never trained alongside your canine friend, you might wonder how you go about it.  After all, dogs can find themselves out of shape just as easily as people and you don’t want to wear your dog out or risk an injury by going too hard, too soon.  Here are some tips for getting an inexperienced dog running like a champ.

Let them grow.  While the boundless energy of a new puppy might seem perfect for logging miles, growing dogs are just not ready to train that way.  Their bodies are still developing and excessive running can put excessive stress on joints.  Wait until your dog is fully grown before logging miles.

Ease into it.  Unlike people, dogs can’t tell you if they’re going too hard or too fast.  Plus their natural enthusiasm might make them push harder than is safe in the name of fun or to please you.  The only way to safely get your dog up to speed is to start slow and build over time.  Be sensitive to cues of discomfort like licking paws, panting excessively, or refusing to run.

Be sensitive.  Above all, it’s important that you are willing to respond to your dog and know when to go easy.  Your instincts might tell you to push through your own discomfort, but if it seems like your dog is struggling, it’s probably time to take a rest.  Don’t let finishing your workout compromise the health of your pet.

Be prepared.  It might cramp your running style a little, but it’s still important to have the right puppy gear handy on your run.  The leash, some water, and waste bags are all good ideas, depending on your running locale and logistics.

The real deal on footwear for runners.

A runner in New York is upset with (translation: suing) Adidas, claiming that he was “duped about the potential fitness benefits” of a new shoe designed to mimic barefoot running.  You might remember a similar shoe controversy when consumers were awarded a multi-million dollar settlement from Sketcher’s over the company’s claims about their funky Shape-up line.

These are obviously a couple of pretty extreme cases, but they both point to something very important for runners: be realistic with your expectations when it comes to shoes (or any other piece of fitness equipment for that matter).

Yes, choosing the right shoe is important and can have a big impact on your training.  But know, the newest or most expensive footwear on the planet isn’t going to make a radical difference in your performance.  You’re still the one doing the work.

If you’re in the market for new shoes or are just exploring the possibility of trying something a little more radical than a traditional pair, we’ve pulled a couple of old posts out of the archives for you.  These don’t cover space-age technology or the newest super-shoe — just the basics of shoe selection that matter to serious runners.

If you’re interested in what’s on your feet, take a moment to check out last Summer’s post “What shoes should I wear…”  For general tips on taking good care of the ones you have, take a look at “How to treat your running shoes right.

And by all means, if you do find yourself with a shoe you feel strongly about (good or bad), please let us know about it.  We’re always curious about what people are using out there!

Four ways to share the love

While it’s true that, at a glance, runners can appear to be solitary creatures, we also tend to enjoy spreading the good word about the sport.  From favorite races to running tips to training programs, runners love to talk shop.  We like to think Bluefin programs bring something unique to the conversation, but it’s our regular users who typically spread the word better than we ever could.

If you’re a believer and are looking to share some Bluefin love, here are four easy ways to do it.

Share your progress.  All of our apps integrate Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to easily broadcast your training results after each workout.  Posting your progress will not only help motivate you, but it can get your friends and followers motivated as well.  Seeing your success week after week just might inspire a couch potato or two to step up to the plate.

Choose a race together.  Take a look at the calendar with your potential training buddy and show how with a few workouts a week they can be race-ready in plenty of time for the big day.  You don’t necessarily have to run together, but following the same program week to week can give you both some support.

Be generous.  In the grand scheme of things, most apps make for pretty inexpensive gifts and setting a friend or loved one up with just the right one can really make an impact.  If you know someone whose been trying to get going with a training program but just hadn’t managed to pull the trigger, getting them set up could be just the push they need.

Raise the bar with your running group.  If you have a circle of running buddies, help motivate the group to build speed and distance with a Bluefin program.  If, for example, they’re pretty confident 5k runners, suggest that the team start working through Bridge to 10k.  Even serious runners run the risk of falling into a training rut and continuing to push for longer, tougher races is a great way to keep moving forward.

Looking to stay in the loop on Bluefin happenings?  Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Celebrating Dad (like a runner)

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, lots of us are still trying to come up with the right gift or even just find the best way to tell Dad how much we appreciate him.  Well we’re definitely not in the greeting card or necktie business, but we do have some ideas for how you can share your love of running in a way that shows just how much you care.

Get him started.  We have a Bluefin app for just about every training scenario, so whether Dad is an ex-athlete looking for a way to get back on the horse or a fitness novice who wants to get into shape later in life, we’ve likely got a program that would work.  From Power Walk to Hal Higdon’s marathon program, apps are an inexpensive gift that are easy to give.  Check out the full suite here.  (Great for last-minute shoppers.)

Bonus points: If Dad doesn’t have Android or an iPhone, consider bringing him into the future with new hardware.  The logistics of giving a cell phone as a gift can be tricky, but an iPod Touch with an app or two preinstalled is a piece of cake.  If you have brothers or sisters, make them pitch in.

Take a Father’s Day run or walk.  Apps (and neckties and grilling gear) are great, but honestly the best thing you can do for most dads is spend some time showing them you care.  Make Dad your training partner this weekend and log a few miles together.  Let him set the pace — running if he’s into that or just going for a nice walk if he’s not.  Obviously it isn’t about speed or distance…just spending time together.

Bonus points.  Have siblings?  See if you can pull everyone together as a group for your run or walk.  There’s nothing quite like having the whole brood in formation, honoring their dad.

Get fit together.  Anybody can be a good kid on one Sunday a year, but if you want to really raise the Father’s Day bar, commit to some longer term training with Dad.  Decide on a program, get each of you set up with the appropriate app, and work together to complete it.  The motivation of a training partner will help both of you.  Keep in touch online or on the phone and share progress from week to week.

Bonus points?  Run together.  It probably won’t be realistic for the two of you to do daily train as partners, but definitely make an effort to convene at least occasionally.  Maybe schedule a run together every couple of weeks to check in or agree to complete a race together once the program is complete.

Hope everyone has a great, healthy, happy Father’s Day.

Bootcamping with a buddy

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of running in a group or with a training partner.  Have you considered doing the same for your Bootcamp workouts?

(For the uninitiated, Bootcamp is our circuit training app that guides you through  standard or custom circuit workouts just like our other apps do for your runs.)

It might not seem like an ideal group activity, with everyone plugged into their headphones and jumping from exercise to exercise, but there are a couple of ways to run a great group Bootcamp session that’s both fun and motivational.

Here are some thoughts:

Follow the leader.  Even if just one person in your group has the app running (It’s you, isn’t it?  We bet it’s you.) and wants to take lead, then everyone else can take their cues from there.  Put the leader out front where everyone can see and have him or her call out the transitions for the group.  Make sure everyone knows which exercise is next.

Share the audio.  Even if everyone has the app, it isn’t always practical to sync everyone up to run the workouts independently.  There are a couple of ways to share the audio without using headphones that will let everyone follow along.  Plug your device into the AUX jack or docking station of your stereo and everyone should be able to hear just fine.

Geeky bonus approach: If you have a newer iPad with mirroring set up on your TV, you can actually stream the bootcamp display along with the audio for everyone to see!

Collaborate on a custom workout.  A great way to make your circuit work fun is to use Bootcamp to work together and create a custom workout.  On the Home screen, tap “New Workout” and let the first person in your group drag and drop one exercise into the “Workout” area.  Pass the device until everyone has contributed one or more exercises (keep going until you reach an agreed-upon length) and then fire up your workout and do it together.

What’s your long run?

We’ve designed our programs to help you get from point A to point B, whether that’s from couch potato to 5k athlete or from wherever else you may be to a 10k,  a half marathon, or even a full 26.2 miles.  As we mature as runners and get more fitness and experience under our belts, we usually start to layer in some additional workouts that, training plan aside, are just good for your  fitness in general.

A weekly long run can be one of those workouts.

No matter how fast you get or how intense your everyday workouts become, there are huge benefits to making time for a solid, moderately-paced run (often the last workout of the week).

This isn’t a time when you go out to set a personal best or impress the neighbors with your interval speeds.  It’s a time to put the cruise control on, let your mind wander, and log some steady miles with good form and low intensity.

Why’s that so important?

When you do challenging interval work — burning muscles, heavy breathing, music cranked — you are definitely making your body stronger and becoming a faster runner.  What longer, lower intensity work can do is help you build a good cardiovascular base that will serve you well in the long term and help your body perform better during your higher intensity training.

Making time at the end of the week for a long easy run can help you flush out any soreness built up over the week and help you start the new week fresh and energized.  You’ll also be improving your cardio and helping your body recover more efficiency overall.

And if that isn’t enough reason to get you out there, a longer, no pressure run can be downright relaxing , too.  Give it a try this week (start planning for it today…maybe reserving Saturday or Sunday for your long run).  Just get out there and log some miles.  And don’t worry about your time!

Eat Smart: BBQ for Runners

A great day for a barbecue is usually a great day for a run, too, right? Yet somehow it doesn’t seem like very many of us are getting up from the picnic table feeling energized and excited about a workout.

It probably has something to do with the tendency to stuff ourselves with all manner of summertime goodies that leave us feeling more like relaxing by the fire than lacing up running shoes. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way! Check out some delicious BBQ alternatives to the usual hot dog and hamburger fare that won’t weigh you down or wreck your diet for the week.

Less turf, more surf. Whether you are making steaks, kabobs, or burgers, you can usually get away with swapping beef out for some much-more-healthful seafood. Try grilled fish instead of beef steak, chicken on your kabobs, or salmon paddies on that burger bun. You still get to enjoy a traditional approach to barbecue with something much lighter and easier on your system (maybe even tastier, too).

Get creative with corn.. Corn is good for you. Tons of salt and a personal stick of butter to roll it in…not so much. Try spicing up your corn with seasoning and tossing it on the grill. It’s delicious and you can pretty much enjoy as much as you want without feeling like a slug.

Choose your kabob. You can put pretty much anything on a kabob, but steak is usually a mainstay. Try going heavy on the veggies and light on the meat, maybe even swapping in some chicken instead of beef. And seriously…eat the veggies and mushrooms. They aren’t decoration!

Eat more chicken.. Chicken is great on the grill, but it pretty often takes a back seat to other (heavier) barbecue meats. Get your meat fix with some grilled chicken and one of your friends’ “top secret” sauce recipes. A great sauce can even steal the spotlight from a decent burger.

Go veggie. If you really want to go for it, consider passing on the meat altogether (though in some circles, this might require you to endure some passionate jeering from BBQ aficionados). Vegetables, pasta dishes, salads, and even more creative options like grilled pizza can leave you satisfied and feeling like a million bucks.

We hope some of these ideas will help you feel good about BBQ season and squeeze in a workout or two that might have otherwise been claimed by one hamburger too many. And if anybody gives you a hard time about your fitness-minded selections, consider inviting them out for a run later. Enjoy!