Sunday, August 31, 2008

Running 101: The Proper Form for Runners

When I run, go through a number of checks to make sure I am running as efficiently as possible. That's because I am always concerned that I will run out of gas before I reach my distance goal. Just to be sure my form was correct, I found the article Tips for Proper Running Form on which written by marathon runner Christine Luff. In her article, Christine discusses nine tips for proper running form.
Here's a summary of Christine's tips with some editorial comments:
Look Ahead
Most of my runs are early in the morning when there's very little light. Since I sometimes cross busy streets, I make sure my eyes are forward. I occasionally look side-to-side to gauge the traffic.
Land Mid-foot
If you land predominantly on your heals, you will slow your run which is inefficient. Landing on your toes will strain your calves and/or lead to shin injuries. I have made the mistake of running on my heals and my toes. In both cases, my legs were sore for a few days until I learned to land on the ball of my foot.
Keep Your Hands at Your Waist
When I first started running long distances, I thought that I should move my arms swiftly up and down just link a sprinter or a walk-runner. Waving my arms wildly, I found that got tired quickly. Then I saw a woman running with her arms at her waist, so I tried her approach and discovered this change was just what I needed.
Relax Your Hands
Keep your hands in a fist and/or clinched will lead to fatigue. And even the slightest fatigue can cause you to shorten your run. I generally keep my hands relaxed (open) or lightly touch my thumb and index finger.
Check Your Posture
I read somewhere that most runners make the mistake of leaning forward which can put more stress on your spine, neck and shoulders. If you keep a straight posture, you reduce the chances of fatigue and pain.
Relax Your Shoulders
The shoulders should also be relaxed and square. Do not hunch over.
Rotate Your Arms from The Shoulder
The natural tendency of some runners is to bend at the elbows which is a waste of energy.
Don't Bounce
Bouncing is a waste of energy too. Try to maintain a smooth stride that is low to the ground.
Keep Your Arms at Your Side
Swinging the arms side-to-side is a waste of energy. It can also cause you to lean slouch and breathe inefficiently.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hundred Push Up Update 5

Well, last night I started week 5 of the Hundred Push Up Challenge and I must say that this week is much tougher than last week. When I completed the routine, my chest and triceps were extremely tight. Not to mention, I was exhausted.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Running Is Way Too Cool

Just to get caught up, I ran an 8K on Friday, a 12K on Saturday and an 8K this morning. It should be no surprise that the Friday & Monday runs were much better than the Saturday run. That's because I waited until 8am to hit the road on Saturday - right after the sun had been out in full blast.

When I first started running Saturday, I thought, "Man it's a little hot (72 °F). But I can handle it." Well about half way through the run I had to pull over for 5 minutes because my body temperature and heart rate had gone too high (over 170 BPM) for too long. After a quick 5 minute break, I finished the second half of the run, came home exhausted and slept for 2 hours after a quick run to the local Costco.

I've got a lot of work to do to understand how to run more efficiently in warmer weather. Normally the temperature is between 55 °F and 65 °F when I jog in the mornings. Oh, well, more learning is better than no learning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Hill Training

Today's run was a 10K hill workout that worked pretty well for me. I finished with a 8.17 minute/mile pace even though the route I chose had quite a few hills and inclines. Hill training is important for runners for a number of reasons: it helps build stamina, strengthens the legs/tendons/ligaments, helps reduce injury and improves form. I found the article Everything You Need To Know About Hill Training on the website and wanted to share what I learned.

Uphill Running
When you are doing your hill training, it's important to remember that you must run differently depending on whether you are going up or down a hill. The article specifically says that when going up a hill, you should do the following:
  • Shorten your stride and take smaller steps if necessary
  • Slow your pace, specifically if you are out of breath
  • Maintain an upright posture
  • Use an ankle-flicking push-off rather than a full, explosive motion
  • Run through the top of the hill without stopping
  • Gradually accelerate down the hill

Downhill Running
A big problem with running down hill is that runners tend to sprint or fight gravity both of which can cause injuries. To avoid injury and maintain control, the article says that when going down a hill, you should:
  • Do not sprint down the hill!
  • Picture gravity moving you down the hill
  • Maintain an upright posture
  • Keep your feet close to the ground and land as light as possible
  • Emphasize quicker turnover rather than longer strides as your pace increases
  • Lengthen your stride only when you feel you are in control
  • If you find you are out of control, shorten your stride

The article also discusses six hill training techniques that I plan to use going forward. I will leave it to you to read the article on this topic.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hundred Push Up Update 4

I'm at week 4 of the Hundred Push Up Challenge. I completed 130 push ups and max'd out at 36 at the end of the routine. It would have been nice to do more than 36. Considering that I did all 130 push ups in less than 10 minutes, I am satisfied with the workout.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Energy Boosting 12K

After thoroughly enjoying my 5-day vacation, I jumped out of bed this morning with a plan to run a 12K. Even though I had to fight through a period of low motivation, I finished the 12K with a 8.30 minute/mile pace. Interestingly enough, the Fitness Tip of The Day was: "At times, you will not feel like exercising. If you're just feeling a little tired or low on energy, go ahead and try to complete your routine. The workout will likely boost your energy level and your mood."

I can say definitively that my energy level and mood get full-day boost after a run - today's run was no exception. Here are articles that discuss other ways to boost your metabolism:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Vacation...Taking It Easy

Yesterday morning I drove around the resort her in Nisswa, MN to see if I could find a good course to run. The best route would be to follow Route 77 since I could run for miles in either direction. I decided to just follow Lost Lake Road because Route 77 had a few inclines that would have destroyed this newbie. Even though route I took had very good inclines, I ran an 8.02 minute/mile 5K, yet another fastest time.

I am enjoying my runs here in the Land of 10K Lakes. I ran two of my fastest times here. And, my Hybrid Camry is getting nearly 40 mpg (ok, that was my shameless Toyota plug.)

I probably will not run again until I get home on Tuesday and get back on a regular schedule.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ride Like The Wind

The family and I are vacationing in Minnesota for the next few days. This morning I ran my best 8K ever - 8.33 minutes/mile. It was very encouraging to know that I could have gone a little farther. This means that I might be closer to the goal of running between an 8 and 8.5 minute/mile 10K.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Importance of Rest

After completing a 10K this morning, I added up the numbers and noticed that I have run almost 24 miles in 4 days. That's an average of almost one 10K per day since Saturday! You can imagine that my body wants a break and I plan to rest tomorrow. Why is rest so important?

Hall Hidgon, a well known marathon expert recommends the following for runners training for a 10K: "Rest is an important part of your training. Friday is always a day of rest in the Intermediate program. Be realistic about your fatigue level and don't feel guilty if you decide to take an additional day off. (Best bet is Monday.) Specifically consider scheduling at least one extra rest day during the stepback weeks." Hal has a lot of good information on running 5Ks, 10Ks, Half and Full Marathons. He's even posted FREE training programs!

The web site suggests: "Since a day only has 24 hours, we need to follow a heavy run with a "rest period" to give us the 48 hours needed for recovery. Some people do this by walking or running 3 or 4 times a week, with rest days in between. Others do this by following a heavy walk or run with a light walk or run." The latter type of training is called Cross Training which a combination of heavy and light workouts.

While I generally prefer to take full day to recover, my training program is a combination of Cross Training and resting in between long workouts/runs. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you clear your workout with your doctor!

Hundred Push Up Update 3
Yesterday I started at week for in my quest to meet the Hundred Push Up challenge. I was a little sore and was still able to finish all 5 sets of push ups.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Cool 12K

After running more than 35 miles in six days last week, I started the week with a 12K in the cool summer Chicago weather. The temperature must have been in the mid to upper 50's when I left my driveway this morning. And when I got home, I could not believe how cold my hands were. As with Saturday's 16K, my pace was very slow in the beginning. After the first mile, I picked up the pace a bit and considered running as fast as I could...nope, that would have been a bad idea because I never would have finished the run. The natural inclines of my path provided a pretty good workout too.

Hundred Push Up Update 2
I rested a few days before making another attempt to max out. When I got past 70 consecutive push ups, I thought I had the one hundred push ups easily. Then about 10 push ups later, I started to feel the burn in my arms and chest. I tried to go farther and was able to get up to 85 consecutive push ups. My goal now is to start with Week 4 and then finish the plan in the next three weeks or so.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Eight + Eight = Ten

No this is not new math. Today I ran two 8Ks which the equivalent of 10 miles or 16K. This is the farthest I have ever run and I did it with a 9.91 minute/mile pace while maintaining a 146 average BPM. I thought I would be a lot more tired and sore after the run. It seems that the new shoes and inserts are working well so far because I felt pretty good after I finished the 10 miles. The cooler weather we are experiencing helped tremendously. I did not perspire very much at all and like I said, my average heart rate was pretty low.

Why did I run so slow?
The experts say that when training for a race you should run about 90 to 120 seconds slower than your best pace when you run longer distances. Since I had never run a 16K, I really wanted to say I finished the run so my goal was to run slow. There were times when I wanted to run even slower than a 10 minute/mile pace. However, I found that I could pick up the pace a little and still keep my heart rate at a good level.

Ok, I need to drink my protein drinks and get some rest so I can be ready for a 12K on Monday!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hill Training

I got up at 4:50am this morning to run from my house to the neighboring subdivision, Graymoor. It didn't seem like much of a challenge to me initially. However, Graymoor has some inclines that will test a newbie's endurance. I finished my 5K in less than 27 minutes (that's about 8.6 minutes per mile). And as I sit here at work, I feel like I could use a nap...a real long one! Thank God I have an opportunity to get some rest on my train ride home this evening.

Now I must prepare myself mentally for the 16K I have on the schedule tomorrow. I drink a whey protein drink that I purchased from Lifetime Fitness last week. I might drink a little before I do the 16K in the morning to give me the energy I need to finish. If you are planning to do a 5K or 10K like me, here's training plan you can follow courtesy of

Hundred Push Up Update 1
I decided to take two days off last night. I'll be back at it Saturday.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Today's Run: 5K on The Treadmill

I took my run indoors today after running outdoors Sunday through Tuesday. I prefer the outdoors because:
  1. The weather and environment helps keep my body cooler which allows me to run faster and farther without overheating, i.e., reaching high a high heart rate.
  2. The outdoors is extremely relaxing and breaks the monotony of seeing the same view for the entire run.
  3. The outdoors allows me to train in an environments similar to my planned races. I am not against running on treadmill.
Hey, I started running on a treadmill. And here in Chicago, you have to run indoors at least part of the year, so treadmill runs are inevitable for me (I am not the kind of person who goes to the health club before work!)

Needless to say, I overdid the run a little (my average heart rate was way too high - about 160 Beats Per Minute). Even though I felt the weight of my legs for the last half of the run, I just had to keep running. Finished with an 8.85 minute/mile pace, just a .1 of a minute less than yesterday's 8K. Outdoors is just so much easier for me.

Gonna do that 16K from my house on Saturday after tomorrow's 5K.

Impossible is Nothing!

Can You Do One Hundred Pushups?

I found this site and thought I would pass it along. The site was created by Steve Speirs to challenge people to do 100 consecutive push ups. Steve provides a very good plan for meeting the goal of 100 consecutive push ups over a 6 week period. And, you only have to workout 3 days a wee (sounds good to me).

I am gonna try this soon and let you know how it goes. Just so you know, for the past 9 months I have been working out 3-4 times a week using The Perfect Push Up. I am able to do about 200+ push ups at each workout. When I got home from work yesterday evening, I maxed out just to see how many push-ups I could do. I only did 70 which was a little disappointing but good considering I did 200 push ups (in sets of 4) the day before.

Push ups are a very good way to tone the upper body, arms, and abs. And I have found this exercise compliments my running schedule well. Read more about the benefits of doing push ups and TAKE THE CHALLENGE!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Treating Exercise as A Project

Whether I am working in my garden, adjusting our wireless network, or painting a room, I treat work as a project: there's always a beginning and an end, tools or equipment I need to use, and milestones that help me see progress along the way. I find that this method helps time pass and keeps me focussed on the end result. If you can treat work as a project, why not view exercise as a project?

How I Run My Exercise Project
Every day I workout, I plan the start and finish of my routine. The night before I run, I review my equipment list: I layout my clothes, ensure my shoes are ok, check my Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) to make sure it works properly, drink plenty of fluids and try to rest my body as much as possible. Just before I run, I do a final equipment check. Finally, when I run I check my mileage, heart rate and pace periodically to ensure I hit the milestones I've set.

You do not have to be as anal as I am with my exercise project. However, developing an exercise project of your own could help you surpass some of those obstacles that have held you from incorporating running or other exercises into your lifestyle.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Training Program

I utilize a 10-week training program developed by Olympic Triathlon Coach Brendon Downey in cooperation with Polar, the sports watch company. I started the program on 7/1/08 and will complete the training on 9/19/08 - the day before I run in the South Holland Heritage Haul Awesome Blossom 10k. I may also run a few races before the Awesome Blossom...we'll see how the training goes.

The program generally looks like this:

12k / 14k / 16k / 18k (one of these, not all!)

Some days I do interval training or hill training, so the program varies a bit. On Saturday, I have my longest runs. This Saturday, I will do a 16k - that's 10 miles. I've never run more than a 12k, so pray for me!

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's The Shoes

Instead of running on Saturday, I decided to visit a local shoe store, The Human Race, to look for new running shoes. My legs were starting to hurt and I was beginning to develop blisters on my feet. I did not realize how much detail a runner must devote to his/her shoes. In the past I wore Nike running shoes exclusively. Well as soon as I walked in the store, the salesman pointed out that Nike running shoes are not as comfortable as others. And, I'd have to agree knowing how my legs hurt after running 10k or more, especially outdoors.

At this store, they take you through a series of tests to determine you are an under/over pronator (that's how much hour feet lean outward or inward). They also check to see if your stance is balanced to determine if you need shoe support. When I finished my tests, I ended up with a size 11 Adidas Supernova Sequence Control. I had no idea I needed to go up almost a full size for running purposes. However, after running a 12k indoors at LifeTime Fitness yesterday, I am convinced I made a good purchase. The run felt very comfortable and I ran my fasted 12k ever.

If you have any pain after you run and you have a similar store in your, I would highly recommend a similar set of tests to ensure you get fitted properly for your next pair of running shoes.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Getting Over The Hump Using Goals

Today's training run was a 5k (3.1 miles) that started and ended at my driveway. The goal this month is to run almost 128 miles - the most I will have ever run in a month! Mind you, I have run 80 and 90 miles respectively for the months of June and July, so the 128 mile for this month will be a challenge.

When I run, I find that the first .5 - 1 mile is the most difficult for me. After I have run for a mile, I am usually able to run for as long as I can. I only stop when I have reached my distance goal or when my heart rate gets within a few percentage points of my HRMax (178 BPM). Today was a bit of a challenge for me. My mind (the bad guy) and body teamed up this time and told me to quit after the first 1/4 mile. Well, the good guy in me said to keep I kept running until I hit the 5k mark. I got over the hump.

One key trait a runner needs is the ability to push himself/herself when the body says "No more!" Pushing yourself can be dangerous, but I see a lot of people who will quit running after a mile or less when they could do so much more for themselves if they fought it off and kept running. Hey, I know it ain't easy. A big part of my motivation is reaching my goals. Every time I run I have either a distance goal or a pace goal or both.

Setting goals is almost like having my own personal training, at least that's the way I view it. I would encourage everyone to set small goals first and then, as you progress , gradually increase the expectations for your goals. I would have not believed I could run at a 8.65 minute/mile pace after only 4 months. However, that's what I did today. And, I got over that hump too!