Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Should I Stretch Before Running?

A question that I always get is "Should I stretch before running?".  The answer is yes, but probably not the way you're thinking.

What do I mean by that?  Most people don't realize there are two types of stretching: Dynamic and Static.  When most people think of stretching, they envision the old hurdler's stretch, touch your toes, etc.  Those are Static stretches but those should be done AFTER you run so that your muscles are nice and warm.  The stretches that I recommend BEFORE running are Dynamic stretches.  Dynamic stretches are movement stretches.

Before you run, I recommend that you do the following dynamic stretches:

  1. Arm Circles: Stand with your arms stretched out to sides.  Now make small circles with your arms while outstretched and gradually make the circles larger.  Once you get to big circles, revers the direction and start making smaller circles until you're back where you started. 
  2. Forward Leg Swings: While standing, swing one leg forward and back 15-20 times.  Repeat with the other leg.  Hold on to a wall or tree or a running partner if you need to in order to keep your balance.
  3. Side Leg Swings: While standing, swing one leg across your body and then back 15-20 times.  Repeat with the other leg.  Hold on to a wall or tree or a running partner if you need to in order to keep your balance. 
After you run, you'll want to do some static stretches.  Hold static stretches for a minimum of 20 seconds.  I recommend 30 seconds so you fully override what's called the stretch reflex.  It's the muscle's desire to snap back into its normal shape.
  1. Toe Touches: Siting on the ground or on the floor, with legs stretched out, reach forward and touch your toes.  
  2. IT Band Stretch: Standing up, cross your right leg in front of your left.  Bend down and touch your toes.  Hold for 30 seconds.  Repeat by crossing your left leg in front of your right.  You should feel this stretch the upper side of your legs. 
  3. Tree Hugger: Find a tree, a curb or even a wall and face it.  Place one foot so the ball of your foot is on the base of the tree, the curb or the wall and move closer to the object.  You should feel this stretching your calf muscle.  Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with your other foot.
  4. There's  another great stretch in which you lay on your back.  You have a stretch band or exercise rope looped around your foot.  Pull the rope so it raises your leg up like you are trying to get a 90 degree angle.  Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.  
If you need an exercise rope, I've listed a great one below.



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Should I Listen to Music while Running?

A common question I get is "should I listen to music while running.  My answer is always...wait a minute...yes...I mean, no...Hang on a second and let's think about it.

In all seriousness, it really depends.  Now keep in mind that this is just my opinion.  Listening to music has been proven to increase performance, so it would seem like you'd want to always listen to music.  I'll be honest, I can get seriously pumped up and ready to race while listening to "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor but for me, there's a time and place to jam while running. However, it's also been shown that loud music during exercise can - over time - damage your hearing.

If you are in the gym on a treadmill, or on a track running laps, then I say rock out!  It's a safe environment and you don't have to worry about any real hazards.  You're also probably not there as long as you would be out on the road for a long run.

If you are running on a trail or on the roads then I would recommend that you leave the tunes at home.  Here's why.  When you're running on a road, against traffic so you can see the cars coming, you need to be aware of your surroundings.  That's hard to do with one of your five senses taken away.  You might think a trail is OK, and while it might be most of the time, it can be very dangerous. I live in Asheville, NC and I LOVE to run on trails.  However, the trails are mostly mixed use meaning I could be coming around a corner and all of a sudden there could be another runner, a speeding mountain bike, or even a bear.  I'm not kidding!

One other reason I suggest leaving the tunes at home while running outside is that sometimes, we really need to just unplug for awhile.  Running for me, has always been an escape.  So unplug, and enjoy the sound of your breath and your footsteps as your cruise toward your new PR.




Monday, September 18, 2017

How Can I Enjoy Running Again?

I can't tell you how many people I talk to that say they used to run but somewhere along the way they lost their passion.  How they'd love to run again, but they just can't seem to get out the door.  I know personally what that's like as I am currently experiencing it too.

I was a runner.  If people asked me what I did, I wouldn't respond with "I'm a teacher" or later on "I work in elections"...I'd say, "I'm a runner!"  In 1998, my first baby came along and so the first thing I did was buy a baby jogger.  Now...I see lots of people use them, so perhaps I just got a bad one, but it did not work for me running at a 7 minute mile.  The jogger pulled to the left, the baby bounced too much at that speed...it was just awful.  So my running slipped a little.  Then baby number two...and then baby number 3.  Needless to say, for 6 years my running got less and less.

I'd say that 2013 was my last year as what I'd call a runner.  I ran a half marathon in 2:09.  The year before I had run it under 2 hours.  I was getting older, work was taking more out of me, and I just didn't have the drive anymore to get out there and run anymore.  For me, having always been competitive, it was hard to see my 5K times get slower and slower.  To no longer place in my age group.  I just didn't have the time or energy anymore to train the way I used to.

Eventually,  I stopped all together unless I was on vacation.  By the way...my optimal running weight of 135 lbs, back in the 1990's turned into 195 lbs earlier this year.  Do you have any idea what it's like to run wearing a 60 lb weight vest?  That's pretty much what I was trying to do now.  I'd go out and could barely run a block before having to stop.

This past summer though my son, an amazing soccer player, decided going into high school to run with the cross country team over the summer to stay in shape.  He ended up loving it so much, he dropped the idea of soccer, which he had played since he was about 6 years old, and was going to run!  He had run the year before on track.  He started in the mile, but ended up being a 400 meter runner and breaking a minute in the 8th grade!  I was super proud, because even when I was running a 5 minute mile in high school and college, breaking a minute in the 400 was near impossible for me. Anyway, seeing my son enjoy running, and telling me stories about running with the guys, it got me missing it.  I'd started going out and trying to work through the pain.  I was slogging at best...really slow jogging.  For me, it was not good.  For anyone I'd coach, I'd say any effort is fantastic!  But having been competitive, and still feeling in my head, like I should still be a fast runner, it was really crushing to go out and not be able to run like I used to.  So what am I doing?  How am I getting my passion back?

First off, seeing my son run has done wonders.  His love of the sport has been infectious.

Second, I've stopped wearing a watch.  My times were hard on the old spirit, so I've stopped paying attention. Now I just run for fun.

Third, I don't run the same training loop anymore.  I change it up.  I take turns I've taken before.  Go down new streets, take new trails.  If I have to walk, so be it.  I'm out exploring now.

Fourth, I've signed up for some races.  The financial cost plus the commitment of signing up keeps me getting out there because I know I have this race coming up.

Fifth - and this has helped me the most, is that I've stopped focusing on what I used to run.  That was my first 50 years.  I'm starting over with the next 50.  The Thomas Wolfe 8K I'm running in October will be my first 8K in this second half of my life.  The Hot Chocolate 10K I'll be running in January, 2018 will by my first 10K.  My old times no longer matter.

Sixth - and perhaps the most fun - is I dusted off the old mix tapes from high school and added those and some new stuff to a running playlist on my phone.  I listed in the gym or while driving to where I'll run.  I'm still not a fan of listening to music while running, but that's a different topic.

I hope this article wasn't too negative.  I've really been struggling with becoming older, fatter and slower.  Since I've started running again...I've lost 7 pounds.  I'm down to 188.  My goal is to get down to 150 lbs.  I encourage anyone to get out and exercise and certainly don't mean to say that if you're slow, you're not a runner.  I apologize if that's how this came off.  Again, I'm coming from a perspective of my own.  I used to be fast.  I used to be skinny and could eat whatever I wanted.  I used to be able to roll out of bed with very little training and still run a half-marathon.  So the fact that I can't do any of that anymore has been hard to handle.  I hope this article helps others like me to find their love of running again.

Happy Trails!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 Hot Chocolate 10K in Asheville

Just signed up for the 2017 Hot Chocolate 10K in Asheville.  It's January 21st and there's still room.  If you've never run it before, it's the flattest, fastest 10K you'll find in the mountains.


Want to sign up?  Click here to join me!



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