Saturday, November 26, 2011

Workout Friday #2: Mile Repeats

Back again with another butt-busting workout that runners both fear and love: Mile Repeats.
Mile repeats are a longer interval designed to push you just out of your comfort zone. The purpose of doing a mile repeat is to help build up speed, it's essentially like a weight workout for your legs because of the effort put forth.
Depending on the type of race you are training for, your number of reps will vary greatly. Since the workout I'm describing here has an 800m active recovery, or float, the number of reps is going to be lower than your typical mile repeat workout with a static recovery. Refer to the table below to find out how many reps you should do.
Workout Breakdown:
As with any sort of speed workout, start off with about a mile warmup.
Main Set
  • 1600m at a pace that is just uncomfortable for the distance you're training for
  • 800m float (pace that is just barely comfortable) for recovery
When you finish the 800m float, go straight into the next 1600. There is no stopping and resting in this workout. After all the repeats, take a minute or so to get your heart rate down and then go for about a mile cooldown.
Depending on how many reps you're doing, the total mileage will range from 6.5 miles all the way to 12.5, including the warmup and cooldown miles. If you have any doubts as to what pace you should be doing for this workout, I have included a pace calculator specifically designed for mile repeats to tell you your splits.
*To make this workout a little easier, replace the 800m float with a static rest (stand and wait) of about 3 minutes. Add on two repeats to get your mileage up, and you're good!
Now get out there, get fast, and enjoy The Life of a Runner!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #9 (Pearl Izumi Streak II)

Pearl Izumi Streak II
Support Category: Neutral/Lightweight
Weight: 7.6 oz (size 9)
Cost: $110
Available in Widths: No
Multiple Colors Available: Yes
Durability: 250 - 300 miles
Updates from Previous Model: Lower heel collar, Energy Foam forefoot cushion, Ortholite sockliner
Upper: Lightweight, supportive, mesh, seamless
Arch Height: Low
Heel-Toe Drop: 9 mm (20mm heel, 11mm forefoot)

Shoe Specs
The Pearl Izumi Streak II is one of Pearl Izumi's few performance running shoes. Designed to be a racer for any distance from 5k to marathon, the Streak is a lightweight but sturdy shoe. Pearl Izumi prides themselves in making a 360 degree lacing system with internal eyelets to really cinch up the midfoot wrap around the instep. In addition, a new feature in the Streak II is that the lacing and lace webbing is made from 100% recycled materials.
  • Heel- This show has a very low heel collar, meaning it does not come very high on the Achilles. This can be a good and bad thing. It is a good thing because it won't rub at all when you are training/racing. However it can be a bad thing if you are prone to your heels slipping in a shoe because you are sitting much higher with this one than in others. In terms of fit, it is a snug, grippy heel, good for people with narrow heels.
  • Instep- With their top-notch lacing system, this shoe can really be as tight or loose on your instep as you want. This is definitely the best shoe brand for keeping the shoe fitting well on your instep. The upper hugs the entire midfoot by wrapping from the top almost to underneath the arch for maximum support and security.
  • Toebox- The Streak II offers a narrow toebox with low vertical height. This means the shoe almost comes down to a point at the toes with the upper being barely above the toes and hugging lightly on the sides of the feet. If you have wide feet at all, this would not be a comfortable shoe.
  • Flexibiliy- As a general rule, racing/lightweight shoes are going to be flexible. The same holds true with the Streak II. Rated on a scale from 1-10 (with 10 being most flexible), this shoe stands at about a 7, which is where you would want to be with a structured neutral shoe. It bends with the foot in every way possible while still holding true to the racing last it sits on.
  • A look at the lacing system
  • Cushion- A bit more padded than you would expect in a shoe from this category. Lots of cushion in the heel tapering down to a little bit under the forefoot, lead to an approximate 6 out of 10 on the cush scale. I will say that because of the extra cushion, it makes it a great shoe for longer speedwork days or even racing a long distance.
Personal Experience
I have only used this as a speedwork shoe. I've gone about 50 miles or so on it so far and it is holding up great. For the days where I'm running 8 to 10 miles of speedwork, there isn't really another shoe in my closet I would rather go to because of the durable cushion that protects my feet from the extended intense pounding. The only real negative I have to say about the Streak II is that the heel collar is really low and gives a slipping feeling if you don't tie a runners knot. Other than that, it's a great shoe. Reasons I like the Streak II:
  • Lightweight and Durable
  • Ties really well and holds my foot in place
  • Not any more expensive than other shoes on the market
  • I feel this is Pearl Izumi's first shoe they have done really well
So if you're in the market for a new racing shoe or lightweight trainer, go try on the Streak II. This is not a shoe I would go out to buy solely because it is the most comfortable shoe ever and that lasts longer than my other shoes. I would get it if I was in the market for a new pair and looking for something a little lighter weight than my other shoes. Or if I was having problems with shoes slipping, I might try this shoe with a runners knot. Overall this shoe gets a 6 out of 10 for me, it's a good shoe, but not my favorite.
To keep up with Life of a Runner, like us on Facebook!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Workout Friday #1: Advanced Speedplay

I'm back! At long last I have come back to help make everybody enjoy living the Life of a Runner! This time I'm back with a new weekly recurring article called "Workout Friday" where I break down a track/speed workout. This week we are going to talk about a workout I don't really have a great name for, so I call it "Advanced Speedplay".

This is a workout designed for people who are training for anything 10k or longer. A long 2500m set is repeated anywhere from 3-5 times depending on your skill level and distance you are training for. Follow this table to determine how many reps you should do.
 Workout Breakdown:
Start off with a 1 mile warmup at an easy relaxed pace, just to get your muscles loosened up.

Main Set
2500m without rest
  • 200m at 800m pace
  • 400m at 5k pace
  • 1600m at 10k pace
  • 300m at All Out Sprint pace
After the sprint take a 3 minute static rest (just stand around for 3 minutes), and hop right into the next one.

When you're done with all your reps, take about 3 minutes before going and doing a 1 mile cooldown.
Depending on how many reps you do, your total mileage can range anywhere from 6.7 to 9.5 miles (including the warmup and cooldown).

If you don't know what speed you should be going, I have included this pace program specifically designed for this workout to tell you your speed (a feature I plan on having for all Workout Fridays).

Good luck with this workout, and don't push yourself too hard. If you have any suggestions for a workout for next Friday, leave a comment below, or tell me how you like the workout either here or on Facebook! Thanks for reading and enjoying The Life of a Runner.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #8 (Altra Instinct)

Altra Instinct
Support Category: Neutral/Minimalist
Weight: 8.8 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: No
Multiple Colors Available: No
Durability: 300+ miles
Updates from Previous Model: Debut!
Upper: Lightweight, soft, supportive, and airy
Arch Height: Low
Heel-Toe Drop: 0 mm

About Altra
Altra is a new shoe brand which focuses on natural running. Natural running is defined as a straight back, slight forward lean, midfoot strike, and a cadence of 180 (180 steps per minute). The way Altra achieves their goal is by designing shoes that have no drop from heel to toe and developing a naturally wide toe box which molds to normal foot anatomy. Zero drop in your shoes means the heel is the same height in the shoe as the toes. In your typical performance running shoe, you will see about a 12mm drop. With no drop, you are forced to land on your midfoot, which means you will not be heel striking and naturally landing with a softer more efficient foot strike. A naturally wide toebox is built into the shoe to allow for a weight bearing toe splay while running, which also emphasizes a gait similar to running completely barefoot. The reason runners would want a natural running form is to help prevent injuries and become more efficient, which leads to faster, longer runs.

Shoe Specs
The purpose of these running shoes is to be completely different than anything else out there by giving you the most natural stride possible while still protecting your feet from the ground. It is one of three gender specific shoes offered by Altra, the Intuition being the women's model. 
New Balance 890 (left) vs Altra Instinct (right) in forefoot width
  • Heel- An overall loose fit on the heel, but grippy enough where you won't feel like you are sliding out of it. The collar is cut much lower than other shoes, so you will feel nothing pressing up on your ankles or rubbing the back of your Achilles.
  • Instep- As with most shoes, the tighter you tie the laces, the tighter it's going to be on your instep. Unlike some shoes that have been coming out lately, the Instinct has very few overlays and seams, so there is no rubbing on the sides of the foot. In addition, it boasts asymmetrical lacing, which follows the natural curve of the fit, leading to a more biomorphic(form-fitting) instep.
  • Toebox- I mentioned earlier about the toebox being one of the features that makes the Instinct unique. It has a much wider toebox that does not come to a point like a typical run shoe. It gets wider toward the end then finally rounds off leaving it open for that natural toe splay.
  • Flexibility- With a shoe that focuses primarily on giving the runner a natural gait, flexibility it key. This shoe can bend in any direction with your foot while still maintaining a sense of stability where you won't feel off-balance. It provides a structured yet free-flowing feel.
  • Cushion- Yet another aspect that separates the Instinct from other shoes is that it comes with 2 different kinds of insoles. One is a super soft cushy insole to help give a little support, while the other is not as soft and is designed to help strengthen your muscles and tendons. Adding to the versatility, this shoe can also be worn without insoles, giving it a rigid barefoot feeling. So I would say depending on the insole you have in, it could be a 2, 6 or 9 out of 10.
A Little Personal
Being a minimalist by nature I saw these shoes and immediately decided I had to try them out. I placed my order and got them very promptly. As soon as they got in I took them out for a spin. My first run in them was a 6 miler and let me tell you, they are comfortable. Despite being a little heavier than my other minimalist shoes, I still consider these a top contender. The reason being is that when I wear these shoes, I don't feel like I'm running barefoot, I feel like I'm running natural. I have the same gait as if I was wearing Vibram FiveFingers, but I have the same support as if I was wearing the Nike Lunarglide. In that sense, the cushion is what sets it apart from other minimalist running shoes. Since my first run, I have taken it out a few more times, with the longest going up to 8 miles. This is a shoe I feel confident enough to do up to 20 miles in. For those of you who are thinking about going minimal, give this one a try before you go pick up the FiveFingers or the Minimus Trail. My favorite things about this shoe:
  • Gives me a natural gait while still providing a secure feeling
  • It will last much longer than other minimalist shoes
  • The multiple insole option
  • The softness of the shoe
Let me end my review with a little disclaimer. Do not expect to be able to run the same amount of mileage in these shoes right away. As with all minimalist/barefoot shoes, you need a transition period of about 1-4 weeks to allow your calves and tendons to strengthen up and get used to the new gait. Even though you will feel like going out and running 100 miles, don't do it. Just take your time and enjoy your new found natural stride. I hope you learned a little bit today about Altra Running Shoes and are enjoying living the Life of a Runner.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #7 (Brooks Green Silence)

Brooks Green Silence
Support Category: Neutral/Racing
Weight: 6.9 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: No
Multiple Colors Available: Yes
Durability: 250-300 miles
Updates from Previous Model: Original!
Upper: Lightweight, minimal, and meshy
Arch Height: Low
Heel-Toe Drop: 8 mm (21mm-13mm)

Shoe Specs
The Green Silence is a one of a kind shoe in that it is made from 75% recycled materials. The shoe as a whole is extremely eco-friendly. It uses 38% less solvent in glue and overlays, has non-toxic dyes and colorants, and contains 100% recycled shoelaces and webbing. Plus it is made with BioMoGo, which is the first ever biodegradable running shoe midsole, hence the name Green Silence.
A view at the lacing system
  • Heel- The Green Silence has a nice heel grip without being restricting. There isn't any room for play in the heel, but it doesn't feel like it's grabbing you. It gives a sense of security along with a minimal and light grip. The heel collar sits very low, so you don't have to worry about it rubbing on your Achilles or ankles.
  • Instep- Utilizing a sewn in tongue and alternative lacing system, the Green Silence really provides a customizable fit on the instep. Perhaps the best feature about the shoe is that no matter how loose you keep your laces, the shoe is immobile, meaning there is no slipping or sliding. 
  • Toebox- More on the narrow side, but not in a negative way. The toebox comes in and closes up pretty quick at the end, but it doesn't make the shoe feel narrow. It definitely runs true to width, but it doesn't allow for a lot of extra space. Keep in mind this is a competition shoe, and it is designed to hug the foot to stay the lightest weight possible.
  • Flexibility- Very flexible midsole, but it has enough rigidity to provide support to the foot. Bendy in the toe, this shoe gives a full range of flex no matter where you toe off in your gait cycle.
  • Cushion- 4 out of 10. This shoe is not super soft, it provides more of a "feel the road" sensation. In terms of impact absorption, this shoe is great, 9 out of 10, but on the soft scale, it will stay a 4. Despite being rigid, the shoe has a surprising spring in the step, making it a really good shoe for longer distances as well as shorter ones.
A Little Personal
I was very excited to try out this shoe. In every marathon and half marathon I have done in the past year and a half, I have seen the Green Silence on an elite's foot. In my eyes, if the elites wear it, it must be a good shoe, right? Right. I recently raced a half marathon in this shoe and it felt great. My half and full marathon shoe before has been the Brooks Launch, but since I have been racing a bunch of shorter distance races this past summer, I'm used to really lightweight shoes. The Green Silence is a good compromise to the lightweight/durable debate. It is light enough where you can actually tell a difference on your foot, but it also has enough cushion to it so your feet aren't aching at the end of a 13.1 mile race. In addition to my race, I have done several speed workouts on both track and grass and it holds up very well! Even when the shoe gets wet from dew or accidentally spilling water on it, the porous upper wicks it away in a flash, keeping my feet dry and slip resistant. Reasons I like this shoe:
  • Weight, 6.9 oz feels like I have nothing on at all!
  • Fit, this shoe has one of the best overall fits I have ever owned. The sewn in tongue makes the upper smooth everywhere, and the lack of overlays means you won't feel any seams in the shoe. Plus they did a fantastic job on the lacing system making it fit perfectly on your foot every time
  • Durability, typically with a racing flat, you get low mileage, but the buildup of midsole in the shoe makes it not only last longer, but make it a good option for longer distances as well.
Overall this shoe gets a 9 out of 10 for me. There really isn't anything I don't like about it. I'm saving that 10 out of 10 for the shoe that makes me go "This is the one," so that is why it doesn't get perfect marks from me. But this really is a great racing shoe, from 5k to full marathon, it will get you to the finish line. A little known fact for you, Scott Jurek broke the American record for the 24 hour run in this shoe, running a remarkable 162.46 miles. Follow in Scott's footsteps and live The Life of a Runner.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #6 (Nike LunarGlide+3)

Nike LunarGlide+3 
Support Category: Neutral to mild stability
Weight: 11 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: Yes
Multiple Colors Available: Yes
Durability: 300-500 miles
Updates from Previous Model:
  • Added grooves in the sockliner
  • Split the outsole down the middle for a springier step
Upper: Minimal with a breathable mesh
Arch Height: High
Heel-Toe Drop: 12 mm

My Take on the Shoe
The first step I took in this shoe sent mixed signals through my mind. Right off the bat, I could feel the infamous high arch that almost every Nike shoe I've ever had has. But it was way cushier than I am used to, and I liked it. A more detailed analysis of the shoe:
  • Heel- The LunarGlide+3 has memory foam in the heel so it is a nice snug feel that gets more and more comfortable the more you wear it, because it molds to your foot.
  • Midfoot Wrap- Because of the implementation of the flywire, the tighter you tie your laces, the tighter it is around your arch. With that being said, it really is up to you as to how loose or tight it fits on the midfoot(great amount of customizability here, great job Nike!)
  • Forefoot- A nice open toe is boasted in the LunarGlide+3, which in my opinion makes it a comfortable shoe for both walking and running. It isn't too wide though, so get your normal size.
  • Cushion- 8.5 out of 10. Very nice cushion, super soft, you don't have to worry about stepping on rocks or anything because you are running/walking on a cloud.

Grooved Sockliner? What is that/why would they do it?
The sockliner is the little insole that comes with the shoe. Nike recently added grooves to the bottom so when you cinch up the laces on the shoes, even the bottom part of your foot gets a customized fit. It pulls on the sides giving a full wrap around your foot, making an even more personalized fit.
Split the outsole?
On the bottom of the LunarGlide+3, it looks like there is a chunk missing from the heel leading up to the forefoot. If you look straight at it, you can see the midsole component, which is basically what cushions the impact when you run. By leaving a piece missing from the middle, there is almost a trampoline effect when weight is put on the center of the shoe. The midsole sinks down into the crevice and shoots back up giving you return in your step and an extra little boost of cushion.
A Little Personal
I used the LunarGlide+2 for my long run shoe for a while and I would say everything that shoe lacked, the new version has come in strong. The upper has just the right amount of support, the cushion is outstanding, the durability is amazing, and you can use it for pretty much anything. The good thing about the Dynamic Support system is that it really opens up the field for a bunch of runners. I have been using this shoe lightly so far, but first impressions are good. It's hard for me to find a shoe I don't like, but I genuinely do like the LunarGlide+3. Specific reasons I like the shoe:
  • Price, the $100 price point is starting to look more appealing because a lot of entry level performance running shoes are jumping up to $105 and $110.
  • Versatility, I know I say this about almost every shoe I review, but this one more than others because it can be used for sports other than running, cross training, etc... AND it can be used safely for neutral gait as well as for a pronating gait
  • Color options, like most Nike shoes, the LunarGlide+3 has a multitude of colors available, and you can design your own!
Overall this shoe gets a 7 out of 10 for me. It's going to last you a long time, be super soft for around 400 miles, and can be used for pretty much anything. Note, this is the entry level version of the LunarEclipse, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, so if you're on a budget, try picking this one up if you thought the Eclipse looked interesting. Now go enjoy The Life of a Runner.

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    The Great GPS Test

    Many people out there wonder "Which GPS watch should I get? Garmin? Timex? The new Nike?" That question has been unanswered until now. I went and got all of the available watches with integrated GPS and tested them out with a series of runs. Here is the watch list:
    • Garmin Forerunner 305
    • Garmin Forerunner 405
    • Garmin Forerunner 210
    • Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    • Garmin Forerunner 610
    • Timex Ironman GPS
    • Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
    • Nike+ Sportband (just for fun)
    To get a good feel of how all of them perform I took them on three runs:
    • Track workout consisting of 6x800m sprints with 400m jog rest
    • Trail run consisting of a 2.2 mile loop 3 times
    • Road run of 9.45 miles around White Rock Lake
    This is the fairest way to test all the watches because it gets them on a variety of terrain, varying distances, and tests the signal in both covered and uncovered areas. Before I go in depth on the results of the tests, let me break down the watches:
    Run #1: Track
    I took all 8 watches to the track for some 800m repeats. I stayed in lane one on the inside of the lane the whole time so I wouldn't stray from exactly .25 miles each lap. With the 400m recovery after each repeat, the total mileage for the run was 4.50 miles. Here are the results from the workout:
    So the total workout took me 29:32 for the 6 800's and the recovery jog. I didn't do splits for the run because that would have been way too hard to press the lap button on all those watches. But as you can see, the Nike+ GPS is the clear winner for sure. It was spot on for the whole workout. I am very impressed with Nike on the track. Both of their watches ranked in the top 3. As long as you have the Sportband calibrated properly, it can hang in there with the expensive watches. I threw in the column for displayed pace to show how much of a difference .05 of a mile makes even in a short run like this one. So from the best of the watches closing in at .01 miles off to the worst watch at .27 miles off, GPS has a long way to go for track workouts. Kings of the Track:
    1. Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
    2. Garmin Forerunner 305
    3. Timex Ironman GPS
    Interestingly enough, even though I ran with 5 Garmins, only one made the top three. Another surprise is that the 305 and the Timex both measure less than the actual distance while all the others (disregarding the Sportband) measure farther.
    The reason GPS watches have such a hard time with distance on the track is the constant turning. Because the watch gets signals from the satellites every 3-6 seconds, the watch connects the points linearly instead of on a curve. When you think about it logically, however, the GPS path should be shorter instead of longer. It could be that the watch is trying to accommodate for the curve and adding extra distance, or it could be that people actually don't run on the 400m section of the track, they could waver a little bit and go into other lanes or not take the innermost section of the track.

    Run #2: Trail
    Depending on the trail, GPS watches have never really been the best in tracking distance. Elevation changes, switchbacks, and tree cover all make pinpointing a location very hard. Often you will see watches that are way off in distance both above and below the actual distance. So I hit the trail on a 2.2 mile loop that has tons of elevation change, loads of switchbacks, and about 75% tree cover. I did the loop three times to make sure I could really test to see how the watches were doing and see if they were consistent throughout the multiple laps. Here are the results from test #2:
    I expected there to be a big difference amongst the watches, but I had no idea it would be this bad. The closest to being the actual distance was the 310XT and it really was the stand out in the group. The probable reason for the watches performing so poorly was the tree cover. The signal gets blocked temporarily and then the watch has to guess where you went, which means you could lose an entire switchback or a long stretch of random trail. The only watch to display a farther distance than actual was the Sportband, and that makes perfect sense. The Sportband goes based off number of footstrikes, not GPS location. Since you take smaller steps when you are trail running, and your watch is calibrated for your typical longer stride, it thinks you are going further than you actually are. Kings of the Trail:
    Aerial view of the trail run
    1. Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    2. Garmin Forerunner 610
    3. Garmin Forerunner 305/Nike+ Sportband
    Looks like Garmin dominated this run. The Nike+ GPS and Timex GPS really were nowhere to be seen. Both had very poor performance pretty much from the beginning. For the second run in a row, the "old school" Garmin 305 has placed in the top 3, which for me is surprising. But without a doubt, none of the watches could even compare to the 310XT, so trail runners, go pick it up and hit the trails.

    Run #3: Road 
    Your typical runner is going to be running primarily on the roads, which is why this test was so important. I went and did a lap around a lake, which is typically 9.3 miles, but I took a wrong turn and it added .15 miles. So I did a 9.45 mile run on the road in a completely open area with no tree cover. I expected to get the most accurate results here and the tightest span from worst to best. Here are the results:
     Between the GPS watches, the span wasn't too bad. The worst was only .16 off, which isn't horrible over the course of 9.45 miles. The Sportband obviously wasn't calibrated correctly for this run, so it performed the worst of all of them. The 610 and 310XT were exactly correct which is very impressive by both watches! Looking at these results though, you can obviously tell Garmin is king of the road. Official Kings:
    1. Garmin Forerunner 610/310XT
    2. Garmin Forerunner 210
    3. Garmin Forerunner 405
    This was the first test that the 305 wasn't in the top 3, but it definitely was right there with them. This test is the most fair of all the tests since it was run in open air with nothing to interfere with the signal.

    Overall Results
     When we go based just off the average percent error of all 8 watches, here is the order of most to least accurate in varying conditions:
    1. Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    2. Garmin Forerunner 610
    3. Garmin Forerunner 305
    4. Garmin Forerunner 405
    5. Garmin Forerunner 210
    6. Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
    7. Timex Ironman GPS
    8. Nike+ Sportband
    In the end, all Garmin's seemed to be the best. But the hands down winner for most accurate is the 310XT with an average of .13 miles off for 3 runs totaling 20.05 miles. The least accurate GPS watch was the Timex Ironman GPS with an average of .44 miles off. 
    Overall, very interesting results coming from these tests, I never would have expected what came about. I will leave you with my GPS watch accolades:
    • Best GPS Watch Overall: Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    • Best GPS Watch for Track Running: Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
    • Best GPS Watch for Trail Running: Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    • Best GPS Watch for Road Running: Garmin Forerunner 310XT and Garmin Forerunner 610
    • Best Value GPS Watch Based on Accuracy: Garmin Forerunner 305
    Well that wraps that up! I hope you found this review helpful and enjoyed The Life of a Runner. 

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Shoe Review Tuesday #5 (Brooks Ghost 4)

    Brooks Ghost 4
    Support Category: Neutral
    Weight: 11.3 oz
    Cost: $100
    Available in Widths: Yes
    Multiple Colors Available: Yes
    Durability: 300-500 miles
    Updates from Previous Model:
    • Replaced hydroflow with DNA
    • Introduced Omega Flex Grooves in the heel
    Upper: Secure middle-weight upper with few overlays
    Arch Height: Medium-High
    Heel-Toe Drop: 12 mm

    My Take on the Shoe
    I ran in the Ghost 3 a bunch and when the Ghost 4 came out, I was kind of indifferent on it. The introduction of the DNA cushioning system didn't hit my foot right like the hydroflow did, so it wasn't that "Oh my gosh this is the best shoe ever" feel for me. Great lightweight shoe for high mileage though. Around an ounce lighter than the competition, the Ghost 4 will last you a good amount of miles. This is a road shoe, so I would not use it on trails, but grass would be just fine. A more detailed look into the fit:
    • Heel- More relaxed than other Brooks shoes I've had in the past, but still a nice firm grip that eliminates any slipping.
    • Midfoot Wrap- Nice and snug, has sewn in eyelets to maximize tightness based on lacing, and also added a loop on the tongue to keep it from sliding down into the shoe.
    • Forefoot- Open and relaxed. People with bunions will have no problems fitting in this toe box.
    • Cushion- About 6 out of 10. Not super firm, not too rigid either. Extends the length of the shoe with the most significant padding being under the ball of the foot.
    What is DNA?
    DNA is a non-Newtonian liquid (think cornstarch and water) that reacts adversely to forces. If you hit hard, it will become springier and more rigid. If you hit lightly, it will become softer and more forgiving. So DNA makes the Ghost 4 a good shoe for long, slow runs by becoming a soft shoe, and good for hard, fast runs by becoming more resilient and springy.  Brooks has slowly been introducing DNA into their shoes starting with the Glycerin 8, and is now boasting it in the Adrenaline, Trance, Ghost, Glycerin, Beast, Ariel, and Cascadia.
    What are Omega Flex Grooves?
    Omega Flex Grooves are the little tiny pieces of outsole on the heel that look like the Greek letter Omega, Ω, designed to start guiding gait upon impact. In the past, the bottom heel has been one piece and for lack of a better word, cumbersome. But now that the heel has been given flexibility, the foot can roll more naturally from the beginning, quickly falling into the desired neutral gait.

    A Little Personal
    My first impression of the shoe was that I wasn't going to like it, but when I took it out for my first run, any doubts went away. The Ghost 4 has a very smooth ride, guiding you through the gait cycle the moment you impact the Omega Flex Grooves. The DNA in the forefoot was significantly higher than any other shoe I had before and almost felt like it had an arch under the ball of my foot. But after the first run, that went away and it felt great. With the Ghost 3, I would do speed workouts, long runs, easy runs, hill workouts, just about anything you could think of, and I will continue this trend with the Ghost 4. Specific reasons I like it:
    • Lighter than other neutral high-mileage shoes
    • Versatility in that it can be used for about any kind of run because of the new DNA
    • Durability, if it is anything like the Ghost 3, it will take a while before you need a new pair.
    • Price, at only $100, you can't really beat this shoe
    • Simplicity, there isn't a whole lot to the shoe besides the technology involved in the midsole and outsole, so in my eyes, less is more
    Overall this shoe is a solid 8 out of 10. Great update to the shoe, I have a feeling it is just going to keep getting better and better. For those of you who are looking for a high-mileage lightweight shoe, I would either go with the Ghost 4 or try out the New Balance 890. Both of them are going to be great for whatever your needs may be. That's it for another Shoe Review Tuesday, I hope you enjoyed The Life of a Runner.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Shoe Review Tuesday #4 (New Balance Minimus Trail)

    New Balance Minimus Trail
    Support Category: Minimal/Neutral
    Weight: 7.1 oz
    Cost: $100
    Available in Widths: Yes
    Multiple Colors Available: Yes
    Durability: 300+ miles
    Updates from Previous Model: Debut!
    Upper: Light, stretchy mesh
    Arch Height: Flat
    Heel-Toe Drop: 4 mm

    My Take on the Shoe
    I got this shoe much after it came out because availability was very low. New Balance expected this shoe to only sell about 60,000 pair nationally this year, but they just finished fulfilling orders of 600,000 across the US. So all the stores caught up in stock and I grabbed one when opportunity struck. I took it out on the trails right away and it was the total opposite of any other trail shoe I have worn before. You will feel every rock, root, and dirt clod you step on in this shoe. It makes you much more aware of your surroundings because you have to make a conscious effort to avoid something you would normally plow through. About the fit of the shoe:
    • Heel- Snug with a low heel collar, meaning it doesn't touch the back of your Achilles very high or even touch your ankles
    • Midfoot Wrap- Nice and snug, you don't have to worry about the shoe sliding at all
    • Laces- Eyelets woven into the fabric of the shoe, making the tightness of the laces really effect the tightness of shoe around the instep
    • Forefoot- Snug and narrow feeling, designed with a horizontal piece of material to keep your feet in place when going downhill
    • Toebox- Wide open to allow for a natural toe splay (the spreading out of your toes right before you land)
    • Cushion- Virtually none, this shoe is not soft!
    The Minimus Trail can be worn with or without socks, just make sure the first time you run without socks you use something like body glide between your toes to prevent blisters. The outsole is an extremely durable rubber compound made by Vibram. Since this shoe is designed to be used on trails, there is no telling just how many miles you can get out of it. The design of the outsole is very unique in itself. Consisting of a series of small pods with little ridges, it is designed to provide maximum grip in any kind of terrain (dirt, gravel, mud, grass, etc...).
    Some people have been asking me about an "update" to the Minimus Trail (MT10) called the MT20. This is not really an update. It is a lower quality shoe designed for big box stores like Sports Authority so they can have a minimalist shoe for their patrons. The Minimus Trail is a shoe sold in running specialty only, so if you see a shoe similar to it in a place like Academy, that is the MT20, and you should save your money and either go to a specialty store or order online because they are the same price.

    A Little Personal
    I'm a big fan of this shoe. Before, I had worn the Brooks Cascadia and had done fine. But when I tried this shoe out for the first time, I was hooked. The level of awareness is incomparable when you are in a shoe that forces you to really pay attention to your surroundings and terrain. I've done up to 13 miles in this shoe and have had no problems whatsoever. Like most minimalist shoes, it is one that you kind of have to ease into, so be careful going out and running too many miles too quickly. I would advise you to stay off the road in this shoe. The lack of cushion really gets to you when you start pounding the cement in this bad boy. I took it out for a couple miles on the road to see if it was ok to use off the trail, and the impact was enough to give me a headache. The main factors I like about the Minimus Trail:
    • Lightweight, weighing in at only 7.1 ounces, this shoe almost feels like you have nothing on!
    • Extremely durable, anything you see with a Vibram outsole is going to last you a loooong time
    • Versatility, I have trekked through mud, streams, hills, rock beds, and just about everything else you can imagine and nothing slows this shoe down
    • The option of going sockless, the sockliner is sewn into the shoe, so you don't have to worry about it coming out when you take your foot out after running barefoot in it
    To all trail runners, I would say to at least try this shoe out once. It is a whole new experience that really can't be explained in words. Availability should be on the rise now that orders have been fulfilled, so it won't be hard to find in stores anymore. Overall I give this shoe an 8 out of 10, it isn't my favorite shoe that has been ever on my foot, but it is probably my favorite trail shoe. So get out there and experience The Life of a Runner!

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Hill Training

    I'm back! Over the past week or so, I have been vacationing in the Caribbean on a very hilly island and that got me wanting to talk about an under-utilized workout in most runners schedule: The Hill. A good amount of runners tend to avoid hill workouts because they can cause extra stress on the knees and Achilles tendon, but in most cases, the good outweighs the bad when it comes to hills.
    On a personal note, I try to do hill workouts at least once a week. I feel when it comes to racing, having the ability to surge up a hill and not crash in the later parts of the race gives you a tactical advantage over your competition. So when I went on vacation and the very first thing I saw was a mountain, I knew I was going up. Prior to leaving for vacation, I was on mapmyrun checking out if there were any cool running trails or elevation gains. Much to my delight, I saw a mountain smack dab in the middle, but it came with a catch. This mountain was 1.25 miles long and gained 1000 ft. The average grade was 22%. For those of you who don't know what grade is, it's just the rise divided by the length (and 22% is about as steep as you'll find anywhere and still be able to run). So morning 1, I set out on a mile and a half run over to the mountain and started my climb. I quickly realized this wasn't going to be as easy as I originally thought, because I was keeled over on the side of the road trying to catch my breath after only about 200 meters. I gave it my best to climb the mountain, but I only got up .75 miles and had to stop about 6 times to catch my breath. But it wasn't over yet. I turned around and was faced with .75 miles of straight downhill where it's way too steep to open up a stride and cruise along letting gravity carry me the rest of the way home. At this grade I had to constantly apply the brakes, making a conscious effort to land on my heels trying to keep from getting to an out of control speed. At the end of the run, not only were my quads burning from the climb up, but my hamstrings were on fire from the downhill portion. The next day all I could do was stare at that mountain and just look at it in disbelief knowing that it beat me. So I regrouped and tried it again two days later with my hill climbing knowledge that I already had, but was too cocky to utilize the first time:
    • Take your warmup truly as a warmup, you will need all the energy you can muster to power through the hills
    • Shorten your stride, you will really need the increased turnover in your legs to push you
    • Lean into the hill, let gravity do as much as it possibly can
    • Focus on breathing, especially when in high elevations, the air can really get away from you
    So this time, I went about a minute slower per mile on my warmup, and focused on getting "in the zone" to accomplish my goal of reaching the summit without taking a break. When I reached the base of the hill, I instantly shortened my stride and leaned forward into it, not worrying about speed but on conserving enough energy to keep going. As I passed the 200 meter mark (where I stopped the first time) I had so much energy I wondered what I could have done a couple days earlier to already be tired enough to stop. I powered through muscle fatigue and shut out thoughts of stopping because it was too hard and eventually passed my old turn around point. Thinking it was going to get easier from there, I round a turn expecting to see a little ease in the grade of the hill. Nope. Thoughts started going through my head like "I almost need a hand hold to climb up any further." But because I had conserved energy in the beginning and used the proper technique for climbing, I ended up making it to the summit, walk-free. I stopped to admire the view for about 30 seconds, let out a victory yell, then started back down the mountain following the downhill running rules:
    • Look ahead, the last thing you want to do it get distracted and trip over something easily avoidable
    • Don't lean too far backward, it could cause your feet to come out from under you
    • Keep that stride short, it's going to keep your hamstrings from tightening up and keep you at a controllable speed
    • Let gravity take you with it, ease into a comfortable pace where it almost feels like work
    I made it down and back to my place safe and sound and with a huge smile on my face knowing I had just beaten the mountain that had beaten me two days prior. In case you were wondering, here is the elevation graph from my Garmin.

    Back to a more practical note
    I know most of you don't have a mountain you can go run up, but the uphill and downhill rules apply to hills of any size. For a typical hill workout, you are going to be doing anywhere from 6-12 repeats of anything from .25-.5 miles or 1-4 minutes. My workout was extreme, I went straight uphill for 13 minutes. A common hill repeat workout is going to have much smaller distances, but they need to be done over and over again. Now, what are the benefits of doing hill workouts? Because you are fighting gravity when you run uphill, you take all the normal muscles you use when you run on flat ground, and give them a supercharged workout. They have to release more power to push you along greater forces, which build up more power in your legs, which ultimately gives you stronger, longer running strides. Hill running has been compared to sprint workouts because they work the same muscle groups, so hill workouts make you run faster. If you are running to lose weight/tone up, hills work your booty and hamstrings, which is a different set of muscles than flat running.
    Let's recap:
    The benefits of hill running are
    • You gain a strong, long running stride from increased power in the legs
    • Your fast twitch muscle fibers are worked, giving you faster land speed
    • You get a rocking body in the process :)
    If you are anxious to try a hill workout, here is a chart for an intermediate-advanced workout:
    To make it easier/harder, adjust the number of repeats. To do this workout properly, do your warmup to the hill at an easy pace, enough to get your blood flowing. When going uphill, do your best to run at a pace just outside your comfort zone. That pace will help push back your anabolic threshold, making you able to run at a faster pace more easily on race day. When you reach the top of the hill turn back right away using the downhill as your recovery. Jog down at a pretty quick pace, but not so fast that you can't catch your breath. At the bottom of the hill, turn around and start the next repeat. When you finish all of your repeats, go ahead and take a couple minutes for a breather then go do an easy cooldown at a pace you can hold a conversation in. This is a long workout, I've always been a believer in that hard workouts should be as long or longer than your race if you do anything less than a half marathon. At the half and full distances, getting up into the double digits on a speed workout will help tremendously.
    So what are you waiting for?! Get out there and go run some hills! Your PR will thank you. Now go out and enjoy The Life of a Runner.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Shoe Review Tuesday #3 (Nike LunarEclipse)

    Nike LunarEclipse
    Support Category: Neutral to Moderate Stability
    Weight: 12.2 oz
    Cost: $130
    Available in Widths: Yes
    Multiple Colors Available: Yes
    Durability: 300-500 miles
    Updates from Previous Model: Original
    Upper: Tightly woven mesh, secure, full-feeling
    Arch Height: Medium-High
    Heel-Toe Drop: 12 mm

    My Take on the Shoe
    I started using this shoe about 4 months into my training for the White Rock Marathon last year. Before I had been using the Nike LunarGlide, and what a difference it made! This shoe is SO much softer than the LunarGlide and in my opinion, feels much more secure on my feet. The secure feeling is given by the sturdy upper that surrounds the entire foot. The upper doesn't provide a lot of give, causing the sturdy feeling. Unlike other Nike shoes I have owned in the past, the LunarEclipse doesn't feel narrow in the forefoot. A great fit for almost any foot, the LunarEclipse can take a beating too. I put about 120 miles on this shoe in a month and it still felt like it was almost straight out of the box. If you are a marathoner, this shoe should definitely be in your closet.
    Perhaps the coolest part about this shoe is the midsole. Nike uses a "Dynamic Support" system to open up the shoe to the widest range of runners possible. The way they do this is through a two-layer wedge system. The top wedge, the cushion layer, is thin on the lateral side and thick on the medial side. The bottom wedge, the correction layer, is the opposite, thin on the medial side and thick on the lateral. The point for designing the shoe this way is to accommodate for different gaits. Almost everybody lands on the outside of their heel if they heel strike, but depending on their rate of pronation, they land in a different spot and roll in a different manner. People who pronate tend to land more on the outside of their foot and roll inward as they go through their gait cycle. People who are neutral footed or supinate typically strike more centered and stay straight throughout the gait cycle. So the way the midsole is set up, when pronators land on the outside of their heel, they activate the correction layer, which pushes them into a more neutral position. When neutral runners land more centered, they don't activate that correction layer because the cushion is too thick, so they stay in line the entire time their foot is on the ground. Don't worry midfoot/forefoot strikers, this shoe won't really correct at the end of the gait cycle (when you are typically landing) so it is a good fit for you too.

    A Little Personal
    I have used this shoe on grass, dirt, road, uphill, downhill, long runs, and speed work. This versatile shoe is one of my favorites. As I said earlier, I started using this shoe for my marathon training, and after the first run (a 10 miler) I knew it was going to be my new long run shoe. So I started using it for long runs at first, but it was cold outside, so I started wearing it for other runs to keep my feet warm because of the beefy upper. After running with it for speed, easy runs, and long runs, I couldn't get enough of this shoe. When selling it to people, I always present it as a Frankenstein shoe that thinks for your foot. By that, I mean the dynamic cushioning will correct you the right amount with every footstrike. By Frankenstein shoe, I mean that the LunarEclipse seems to take one major piece of technology from all the other shoes in the Lunar series and apply it to itself. It takes the flywire from the LunarGlide (flywire is designed to tighten the upper around the arch of your foot when you tighten the laces), it has the lightweight durability of the LunarElite, and it even has it's own piece of technology in the heel counter (heel counters are the rigid piece of plastic in the heel to make a shoe more stable). Specifics I like in the LunarEclipse:
    • Versatility, you can use this shoe for anything!
    • You can create this shoe in whatever colors you want on Nike's website
    • The high durability 
    • The secure feeling I get when I step into it
    • The ability of the shoe to correct my gait no matter the slope of the road, be it either horizontal or vertica
    One thing I hear from a majority of customers regarding Nikes, "Nike shoes never fit my foot, they run too narrow." To that I always ask, "When was the last time you tried them?" Often times I hear a response between 2 years to 5 years. I am saying it now, performance Nike running shoes (Bowerman and Lunar Series) do not fit like they have over previous years. Go try them on! It really is worth the time to go try them out. If you are in any doubt as to what kind of shoe you need, chances are you can wear the Nike LunarEclipse. So everyone go out and try a new pair of shoes and enjoy living The Life of a Runner.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Shoe Review Tuesday #2 (Saucony Hattori)

    Saucony Hattori
    Support Category: Neutral/Minimal
    Weight: 4.4 oz
    Cost: $80

    Available in Widths: No
    Multiple Colors Available: Yes
    Durability: ~200 miles
    Updates from Previous Model: Debut!
    Upper: Minimal and stretchy, like a pool shoe
    Arch Height: Low 
    Heel-Toe Drop: 0 mm

    My Take on the Shoe
    The only reason I heard about this shoe before it came out was because I work in running specialty. I didn't hear anything online in ads or on the radio about it, but let me tell you, I was excited about it. This is the first shoe I have ever seen that has a true 0 mm drop, meaning it is legitimately flat. Now don't quote me on it, but I think even the running Vibram FiveFingers have a 2 mm drop. The purpose of having a flat shoe is to help promote a midfoot/forefoot strike. The theory is the flatter the shoe, the easier it is for you to stop heel striking. The reason you want to stop heel striking is because it is more efficient to land on your midfoot, it provides quicker turnover, helping to increase your run cadence. A normal shoe has a 24 mm heel and a 12 mm toe, so dropping from 12 mm down to 0 is quite a leap. Back to the shoe though. I have talked to the rep about the durability of the upper because it looks like one bad step and that thing is going to tear. He told me that it has been a slight problem, but for the most part it has been withstanding some abuse. The shoe is deceivingly soft! Basically a glorified pool shoe, the Hattori doesn't have much to it at all, which conveys a hard, rigid feel. But on the contrary, this shoe is probably one of the squishiest I own. Not only in the bottom of the shoe, but the upper is light and flexible, it doesn't restrict my toes if I want to dorsiflex them. The adjustable Velcro straps on the top and back of the heel help to provide a more personalized fit than traditional laces as well.
    A Little Personal
    Prior to my first run in the Hattori, I felt pretty confident that I could run a normal 6 miler without having to ease into it like you would in a normal minimalist shoe. I had been dabbling a little in the minimalist thing and felt like my legs were strong enough to take the beating from the most minimal I have ever gone before. Much to my pleasure, I found an easy 6 mile run at 6:23 pace the very first time out to actually be easy! Over the next couple of days I was expecting some soreness somewhere, but it never came. I did another 6 in them and was still feeling strong! Now when I tried them out on the track, that was a whole different story. I took them out for my second run of the day to a local track and decided I was going to do 16 400's with 200m active recovery between each rep. I knocked that out at about 80 seconds a piece and by number 16, my feet were starting to hurt. For the next 3 days, I could hardly walk I was so sore. My calves, hamstrings, and quads were all hating me for what I did to them. What made the difference? Well, when you run sprints, you run more on your toes and the front of your forefoot. That is exactly where I was on that workout. With my prior couple of runs I landed more midfoot, taking off a bunch of that extra strain from my calf. But when I was sprinting, I was going full force pounding my calf muscle with little cushioning, causing a quicker build up of lactic acid. Ever since, I have not done another track workout in them, but I have taken them out for a few easy runs. On the minimalist scale where 1 is barefoot and 10 is a nice structured shoe like the 890 from last week, the Hattori is pushing a 3.
    I want everyone to know if you have never done anything minimal and are looking to start, this would not be a good option for you. This is way too close to being barefoot for beginners. If you do decide to go against my advice and get the shoe or something like it anyway, just go out for little runs first, as short as a quarter mile, and gradually work your way up to longer distances.
    A few quick things I like about the Hattori:
    • Lightest shoe in my closet
    • Flexible upper makes for great breathability, especially on hot days or even rainy days!
    • You don't have to wear socks with it!
    • The surprisingly soft bottom
    • The price! Only $80 retail!
    My overall suggestion for this shoe is that if you are serious about minimalism, pick up a pair. If you are new to the minimalist arena, try something more middle ground first, like the Saucony Kinvara. I rate this shoe an 8 out of 10 and am very happy to have it in my collection. Now go try them out and enjoy The Life of a Runner.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Common Running Injuries

    If you are suffering from a running related injury right now, don't worry, you aren't alone. In fact, statistically, one of your running friends is probably injured right now as well. About 60% of all runners get injured in some way, shape, or form each year. Since running is the number one participant sport in the world, that is a bunch of hurt people limping around. I wanted to talk about some of the more common injuries, how to prevent them, and what to do if you just so happen to get one.
    The number one injury prevention technique is stretching, everybody knows that. But what everyone doesn't know is that there are a myriad of injury prevention tools available at your local running store. A couple of good to have tools are foam rollers and little poles called "The Stick." Both of these simulate deep tissue massage to smooth out fascia and knock out lactic acid from your muscles. The foam roller (the black thing in the middle of the picture) is going to be a deeper massage, while The Stick is going to provide you with more maneuverability so you can reach harder to reach places. Also included in the picture is KT Tape, Body Glide, and Superfeet Insoles, but we will talk more about those later. Right now let's talk about some of the more prevalent injuries runners see.
    1. Plantar Fasciitis - Some even wince at the name, Plantar Fasciitis, or PF for short, is the tightening and tearing of your Plantar Fascia, which is located on the bottom of your foot, originating on the bottom of your heel bone extending down toward your toes.
    How do I get it? PF is often brought on by extended weight bearing exercise. If you're running excessively, hitting with 2-3 times your body weight every step, PF could be right around the corner waiting for you to not stretch so it can come in and bite on that heel. If you know someone who has it that doesn't run, a high BMI is often times the cause of PF in non-runners.
    How do I know if I have it? Trust me, you will know. You will have a shooting pain in your heel or arch that is especially bad in the morning. Another symptom commonly found with pain is the loss of flexibility of bending your toes toward your shin, called dorsiflexion.
    I think I have it, what now? Through many trial and error cases, the single most important thing I have found that works for people is Superfeet insoles. Superfeet has a variety of different insoles, different colors for different arch heights. The reason Superfeet help so much is the heel cup it provides. The heel cup keeps your Plantar Fascia from tightening, allowing for it to heal quicker than walking around barefoot or in a super cushioned shoe. Speaking of shoes, if you have PF and a cushy shoe, consider changing to a more rigid shoe. The same kind of concept applies as the insoles, you don't want your foot to go where it wants because that aggravates the fascia, so by providing your foot with a stable platform with little give, it gives your foot a chance to heal a little bit more. Since it is a little impractical to use a big foam roller on the bottom of your foot, try freezing a golf ball and rolling that under your arch and heel to smooth out some of the tightness. The cold acts as an anti-inflammatory and the small dense ball acts as a massager, which almost instantly alleviates some of the pain. One final tip to help get rid of PF, try to dorsiflex your foot as much as possible (bring your toes to your shin). That is going to help stretch out a constantly tightening band of fascia, which in turn will help get rid of your problem. Warning! Plantar Fasciitis can last years, so if you feel a little pain you think might be the start of something, seek the advice of a podiatrist right away to diagnose you. The sooner you start stretching and trying to heal your foot, the better.
    2. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) - Another one of those injuries that makes you feel sick just thinking about it. ITBS is the inflammation of your IT band, which is a big V-shaped tendon starting at your hip and shrinking down connecting to the outside bottom of your knee.
    How do I get it? Common ways to get ITBS are running on a banked surface (lateral or vertical) repeatedly, inadequate stretching, lack of cross-training (like swimming or cycling), and even having the wrong type of running shoes.
    How do I know if I have it? You will likely feel a sharp pain where the IT band connects to your muscles, either in your hip, or on the lateral (outside) side of your knee. Knee pain is more common with runners, but it's not impossible to get some hip pain. A typical ITBS pain won't start immediately during your workout, it will get worse as time goes on. Often time I hear people complaining about a pain in their knee about 2 miles into a workout and instantly ITBS pops into my head. That is a tell-tale sign you have it, you don't feel it at first but it consistently flares up after a couple of miles into your workout.
    Uh oh. That's me. What can I do? Invest in a foam roller. They only cost $13 and they are well worth it. To work on your IT band, put the foam roller on the ground and lie on it with your hip. Slowly roll down the roller until you reach your knee, then go back up to your hip. NEVER ROLL OVER A JOINT WITH A FOAM ROLLER! Do about 12 repetitions in a set and 3 sets a day. After a week or so, there will be a definite difference in the way your knee/hip feels during a run. You can also use The Stick instead of a foam roller, but it isn't as effective. Instead of lying on the roller, just grab The Stick on both ends and roll up and down your leg. I personally would do 20-25 reps instead of 12 because of the whole "not as effective" thing. For right now though, to get through a run while you have ITBS, try getting some KT Tape, or other kinesio tape and wrapping your knee as pictured below, this acts like a band-aid in that it feels better now, but it isn't really healed yet.
    3. Shin Splints - I would say this is the most common injury in beginning runners. Shin splints are a pain often felt on the inside of the legs below the knee. Pain can range from sharp pokes to dull throbs, but don't worry, we know how to fix it.
    How do I get it? Beginning runners get it because they try to do too much too soon. Their muscles and tendons aren't built up enough to take all that new pounding they are presenting themselves with, and the muscles fatigue and cause the Sharpey fibers in your leg to become disrupted. If you have shin splints and you aren't new to running, it could be one of two things causing your problem: your shoes are worn out, or you aren't taking enough rest days. Not only could your shoes be worn out, but if they aren't correcting you the right amount, it could cause shin splints because the inward rolling (pronation) is causing some unwanted torque on your legs. Now, to determine if your shoes are worn out, there are a couple easy tests. First, if you look at the bottom and the tread is completely smooth, you need a new pair of shoes. Two, if you grab the forefoot with one hand and can bend it almost in half, the integrity of the midsole is shot and it's time to go pick up another pair. The reason a worn out shoe would cause shin splints is because now nothing is protecting you from the ground, sending all 3 times your body weight's worth of impact straight into your legs.
    What can I do about it? As I said earlier, check to make sure it's not your shoes. Try finding a place like RunOn! near you who provides a free service to watch you walk and analyze your gait and look at the wear patterns on your shoes to tell you if they are worn out and if it was a good shoe for you. BUT if it wasn't the shoes, there is a good acronym to follow:
    R - rest
    I - ice
    C - compression
    E - elevation
    This is very simple, just take a couple days off, put on some ice and a leg sleeve and kick back and enjoy your time off. Oh and one more thing, for a couple of days after you start to feel better, try running just in the grass or on a low-impact treadmill just to give your legs a tiny bit of extra time to recover.
    4. Chafing - While technically not an injury, this one haunts runners young and old alike. Chafing in runners can be under your armpits, between your thighs, or even between your toes. Often looking like a red rash, you won't typically know you're chafed until you hop in the shower after a run and feel a good old fashioned burning wherever it may be.
    How do I get chafed? Chafing is caused by the rubbing of two parts of skin over and over again. Runners with bigger legs often get their upper thighs chafed while heavier-set runners often get chafing under their armpits.
    How can I prevent it? Using a lubricant is the best way to prevent chafing. My personal favorite is Body Glide. It comes in stick-deodorant form and a liquid powder form. Just put this on wherever you are prone to getting chafed and it prevents that skin to skin friction that causes those nasty chafes. Another good way to prevent some inner thigh chafing is by wearing the right kind of shorts. Typical running shorts have either a brief liner inside or a compression short specifically designed to prevent chafing. But in lieu of buying a bunch of $40 shorts, your $9 body glide will have to do for now.
    What can I do now that I'm already chafed? Well it's too late now for Body Glide, but what I typically do after I get chafed is apply a generous portion of A&D cream to the afflicted area and it usually clears up in about a day. For really bad chafes, I would take some time off to recover and try to keep the area open and friction free as best as I possibly could.
    So there is your very own guide to running injuries! I hope you learned how to prevent some future injuries or even how to treat for one you have now. Running is no fun if you hurt the whole time! I want everybody to be able to run to their full potential, but how can they do it when they are hurt all the time! So take some preventative measures and let's take that 60% down to 20%! Thanks for reading and sharing The Life of a Runner.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Beat the Summer Heat!

    Like most of you, I am finding it harder and harder to get out and run with these temperatures climbing. With the coolest it gets in the morning being 78-80 degrees, it's hard to find a good time to run if you want to avoid the "dreadmill." But don't worry! I am here today to give you a few tips on how to beat the heat, but to also explain why it is so hard in the summer months compared to the rest of the year.
    Let's first talk about why it is so difficult to run in 80-100 degree weather. Logically, anything under 98.6 degrees should feel cool to us because that's our internal temperature, right? WELL, technically 98.6 degrees isn't your skin temperature, it is actually much lower. Bear with me here, I'm about to get smart. All of your body's functions (metabolism, digestion, etc.) produce heat as a byproduct, so you have to constantly try to vent that heat to maintain a consistent internal temperature and avoid overheating. Now venting this heat does not actually make you feel cold, if you are venting at just the right rate, you should feel comfortable, not too hot, not too cold. When we are out in weather that is at or near our internal body temperature, even if we aren't running, it becomes difficult to vent efficiently, so your nerves in your skin send messages to your body telling you that it is uncomfortable and you need to find some shade or a cooler area until it can catch back up and let you bring your body temperature back down. To make matters worse, when you run, the energy you use to make your legs and body move turns into heat! This heat makes your internal body temperature rise even more, and when your body is already having a difficult time cooling down as is, running gets tough pretty quick. There is an unwritten running rule called "the 20 degree rule" that is usually applied to the cold, but is even worse in the heat. When running, always dress like it is 20 degrees warmer outside. So in the winter, if it is 35 degrees, dress as if it was 55, maybe shorts and a long sleeve. But when the temperature is already 100, how are you supposed to dress? Like it's 120? How do you dress for 120 degrees?
    Well, in lieu of seeing a bunch of naked runners, let me give you a couple tips to help keep your body temperature down in the summer heat.
    1. Dress appropriately. Get moisture wicking clothes, they will be a life saver. In case you don't know what moisture wicking clothes are, go over to your closet. Pull out that race shirt from a couple weeks ago. See all those little holes and meshy material? That's moisture wicking fabric. Moisture wicking fabrics work because they have two main properties about them, they are both hydrophilic and hydrophobic. Hydrophilic (water loving) properties of a shirt are usually obtained by adding a finish or treatment into the garment, which will allow the shirt to pull sweat away from your body and absorb it into the fibers. Hydrophobic (water hating) properties of a shirt are usually the materials themselves, like polyester, which speeds up the evaporation, making you cooler, faster.
    2. Stay Hydrated! The amount of water or electrolyte drink you should take in per run varies from person to person, but there is a general guideline. Try to drink about 4-6 oz for every 20 minutes out in the heat if you are running slower than 8 min/mile and about 6-8 oz for every 20 minutes if you are going faster. Since it is extra hot here in Texas right now, I would suggest determining your sweat rate for a more personal guideline. To determine your sweat rate, weigh yourself before and after a run (this works best if you go for about an hour). For each pound you lost, you lost about 16 oz of water. So, if you lost 3 pounds in 1 hour of running, you would need to replace 48 oz of water, which is about 12 oz per 15 minutes during your run. VERY IMPORTANT! Don't forget that you're supposed to be drinking 8 glasses of water a day anyway, plus all the extra you need from running. For each pound lost, you need to drink between 20-24 oz of water/electrolyte drink post exercise. So from earlier, since we lost 3 pounds, we need to drink between 60 and 72 ounces to rehydrate. To avoid drinking this much afterward, we would have had to utilize our sweat rate knowledge and drink the 12 oz per 15 minutes. Staying hydrated on a day to day basis is critical when training for distance in the heat.
    3. Don't expect to run the same pace you do in the winter. You will not run anywhere near the same speed you do in June than you did in December. As we talked about earlier, it's just harder to keep your body from overheating in the summer, so you just flat out won't be able to run as fast. The chart above is an adjusted pace chart for a 13 mile long run. These times are per mile, so if you normally average 9:30 per mile in your long run and it's 90 degrees outside, your expected speed would be about 25 seconds slower, or 9:55 per mile.
    4. Do your best to get out there early. Or do your best to get out there after dark. This is going to give you the best chance to get the lowest temperatures possible on a hot summer day. Even if you wake up at 6 a.m. and it is 78 degrees outside, that is still better than running in the heat of the day when it can get upwards around 95 with a 102 degree heat index. The hottest time of the day is between noon and 4 p.m. That is when the sun is highest in the sky and will be beating down directly on you, so do your best to avoid those times.
    5. Wear sunblock. Aside from the obvious, "I don't want to get sunburned" reason for wearing sunblock, a little known fact is that it actually helps keep your body temperature down. The reason sunblock keeps you cooler is because it literally does what the name says. It blocks the sun from directly heating your skin. So in a way, we can say we are almost tricking the body by applying sunblock into making it think it's cooler outside. In terms of which one to use, I myself have been using Mission SPF 30 Ultra-Sweatproof Sunscreen. Anything over 30 SPF is really a waste because unless you're training for ultras, you aren't going to be outside long enough to need anything else.
    Well, those are some things to consider before heading out on your next run. You know, I'm not 100% sure if it really does anything, but I have been going out about once or twice a week, during the hottest hours of the day and doing a normal workout. I feel like I'm getting stronger in the heat, but I can't tell for sure. So if you do try to acclimate yourself to the heat by diving right in, be safe and bring plenty of water. If I missed anything, let me know in the comments, because this is a blog by a runner, for a runner, and we like to help each other out. Take these tips wisely, and you will love living the Life of a Runner.