Category Archives: Cross Training

How Long Before Running Feels Good?!

After the High School track season ended in early May, I took some time off from running. It wasn’t so intentional – but rather – I had no races planned, I had no practice to go to, and I guess I just wanted the break. So three or so weeks later…and realized that I hadn’t stepped outside for more than one or two brief (yet painful!) runs.

Well, just last weekend, one of our runners on the Spanish River team (Ellyn) messaged to me to see if I’d start running with her – she is leaving for a summer internship in Chicago in a couple of weeks, followed by a competitive running camp in Texas for one week. The running camp asked that she was prepared for mileage ranging from 5-10 miles/day at a good pace before arriving at camp. Anyway – we met up on Monday for a 5-miler and I found myself out of breath and overall in pain desperately wanting to stop just a few miles in! Ellyn, in great shape, had no problem running at a nice pace in the Florida summer heat. Despite the pain, I forced myself to keep running – while of course telling Ellyn it was okay to run ahead at her own pace. I kept at it that first day and then again when we met on Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning and Thursday morning. I added an extra 4-miler with the South Florida Runs group on Wednesday night (in honor of National Running Day) and then we ran again on Thursday. Every single one of those runs last week was PAINFUL and hard. I was actually pretty bumbed by Wednesday night’s run…upset with how out of shape I felt. After a rough run on Thursday with Ellyn (where I ran my own shorter, slower route not wanting to effect Ellyn’s great progress), I jumped in the pool for a quick swim (I was pretty sore). I decided to take off Friday. Then Saturday morning, I ran with some of the guys from the Spanish River team for a quick 3-miler. I felt okay – not great but not as terrible as I was feeling the days prior.

And then today, Sunday morning, I woke up and headed over to my favorite South Florida Runs run on Palm Beach island. While I only intended to run five or six miles this morning, I was with Caleb and Bryan from the team and at the six mile turnaround point – we all decided to run the full Palm Beach route (8 miles). The pace was good throughout – nothing too fast but definitely not too slow. And I felt great. At the end – I was a little tired – but that’s pretty normal after an 8-miler, for me at least. But the point is – today was my breakthrough. After a week of tough, painful and at times frustrating runs…I had a great one that reminded me why I was out there, what I loved about running, and how good it can feel when you are in shape and prepared.

Coach Rothman has told me before: It takes about a week to get into shape where running starts to feel okay, even possibly good for some. And I have told new runners that countless times. Especially when they come out on their first day of practice and can hardly get through a 10-15 minute jog. I often tell them of my own experience as a freshman in high school. My first day of practice – Coach Rothman had me run around the back field for 15 minutes…and I nearly died. I, like most cocky high schoolers, started off fast thinking I was in better shape than I was…and at about 4 minutes in – couldn’t imagine running for another second. The rule is that the kids are not allowed to walk – no matter what. Coach Rothman says it really says more about their work ethic and drive than their running ability. I mean who can’t run for 10 minutes straight? It’s all mental for that short of a distance. But the bigger point is that if the kids can get through that first day or two of running – odds are that they will be fine. I still consider that first day of practice to be one of the hardest ever. Harder than 5 x mile workouts, 16 x 400 repeats, and so-on. Yes, when you are not in shape – a 10 minute jog can be that hard!

But back to my original story…with this week of “getting back to running” pain/work behind me – I have a new belief in the “week to get in shape” philosophy. It worked for me…and I say that after a few runs that were pretty darn frustrating and demotivating. Coach Rothman – pulling from his biology background – adds: “When someone is running, the body makes new capillary systems in the muscles to send red blood cells and oxygen, deeper into the muscles to allow more oxygen to produce energy. As more oxygen is needed through the stress of continually harder workouts, more capillary systems open. After 24 hours, these capillaries begin to close up, because the muscles sense they are not needed. After a week, many more of the capillaries are now closed, therefore, these need to open back up to get to the same level the athlete was at before.  That’s why it feels like it takes more work and time to get back in shape (than fall out of shape). It’s also the reason coaches say if you take a day off from running you are two days behind.  You lose some of the capillaries that you already opened, plus the lose of new ones that would’ve opened up if you ran.” Hence the reason that it could take a good week to open up those capillaries to where they are providing a sufficient amount of oxygen to the muscles…

So – if you are feeling like it is going to take forever to get back into running shape after taking off some time – do not despair. Get started right away and put in the work for one week straight – everyday. And it will happen…I promise. It will!

Question: How long does it usually take you to feel normal again after taking a break from running?!

Treadmill Versus Outdoor Running

I was talking to a runner earlier today…and he mentioned a friend of his had recently claimed to run under 17 minute pace for the 5K only one month after starting running/training – primarily as conditioning for another sport. My friend (the real runner) seemed concerned that this “newbie” runner was able to achieve such a feat so quickly and without seemingly much work or experience. So how, you ask, is this newbie doing so well, so quickly? Well, I left out the most important clue…he was running on a treadmill.

Could a treadmill really make that much of a difference? Is treadmill running that much easier than traditional outdoor running? Are treadmill times not realistic? And is treadmill running adequate training for an outdoor road, cross country or track race?

According to the experts at Runners World and other resources I have researched, treadmill running and road running are definitely not the same. And therefore, the times achieved from one versus the other really should not be compared. All-in-all, it is agreed that running on a treadmill is easier than running outdoors, for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The treadmill belt assists leg turnover, making it easier to run faster. This is why most runners will find that their pace on the treadmill doesn’t correlate to their road pace. (Good point for my “real” running friend.)
  • Some of the soft tissue conditioning or “hardening” that occurs with road running does not occur with treadmill running because the plate or base on the treadmill “gives” more than road surfaces. (Meaning – it’s a better muscle workout outdoors.)
  • There are no weather conditions to deal with when running indoors (rain, snow, ice, cold, heat, etc.). (Meaning “real runners” run outside and face the elements – whatever they might be.)
  • The incline that just occurs with outdoor running (because in case you didn’t know – the world isn’t flat!) is also missing on the treadmill – unless you specifically increase the incline on the machine!

This is not to say that the treadmill can’t be a great training tool – for a variety of reasons. And I’ll be the first to say I like the treadmill – unlike many of my “real” runner friends who almost equate it to the elliptical machine! In fact, a number of years back (around 2006-2007) after returning from college, I started running primarily on the LA Fitness treadmills after work each day. It was easier for me because I could go right after work and see people I knew; it was also safer because the sun was going down pretty early at that time of year and running outside wasn’t a great option for a single female. After a few months of “treadmill training,” I ended up running some great 5K times in outdoor road races. I attribute it to the short but FAST workouts I would do on the treadmill – of course music blasting. For me, as an overly competitive person, running on a treadmill ensured that I would run fast because in my head I had to look like a “real” runner to the random people working out around me!

But I digress…Because treadmill running is easier, it’s a good ideas to use it for speed work (like I did). You can do this by speeding up the pace for short intervals and then slowing it down for recovery intervals (i.e. a Fart-Lek – I’ll define that in a later post). This is a very convenient way to get in some speed work or tempo runs in a controlled setting.

Here are a few more Treadmill Running Tips:

Use a slight incline.

  • Set the treadmill inclination to 1% to 2%. Since there’s no wind resistance indoors, a gentle uphill better simulates outdoor running. Of course, if you’re just getting started with running, it’s fine to leave the incline at 0% until you build up your fitness.
  • At the same time, don’t set the incline too steep (more than 7%) — this may lead to Achilles tendon or calf injuries. Also, don’t run at an incline of more than 2% for your entire run.

Don’t hold onto the handrail or console.

  • Some people assume that they need to hold onto the handrails when walking or running on a treadmill. The handrails are only there to help you safely get onto and off of the treadmill.
  • When running on the treadmill, practice proper upper body form by keeping your arms at a 90 degree angle, just as you would if you were running outside.

Don’t lean forward.

  • Make sure to keep your body upright. It’s not necessary to lean forward because the treadmill pulls your feet backward. You need to pull your feet from the belt before they are driven away by the belt.

Pay attention to your stride.

  • Keep your stride quick and short to help minimize the impact transferred to your legs. Try to maintain a mid-foot strike to make sure you’re not heel striking and sending shock to your knees. You may need to exaggerate the heel lift because the lack of forward momentum means your feet won’t be moving in a circular path.
  • The more steps you take per minute, the more efficiently you’ll run. Elite runners run about 180 steps per minute. Determine your stride count by counting how often one foot hits the belt in a minute and then doubling that number. Try to improve your stride count during your run by focusing on taking shorter, quicker strides and keeping your feet close to the belt. This exercise will help you deal with boredom on the treadmill and even improve your outdoor running.

Don’t look down.

  • It can be hard not to continually look to see how much time or distance you have left, but if you’re looking down, your running form will suffer.
  • Don’t stare at your feet either. You’re likely to run hunched over, which could lead to back and neck pain. Looking straight ahead is the safest way to run, whether you’re on the treadmill or running outside.

Looking to buy a treadmill? Check out these.

Wondering what the world records are for treadmill runners? Here they are!

Want to be a better athlete? Start swimming!

I was talking to a running friend the other day who is a father of a young girl. She is around 10 years old and has chosen swimming as her primary sports activity. Her dad, Mike, was telling me about how the minute his daughter gets in the pool, she loves it, excels and is incredibly competitive. He said he hopes that his daughter will continue her swimming journey but isn’t sure she will – because of a range of reasons – scheduling being the primary reason and second being her common dread for getting in the pool before a practice. While I was talking to him, I immediately thought of a recent realization or proclamation I made.

I’ve decided that if I had to do it all over again I would swim as a young kid. And when I have a child, especially a girl, I will push her to swim at a young age. Of course later on (in high school, college, etc.) she can be a runner, but starting off as a swimmer would be ideal. Why you ask? Because from my observations (especially as of late), I have noticed that the really successful and competitive high school track and cross country athletes were swimmers as a young age. Why?

  • In general, they are typically stronger (abs, shoulders and back especially), fitter and healthier than the non-swimmers. And as a result they aren’t focused on being super skinny but rather lean and strong.
  • Just as important – these swimmers are avoiding the pounding and resulting injuries caused by running at a young age.

But don’t just listen to me…look at the evidence. Case in point, here are a few examples of successful runners who started off as swimmers…

  • Lily Williams, recent Florida High School graduate, who won three State Championship Titles at the Florida 4A Track & Field meet. She won the 1600 meters, 800 meters and 3200 meters. An feat that is so rare – I believe she is the first to accomplish it. She is heading to Vanderbilt University. She was a swimmer.
  • Jordan Hasay, a track athlete at the University of Oregon, has already won numerous national championships. She is a tiny girl with an extremely muscular build. She was and continues to be a swimmer. (Her mother was a very successful swimmer as well.) More on Jordan’s story here.

Need swim lessons? Techniques to make you faster? Check out this program.

An interesting article on “Building Better Athletes with Swimming’ here.

More benefits of swimming courtesy of HumanKinetics.com.

Swimming is the ultimate all-in-one fitness package, working most muscles in the body in a variety of ways with every stroke. When strokes are performed correctly, the muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility. The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength, which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life. The hip, back, and abdominal muscles are crucial to moving through the water effectively and efficiently. Swimming builds these core muscles better than any abs video or gadget advertised on television. Finally, a properly structured swim workout provides incredible improvements to the cardiovascular system. The nature of breathing when swimming-with breath being somewhat limited in volume and frequency-promotes greater lung capacity and a consistent intake of oxygen. Both aerobic and anaerobic gains can be made in the same workout.

Training for a Half vs. Full Marathon

A Half Marathon Training Plan where you run on average 3-4 miles a day - with one extra long weekend run! Doesn't seem so daunting, does it?

I was talking to my friend Cheryl the other day, who now lives in San Francisco. Cheryl is a runner. She and her husband Barry run marathons, half marathons, 10ks, 5ks, etc. around the country – depending on where they are living and/or traveling. Cheryl had posted on Facebook about how she was starting her marathon training for the upcoming Twin Cities marathon in October. And I asked what training plan she was using. (Interested in getting your own personalized plan, click here.) Cheryl told me she was utilizing an individually designed plan for the marathon. She also mentioned that unfortunately she didn’t have one for half marathons – because she instead keeps a base of about 6 miles – and when a half marathon race is coming up, she’ll add a couple of longer runs in. And in all honesty, the last half marathon I ran (Latin Rock & Roll Half Marathon in Miami Beach), I did exactly that…I was in fact following the same training plan (running the same mileage) as the kids on my high school cross country team – who were running 3.1 mile races…and then adding a longer Sunday run (between 7 and 9 miles).

Now – in all honesty – I needed to up my mileage and it hurt me after mile 10 of my half marathon…but I did okay. So the question is – does this work for others? And how often do runners keep their base mileage at a consistent rate and then add a few longer runs to bump them up to “half marathon ready.”

Here is one such product for improving your running. Click Here for details!

As a side note, here is a good article on the importance of base training and how you can be getting ready for that upcoming half marathon that you don’t even know about — from Runners World:

“Rob Wiley never worried much about how he began a new training cycle. He figured it was enough just to stay fit, running the same few miles just about every day at about the same easy pace. Then the 32-year-old project manager of Gurnee, Illinois, started working with a coach, Jenny Spangler. She had Wiley run hills and tempo runs in his base weeks, that six- to nine-week period of time before a formal training plan begins. “I thought, Why am I running hard stuff right out of the gate?” he says. The reason became apparent two months later, when he began stepping up his workouts. “I was strong,” says Wiley–stronger than he had ever been entering a training season.

The experience was a revelation for Wiley. Proper base building isn’t simply a matter of logging a decent number of miles, he realized. Instead, it serves as a bridge between the off-season’s maintenance runs and a race-specific training program. “The purpose of base training is to prepare you for your next phase of harder, faster running,” says Spangler, the 1996 U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials champion. If you transition too quickly into the rigors of a training program, your ability to perform and, therefore, benefit from the work decreases while your risk of injury increases.

Because base training comes before you actually begin a training plan, it’s often overlooked, says Spangler. In fact, quality work during this early phase is no less important than during your peak weeks. Faster-paced miles and the inclusion of a weekly long run increase endurance and strengthen your muscles, bones, and connective tissues. The improved fitness not only readies your body for the more intense running to come, it also allows you to safely handle tougher workouts, which increases the overall effectiveness of your entire training cycle.”

Read the full article here.

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Wait…You Want Me To Take Time Off?!

Yes! It’s a shocking but truly critical part of training and running. You must take time off! Now, I’m not preaching for anyone to take off every other day or every weekend – and still expect to improve their running…but I am saying that moderation is important and therefore rest is a critical part of improving as a runner and athlete. Your body needs it to heal; and your head needs time off at times as well for a break!

Here are some of the reasons why a runner may need some time off from running:

  • A Planned Break: It’s been a long season with lots of hard training and racing. It may be the end of the school year and therefore end of the track season; it may be the conclusion of winter 5K and marathon racing in South Florida; and/or a full year of back to back to back marathons without sufficient race. All of this leads to the opportune time for a planned break in your training. In high school, Coach Rothman instructed us to take two weeks off from running in between Cross Country and Track. This meant immediately after Cross Country states or regionals, we took exactly two weeks off before beginning our training (low mileage to start) in preparation for Spring track. We did the same in the Summer right after Track and before the long summer of mileage build-up as well. Between High School and College, I personally took off approximately four weeks as instructed by my new college coach. (Looking back…I should have spent some time during those four weeks doing alternative exercise/activities and not just laying on the couch. It may the return to summer training much more difficult! Learn from my example!)
  • Aches & Pains…Or Worse…An Injury: Listening to your body as a runner is so important – potentially more than any other sport. All of us have aches and pains at times and you need to  know when something is hurting more than it should and/or for a longer period of time than it should. You need to know when simply applying ice or going for a massage will do and when you need to visit a trainer and/or doctor. When an injury happens, the doctor or trainer will often tell you to take off upwards of two or four weeks…so do yourself a favor and take off a few days, a week or more on your own when you are feeling a pain that you know isn’t going away. And in the meantime, try out some cross training. (Check out our recommendations/ideas here.)
  • Other Reasons: Taking a break may also be needed if you feel tired, sick, or that your training it in a complete rut and there is no way to get out. Sometimes in this case the running break will help you more mentally than anything!

According to experts, in the hierarchy of training, breaks rank right up there with threshold runs, intervals, reps, and steady running. All have a purpose and when placed in proper sequence can and will ultimately build on one another. Leading to a stronger runner, and a better you!

Remember, breaks from running are also a great opportunity to look into cross training. Take the time to bike, swim, roller blade, ski, etc. This may also be a good opportunity to focus on your strength training exercises and increasing the number of trips you are making to the gym to “just lift.”

Benefits of Massage

I am a big fan of massages. I go for them pretty regularly – well at least I try to. I know I should go more and am told that by my masseuse each time I show up. The knots in my back and shoulders seem to get worse and I am reminded that de-stressing, more water, stretching and more regular massages are the only answers. Each time I smile and promise I will schedule more but it is tough to get there with such a busy schedule. I mean it’s not like I don’t want to go! If I had my way – I’d be on the massage table at least twice a week!

But back to the purpose of this post. Lots of massage locations are offering special packages and discounts for summer and specifically Mother’s Day. So regardless if you are a mom or not, take advantage and get one! I personally recommend the amazing massage team at the Boynton Beach Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation Institute. I’ve had personal experience there and the experience was fantastic and most importantly RELAXING! They are offering 25% off hour-long massages just in time for Mother’s Day so call the office today and purchase one for you or the “mom” in your life. They are located in the Canyon Town Center shopping area in West Boynton Beach (Boynton Beach Blvd, just west of the Turnpike). The office number is 561-364-4111 and the website is DrDavidRudnick.com. Tell them I sent you!

And if you still need a reason to go for a massage, check out this great article written by Madeline Vann, MPH for EveryDayHealth.com:

Massage And Emotional Wellness

Massage can provide stress relief for just about anyone, from preterm babies to the elderly. Yet the benefits of massage go beyond stress relief. Moderate-pressure massage for as little as 15 minutes may offer relief from depression, anger, and anxiety.

“It’s never fun to let stress bring you to your breaking point! Just as we take our cars in for regular tune-ups, we too need maintenance,” says massage therapist Kristen Sykora, LMT, owner of Harmony Healthcare Associates and Hands Down Physical Arts, Inc. in Wantagh, NY. “Massage therapy decreases the amount of stress in the body by [relaxing] muscles, flushing out the waste products from the muscles, and increasing the ‘feel-good’ hormones.”

Massage Therapy and Stress Relief: Emotional Health Benefits

If you’ve been in the hands of a good massage therapist, you already know how your body responds with stress relief. But the physiological response goes deeper than blissful relaxation.

“Massage therapy can improve a person’s emotional health by reducing stress and stress hormones; by increasing serotonin and thereby reducing depression and pain; and by enhancing immune function and thereby reducing bacterial and viral illnesses,” explains Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Fla.

Field’s research team has shown that massage relieves stress for preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. Three 15-minute full-body massages each day for five days lead to a significant reduction in stress-related behaviors in this vulnerable population. Massage has also been shown to help preterm babies gain weight faster.

Research has also shown that:

  • Six 30-minute massages over a two-week period can ease pain and improve mood among people with advanced cancer.
  • Massage can help reduce depression in both children and pregnant women. As little as 15 minutes of massage on a regular basis may be beneficial to mood.
  • Massage therapy is helpful for trauma victims. “Aside from physical pain, victims of trauma, past or present, will often hold memories of such events in their muscle tissues. By receiving massage from a trained professional, one can get back in touch with their body and be able to access the held emotions,” says Sykora.

Massage is not just a way to gain stress relief — you can reduce many of the other unpleasant emotions in your life as well. “Many studies show that massage therapy reduces negative mood states like depression, anxiety, and anger and their associated stress hormones,” says Field.

Massage Therapy and Stress Relief: Finding a Massage Therapist

Most massage therapists can provide the kind of massage you will need to help with depression, anger, anxiety, and stress relief. “Moderate pressure is the key factor for massage therapy to be effective. Any type of massage therapist who uses moderate pressure should be able to help with mood management,” says Field.

“We often go through our day without any recognition of how our bodies are responding to the stress we experience,” says Sykora, who advises regular massage sessions as well as a meditation practice for optimal stress management. “Massage treatments give us a time-out in order for us to access the deeper layers of our well-being, allowing the therapist to unwind the holding patterns in our tissues.”

So don’t be afraid to indulge in a massage every now and then — it’s good for your emotional well-being and your physical health.

Direct link to article here.

The Dreaded (And Too Common) Shin Splints

Wondering what  the most common injury that I see these days on our high school running team? Shin splints! Almost everyone goes through them at some point – some much worse than others and some facing the pain for a much longer time period than others. The “shin splint” has also, a result, become the catch-all term for lower leg pain that occurs below the knee either on the front outside part of the leg (anterior shin splints) or the inside of the leg (medial shin splints).

The question is why and how to prevent/lessen them once they’ve hit.

I’ll start out with the why: 

A primary culprit causing shin splints is a sudden increase in distance or intensity of a workout schedule. This increase in muscle work can be associated with inflammation of the lower leg muscles, those muscles used in lifting the foot (the motion during which the foot pivots toward the tibia). Such a situation can be aggravated by a tendency to pronate the foot (roll it excessively inward onto the arch). Also, a tight Achilles tendon or weak ankle muscles are also often implicated in the development of shin splints. (This is another reason that slow mileage build-up is so important for the body.

So what do do with your shins once you are feeling the pain?

  1. Ice your shins to reduce the inflammation (or pain)! The best way, we’ve found, is getting small dixie cups and filling them with water; putting them in the freezer and once frozen take them out, rip off the lip of the cup and run the frozen cups up and down your shins for 10 minutes each. Take a break and do it again. Some people will say to stop running – but this option is unfortunately not possible for all of us! As an athlete, you need to decide how bad the pain is and whether you can push through or not. Injuring yourself worse is not a good option either.
  2. Gently stretch your Achilles if you have medial shin splints, and your calves if you have anterior shin splints. Also, try this stretch for your shins: Kneel on a carpeted floor, legs and feet together and toes pointed directly back. Then slowly sit back onto your calves and heels, pushing your ankles into the floor until you feel tension in the muscles of your shin. Hold for 10 to 12 seconds, relax and repeat.
  3. In a sitting position, trace the alphabet on the floor with your toes. Do this with each leg. Or alternate walking on your heels for 30 seconds with 30 seconds of regular walking. Repeat four times. These exercises are good for both recovery and prevention. Try to do them three times a day.
  4. If you continue running, wrap your leg before you go out. Use either tape or an Ace bandage, starting just above the ankle and continuing to just below the knee. Keep wrapping your leg until the pain goes away, which usually takes three to six weeks. Other options – if the pain is excruciating – are: cross-training for a while to let your shin heal. Swim, run in the pool or ride a bike. (See my post on pool running.)
  5. When you return to running, increase your mileage slowly. As I said, the cause of shin splints if often increasing your mileage too quickly.
  6. Also, make sure you wear the correct running shoes for your foot type specifically, over pronators should wear motion-control shoes. Severe overpronators may need orthotics.
  7. Have two pairs of shoes and alternate wearing them to vary the stresses on your legs.
  8. Avoid hills and excessively hard surfaces until shin pain goes away completely, then re-introduce them gradually to prevent a recurrence.
  9. If you are prone to developing shin splints, stretch your calves and Achilles regularly as a preventive measure.

Questions? Just ask!

Additional resources: MedicineNet.com

Are You At The Right Racing Weight?

I recently read an advertisement for a new diet program and thought I had to share…

As a runner or athlete, you know that every extra pound you carry costs time, wastes energy, stresses your joints, and affects your performance.

And you know that “dieting” doesn’t help much, either. Diets only leave you feeling weaker by starving your body of vital energy and choking off the nutrients you need for muscle growth and training improvement.

What’s worse: With diets, you run the risk of undernourishing your body and losing muscle along with fat. So what’s the answer?

Burn off excess fat, get lean and finally get to your RACING weight.

The ad happens to be for a new book by a Triathlete selling his nutrition program…It goes on to ask, could 5 or 10 lbs be standing in the way of your personal best?

WELL, the book brings up a good question and something that’s important for all athletes and especially runners. In high school, prior to my junior year, I never thought about weight. As Coach Rothman said, do the workouts, eat well and the weight will be at what it needs to be. It seemed so easy then. Junior year, however, I started packing on the pounds. I was growing up you could say. All of a sudden, I found that I needed to pay attention to what I was eating. No more sharing pints of Ben & Jerry’s with one of my teammates in the local Publix parking lot after every long run. It was during the winter of my junior year – between cross country and track – that I got my eating schedule under control. I was on a nutritional program that told me what and when to eat. It was a perfect balance of carbs, protein, fats, etc. I was eating enough that I felt energetic, yet not too much so I kept my body lean. Later on the in the spring, I ended up winning the Florida 6A Track & Field 1600m and 3200m State Championships. So you could say the program worked.

But was it easy from there? No, I definitely went through phases again through my senior year and through college of eating too much again, and then eating too little. My energy was low and my races suffered; or I was carrying an extra few too many pounds and my races suffered. The balance is tough for a lot of us. I am the first to admit it, and that’s why a program that tells you what and when to eat has always been ideal for me. It ensures that I am not eating too much and that I am most importantly not restricting too much! It also allows me to live my life and not worry about what I am eating and if I had too little or too much. Because who wants to spend their life thinking about what’s next on the menu?

Now, 12 years later since that junior year of high school, I am back on a program and enjoying it once again. I am seeing the results and I am feeling good. If you or someone in your life needs that guidance, I recommend the AdvoCare program. It’s a complete nutritional and eating plan that keeps you on schedule and on target to be strong and lean. More details here.

Still not believing me? See some of the results!

Running Can Make You Smarter!

It’s true, running can make you smarter! Us runners have been saying it all along (right?!), but now there is proof! I read this article in this past week’s NY Times and had to share…

Here is the direct link to the article.

And here are some important notes I pulled out of it.

  • Using sophisticated technologies to examine the workings of individual neurons — and the makeup of brain matter itself — scientists in just the past few months have discovered that exercise appears to build a brain that resists physical shrinkage and enhance cognitive flexibility. Exercise, the latest neuroscience suggests, does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.
  • A team of researchers led by Justin S. Rhodes, a psychology professor at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, gathered four groups of mice and set them into four distinct living arrangements. Group 1: sensual and gustatory plenty; Group 2: sensual and gustatory plenty PLUS avenues/vehicles to exercise; Group 3: empty space just standard food, etc.; and Group 4: no sensual and gustatory plenty, but ability/vehicles to exercise. And in the end? It turned out that the toys and tastes, no matter how stimulating, had not improved the animals’ brains. Only one thing mattered: whether they had a running wheel! Now that’s persuasive!
  • And here is why: Exercise though seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay, much as it does with muscles.

I should add the article included much more information about the creation of new brain cells, etc. and whether this is happening…and the debate over they type of exercise needed (walking, jogging, running). Regardless, it’s another reason for us all to lace up those shoes and get out there running!