Skip to content

Archive for

Treadmill vs. Outdoor Running

Fitness Insight by Jamie Atlas

Running on a treadmill is not the same as running outside or on a track

Here’s why:

If you would, think briefly as to how the belt beneath your feet works.

If you place a foot on a moving treadmill it gets thrown back along the line in which the treadmill is moving – the treadmill is moving your foot back, not the foot moving itself back…

I will resist the urge to place a video here of people falling off their treadmills (although it was extremely tempting).

As you walk/run on a treadmill, the main difference your body experiences is related to the moving belt beneath you feet.

A treadmill moves you in a different way than regular running

Thanks Jamie for helping me understand this.  I haven’t really run in so long it’s depressing.  I try to “test the waters” by running on a treadmill at the gym and as always, after a mile or two, my leg is throbbing.  Today, I decided to take it outside.  What a difference!!! My legs felt like they were free to move as they were suppose to move. I did not feel constrained by the sides of the treadmill and my leg thanked me for it.  It felt natural and it made me happy.  Then, I talked to my awesome cousin Claire who just completed her first 60K (she rocks!), and she mentioned that one of the reasons she was miraculously never injured was because she always ran outside and never had the time to over train.  I think Jamie and Claire are on to something.  Treadmill running has always been great because it allowed me to control my speed, but it has also always led to some sort of muscle imbalance. Running is a sport that is best enjoyed outdoors and I think from now on, I’ll take my test runs outside.

Phew – glad I finally figured that one out.

Happy Trails and Happy Running!


How to Build Self-Discipline

Pick the Brain

Discipline is freedom. You may disagree with this statement, and if you do you are certainly not alone. For many people discipline is a dirty word that is equated with the absence of freedom. In fact the opposite is true.

Self-discipline involves acting according to what you think instead of how you feel in the moment. Often it involves sacrificing the pleasure and thrill of the moment for what matters most in life. Therefore it is self-discipline that drives you to:

  • Work on an idea or project after the initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away
  • Go to the gym when all you want to do is lie on the couch and watch TV
  • Wake early to work on yourself
  • Say “no” when tempted to break your diet
  • Only check your email a few of times per day at particular times

Winter is a tough time to stay dedicated to the workout routine, and sometimes my self-discipline begins to waiver.  However, every morning I wake up and look at my Boston Marathon Confirmation and set my sights to a warm April 16th, 2012.  Sometimes I may feel like trading the gym for an early dinner but then I think about what I really want and how far I’ve come.  A 3:20 marathon awaits…

My question to you – how will you use self-discipline to achieve your running and health goals?

I’m curious…

I’ve come across a lot of injured runners lately so that has left me to ask the question, why? I created my own very scientific poll to find out…

I hope everyone has a great Monday and here is a thought to start your day:

“The most powerful lesson you can learn in running? You’re capable of much more than you think.” via @runnersworld

HEAT – Highly Effective Athletic Training

About a year ago, a new sort of “gym” called HEAT opened up beside us.  HEAT stands for “Highly Effective Athletic Training,” and I’ve always had a desire to try a class.  The music is always pumping, people are sprinting while others are lifting weights, and the instructor is keeping everyone motivated with his intensity.  Well on Wednesday, I was finally able to attend a class (thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday and a day off work), and Robin gave me my first dose of Cardio Heat.  I loved every minute of it.

Our session started out on the RealRyder spin bikes.  If you’ve never seen one, please check them out – a visual will help you understand why they are great for HEAT.  Robin started us off with a brief warm up and then we got right to it.  When the music started we pedaled at our intensity 7, then we sprinted during the chorus, took it easy for a minute, increased the resistance, stood up, sat down, spun faster, raced (which is even faster), and then did it all over again.  It was awesome and the music made it so much better (Robin, please tell me where you get your music!). After 20 minutes on the bike, half of us went to the treadmill while the other half started to jump rope.  For the next 40 minutes we alternated between intervals on the treadmills, jumps, push ups, and abs.  From what I can remember (because some of it is a blur), we did the following:

  • Ran two minutes on the treadmill (not all out, but fast)
  • Jumped rope for 2 minutes
  • Ran 90 seconds on the treadmill, with 60 seconds of sprinting
  • Side lunges with a jump
  • Ran another 90 seconds of sprinting
  • Squat jumps
  • Increased the incline, and sprinted for 90 more seconds
  • Tuck jumps (these are HARD to do for 90 seconds straight)
  • Increased the incline to 10% and ran for 90 seconds
  • Mountain climbers with push ups
  • Ran faster on a 10% incline but with 10 seconds on and 10 seconds off
  • Abs (but fast)
  • 15% incline but no speed faster than 4.5mph
  • Ran 60 seconds all out sprinting

When we were done, I wasn’t 100% spent (which obviously meant I could have tried harder), but I was tired.  Robin gave us all high fives and my much underused muscles were definitely feeling it.

So what is so great about what they do at HEAT and how is it more effective than other traditional forms of exercise?

First, the RealRyder stationary bike.  This bike is not your normal stationary bike, and the first time I saw it, I thought “Wow, I’m going to fall right off.”  This bike simulates actual outdoor biking by allowing the rider to move side to side.  It allows you to use more muscle groups, which in turn, leads to a higher calorie burn.  According, to the RealRyder website, there is a 20% increase in calorie burn than with a traditional bike.  For me, one of the most difficult parts of our workout was trying to keep it steady and not moving from side to side.  I really had to engage my arms and my core to keep the bike centered, and they were sore the next day because of it.

Second, intervals on the treadmill.  Interval training involves alternating high intensity exercise with recovery periods and are a GREAT way to increase cardiovascular fitness.   Because you are exercising more vigorously, you will get a higher calorie burn.  Intervals force you to push your heart and muscles to the max.  Another benefit of this type of exercise is you help to avoid overuse injuries.  You are only doing the interval for a short period of time and aren’t pounding the pavement for hours on end, which can be very helpful to your knees, hips, and legs.

Third, jumps.  I’ve always loved jumps because they aren’t easy and they get your heart pumping.  Jumping, and in particular jumping rope, is great for the heart, strengthens the upper and lower body, and burns a lot of calories in a short period of time.  Jumping is beneficial to us runners because it improves agility and overall coordination.  They can also help strengthen your calf muscles, which will lead to you powering up your next Heartbreak Hill.

Clearly, we are runners and running is our sport of choice.  However, a class like Cardio Heat can be more effective than your next easy 3 miler, and if you’re looking for a way to mix up your routine, this is a great way to do it.  Your muscles are guaranteed to be sore the next day (or next two days as mine are), and by working new muscle groups and pushing yourself to new limits, your running will thank you.  HEAT has taken the interval approach to fitness, made it fun, and created an environment for fitness that allows everyone to be challenged.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Pain spelled A-R-T

Pain is powerful. Period. Pain can warn your body to stop whatever it is your doing or it can be the barrier that exists between you and achieving your next PR.  I’ve always had the mantra that if it didn’t hurt, I wasn’t trying hard enough. (And perhaps that is why I am sitting here with ice on my leg, but I digress…).  Although pain is not always great, I have found that if I can stand the pain of intervals or the pain of a long run, my running has always improved.  But as it is with us runners, I sometimes train too hard, ignore rest days, and end up on the much dreaded injured list.  An injury a few years ago left me searching for any cure I could find.  That is what introduced me to ART, or active release therapy.  Ever since then, I have been an avid proponent for ART.  For me, active release therapy is one source of pain that I am happy to put up with in order to become a better runner.

Active Release Therapy is defined as a “patented, state of the art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves.”  Although they use the term massage in the definition, I find it to be the complete opposite of a massage.  For me, a massage equals peaceful, relaxing, and something that feels good.  ART on the other hand, equals intense pain.  I had my first experience with ART a few years ago basically for the same reason I’ve been going these past few weeks – my right leg hurts.  I remember doing a lot of research about ART and knew before I ever had my first treatment, it was going to hurt.  Well let me be the first to say, it hurt like something I had never experienced before.  However, if you are considering ART and can get past saying a few choice words and swearing you’ll never do it again, ART can offer you more relief than you ever thought possible.  The moment you stand up, you can feel the difference (trying to ignore the throbbing pain) and wonder why you didn’t call the doctor two weeks earlier.  Whatever pressing they do on your muscles and twisting they do of your legs, it works.  And what is even better, it is almost immediate.   After one treatment with Dr. Molly, I can go out for a quick run and tell an improvement.  Granted, I may suffer from some soreness and bruising, but it is all worth it for the sake of running.  If you’re interested in trying this form of treatment, let me break it down for you:

  1. You go in, describe the problem, and the doctor will evaluate your tight tendons, ligaments, etc.
  2. Once the problem area has been identified, they will push deep into that spot with their hands while moving your leg (or whatever limb it may be) in a particular direction.
  3. Next, you may scream out in pain, start sweating because of the pain, jump off the table and hobble out, or breathe deep and let the doctor do it again.  (I recommend breathing deep and trying again.)
  4. The doctor will repeat  the action several more times and it never gets easier.
  5. You will get off the table, knowing that the deepest part of your muscle has been bruised and tortured, but miraculously, your leg feels better.
  6. You  go for a little jog and experience the immediate benefits of ART.
  7. You sign up for your next appointment, which is normally two days later (they don’t recommend that much pressure and pain within a 24 hour period) and do it all over again.
  8. You start running again MUCH sooner than you imagined.

I’m a strong believer in Active Release Therapy and of course Dr. Molly.  Every time I’ve had an issue with my leg, I go visit Active Chiropractic, and normally after 3 visits, I’m back to normal.  After my last visit with Dr. Molly, I could tell such an immediate improvement that I decided in preparation for the Boston Marathon, I would be meeting with her twice a month until April 16th, 2012.  I’ve already scheduled all of my appointments up to one week before the race.

If you suffer from any sort of injury, misalignment, hip issues, calf issues, or anything else that may be soft tissue related, I highly recommend finding your nearest ART certified doctor.  It will be well worth your time.  Even if you are just running and not training for a particualar race, it may be worth it just to have a doctor work on areas that you didn’t even realize were tight.

As runners, we are well aware of the concept of pain.  Sometimes we push ourselves to the max and other times we push ourselves too hard when we really should take it easy.  Although active release therapy may be intense and painful, if you have any sort of injury, it is all worth it.  And being the runners and athletes we are, we can handle the pain and will come out better performers because of it.

Dr. Molly- awesome at what she does and so nice!

This is where it all happens... at least it's feng shui

The Art of Cross Training

If there is one thing I’m an expert in, it is cross training.  I have suffered from a stress fracture in my hip, to calf strains, swollen ankles, or just about any other running injury you could imagine.  And the funny (if that’s the right word) thing is, I always saw it coming – every single time. But I could never bring myself to cross train, as I should have.  I have developed a love/hate relationship with the bike, elliptical, and stair master. I love them because they keep me in shape, but I hate them because they keep me inside.  Nevertheless, I owe all of these machines a big part of my fitness, because without them, I’d be a few pounds heavier with a not so great aerobic capacity.  So for that, thank you bike, elliptical, and stair master.

Cross training can be difficult for some runners for the mere fact that it is not running.  Why be inside climbing stairs to nowhere when you could be outside, cruising along to wherever you want? But cross training has so many benefits it is almost unimaginable to not include it in your training plan.  The purpose of cross training is to improve performance by doing sports other than running.  It works new muscle groups, provides others a rest, and gives your mind a break as well.

I’d like to share two of my personal favorite (and in my mind, most beneficial) forms of cross training, 1) hot yoga and 2) the bike.

Bikram Hot Yoga is yoga taken to an entirely new level. It is a 90 minute class that consists of 26 postures in a room of 105 degrees.  Now if that doesn’t sound like fun, I’m not sure what does.  There is nothing like trying to do camel pose after having the heat take away your very breath and leave you nothing short of just plain nauseous. It takes your body and pushes it to its max and then some.  But the feeling you have when you walk out of that studio, is something like no other – almost like finishing your first race.  I remember the first time I completed a class.  I just sat in my car and was unable to have a real thought except to just be still and take it all in.  I’m imagining that in other yoga classes, that is what they mean when they talk about silencing all of “the chatter” in your life.  I couldn’t have had a real thought even if I wanted to (well maybe “What the hell?” passed through my mind once or twice). Once I started going regularly, my body felt like it never had before.  My body parts were in alignment.  My hips were stronger and I stood a little taller.  And of course, all of this translated to better running.  It got to a point where Wednesday became my favorite day of the week, because even though I had to set aside 2 ½ hours to go to Bikram (driving there, class, and then driving home), my body thanked me everyday.  I highly encourage you to give it a try , or maybe a few tries, to experience what hot yoga can give your body.  You just might actually like it.  And even if hot yoga isn’t your thing, any form of yoga is sure to offer your running legs some much needed benefits.

My second favorite cross training activity is the bike.  Perhaps my inspiration to start biking came after I started seeing people leave a spin class – sometimes I’m not that sweaty even after 10 miles of running.  I did some research, started following Lance Armstrong on Twitter and after some post-marathon aches and pains, decided to put my knowledge to the test.  My mantra was if it didn’t hurt, I wasn’t pushing hard enough.  I also would wear the Livestrong bracelet for a little Lance motivation.  Well after incorporating speed intervals on the bike into my training, I ran my fastest half marathon (1:37) with no other real speed work.  From that point on, I took two days a week to do something other than running.

If I’ve learned anything in my 10 years of running, it is that every body is different.  Some people can run 75 miles a week while others can only run 40.  I use to be so upset with myself if I wasn’t meeting the mileage I had planned for the week, but I now know my body can safely run about 50 miles a week, and that is it! Any more than that, and I’m asking for injuries.  So instead of beating myself up about it, cross training has given me an outlet and still allowed me to excel at my running.

If you are looking to incorporate some new activities into your workout schedule, try the following:

  • Do an activity other than running the day after a hard workout, the day before a long run, or both.
  • Do activities that work similar muscles as running – bike, elliptical, stairs
  • Keep  your heart rate up – if you aren’t really sweating, then you aren’t working hard enough
  • Take a rest day – you deserve it after all of your hard work.

Although biking and climbing stairs are not doing what we truly love, they will certainly help to keep your running career alive a little longer.  Never underestimate the power of doing something different – the challenge could bring you some very unexpected rewards.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Fun and Running

Well it has actually been a great week for the sport of running, and even though I pounded out a whopping 1 mile on the pavement, I have no complaints.  Obviously this week wasn’t great for my running, but instead for the sport in general.  I would like to share two awesome running events with you from this week.  First, my girls from Girls on the Run completed their mock 5K on Thursday and second, today was the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon.

On Thursday, 14 awesome girls and their running buddies attempted their first 3.1 mile run.  The purpose of doing this was to give the girls practice with the distance and let them know they really could complete the 5K.  Well as coaches, we did what we could to make this event as fun as possible.  We started out with a little dancing, had a real water and aid station (complete with Gatorade, orange slices, and fruit snacks), and each girl got to run through her own finish line tape and receive a medal.  It was amazing and it makes me super excited for the real event in December.  I was telling some people about this and how the girls were doing an actual 5K.  They couldn’t believe 8-12 year old girls were putting themselves through this “torture.”  And I couldn’t believe some people would actually equate 3.1 miles to torture, but nevertheless, it got me thinking.  These girls never once complain about having to run and certainly didn’t utter one word of negativity on Thursday.  They were instead super excited and ready to go.  They were clearly displaying those characteristics of a “girl on the run.”  Well after our event on Thursday, on my way back home, I concluded that the reason Girls on the Run is such an awesome program (besides all of the obvious reasons) is because we have FUN! Pink streamers, music, medals, stickers, certificates, and LOTS of excitement really go a long way with a group of 4th graders.  I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook wall last week and it read ” In ev’ry job that must be done, There is an element of fun. You find the fun… and snap!”   I think that having fun and being silly from time to time really do make things better.  Check out our fun Thursday…

Stretching with the parents

Our first finisher!

Awesome job ladies!!

The other awesome running event this week was the City of Oaks marathon.  Two years ago I ran this race in the pouring rain and 40 degree weather.  That in NO way was fun but this morning was beautiful and a great day for a race.  We woke up early to go  cheer for the runners (and in particular Alysha) as they ran down Glenwood Avenue.  Now granted, they were only 5 miles into their 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles but they all looked so happy! There were people out there with pink tutus, Waldo costumes (as in Where’s Waldo?), and even an armed forces member running in full attire (boots, backpack, etc).  Even he managed to look like he was having fun.  I’ve never been to cheer on runners in a race before but it was definitely worth waking up early on a Sunday morning.  Heat Studios was great and had some of their spin bikes outside so we could stay warm, and they were also offering coffee and bagels to the spectators. Thank you Heat Studios! Geoff cheered with his cowbell and Mario and I shouted and clapped for about 45 minutes in the cold.  A little boy cheered and shouted out people’s names as they ran by (names are printed on the bibs), and we gave more high fives than I probably have in my entire life.  It was just so cool to see that even though I’m hurt and can’t run, so many other people were out there having fun and achieving their goal of finishing the race.  They brought me joy through their running and perhaps that is the main reason why I love this sport – you don’t even have to do it for it to make a positive impact on you. Congratulations to all of the runners in today’s race! You are all amazing!

Ready to cheer on the runners

Mario trying to stay warm – Thank you HEAT!!

Alysha stopping for some water

Check out that pink tutu!

Running in boots with a backpack – Amazing!

Runners coming down Glenwood Avenue

Check out this little runner!!!

My cheering buddy