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The Best Book for any Runner

For those of you who live in the running and fitness world, you know there are a few things, that for those who are not a part of this world, would never understand. Throughout the course of my running career, I’ve purchased many books on how to train for the marathon, training for women runners, what I should and should not eat, etc. However, there is one book that I have owned for about 8 years and will still read from cover to cover and laugh out loud. I Run Therefore I’m Nuts by Bob Schwartz takes all of those crazy things that happen in a runner’s world and describes them in 47 very entertaining chapters.

Schwartz divides the book into 10 sections covering every aspect of a runner’s life: training, racing, the mindset of a distance runner, the runner’s multiple skills, nutrition & recovery, the marathon, injuries, aging gracefully, competition & effort, and motivation. Within each section he highlights how he handles things such as the taper (taper, shmaper – run long a few days before the race to give you that mental edge), postrun recovery (you’ve worked hard during those 26.2 miles – best to lie down and cease all movement immediately), to the art of stretching (lift arms over head, check to make sure you aren’t holding the coffee cup, and go). It doesn’t matter where I am in my training, whether I’m training for an upcoming race or injured and stuck on the couch, this book always makes me feel better about all of the batty things us runners experience. Here are a few of my favorite parts from the book:

On learning to drink and run at the same time:
”To be able to delicately grab a cup of fluid at racing speed and gracefully empty the contents into your mouth is pretty much an athletic event in and of itself…My neighbors undoubtedly questioned my family’s sanity as I strategically positioned my wife and young children in the driveway, all holding paper cups for me as I ran back and forth and back and forth.”

On runners’ spouses:
“Runners’ spouses also learn to tolerate a 40-minute car detour from our intended destination because we want to officially measure the new course we ran that day.”

On the runner’s ego:
“Some runners just can’t help themselves in adding on numerous nonexistent miles when someone asks how far they ran that day, or inflating by, say, a few decades the number of consecutive running days they have going.”

And the one I’m all too familiar with, the morning of the big event:
“I began the half-mile walk to the starting line, all the while engaging in the profound internal debate of whether my shoelaces were too tight, singlet versus T-shirt, and whether I’d really done enough long training runs.”

Yes Christmas has passed and the gift giving may be over for a while, but for those newbies to the sport of running or even the seasoned veterans, this book is well worth the $10. When you need a little reassurance that there are crazy people out there in the world just like you or maybe just a little laugh, this book is all you need. I assure you that you will still read it years down the road and laugh just as hard as you did the first time you read it.

Ending 2011 on a Positive Note

There is one more week left in 2011 and we are all (or at least I am), probably regretting the too many cookies we ate and the few too many glasses of wine we drank over the holidays.  And we are all thinking that in 2012, we still start (or return) to our healthy habits – eat right, exercise more, etc.  However, I’m just wondering… why not now?

Last year around this time I went to have my oil changed.  I very clearly remember a man dropping off his car, putting on his running shoes, and returning an hour later sweaty, but with his workout completed.  On Thursday I went to have my oil changed again at this same place and as I was checking out, a man came in on his bike to pick up his car. He had gone biking while the Toyota dealership worked on his car.  I have no idea if it was the same man or not, but I do remember thinking, “Wow, way to make the most of an hour wait time. And I thought I was being productive with making my to-do list”.

The holidays are busy – they always are.  But that shouldn’t mean we stop doing whatever it is we do to be healthier, happier people.  End 2011 just as you started – with a resolution to be awesome.

My take on the Minimalist Movement

There is a revolution in the running shoe world and you’d have to be living under a rock to have not at least heard of the barefoot/minimalist movement.  Some runners are avid believers in the science behind barefoot running while others choose to stick to their traditional shoes. Honestly, if you’ve been running for years in your thicker cushioned shoes and have very few problems with injuries, then why mess with a good thing? But if that isn’t you, then consider this scenario I found on The Running Clinic:

Modern running shoes and cholesterol

If profit-making companies were to introduce a category of pill to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and the pill became extremely popular, being sold to all hypercholesterolemic patients…
And, a few years later, it became clear that not only was the pill ineffective in reducing blood cholesterol, but it also caused several unpleasant side effects such as muscle pain and digestive problems…
What would you do? Pull the pill from the market, gradually to minimize withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, …and, above all, no longer prescribe it to newly diagnosed hypercholesterolemic patients.

If profit-making companies (1) were to introduce a category of running shoe to reduce skeletal stress (and therefore injuries) (2), and the shoe became extremely popular and was sold to all runners (3) …
And, a few years later, it became clear that not only was the shoe ineffective in reducing skeletal stress (4) (and therefore injuries)(5), but it also caused several unpleasant side effects such as increased strike force (6) and weakened feet (7) …
What would you do? Pull the shoe from the market, gradually to minimize withdrawal symptoms such as pain in the Achilles tendon (8), … and, above all, no longer prescribe it to new runners (9)!!!

Here is a picture of 2 years worth of running shoes:

There are three pairs of Brooks Adrenaline, two pairs of Newton Lady Issac, one pair of Newton Gravity, one pair of Asics Kinsei, and two pairs of New Balance Minimus.  Missing from this photo are the many pairs of shoes that came in my earlier years of running.  These include the Asics Kayano,  Asics Nimbus, Mizuno Nirvana, and Brooks Glycerin. Holy cow that’s a lot of shoes!  And in case these names mean nothing to you, just know these shoes range from the most expensive motion control shoe to the much cheaper and lighter minimalist shoe.  One shoe has all the support and cushion you could imagine while the other has nothing but a thin barrier between you and the road.  Now I wonder why I may get injured from time to time?

After 10 years of running, a stress fracture in my hip, swollen ankles, calf strains, and a few occurrences of runner’s knee, my New Balance Minimus are the light at the end of the tunnel.  Finally, I feel like I discovered the way running should be.  Easy, effortless, and pain free.  Now don’t think I just bought some shoes one day and had my running world change the next.  As with anything, there was a transition period and a few aches and pains along the way.  I had to learn to use some new muscles and adjust my running form, but it was all worth it.  There are still things I am learning and in January I will attend a Chi Running workshop (so excited!).  But I am happy and proud to say that I am a minimalist shoe convert.  It has saved my running.

My advice to anyone considering the transition – if you’ve been able to run injury free in your traditional shoes, then keep at it! Obviously that’s what works for you.  However, if running feels hard, uncomfortable, and you suffer from injuries a little too often, then you need to reevaluate two things: 1) your running form and 2) your running shoes.  Running shouldn’t be hard.  It’s an amazing sport and it should always be enjoyed.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

(If you’re interested in learning more about running form,, check out Good Form Running)

My Boston Marathon Cross Training Days

Last night I spent quite a bit of time working on my Boston Marathon training schedule.  Honestly, I’ve been pretty fortunate with my previous marathons.  I’ve generally followed a schedule that included long runs on Saturdays, a few runs during the week with a cross training day and a rest day.  Never have I really planned four months in advance.  However, this time I have a time goal that I know I’m going to have to really work at in order to achieve.  To avoid injury, I am mandating cross training days that will serve two purposes: 1) allow my legs to recover after speed workouts and 2) increase cardiovascular fitness.  Yes, cross training can help with recovery but it can be an ACTIVE form of recovery.  For me, biking and elliptical workouts should require just as much effort as a run.  The workout needs to have a purpose.

(page one of my training plan)

Certainly I do not know all things about the bike, elliptical, and stair climber, but due to the fact I’ve suffered a stress fracture and other hip aliments, I am quite familiar with how to get the most from 45 minutes on a machine.  They don’t call me Cardio Queen at the gym for nothing – I worked for that title. Anyway, today is one of my last cross training days before I start my marathon training on January 2, 2012 (and I will definitely still incorporate this workout on my non-running days).  It’s elliptical day and here’s how my last elliptical workout of 2011 will go:

Warm up: Jump rope for 2-3 minutes

  • The Interval Workout Program at a hard level
  • During the hard intervals, push it hard by going fast at a speed I can hold for a few minutes (depending on interval length)
  • During the recovery intervals, try to keep the same speed (but with lower resistance)
  • Continue alternating for 30 minutes
  • After 30 minutes, the last 10 minutes  at a medium resistance with medium a to fast speed (depending on energy level)

Cool Down: 5 minutes easy on the elliptical

And just for fun (or maybe torture?), I’m going to try this Ab workout.  I already tried a little bit of it and I didn’t like it very much.  It hurt.

And last but not least (and somewhat irrelevant), because it’s #RunningSongThursday, I’d like to share a few of my favorite workout songs in no particular order:
1) Eminem – Fast Lane
2) Eminem – Not Afraid
3) Eminem – ‘Til I Collapse
4) Rihanna – We Found Love
5) Pitbull – Give me Everything
6) Don Omar – Danza Kuduro (a little culture)
7) Justin Bieber – Never Say Never (only because it reminds me of The Next Karate Kid)
8 ) Jay-Z – Run This Town
9) Shakira – Waka Waka
10) Eminem – Crazy in Love
(Yes, I’m an Eminem fan)

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

More on Interval Training and its Benefits

Last week I posted about my experience with intervals and how they helped me to achieve my half marathon and marathon PR.  Yesterday I went to Barnes and Noble and read quite a bit about Emil Zatopek in The Lore of Running and now I am even further convinced of the power of interval training.  Consider this: In 1952 Zatopek won the gold medal in the 5,000m, 10,000m, and the marathon, all within 8 days and all Olympic records.  Oh, and to add to that, he had never run a marathon before in his life and it was a last minute decision to enter the event. His training method? Intervals. He introduced interval training to the running world and this method has become an integral part of every athlete’s training schedule – regardless of ability.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, interval training alternates high intensity work periods with lower intensity rest and recovery periods.

Why you should do it:

  1. It burns fat and increases increases cardiovascular fitness more quickly than moderate exercise
  2. You will be able to exercise longer and/or at a higher intensity because of improved cardiovascular fitness
  3. It spices up your workout so boredom is a nonissue

(Read More)

If you’re new to running and interval training, try this workout:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes at an easy pace
  • Run faster for 1 minute, followed by a 2 minute recovery interval
  • Repeat 4 to 6 times
  • Cool down with a jog for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Stretch!

If you’re more advanced and are training for a 10K – Marathon, try this:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes
  • 2 to 6 mile repeats with 1 -2 minutes recovery between each repeat
  • Mile repeats should be run at half-marathon pace or 30 seconds slower than 5K pace
  • Cool down with a jog for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Stretch!

Interval workouts should only be done 2 times a week at most, and it is important to allow for adequate recovery between workouts (48 hours normally).  You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start to see results.

Today during my interval workout, I kept reciting a quote by Emil Zatopek in my head:
“Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.”
Too bad learning to run fast has to hurt so much, but I guess it’s all a question of how bad do you want it?

(Emil Zatopek)

Some Holiday Motivation

Wow – I’m so glad the holidays only come once a year.  I might just turn into a cookie if they came more often.  Cookies don’t run well so this could be a bad thing.

It’s easy to get lazy and slack during December. After all, it is Christmas so why not take some time off and relax?  I visited with my 93 year old grandfather yesterday and he reminded me there are no days off…if you want it, you work for it.  Every morning he wakes up and goes walking with his neighborhood friends and has rarely missed a day in 30+ years.  It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing, hot or cold. The only reason he misses a walk now is when it’s raining, and that’s because he uses a walker and can’t carry an umbrella.

PaPa, you are my motivation this holiday season.  I will stay dedicated to my runs and to the workouts, and I will step away from those cookies (but only after I enjoy at most one).



Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Strength Training Friday

I got married this past April and my wedding dress arrived three weeks before the big day.  I remember looking at it before I put it on and thinking “Is that dress for Barbie?”  Needless to say it didn’t zip.  I maybe had put on 2 pounds but with a dress that form fitting, you really don’t have a lot to work with.  Panic set in, and I immediately went to the gym and sought out the one trainer who I knew could help me, Chris Cherico.   Read more

Cross Training on the Bike

I love my New Balance Minimus shoes so much that they actually make me forget to cross train.  I feel like I could run all day everyday in those shoes, but then I do something stupid (like switch shoes), and end up injured for a month or so.  So in preparation for the Boston Marathon in April, I’m taking every preventive measure possible to avoid injury.  This includes 16 Active Release Therapy sessions already scheduled, non-negotiable cross training days, and mandatory rest days.

Cross training has many times been my saving grace.  I get injured and it allows me to continue training.  Besides allowing for active recovery, cross training has many other benefits, and if done correctly, can help improve running times.  I mentioned in my last post, other than running intervals once a week, I do bike intervals to help with speed.  I’ve never actually gotten sick while exercising at a high intensity, although I’ve often tried (obviously not hard enough).  Anyway, bike intervals have often times brought me close to that point, and I do believe they have been quite effective in increasing my leg power. I’ll put on my Livestrong bracelet, start my Eminem playlist, and go at it.  Luckily, it’s a fairly short workout so if you can get through 30 minutes, you’re done. If you’re looking to incorporate more cross training and have access to a bike, I’d like to suggest this workout:

First, start some high energy music (it helps get you pumped up- I recommend Eminem “Fast Lane”)

  • Warm up for for five minutes
  • For the next five minutes, alternate one minute of high speed/high intensity (intensity level 6-7) intervals with one minute of high speed/low intensity intervals
  • For the next 20 minutes, alternate one minute with high speed/high intensity (intensity level 8-9) intervals with one minute of high speed/low intensity intervals

(As you get closer to the 30 minute mark, you might need to lower the speed of the recovery intervals to recover properly – your legs will be getting tired)

  • If you’re training for longer distances, you can ride out the next thirty minutes, alternating 5 minutes of hard, low speed intervals with easy, fast speed intervals

Call it a day when you’re done, stretch, and enjoy a recovery snack within 30 minutes of finishing your workout.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


How I met “Speedwork”

When I first started to run, speed was not something on my mind.  I instead started running as a preventive measure – I didn’t want to gain those dreaded Freshman 15. Then I ran my first 5K and I actually came in 3rd place for females (it was a small race).  I attributed this speed to intervals on an elliptical (odd, I know).  Maybe actually running some intervals would be a little more effective? I finally decided to try some speed work and in 2009 I ran my fastest half marathon by 13 minutes and my fastest marathon by almost 20 minutes.  This was the product of a workout I read in Runner’s World, and that I know for certain because it was the only speed work I ever did at that time (other than bike intervals once a week for 30 minutes). I loved my Tuesday speed workouts because the distance never seemed as long as it did when I was running at a steady pace. Perhaps due to the fact that I didn’t have the energy to think about how far I was actually running.  The workout hurt, but I knew it was coming every week, so I just did it with no complaints.  The results were evident.

This workout can be tweaked to any distance, as long as the goal is the same – run hard for x amount of minutes, rest for y amount of minutes.  I was training for a marathon so my workout went like this:

2 mile warm up
Run 6 minutes 15 seconds slower than 5K pace
Jog 3 minutes
Run 6 minutes 15 seconds slower than 5K pace
Jog or 3 minutes
Run 5 minutes 10 seconds slower than 5K pace
Jog 2 minutes
Run 5 minutes 10 seconds slower than 5K pace
Jog 2 minutes
Run 4 minutes at 5K pace
Jog 1 minute
Run 4 minutes at 5K pace
Jog 1 minute
Cool down for 1 – 2 miles (depending on goal race distance).

(If your race distance is shorter, only do one repeat of each interval and shorten the warmup and cool down.)

Why I like this workout:

  1. It goes by fast
  2. If I forget my Garmin, the number of songs played is a good way to judge number of minutes ran
  3. My calorie burn was super high afterward so I got to eat lots of yummy food (I’m always about the food),
  4. It produces results.

There are plenty of other speed workouts I do, and I’ll share them in the weeks to come, but this one holds a special place in my heart.  I feel like it really introduced me to being a “fast” runner.

(First half marathon after I started speed work – I definitely wasn’t expecting this.)

(Fastest marathon – speed work and lower mileage than previous training)

If you try it, let me know what you think!

Happy trails and Happy Running,

Paleo Diet – Stage IV

As a former vegan, it seems strange that I would be writing about the Paleo Diet; however, things changed when peanut butter and jelly sandwiches weren’t cutting it anymore.  My hair got a little too thin, and my workouts stalled.  Something had to go, and then enter The Paleo Diet for Athletes.  If you’ve never heard of the Paleo Diet, just know this: the basic idea is to eat like our stone age ancestors – lots of lean meat, vegetables, and fruit. No dairy, no wheat, and most certainly no chocolate bars.  I know, I know-boring and difficult! However, there is something to be said of our caveman predecessors.  They were fit, no doubt. They could hunt all day, run all day, and carry animals for miles.  They could accomplish athletic feats than many of us would find near impossible. Maybe their diet wasn’t so bad after all?  I knew for a fact there was no way I could stick to the Paleo Diet in the literal sense so I was glad to come across the Paleo Diet for Athletes.  This diet differs from the more strict Paleo Diet in that it divides your eating in to 5 stages (based on your workout), and depending on the stage, your protein to carbohydrate ratio differs. In other words, there is room for bread, chocolate, and a glass of wine. Hooray!

Because I’ve always struggled with what to eat post-workout, I’m currently trying to focus on Stage IV – Eating for Extended Recovery.  Here’s why Stage IV is important: the food you eat now repairs your muscles, refuels your energy stores, gets you ready for your next work.  Now is the time when you can eat pasta, bread, rice, and other high glycemic foods (talk about motivation to get through the workout).  You still need to have a 4-5:1 protein to carb ratio, but sweet potatoes, potatoes, and dried fruit are all on the “acceptable” list.

Tonight, after my run, I tried my hand at a Stage IV recipe and it was delicious! Easy, quick, and all Paleo.  If you’re interested in trying to improve recovery post workout, try this yummy recipe – it won’t disappoint!

Beef with Walnuts, Prunes, and Apricots

  • 1 lb. ground lean beef
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stems of fresh thyme
  • 4 ounces of white wine
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 3 ounces of walnuts, chopped
  • 8 dried prunes, chopped (nonsulfated, which you can find at Trader Joe’s)
  • 8 dried aprictos, chopped (nonsulfated, which can also be found at Trader Joe’s)

Heat the olive oil, add garlic and parsley.
Add the beef and cook until browned.
Mix in onion, thyme, and wine, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the tomato and walnuts.
Lower the heat and cover for another 10 minutes.
Stir in the prunes and apricots and cook for 5 more minutes.
Enjoy! (You can also now have that glass of wine and/or a piece of chocolate for dessert – you deserve it! )

Why it’s good: Lots of protein from the beef and walnuts and healthy carbs from the dried fruit.  The dried fruit can also help to lower your blood acidity, which according the the Paleo Diet, is a must post-workout.

Served with a side of avocado – delicious!

Let me know if you try it and what you think!

Happy Trails and Happy Running!