Category Archives: Articles

Gracie’s Gear Review: The Bottoms

When I first started running I used whatever sports shorts I happened to own at the time, and at the time what I had were baggy old gym shorts, some with the elastic thinning out. In college I was lucky enough to inherit from my roommate a pair of blue Nike running shorts. They were the first running shorts I’d ever owned and I thought it was brilliant the way the shorts were so light and airy and also had a handy inside pocket that fit a key or chapstick.

I still run in those shorts. Eventually I added a pair of Brooks running shorts to my collection and relied on doing regular laundry to have clean running shorts. For winter running I used sweatpants and old yoga pants until I found a pair of Adidas running pants that worked for cold weather runs. Eventually I added a pair of compression pants and then a pair of Nike capris for cool, but not cold, runs.

A couple months ago I reviewed the sports bra, tank, and pullover made by Gracie’s Gear. In addition to her tops, Gracie Updyke has a line of bottoms in her gear as well. Given my spartan collection of running shorts and the pair of too big Nike capri pants I have, I was more than happy to also review the Gracie’s Gear capris and shorts. Continue reading

Sorting Out Strides

strides_uncgradmanThe Runner’s World triathlon training program I’m using calls for five different types of running throughout the 12 week schedule: Foundation, Strides, Transition, Tempo, and Threshold Intervals. A rather in depth article about how runners can train for a triathlon preceded the program but it didn’t go into detail about the various types of running (or swimming or biking for that matter) as there are definitions in the sidebar of the program. All of the work-outs made sense to me except for the description of Strides, which happens to be one of the first running work-outs on the schedule. The program defines it as “Run 20 seconds at 5k race pace; jog 40 seconds after each stride” and each run work-out says how many repetitions of this to do.

In my mind, a stride was the forward movement of the leg. I was baffled as to how I was to jog for 40 seconds in just one stride. But I knew what 5k race pace meant, so at first I would just sprint for the designated number of repetitions and not worry about the 40 seconds of jogging. The more I started to read about triathlon training, however, the more the term “strides” came up and the more I wanted to know the true meaning. Continue reading

What Are All These Thresholds?: Lactate Threshold

Doing sprints is one way to help build your lactate threshold. Photo by Ian_UK.

Doing sprints is one way to help build your lactate threshold. Photo by Ian_UK.

If you spend enough time training for anything and start to read articles, message boards, and blogs that discuss your specific exercise be it running, biking, spinning, or swimming you are bound to come across a discussion about lactate threshold. It’s likely you will see this phrase used in conjunction with topics of heart rate training, VO2 max, aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, and perhaps even endurance zones. Unless you have a degree in sports or fitness or are a trained trainer, these words probably read like a foreign language and feel overwhelming.

At least that’s how I felt.

What better way to eliminate that stressed feeling of not understanding all this new training lingo than to learn as much as possible about it? There are endless resources on the topic of lactate threshold but before we get into how it relates to training, some basic definitions would be helpful to outline. Continue reading

Pilates for Runners: Interview with Lynda Lippin

Twitter has been, and continues to be, an amazing resource for me in both my personal and professional endeavors. On a daily basis I connect with new people on twitter who are informative, inspiring, entertaining, and motivational, and who share their passions, resources, ideas, challenges, and solutions with their followers. In the health, running, and fitness facets of my life this has been incredibly helpful as I have had many of my own questions answered by others on Twitter and have been able to constantly find information of interest to me as well as share my own stories and experiences with like-minded followers.

One of the first people I connected with on Twitter is Lynda Lippin, a Pilates instructor in the Caribbean. After a while of tweeting back and forth and learning various Pilates tips from her, I decided to interview her for this blog and asked if she’d be willing to discuss the topic of Pilates for runners to which she enthusiastically agreed. Following is the interview which I found insightful and helpful and hope you will too. Continue reading

Thresholds: Heart Rate Help

j0438743At the suggestion of a friend of mine who is an NSPA-certified instructor, I got a Polar heart rate watch last fall to help me train better. I read the Polar user manual and it was obvious the watch does a lot more than what I am ready to do in my training (different alarms for speedwork, a variety of lap settings, etc), and while I haven’t delved into the watch’s many functions, I did set it up to monitor my heart rate. My “own zone” is 65-85% of normal heart rate and I am almost always above the max.

I thought maybe it would be helpful to switch from the percent of heart rate to the actual heart rate setting thinking I would have a better idea of how I’m doing if I knew my actual heart rate. I do like seeing the HR rather than the percent of HR, however, I’m still not clear on what the numbers actually mean. For example, I did a 4.05 mile run with the watch beeping at me almost the entire time. My HR limits were 162/124 and I was only in my zone for 8 minutes of that run. Oddly, the rest of the time I was below my zone with an average HR of 120 despite the fact that my time on this run was the fastest I’ve had yet for that route. How could my HR have been so low when I was actually running faster?

Realizing the number of questions I have, I decided it was time to do some more reading. I turned to Polar’s website as well as an extremely helpful document called Optimal Results, a heart rate training program that was developed in 1994 by Dave Ruff, the National Personal Training Director for TFC Partners and owner of Ruff Fitness. In reading through the training articles on Polar’s website, I learned that I probably should first monitor my resting HR and then set up my own limits based on that number in order to properly conduct heart rate training. Continue reading

Gracie’s Gear Review: The Tops

If you were to dig through my drawer of running gear, you’d either be shocked, disgusted, or entertained by the variety of sports bras in the drawer. I played volleyball in high school and wore only cotton Columbia sports bras probably because that is the only brand I knew of at the time and there are still a couple of them in my drawer, albeit at the bottom of the pile. I like to stick with what works and what I’m comfortable in and for a long time those cotton bras with their now disintegrated elastic served me well.

Around the same time when I realized I should replace those old bras I also started to learn of the alternatives to cotton and the benefits of technical fibers designed for wicking, compression, and performance enhancement. While I understood the need for a better sports bra, I was essentially lost in finding the next best bra. For a long time, years, I was on the hunt for the perfect sports bra and the variety of brands and styles in my drawer is evidence of my search. Continue reading

The Things We Carry

things_we_carryIn college I read Tim O’Brien’s novel “The Things We Carry” during my junior year when I was participating in Semester at Sea. My English class during that semester read books related to the history, culture, lifestyles, and people of the countries we visited and since Vietnam was on the itinerary O’Brien’s novel was more than appropriate. If you have read the book you know that it’s about the things Vietnam soldiers carried from tangible necessities to items for survival to intangible things like their thoughts, hopes, fears, and memories.

This may seem like a strange segue but at the kick-off to the Annapolis Zooma Run when I first saw the sports bras and tanks that are part of part of the line of women’s fitness gear by Gracie’s Gear, the first thing that popped into my mind was the title of Tim O’Brien’s book. When I met founder Gracie Updyke and heard her story behind the gear it seemed even more fitting that I associated a sports bra and its innovative Power Pouch with the title of a book that is all about survival and human nature. Continue reading

Training Log Review: RaceNation

The Summary screen of the RaceNation training log; notice below are the community features for networking, blogging, and sharing photos.

The Summary screen of the RaceNation training log; notice below are the community features for networking, blogging, and sharing photos.

It’s been just a little over a month since I decided to start reviewing training logs. I am definitely one who learns by doing and once I discovered the endless options for tracking my training online, I decided that the best way to decide which system worked best for me would be to try them all out.

RaceNation is the site I’ve been using for the past month. Like many other sites developed for and by athletes it is part community, part networking, part training log, and it is still in a Beta stage with open-minded developers welcoming feedback. Registering for the site was a piece of cake and like many other social networking sites, I was able to create a profile on the site that made me part of the community. I need to qualify this review by making it clear that I registered on RaceNation with the sole purpose of testing out the site’s training log feature and therefore did not take advantage of the site’s multiple networking and content (blogs, photo upload,groups, race calendar) features. Continue reading

Building a Strength Routine: Back

j0395958The lower back is an integral muscle in the core and having a strong lower back and core contributes greatly to being able to maintain proper form over long running distances. Having a strong lower back also eases the shock the back muscles absorb with each step during a run and can help eliminate possible pain as a result of consistent running. I feel as though many of the core muscles I have always worked are the various abdomen and oblique muscles and I often neglect the lower back as part of the core unit. In my new strength training regimen, I have an entire set of exercises that work the lower back and surrounding muscles and though I feel sore from finally working that area, it’s a good pain and I imagine will pay off in the long run.

In addition to strengthening the lower back muscles and training them to be a support group for the rest of the core, doing regular back exercises and stretches will help improve posture. I sit in a chair in front of the computer most of the day and I love to slouch. I find it comfortable but I am very aware of how bad it is for me and I’m sure it’s not the most attractive look either. It also concerns me a little that it is a chore for me to sit up straight for extended periods of time. If I can’t simply sit straight in a chair, how am I supposed to run more marathons with any kind of good form? Continue reading

Building a Strength Routine: Legs

I am happy to say that I have been sticking with the strength routines that I put together just a week ago. It helps that I have a lot of exercises to choose from so I can vary the routines for the various muscle groups which will hopefully keep me from getting bored. Though I think I like working my arms the best, I understand the importance of strengthening all the muscle groups to improve running performance. After reading a fantastic and detailed article about IT Band Syndrome (perhaps the best one I’ve read yet), it’s even more clear how critical having strong legs and glutes are to preventing injury.

Unfortunately, I don’t love leg exercises; in fact, I loath them. For a long time I thought that running was all the leg exercise I needed until I started learning more about training, strength, performance, injury prevention, and realized that successful running and overall fitness is best achieved by a combination of routines and exercises. The following leg exercises are from the 2007 SELF Challenge and Runner’s World and have the added bonus of working multiple muscle groups. You will notice that lunges are missing from my leg routine though they are part of some other muscle group exercises. Continue reading