Running: A Beginner’s Guide

Are you secretly harboring a desire to run? Maybe you are a long time runner and looking to improve your time or distance. Maybe you have gotten complacent and need a form refresher. Today is all about running.

For many running congers up type A personality visions or hamsters. Some might use the word crazy and others secretly want to be runners. Almost anyone can run if they start at their level, get good shoes, and take it slow. If you have chronic ankle, knee, hip, or back issues running may not be for you, on the other hand it may be something you can do if you start at your level. As with any exercise program get clearance with your health care person before beginning.

First, the business stuff. Find the right spot for you. Is it a trail, a road, hills, no hills, and consider length. Next, think about safety. Is the spot safe for you to run? Will you be with a buddy, alone, a group, or a trainer? Also, its a good idea to have water, a small first aid kit handy, and Goo or hard candy (energy and help with low blood sugar) depending on the length of your run.. Do you need to drive and park? Consider the clothing you will need. Layer up and get good shoes. Shoes can make the difference in running. Find a salesperson you like, trust, and who knows how to fit your feet for any concerns you face when planting your feet.

It is a good idea to cross train other exercises with running. This allows a break and helps keep overuse injuries at bay by creating more balance in the body. Other activities could be swimming, rowing, biking, etc and strength training should also be included in your fitness routine.

Running is a practical way to maximize time and caloric expenditure, however we want the energy expended to go toward running, not be wasted in other non-essential movements. In other words, pay attention to your form. Core stability plays an important role in all sports activities and running is no different. Abdominal and low back muscles are involved in walking, running, and holding us upright. The quadriceps and hamstrings also work across the hip to help stand, walk, and run. It is important to think about mechanics of movement when considering running form.

Begin in good alignment, knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, and the ears centered over the shoulders with the crown (top, not forehead) of the head moving up toward the ceiling or sky. Begin walking slowly and notice how your body moves. Do not try to change anything at this point just notice. How do your feet hit the ground? Do you bend at the hip? Is the core strong enough to stabilize you while you swing the arms or do you feel rotation? Where are you holding tension – do you clench the hands, tongue, teeth, toes? Speed up your pace and notice if things change? These observations will be important to help you understand where you may be weak, have muscle imbalance, or are likely to waste energy while running.

Once you understand your own form concerns you will be able work on undoing them. According to Julie Sieben in “Run Like a Pro”, you should be upright and relaxed with your gaze resting about 10 feet in front of you. She suggests acting like a string is pulling the sternum to the sky so the chest is lifted and the shoulders and back and down. Running gait is individual, however you should not try to over or under stride. The foot should land directly under the body and your center of gravity. Aim to keep the leg slightly bent at the end of the push-off phase keeping the body closer to the ground. Through out the run pay attention to breathing. Make sure to breath deeply, all the way to your belly. Beginners tend to breath shallow because the body is requiring more oxygen than they are used to. They are then forced to stop because they cannot catch their breath.

Remember, begin any training program slowly. Keep focused on form, areas where you may be wasting energy, and your breathing. Once you get into running vary your times, terrain, intervals, and distance to keep you challenged and motivated. Most important, believe in yourself – you can be a runner!

Sample Workout 6 Week Training Schedule

Walk Interval Run Interval Total Time Times Per Week
Week 1 5min 5min 20min* 3
Week 2 4min 7min 33min* 4
Week 3 2min 12min 28min* 4
Week 4 2min 15min 34min* 4
Week 5 2min 25min 27min* 4
Week 6 30min 30min 4

*Alternate Walking & Running

By Julie Sieben, Run Like A Pro, American Fitness Magazine Sept/Oct 2006, p.58-61

Sieben, J.(2006). Run like a pro. American Fitness Magazine. p. 58-61, American Fitness Magazine, September/October
2006

Off Season Training With Mind Body Work

If you are shifting into a maintenance or off season phase of workouts. Its a great time to add in mind- body exercises. The body and brain may naturally be heading this direction as winter approaches so why fight it.

You can find very intense workouts or very light. Adding an element of mind-body will help you next season by preparing your mind activity now for more focus later. Also, as you continue to practice mind-body work the biofeedback loop becomes stronger. This is great for family picnics – where you may tend to usually overeat. Now the body sends the signal and you have been practicing listening. Not that you automatically won’t overeat this time, but the chance that it will be a conscious choice is greater and this is the key to long term weight loss.

Life is full of choices. Its how we make them that will determine our success or failure of weight loss. If you have the option to consciously choose your actions you have the power to decide if you’ll reach your goal! The idea of biofeedback is also great when training for events.

We have a tendency to do too much in our society. If you listen to the body it will tell you when to back off before injury lays you up for weeks. Many have trouble heeding the bodies advice, but the more you practice listening the more likely you’ll be to hear and honor what your body is telling you.

Which will keep you progressing in training, not laid up on the couch frustrated, mad, and guilty that you didn’t listen when “you knew better”.

Staying Motivated To Exercise

Staying motivated to exercise can be a challenge. Last week my kids started school and this week they all start soccer. Just thinking about the running makes me tired, and its only going to become more intense in the next few weeks. So I have to be ready to keep exercising or I’ll never reach my goals. Here are some ideas to keep you motivated, too.

Schedule your exercise just like you would any other appointment. This will help you begin to see your workouts as another part of your day instead of something extra you have to do.

Find a workout buddy – I don’t always get to workout with my two favorite workout friends but just chatting about it re-energizes me to keep going.

Write down your fitness goals. This can help create more concrete ideas surrounding what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. Once you’ve written it down cut out pictures that help you visualize your goals. Paste your goal sheets everywhere you’ll see them each day – the car, office, your closet, bathroom, on the fridge – you get the picture.

Commit to yourself. You are worth the time and effort. Delegate household chores where you can and drop to-do items that are not necessary. Sometimes we just do things because we always have or think we need to. It may be that it is an old need and is no longer serving you now. Take an honest look at your schedule and clean it up to create time for the things you really want in your life now.

5 Ways to Find More Me Time

As you begin to take more time for yourself it can be hard to chose what to do without feeling guilt or even shame and selfish. So here are some ideas to help you take time for you and drop the negative feelings that may have long standing places in your psyche. Remember when you feel good you will pass those feelings onto to those you love.

1) Wake up slowly – read, drink a cup of coffee or tea, enjoy the quiet of your home before any chaos of getting ready for a school or work day. It doesn’t have to be a long period just quiet.
2) Do Yoga – or simple stretches and tune into your body and how it feels in the moment
3) Exercise – even if its just taking the dog for a walk
4) Hike – or get out in nature and follow her rhythms. I like to kayak or float this time of year and let the water be the guide to my speed. I make a conscious choice to go only as fast as the river flows.
5) Take a bath or spend some time at your private “home spa” – pick some treatments you would like at the day spa and do them at home in the privacy (and quiet) of your own home.

Taking Time For You is Not a Luxury

When you feel good you are better able to care for others, however I meet many people who feel like taking time for themselves is cheating. Honestly, that’s not the case.

You can’t help others if you are wiped out. Be it from work, school, home life, or an illness if you are overwhelmed your ability to help those you care most about can be compromised. Instead schedule time for you everyday. During this time do something that re-energize you. Maybe its a walk, reading, cooking (for fun not because you have to), a bath, time with friends, or other activity that allows you to “get lost” for a short period of time and regroup.

It doesn’t have to be a long personal session but it should be something you enjoy doing and it shouldn’t be something you feel like you have to do – no matter how much it might be good for you.

Its Time to Get Back on The Fitness Wagon!

I don’t know about you but I’ve been slackin’ in my fitness routines. I’ve been loving the summer weather, traveling, and playing but none of it with really direction toward fitness. I can’t say I’ve grown any rounder but I do feel I’m lacking some feel good energy I get from a solid fitness routine. As the calendar turns toward September I am motivated to start again. Here’s what I’m going to do.

First, I’m going to begin with cardio. I don’t know why but this always seems to get me motivated again. And its going to be a hard cardio session. Not a killer one but one I know I did some work in when I am done. Next, I’m going to get going on weight training. Back to lifting a full body routine 2-3 times a week for the first couple of weeks maybe even the first month. After I have my cardio (which isn’t always a high intensity workout) back to 4-5 days a week for around 30 minutes and my strength training at 2-3 days a week I’m going to start breaking into more interval work. I’ll add intervals into my cardio and super sets into my strength training to get an extra blast of cardio in without compromising my time. I’m big into yoga so I’ll keep my daily practice going and I eat pretty good now but I can definitely add some more fresh veggies in while we harvest our small garden and stock up from the farmers market for our winter preserving.

All this coming together sounds like a lot of time but really I’m looking at about 5 hours/week. That’s nothing when it comes to good health – I think I can find that to keep my quality of life high — no problem the trade offs just aren’t worth not doing it!

10 Ways to Add More Activity to Your Day

Here are 10 Ways to Add More Activity To Your Day:

1) Park and Walk
2) Take the Stairs
3) Play with your children or other people’s children
4) Walk the dog
5) Take a stretch break every 90 minutes – get up from your desk and do a couple of simple stretches
6) Pace with you are on the phone
7) Carry your own groceries out
8) Make your lunch or break an active one – replace a sedentary meal with an exercise routine and smaller lunch – if you sit down and eat healthy following a workout you might enjoy it more than a long, sedentary, routine eating habit
9) Each time you go to sit down do a squat first – Act like you are going to sit down but when your butt hits the chair stand back up. By the end of the day you’ll have done a whole set!
10) Add some intensity to your house cleaning routines. When picking up around the house add lunges, squats, and rows to your chores. If you are feeling really good add some jumps or run stairs.

Get creative about your movement and watch your energy rise, your sleep get better, and your motivation to move grow!*

*no guarantees, though 🙂

Letting Go of Perfect

Many of us begin our fitness path with an ideal. We have a vision of what we want to look like, achieve, and accomplish. Sometimes these goals which were so inspiring to begin with begin to weigh us down. Soon they become the albatross that doesn’t let us go and we no longer enjoy.

I was hiking last weekend with my family in the mountains of Colorado. We were taking a somewhat difficult climb for our three small children but figured they could make it to the high lake with plenty of breaks. At first all went as planned, but soon the “how much longer” and “I’m too tired to move” became a constant creating stress for all within hearing distance. Was it my 4-year-olds fault he was bored of this multi-hour walk (we have completed others just fie) or my 6-year-olds fault she preferred the flowers in front of her to the lake we couldn’t see yet? No!

Looking back the only problem was that we didn’t honor the beauty right in front of us because we were too focused on the goal. Along the trail there was much to be discovered and had we been less focused on the end result and more focused on the process we could’ve have seen it.

The lesson in it all was this: having a destination (goal) is good however you should also find the beauty along the road (the process of reaching your goal). As it was we never made it to the lake but were able to learn this lesson halfway in. On the return trip we spend much more time checking out flowers, waterfalls, rocks, mud-puddles, and views!

Why Fat Is Important in Our Diet & Selecting Good Fat Choices – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

Let’s talk fat. I think we have finally gotten away from blaming this big hitter for all our woes. Fat is important. Fat caloric values are worth twice the fuel the other two contribute. No wonder we store it so well. When our bodies are overfed we store fat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our bodies are amazing! They know we are feeding to get ready for something, so they hang onto the fuel. Fat helps us feel satisfied, full longer, and it gives us more bang for the buck when it comes to energy. As with carbohydrates we need to make smart choices about our fat intake.

Our bodies need fat to function, many of our vitamins need fat to be absorbed, so it is important to choose wisely and make sure to get the right amount and types of fat in your diet.
Here are some examples of good and bad fats taken from Heathcastle.com

The “Good” Fats
Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Nuts including peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios, avocado, canola and olive oil are high in MUFAs. MUFAs have also been found to help in weight loss, particularly body fat. Click here for more weight loss nutrition tips.

Polyunsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Seafood like salmon and fish oil, as well as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats. Omega 3 fatty acids belong to this group.

The “Not so Good” Fats
Saturated Fats
Saturated fats rise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Trans Fats
Trans fats are invented as scientists began to “hydrogenate” liquid oils so that they can withstand better in food production process and provide a better shelf life. As a result of hydrogenation, trans fatty acids are formed. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods, commercially fried food such as French Fries from some fast food chains, other packaged snacks such as microwaved popcorn as well as in vegetable shortening and hard stick margarine.

Food As Fuel – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

How many of you see food as an enemy? Something to be controlled? Food and health go hand in hand, and with all the choices out there, its no wonder we are confused.

First let me qualify this loudly: I am not a nutritionist. Today’s topic will cover basic stuff. With that said, confusion about food is usually the most common complaint I get, and I would be doing a disservice if we did not touch on it.

Whether you are a recreational weekend warrior, an athlete, or a self-proclaimed couch potato you have probably thought about food. Am I helping or hurting my progress by putting this in my mouth? Common concern. Talking with a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, or your health care provider can help answer this question more clearly.

Let’s break down food. Food is simply fuel. We need it to function. From our food choices we derive the nutrients and minerals our bodies need to function well. We classify food into two basic categories: Macro and Micro nutrients. Macronutrients are Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. Micronutrients are smaller, like vitamins and minerals.

When we exercise for a period of time we need to replenish our bodies. Its smart to eat a small meal about 30 minutes before your workout and another one within 45 minutes of finishing a workout. Try to get a mix of carbs and protein and look for foods which allow you to do activity after without causing you digestive problems. Following your workout is a great time to add simpler carbs in allowing your muscles to suck up glucose and re-fuel for your next workout.

Here are some ideas for pre and post workout snacks from www.fitsugar.com

Five pre-workout snack ideas:
1. Half a chicken, turkey or lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread
2. Low-fat yogurt with a sliced banana
3. Low-fat string cheese and 6 whole-grain crackers
4. Hard-boiled eggs, yolks removed and replaced with hummus. (Check out my own recipe here!)
5. Skim milk blended with frozen fruit to make a smoothie

Five post-workout replenishing meal ideas:
1. One or two poached eggs on whole-wheat toast
2. Bean burrito: a whole-wheat tortilla filled with black beans, salsa and reduced-fat cheese
3. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables (try pepper, zucchini and carrot) over brown rice
4. Whole-wheat pasta tossed with chicken, broccoli and eggplant
5. Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal, with milk and fruit (such as a sliced banana)