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Its that time of year again, lets go for a run!

It’s getting close to that time of year again….where we start to consider our health and fitness; or it will be soon. Lots of people worry about over eating (me!) or just eating too many sweets (me again) over the upcoming holidays. If you are one of these people its time to make a plan. Set a goal. Then go for a run.

Each year I indulge in way too many holiday feasts and sweets and ice cream! So every holiday my goal is to run a ½ marathon to run off all the calories willfully consumed during the holidays. All the training and then the running for 2 hours, is a great way to get back in beach shape and burn off all those holiday calories.

How about you?

I know January is when there are the most new gym memberships each year. If you are one of those persons, or just exercise on an off, I wanted to offer some tips on doing some cardio (running) to keep those clothes fitting.

Set a goal to run one or more 5K, 10K or half marathon race after the holidays are over. Running is the best way to burn calories. Your added training to complete your goal(s) are a healthy way to enjoy the holiday festivities and not feel guilty.

You don’t have to win these events, just finish and have some fun. You would be amazed at the atmosphere of other happy fitness fanatics afterwards. It’s like a party.

I have been a runner all my life. While I haven’t had a great deal of training in it I have acquired some ‘best methods’ in being the best runner I can be. I wanted to offer these basic running tips to you in case you are feeling the need to get healthier too. Certainly once you feel comfortable you can add more competitive habits to your training.

Here’s a great place to learn more, http://www.runnersworld.com/ where you can learn about ALL things running.

BREATHING : It goes without saying, breathing is crucial to running. If you are getting (back) in shape I always say the heart muscle is the first muscle to strengthen. That includes making your lungs more efficient too. Simply, you need oxygen in your blood. In a sense the oxygen gives you more energy. Ever notice how you breathe lots heavier at the end of the run than the beginning? Your blood needs more oxygen. So give it more!

When you run focus on your form (pick those knees up) and your breathing! Focus on taking deeper breaths before your body asks for them. It gives you more energy over a long run.

When you get tired, and you want to give up, focus on taking deeper breaths and give it another 3 minutes to get the oxygen in your system. It works! I actually adopted a running form from my 6 year old. When I chased her she placed the tip of her tongue against her upper lip and took off. For me, it gets my tongue out-of-the-way to take in more air. I look like a goof! But I am was beating 90% of my competition now!

Award for winning my age group in my hand ~ the plaque, not Ms. South Carolina

STRETCHING: I hope everyone stretches. The older you get the more you need this! Stretching is important both before and after your run. Why after? Ever feel real tight after a good run? Stretch those muscles out again before they clamp up. Your legs will feel MUCH better that evening.

Stretch a good 10-15 minutes before and after each run. The more loose and warm your muscles are the easier it is to run. You know this. Remember those runs when your legs just feel too heavy and tight to run? How much time did you do stretching? You just do your best running if your muscles are as loose as they were when you were 12. You didn’t have any trouble then, did you?

NUTRITION: Eat healthy, become lighter. That makes sense doesn’t it? Eat protein, become stronger! I take a weight lifters mentality to recovery. When you exercise you break down muscle tissue. You build that muscle up by consuming protein, hopefully with in the first hour after you exercise.

When I run hard I want to be stronger the next time I run to be able to run faster or further. Protein shakes or bars and some lean protein for dinner. Are your muscles hurting after you run? Give them what they are begging for…protein.

Don’t over dress, who wants added weight?

RUNNING APPAREL: This is not about fashion. It is about running efficiency. Most runners can’t run well when they are hot, or over heated. So think about how much you wear before you start out. Don’t over dress. It is extra weight, confining, and makes you feel tired because your body spends too much energy trying to cool you down.

A rule of thumb is dress for about 10 degrees cooler than the outside temperature actually is. Why? Your body heat will rise when you hit your stride running, right? If you start out dressed warmly, your body temp rises that much higher.

My ideal outside temp is 50-60 degrees. When it is over 75 I can’t run my best as I just get too hot…and I can only strip down so far!

Don’t run to win. Run to finish and have fun!

JOIN SOME AREA RUNS: You have worked hard. You have sacrificed in time, food, and comfort. So reward yourself. You have earned it, right!Take time to have some fun for all the sacrifices.  Join an area run! Or better yet, grab a friend to come along.

Most running events are fundraisers to support noble and worthwhile charities. You’ll feel good about supporting these! The charitable organizations want to raise as much money as possible so they try to make the event as attractive as possible to get as many participants (funds) as they can. Most area runs have all types of runners and walkers….all types.

These events make it fun to run with some great post-race parties, including free beverages, fruits, and giveaways! If I haven’t lost you, here is a great example of what I mean from a favorite local race. The first 2 minutes are about the charity and who it benefits (kids hospitals). The rest shows the fun Christmas themed run downtown as participants (and dogs) dress in their favorite Christmas running outfits and the party that takes place afterwards. Take a look:

Have fun with your fitness! It doesn’t matter if you are the fastest or slowest. (You won’t be the slowest) Just go to run. Run at a pace that allows you to finish and enjoy it. Then meet other running comrades at the post-race party. You’ll see, everyone is happy and in a great mood. And so will you! You did it!

Then you’ll want to run another one.

Post-race party after a Christmas run

There are lots of other tips in running but these are some basics to consider. Whether young or old, new or experienced. Have fun! Stay Healthy! Eat some more Christmas Ham…you’ll run it off!

The Answer To My Prayers

A little while back, OK it was 2 years ago, I posed the question “What am I doing wrong”, as evidenced by my ever tighter belt line. I was trying to get me back in running shape, but was not having any luck, as far as loosening that same belt notch.

The opinion I need to stop finishing the kids plates at our meals was the overwhelming idea that I needed to incorporate. Thanks to everyone that offered their great ideas!

There is a part of me that is in complete agreement with that thought, especially when the kids are in their “not hungry” mode and the dish is one of my favs. Another part of me, the realist, says this solution just ain’t possible; for two reasons.

First, I’m a pig! I like to eat. I love to taste things. This is why my perfect vacation begins and ends at an ‘all-inclusive’ resort. I get my and my wife’s moneys worth!

Second, I was raised by depression-era parents. We just didn’t throw any food away when we ate. Everything was eaten. Common end-of-meal conversations included: “Some more potatoes here, who wants them?

I’m full!

I had seconds already.

Split them with you?

OK.

So, short-story long, there’s got to be another way. As much as I want, I can’t turn away from free food. It takes too much will-power! So I have to come up something else.

I need something that pushes you, is measurable, has benchmarks built in, is flexible enough to go at your own pace yet versatile enough to allow you to push yourself as fast as you want.

And that’s why God created treadmills!

That’s right. God answered the prayers of mine, and every other food lover out there. It s the perfect solution. You can train, tone, and condition on treadmills. Inside! (have you felt how cold it is outside?)

I have used treadmills to train for everything from 5K runs to ½ marathons. With all the adjustments available, your conditioning can get fairly, uh, mechanical.

All sorts of adjustments plus the ‘luxury’ of running inside

Now I am the first to say running on a treadmill is not the same as running outside. I have trained hard on treadmills but end up floundering in races if I didn’t also pound some pavements. But using treadmills can be analytical way to improve your health, conditioning, and training.

There are two fitness tips to consider when using treadmills if you are a runner or want to lose weight. First, if you want to get closer to resembling the resistance that there is running outside, turn the ‘Incline’ feature to 1.0 degrees. Its not the same but it will make running a tad harder. If you get used to it and want to improve, do your cardio at 1.5 incline.

Second, when you run to condition and lose weight, the rule of thumb in burning fat is that for the first 20 minutes you burn carbohydrate calories in your system. After the first 20 minutes you start to burn fat calories. This will vary by an individual’s conditioning of course. But, if you are looking to lose weight, pick a pace on a treadmill that allows you to raise your heartbeat for a good 30 minutes; and then stick with it.

Want to be a treadmill track star?

Some other advantages I have used in my running training include:

•    Never be satisfied, always work to exhaustion: I start on a treadmill to first catch my rhythm and get my breathing right. At that point I will increase the ’Pace’ feature one or two clicks every two minutes, or every song if you are running with headphones. This way you are always working hard to improve your speed, breathing, or thinking about what is going to be left on your kid’s plates at dinner later that night.
•    Challenge yourself. Make it a game: I use the calorie counter when I train. Not for a vain attempt to look at my waist results, but as a measure of how hard I exercise. Think about it… (Time running x Pace = Calories burned).

So if you run for 20 minutes or 30 or 45, find the amount of calories you burn each time you run this time amount. Use that calorie number as a benchmark. Then each time you run try to beat your personal best in ‘calories burned’ by turning up the pace and beating that benchmark. Make sense?

•    Build your endurance by running 5 minutes longer: If you want to burn more calories or train for a long run, have the goal each week of running 5 minutes longer at your normal pace by the end of the week. I do this when I train for 1/2 marathons. This week I want to run for 45 minutes. Next week for 50 minutes and so on until you reach your goal.

•    Increase your speed by hiking up the incline: Lots of runners try to increase their speed by strengthening their legs. They do this by running hills, bridges and bleachers. You can do this by slowly raising the incline. Be realistic when you do this so you don’t injure yourself. Usually a 5% incline is the most you should run at. It burns!

•    Race yourself if you have a limited amount of time: If time is not on your side in your busy day find a distance that works in your time frame and then race to see how fast you can get there. Or race to see how far you can go in your 15 or 20 minute lunch break. And then try to beat your record each time. You get a good workout and on your way as fast as possible.

These are just some of the ways you can use treadmills to accomplish your fitness goals. You might have some games of your own. Have fun and be fit.

I highly recommend always, always, always try to eat some protein within the first hour after you run, around 20 grams, if you want to run faster, longer, or burn more calories the next time you run. You just tore your muscles down, so build ‘em up with some protein.

One final trick I use to keep protein in my body and my metabolism up is eating a few protein or energy bars through the course of the day. There are a wide variety of these found at your local target. Check out their protein levels as well as their fat levels then chose the ones for you.

Good luck in your fitness quests for the new year!

What other running tips or games do you use?

The Fight For Air

Imagine…..for a second…that where you work….there is an endless supply of…..snacks!

That’s my job currently. I order and manage product locally for a global snack leader. It’s a curse. If I ever get hungry there are literally hundreds of different products to try. All kinds of snacks too. Try? You open a bag and then eat it. The whole bag! I’m such a pig. Plus, I feel it is sort of my corporate duty to try these products as it is a new job and I should become more familiar with its products. Right? Or so I tell myself as I dig for another handful.

Thank goodness for the beginning of the local American Lung Association’s annual Fight For Air Stairclimb!

A few years ago our local American Lung Association (ALA) held a 5k run downtown. It was a bit small but lots of fun. As I walked to my car to get a check for the drive a nice young lady picked me up in her car and asked if I needed a ride? (can never get enough of that).

It turns out she was one of the directors for the local ALA. We chatted a bit and she introduced me to some of the other leaders in the organization. I was so impressed with these ladies I volunteered to write a race summary for our local running club in hopes I could drive some interest for the following year’s 5k.

Some call it a 5K run, some call it a 5K walk

The following year they contacted me to be on their Leadership Board for a new event to our area, their inaugural Fight For Air Stairclimb to help get it off the ground, so to speak. I was thrilled.

Have you ever done a stairclimb or run some stairs? The first year I ran the stairclimb I thought I was in shape. My 5k times that year were as good as they had ever been. I ran up and down those stairs and I have to tell you, when I was done, my lungs were hurting! My lungs now, not my legs or my calves, my lungs. Can you imagine going through life that way? I thought what a great cause to support, trying to get the world healthier lungs, as I was bent over catching my breath. And a great way to do it too! I think any fitness fanatic can agree, if you don’t have fresh air in your lungs, or healthy, efficient lungs, you are not going to get fit. So that is what the ALA tries to do, fight for lung health, cleaner air, as well as lung diseases like asthma.

Had to run to the bathroom...

I know there are several of you reading this that are runners or other healthy, fit, wellness individuals. There are many types, ages, and fitness levels all working to improve their health, kill some kalories, or fit into last year’s clothes. You know what? What a great hobby and passion!

Great hobby because you not only have the ability, drive, and stamina to make yourself a healthier human being but you have the ability to help others get healthier too. Your gifts, skills, talent and hard work can help less healthy people improve their standard of living by doing what you love (?) to do, running. All these fun events raise money for great causes. Whether you choose to benefit healthier lungs, breast cancer, or a long list of other great charities, you can take your talents, raise some money (shamelessly via your blog) and help others. And, to me, that is as good of a feeling as the great things I  we do for ourselves. Isn’t it?

I’ve said it before, have some fun with your fitness, join some races. Then think about other causes, other people you would like to benefit and join those races and events as well. They’re fun!

You may meet some people you know that you had no idea were runners too.

You can start by joining me in our Fight For Air Stairclimb. Join my (WordPress) team, or sponsor me from afar instead (it is tax deductible here in the states). I can reimburse your kindness with a very cool Stairclimb t-shirt, tub of ice cream or sorbet, used toddlers clothing and toys, or even a guest post. Sound too good to be true?  Check out my homepage.

You can join my team, one way or the other, or please have fun with your fitness in your own hometown. Join a race, help some less fortunate ones, and celebrate your great health that you have worked so hard on (you really have, haven’t you?). You can help less fortunate ones get healthier, in addition to your own rockin’ self. And run off all those snacks from work too.

Get Over It

There’s a big race coming up in Charleston, SC. It’s maybe one of the biggest 10k’s on the east coast that you never heard of, the Cooper River Bridge Run. It gets runners from all over the world. Lots of them! And I am not going to run it this year. Actually, I haven’t ran it in the past 3 years I think. Why? Its too hard to get to the starting line!

On your mark, get set...

The CRBR has grown into a 40,000 runner /walker event. They actually cap the limit at 40,000. Some of the best runners in the world will be here. Runners, that will run in and possibly win the Boston Marathon a few weeks later will run in this race. They come from Kenya, Ethiopia, Russia, New Zealand, and the US.

Slow down guys!

When I first got back into running about 10 years ago, the only race I had heard of was the Cooper River Bridge Run. I used to be a pretty good runner in high school so I wanted to see how I did. I drove some 70 minutes to get to the start and finished around 52:00 minutes. It was a learning experience. What I found was every runner I ran into always had a conversation include, “What’s your Bridge Run time?”. Every local runner looking for a challenge ran the CRBR. And I ran it every year after for about the next 10 years.

 

It took me a few races to realize the 10k run is actually 2 races in one. The bridge run gets its name because it spans the Cooper River in Charleston, SC. The Cooper River bridge is a two mile long span bridge. It’s about a mile going up, at a 4.5 degree angle, and a mile going back down at a more gradual decline. What makes the run nice is the bridge is right in the middle of the run. So you get a 2 mile start to warm up your legs before conquering the very challenging 4.5 degrees for an entire mile. The CRBR’s motto is “Get Over It”. A very cool name once you have climbed the bridge.

So, to me, the first race is to run 3 miles and make it to the top of the bridge at a competitive pace. This is the hardest race of the two I think. The second race, of course, is the second 3 miles in which I like to say I just put it on cruise and finish up. Your legs get some strength back on the long slope down and then you just run your pace to finish, sprinting the last few blocks if you can. Here is a video that is a good representation of the entire run:

Since doing my first CRBR I worked hard on my running. The next year I did the 10k in 48 minutes. But I knew I still had more. My goal was to come in under 44 minutes. Two times I finished in the 45’s. Finally, a few years back, all the training I learned, the workouts, preparation and trial and error paid off and I completed the race in 43:05, blowing away my goal. I was in the top 10% of all, including the Kenyans! I was a happy camper.

The run is always a lot of fun. It finishes at a park downtown, complete with bands, freebies, all sorts of vendors, and some of the happiest runners on the east coast. The smiles on the runners for completing the race is probably on of the best perks. We would end up walking downtown to the restaurant district get a great lunch, replace some fluids, and go home and take a nap or lay on the beach.

So why am I not running it again? The race has actually turned into 3 races in my mind. Now the first race is to get downtown, stuck in a 5:00am traffic jam, find a place to park, run to the bus shuttles that take everybody across the bridge to the within a mile of the starting line, get to the starting line and wait an hour for the run to start. It was kinda stressful just getting there. Check out this years video on the rules  tips on how to run the race.

Sorry, that is too many rules to follow, at too early of an hour on a day I should be sleeping in, in order to make me wish that I had not gotten out of bed. There is the early hours, traffic jams, finding a place to park, looking down while you run so you don’t trip over a set of ankles in front of you and then trapped in another jam as 40,000 people attempt to leave the downtown around noon.

Ok, I am exaggerating here. But it isn’t as fun as it used to be. A few weeks later is a mild-mannered, less competitive 5K run that is more my style. It starts at the local minor league baseball stadium, a miniature Camden Yards, then circles a local college before you come back to the baseball stadium, enter it by the right-field foul pool and cross home plate as the finish line while lots of the baseball players and other runners cheer you on, on the field. Afterwards a local seafood restaurant, Bubba Gump’s, caters a shrimp and grits dinner in the upper deck, complete with tasty shrimps, wines and beers before all the runners get bleacher seats to watch a great minor league game as the sunsets over the river. Does that sound like more fun than the Bridge Run? It actually inspired my fastest 5k of 19:20, something I haven’t come close to matching since.

Boy that is such a long way to get to the point! The point of this blog and my running history summary is there are a lot of fun races for runners of all levels out there. If you are a runner, at any level, do yourself a favor and go out and run in some. Running is one of the very few organized sports that we still have an opportunity to compete in, with our scholastic days in the rear view mirror. Take advantage of it!

Practically every local race, whether 5k, 10K, marathon, etc. is for a charity. So your entry fee is for a good cause. These charities want as many people to run these events as possible so they really try to make them fun. Check them out! There are runners of all levels, of all ages, of any ability running these. You are not racing any of these. You run for the challenge and to race yourself.

Simply, the next race try to beat your previous time or personal best. It can be a great motivator while your pounding all the pavements or battling the treadmill. For the 10+ years I have been entering races I found myself running faster in my mid 40’s than I did in my mid 30’s. That’s a great feeling! Howabout you? What are you capable of? You’re not just getting healthy, you’re building a sports franchise!

So where can your running hobby or training take you? Better health? Confidence? Stress killer? All great reasons and more to jog or run. Celebrate your hobby and passion! Make a date to do a local run or two or three. They are literally “Running Parties” at the post race events. Shouldn’t somebody throw you a party after all that time you spent running the streets and in the gym? You have earned it. Right?

Good luck and celebrate your achievements! And Have some fun!

Post Race goodies...biscuits and gravy and Red Velvet Cake

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