Warming Up Before Running, Should I?

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I’ll be honest, I’ve never given it much thought and when I have, in the past, it was always to do some quick, maybe 5 minutes, high intensity cardio like jumping jacks, high knees and lunges. Warming up prior to a run was just not part of my regular workout routine, quite likely it’s because I never bought the significance as I felt I didn’t need it. However, in recent times I’ve come to believe that not doing so could be the reason I tire so quickly and remain unable to maintain my pace in my longer and high intensity training sessions.

I’m told that warming up prior to your workout is important for three reasons:

1. It prepares your body for the exercise you’re about to do

2. It guards against injuries

3. It helps you work more efficiently so you get more out of your workout

” A smart warmup gives your muscles, bones, and joints a chance to loosen up; it gradually and gently brings up your heart rate and makes it easier to get into the rhythm you want to sustain so you can run—and finish—feeling exhilarated and energized enough to go longer, and excited to set out for your next workout.” -Jennifer Van Allen, Runner’s World: How And Why You Should Warm Up Before A Run

I’m beginning to see the wisdom in this. In popular running circles, the word is that it’s important to warm up before any training that exceeds an easy run. This should take the form of an initial walk into a jog then a faster run then onto some dynamic stretches and can last anywhere between 10-30 minutes depending on the intensity of your workout.  Dynamic Stretching uses controlled leg movements to improve range of motion, loosens up muscles and increases heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow to help you run more efficiently.

Here are some examples from Runner’s World; It is recommended you start slowly, focus on form; as the moves get easier, pick up speed.

1. Skipping

2. Side step/shuffle Step to the side

3. Weave step (also known as “the grapevine”)

4. Backward jogging

5. Butt kicks

6. Hacky-Sack (lift up your left leg, bending your knee so it points out. Tap the inside of your left foot with your right hand and alternate.)

7. Toy soldier (with back and knees straight, walk forward, lifting your legs straight out in front and flexing your toes.)

This video, from real buzz.com, is one of many on the web that gives a brief but comprehensive outline of the best way to warm up and maximize the efficiency of your workout.

http://youtu.be/qyEF12KAlm8

 

 

 

Running Solo or with Company

imageI’ve tried every which way to get you out there this Summer, short of giving out medals myself, I’m running (no pun intended) short of reasons to convince you that stepping into some running shoes is one of the best decisions you will ever make. It’s also something you don’t have to decide on or do alone. Much can be said about sharing your running dreams and goals with a buddy who you can run with or finding a group who share those goals. On the other hand, there’s no hard and fast rules where running is concerned, you can get just as much or sometimes even greater satisfaction from running solo.

imageFor my part, most of my running is done around my crazy schedule, which would be impossible to get someone to share and so I’m very much a lone runner, most of the times anyway. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy running with company, on the contrary, some of my most fun runs have been with other like-minded runners though I’d be the first to admit I also enjoy those solitary runs where I’m in the zone, out there all on my own with nothing but the wind at my back and the wide open skies before me. It’s actually my favorite place to be after the ocean and I often derive so much pleasure from just going out there and connecting with God and nature.

There is no set rule for the average runner, just different days and moods that require different treatment. On any given day, you may just feel to run away the stress of life, those days often require physical and mental distance from life itself..including people, at other times it could be all about introspection, meditation, or even finding inspiration..some of what turned out to be my best ideas were founded on running trails. A lot of time your running decisions depend on your mood, goal, time or location which can vary from run to run. I try to mix it up some, only because I’m often trying to ensure there is balance in all I do and because I’m big on variety; it being the spice of life and all that..I totally buy it.

imageFor the runner who loves to connect with others, needs motivation, direction and/ or just that awesome feeling that comes from knowing there are others who share your passion, uncertainty and other jumbled mix of emotions, running with company will provide the support and inspiration you need. Either way there’re two things that are required of the runner; show up and run, your presence and effort will be justly rewarded.

Pamper those Running Feet

imageYou can generally tell when something is important and valuable to someone – they take good care of it right? I know how I feel about my shoes. I confess I’m a bit of a shoe lover, so I sort of treasure my select and beautiful pairs. I also value my books, iPad and a few other choice things; I take good care of them and treat them as my most valued possessions. So too I believe it should be with our feet. For runners, there exists nothing that is more valuable, well except that of our health, than those of our feet. They are the means by which we achieve our goals and dreams; all our hopes and ambitions are pinned on those two invaluable extensions of ourselves. However, they are also the most abused, as they take constant pounding day after day and oftentimes without complaint. Tired, overworked and often overlooked, it is only fair and right that we indulge them and treat them as special as they are.

Here are some ways to show them some TLC:

  • Choose your Shoes Carefully. Because a lot of us spend a lot of time on our feet – running, walking and so on., it is important to wear the correct shoes; those that provide comfort and protect our feet from calluses and blisters and the like. Nothing holds a torch to a great pair of shoes that fit and feel great in your feet, whether they’re heels for us women or loafers for the guys or just regular sneakers. You want to be sure to choose those that love your feet and that your feet loves.
  • Foot Massages are so not Overrated. Aside from the therapeutic benefits which include reduction in stress, pain and muscle tension, massages provide a sense of well-being, care and empowerment, stimulate the nerves in your feet and improve good blood circulation.
  • Foot Spa Soaks and Salt Soak for Blisters.  A nice soak after a long day on your feet or after an intense workout can work wonders to help restore your feet and put you in the right frame of mind. If you have calluses or blisters, you can include some Epsom salts or bath salts in your foot bath to dry out blisters and toughen up feet. Be sure to rinse off and moisturize well after to prevent dryness.
  • Foot Scrubs and Foot Creams. Foot Scrubs are great for removing dead skin, sweat and dirt. They also treat calluses which you might want to go easy on if you have a big race coming up – you might need some of those calluses for protection from blisters. There’s a wide variety to choose from and depends on your taste or fragrance. Moisturizing after your soak is a big deal and highly recommended at night;  it will help to keep calluses soft and prevent cracks. Again, it’s about preference and feel as it pertains to type but it’s sure to give you those soft and smooth feet you covet.
  • Putting your feet up. Resting after a long day with your feet elevated helps to reduce swelling and tension and gives an overall sense of relaxation to your tired feet. Pillows work fine but there are leg loungers built especially for that. Nothing is too much when it comes to our feet right?
  • Pedicures are cliché but so good and who doesn’t like pretty. At least once a month, or more regularly if you do it at home; taking the time to actually go to the salon, choosing your favorite nail polish, getting pretty toenails with someone caring for your feet while you just relax, sounds pretty special and pampering to me.

We really shouldn’t need a reason to pamper ourselves but the above gives us a valid excuse if we ever need one. So how about a promise to love your feet, you do not want to ever know where you would be without them. Plus, it’s such a fun, pretty, girly thing for us us girls to do. For the guys, it’s totally cool to have that whole metrosexual thing going on, we girls dig it.

Summer’s Running Away

 

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Consider that Winter seems like it was just a few months ago..when we were talking crazy-cold-how-do-I-get-my-run-on weather and now we’re running through August, no stop signs in sight. To use my, of late, favorite expression – “What the hell!” Whatever happened to slow down, take time to smell the roses and all that cute stuff? Maybe, I’m just complaining cause I’m preempting what follows summer (to which I will not give a name so as to delay it as long as possible) but really the wisest course to follow would be to abstain from such thinking and do as much running damage as possible, which brings me to the matter at hand.. Summer runs rock!

I don’t know when was the last time we’ve had or even if we’ve ever had such amazing running weather in the summer in New York City! I mean this is the time to run and if you happen to be lucky and you’re in NY, then this is the place to run, and you totally lucked in cause we also have the company to get you out and about in this summer city. Some may complain of the crazy-weather-days where the highest we’ve seen so far is just about 89 and that we have lows in the 50s but this right here is runner’s paradise. It just doesn’t get better than this. And so you want to take advantage of it cause..well..hell, you never know.

Here are some ways to get running in the city that never sleeps for the visitor and New Yorker alike:

Run Central Park. You’ll never find a place more likely to make you into a runner. Running enthusiasts, visitors, sightseers, any and everyone active can be found here..Central Park is New York in action and home to everyone.

Run City Streets. Every summer for about one month, the city opens up some of the busiest  and most popular streets so that runners, joggers, cyclists, walkers, skateboarders and rollerbladers can do their thing. Yep..that’s right. No cars. The road is yours. Where else in the world can you stop traffic at your fancy?

Run with company. The Running Company is just one of the running stores that hosts free runs for running enthusiasts throughout the city. Nike, Paragon Sports, Lululemon and North Brooklyn Runners are some others to name a few. With just a click, join them and you’re in. These groups usually pace out into sub groups so everyone fits in never mind your level. It’s on to keep you fit and fab.

Run official. Do what I did; join a running club or organization that provides days, times and run workouts. Whether it is to train, to get you to your goal or to assume competitive level, such organizations exists with your purpose in mind. These clubs have an annual membership fee upon registration and acceptance; Central Park Track Club, Brooklyn Road Runners, Jack Rabbit and Dashing Whippets are among a host of others that provide the “athlete” runner with the impetus for racing.

Run with Meetup NYC. Throughout the city there are meetup groups happening for runners of all persuasions. For those who don’t know, Meetup.com exists with the sole purpose of bringing like-minded people together so that they can be passionate about whatever they care about. So of course running. And of course in NYC. Get online, join a group, reserve a spot for a suggested meetup run and voliá. You get to run all over this beautiful, crazy city for free.

Run with NYRR (New York Road Runners). Here is the mastermind behind the New York City Marathon, which is run by thousands from all over the world each year. NYRR is a running community that hosts races throughout the year in the five boroughs of New York. Most races can help with your eligibility for the ” big” race but ideally all runners are invited to belong to a community of runners that run and share the New York we know and love. Races are priced for members at a lower rate while non-members can run for a fee, though not all the races. Why not be a New York Road Runner?

Run for fun, for charity, for personal satisfaction. Whatever you decide, you have to take it to the next level. There are so many fun and charity races all over the five boroughs and beyond you couldn’t hide..but why would you want to? Summer in New York, especially this summer, is a time to make a difference in your and someone else’s life. You just wouldn’t be able to wrap it up come September and call it a great summer if you didn’t. There are color runs, mud runs, obstacle races, 5ks for Cancer research, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Kidney research and so much more. Whichever you decide, in any and all of them you can make a donation and make a difference. You’re running anyway right?

Do you doubt that we, runners, have it made? To not only live in the greatest city in the world, but to run the show. New York is not only about The Arts and Broadway and Wall Street and the Stock Market and Fashion and Times Square and Sightseeing and Tall Buildings. New York is about Running. Runners RUN this Empire State.

Running, one breath at a time

imageYou never realize what you have till it’s gone. How often have I heard that and commented on its truth, yet it has never been more true than when applied to the ability to breathe. How many of us has given this gift of life any thought at all and wondered what it means, aside from death, if it is threatened. Runners, fitness enthusiasts and other athletes should strongly identify and give thanks, but I doubt it, for we are often a people too caught up, too busy getting there to wonder or question how it is at all possible.

Recently, I’ve begun having difficulty with breathing while running. At first I associated this difficulty with not practicing proper breathing techniques and not pacing myself properly. After all, It is common knowledge that a strong respiratory system is a gift to runners and improves your running tremendously; and so there I thought I had it. Now, I’m trying to imagine the difficulty for runners with asthma. It is fortunate that as with most things, breathing or lung exercises can be taught to increase oxygen to your muscles and fuel your endurance. Pilates and Yoga are two forms of exercise that some runners use to give focus to proper or deep breathing techniques. And even with asthma, it is said, one can get treatment and run quite effectively.

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Yet, I am not convinced that any of the above fits my symptoms which leans more on the side of a well-known condition, known in running circles as Running-Induced Asthma. I am still in the early phases of checking this out and for sure will visit with a doctor, but in the mean time I’ve been hearing all sorts of rumors of this condition also known as Exercise-Induced Asthma and one other, Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction; two different conditions, which may not be associated with a prior asthmatic condition at all. On the one hand, the former is brought on by vigorous or prolonged exercise or physical exertion. According to an article titled “Exercise-Induced Asthma” on WebMD, In exercise-induced asthma, the muscle bands around the airways are sensitive to the changes in temperature and humidity brought on by inhaling colder and drier air through the mouth as is common with runners as oppose to normal breathing which is done via the nasal passage through which the air is warmed and moistened. Thus, they react by contracting, which narrows the airway. The result is symptoms such as:
Coughing with asthma
Tightening of the chest
Wheezing
Unusual fatigue while exercising
Shortness of breath when exercising

The other interesting condition that turned up in my research is Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction. Runners World, Running Times, posted an article in May on their Newswire about a recent study: “High Prevalence of Laryngeal Obstruction in Athletes” when conducted, it was found that although many athletes are diagnosed with asthma, and given bronchodilators and other forms of treatment, a large percentage of these athletes continue to have respiratory problems when exercising. One common problem, the study authors say, is exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction, or hindrances to breathing fully in the larynx, commonly known as the voice box. Authors claim that the 2/3 of the athletes under study were mistakenly taking asthma medication while showing no evidence of an asthmatic condition. They found this to be quite alarming.

At this point, I am “say what!” Too much, too soon; but this is all too real. The lesson here I guess, is to be thankful for every little sense and ability you have, to not take it for granted but to cherish and use it to its full potential while it lasts. With that said, to plod ahead in hope of some enlightenment even as I continue to run one breath at a time.

40 and Beyond: your best running years are ahead of you.

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“The God who has girded me with strength has opened wide my path. He made my feet like the feet of deer, and set me secure on the heights.”

  - 2 Samuel 22:33-34

 You don’t just wake up one day and decide – Hey, I’m gonna be a runner! – Or do you? It takes years of dedication, sacrifice, hard work and sometimes struggling to stay focused and I say that for even the casual runner, because even so, over the years running would have demanded something from even you.  And so, you don’t just quit. You can’t. There’s this current school of thought running around that approaching 40 years is major. It claims that you’ve now attained full maturity and peak form, you’ve never looked nor felt better; your best years are ahead of you.

It is said that all the work you’ve put into who you are up to this point is about to blossom into the most beautiful flower you can possibly imagine. I think it’s a great metaphor for your running potential going forward. In all honesty, and for most people, 40 can be quite scary. You either look back with horror and forward with trepidation or, you look back with satisfaction and to the future with hope. Depends, I think, a lot on your perspective and where you stand, but what I can tell you is this.. the past is in the past, what you did or didn’t do is done for. However, what you do now and can do is totally determined by you. It is absolutely true that you’re now at your peak: fit, healthy, strong, beautiful and determined. Indeed you’ve never felt better; this is the result of your sustained effort and hard work and so at this point you can look forward to enjoying rewarding running.

You have running down to a science; a tried and true method. You’ve established where you are on the running scale and feel pretty confident about your abilities. Whether you’re facing your first marathon, ultra, triathlon or Ironman, you can do so confident in what you have to give. And so it follows that it only gets better from here on. Your experience, wisdom and knowledge of running will inform and fuel your runs and give you the opportunity to impact the sport and community in a unique and lasting way. So whether you’re staring at 40 in a couple of years or whether it’s right around the corner, you can do so with confidence and ease, you’ve earned it. Now go out there and show’em!

Running Denver

Denver, CO

Denver, CO

I’ve been nagging you about choosing a Fall run and so I decided to lead by example and chose Denver for my next big race. The Denver Rock n’ Roll marathon is on October 15 and is only my second rock n’ roll event, the first being the Washington DC marathon I ran in March of this year. Not too shabby, I thought, and so here I am again with big plans to rock Denver. Why Denver? Well, it’s a new course, I was invited by a friend to stay and run with her; nothing can trump that, I’ve never been there, plus it’s gorgeous I’m told – that of course was the deciding factor.

Washington Park

Washington Park

According to our friends at Runners World, Denver is a running paradise. “It’s a year-round runner’s city – a mile-high mountain metropolis stuffed with pristine parks, surrounded by a couple of hundred miles of paved paths and natural surface trails to tread.” Because of its 5,280-foot altitude, Denver is known as America’s “thinnest” city. And its most educated, as it has the highest percentage of college graduates of any major US metro area. But what’s really attractive to me is the “feast of nature” experience that it promises. It’s said that its 5,280-foot altitude produces hefty hemoglobin counts, which really means that it’s running on a whole new level out there. Cupped by the mountains, and not mountainous, Denver boasts some of the most scenic trails, parks and bike-friendly paths in a green environment. I promise to test the truth of this along with those single-track trails that serve up sweeping views of downtown Denver and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

Manitou Incline

Manitou Incline

It whispers adventure and a tough but scenic running experience. For a runner like me, that’s enough to send me packing and running with sneakers in hand. Because of the altitude level, I’ve been warned to get there a few days beforehand to get acclimated; at least that’s my official reason for taking a couple of days off from work to head over yonder, and make sure I’m all situated before race day. Training is on. This time around, I’ve decided to sign up with a track club to work on speed, strength and endurance. Within recent times, I’ve found breathing to be quite challenging over long distances and would like to throw some focus in this area as I’m sure this will come into play in the race. As I dig down into my training, I remind myself to give up the late nights and crazy eating and to take an all-round approach to ensure I’m fit and fabulous come October.

The Rockies

The Rockies

1, 000 000 000 Reasons to Run this Summer, Choose One!

I could give you all the reasons in the world why I run but they would still be my reasons.  On the other hand, there are infinite reasons why others enjoy this faithful and rewarding sport.  Like most things in life, what you put in, is most often what you get out of it.  And for those who genuinely seek it, they will find all these and more.  

Health.. Fitness.. To lose Weight.. To be SexyWP  De-stress.. For Charity.. To Motivate.. Inspire.. Meet People.. Be Free.. Worship.. To Think.. Travel.. Meditate..  For Self Satisfaction .. To Find Peace.. To be Awesome.

WP6To Find Yourself.. Discover New Places.. To Belong to a Community.. To believe in Yourself.. To give Hope.. To Succeed. . To get Me-Time.. To Enjoy Nature.. To be All You Could be.

WP2To Earn Your Calories.. Just Because.. For Discipline.. Finish Line.. Medals.. Prizes.. Money.. Sense of Achievement.. Speed.. Strength.. Recognition.. To Retreat.. Escape.. To Live.. To Forget.. For Insight.. For Inspiration. To Master Fear.. To Connect.. To Live.. To be Happy.

smell-roseTo Smell the Roses .. To Remember.. To Honor.. To Dream.. To Heal.. To Deal.



To Give Yourself the Best Fighting Chance to Life, Love and Happiness.

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World Cup-Inspired Running

imageI confess I’m a World Cup junkie.  My background and culture has a lot to do with that. I grew up in the eighties and nineties where football aka soccer was to the rest of the world what the Super Bowl is to the United States.  Never mind that my home country of Trinidad and Tobago only ever qualified for this world class tournament one time in 2006, we were and are avid football fans and players and boast a number of home-grown international players.  I grew up either watching, playing or attending practice sessions, games and/or tournaments.

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That being the case, it is neither difficult nor far-fetched for me to attempt to see what impact this has had on my desire and ability to run.  I look at the players on the field in this World Cup and I’m as amazed now as I was all the way back then (some 25 odd years ago) at their sheer physical strength, speed and stamina.  On the off chance that you’re not aware, runners share  these very same characteristics. I compare the dexterity and nimbleness among some of the world’s top players such as Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Italy’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez from Uraguay, Yaya Toure from Ivory Coast and Netherland’s Robin Van Persie and I cannot imagine a sport more defined by pace and endurance. It is ninety full-contact minutes of constant movement; defense, attack and counter-attack while running.  Is it any wonder that their physical form is so impeccable; most, if not all, of these players own amazing bodies along with abs to die for. I won’t give all the credit to running of course, even if most of their drills consist of it, as I’m aware that their training includes major gym work to build, strengthen and tone muscles; however, I’m willing to bet that at least 70% of their training involves running. If I ever need running motivation, here it is.

imageI’ve taken my football frenzy to the streets, or better yet, the fields, where I attend soccer practice weekly throughout summer into mid-Fall. I will never be a Ronaldo or Suarez, not even close, and that’s ok because it’s enough to even mirror their moves and form while getting my run on. It is true that this World Cup has seen me up my running game, I am motivated to move, get physical, keep active; to run and race more. These are my Brazil Moments. Can I help that they’re inspired by super-yummy eye candy!

Running on the treadmill vs outdoors

20140626-050251-18171316.jpgSince my injury last fall while doing a fast run on the treadmill, I’ve kept away. Truth is, even before that ill-timed and mostly self-inflicted disaster, I disliked running on the treadmill and had a number of reasons lined up for the unsuspecting victim who would dare to ask why. It’s funny or rather foolish how we can convince ourselves of mostly anything when we make up our minds to dislike something; sometimes with no just cause or it could be that we hold preconceived or even stereotypical notions about that said thing. In fact, I had no basis for my dislike of the treadmill other than my preference for outdoors, and that, I felt it was boring and for non-serious runners.

Then I fell victim to a strained ankle, which I got on the treadmill due to running in the wrong shoes. I couldn’t be angrier. I knew better. Hadn’t I told myself I detested this machine..how could I be so stupid. I berated myself as if the dumb machine was at fault here and not me and my last-minute, stupid decision. Seemed I got more ammo to solidify my view of treadmills and that was fine by me. But I couldn’t stay away from the gym as I had to train for a marathon and it was still winter, so after one month, I was back. The evil monster looked at me and seemed to smile as I approached it with trepidation. The long and short of it being, I had to get back on there pretty fast as there was no stopping what had to be done. There were subsequent races thereafter, leading up to the current World Cup, and so the treadmill and I made up and while we’re not running buddies or anything, we see each other pretty often.

Here’s what I now know to be true of treadmill running:
– it is a good substitute for outdoor running when temperatures are extreme.
– it provides good simulation for race practice with the use of incline and speed adjustments as well various course running options.
– it’s pretty safe ( yes, despite my self-inflicted injury) and pretty boring as I initially thought.; no hurdles to cross or variance in terrain, which I expect is a good thing for most but the view sucks.
– you can practice proper breathing and hydration without stopping or slowing down your pace.
– machines give you heart, calorie and mileage information, which could act to provide momentum for your running.
– on the other hand, you cannot learn pace on a treadmill. It’s easy to get locked into the set pace and forget about maintaining pace to suit your race goal. Also, it’s impossible to find and maintain your own pace, which is important for long races such as a half or full marathon where running a negative split becomes important.
– but, and this is to the gym’s credit, you get to run while viewing your favorite programs on your personal TV and the big screen, or like me these days, watch multiple World Cup games while getting your run on. Now that, just can’t be beat!

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