10 Ways Runners are Experts at Everything

You may not realize it, but runners are experts at everything.

No, really. You’d be very surprised to discover just how much runners know about a variety of disciplines.

Here’s proof from what I’ve observed as a marathon runner…and it’s only 10 ways runners are experts at everything. I swear the list could be longer…

1. They’re practically gastroenterologists. They agonize over their bathroom breaks. Seriously. Whether it’s figuring out how to make themselves poop, what to eat before a run to ensure they DON’T need to go No. 2 or what to do when explosive “events” are about to happen mid-run, runners are absolutely obsessed with bathroom stuff. Forget going to your gastroenterologist. Just find a runner.

2. They know more than your nurse does about Vasoline. They have about 59 important uses for Vasoline. I won’t get into all of them, but let’s just say from nipples to “down there,” runners know how to use Vasoline unlike anyone else. There’s a reason it’s handed out on tongue depressors during races. Nurses can’t even. For reals.

3. They know more about your foot than a podiatrist. They really obsess over their socks. Socks?! Don’t you just buy the cheap sports socks from Target and call it good? Oh hell no you don’t! You need arch support and then there’s ankle versus no-show. There’s thick to fill out a shoe with too much room or the thin to take up less room. There’s compression to improve blood flow and a host of other styles intended to enhance your running performance. Trust me, the guy at Sports Authority can’t spit game about socks the way a runner can.

4. They know more than your shoe guy. They have a shoe for every occasion. Want to go for a hike? They know which shoe to grab that has the extra tread, but isn’t too heavy. Want to feel lighter and speedier? They’ll point you in the right direction to find the racing flats that’ll fit best. Feel like doing a triathlon? Oh, they’ll know which brand and style to grab too. Talk to any serious runner and they’re likely to have at least three pairs of shoes in their closet intended for specific workouts.

5. They know more than your nutritionist. Fiber: Bet you didn’t think fiber was going to make this list. It’s true. Hearkening back to point numero uno, runners have to know what’s loaded with fiber because, well, for better or for worse (mostly worse), fiber is the culprit of many, MANY bad runs (pun intended). They can tell you the most fibrous foods to eat….and when you SHOULDN’T eat them (read: within 6+ hours of important race is a good rule of thumb and at least two hours before a run). See? No nutritionist necessary here.

6. They know more than your masseuse. Who needs a professional masseuse? Runners have every torture muscle device under the sun! Whether you’re looking for a firm Stick to work out the kinks, a hard, soft or medium foam roller to squeeze out the lactic acid or simply something to make the bottom of your feet better, go see a runner. They’ll introduce you to a torture chamber worse than 50 Shades of Grey (seriously).

7. They know more than the guy at Best Buy. Gone are the days of carefree jaunts in the park. No, every runner out there has a GPS watch, ear bud, music device and a billion apps that’ll calculate their calories burned, heart rate during every second of every minute of every mile of the race, the steps they took, the pace they should run….you get the picture. Runners are so strapped with devices they likely wouldn’t make it through any normal metal detector.

8. They know more than the girl at GNC. You’re planning to run your first marathon? Good for you – get ready for the part no one every told you about: replenishing! From salt tablets to energy gels and electrolyte drinks, runners have tried them all! Decide now if you like to chew while you run because that’s a critical factor to share with your expert runner so they can decipher which refueling option will be best for you.

9. They know more than the weather man. Only Grandpa rivals the obsessive nature of a runner when it comes to weather. Forget Googling the upcoming 10-day forecast. Just talk to a runner.

10. They know more about traffic signals than a police officer. A wise runner knows how to pay attention to where traffic is flowing, who to pay attention to at any intersection and how to navigate any tricky traffic scenario. If you’re curious about how you can successfully run on the roads without getting hit by a car, find a runner.

So, the next time you need advice on anything, just turn to a runner. Really, they’re the experts at everything.

Happy running, friends!


5 Ways to Build Endurance for Long Runs

The most common thing I hear when someone finds out that I run marathons is this:

“How do you do that?! I can’t even run X miles!”

My response is typically this: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Like any huge challenge or goal in life, you have to break it down into small, attainable goals in order to reach the finish line.

So, how do you build your endurance for long runs? Here’s my advice:

1. Focus on time first. Rather than thinking about how far you need to run, switch your perspective to time instead. Let your watch be your guide. For instance, instead of saying you’re going to run three miles today, make it 30 minutes or 20 minutes instead. The next time you run, add 5 minutes to it.

2. Walk-run. People often ask how I can run 26.2 miles straight. The answer is that I don’t. Many notable marathon runners such as former Olympian Jeff Galloway recommend a “walk-run” method. Typically, it means you run for a certain amount of time and walk for a certain amount of time. This builds endurance while also being kinder on your joints, which can also often reduce the likelihood of injury. You can set some watches to chime during specific intervals so you are running for five minutes and walking for two minutes, etc.

3. Be consistent. Starting and stopping or only running once a week for a long time will not produce terrific endurance results (believe me!). The more you run the same distance well in advance of your race, the better you will feel and the more comfortable your body will be at that distance. So, if your goal is to run a 5K, you should be doing a 2-mile run, a 3-mile run and perhaps a 5-mile run every week, consistently, for several weeks. When you finally arrive at your 5K race, it’ll feel like a breeze.

4. Refuel. Sometimes, when you’re growing your endurance, you’re burning more energy than what’s left in the tank. To stabilize your energy during a longer run (whether you’re at 4 or 14 miles), be sure to adjust your replenishment. Lower mileage like 4 miles might mean bringing a small water bottle with an electrolyte drink cut with water to give your body a boost mid-run. Longer runs will usually mean a caffeinated energy gel, electrolyte drink and/or sodium-electrolyte tablets or capsules.

5. Keep your eyes up. It’s easy to look down at the ground as your slogging along, but resist the temptation! Keep your eyes up and focus on a point ahead of you. Set mini goals along the way such as “I’m going to jog to that light pole and then take a breather.” Challenge yourself to go a little farther than what’s comfortable to push your limits.

Happy running, friends! 🙂

5 Reasons Why Coffee is Key Before a Run

Multiple studies continue to prove the positive benefits of caffeine.

I used to be afraid of coffee.

I mean, not cowering-in-a-corner “afraid,” but worried about what the supposed stimulant would do to my body and how it would likely dehydrate me.

And then I read the science and realized that I bought all of the myths.

Now, my routine nearly always includes sipping half a cup of black coffee before heading to the gym or going out for a run…and it’s not because I’m sleepy.

Let’s take a look at the exercise meets caffeine studies.

It can boost your speed.

First, there was this one from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which points to a faster performance in cyclists who had coffee prior to a race.

It can boost your endurance.

Then, I came across this one, which points out the increased endurance athletes experience thanks to caffeine.

It can boost your burn.

And I found this one, which talks about caffeine boosting your metabolism.

It can boost your mood and reduce your calorie intake.

Next, and most recently, is this one from the Journal of Applied Physiology, which highlights how you feel doing your workout if you first fueled up with a cup o’ joe. An added benefit? Participants who had caffeine prior to their workout actually consumed FEWER calories at lunch!

It can boost your…

And, finally, on a somewhat anecdotal note, it seems to help *ahem* “get things moving.” No one wants to have to make a pit stop when they’re in the middle of a long run. Something about coffee just does the trick.

No more fear of coffee for me…Pass the light roast, please!

Not Your Picture-Perfect Runner

I’m not your picture-perfect runner.

I’m not lanky. I don’t wear skimpy running clothes. I’m not 12% body fat.

I’m your average, 31-year-old mother of two who wears two jean sizes larger than her honeymoon skinny jeans. I work full time. I grab processed snacks too often. I love chocolate and anything that takes the edge off of stress.

I run when I can and often, sleep takes priority over going on a morning run.

(No, this isn’t a bash-fest, keep reading).

This was me my sophomore year in high school.


I thought I was chunky…maybe I was compared to the other girls who, I thought, looked like runners. In any case, I was on the bubble between the JV team and making the Varsity team to earn my much-sought-after letter jacket. Still, the feeling was there and I struggled with my body image as a runner and linked it to my performance. Must be thin to be fast. Must be thin to be fast.

I knew where the mantra had come from.

I became a runner when I was 12. Taunting and teasing from my peers was frequent and the “nicknames” were cruel.


I did my best to overcome the names, and my parents encouraged my interest in running since they were runners themselves. The Marine Corps will do that to you.

Fun runs in elementary school turned into joining the cross country team in junior high. I entered 7th grade with the addition of glasses (turned contact lenses), braces and the constant reminder of the 5-7-9 stores I couldn’t shop in for baby doll shirts and short, pleated skirts. Running changed that.


The cycle continued through high school and on through college. Must be thin to be fast. Must be fast to be a “good” runner.

Amazingly, the whole time, as I worked my tail off, did exactly as my coaches said and what the running plans told me to do, I overlooked how my hard work and discipline helped me achieve my success. Often, I missed out on relishing the victory as much as I could have, wondering how much faster I could have been if I had been born with a different body type.

I’m not sure if that’s all been undone over the years, but two kids later, my confidence is certainly far stronger than those early high school years. I’m proud that I can run marathons. I’m proud that I’m keeping my body healthy with *semi* regular exercise. Running has been the discipline I’ve been able to take with me at any stage of my life no matter where I go.

Now, as I prepare for the Boston Marathon, the old voice tries to creep in to remind me that I’m not thin; I’m not fast.

That’s okay.

I have a strong body. I have a strong mind. I have discipline and control.

I enjoy breathing in fresh air, the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a run (even if I’m totally beat up), and surprising people (who, I assume, don’t think I quite fit the marathon-runner prototype they envision).

I love me and I will always be a marathon runner.

No matter what my size.


5 Ways to Get Motivated Again

The “plague,” as I lovingly refer to it, came to visit our home three times this winter. Then there were a few big life changes. And the holidays. And fundraising for buildOn as part of my huge commitment to help a bunch of deserving high school kids travel to Africa to build schools.

In short, a lot has happened recently to distract me and harm my motivation when it comes to diligently getting out the door and running. So, what do you do when distraction comes to visit and parks itself on your couch with a bag of potato chips…and you want to join it? Here’s what’s helping me:

1. Fake it ’til you make it. Don’t want to run or exercise? That’s fine, but do it anyway. It’s time to tell distraction to take a hike and kick laziness to the curb. Even if you get out there and have the lamest run or gym workout of your life, guess what–YOU DID IT! Sometimes, you have to take steps to do what you WANT to be doing before the actual motivation, inspiration and excitement arrive at your doorstep.

2. Talk about it. Lack of accountability is often what helps you “get away with it.” Don’t let it happen. Confide in a supportive friend (read: not one who will SUPPORT your laziness) and ask them to encourage you…and be willing to listen when they tell you you’re not committing the way you need to. Talking about it brings about an active awareness of your choice and that alone will help you refocus on what you should be doing that you aren’t.

3. Read about or watch others doing it. Surround yourself with inspiring pictures, videos and friends who are doing what you should be doing or want to be doing. Pick up a running magazine. Watch “Chariots of Fire” or “Without Limits” to get inspired. And, consider your sphere of influence. They say you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with…so, are your “five” eating burgers and watching the boob tube or hitting the gym and talking about Paleo recipes? What (and who) you surround yourself with WILL show up in your daily activities.

4. Schedule your time. Do you find yourself saying “I don’t have time…” a lot? Then make it! I guarantee if you took a sharp inventory of every minute of your day, you could find the 30 minutes to exercise…heck, a lot more than that! Make it a priority by marking the time down. This is time for YOU to take care of yourself. Do not negotiate–it’s like a flight on an airplane with a child. You can’t secure their air mask without starting with your own first.

5. Let it go. Okay, so you’ve slacked off for two weeks…or more. Okay, so your diet hasn’t been the best and you just stock piled several boxes of Girl Scout cookies (guilty). Shake it off, forgive yourself and move on! Make healthier choices today, tomorrow, the next day, the next day and the next day until you have a healthy habit in place. If you slip, pick yourself back up and keep going. Stay positive and remember that you are going after “progress and not perfection.”

Carry on and good luck, friends!

5 Running Tips to Help You Get Back on Track

running tipsIt’s been a major season for change in my family’s life.

Put one house on the market. Started building another. Sold our starter home. Moved into my sister’s house. Still waiting for the house to be completed, but only a few more weeks.

You can imagine what all this change has done to my running routine!

So, if you’re like me and you’ve had a few curve balls slung your way, here are five running tips to help get you back on track:

1. Start Slow. And yes, that means your pace AND the amount you run. Nothing spells “overuse injury” better than too much, too fast and too soon. Take it easy on yourself and stick with the walk-run method to ease your muscles and joints back into running and prevent injuring yourself. After all, you don’t want yet another obstacle getting in the way of your running! And, if it’s really been a while since you’ve run, check your running shoes for too much wear and tear. Here are some basic guidelines from Runner’s World magazine to help determine if it’s time to retire your running shoes.

2. Listen to Your Body. That means if the side of your knee aches; your shins feel as if they’re going to split in two or your arches feel like they’re on  fire, you need to cool it. Give your body more time to recover and focus on cross-training exercises that are a little more gentle (cycling, swimming, yoga, etc.). Sometimes two or three days between your runs are necessary when you’re first getting back into it. If you’re experiencing soreness or tightness in your legs, grab The Stick or a foam roller and work your muscles out. Also grab a natural, topical pain relief cream with menthol, glucosamine, chondrotin and MSM. My favorite is Ageless Pain Relief Cream and I love the Joint Support tablets, too.

3. Hit the Weights. You don’t have to be Arnold about it, but your muscles need to be strengthened in all the right places to ensure your knees or other joints aren’t taking the brunt of the run. Strengthen the outside of your hips by laying on your side on the ground; prop yourself up a bit on your elbow and get some leg lifts going if you don’t have access to a gym. It’s amazing how tight your hip can get and how much it truly needs you. Work your abs with basic crunches and then flip over into a plank to challenge your core.

4. Refuel with Protein. When you deplete your muscles, you need to refuel them, especially if you hope to reduce your recovery time so you can go on another run the next day. Science points to undenatured whey protein as the ideal protein to reach for as it has the key branch chain amino acids your muscles crave. I tend to run in the mornings or work out at lunch, so I tend to follow my running or weight lifting with an IsaLean Pro Shake,which has 36 grams of undenatured whey protein and tastes amazing.

5. Get Sleep. Seems so simple and might seem silly, but sleep is your biggest ally when you’re starting a new routine. Rest helps rebuild your broken down muscles and fight off the pesky stress effects of exercise at even the cellular level. Additionally, if you’re hoping to lose a few pounds, research shows that it’s only going to happen if you get an adequate amount of zzz’s, so make sure you hit the hay for at least eight solid hours. (Yes, it’s possible!)

So, are you pumped to hit the pavement? You can do it! WE will do it!

Give Change your best smile, dust yourself off and start anew today. There’s no time like to present to lace up the sneaks and get your runner’s high on.

What else do you think is important to do when you’re getting back into running? Write up an appropriate comment to share!

Saying “Good-bye” to 40 Pounds by August 4

line in sandThere are moments in your life when it’s time to draw a line in the sand. When it’s time to say “enough” in order to achieve what you’ve always dreamed of.

Now is that moment for me.

Stress, bad habits (i.e. “I’m a runner therefore eating pasta/bread/carbs all the time is fine…”) and having two children have slowly added 40 pounds to my frame. 40 pounds. That’s about the weight of my 4-year-old. I’m trying to run 5Ks, 10Ks and marathons with a 4-year-old on my back. How much sense does THAT make???

I’m done.

I’m drawing my line in the sand as this date: August 4, 2013. I will no longer haul this backpack of 40 pounds around with me on a regular basis. I will no longer run with this 40-pound backpack strapped to me and wear down my knees. I will no longer put food into my body simply because it “tastes good.” I will no longer sleep an hour more every morning and skip running simply because “I’m tired” (exercise is actully one of the best ways to energize you anyway).

So what will I do?

1) Eat Right. I will find a nutritionist/personal trainer and follow a plan that will teach me how to eat properly and reduce calories while still breastfeeding my daughter.

2) Exercise Regularly. I will follow an exercise regimen that will incorporate weights and running; at least 4-6 days a week.

3) Lose the Excuses. A quote by Jim Rohn that recently resonated with me was this: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” I have this posted on my refrigerator, on my bathroom mirror and in my office cubicle. Think about it and repeat it a few times.

4) Get Inspired. There’s a popular saying that goes “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” Your circle of influence can either inspire and fuel your growth positively. I’ll be watching my “influences” closely for sure and reading at least one personal development book every few months to keep me excited and inspired to keep going (and growing!)

So, 40 pounds—can’t say it’s been “nice,” but your time is up. Let’s do this!

5 Tips for Running Post-Pregnancy

Nine months and an 8-pound-15-ounce baby girl later, I’m back and thankfully, also running again. I can tell you that there is nothing like going on your first postpartum run after being on hiatus from the sport you love for nine months.

After clearance from my doctor at six weeks postpartum (and I’d advise you to do the same), I was ready. I handed my newborn daughter to my husband, laced up my running shoes and off I went for my first run.

It’s been just under two weeks and I’ve definitely discovered a few things.

Here are the five steps (I discovered) to running after pregnancy:

1. Take it easy. You’ve been away for months, your body is still recovering AND your ligaments and joints are still more flexible than usual (translation: primed for injury). As hard as it is to hold back when everything in you wants to make a mad dash like a wild horse, consider how you normally get back to running after taking time off: slowly.

Start with the walk/jog method. This helps ease you back in and lessens the chance for injury. Walk for five minutes, jog for 1 or 2 and repeat the intervals as you feel comfortable.

2. Skip the music. Take in the sights and sounds and also pay attention to how your body is feeling while focusing on your breathing.  Music can be distracting and could also push your pace further than it should be at this point. Besides, what’s better than reveling in your new found freedom (and a tiny break from motherhood)?

3. Remember the 10% rule. Since you likely haven’t run at all in quite a while, gradually increase your mileage like you would if you were training for a race. Start with a light walk/run three times a week, spaced out to give your body time to recover. Add just 10% every week following this week to your mileage (i.e. if you run 6 miles this week, add about a half mile to a mile next week). If you’re an experienced runner, this process is like (ahem) riding a bike and it will be very easy to become overzealous and injury yourself.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way and I’m currently fighting off an angry Achilles tendon that wants to turn into tendonitis. Boo!

4. Wear the right gear. Your body is likely not the same as it was the last time you went for a run. If you’re breast feeding, be sure to give your baby a good feeding or pump before you go on a run to lighten things up and prevent any breast infections due to engorgement. Find a sports bra that will be supportive, without being too restrictive. If it’s too tight, you can risk harming your breast tissue.

5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This is BIG, especially for new moms who are nursing. Weigh yourself before you go on your run and then afterward. I know, the scale is not quite a friend and not quite a foe right now. But, by weighing yourself before and after your run, you can determine how much fluid you’ve lost and therefore, the amount you need to replenish. For instance, if you lost 2 pounds, you’ll need to replenish your body with 32 ounces of water and then some.

Above all else, remember to take care of yourself! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in taking care of your new little one and forget about your needs until it’s too late. Running is one of the best ways to give yourself a burst of happy hormones (endorphins) to stave off postpartum depression and relieve stress. Plus, it also gives you healthy time to yourself and an opportunity to lose the pregnancy weight and reduce your risk for a number of obesity- and visceral fat-related diseases. And, who doesn’t want to get back into their pre-pregnancy jeans asap??

Here’s an article I wrote a while back with 10 Tips for Aspiring Runners, which focuses on tips for beginning runners if you’re in that boat. They also serve as great guidelines and reminders for getting back into things.

What do you think? Anything else that helped you get back into it?

Keep on running, my friends!


How to Spot (and Avoid) Overtraining and Burnout

Photo courtesy

Whether you’re a new runner or a seasoned athlete, you’re bound to encounter overtraining or burnout at some point during your quest to achieving your goals.

But, do you know how to spot (and avoid!) this problem of overtraining and burnout? You might not even recognize the subtle signs that your body is giving up on you.

I loved Runner’s World’s recent article “10 Signs That You Need a Rest Day” because it addresses the many pitfalls of overtraining that even seasoned runners and athletes encounter.

Take Olympic runner and 5-minute-mile marathoner Ryan Hall, whose rise to stardom started as a high school runner. Many runners suffer from emotional burnout way before the physical one hits. For Ryan, pushing his body too hard resulted in taking himself out of the Chicago Marathon in 2011.

Ryan Hall admits in the Runner’s World article “I love to push my body,” he says. “Recovery is the hardest part of training for me.”

To combat the problem, as the article states, Ryan turned to the program Restwise that helped him track his sleep patterns, heart rate and other key stats to measure the impact of his workout routine on his body.

I don’t think many of us have to result to that, but overtraining is a problem that any zealous athlete, gym rat or weekend warrior can prevent before the burnout sets in.

In my cross country days, we ran six days a week, but our training runs varied. We had a medium run on Monday (4-5 miles), a 30-minute to 3-mile tempo run on Tuesdays (the day before a race), race day Wednesday, Thursday medium run (4-5 miles) and Friday sprints or another medium run. Saturday mornings were long runs of up to 6 or 7 miles for the girls.

Sundays were always our “rest” days, but when you’re a competitive athlete and excited about your goal, it’s often hard to stay down and not do anything. And honestly, you don’t have to.

Personally, that’s where I’m a big proponent of cross training. Go rollerblading, do some laps in the pool or practice meditation or yoga. Give your body some rest in a different way if you are absolutely itching to get out there and do something. Just avoid an intense, pavement-pounding activity that will cause more harm than good.

Bottom line, stick with the motto “variety is the spice of life.” By varying up your training and listening to your body, you’ll avoid emotional and physical burnout so you can enjoy a regular exercise or running schedule free of frustrating setbacks.

Give yourself a “rest” day. Your Monday workout (and race!) will thank you.


How to be Pregnant and Still Run

The office’s white tile was cold. The nurse practitioner sat on a rolling stool and pronounced me “officially” pregnant. My first question?

“Can I run still?”

Literally, the day before, I had enjoyed a five-mile run with my Siberian Husky and felt great. I was regularly running and my body didn’t feel any different, I explained.

Her response?

“Oh, no, honey. You need to reduce the pounding and do the eliptical or walking instead.”

All I could think was “but I’ve heard from other people whose doctors told them they could keep exercising the way they always had,” but I didn’t mention it.

I went home, the ever-concerned, first-time mother and sat on the couch. And, it was pretty much that way for nine months (it didn’t help that I was pregnant for the hottest months of that year though!).

Fast forward to 2011: Round 2.

Marathon training has taken a backseat since I discovered I was pregnant in September. As soon as I found out, all I wanted to do was get cleared by my doctor to keep running. I asked my doctor immediately (and if you’re pregnant or think you might be and considering this, you should,  too!) and she replied that I just needed to keep my heart rate between 140 and 150 beats per minute to ensure my baby’s heart rate didn’t get too high.

I was slightly crestfallen. My energy was up and I was feeling awesome on my regular runs. Now I had to slow down. But, I’ve accepted it and decided it’s better than becoming a couch potato again.

So, my runs are now more like granny shuffle jogs. The speed demon in me is going a tad crazy because I KNOW I can go faster! But, ultimately, my baby and his/her health is more important, so I’m taking it easy for now.

Bottom line: Unless you’re dealing with physical challenges, if you’ve been running consistently up until the point that you became pregnant, your doctor should clear you for some running. (I will tell you, however, that it is slightly freeing to take a break and even walk without feeling guilty for once!)

It can be a frustrating time, but take it easy, enjoy the views of your neighborhood and stay as active as possible. Your activity is awesome for the health of your baby and will reduce the likelihood of you developing gestational diabetes, which can increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Stay active, my friends, and enjoy the down time while  you can!