Alcohol and the Holidays

Check out this great article written by Zayne Mitchell. It's a quick, but must read for this time of year.


Alcohol and the Holidays

Tips on Running in Winter

This time of year can be tough on even the most die-hard runner. With less sunlight and lower temperatures, it’s easy to find yourself lacking the energy and motivation you once had. But, it’s when you feel the least like running that you should make the time to run. Running acts as a natural de-stressor and just 20 minutes can improve your mood and motivate you to do more. So get outside and really enjoy this cold running season with the following winter weather tips:


1.            Be flexible.
Winter is great for maintenance runs. Forget about speed and time and focus on just running. Your winter running will not be the same as spring. If you normally run in the early morning and the temps are below zero, be willing to rearrange your schedule to run later in the day. If you can be flexible, you’ll have a greater chance of sticking with your winter routine.

2.            Set a Winter goal.
Plan to participate in a themed race. Google “chilly cheeks “or something like that and you’re sure to find something fun. This will help keep you motivated about training in such cold temperatures.

3.            Wear the proper gear.  
Running in freezing temps is safe as long as the roads are free of ice and you’re properly dressed. Dress as if it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer outside. You should feel slightly cold at the start of your run.               
Snug fitting layers are best. Start with a moisture-wicking base, a lightweight fleece, and then an outer light-weight jacket. Moisture-wicking tights, with or without an outer-pant layer, work well to keep the legs warm. 
Don’t forget your hat and gloves. Remember, most of the heat we lose escapes from our heads. If you find the cold air hurts your throat, cover your mouth with a neck warmer or wear a face mask. Applying a thin layer of Vaseline to your cheeks and lips will protect against wind-burn and chapping.
           
Most importantly , make sure to wear moisture-wicking socks to keep the feet warm and dry.  If you will be running a lot in the snow, it will help to wear shoes with the least amount of mesh to keep water out. Some people require more or less layers. It will take a few runs to figure out what works best for you.

4.            Safety.
With limited hours of daylight in winter, you’ll most likely be doing some, if not all, of your runs in the dark. 
Always wear reflective gear. Don’t ever assume drivers can see you. With snow drifts, icy windshields, and darkness it’s almost a given they won’t.               
Carry a flashlight. 
Remember to hydrate. You won’t feel as hot or sweat as much as you do in spring and summer, but you still need to hydrate just as much.
Change your clothes as soon as possible after your run. Your core temperature will drop as soon as you stop running. So, make sure to get out of those wet clothes and drink something warm.
Winter running can be exciting and very relaxing. With these tips you can use the season to focus on getting back to the basics of running and enjoying Mother Nature. It’s an opportunity to refocus, set new goals, and prepare for the spring running season.




 Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Winter Shoe Guide

Check out this shoe guide from Runner's World Magazine. Remember, January is a great time to buy running shoes because when the new models come out, last year's model will be discounted. That's a nice break, especially after Christmas.

http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-240-400--14112-0,00.html

15 Minute Holiday Workout

The holidays are fast approaching and this is normally the time most people slack off in the exercise department, due to the hectic schedules of the next couple months. It's the same thing every year..."Starting January 1st, I'll get exercising and lose 10lbs!" How many of you belong to a gym and have noticed how busy it is after the new year? Why are so many people in society such procrastinators? Today is November 15th and the time to start is NOW. Can't make it to the gym? Don't have the time? So what? I'm sure everyone has a good excuse. Do you have fifteen minutes? I know you do. Below is a fifteen minute interval workout that you can do in the comfort of your living room. You don't need any equipment, just your own body weight. This is something that can be done while you're waiting for the cookies to cool, or in between decorating the house for Christmas. Please note that this workout is only 15 minutes, therefore, you need to bring the intensity with each exercise. Just give it your max effort.

There are Five exercises below that should be done for 50 seconds each, with a 10 second rest in between exercises. Do 3 sets of these exercises.

1. Squat Jump - Stand with feet a little closer than hip-width apart. Hinge the hips back and squat down with the arms straight down, so that the fingertips just touch the floor. Make sure the knees do not go over the foot. From this squatted position, jump up as high as you can, reaching the arms into the air. Continue this squat/jump movement continuously for 50 seconds.

2. Push-Ups w/ Leg Raise - Get into a push-up position on hands and feet. Lower the chest to the floor and as you do so, raise the right leg, squeezing the glutes and keeping the core tight. Hold for 1 sec, return to starting position and repeat with the other leg. As you do these push-ups, keep the body in a straight line. (These can also be modified and done on the knees. As you lower down, just lift the bent leg.)

3. High Knee Run - Jog in place, bringing the knees up to the chest, instead of a regular run. Pump the arms as you would if you were running outside. Focus on the lower abs to bring those knees up.

4. Side Plank Leg Raise - Get into a side plank position on one forearm and legs stacked. Lift the top leg for a count of 10. Take is slow and really focus on keeping the core tight and strong. Then repeat on the other leg. (This can also be modified. Instead of stacking both legs, you can bend the bottom knee and rest it on the floor. Then straighten the top leg for the leg lifts.)

5. Mountain Climbers - (You may remember these from gym class!) Get into a regular push-up position. From this position, drive the knees up to the chest, alternating each leg, as if you were running. Push a quick pace, keep the head up, and remember to breathe!

That's it! Go through all the exercises once, then repeat two more times, and your workout is done! This will rev up your metabolism, build strength and stamina, and leave you feeling energized. Best of all, it's only 15 minutes, so you can fit it into a hectic schedule.



Written by: Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Inspiring Story of Ben Davis - A Must See!!!

Pics from Marine Corps Marathon

Feeling good after 26.2 miles!!
Very cool medal!
On Sunday, I completed the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. and raised over $1,000 for cancer research! My chip time was 4:15:53 and I was very happy with that, considering I wasn't able to train like I wanted to, due to injuries. The race itself was fun, the location great, and the day was absolutely perfect for running. My only complaint about the race would be that it was too crowded. It never really seemed to thin out at all and even at the finish line, I was weaving around tons of people. All in all, it was a great experience. And, oh yea, the finish was uphill! (It's all good, though...any kind of a challenge is fun to me  I even got to meet Drew Carey at the expo! (First celebrity I've ever met..lol) Now, I'm recovering and will focus on some strength training for the next few weeks.

Easy Ways to Shed a Few Pounds

1.   Replace soda, juices & coffee with water. This is an easy way to save on calories.

2.    Run a hard speed workout at least once a week. Do intervals at a sprint pace. This will rev up the metabolism.

3.    Run before breakfast. This will raise your metabolic rate and you will burn more calories throughout the day. It will also make you eat less for breakfast & throughout the day since exercise helps to suppress the appetite.

4.    Eat at home. When you eat out all the time, you’re more likely to eat food that isn’t good for you.

Running in Cold Season

Check out this great article from Runner's World Magazine. It explains why many runners catch a cold leading up to or right after a hard run or race. It also includes many useful tips on how to avoid the sniffles.

http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-241-285--14078-1-1-2,00.html

Many runners would rather die than take a sick day from running. If you are already sick with a cold, how do you know if it's still ok to run? Well, considering you still feel up for a run, symptoms such as a chest cold, bronchial infections, and body aches require time off. Symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, or stuffiness shouldn't pose a risk to a runner continuing a workout. But remember, there are times when you may be feeling run down and going for a run could do you more harm than good. If your temperature is above 99 degrees, skip the run. During exercise, your heart pumps large amounts of blood from your muscles to your skin, dissapating your body heat. If you have a fever, your temperature will rise even higher, putting additional strain on the heart as it works to keep your body temp down. You also may have achy muscles while you're sick and running on these muscles could leave you prone to injuries. Listen to your body! When you're feeling better, ease back into your training program slowly.

Written by: Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Quick Guide to "Runner's Knee"

*Runner’s Knee: The stress of running can cause irritation where the kneecap (patella) rests on the thighbone. The resulting pain can be sharp and sudden or dull and chronic, and it may disappear while you're running, only to return again afterward.

Causes:  Poorly conditioned quadriceps and tight hamstrings. Weak quads aren't able to support the patella, leading it to track out of alignment, and inflexible hamstrings can put pressure on the knee. If you want to treat and avoid another bout with runner's knee, add strengthening and stretching to your routine. Ice the area as well.

Quad Strengtheners:
-Leg lift with ankle weights: lay flat on the floor with an ankle weight on the leg and lift the leg straight up in the air until it's perpendicular to the body. Then slowly, lower back down.
-Front Lunge: Stand with feet hip-width apart and step the right foot in front of the body, lunge forward, keeping the knee in line with the ankle. Step the leg back to the start and switch sides.
-Body Weight Squats: Stand with hands on hips, feet hip-width apart and squat down. Do not let the knees goe past the toes. Return to standing. That's one rep.

100 Year Old Man Runs Marathon

The fact that this guy ran a marathon at 100 years old should be enough to make anyone realize that with dedication, commitment, and hard work, anything is possible. Check out the article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/16/fauja-singh-100-year-old-marathon_n_1014670.html

Rants of a Runner

A few days ago, I took advantage of this crisp fall weather, and went out for a 10 mile run. The day was beautiful, I felt great, and I ran fast. I was listening to my music and minding my business when at about mile 7, a runner (male) came out of nowhere and was running directly across the street from me. Why is it that I have to be so competetive? Most of you know what I'm talking about (Runners are crazy like that). Rather than let this guy pass me, I sped up and tried to keep pace with him. I don't think I would have reacted the same if it were a female runner. I probably would have just waved like usual, but because it was a guy, I needed to see if I could keep pace. When you spend most of your runs alone, you tend to come up with little games to play with yourself. This was a game for me...heck, this guy didn't even acknowledge I was there. So there I went, pumping arms like crazy, huffing and puffing, (up a hill, no less). I knew I wasn't going to be able to hold it for very long, but I did for at least a couple minutes. At the top of the hill he gradually broke away from me, never even looking back. Me, on the other hand, my legs were burning!! But I felt great...I had challenged myself and threw in a nice little sprint when I wasn't expecting it. Today I'm paying for my bravado just a little...my left shin is very tender. But I'll do it again on the next run, I'm sure. So thank you, unknown runner, your presence (or maybe my own neurotic mind) challenged me to push myself harder.

Written by: Genie Bianchi

Icing Injuries

I am still suffering from horrible shin pain and once again, I have to take a few days off. (My marathon is only 3 weeks away!) In the meantime, I've been wrapping my leg with an ace bandage and icing the shin a few times a day. A lot of people ask how long to keep the ice on the area. If you're treating an injury, apply an ice pack for no more than 15-20 minutes at a time. Try 15 minutes, 3 times per day...or 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off, for up to an hour. Make sure there is a barrier between the ice pack and the skin. If the ice is left on for more than 15-20 minutes, this can lead to a survival response in cells that cause even more inflammation.
I added my pictures from my Assateague Island run on the "rave runs" page..check it out!

Quick Guide to Shin Splints

Over the past few weeks, my shins have been really tender...especially my left one. It was so bad at one point, that I had to take a week off from training. It's a good thing I did, because I was able to complete my last 20 mile training run yesterday, before the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th. Today, a client was asking what to do for shin pain and I thought I would post a guide to dealing with shin splints. The main thing to remember is if the pain goes away after you start running, you're probably fine to run through the pain. If the pain never leaves, is unbearable, or hurts while walking, you should take some time off or see your doctor. DO NOT take ibuprofin before a run just so you can go out and run on it! You will only be hurting yourself further.

*Shin Splints: Inflammation of the tendons on the inside of the front of the lower leg.

Symptoms: Aching, throbbing, tenderness along inside of shin about halfway down, or all along the shin from ankle to the knee. Pain when you press on the inflamed area. Pain may go away during a run but return after.

Causes:

Tired or inflexible calf muscles

Overpronation

Running on hard surfaces such as concrete or sidewalks

 Poor shoes, and increasing mileage too quickly

 Beginners are most susceptible.

Treatment:
Ice the area for 15 minutes, 3 times/day. Ice immediately after run.

 Cut down or stop running altogether.
Wear compression sleeves or socks to promote circulation in the lower leg.
Do alternative, non-impact exercises such as cycling or swimming.
Strengthen and stretch lower leg.
Warm-up well and run on soft surfaces.

New Pictures!!

Check out the "Rave Runs" page...I've finally uploaded some pictures! If you have any pics of runs in different places, please email them to me...I'd love to post them on the site! Please include the location of the run.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Last night, for dinner I made sweet potato pancakes. These were a first for me and my kids loved them (and so did I!) This is a great meal if you're trying to add in some extra carbs for race day.

3/4 lb mashed sweet potatoes
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
3.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1.5 cups milk (I only ended up using about 1 cup milk, any more and the batter would have been too runny)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon
Mix mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
Blend sweet potato mixture into flour mixture to form a batter.
Cook until golden brown on a griddle.

I served mine with homemade whipped cream...delicious!!

Cross Country Mom

My daughter is in 5th grade and just had her first day of cross country club at her school. I was so excited when she came home & told me she signed up. She said she had fun and I was happy to hear the kids warmed up, stretched, ran for awhile, and even did some strength work in the form of planks, push-ups, etc. I believe running can do so much for kids...not only for their physical health, but in the way of boosting their confidence, teaching dedication, commitment, and the fact that hard work pays off. She may love the running, but she might not enjoy me too much this season. I can see I'm going to be one of those crazy, embarassing moms that is the loudest one at the meet. This morning I told her I was going to make a sign to hold at the meets that reads,"Run like snot". She wasn't having any of it..lol. I am officially banned from making any signs. :(

Stretching for Runners

Stretching improves flexibility, which in turn helps prevent injuries. Less injuries equal better training and stronger running. Stretching should only be done on warm muscles. One thing I do not recommend, however, is stretching after your long run. If you've been running for a few hours, your body is fatigued and there are microtears in the tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Instead of stretching, take an ice bath to reduce inflammation. Then, later in the day, do some gentle stretching.  There are all kinds of great stretches for runners, but I've listed just a few of my favorites.
Hamstring stretch with a towel: Roll a towel up to form a sort of rope. Lie with back flat on the floor. Lift one knee toward the chest and put the towel around the ball of the foot. Hold the ends of the towel and slowly straighten the leg into the air with the foot facing the ceiling. Pull on the ends of the towel down and pull your toes toward the shin. Then you can pull the ends of the towel up toward your face, which will pull the leg more toward your head. Try to hold each stretch for fifteen to thirty seconds. A tight hamstring can cause knee problems, so this one is a must after running.

Cat & cow stretch: Get on all fours with knees directly below the hips and hands directly below the shoulders. Round the back and drop the head toward the floor. Hold for a second or two. Then arch the back and lift the head. Hold for a second or two. Keep alternating. This is a great stretch for the back.

Standing glute stretch: A tight glute can cause all kinds of pain, including lower back pain. To do this one, stand with one hand on a chair for support. While standing, bring the left ankle up and rest it on the front of the right thigh. Your left knee should be bent and pointed out to the side. From this position, swing the butt back and bend the right knee, as if you were about to sit in a chair. Hold this for about 15 seconds. You should feel a nice pull in the back of the leg.

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Running Quotes for the Week

-"Training can get on a man's nerves. There is no use or profit in denying it" -Alf Shrubb, Winner of 20 British Running Championships between 1900 & 1920 and one of the first runners to record his training regimen in a journal. (This quote is really how I'm feeling lately!)

-"Your bound to have days when everything seems sluggish and ungainly and you'd just as soon not be training at all. That's a good time to persist." -Jim Fixx, The Complete Book of Running

My favorite all time quote (I used to have this taped to the inside of my locker):
-"A lot of people run a race to see who's the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts"
-Steve Prefontaine, Running Legend and 1972 Olympian

"On days when I can't run, I don't feel myself, and whoever the self is I feel, I don't like nearly so much as the other" -Joyce Carol Oates (I know all you runners reading this know exactly what she means :)

Daily Supplements

-It's most important to make healthy foods your mainstay…but sometimes people don’t always get all the nutrients they need, especially if on a diet, or if particular foods are avoided because of an allergy or some other reason. Below is a quick guide to recommended supplements for runners. As always, be sure to consult your physician or a registered dietitian.
-Take a multi-vitamin and mineral formula. Look for one that provides 100% DV for a variety of nutrients from A to Zinc.
-Vitamin E- 100 to 400 IU
-Vitamin C -100 to 500 milligrams
-Calcium -500 milligrams if your 50 or under; 1000 milligrams if your over 50.  Older women and pregnant women need slightly more.

Signs & Symptoms of Overtraining

I am only about 4 weeks away from running the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. and I should be at the peak of my training. I've logged the miles and I do feel that I'm ready, but just as I need to be finishing up one last 20 plus mile training run, I've caught a cold (or something). Anyway, I just don't feel well and it's irritating me that I'm not out there on the road. Of course, I'd rather be sick now than on the day of the race. I don't think that I've been overtraining, but being sick did bring it to mind. Below, I've listed some symptoms of overtraining. If you're physically exerting yourself day after day and you have some these symptoms, it may be time to listen to what your body is saying.


-Consistently feeling tired all day long
-Your normal pace feels harder than normal
-Your resting pulse is higher than normal for more than a few days
-Constant aches, pains, and injuries
-You have cold, flu-like symptoms, sore throat, etc. more frequently
-Irritability
-Loss of appetite
-Trouble sleeping
-Loss of enthusiasm for running

Written by: Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Benefits of a Training Log

If you're a runner, or even a regular exerciser, I suggest keeping a training log. For each day of the week, write down what you did, how you felt, pace, heart rate, course, etc. At the end of the week, you can look back and see what has been accomplished. I've even used mine to look back to last year's training to see the trends with different injuries and how many miles I was logging at the time. For runners, it's a great way to keep track of miles throughout the year, so new shoes can be bought at the right time. It can also be a great tool to keep track of long runs, easy runs, and speed work for the week. I've also found that it's a great motivator to get my butt off the couch. I hate seeing those empty days, so I try to fill them up with something, whether it be a run, strength training, or simply a walk, it doesn't matter.

Once you're keeping a written training journal, consider adding some pictures. I like to stop and snap a few pics when I'm running in a different or beautiful place. Of course, we all get our pictures taken after a race and these would be a great addition to the training log.

At the end of the year, review what you have accomplished and set your fitness goals for the upcoming year. This will give you a greater chance of achieving those goals. Then start another training log...it's been proven there's power in putting things down in writing!

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Another great article I had to share from Prevention Magazine

I know I'm not the only one searching for ways to get rid of bloating...check out these tips:

http://www.prevention.com/tips/weight-loss/get-flat-belly-friday

Special Concerns for Female Runners: Menstruation

A female runner’s performance truly depends on which stage of the menstrual cycle she is in.  The menstrual cycle has been typically thought of being twenty-eight days, but in reality it can range between twenty-one and thirty-five days, depending on the woman. There are three phases to a woman’s menstrual cycle: menstrual, pre-ovulatory, and post-ovulatory.

 A lot of women complain that in the days leading up to menstruation, running  just seems harder.  This is due to the levels of progesterone and estrogen dropping during the pre-menstrual period.  Both hormones decline to the fourteenth day, but the progesterone climbs to a peak on the twentieth day. This is the major hormone that causes pre-menstrual syndrome (pms), which can leave a female feeling fatigued and moody. This point in the cycle is called the mid-luteal phase and is about a week after ovulation or about a week before menstruation actually begins. During this time, exercise becomes more difficult and ventilation rates increase due to progesterone stimulating the brain’s respiratory center. Because of that, many women find that exercise feels harder. This not the time to do speed work or to expect top performance in a race. However, the mid-luteal phase is the perfect time to store glycogen in the muscles. Recent research shows that glycogen storage is 22% higher in the leg muscles of females in the mid-luteal phase, compared to before ovulation. It also shows that the total endurance performance tends to be about ten percent greater. So this may actually be the best time to run a marathon because of the added glycogen stores. Non-menstruating women and women taking oral contraceptives don’t have a mid-luteal phase; therefore, don’t have to worry about negative psychological and physical changes.

Any sport can have an effect on the cycle of a menstruating woman.  Running can place stress on the body and could lengthen or shorten the time of menstruation.  It could also lead to irregular cycles, called oligomenhorrhea and cessation of the cycle, called amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is not good for the body. It can lead to osteoporosis, decreased calcium absorption, decreased bone density, and an increase in musculoskeletal injury. A high calcium intake is essential, around 1200mg per day. If a woman experiences irregularities in her cycle, she should consult her doctor.

During the mid-luteal phase, a female runner should listen to her body and train by ratings of perceived exertion.  To combat PMS, eat a well-balanced diet. Limit the amount of refined sugar, red meat, salt, alcohol, saturated fats, and caffeine.  PMS symptoms have been linked to low levels of magnesium, which affects blood sugar levels and hormonal metabolism.  Add foods rich in magnesium, B vitamins, and calcium to the diet, such as fish, beans, and green leafy vegetables.

A female runner should listen to her body, adjust workouts as needed, and push it when she’s feeling great. It’s best if she learns to train with her cycle, not against it.

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Learning to Listen to the Body

Last year this time, I was training for the Philly Marathon and developed pain in my lower left leg so bad that I went and had it x-rayed. I've always been prone to shin splints but I thought this might have been a stress fracture. The docs told me I was fine, so I kept running through the pain and popped advil (Referred to as Vitamin I by some athletes). How foolish I was! All I did was mask the pain and probably injure myself further. Not to mention it could have affected my blood pressure during exercise and damaged my liver in the long run. Whatever the injury was, it eventually went away and I made it to the starting line injury free. Now I'm six weeks from the Marine Corps Marathon and that nagging pain is back! This time I'm being a little smarter. First, I'm taking a week off from running (it's killing me!) and doing other exercise instead. I'll continue to ice, but I'm staying away from the advil this time. I have really learned to listen to what my body is telling me. Right now it's screaming (from my shin) to give it a break.

Below, I've written today's tip from my training log. I think it's very fitting.

"The old mantra 'No pain, no gain' might be true in love, but it's definitely not true in running. Learn to tell the difference between good pain and bad pain. For example, if your shinsplints are uncomfortable but not painful, keep running. If you feel shin pain while walking, head to the doc; you might have a stress fracture."

Exercise at the Office

Summer is fading and along with it are those lazy beach days and fruity drinks by the pool.  Now is the perfect time to refocus on your fitness goals. I know what you’re thinking…how am I going to fit exercise into an already hectic schedule. Work, school, kid’s sports…we all have the same busy lives, but there is always time to squeeze in something. Even five minutes at different times throughout the day can help you tone up (And wake you up). You spend five minutes surfing the internet… 

Below I’ve listed a few simple exercises that can be done right in your office! In addition to these, try sitting on a balance ball at your desk instead of a chair (you’ll be firing up your core all day long) or walking on your breaks. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Be creative…squeeze it in any way you can. You may not be doing 30 consecutive minutes of exercise, but it’s still exercise!

1.       Desk Push Ups:  Place hands on desk, shoulder width apart. Keep the torso and legs in a straight line and the head up. Lower the chest down to the desk, hold for 10 seconds and push back up. That’s one rep. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

2.       Chair Squat: Stand in front of your chair with feet hip width apart. Place the hands on the hips and hinge the hips back. Lower your body down as if you were about to sit down. Be sure the knees stay in line with the ankles. Hover about an inch over your chair for 10 seconds and stand back up. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

3.       Hip Lift: Sit up straight in your chair. Lift one glute so that it almost comes off of the chair, and then repeat on the other side. It will look like a rocking motion. Do this for 30 seconds. Do 3 sets of these, resting 10 seconds between sets.

These are only a few exercises that can be done at work. The possibilities are endless. Remember, you can do these at different times all throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be just one time. Be creative and please feel free to share any other ideas with me. I’d love to hear what other exercises people come up with.

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

The Runner's Core Workout

It’s well known that strengthening the core is essential for daily living. So, why do many runners neglect this area of training? If you want to perform at your best, you need solid groundwork.  The core is comprised of the abs, lower back, and glutes and is the foundation for all movement. A strong core equals a strong runner. Improve these muscles and you’ll improve your stability, power, and endurance. You’ll also experience fewer injuries. With strong lower abs and back muscles, you’ll be able to maintain proper form, especially when fatigued, and put less stress on the hips, knees, and shins. Do my runner’s core workout twice a week and I guarantee you will feel the results in your running. If you are bored with regular crunches, I challenge you to try this.

Runner’s Core Workout

Leg Raisers:  Lie flat on the floor with the legs straight and arms down at the sides.  Relax the head and neck and lift the right leg straight into the air until it is perpendicular to the floor. Lower it back down until the ankle is a couple inches off of the ground.  That is one rep. Do 12-15 reps and then switch legs. Try to do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps on each leg. Tip: concentrate on using the lower abs to pull the leg up.

Alternating Leg Raisers:  Do the same as the above exercise, except alternate the legs. This is a little harder because the feet never touch the floor throughout the move. Do 2-3 sets of 15 seconds.

Supermans: Lie flat on the floor with arms stretched straight out in front of you and legs straight. Lift the shoulders, left arm, and right leg off of the floor and hold for a count of 3, then lower back down. That’s one rep. Do 12-15 reps and then switch sides. Do 2-3 sets. Tip: To make it harder, you can lift both arms and legs off of the ground at the same time and hold for a few seconds, or alternate sides without touching the floor.

Plank Leg Lift: Get into a front plank position on the forearms and keep the body in a straight line. Lift the right leg a few inches off of the floor and hold for 5 seconds while keeping the hips low. Keep the abs tight during this move. Lower the foot back to the floor. That is one rep. Do 12-15 reps and then switch sides. Do 2-3 sets of these.

Side Hip Rise: Get into a side plank position on your right forearm, with the legs stacked and the body straight. Hold this position and use the obliques to lift the hips up and down. Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps on each side.

Knee to Arm: Get into what would be the top of a push up position. Keep the back straight and hips in line with the body. Bring the left knee into the chest and turn the hips slightly so that the knee touches the right arm. Then return to the starting position. That is one rep. Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps and then switch sides. You can also do this with alternating legs. Tip: Focus on using the obliques and lower abs to bring the knee in and over.

Bridge: Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Leave the arms straight at the sides. Lift the butt up so you form a straight line from the chest to the knees. Hold this for a few seconds, and then lower back down. That is one rep. Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Check back next week to see pics of me demonstrating each exercise.

P.S. You don't have to be a runner to reap the benefits from these exercises!


Written by Coach Genie Bianchi

Running in the Pool

Last week, I did something to my hip and running has been making it incredibly worse. It figures I would be injured only two weeks into my marathon training! So over the weekend I decided to head over to a friend's pool to try doing my long run in the water. I have never really done it before, so for the first half hour or so, I felt I was just tweaking my form. I jumped in the deep end with a flotation device around my waist and started running. I tried to keep my back straight and run how I normally would on land. It was so boring!!! I had planned to do two hours and if my friend hadn't sat on the side of the pool and talked to me, I don't think I would have lasted that long. That being said, if you can mix up the workout (add speed intervals, etc), have some music, or a friend with you, I really recommend pool running. It's a great way to keep your fitness level while injured. It can also be a great form of cross-training along with your regular running program, as well as a great way to cool off on a hot summer day.

Tips:
-Use a flotation belt. This will allow you to concentrate on your form rather than keeping your head above the water.

-Run in the deep end with the same form as you normally run on land. Keep a quick turnover with your feet and keep the elbows at the sides in a 90 degree angle. Your stride will be more up and down (like a cyclist) and that's normal.

-Include fartleks into your workout.

-Bring a friend with you!

Eat Your Water With These Foods

You know you're supposed to be drinking a lot of water each day. Especially if you're working out in the heat. In the fast-paced schedules we all keep, it's easy to forget to keep hydrating. Plain water can also become very boring. Below are some foods, listed in an article by Runner's World, that you can eat to help keep you hydrated. Not only are they a nice break from just water, but they taste great and are filled with nutrients to keep your muscles working hard.


Water + Electrolytes
Cantelope, Peaches, Strawberries

Water + Vitamin C
Watermelon, Kiwi, Citrus

Water + Cancer Defense
Tomatoes, Broccoli

 Water + Recovery
  Pineapple, Cherries

                                                          Water + Immunity
                                                           Yogurt, Kefir

                                                          Water + Digestion
                                                           Beans

Check the full article out here:http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-242-302--13967-2-1-2,00.html

Treadmill Pace = Outdoor Pace?

Today I decided to use the treadmill for the first time in about six months. It was just way too hot out this morning. I did a hard six miles and for some reason it felt harder than my outdoor runs. This probably has to do with the mental aspect...it was very boring! But, as I was running, I started wondering if the pace I was doing on the treadmill would be the same if I were running outside. I figured it wouldn't be, considering no wind resistance, etc. on the treadmill. So after doing some research, I found a handy pace conversion chart. I was running at 7.5 speed on the treadmill at a 0% incline (an 8 min. mile on the treadmill), so outdoors it would be the equivalent of an 8:20 mile. Check out the site...http://www.hillrunner.com/training/tmillchart.php

Playing in the Mud

 Over the weekend, I completed my first "mud run". It was organized by the National MS Society to raise money for MS. I have to admit I was a bit nervous beforehand. It was a 10k through woods and fields, with over 30 military obstacles. Picture sliding down muddy slopes into pits of muddy water, climbing over log walls, or rope swinging across more pits of muddy water. After climbing out of the first muddy obstacle, I was completely covered in thick mud and the first thought in my head was, "This is so much fun!". From that moment, until the finish line, I had a blast. It helped that I had a teammate running with me as well. We pushed each other on and definitely kicked butt throughout. I think that this was a wonderful mental break from regular running. Training can get so boring. This race wasn't about times or distance...it was purely about fun. I will definitely use this type of event periodically to give myself a "break". I suggest it to other runners out there as well. To learn more, go to http://www.theoriginalmudrun.com/.

Runners' Strength Training Workout

This workout consists of 7 different exercises designed to target key muscles for runners, including the quads, glutes, calves, hip flexors, and core muscles. Do the first 4 exercises for 30 seconds, the planks for 1 minute, and then 20 push-ups (You can do less or more, depending on level of fitness). I recommend doing 3 sets, 2-3 times per week (on non-consecutive days). It's probably best to save this workout for your non-run days. If you're a beginner you may want to take a 30 second break between each exercise, but the goal is to go from one exercise to the next without stopping until you've done them all. Then, take a 1 minute break and do the circuit again. Strength training is essential for runners. Do this workout to feel stronger, run faster, and have less injuries.

Strength Training Circuit
-Alternating Front Lunge - 30 sec.
-Calf Raises - 30 sec.
-Body Weight Squat - 30 sec.
-Alternating Side Lunge - 30 sec.
-Front Plank - 60 sec.
-Side Plank (each side) - 60 sec.
-Push-Ups -20 rep.

Quick Tips for Staying Hydrated

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and just like that, summer has hit us. Yesterday I was visiting family down by the shore and decided to go out for a long run. My plan was to run 45 minutes to a Wawa down the road, grab some water, then run 45 minutes back. Unfortunately, I must have taken the wrong road because 45 minutes came and went and there was no Wawa in sight. I was so thirsty and it was so hot!! I turned around and finished out my 90 minute run without any water. I know it was a stupid thing to do and I won't ever do it again! So, with that in mind, I thought now would be a good time to post some guidelines for proper hydration.

Remember, when it comes to drinking, listen to your body. It's up to you whether you drink water or a sports drink, but I would suggest consuming something with electrolytes (sports drink or a gel followed by water) if you'll be running (or doing any exercise for that matter) in the heat.

Before Workout
Drink 8-16 ounces of fluids 1-2 hours before.
Or, if you don't have time, drink 4-8 ounces 15-30 minutes before.

During Workout
Drink small amounts at regular intervals. This will help you absorb the fluid better and won't leave your stomach feeling full. Colder is better. Try filling a bottle halfway & freezing it, then top it off before you head out.

-For 1 hour or less, drink 3-6 oz. every 15-20 minutes. Remember to listen to your body, if you're really not thirsty, don't over do it.

-For 1-4 hours, drink 3-6 oz. of a sports drink or take a gel followed by water every 15-20 minutes.

-For over 4 hours, drink 3-6 oz. every 15 minutes, but ultimately, use your thirst as a guide.

Post-Workout
This really varies on the type and conditions of the run or workout, but as a general rule, drink 8-24 ounces of fluids post-workout. You should drink enough so that you need to use the bathroom within 60-90 minutes post-workout.

Written by Genie Bianchi

Dehydration mixed with the heat can be really dangerous. These guidelines can help you stay properly hydrated and ensure peak performance throughout the summer.

12 Week Beginner's Running Schedule

Be sure to get a doctor's clearance before starting any running program.

Base Building Phase: (Suggested for those who are completely sedentary.)
-Walk 30 minutes a day, four days per week for 3 weeks, then begin 12 week program.

All distances are in minutes (ex. walk 10, run 1 = walk 10 minutes, run 1 minute, repeat 2 times)

R=rest




Week       Mon.        Tues.               Wed.       Thurs.          Fri.           Sat.      Sun.

1.)            Walk 30     Walk 10,            R           Walk 10,      Walk 30      R        Walk 10,
                                   Run 1, x2                         Run 1, x2                                   Run 1, x2
                
2.)            Walk 30     Walk 8,              R           Walk 8,         Walk 30     R        Walk 8,
                                   Run 2, x3                         Run 2, x 3                                  Run 2, x3

3.)            Walk 30     Walk 8,              R           Walk 8,         Walk 30     R        Walk 8,
                                   Run 3, x2                         Run 3, x2                                   Run 3, x2

4.)            Walk 30     Walk 7,              R           Walk 7,         Walk 30     R        Walk 7,
                                   Run 3, x3                         Run 3, x3                                   Run 3, x3

5.)            Walk 30     Walk 6,              R           Walk 6,          Walk 30    R        Walk 6,
                                   Run 3, x3                         Run 3, x3                                   Run 3, x3

6.)            Walk 30     Walk 5,              R           Walk 5,          Walk 30    R        Walk 5,
                                   Run 1, x5                         Run 1, x5                                   Run 1, x5

7.)            Walk 30     Walk 4,              R           Walk 4,          Walk 30    R        Walk 4,
                                   Run 2, x5                         Run 2, x5                                   Run 2, x5

8.)            Walk 30     Walk 3,              R           Walk 3,          Walk 30    R        Walk 3,
                                   Run 3, x5                         Run 3, x5                                   Run 3, x5

9.)            Walk 30     Walk 2,              R           Walk 2,          Walk 30    R        Walk 2,
                                   Run 4, x5                         Run 4, x5                                   Run 4, x5

10.)          Walk 30     Walk 1,              R           Walk 1,          Walk 30    R        Walk 1,
                                   Run 5, x5                         Run 5, x5                                   Run 5, x5

11.)          Walk 30     Walk 5,              R           Walk 5,           Walk 30   R        Walk 5,
                                   Run 25,                            Run 25,                                      Run 25,
                                  Walk 5                             Walk 5                                       Walk 5

12.)          Walk 30     Run 30               R           Run 30             Walk 30   R         Run 30


Written by Genie Bianchi

Highlights from Radio Interview

Today I was a guest on "No Pain, No Gain, With Zayne", a health and fitness talk show on
WNJC 1360 AM. We talked all things running. Below are some highlights of the questions Zayne asked me.

                   
How do you determine what type of running shoe to buy?
-Wet your feet and stand on a paper bag. After a minute, step off and look at the foot prints. Trace the foot print with a pencil if you want to look at it later.

You have a normal arch (neutral pronation) if: There's a distinct curve along the inside of your foot with a band a little less than half the width of your foot connecting the heel and toe. (Choose Stability Running Shoes)

You have a low arch (flat feet/overpronator) if: There's not much of a curve along the inside of your foot and your imprint shows almost the entire foot. People with low arches are more likely to overpronate (roll too far inward), which can lead to overuse injuries. (Choose Motion-Control Running Shoes)

You have a high arch (underpronator) if: There's a very sharp curve along the inside of your foot and your imprint shows a very thin band between your heel and toe. People with high arches typically don't pronate enough. (Choose Cushioned Running Shoes)



How do you feel about strength training in the days after a race?
-Strength training enhances recovery time after the race because it increases blood flow to the sore muscles. This can include weight training, push-ups, squats, and lunges.


Is it true some runners feel hungrier the day after a long run, rather than the day of the long run?
Yes. It is common for many runners, or any athlete for that matter to experience this. After a long, hard work out, the body releases beta-endorphins, which are natural forms of morphine. These endorphins act as an appetite suppressant. It is important to make sure you eat properly after a workout to refuel even though you may not feel hungry. Otherwise, the next day you will be famished and may end up binging on foods you’ll regret later.


Do you have some easy tips for runners who want to shed a few pounds?
-Sure…Replace soda, juices & coffee with water. This is an easy way to save on calories.

-Run a hard speed workout at least once a week. Do intervals at a sprint pace. This will rev up the metabolism and engage fast-twitch muscle fibers.

-Run before breakfast. This will raise your metabolic rate and you will burn more calories throughout the day. It will also make you eat less for breakfast & throughout the day since exercise helps to suppress the appetite.

-Eat at home. When you eat out all the time, you’re more likely to eat food that isn’t good for you.


What strength training exercises do you recommend specifically for runners?
-There are four moves I believe are most beneficial for runners.

-First, a high bench step. This strongly develops the hamstrings, with complimentary development of the glutes and quadriceps. Stand on a bench that’s about knee height. Place your body weight on the left foot, the right foot should be behind the bench. Slowly lower the body, in a controlled motion until the toes of the right foot touch the ground, then slowly straighten that left leg to the starting position. Do 8-12 reps on each leg. To make it more advanced, you can hold dumbbells in your hands with the arms straight at the side of the body.

-Second, a one leg squat. This strongly develops the quads and glutes with a complimentary boost to the hamstrings. Stand with the left leg forward and the right foot back, preferably resting on a 6” block. You can use the bottom step in your house. The feet should be hip width apart. Bend the left leg and lower the body until the left knee is at a 90 degree angle and the right shin is parallel to the floor. Maintain upright posture and make sure the ankle stays in line with the ankle. Do 8-12 reps on each leg.

-The third one is a one leg hop in place. This builds strength & coordination in the entire lower extremity, including the foot, ankle, shin, calf, thigh & hip. Hop quickly in place on the left foot for 30 seconds then repeat on the other foot.

-The last one is push-ups. Doing these will keep the core strong. A strong core helps you keep proper form when you’re fatigued during a run.

Do 2-3 sets of these exercises. They will take little of your time & will improve both your coordination & leg muscle power.


What are some ways to keep from getting bored with running?
-Try switching up your route. Running the same thing every day gets boring. Try something new. Throw in a new road or some trails.

-Run with a friend or group of friends or a running club.

-Do some hills or throw in some speed intervals.


Can you tell us some benefits of running?

-    Improved cardiovascular health…lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart attack & stroke.

-      It improves coordination

-     Reduces risks of disease. Running raises HDL (or “good”) cholesterol, reduces the risk of blood clots, and encourages use of the 50 percent of your lungs that usually go unused. Running also boosts the immune system by creating a higher concentration of white blood cells that attack disease.

 - Works great to manage weight.  Running is one of the top activities for burning fat.

-   Lowers stress levels. This is due to endorphins being released in the body during running. This is the so called “Runner’s High”



Post-Race Recovery Tips

Today, I'm recovering from running the Broad Street Run. My muscles are sore and while recovery is on my mind, it's only fitting that I share some tips for post-run.

-The first thing to do after crossing the finish line is to keep walking. Grab your medal, banana, water, etc. and continue to walk around for at least five minutes. It's important to bring the heart rate back to normal.

- Drink 8-16 ounces of a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes.

- Stretch, focusing on hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors. Try a squat stretch. Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed out slightly. Squat down with butt almost touching the ground, but make sure knees are in line with the ankles. You can place the hands on the ground for more balance. This stretch feels great and works the hip flexors, calves, and lower back.

-Eat a combination of protein and carbs within 30 minutes post-run. Protein aids in muscle recovery and carbohydrates are crucial for restocking glycogen stores. Try peanut butter on a bagel. If your stomach isn't up for eating yet, try my personal favorite; chocolate milk. It is the perfect combination of protein and carbs to restore muscles and it tastes good too!

-Rest and relax the remainder of the day. If taking a nap isn't possible then rest with the feet up for 15-30 minutes. This will promote circulation. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat a balanced meal of carbs and protein.

-Before bed, soak in a cold or cool bath for 10 minutes to aid in muscle recovery and prevent soreness the next day.

-Give your legs a massage. Use a foam roller if you have one. This will help flush out the lactic acid in the muscles. I like to use an Epsom lotion (I found it at my local drugstore). It is supposed to be the same as taking an epsom salt bath, only without the bath. I think it works pretty well.

-Take one day of recovery for every mile raced. This doesn't mean complete rest. It means taking it easier and doing more cross-training.

Recovery is vital for runners. Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your post-run rest.

Written by Genie Bianchi

Broad Street Run, Philadelphia, PA - May 1, 2011

30,000 Runners!

This was my first time running the Broad Street Run. It is the largest 10 miler in the country, with 30,000 runners. It was such a blast and Broad St. was lined with awesome spectators and bands all along the course. I love running in Philly and I would recommend this race to anybody. Actually, I would recommend any Philadelphia race. I just think it's a great city to run in.


The line for the bathroom!


Perfect race day.


Exercises for Components of Fitness: Part II

Part II: Muscular Strength

Three exercises I’ve chosen to describe for muscular strength improvement are the plank, the dead lift, and a chest press on a stability ball. 

 When using weights to improve muscular strength, it is important to choose a weight that allows you to do a set of eight to twelve repetitions with strict form, but leaving the muscles fatigued so that another rep cannot be executed with good form. Try and do three sets of eight to twelve reps.

The plank works all of the abdominal muscles, plus the shoulders and lower and middle back. Start by lying on your stomach with your forearms and balls of feet on the floor. Lift your body off the floor with your elbows directly under your shoulders. The hips should be low, with the body parallel to the floor. Keep the head and neck in a straight line. Hold this position for as long as possible (try for at least a minute).

 To do a dead lift, choose a set of weights that will leave your muscles fatigued after eight to twelve reps. Stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart and the knees slightly bent. Hold the weights with your palms facing you. Your arms should be shoulder width apart. Slowly bend over at the hips to lower the weights to the knees. Tighten the abs, keep the back straight, and keep the head and neck in a straight line. Then slowly raise the body back up.

Doing a chest press on a stability ball makes it more challenging and engages the abdominal and back muscles as well. Try not to move the ball at all. Lie back on the ball with your upper back and head on the ball. The feet should be shoulder width apart and knees bent at ninety degrees. The thighs and body should form a straight line. The elbows should be pointing to the sides and the palms should face the feet. Slowly push the weights up above the chest and slowly lower back down.

Remember, when you are doing resistance and weight training, work the largest muscle groups first. This will keep you from fatiguing the smaller muscles in the beginning of the workout and ensure that you will be able to keep the proper form throughout. For example, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, then triceps.

Written by Genie Bianchi