TIPS FOR RUNNING IN THE COLD

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I remember in college, my track coach used to say that running in the elements is like running with weights on, and then come race day, you get to take the weights off.  I like that.  With the weather getting colder and winter approaching, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some cold weather running tips!

Growing up in Michigan, we never had a shortage of snow, ice, and frigid cold temperatures in the winter.  This allowed me to really learn to enjoy running in this type of weather, and also forced me to find tons of different tips and tricks for running when it seems like it’s just too friggin cold to get out the door!

Usually late autumn/early winter is about the time that many runners decide to hang up their running shoes till springtime.  The downside to this is that running doesn’t like to be neglected for extended periods of time!  Come March when you lace up again, you will quickly regret the time off based on how your body feels after time away!  Anybody that has ever had an injury or just taken an extended period of time off knows this well.  When you attempt to come back, it hurts, and on top of that, it takes quite a while for it to start feeling good again!  I’m going to discuss some tips for running in cold weather here in hopes that it will help many of you avoid this terrible effect of time away from running, and continue to run through the winter season.

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1.)  First and foremost, DRESS APPROPRIATELY! It helps to dress in layers. Wearing several thin layers of clothing helps trap warm air between each layer keeping you much warmer than if you were to wear one heavy layer. That being said, you also don’t want to overheat while running – this is extremely unpleasant, and yes, it is possible in cold weather.  A good rule of thumb is to dress as though it is about 10 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.  If you are a bit chilly before you start running, don’t worry, you will warm up as you go!

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2.) You may want to RETHINK YOUR SHOES.  In the winter, less mesh is more!  Good winter running shoes will help keep the warmth in and the snow, sleet and slush out.  You want to look for something that is waterproof to keep your feet dry, yet still breathable.  Another thing you may want to consider are Yaktrax.  These can provide traction when running in the snow and ice, and allow you to continue your training during the winter with the same stability you are accustomed to on dry surfaces.

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3.) On the subject of feet, it is also important to LAYER YOUR SOCKS.  This goes along with #1.  Wearing two pairs of socks keeps your feet warmer and drier than one heavy pair.  That being said, never wear cotton socks in the cold and wet weather.  You want a sock made out of some sort of wicking fabric to keep moisture out and warmth in.

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4.) There is nothing that will ruin a run faster than frostbit fingers, so it is a good idea to GET HANDWARMERS.  This is a must for me.  Before discovering hand warmers, I can’t tell you how many times I would go out for a run and end up so miserable because my hands literally hurt due to the cold.  Anyone that has had this happen to them knows that once this happens, it’s nearly impossible to think about anything else, let alone enjoy your run.

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5.) It’s extremely important to STAY HYDRATED.  When it’s cold out, you won’t feel like you need to take in as much water as you do when it’s warmer out, but you do!  You can dehydrate in cold weather just as much as you can dehydrate in warm weather, so use your camel back, water belt, hand bottle…whatever it is that you use to bring hydration on a run – bring it!

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6.) It is a good idea to try to COVER AS MUCH OF YOUR SKIN AS POSSIBLE.  You will lose most your heat from any exposed skin, so you want to stay covered.  This means gloves and something on your head are extremely important.  Personally, I prefer mittens over gloves – these are great for holding my hand warmers and I find that keeping my fingers where they can touch each other helps them to stay warm.  Make sure to cover your ears.  Ears can get frostbite very easily, and if this happens, you’ll be sorry.  Wear a running hat or a headband that fully covers your ears.

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7.) When it’s windy out, it is a good idea to wear a waterproof windbreaker as your top layer.  This will keep warmth in while keeping cold out.  If your dressed inappropriately, you will feel that wind blow right through you – brrrr!  No thanks!

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8.) STAY MOTIVATED by signing up for a mid winter race.  This will give you a reason to keep training even though it is cold out.  I love winter races – they’re tons of fun and quite cozy if you ask me!

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9.) When running in cold weather, it is important to STAY SAFE.  You can do this in a number of ways.  Always tell someone when you are going for a run.  Let them know your route and give them an estimated time frame on when you should be back.  Make sure to wear reflective running gear if you are out after dark (this is important since it gets dark quite early in the winter).  Rather than running a long loop, run shorter loops and do more of them when it’s nasty outside.  By doing this, if you start to get frostbite, or you slip on a patch of ice, you are closer to home where you can remedy the situation.  Make sure to carry your cell phone, ID, and some cash in case of emergency.

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10.) BE CAREFUL WHEN ROUNDING CORNERS!  I remember in grad school, I was out for a wintery evening run (I went to grad school at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, so LOTS of snow, ice and cold).  I was rounding a corner just off campus where there was a line of people waiting to get into a bar.  I hit a patch of ice and down I went smacking my bum really hard on the pavement!  I was SO embarrassed, and of course, I got a few “I give it a 10” calls.  Thankfully the bruise I had on my bum was smaller than the bruise that my pride took, but lesson learned I suppose!  Take it easy on the corners!

Nobody likes to take time away from running, and by implementing these tips, winter won’t cause you to have to!  You will find that as long as you can keep yourself comfortable, running in the winter with the peaceful snow and the beautiful scenery can actually be quite enjoyable .  At any rate, no excuses – gear up, lace up, and get out the door!  Happy running! 🙂

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5K FOR APOLLO

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This is a pin of my all time favorite quote.  It is by William Penn, and I try to live my life by it.  A few days ago, I saw a friend of mine’s post on Facebook about her son, Apollo.  Apollo is one of the sweetest, strongest, and most incredible kids you will ever meet.  He’s been handed some challenges in life as he was born with Ichthyosis and also suffers from Cerebral Palsy, Autism, and Encopresis (lack of bowel control), but he keeps smiling and remains an inspiration despite his pain and suffering.  Here is a picture of this amazing boy.

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His mom (an equally incredible woman) set up a page on Facebook called “Apollo’s Creed” to give friends and family a chance to donate to help her provide the best and most comfortable life possible for him.  In the about section she writes

“My son Apollo was born 4/20/05 a preemie with Ichthyosis, a rare skin disorder characterized by dry scaling skin that may be thickened or very thin. Ichthyosis causes complications like dehydration, infections, chronic blistering, overheating, and rapid-calorie loss. It was unexpected and shocking to the staff and myself to see a baby almost skinned alive. He could barely wear clothes the first year of life. Due to also being diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Autism he did not start walking or talking till almost 4. He also suffers from Encopresis (lack of bowel control) at 9 years old he still wears a diaper at all times. I was a single working mom missing weeks and months of work to be with Apollo. When he turned 7 I left the workforce to become his fulltime caretaker. Any one of these 4 diagnosis is hard enough on a child and Apollo got hit with a quad whammie. When he is comfortable in his own skin he is the most amazing, sweetest, helpful kid ever. He is loved by all. My goal as a parent is to provide him with the best climate to make his skin manageable. We have visited dry climates, hot climates, cold climates and humid climates. Last winter we were fortunate enough to spend 3 weeks in Hawaii over x-mas and New Years. It was the best he has ever felt and looked. Since then, he has been begging to move there so he can be a “new boy”. Until recently I had a plan, a place and a future set to move there. But things fell apart. I promised him the moon and didn’t deliver. Please help “Apollo’s Creed” to be a “new boy” and have a chance to live in comfort on the outside, so we can concentrate on the other 3 internal issues he has going on inside.” 

To learn more about Ichthyosis, click on the following pin:

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It’s always been my philosophy that if a friend, family member, or anyone for that matter asks for help, then you help…you do whatever you can do to help.  I donated, but I wanted to do more, so I decided I would run a 5K to raise money for this little guy.  I told my husband about it and about Apollo’s story, and he immediately wanted to help too (see why I love him so much!), so he is going to do the 5K for Apollo as well.

Sometimes, the problems in this world seem to be so many, and I feel so small and wonder how I can make a difference, and I am reminded of a quote by Mother Teresa – “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”  Well, here is a chance for you to “help one person”.

Ways you can help:

  • You can donate to Apollos family by clicking on Apollo’s Donate Page or you can go to Apollo’s GoFundMe Page.  Every dollar counts – there’s no donation that’s too small.
  • After donating, please post a comment on the 5K event page letting us know you donated and how much.  I have an anonymous donor who is willing to match up to $250.00, so I want to keep track of donations!
  • If you wish to remain anonymous, please message me with the amount.
  • You can contact me on Facebook as well anytime.
  • If you would prefer to send a direct donation to me please contact me and I will give you details where to send a check to.
  • If you are unable to give monetarily right now, please consider re-blogging this post, or sharing the 5K event page on your Facebook page.  Please pray for this cause, and tell your friends and family – do whatever you can to help.

In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’. ~Acts 20:35

Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. ~Deuteronomy 15:10

Here are some more pictures of Apollo and some pictures of his skin:

Apollo and his mommy – kissing his owies

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Apollo’s side before being bandaged

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Apollo’s elbow

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Apollo’s ear

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Apollo’s leg

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Apollo’s feet

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Bandaged and sleeping

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As always, he’s still got that adorable smile on his face!

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You can donate by clicking on Apollo’s Donate Page or by going to Apollo’s GoFundMe Page.  Let’s help this amazing little guy!  God bless you! ❤

 

SETTING REALISTIC RUNNING GOALS

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When it comes to running, I can’t emphasize how important goals are.  I mean there’s nothing wrong with running just to run, but goals keep us working towards something and keep us motivated.  The thing I love about running is that there is ALWAYS room for improvement.  Once you’ve reached a goal, then you can set an even loftier goal.  There is always something to work towards.  Even if you are a world record holder, you can still aim to run faster – it’s brilliant!  You never run out of things to strive for, and I love that!

The above pin got me to thinking about running goals and how to choose them so that they are attainable and so that you won’t quit till you get them!  Through the years, I’ve had SO many different running goals.  I’ve reached some and set new ones, and there are some that I am still striving for!  The best thing about goals is that you can’t fail if you don’t give up, so the key is that wonderful saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try try AGAIN!”.  With all of my different running goals, I’ve found some key things that are important in setting them.  I figured I would share these things with you in hopes that it will help some of you to set realistic and attainable running goals.  Here we go!

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1.)  BE SPECIFIC!  This is extremely important.  If you set unspecific goals, you won’t know when you’ve achieved them.  For instance, if you say “I want to be a stronger runner”, that is a great idea, but how do you know when you have achieved that?  What constitutes a “stronger runner”?  And for that matter, if I run strong one day, and feel like crap the next, does that mean I am getting further away from my goal?  There are so many questions that pop up, it is impossible to tell how to achieve this goal.  You want to set specific goals, such as “I want to shave a minute off my 5K time in the next 2 months” or “I want to run x miles a week for y weeks”.  These are goals that you will know you have reached and can gladly reward yourself for.  Thus, when making your goals, BE SPECIFIC!

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2.) MAKE YOUR GOALS SPECIFIC TO YOU!  When setting goals, it is important to set goals that you and only you are responsible for.  For example, if you set a goal such as “I want to win a race”, then you may be setting yourself up for dissapointment no matter how hard you try for this goal.  The reason why this goal isn’t the best is that you have absolutely no control over quite a few factors that will play a role in this goal.  For instance, Who will show up for the race?  What are the other people that will be running this race doing in their own training or what are the other runner’s natural abilities?  You can’t control these things, and they are a huge part of that specific goal.  You want to have your goals such that they have to do with you and you alone, and the only factors involved in achieving this goal pertain to what you put in, not to what others are putting in.  A goal such as “I want to run 150 miles this month” is a goal that only you can make happen — there are no extraneous factors that can keep you from your goal, which makes it much more attainable.

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3.) DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS WHEN MAKING YOUR GOALS.  This ties into #2.  If you set a goal such as “I want to be as fast as so and so”, you are introducing extraneous factors (namely that persons natural ability or training habits) that can keep you from our goal.  While a little healthy competition between runners is fine, your goals should pertain to you.  A better goal would be “I want to run this distance faster than I ran it last time.”  The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person that you were yesterday.  Not only that, but as a side note, comparing ourselves (in anything) to others is incredibly discouraging.  We are all unique and different, and we all have different strengths and weaknesses — that’s what makes us beautiful and special.  By comparing ourselves to others, we are discounting our own beauty!  I can assure you that while you are busy wishing you had what someone else has, there are a number of people out there wishing they had something that you have – appreciate who you are and how uniquely God made you! 🙂

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4.)  KEEP IT RELEVANT.  Make sure to keep your goals relevant to you.  Your running goal doesn’t have to be a common one – it just has to be one that is important to you.  It should be something that you consider worthwhile and important.  For instance, I’ve coached a few soldiers in bringing down their 2 mile PT time.  Their goals varied in terms of time, but they had no interest in “running a marathon” or “running x amount of miles a week”.  They just wanted to get that PT time down because it was relevant to their life.

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5.)  KEEP IT ATTAINABLE.  While it’s good to shoot for the sky when it comes to your goals, you also want to make sure that your goal is something that you can achieve if you are willing to put in the work.  For instance, I would love to say “I want to run a 4:00 mile”…yeah, that’s not gonna happen, so even though I would love to have that as a goal, I would never reach it.  You don’t want to make it too easy, and you want to have to work for it, but it is important to make sure that it is a goal that is attainable through hard work.

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6.) GIVE YOURSELF A DEADLINE.  When setting a goal, it is always good to keep it timely.  Know when you want to achieve your goal by.  This will help to keep you motivated and give you a bit of a sense of urgency.  If you are setting goals like “I want to run a sub two hour half marathon”, and you don’t say when you want to do it by, then there is no sense of urgency which can lead to procrastinating training.  It is better to have a race, event or date in mind for when you want to reach that goal.  That being said, I always want to use caution with this one, because while you should have a timeline in mind, if you don’t reach the goal you wanted in that timeline – you DID NOT FAIL TO REACH YOUR GOAL!!!  You just didn’t get the goal in the given timeline, so you just change the plan, not the goal and you keep trying!  I said it before, and I’ll say it again – YOU CANNOT FAIL IF YOU DON’T GIVE UP!

These are just a few things that I’ve come across that help to set realistic, attainable, and exciting running goals!  It’s always good to have a goal – it keeps us reaching and moving forward.  What running goals do you have in mind?  Make today the day that you set that goal — go for it, stay focused, and most importantly – DON’T GIVE UP!    Happy running! 🙂

RELAX AND RUN

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I came across this pin on Pinterest, and was thinking about how this is applicable in so many more ways than one!  Staying calm and relaxed during a race is more important than one would think!  Watch this video of the leaders of the Chicago Marathon in 2012 running in slow motion.

Notice how relaxed most of the runners faces, shoulders, and upper bodies are?  One might think that they are just out on a casual jog.  However, the 2012 Chicago Marathon was won in 2:04:38, and this is the lead pack at some point on the course, so they are probably running around a 4:40-4:45 minute per mile pace here.  Elite runners know the importance of staying relaxed during a race.

When we run a race or do a really hard speed workout, the goal is obviously to run as fast as we are able to.  When you are pushing yourself, in a workout or a race, you naturally tense your muscles up, and you may think that this muscle tension and extra tightness will help you to push harder, when in fact, the opposite is true.  That extra tension is causing us to exert more energy, and we want to conserve our energy the best we can during the entire distance.  A great runner can run relatively fast using a minimal amount of energy. The key is to STAY RELAXED.

But, how do we do this?  There are three key physical areas where we hold tension while running: face, shoulders, and hands and arms.  By being aware of and doing our best to eliminate the tension in these three areas, we can run more relaxed.

  1. Face – try to keep your jaw slack.  When running, our jaws tend to tighten up, so be aware of this and try to keep that area loose and relaxed.  Relaxing your jaw can reduce tension in your shoulders and improve breathing for fast runs.  Another sign of tension in the face is squinting your eyes.  While wearing sunglasses or a visor can help with this, it’s also important to notice when you are doing it so you can correct it.
  2. Shoulders – I’m definitely guilty of this one!  When running long or hard distances, runners tend to scrunch up their shoulders, so concentrate on not doing this and keeping them relaxed.  Make sure not to slouch with your shoulders, and if you are having a hard time relaxing them, try doing a “shrug”, bringing them up and then back down – this can help to eliminate shoulder tightness.
  3. Hands and Arms – Many of us runners will find ourselves clenching our fists when we run – knock it off!  Keep the hands loose. Your upper arms will naturally carry enough tension to counteract your legs’ momentum — this is how you remain balanced and don’t fall over. But if your hands are continually clenched then your biceps and triceps will be overly tense, and your elbows will feel stuck in one position and your arms will get tired creating a sensation of body-wide fatigue.  If you find yourself clenching your hands, shake your hands and drop your arms letting them flop around at your sides for a few seconds.  This will release tension, and help to keep your hands and arms relaxed.

Physically, we want to concentrate on those three areas.  Basically, keep your upper body RELAXED!!!

Another thing we want to keep in mind is mental relaxation.  Normally, when I am extremely stressed about something, a nice long easy run helps to calm me.  However, in a race, we want to go into the race calm so that we aren’t using up any energy worrying about something unrelated.  Be mentally prepared for a race by leaving anything you are stressed or worried about out of it.  Try to reduce stress as much as possible the night before and the morning of the race.  If you are thinking negatively during a race, it will slow you down.  You want to be thinking positively.  During the race, you can come up with some sort of mantra that can keep you focused mentally.  I sometimes use “push comfortably” or “fast and relaxed”, and when things get really rough, I use “just keep going!”.  Anytime, I start to think about how much it hurts or how tired I am, I just repeat something like this over and over again to keep me mentally focused on positive things.

Lastly, when you are going into a race, it helps to have a plan.  If possible, do packet pick up the day or night before.  Make sure to get to the race with plenty of time to spare.  Know where the start and finish are, know what your goal is, know what you want to hit your splits in, and if possible, know the course.  This will help to keep you focused and knowing what to expect will help to keep you relaxed and avoid any type of unwanted surprises in the middle of your race (like a quarter mile hill with a 15% grade at mile 24 of a marathon – no thank you!).

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you to relax during those hard effort runs allowing you to find even more enjoyment in the sport!  My golden rule of running is that if you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong!  So, most importantly, have fun and run your own race while being aware of different tensions and how to eliminate them. Keep calm and run on!  Happy running! 🙂

 

 

MY TOP 30 CHRISTIAN RUNNING SONGS

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That picture is of my foot!  I got that tattoo about 5 years ago.  The bible verse is Isaiah 40:31- but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I am SO incredibly thankful that I am able to run.  My running is one of the ways that I worship Papa.  I know that it is only through His grace and love that I am able to engage in this physical activity that I love so much, and I don’t take a single step for granted when I’m out there!  Thus, my iPod is always rocking Christian hits!  Do you ever notice that whenever you look up “good running songs”, it’s very rare that you find a list of Christian running songs?  This thought occurred to me when I came across this pin:

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I’m sure all these songs are great to run to, but there aren’t any christian songs on there, and that’s a common theme when trying to find running playlists.

I figured that since it’s not always easy to find “lists” of christian running songs, I would compile a short list of 30 of my favorite christian running songs.  I know some of these are oldies, but I love them anyway.  They all keep me moving and motivate me to keep going while keeping my eyes on the One who makes it all possible!  Here they are (in no particular order).

  1. Superchick – One More  (this one is FANTASTIC for speed workouts!  Especially intervals – “one more, go one more, yeah yeah”) 🙂
  2. Hillsong United – Oceans (where feet may fail) – my current favorite!
  3. Needtobreathe – Slumber
  4. Mandy Joy Miller – Made for This
  5. Mandisa – Stronger
  6. Remedy Drive – Guide you Home
  7. Avalon – Testify to Love (oldie but goodie!)
  8. Francesca Batistelli – This is the Stuff
  9. Barlow Girl – Running out of Time
  10. Dara Maclean – Suitcases
  11. Needtobreathe – Let us love
  12. For King & Country – The Proof of Your Love
  13. Mandy Joy Miller – Are There Words
  14. Mandisa – Overcomer
  15. Jamie Grace – Hold Me
  16. DC Talk – Jesus Freak
  17. Rush of Fools – Lay Me Down
  18. Superchick – Alive
  19. John Wilson – I Refuse
  20. Skillet – Awake and Alive
  21. Francesca Batistelli – Free to be Me
  22. Needtobreathe – Rise Again
  23. Newsboys – Shine
  24. Jason Gray – Laugh Out Loud
  25. Jamie Grace – Beautiful Day
  26. Steven Curtis Chapman – Love Take Me Over
  27. Brandon Heath – Wait and See
  28. Brit Nicole – Set the World on Fire
  29. Rush of Fools – When Our Hearts Sing
  30. Superchick – Stand in the Rain

So, there you go!  Enjoy! 🙂

 

 

EFFICIENT FORM FOR RUNNING HILLS

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In general, I am always wary of advising a runner to make any changes in their running form – everyone’s body is different and what works for one may not work for another (perhaps I will write a post on this a bit later).  However this morning, I went out for an easy 3 miler, and about midway through I ran into a “gonna kick you in the rear end” hill, and it got me thinking.  A lot of runners dread hills.  However if you can make a few minor changes in your form while running them, they will become much more enjoyable — well, maybe enjoyable isn’t the word, but bearable at the very least!  I spent the rest of my run thinking about running form on hills.  Having a master’s in pure mathematics, I am extremely familiar with the physics of running and all the forces that are acting on the body as we run (I still remember when I made the connection between forces and running form in a Calculus of Variations course that I took – it was fascinating, and it was hard for me to concentrate on the given curriculum and not just completely on this new found running secret I had come upon!)

Most of us runners have heard of the basic things we should do when running up hill (shorten stride, keep torso long, …) and down hill (open your stride, lean forward a bit, …).  I came across this pin on Pinterest that lists off what to do when running up or downhill to run hills most effectively.

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This directs you to a women’s running site, but the rules for running hills are pretty much the same for both genders.  Let’s talk a bit about how you can learn to tackle hills in your training with more ease and enjoyment.  I promise to keep the physics in Laymen’s terms the best I can, and hopefully you will be able to have the same type of an “AH-HA” moment as I did when I made these connections many years ago.

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1.) The first thing listed on this site for running uphill is to KEEP YOUR TORSO TALL.  When running uphill, the goal is to minimize the forces acting against you.  A lot of runners have a tendency to want to bend forward at the waist when they are running uphill, when in actuality, this works against you in two ways.  Here is a picture of just a few forces that are acting on a runner when they are running (there are many more depending on the weather, etc., but this picture shows the basic ones that will help to explain why you don’t want to bend forward on a hill).

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The arrow with the purple dot labeled Fg is the force due to gravity which pulls down on the runner.  Notice that it pulls straight down from your center of gravity (right around your belly button).  The more you bend forward at the waist on an uphill, the more that force is going to pull your body toward the ground and back some – this is not what we want!  The arrow that is pointing straight up labeled Fy is what is called the normal force.  For our purposes, picture that arrow going all the way up to the height of the runner.  This is always acting on us, no matter what we are doing.  It runs perpendicular to the the surface you are standing on.  Think about standing on an incline – the normal force will be perpendicular to that surface (will form a 90 degree angle with the surface).  Now think about what that means if you are bending forward at the waist while running up an incline.  When bending forward, you are placing most of your body in front of that normal force, so it is pulling you backwards – definitely counterproductive to us trying to move forward up the hill! So, what can we do to minimize these forces that are acting against us while running uphill?  Notice that when it comes to the normal force, if we are standing perpendicular to the surface, it is neither pulling us forward or backward – ideally, this is what we want, we want to make our bodies as perpendicular to the surface as possible (within reason – we don’t want to fall over backwards either!).  This will minimize both gravity and the normal force from working against us.  Keep that torso tall and position your body as close as you can comfortably get to forming a 90 degree angle with the surface.

2.) The second thing on this list is to SHORTEN YOUR STRIDE.  Do you ever notice that when you become exhausted during a run, your stride tends to naturally shorten?  This is because shortening your stride can relax your muscles and conserve energy.  This is precisely what we want to do when running uphill to make it easier for us – particularly, concentrate on relaxing the back of your upper legs.  A lot of articles will tell you that in addition to shortening your stride, you want to lift your knees when running uphill.  Really what you want to do is push your knees forward in a direction that is parallel to the surface.  Notice the force labeled Fx in the picture above.  This is the horizontal force due to the contact between the runner’s foot and the ground.  It is what helps to propel us forward.  Thus, you will be lifting your knees a bit more to get them in the direction parallel to the surface, but you don’t want to lift them too much – lifting them too much will cause this force to have more of an upward impact instead of a forward impact.  By driving your knees forward in a direction that is parallel to the surface, you will be maximizing a force that is working for you.

3.) The third thing is to FOCUS YOUR GAZE ON THE SUMMIT.  Not only does this “keep your eyes on the prize”, it also helps in propelling your body in a direction that is parallel to the surface maximizing that force that is working for you.  This also keeps you from looking at your feet – doing this can cause you to lean forward at the waist which, again, we don’t want.

4.) The last thing when running uphill is to SLOW YOUR PACE AND RUN BY EFFORT.  When it comes to running uphill, you want to expend only slightly more energy running uphill than you would when running on a neutral surface.  A lot of people see an uphill as a challenge and want to get to the top as fast as possible, but in reality, you want to feel good when you get to the top, not like you have to stop your run.  By attacking the hill too vigorously, you will put yourself into oxygen debt making the rest of your run more difficult.  Slowing your pace, staying relaxed, and running according to your comfortable effort level will get you to the top of the hill feeling ready for the next one.

RUNNING DOWNHILL – Running downhill is markedly easier than running uphill.  The goal is to exert less energy than you would on a neutral surface.  When running downhill, the forces that were working against you on an uphill will be working for you on a downhill.

1.) The first thing on the list for efficient downhill running is to OPEN YOUR STRIDE (or to lengthen your stride).  Opening your stride will allow you to take advantage of the hill.  This has always been tough for me.  I’ve always had a shorter stride than I would like, and when I first started running (middle school), I had a hard time not letting my feet get away from me when I would try to lengthen my stride running downhill.  I still remember face planting at the bottom of a really big hill at my first cross country meet – I think my pride was more bruised than my body was from the fall, but it’s always been a challenge for me.  However, I’ve found that if you concentrate on using the muscles in the backs of your legs to push you forward, while landing on the balls of your feet, this helps.  Not only that, but concentrating on landing on the balls of your feet will help to prevent injury –if you favor landing on your heels while running downhill, your shins, calves, and knees are going to pay for it.

2.) The second tip for running downhill is to LEAN FORWARD SLIGHTLY FROM THE ANKLES.  This goes back to those forces acting on the body.  When we were talking about running uphill, it was easy to see that gravity was working against you.  When you are running downhill, gravity still pulls you toward the surface from your center of gravity.  When heading downhill, this is the direction you want to go, so by leaning forward slightly you are maximizing a force that is working for you.

3.) The third tip for running downhill is to LAND WITH YOUR FEET JUST BEHIND YOUR HIPS.  If you are following the first two tips, this should tend to happen naturally.  Picture running downhill with a lengthened stride and leaning forward slightly.  As a result, your feet should land just behind your hips with each step.  Don’t over think this one as it is easy to lose your footing on a downhill if you are trying to place your feet somewhere that is uncomfortable for you.  Just relax and let it happen naturally.

4.) The last pointer for running downhill is to RELAX AND LET GRAVITY PULL YOU DOWN.  As I described above, gravity is working for you when you are running downhill.  Eventually, with some practice, you can get to where it is basically doing all the work for you.  This is why we all love downhills.  It is a great chance to recover during a run, because you really don’t have to put in too much effort if you are running them correctly, so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

Hopefully you found some of this helpful, and hopefully you have a bit better of an understanding as to why we do these things on hills and how they help.  By incorporating these simple techniques in hill training, you will be running the hills like a pro in no time!  Happy running! 🙂

 

EXCELLENT CORE EXERCISES FOR RUNNERS

I came across this pin on Pinterest:

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It is an article about 13 core exercises for runners.  Many people think of the core as the stomach, but it really includes everything from your thighs to your glutes, hips, back, and abdominals. Having a strong core is essential for runners, not only because it allows us to run faster and stronger, but also because it make us run more efficiently, prevents injuries, and it just makes you feel better during a run and after.

I have been running for almost 20 years, and was blessed to stay injury free during my twenties, but once I hit thirty, injuries started creeping in.  I had always done a bit of strength training, but nothing specifically geared towards running.  Once I started to experience injuries, I started incorporating different exercises into my routine, and it helped tremendously not only with healing time when I was injured, but also with preventing injuries.  This is extremely important to us runners, because having an injury means the dreaded “taking time off”.  Normally for people who aren’t runners, this sounds nice like a vacation, but for those of us who have the running bug, it’s torture.  My husband (who is my running hero) has an uncanny ability to just take injuries in stride, whereas I am a sourpuss until I am back out there.  Thus, anything that can help us to avoid injury is of extreme importance.

The article that this pin is linked to is fantastic.  I use some of these exercises regularly, but I also have some other exercises that have helped me tremendously.  I have a lot of different strengthening exercises and stretches for different body parts.  In this post, I am going to go over (with videos) eleven of the core strengthening exercises that I have found to be the most beneficial. You can take some and leave some in terms of incorporating them into your routine.  You should perform these exercises after you’ve done a run.  In general, do 2-3 sets of each exercise and hold each rep for about a minute.  Eleven exercises is a lot, so don’t do them all in one session – choose 5-6 of them to do in one session.

Side note:  Please excuse my cat, Fermat, as he really wanted to be a part of these videos, so he made a short appearance here and there.  I will post a couple “blooper videos” at the end for your viewing pleasure of him insisting on being on film. 🙂

1.) Modified bicycle

2.) Side leg circles

3.) Bridge

4.) Modified Bird Dog

5.) Running Abs

6.) Plank

7.) Side Plank

8.) Dog leg lifts

9.) Hip Thrusts

10.) Supine Leg Lift

11.) Squats

Hopefully you will find some of these as helpful as I have.  I do have to say that everyone is different and what’s worked for me may not work for someone else.  As always, consult your physician before adding any sort of a new exercise routine to your regimen. Now, for your viewing pleasure – my cat, Fermat, insisting on some camera time.  Enjoy and happy running! 🙂