Long Run Essentials

One of the nice things about running is that it is one of the few sports where you don’t need a ton of gear to partake in it (unlike football or hockey). Actually though, if you get into serious running, you will discover that that is actually not true. Here is a list of my long run gear essentials:

iPhone Armband: For the first month of my running career I held my iPhone in my hand the entire run. It would get sweaty and gross and as my friend Nina once said, it could possibly be making one arm stronger than the other, thus there was a constant need to alternate which hand I held it in. Needless to say, this was unbelievably annoying, so I went down to Nike (any sports store or online store carries a million different brands and designs) and got myself a running armband. It was one of the best investments I’ve ever made because now I truly feel like a free woman, waving my hands wildly about as I run (because I can dammit!), and looking hardcore like I know what I’m doing (ha!).

Nike E1 Prime Performance Armband, photo from www.achillesheel.co.uk

Nike E1 Prime Performance Armband, photo from http://www.achillesheel.co.uk

Performance Socks: This was a recent revelation and I now understand what it must have felt like when archaic people discovered Christ. Before I discovered performance socks (BPS) I was wearing cotton socks to run in, or as close to 100% cotton as I could find (did you know it’s near impossible to find 100% cotton socks anymore?). Anyways, I have hyperhidrosis, so my feet are often sweaty and cotton is just more uncomfortable on them. Little did I know that cotton chafes, especially with shoe inserts, and gives you nasty blisters. After coming back from a 5-mile run this week, with blisters on the arches of both my feet, my dad marched on down to Marathon Sports and came back with these fine pieces of cloth: The Balega Drynamix Hidden Comfort Sock. I don’t know why they’re named “Hidden Comfort” because the comfort has been pretty obvious to me. No more blisters, just cushion and wicking from here on out.

Handheld Water Bottle: I used to have a water belt but it was wicked uncomfortable so I opted for a small oval-shaped handheld water bottle with a strap, which although not actually palm shaped, is manageable enough on a long run. The best part about it is that the strap mine came with has a little zipper pouch that can hold a gel or keys. I’d also recommend finding a bottle with a soft rubbery top, because they are more comfortable to bite open while running.

Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Pocket, photo from www.amphipod.com

Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Pocket, photo from http://www.amphipod.com

Fuel: Don’t run far in the heat without fuel. You will feel depleted and gross afterwards. Burning this type of body energy requires quick replenishment. Upwards of 7 miles and I will eat a gel at 6 miles. I bought a ton of different brands to try out, but so far I’ve only tried one product and just stuck with it because it worked so well the first time. That product is Gu Energy Gel in Chocolate Outrage and Espresso Love. I actually like the taste so much I look forward to getting to eat them. When you’re tired and hot during a run they taste like manna.

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Training Apps (Nike+, NTC)

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If you are a college student running on a budget, or really anyone who can’t afford to dole out the big bucks for the best running accouterments, there are several options out there for you. When I was younger, my parents instituted a rule in our household after the discovery of my rather rapid cycling through interests. The rule was that if you took up a new hobby, you had to stick with it for at least a year or two before any big purchases could be made regarding it. For example, I now have a sewing machine and guitar that I had to earn through years of borrowing other’s equipment. This mentality has stuck with me throughout the years, so when I started running, partially because of my childhood rule, and partially because I’m cheap as hell (correction, I just don’t like spending money when there are perfectly good, cheaper options available) I decided not to invest in any serious running equipment, with the exception of shoes and clothes.

Being the anal person that I am though, I needed to be able to track the distances and times I was running, so I did a little research and found the Nike+ app. I’m sure many of you have some vague idea of the Nike+ chip you can put in your shoe to track miles, but Nike+ is no longer just about that chip. My dad has been using Nike+ for years moving from the chip, to bracelet, to watch, but I discovered, you don’t need any of that stuff!

 The Nike+ app for iPhone is incredible. I’m sure there are many other apps out there that track your miles and times for free, but this app has a few special features that I really enjoy. Before I get into the things that make the app special, I just want to say that after having used this app, I probably wouldn’t invest in any of the other Nike+ technology because you have to upload it to your profile to see your stats. With the app you can see and listen to your time/distance as you go, so for a person who loves instant gratification, as well as is following a training program, the app is great.

 

Best features of the Nike+ app:

Social Networking: The app not only tracks your activity, but also allows you to connect with your friends who use Nike+, and pits you in friendly competitions with them. This makes running less of a solitary activity and also gives you some motivation to keep your mileage up.

Trophies: Again a great motivational tool, when you reach certain benchmarks, trophies are added to your profile. There are awards for anything such as running a certain number of days/weeks/months in a row or number of miles logged in a certain time period. Regardless of their triviality, it feels good to rack up trophies.

Some of the trophies I've earned.

Some of the trophies I’ve earned.

Motivational Speakers: This is probably my favorite aspect of the app, as silly as it is. When you finish a run or if you set your run for a certain distance, when you’re in the last portion of it, famous runners/Nike affiliated athletes will come on and congratulate or motivate you to keep pushing. I don’t care that it’s pre-recorded, Ashton Eaton can come on my headphones and tell me I’m great any day of the week!

Data Collection: The app does a great job of collecting ones running data including, weather, how it felt, and what surface you ran on and creating not only an individual page for each run, but also graphs of running data for the month.

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Powersongs: The app talks to you throughout your run, giving you your average pace at each mile and if you set the distance you’re going to run, when you’re very close to finishing it, it will give you the option to start a powersong. A powersong is a pre-set pump up song of your choosing, taken from your phone’s iPod.

While I may eventually try and acquire a Garmin watch, for now, the Nike+ app is a great resource that not only tells me what I’m doing, but also gives me another level of motivation thanks to it’s personal bench marks.

Another fitness app I love to use is the Nike Training Club (NTC) app . Also free, it provides targeted workouts for strengthening specific areas of the body with great video instruction. Oftentimes when I run out of ideas for my own strengthening exercises I will use this app for some variation, or to target an area that I don’t know any exercises for.

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Cape Cod Rail Trail

This past weekend I reached the point in my half marathon training program where the weekend long run was farther than I had ever run before. Having done 7 miles the week before, 8 seemed daunting, but doable. While I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 training plan to a T, I hadn’t actually read any of his descriptions of each of the workouts. To my surprise, I discovered that you’re actually supposed to run 30-90 seconds slower than your race pace during long runs. My theory up until this point had been that you should run as fast or faster than your race pace in training to make it feel easier when you were actually racing. Given the strain keeping this pace put on my body, I was more than happy to oblige Hal’s advice and run slower than I had been. This also eased some of the anxiety I had about my first foray into what I consider true distance running.

I was on Cape Cod this weekend in Orleans with a friend from school. Before leaving for the beach, I did some googling of places to run on the Cape. The most appealing and accessible appeared to be the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 22-mile paved trail, running from South Dennis to South Wellfleet, passing through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet.

My friend and I drove to the trail and entered at Nickerson State Park. After a massive rainstorm the night before there was no humidity and at 10am it was about 78 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. We began running SW towards Brewster and Harwich. There were tons of bikers out, in addition to runners. The company was welcome in the way in which seeing other people out there working and suffering gives comfort and solidarity.

I am accustomed to city running, which can be frustrating regarding pedestrians, but I find enjoyable because the scenery is always changing both in terms of landscape and people. The Rail Trail was beautiful, but monotonous. The entire thing was virtually a concrete road encompassed by a tunnel of greenery, with occasional breaks of sun when town roads crossed the trail. The greenery provided very welcome shade, but virtually no variation, which got a little boring. My friend and I fluctuated between 9 and 10 minute miles, meeting our goal of 9:30 average miles. Due to my city running, I stop pretty often for stoplights. As this was a rural trail, there was no reason to stop except pure exhaustion. In the end, we ended up stopping every 2 miles (3 stops total), which I am very proud of!

Last week on my 7 mile run, I tried running with a water belt. I found it wildly uncomfortable and ended up just carrying the bottle in hand. After that, I went to Marathon Sports in Boston and got a small bottle with a hand strap. I tested it out on the 8 mile run, and while not the most comfortable thing ever, it did the trick! The other thing I got at Marathon Sports was a bunch of gels/chews to experiment with. I took the Chocolate Outrage GU Energy Gel with me on this run and stopped at mile 6 to eat it. I loved the taste and when I finished my run, and later into that day, I didn’t feel as depleted and dehydrated as I had after my 7 mile run.

Overall it was a great experience and made me feel as if I might actually have it in myself to finish the half marathon. While I’m very excited for the half, I’m really nervous about actually being able to run that far, and being able to run 8 miles was the first time that I really thought, okay, if I can do this, I can do 13.1. And if you’re looking for a place to run on the cape, look no further than the Cape Cod Rail Trail, despite the monotony it was beautiful and nice and shady.

Favorite Pandora Stations For Working Out

This year I’ve been experimenting with which are the best Pandora stations to run and workout to. There are several stations that are designed for working out, but few of those have worked for me, so below is a list of all the stations I’ve used for any type of exercise, categorized by what they’re best for. As with any Pandora station, there is only so long you can use it before you tire of the songs, so this list includes the stations that I have tired of but served their purpose when I could still stand the songs.

CARDIO:

I Love It Radio

Absolutely the best for running. The tempo really keeps me motivated and in a good mood. Features artists such as Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris, Icona Pop, Avicii, M83, and Ellie Goulding.

Scream And Shout Radio

Good for running or any type of cardio. Very similar to I Love It Radio, featuring some of the same artists, but slightly more main stream, pop music. Features artists such as Icona Pop, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry.

Drop It Like It’s Hot Radio

Good for gym cardio like biking and elliptical and light core work. Features artists such as 50 cent, The Game, G-Unit, and D12.

Pop and Hip Hop Power Workout Radio

If there was a station designed for getting you through the monotony of gym cardio machines, this is it. Features artists such as Pitbull, will.i.am, David Guetta, Flo Rida, and Usher.

Today’s Hip Hop and Pop Hits Radio

Best for a more gentle cardio workout. For some reason I can’t run to it, something about the poppyness of it or the softness of the beats, but I love it on the elliptical. Features artists such as Jason DeRulo, Jay Sean, Akon, and Chris Brown.

GENERAL GYM EXERCISES/CORE:

Macklemore Radio

I was starting to get bored of I Love It Radio and wanted to be able to run to the music from this station. It’s a little too soft to run to though, but it’s great pump up music and fun to listen to at the gym while doing light core work. Features artists such as Eminem, Jay-Z, Imagine Dragon, Kid Cudi, and Mac Miller.

Pumped Up Kicks Radio

Fun for core/muscle strengthening. Features artists such as Metric, Tegan and Sara, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Naked and Famous.

LIFTING/STRENGTH:

Rap Strength Training Radio

Great for lifting or any type of slow paced strength exercises. Features artists such as DJ Khaled, Lil Wayne, Drake, Young Jeezy, and T.I.

Favorite Motivational Videos

I have always been a sucker for all things motivational, specifically in the sports realm. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but all of those, “Dig deep,” “Find the strength within,” etc type ads really get me right in the feelings. I am forever amazed by the feats that the human body can accomplish and no matter how many times I’ve seen or heard something, it will never cease to give me goose bumps.

 

This obsession probably dates back further, but the first time I remember feeling so overwhelmed and inspired by an athletic story was when I was ten. My best friend and I had a true fan-girl thing going for Lance Armstrong. In fact, I decided, in order to be true to my obsession, I must read his very grownup biography. I believe I made it through the first ten pages before realizing that I wasn’t old enough to read the details of the effects of Lance’s 18 golf ball sized tumors, but that figure, and his story, have always stuck with me. No matter the recent discovery of his doping, his story is still one of incredible human triumph, and that, will always inspire me.

 

If you show me a black and white ad of someone hunched over with sweat dripping in slow motion off of their face, doesn’t matter what the ad is for, I will be brimming with can-do energy. The shit just really gets me going.

 

So without further ado here are the two most inspirational sports ads I’ve ever seen. Before every track meet in high school I used to watch these to remind myself of the incredible potential of the human body and the unbelievable feeling of triumph. Even now, when I’m down, or about to go for a really hard workout, I watch them.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijTwZNUBhcI

I have no idea where this first video came from. It says it’s a Nike ad, but it isn’t, although a lot of the footage is taken from other Nike ads. The monologue that goes with it is without a doubt the most inspirational, goose bump inducing piece of literature ever written, and nearly every time I watch it, I feel so amped up that I consider printing out the words and pasting them on my bedroom wall. Right after I first discovered this video (by doing a YouTube search of inspirational sports ads, yes I’ve already admitted I have an obsession) it disappeared, I think because of copy right infringement or something, but much to my relief it has returned to get me all inspired-up whenever the need be.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RYt8gh388Y

This second video, which supplies much of the footage for the above video, is from the ’08 Olympics. Nothing gets me going quite like the Olympics. It’s hard to even describe how I feel about them except that it’s like watching 16 days of nonstop inspirational ads and the entire time I feel like crying at how impressive it all is and running a million marathons because everything we need is already inside and our potential is infinite.

Killer Core Workout

In addition to running, I try and do some sort of core/muscle work with each of my workouts. When I’m at the gym cross training I do a more intense muscle workout using the machines and weights and balls, but this little home workout is something I started using last spring. It takes about fifteen minutes (if you go non-stop), and must be worked up to, but if repeated multiple times week it gives some pretty great results. I find it to be so effective because it manages to reach both upper and lower abs, as well as the sides.

Stretching:

I recommend, especially for those who are just starting out, to stretch between every one or two ab exercises. The stretch I most recommend is the cobra stretch, where one lays with hips and legs on the floor while pushing the upper body straight up, palms flat on the floor in front of the hips, arms straight.

Gym Adaptation:

When I’m looking to make this workout harder, specifically when I’m at the gym with access to equipment, I’ll make the following adaptations:

For leg-lifts or butt-ups place a rubber ball or 2.5 – 5 pound weight between the feet.

For suitcases place a 5 – 10 pound medicine ball between the knees.

For any of the crunches hold a 5 pound weight against the chest for added resistance.

10 push-ups

20 leg-lifts

Lay flat on your back with hands under your butt, by your sides, or holding the matt above your head. Raise your legs straight up so they make a 90-degree angle with the floor. Slowly lower your legs together to the floor, (either tap your heels lightly on the floor or hover them an inch above) then raise them back up to the starting position. Repeat.

20 butt-ups

Lay flat on your back with your hands under your butt or by your sides and legs at a 90-degree angle with the floor. Lift your butt off of the ground, pushing your legs straight up, then lower back to the ground. Repeat.

10 push-ups

20 toe-touches

Lay flat on your back with your legs at a 90-degree angle with the floor and toes flexed. Reach your hands up towards your toes lifting your shoulders off of the floor. Lower back down and repeat.

60 side crunches

Lay on your back with your feet flat on the ground, knees bent, and arms bent with hands behind your head. Tip your knees as far as they can go to one side. Your feet should come up off of the floor and the thigh of which side you’re tilting should rest on the ground. Crunch up straight towards your hip. Switch sides after 30 reps.

10 push-ups

 20 v-sits

Lay flat on your back with your legs stretched out straight on the ground and arms flat on the ground above your head. Simultaneously lift your arms and legs until your body makes a V shape, balancing on your butt. Your arms can either reach up towards your toes or reach out straight from your shoulders, parallel to the floor. Lower down and repeat.

50 suitcases

Lay on your back, feet on the ground, knees bent, arms bent with hands behind your head. Clench your abs and lift your knees and elbows until they touch. Lower back down and repeat.

10 push-ups

 100 different level crunches

Lay on your back, feet on the ground, knees bent, arms bent, with hands behind head. Crunch towards your knees, lifting your shoulders partly off of the floor. Do 30 crunches in this position. Then lift your knees towards your chest. Your thighs should make a 90-degree angle with the floor, and your calves should make a 90-degree angle with your thighs. Do 35 crunches in this position. Now you’re almost there. Straighten your legs so they make a 90-degree angle with the floor. Do 35 crunches in this position.

20 v-crunches

I don’t really know how to explain this one, so 55 – 1:10 of this video shows it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1PCW2xubGo If you’re looking for more of a challenge, don’t put your hands down, and if you’re looking for less of a challenge, place your hands behind you, fingertips facing forward.

10 push-ups

 10-20 Assorted back exercises

When strengthening your abs it is essential to also strengthen your lower back. Your lower back is part of your core and core strength helps with balance and stability. While doing a bunch of ab exercises can make your stomach look nice, strengthening the entire core helps with enhancing athletic performance.

(Feel free to slip in any of these between the core exercises)

Lay flat on your stomach with arms stretched out straight above your head. Lift your chest and arms off of the floor as high as you can, leaving your legs on the ground, hold for a second, then lower to the floor and repeat 10-20 times

Lay flat on your stomach with arms stretched out straight above your head. Lift your arms and chest off of the floor while simultaneously lifting your legs, hold for a second, then lower to the floor and repeat 10-20 times.

Lay flat on the ground with one arm stretched straight above your head and the other bent with the chin resting on your fist. Lift the stretched out arm at the same time as the opposite leg. Lift and lower 10-20 times then switch sides and repeat.