C'mon let's sweat...But make sure you rehydrate after those runs too!

Summer is now officially in full swing, and that means for anyone running and working out outside the temperatures are rising...and the sweat will be pouring down more profusely than before too! While you do still always sweat working out outdoors even in the colder winter months, you may not 'feel' it because the cold air evaporates it very quickly but you do still lose fluids, it isn't as much as when the sun is blaring down on you. For this reason it is especially crucial to stay hydrated and not only with water but you also need to restore the electrolytes you are losing too.

When you sweat while running and working out you lose much more than strictly water content; if you don't ensure the balance of your electrolytes stays in the optimum level you will run the risk of not only bonking but could actually face some pretty serious health problems. This is extreme but when you hear about runners dying from being overhydrated, what that means is that they drank so much water (and only water) that they diluted their electrolyte levels (mainly potassium and sodium) so severely that their heart couldn't function. That isn't to scare any one as you'd have to drink lots of water, but the point is you need to make sure to rehydrate with a sports drink that contains these key elements along with water.

A good way to gauge how much fluids you are losing is to weigh yourself before and after your run; for every pound of weight that you lose (and it's only water weight folks not fat miraculously melting off of you in an instant...haha) you need to drink 16 ounces of fluids. There is the tried and true Gatorade, although there is lots of just plain sugar in that drink and there are better options, and you could even dilute it with water if the taste is too sweet. My favorite drink was Ultima but I don't think they sell that anymore as I haven't found it in years; even better though there are now sports recovery drinks that contain some protein that is excellent post run.

While you need to of course drink fluids after your run you need to remain hydrated throughout the day. Keeping a water bottle close at hand may look 'dorky' but you should be sipping all day long; by the time you actually feel thirsty your body is in a minor state of dehydration. You want to be 'friends' with that bathroom and your urine should be clear if you are properly hydrated. It's been proven that not only your endurance will suffer due to dehydration but your muscle strength too; you will peter out at the end of those runs and in studies weight lifters were unable to lift as heavy a load if in a state of even minor dehydration...those muscles need fluids and the electrolytes to follow!

Feeling dizzy or faint is a sure sign of dehydration...and you never want to feel that way, it's no fun. The standard rule of thumb you hear about 8 cups of fluids a day really isn't enough for very active individuals, and especially in the heat of summer. You don't have to take it to the other extreme and head out for every run carrying a water bottle and fuel belt but you need to be diligent before and after. If you are running for less than an hour it is usually okay to go sans drinks or gels (Unless of course you're running in ridiculously hot weather and humidity and you may want to plan beforehand and plant a few water bottles on your route or pass by some drinking fountains!) but once you eclipse that hour mark that is when you are heading into rehydration/refuel territory. Everyone's body is a bit different but obviously if you are out there training for a marathon and going to be on the roads for two plus hours you will need both!

Alright fellow fitness fanatics, we all love a good sweat and should be out there breaking one this summer season, but make sure to rehydrate smart so that you come back stronger and faster next time! :)

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Krankcycle Progress Report- Sweating With the Arm Bike
It's been a few months now that I've been using the Krankcycle in my rehab process in the hopes of retaining some amount of cardio fitness for when I can finally (fingers crossed) get back to some version of running. There is still a looooooong road ahead of me but in terms of using this unique arm bike machine I thought I'd give a little progress report or at least my opinion of it.

The Krankcycle is actually an invention of one Mr. Johnny G (check out Krankcycle.com) who in the fitness world is a kind of guru in that he was also behind the hugely popular spin bikes and started the whole spin class movement. Well, he took the same idea behind his bikes (a dial to adjust the tension level) and applied it to an upper body workout. It builds off of the more standard UBE Machine (arm bikes that are used in rehabilitation commonly for older people or those unable to use anything below their waists...looks like I now fall into that category!) but differs in that it is much more versatile. You can adjust of course the tension level, the same as you can on a typical UBE, but you can also lift the height of the arm cranks so you can vary which sets of upper body muscles you target. You can further flip the pedals around and then cycle in either a forward or backward motion; neat if you want a change of pace. Finally, if you are able to use your legs the seat does come out and you can stand; the layout of the Krankcycle also encourages you to sit up straight (some UBE machines have a back and you can slouch back) and this works and tones your core. So, my first assessment was that it was indeed much more progressive and advanced than a typical arm bike.

That being said, there was still a period of getting adjusted to the machine and how it works. This goes for any kind of exercise machine that you choose to use in your fitness routines but especially being that I was a runner and not used to using solely my arms for cardio work it took a little longer to get used to. I first tried the UBE machines and will admit that because muscularly my arms were weaker I had a hard time generating enough power to get my heart rate into what I had wanted to be my target zone (or being able to go as long as I would have like!). Still, over time I got used to the motions and that alone made me improve and I could extend the amount of time on the machine; by the time I then switched over to the Krankcycle I still had to tweak my form and propulsion a bit but when I finally 'got it' I must say I was able to get in a good cardio effort.

On Johnny G's website he notes that the science behind the Krankcycle is still evolving and there are lots of tests that are still being done. For instance they aren't sure how getting in cardio work sans any lower extremities will translate to fitness levels when you then go back to running. They also aren't sure on exactly how many calories per say the machine burns; if it has a similar amount compared to other cardio machines or not. They do note that obviously because the arms are a smaller muscle group it will be less, but that you are able to elevate your heart rate enough so that it still is excellent exercise. One study from the American Council for Exercise estimated it burned about 9 calories per minute on average during one of the Krankcycle classes, think a spinning class but with these upper arm bikes.

There is also the theory that because the arms are closer to the heart this machine is able to raise heart rate level faster than if you were doing lower body cardio work. In my experience I won't necessarily say I found that to be the case, but I will say that the potential to get your heart rate up there is definitely there. After I became acquainted with the motions I was able to incorporate interval workouts and tempo sort of efforts on the machine and I'll tell you I was definitely sweating, working hard, and my heart was pumping. By the end I will acknowledge I knew I put in a good effort. The only disadvantage I see is that because the arms are a smaller muscle group, and especially since mine are not as buffed as they could have been should I be say a rower, the amount of time I can go on the Krankcycle is significantly less than if I were running outside. But, for what I do I make sure it is high quality and with the intervals I know by the end I have stressed my cardio system and I feel good in that at least I am able to do SOMETHING to get my heart pumping. I had been, and still am, dying being stuck on this couch!! :P

Time will only tell how this kind of cardio workout will translate into getting back to running, or at least even on the elliptical, but I will say that being that I have no other options for cardio the Krankcylce is something I'd recommend to anyone else in a similar situation. As with anything, a major factor is how much effort you put into it and if that is there I believe I will be able to retain some amount of cardiovascular fitness. I know it won't be the same as where I was but it has to be better than nothing! ;)

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The benefits of cross training

Running is one of the most effective cardio activities around; per minute of exertion you will be able to stress your cardiovascular system the most, engage nearly every muscle in your body, burn the most calories, and elevate your heart rate the quickest. Whew, that's a pretty powerful fitness punch; but on the flip side running is a high impact activity and like I've said a thousand times before it does take a toll on the joints, tendons, ligaments, etc.

So while running may seem like the best cardio exercise there is, and I'd toast to that, the amount of running a person can do will vary. Some are just predisposed to winding up hurt and injured more than others; this has to do with bone structure, their running gait, and many other factors mostly out of their control. For this reason everyone has a certain running threshold that may only be 30 miles a week while those lucky others can train upwards of 100 miles a week and stay nearly injury free. Yet in training there are still ways to supplement your running regime that can improve your fitness level and translate to faster race times and an increased level of fitness and that is with cross training.

Cross training is really anything outside of your primary sport; for a swimmer cross training may actually be running! But for runners some of the most common forms of cross training are doing the elliptical machine, aqua-jogging, and some prefer the bike. The benefits of doing this is that it eliminates the high amount of stressful impact from running while still tapping into the cardiovascular system. Cross training may be done in addition to daily workouts and some may even put it in place of their easy days if they have a particularly low running threshold.

So while you will be able to get your heart rate up your joints will be taking less of a beating and because both aqua-jogging and the elliptical are very similar motions to running they are usually the two top picks. So if you are looking to give your running routine a little boost you may want to think about adding minutes of cross training instead of just piling on more miles. A general rule for increasing miles is to only add in 10% more weekly total volume at a time but you can add in nearly as much cross training as you want without such an increased risk for injury.

Finally, another powerful use for cross training is if you are injured and unable to run. Generally you can find SOMETHING that won't aggravate your particular injury and by keeping in relatively good cardio shape you will be able to bounce back faster when you are at last able to run again.

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Confessions from an admitted over-doer...enjoy those easy day runs

Savor those recovery days. Yes, this comes from an admitted recovered 'push-aholic;' there was a time when I scoffed at the easy run, figured that ending each and every run utterly exhausted, or at least very tired, was the only way to do things. This was more mental I think; I thought I was just being a 'slacker' or 'wimp' if I didn't push the envelope each time out. My easy days would evolve into quasi-pick-up runs where by the end I was going much too fast to ever fully recover. While I would mentally pat myself on the back for kicking my own butt yet again, in truth I was only setting myself up for future failures and beratings.

What happens when you go too hard on the days you are supposed to recover is that your workouts invariably start to suffer. Maybe not right away, but the build-up of hard workout, after hard run, after hard workout, will eventually catch up to you. That could come in two ways; you will either experience a drop off in times and be chugging home in those intervals with slow times but the effort seeming insurmountable or you'll wind up injured. It was once said to me, "that if you don't give yourself a break one will be provided for you"...the body can only give so much. And what's more is to effectively train and get faster you have to allow your muscles to recover; we break them down during hard workouts and the days after are when they are trying to heal up and come back stronger. That way when they do build back you will be able to go faster in the next workout and then continue to build off that. Yet if the muscles instead get broken down even further on the 'easy' days they never build back, they never come back, and you'll see the results in not only frustrating times but fatigue to follow.

I learned that the hard way, actually it took a few times...haha, as with anything I'm usually one to think in extremes so it takes a while for a lesson to really hit home. :P I was pretty lucky (well, I guess my luck has now caught up to me!) in that I didn't suffer very many big injuries but I definitely did myself no favors training and racing-wise. There were plenty of times I'd show up flat come the end of the season or in workouts for the shear reason I was just too tired and over-training myself by not ever taking it easy.

Runners, and competitors, by nature are well...competitive, and our biggest battle is usually against ourselves. We want to achieve those goals TODAY, and we will get there come heck or high water. But the truth is that in order to get to the starting line, and eventually the finish line in the time or place you want, you have to have patience. You also have to have put in the work and hit those hard workouts, BUT you won't be able to nail those hard workouts if you're too tired due to lack of recovery. It sounds counterintuitive but you have to give yourself a break sometimes- go easy on the easy days.

I got to the point where I would allow myself to enjoy those easy days, especially after they were hard earned from a killer workout the day before. Running has always been a passion of mine and not only the competition aspect, but just doing it...I enjoy being out there. That can be alone or in shared company...don't make every run a do or die endeavor, it can rob you of the enjoyment but in the end it won't do your training any favors either.

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I just signed up for my first 1/2 marathon...What did I get myself into?!
Q: I have decided to make a 1/2 marathon my next accomplishment! I've been doing a few 5ks here and there, I have completed a couple 10k's before and figured the next step is a half-marathon :) I have like 13 or 15 weeks I think to prepare...I'm praying that's enough time. I have been running for about 35 minutes 4 times a week and after I run I do abs/arms/legs for about 20 minutes. I just know that if I don't at least try to compete in a 1/2 marathon I'll always wonder how I would have done...so I decided to "just do it" haha. Any tips?

A: First of all, Congrats on signing up for your first 1/2 marathon! It can seem scary to commit to something that you perhaps never before thought you could do but it is usually our mind that puts the tightest constraints on what is possible. Putting yourself out there, like signing up for a planned race or event, is an excellent way to stay motivated to get in those workouts and runs and no matter the distance if you have something you are shooting for you are far less likely to skip that trip to the gym or lacing up for that run. And of course I like the advice from good old Nike. :)

It looks like you have already set yourself up with nice running base (also it is excellent to hear you have a core and weight routine) and it will just be a matter of kicking your running training up a notch. This will be done gradually (a standard rule of thumb is to only increase you total weekly mileage by 10% each week to avoid an injury) and you will put focus on a weekly long run as well as sprinkling in some faster workout sessions throughout the rest of week. You will build endurance and also speed so that come race day the pace will feel much more comfortable and relatively 'slower' than you've gone before.

The first step is to devise you training schedule and as corny as it may seem you will need to keep a training log to help track your progress.
In your case you will want to work backwards; knowing that the race is about 14 weeks away you know where you need to end up so we'll work on getting you used to the distance and tapered by the big day. The week of the 1/2 will be pretty light to make sure your legs are fresh and ready to roll. The last long run you will do before the big day will be two weeks before (we'll call this week 12) and it will be close to the 13.1 mile distance. Don't get intimidated by the numbers because I grantee you that you will have worked up to it and you will be able to handle it.

In getting back to our timeline we will jump to where we are today (week 1) and write down the longest you've been running thus far. If that is four or five miles write that down and then we can bump up that number each week until we hit week 12 and see where we are. In your instance by increasing one mile each week for your long run you will actually hit 13 miles by week 10 which gives us room to play with. That means if you feel particularly tired any given week you might keep your long run the same distance as the week before and go up the next. Listening to your body is important; you want to push yourself but at the same time still be aware of signs of injury or excessive fatigue.

Pick one day of the week and designate it as your long run day. It might be a good idea to do it on the same day as the race; if race day is a Saturday make that your long run day. Because you are already running four times a week you won't need to increase your workload that much outside of your long run but you will make those miles more quality. By that I mean you will incorporate workouts with pick-ups and faster intervals to work on speed and a quicker turnover. I would recommend that you run four to five days a week total and that would include: one long run, two quality workout days, and two easy runs (if you are only running four times a week that would be only one easy run; you could make the second easy day one where you cross-train if you'd like). Be sure to space out the long run and hard days with a day of rest or an easy run between them.

That's going to cover the first part of this post but I'm going to be revisiting this question and helping out more as we work our way through the weeks. You can follow along too and set a goal for yourself! If you haven't already built your way up to running four days a week yet and are just staring out you can actually check out the running training program I had been outlining for if you are just getting started. Finally, here are a few parting tips:

* Run for time not miles. Figure out about what pace you are running at (find a track and in the middle of one of your runs time yourself for four laps) and use that as an average pace. If you are running 10 minute miles and your long run is to be six miles plan to be running for sixty minutes; this is usually 'easier' to think about mentally than focusing on how long the distance is. It also helps so you don't get too hung up on the exact distance of your running routes.

* Refuel immediately after your runs. You have a 30 minute window of time in which to get a good carb and protein combo into your system, along with some electrolytes, which will optimize recovery. That's important especially if you are in training.

* Know the difference between the uncomfort of running and actual pain.
Don't muscle through a run ignoring a strained muscle only to find out that by the time you get home you've gone and pulled it. By nipping a potential injury outright you will limit the amount of time you have to either cut back or take off.

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Maximize your summer running- Come back faster and stronger next season

Whew, well alright running and fitness friends! First, I'm going to apologize for neglecting the blog for a bit; things have been a bit crazy for me the past few weeks but they have started to settle down and hopefully will stay that way for a bit. Although a little life drama is always interesting. :P

In following up to my previous post on summer running training I thought I'd add a few tips to maximize the off season and come back stronger and ready to run fast for cross country season. Many people focus on building up base miles during the summer and it is an ideal time to do so being that usually there aren't as many commitments (school, homework, job, etc.) that require your attention so you may have a little more free time. Getting in longer runs is going to build endurance and cardio, yet while it's okay to step away from structured workouts for awhile you don't want to completely neglect speed and turnover all together.

* End your runs with strides. Pick a few days (probably not on the day when you've already done a long run) where you do a few faster strides at the end of your run. Gradually make each one faster than the last and really concentrate on form and a quick turn over. Allow a full recovery between them, it doesn't matter so much on the specific time as the goal is to just tap into those fast twitch muscle fibers, and do 4-6 strides each of around 150 meters.

* Find that medium paced effort. A medium paced run will be harder than a conversational easy run but not quite at a threshold run or tempo type effort. You want to feel like you are working but not crossing the line over into full-on workout territory; these runs can be longer than what you would do for a tempo run and you will gradually work into the medium pace through the course of the run. For example in a run that is a total of 50 minutes you could start out with an easy pace for the first ten minutes and then begin to up the intensity.

* Add a sprinkle of speed play. Have some fun experimenting with the pace of your regular runs; if you're feeling good maybe do a mile at a faster clip and then ease back into the previous pace. Don't feel like you need to structure anything and even if you do a quick burst to the lamp post that will tap into different muscle groups.

* Take it to the hills. Doing your training runs, even at an easy pace, on particularly hilly terrain will build muscle strength and it will also help prepare you for the rolling courses come cross country season. You can also focus on your hill running technique: running all the way through the crest of the hill, staying up tall, and getting those strides quick and efficient.

* Take advantage of extra time. Yes summer usually comes with vacations and fun events but if you do have any spare time you can address some of the other areas that you may not be able to fit into a packed school schedule. These things would be diligent stretching, mobility drills, core work, and weight training. By doing these exercise routines now you will see results that last you through the next season even if you have to cut back how much you do them during the regular season...think of it like putting money in the bank.

Finally, make sure to have a fun summer! Grab some of your running friends and get to exploring new trails or seeking out places to go. Even if you are only sticking around your home town for the summer it's always nice to end a run with a splash in the lake or even a Slurpee run! ;)

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