Friday, January 29, 2010

What is the best MP3 player to run with?

I'm getting feedback on the music that runners are listening to, but I'm also interested to see what type of MP3 player that people use. The market is flooded with them.

According to Consumer's Search, here are the five best MP3 players for runners:

-Apple iPod Nano

-Apple iPod iTouch

-Microsoft Zune HD

-Sony X Series Walkman

-SanDisk Sansa Clip+

They didn't include the iPhone, but I think that they probably would put that in the –Apple iPod iTouch category. I actually ran with that for a while, but would always forget to put it in Airport Mode, so I would either get the phone call or 'Ding' when a text or email would come in.

The Apple iPod Shuffle also didn't make this list but I have hear that with its 'speak to me' function that announces songs, playlist, etc. that it has been a favorite for a lot of people.

I've tried the Zune but I couldn't get used to the music manager. In fact whenever I run into a music manager that you need a 48 page (or more) manual, I am automatically turned off. Simple is better.

Although I'd tried a number of MP3 players, I've always come back to the Nano. It's changed over the year in style and size but its function has remained pretty consistent (except for adding radio, Genus Playlist and now video). It's simple, can hold up to 16G of songs, and I have played with the video function on it, but seriously does anyone really watch movies on this thing?

I also own an iPod iTouch, but that is for watching movies, playing at parties, fishing trips, vacations, etc... I have separated my active parts of the days between the two players in this way. If I'm driving, doing something around the house, or taking a walk, it's the iTouch. Nano gets all my running time.

That also dictates what I put on each player – Audiobooks, Movies, Music, Podcasts, Pictures, and Games and of course, Apps – end up on the iTouch. The Nano only gets music and the occasional Audiobook or Podcast series that I am following that week.

But I'm interested to see what other use to listen to music when running. Or even from the purist that believe you shouldn't listen to music when you run. Either way let me know your preferred MP3 player and I will get a tally out to all readers.

By the way – starting Saturday, I will be publishing a 12 Week Blog on preparing to run a sub-2 Hour Half Marathon. If you're interested, look for it each Saturday afternoon, when I will give you the 'To-Dos' for that week schedule in getting you ready for a Spring Half Marathon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keeping a Running Journal

I have a confession to make. I am obsessive compulsive about keeping my daily runs/activities in only one type of Journal. No other brand, manufacturer, or other book will do it for me. I have a yearly Journal that go back to 1983 on the shelves in the basement and the first ten years were Running Journals from MDRA (Minnesota Distance Runner's Association), from Runner's World (they used to give you a free one with a year's paid subscription), and ones from Racer's Edge. I even tried an on-line running diary (which I paid a 3 year subscription for and didn't make it six months of keeping it up-to-date).

If you're not keeping a running journal, you are missing out on a great resource as you develop your running as a life habit. There are times that it will feel like we are not getting better and a running journal has a great impact on putting that into perspective. There are other times where you may get sick or injured, and a journal will give you a record so that will give you clues on what could've caused it. There have also been running years where you hit a bunch or PRs (Personal Records) and this written record will show you how you did it. It's like finding a great combination of ingredients for a new dessert and having the only recipe book.

So what should every good running journal have a record of? Here's what you should look for when selecting a journal:

-Day of Week/Date/Time of Day


-Heart Rate – Resting/Training Heart Rate/Low High ranges/Average

-Miles/Distance ran that day

-Temperature – Type of Day (Sunny, Cloudy, Humidity, Dew Point, etc.)

-Pace – minutes per mile

-Time – how long did it take you?

-Course – that you ran that day

-Comment Section

-Form: Wire Bound Paper Back that you keep in your gym bag.

Other optional information:

-Rate how the run went A through F

-Mileage to date – weekly, monthly, YTD

-Shoes – if you wear multiple pairs or how many miles YTD on these shoes

Appendix with training plans for various distances, pacing charts, wind chill temperature index and heat stress index, and other running information quick information charts.

So, this brings me back to the journal that I keep. I tried a number of them. The online ones, I found difficult because you are limited to the program's flexibility. I also like to compare one year to another and there is something about being able to hold each of them when taking notes. The paper ones can also be limiting if it doesn't have the items I have listed above.

My choice is The Runner's Training Diary by Coach Bob & Coach Shelly Glover. $10 and change on I offer this not as the only journal you should buy just my own personal choice. You need to find one that meets your needs. But I strongly encourage you to start keeping a journal now if you haven't already. The feedback that you get from this will become invaluable to you in future years.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Review of ‘Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance’ by Matt Fitzgerald

Just finishing Matt Fitzgerald's 'Racing Weight'. A lot of good information contained within the covers from Fitzgerald. Here's the publisher's description: "Endurance athletes are weight-conscious and given the miles and hours spent training, there's a lot at stake. Weighing in just five or ten pounds over the ideal weight can dramatically impact race results. Author Matt Fitzgerald shows athletes how to identify their optimal weight and body composition to realize their goals. This 5-step plan to get lean is the key to faster racing and better health. With tools to improve diet, manage appetite, and time important nutrients, Racing Weight will inspire and equip athletes to make the subtle changes they need to start their next race at their optimal weight."

As I read through the chapters, I found myself seeing a lot of 'Eureka' statements, those that your gut (okay, pun intended) tells you that you knew. It's great to have a book that pulled all the issues together. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars because of its easy read and easy steps to follow. The only complaint I had was that it isn't in Kindle format, which I did submit a request to the publisher to change.

The 5-Step plan is improve your diet quality, balance your energy sources, time your nutrition, manage your appetite, and train right. I found his best information in timing your nutrition (eat 25% of your daily calories in the first 30 minutes of you waking up) a section that tells you what the pros eat, and the truth about supplements. His Appendix has something most running books are missing: strength training for runners, swimmers, and other sports. I have longed for a section, or even book on this, and most that I've read have always come up short. This one didn't.

I have to admit, I skimmed the recipe section. If there are more than 3 ingredients, I'm not going to take the time to make it. But he does give sample menus that you can pull out of anyone's refrigerator. I enjoyed his emphasis on thinking of what you eat and when to eat it. We've all heard it; it takes 30 minutes before you brain catches up with your stomach and tells you to stop eating. But he gives you some skills to try to make that connection happen faster.

Again, we all know that 10 lbs over an ideal weight slows us as much a minute per mile (for each ten lbs.). What I like about his approach is to stay away from the quick weight loss plans and emphasis on making a 12-24 week commitment to a better weight. It's a habit that we can translate into a better weight for a lifetime.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Improvement that can we expect to achieve in a given running season

After reading my blog on the amount of mileage needed to achieve a good running time, I received an email question on how much can one person expect to improve in a given season or year?

Quick answer, ten percent is probably the max. I say probably because if you are new to running, say 2 years or less, each race you run could be 5 to 10 percent better than the last until you finally settle in on your real 'max'. If you are an experienced runner, you would be ecstatic if you could achieve a ten percent increase each year.

What do I mean by ten percent? Ten percent would be in relationship to time. So let's say that your last Half Marathon was 2:12:00. The total minutes for this distance are 132 minutes. Ten percent of this total is 13.2 minutes. So an improvement of 10% would be 132 – 13.2 minutes = 119.8 minutes (or 1:59:48). So running a sub 2 hour Half Marathon at the end of a season after running a 2:12 marathon in the beginning of the season is possible. Possible but not without a focused determination to achieve it with a dedicated plan.

It's never a bad idea to set two goals at the beginning of a season. I always have two goals based on my first race. The first one is a 5% increase and the second is a 10% increase. Early in my running experience the ten percent goal was achieved easily. Now, I'm happy if I can achieve the 5 percent. Some of that comes with age, but I account for that by using my best time early in the season to now determine what a realistic 5 and/or 10 percent should be.

Don't set yourself up to fail by setting unrealistic goals. Give yourself a goal that is challenging but reachable. It will keep you looking forward to your runs instead of dreading them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

How many miles for the consistent runner?

We've already talked about establishing goals for the beginning runners; let's discuss what mileage goals should be for the established or consistent runner.

A consistent runner may not need any advice on this front. He or she may have a routine down that they just follow. As I stated in the beginning runner's section, anything more than 15 miles a week, is running for more than the health benefit that you get from running. That's totally understandable. What I'm addressing is the question of how many miles should I run to maximize my potential.

I've followed countless running schedules, mileage guides, and program plans. After years of following various plans, I've found that one of the oldest plans is still the best.

Bob Glover wrote a Running Guide back in the early 80s that used calculations from thousands of runners, their race times and their programs. He found a simple calculation to use to run your best race. Here's the formula:

((Total Race Distance / 3) x 7)) = total mileage per week needed to maximize performance.

So let's walk through a distance and run through an example. The Marathon is 26.2 miles. So 26.2 / 3 = 8.7333 x 7 = 61.13 miles. So if you want to run your best marathon time, you need to run 61.13 miles a week.

For the Half Marathon, it's 30.57 miles. 10 miler – 23.33 miles. 10K – 14.56 miles. 5 miles – 11.67 miles. 5K – 7.25 miles.

Does this mean you have a guarantee of a best time in your next race if you follow the total mileage? No, not unless you also mix in speed and tempo/endurance runs as part of the total mileage. But what this is saying is that unless the base you are running [amount of miles] meets the above calculated amount, you chances of achieving your best time.

I will have future blogs on the other elements you need to achieve best times for certain distances. But you know what the total weekly miles you need to achieve your best.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Running in Cold Weather

I just finished the St. Paul Winter carnival Half Marathon in snow that changed to ice pellets that changed to sleet that changed to freezing rain, with 20 mph winds. I thought that since this experience was still fresh in my mind, this would be a good time to go over how to prepare oneself for running in all types of cold weather.

Each one of us has to prepare based on how our body reacts with the weather. I say this because what works for me might be too light (or too heavy) for other runners. But I believe this is a good guideline to go with when judging what attire to wear for cold weather.

The basic concept is to use layers. I have the following temperature ranges (in Fahrenheit) for the clothes that you need to have to run safely in these temperatures:

>50 degrees – shirt and shorts. Anything more than this in the fall through spring season really isn't necessary.

40-50 Long running shorts, long sleeve shirts

20-40 Light weight running jacket, long sleeve shirt, light weight running pant, gloves, knit hat.

0-20 Warm running jacket, long sleeve shirt, leg long johns, running pants, gloves,

0 to -40 – need to very careful running weather like this. LEAVE NO SKIN EXPOSED when running in weather below zero. I would suggest three layers on the top and bottom. Two layers on head and hands. If you have any exposed skin [nose, checks, chin, forehead, etc.] cover this area with a thin coating of Vaseline. It protects like a second layer of skin.

-40 below and lower – I have only run once in weather like this (and mostly just to see what that was like, and yes, even I try dumb things sometimes). I would recommend running indoors on a treadmill when it gets this cold. If you fall or become incapacitated, it might be a while before someone finds you.

So what did I wear this morning whether the weather drifts between the freezing levels (32 degrees)? Whenever you find yourself in these conditions, I would suggest wearing my suggested running gear for the temperature listed above, but make sure that the jacket/pants are water resistant.

In fact, with all the gear listed above makes sure that it's made of Dri-weave or poly propylene, so that it takes the sweat/water away from your body. You should never wear any cotton, no matter if it's cold or hot. Cotton retains all moisture, and beyond chaffing you, it also adds weight, which works against you.

One last thing to close out this discussion, which I will mention with all running apparel discussion. Don't go cheap. After running for a number of years, I find that every piece of clothing that I picked up at a discounter or for $10 at a running expo, ended up not lasting a year – or I couldn't use it within a year. Running shorts drawstrings that snapped, zippers that continually got stuck, and seams that rip in jackets and pants, the list goes on and on. Go to your local running store and look at what the sales people wear, and ask them their opinion on what's best. Most run twice the distance that you or I would run and can give you all the pros and cons of any clothes investment you plan to make.

What music do you listen to?

If you are the type of runner that runs listening to music, do you have a preference of what type of music you listen to?

I bring this up because if you own an iPod and use the Nike+ that measures miles or minutes that you run, you will notice that it allows for a 'Power Song'. I'm assuming that this is a song that you would use to get you motivated.

I do have one pick out – 'Taking Care of Business' by Bachman Turner Overdrive. I do have to say, though, I've never hit the 'Play Power Song' once in the three years that I've used the Nike+.

It seems silly to me to push the button. I mean, really, - what race, what run, what effort, would a person make that one song would accomplish the task? If any of you have found a need for this, please email me and let me know.

I've found that there are three 'types' of music that I listen to. For long walks or short easy runs, I listen to audio books. No need to focus on the speed, distance, heart rate, etc. Just listen and let it flow. The second is what I call 'Tempo running' music. This is music that can come from a favorite 'live' album (Frampton, Seger, Zeppelin, etc.) or a new album that you've just added to your iTunes, or really any groups of songs that won't detract from you being able to keep a steady pace.

The last type of music that I have on my iPod is music that actually 'motivates' me to run fast. I created a playlist for this music. In my iTunes library, I have rated all my music from one to five stars. I have on both my iTunes library and my Nano, and iPod iTouch a playlist that contains all of my 5 star music. This is what I play on my Nano when I doing speed workouts or running a 10K race or shorter. Any longer distance and any 3, 4 rated songs will do (yes, I do have a playlist that includes all 3, 4 and 5 rated songs for running 10 milers, Half-Marathons, and Marathons).

So what do you listen to? Write me at and let me know. I will also putting together a blog post that will contain the Top 10 running songs and would you know what use to motivate your running.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Building a Base

A question early in your running career is how many miles each week? How quick should I add mileage? Is there any rule that I should go by?

Simply, if you are an experienced runner (60 plus miles a week), you can probably get away with 10% increase per week. But for the rest of us of us mortals, it's 5%.

So, if that's the increase, what about a base to start at? I think any and everyone should be able to do at least 5 miles a week – walking or running. That would be 100 minutes in one week if you walk a 20 minute mile. If you can run a 10 minute mile, that's 50 minutes. So your increase would be an additional increase 5 minutes each week.

A lot of you have at least a 10-15 mile base after a month. So your limit is a half a mile. When you first get started, your tendency is 'more-is-better'. If you plan on making this a lifelong commitment, you're better off ending each week – wanting to do more – not dreading the next week. As a runner that has kept this up 30 plus years, I've found that when I violate this rule, I end up getting an injury – plantar fasciitis, sciatic nerve, knee pain, etc.- abusing the rule lays me up for 3 or more days.


Again, remember the rule – your commitment is to keep moving – running, walking - 3 or more days a week. And to do that, you must not get injured.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mileage is an item that all runners, from the newbie to the most experience, that is hard to determine what is the right amount? I have never run more than 50 miles in any given week anytime in my running experience, so if you’re an elite athlete that puts in 4000 miles plus each year, I can’t give you any advice.

But for anyone else, it depends where you are at with your running experience. This blog will cover those of you that are getting back into running or those of you getting started.

If you are getting started, or haven’t run in over 3 months, you should get started slowly. What do I mean by slowly? It means go by time, not by distance. Start with 20 minutes. Either run very slowly or try run-walking. Jeff Galloway has a program for starting runners as well as for marathoners, where his students run 4 minutes with a one minute walking break. Bonnie (my wife) and I do this on our easy runs as well as on our long runs (more than 5 miles or more than one hour). Does it help us get faster? Probably not, but it helps us recover a lot quicker. The last thing you want to do when you get started or are coming back after a long layoff, is to run long or hard enough to get you dreading the next run.

The goal in running, write this one down, is to keep running. Not every day, not without stopping, not without walking, not to the point of injury and not without totally wearing yourself out to the point of hating the thought of putting your running shoes on again.

If this means you have to take longer walking breaks, that you run every other day, or even every third day, you do it. Again, as I mentioned before, it’s consistency that’s important. Not speed, not distance, not an everyday commitment. As long as you keep running, you are meeting your first goal, to stay with it.

So how much is enough? For first time runners, remember that Dr. Kenneth Cooper in his book Aerobics said that anything more than 15 miles a week in aerobic conditioning, is for a goal beyond than keeping fit. Another rule says that 20 minutes, 3 times a week is the minimum. Let’s simplify and say 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week. And if you think I mean running, that’s not necessary. If you are getting started, walking is fine. Start running when you get tired of walking.

Here’s a secret that I don’t see advertised enough. Whether you run or walk a mile, you burn the same amount of calories. I going to repeat that as encouragement for any of you that believe you read that wrong. Whether you run or walk a mile, you burn the same amount of calories. New runners/walkers have a hard time getting their head around that fact. A 200 pound runner that can finish a mile in 5 minutes (that I would like to see) burns 136 calories. If he/she runs it in 10 minutes, he/she would burn… yep, 136 calories. Want to guess how many calories they burn if they can walk a mile in 15 minutes?

So with distance, it doesn’t matter if you run or walk it, you burn the same amount of calories. So again, remember, just stay with it. If you need to take a break by walking, remember, that you when you do finish, you burned the same amount of calories as any runner that weighs the same and went the same distance.

NEXT: How many miles for the experienced runner?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Losing weight with a running program

I received a question from a reader that is starting running program with the hope of losing a number of pounds that they picked up since their colleage days. He asked if I had any suggestions on how to lose as many punds in the shortest amount of time.

First, I want to say that it depends on a number of factors. I struggle myself with keeping weight off but am glad that I have this lifetime sport (which I love) to help me in maintaining a weight I find acceptable.

I say 'acceptable' because we all have different goals. Some want to just take off 5-10 pounds, some want to take off 50-100. As George Sheehan said, "All of us are an experiment of one." But I will impart what I believe is a truth that is true regardless of your goal. If you're running now, more running is not as effective as diet, and if you're starting from a base of non-running, running will work wonders for you.

Here's what I've found. I've been able to lose 2-3 pounds in a week by adding more running miles, but 4-6 pounds in a week by cutting back on the amount of calories that I eat.

But again, remember that I've been active in running for the past 25 years. If you are not a regular runner, you may think, 'If he's ben running for 25 years and can only lose 2-3 pounds per week, what's the use of me trying?' But imagine the advantage you have on me. If you start running now, combine diet with exercise, you will be losing twice what I can accomplish.

How many miles should you start with? That's the subject for tomorrow's blog.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Minutes or Miles

Minutes or miles, its a question that comes up either at the beginning or end of your running career. If you just getting started, you might wonder if it's more important to put in the distance or the time.

As someone that has done both, the answer to this lies in the goals you are setting.

If you new to running, does it help you stay with running to have a fix distance or time? I believe that your should start with time. This way, 20 minutes is 20 minutes. How important when you are first starting is it to complete 2 miles (assuming your run a miles in 10 minutes on average)? It is probably more important for you to complete 20 minutes than it is to complete the 2 miles. Why? Because consistency is what you want when you are first getting started. Whether you are running 3 or 7 days a week, you want to be consistent in making sure you reach a base that you want to achieve.

Before I reached the age of 40, I was a mileage maniac. If it said 5, 6, 7 or whatever in my training program, I did it, regardless of time. After 40, I realized that it took me longer to complete the prescribed distance. Frustrated, I found myself changing plans half-way to the next race goal. Along with that change, the expectation of time goal for the next race dropped. I felt like I wasn't in good enough shape to make that goal (since I was already dropping to lower mileage).

For those of us that look at running at being a lifetime 'sport' or exercise that we wish to keep for life, running for a set time is more practical than a prescribed distance.