Sunday, March 14, 2010

Unhealthy Eating

If you've been running any more than 30 days, you will get to the point of wondering if there is anything you need to change in your diet. Not only if you are looking at losing some pounds but also to help in your performance. I'm not a registered dietician but I do know what works and doesn't work for me when looking at diet.

One good website to try is Dr. Weil. He's a lifelong guru in matters of food/diet and he recently sent out the Top 4 unhealthy snacks newsletter. See Link:

Now if you are just getting started in looking at what foods to eat, there are books that have been written on the subject. But a better place to start is to eliminate those foods that you shouldn't be eating. His Top 4 are:

-Instant Soup (because of the sodium)


-French Fries (actually, anything fried)


-Soft Drinks (we're not talking about Diet, but Regular)

He gives a free newsletter that you can sign up for, it gives Daily Tips that can give you a chance to think about your diet, but the main thing to start is to think about what you're eating now. If you're thinking that eliminating all of the above would be too hard, try with just eliminating one of the them and building from that base. Remember, it takes 21 days for anything to become a habit, and finding the discipline to stop eating all of the above with help with not only your weigh but also your running performance.





Saturday, March 13, 2010

MotionX-GPS for running

Since I know a number of runners use the iPhone for tracking the distance of their runs, I thought I'd send out a review of the MotionX-GPS app that is available for all iPhones. I've tried this out and it's absolutely fantastic if you are looking for something that you can use for tracking the exact distance of your runs. I found it as exact (and if running in a wooded area, more exact) than any Garmin running device.

The functionality of this app is way ahead of the curve. It integrates with your iTunes library and lets you use your songs, playlists, etc. as well as use the pause, play, skip forward and skip back of all your sings.

You can record pictures, if you are into that sort of thing, at different points of your run.

The one function that blew me away was at the end of my run. I was able to send to my Facebook update a map (that all of my friends could view) of my run.

If this app had a heart rate monitor with heart rate ranges, I would recommend this as a replacement for the Nike Plus system on the iPod.

I have two criticisms of it. The first is the number of runs you can store on it. But seriously, after ten runs, you should be logging the runs in your running journal but it would be nice if it had an on-line page/site to do it.

My biggest criticism, and why this wouldn't replace my Nano or iPhone is that the app, like all GPS apps on the iPhone, is a battery hog. I haven't gone more than ten miles with this on a run, but it ate 60-70% of my battery in that hour and a half. I question if it would last for a half marathon race, and know that a marathon is out of the question.

If you are looking for such a GPS tracking system for your run (that are less than 10 miles) that doubles as an iPod, look no further, this is it. I give this app 4.5 out of 5 stars, and only hold off a perfect score because of the battery and heart rate monitor functionalities.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tempo Runs

I believe the most misunderstood, or maybe just the least known of running workouts, is the Tempo Run. What is it? Why do it? What speed? What distance? What day of the running week?

There are as many different descriptions of a Tempo run as there are running books out there. But I'll make it simple. A Tempo run is any run that you do to build up your aerobic endurance. So anything just below your anaerobic threshold and above an easy run falls into this category. From our earlier discussion, you'll remember your anaerobic threshold is about 85% of your heart max rate. So I'm talking about a run at 70-85% of HMR.

So how much of your weekly run should be a Tempo run? I have one weekly run on Thursday that I classify as a Tempo run. I warm up for 1.5 miles [approximately 15 minutes] then watching my heart rate, try to keep 4 miles at 150-162 [my anaerobic threshold is 163]. I also leave the last two miles of my long run for this heart rate range. I do this to train myself to be able to push it for my planned half marathons.

I am very disciplined in regards to the 163 heart rate mark. As soon as I hit 163, I slow up immediately until it drops down to 155 before getting into the running groove again. It's important to not change this run into a speed workout [anaerobic threshold or above].

For those of you that have watched the movie "Chariots of Fire", I follow my 163 rule by remembering one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It is the exchange between Coach Sam Mussabini and Harold Abraham as he explains the concept of over-striding for the sprinter. As he describes the effect of over striding, he slaps Abraham in the face saying: "Remember, over striding. Death for the sprinter. (slap) Knocks you back. (slap) Like that! (slap) And That! (slap)

In the same way, going into anaerobic threshold when doing a Tempo run defeats the purpose of the Tempo run. Leave the anaerobic threshold workout with the speed workout. Your training is hard enough without blowing your aerobic endurance workout.

For those of you just getting started with the Tempo run, I have a great transition method for you to find your tempo pace over the course of the weeks in your first training plan. When I got started on Week One of my 12-Week Sub-2 Hour Half Marathon training, I do my 400 meter pace at 8:00 MPM (Minutes per Mile) and the Tempo Run pace @ 10:00 MPM. The 8:00 MPM for my speed workout doesn't change but my Tempo speed will. I run at the 10:00 MPM until I can do the full four miles at that pace. As soon as I make it, the next week I move up pace by 10 seconds. So in this case, it would go to 9:50 MPM the next week. Again, each week, I keep the pace until I see my heart rate reach 163 and then I back off. If I need to walk to get the heart down, I do it. But remember, no going over the 163 heart rate.

You may look at this plan and think, 'Can you really run a 9:09 pace during the Half Marathon when doing a Tempo run at 10:00 MPM in Week One of your training?' The answer is yes. What you will find is that each week your tempo pace will get easier and easier to reach. For example, I'm in Week 6 of my training and already up to a 9:30 MPM. By Week 10, I should be doing a 9:10 MPM. If you do find yourself in Week 6 not being able to move out of the 10:00 MPM because of the anaerobic threshold, this is God's way of telling you that you're not ready for a 2 Hour Half Marathon.

I hope this helps you incorporate Tempo runs into your weekly workouts. They're a great way to not only build your aerobic capacity but also give you a test run for your coming race.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Running and Weight Loss

I have been in the process of losing that winter weight. That 5 or 10 pounds that you pick up in the off season, or over the Holidays. After the first 10 weeks of the year, it's all off. Now I'm looking for any suggestions for looking the next 10 pounds.

After 40, losing weight is brutal. You can halt the weight gain by your running, but moving in the opposite direction always seems like it takes twice as long. The metabolism slows down, the recovery between runs takes a little longer, and the number of races that you run each year gets less and less.

But I've been working on a new method this year. Instead of getting on the scale each day, I've gone to one set 'scale day' each week. Instead of counting calories, I'm counting minutes. Instead of playing around with meal plans, spread the meals throughout the day. Don't overeat the right foods; just eat foods the right way.

I'm using my running this year as the great equalizer. If I get on the scale and see the weight the same or going up on scale day, I'm going to increase the minutes spent running/walking in the coming week. I'm not looking for anything more than a pound a week. But I'm not going to add more than 10 minutes each week regardless of what the scale says. This should be a fun experiment. But so far this year, I haven't needed to add the minutes (yet).

How are your weight loss plans going? Are doing better than the suggested 1-2 pounds a week? Do you have any ideas that you want to share? Write me at with your comments, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Spirit of The Marathon

Watched The Spirit of the Marathon over the weekend and was impressed. It's a film biography on a number of runners that prepared and ran the 2005 Chicago Marathon. The theme that the director followed was to give us a glimpse of how the favorites as well as the 6 hour plus runners prepared for the 26.2 miles.

I believe that the director (Jon Dunham) having run marathon gave him insight into the toll of what marathon training does to all runners of the marathon. After a quick introduction of all the runners that he's spotlighting, he walks us through the first long runs and the time and dedication that each of the runners go through. He follows each of these runners from the training through each of the miles of the marathon. It's a great insight that gives aspiring runners that are thinking of running the marathon, a video diary of what training will be expected to prepare for the marathon.

If I had any criticism of the film at all, it was the little bits and pieces of insight that we got of some of running greats. Their contributions about marathoning were insightful but left me wanting more. I mean how often do you get to tap the minds of Amby Burfoot, Dick Beardsley, Grete Waitz, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, etc.? Of course, I can appreciate that Dunham wanted to focus on all runner's viewpoints equally, but I think he could have accomplished it with more interviews with these greats and still gave us this story.

If you have any interest in running a marathon, or want to remember what it's like to train for one, I highly recommend this film. Overall, I would give it 4 out of 5 stars for a running movie.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Using Heart Rate Zones for planning a weekly running program

Okay, we've gone through how to determine what our heart rate zones, MHR, RHR and anaerobic thresholds are. The obvious question is how do we apply this in a running program?

Well, here's the good news. Armed with this information, you now have everything you need to never waste one day running wondering if you are doing too little, too much or just enough effort in your running each day. Sound like this is worth knowing? Let's apply time tested training from the elite athletes and apply them to our training.

Simple rule to start with that can be applied to world class athletes as well as to the everyday runner. I call it the 70/20/10 rule. 70 percent of all your miles run should be at your 70% zone or less. 20% should be at 70-85% of your zone, and 10% [or less] should be done at 85% plus. There are some tweaks we will have to make, depending on what distance race you are training for, but overall, this is a pretty good rule to follow.

In the 1980s, Jess Jarver, an Australian track coach, came up with a hard/easy formula for all major distances. This formula was to give the runner a definitive guide on how much of their weekly mileage should be done in an aerobic vs. and anaerobic state. The distances and the ratios are as follows:

Distance    Aerobic/Anaerobic Ratio

¼ mile        18.5%/81.5%

½ mile        35%/64%

Mile        52.5%/47.5%

5K        80%/20%

10K        90%/10%

Marathon    97.5%/2.5%

Although, his study was silent on the Half Marathon distance, I've found the right ratio to be a 95%/5% aerobic/anaerobic blend.

There have been many studies done since, yet the ratios have remained relatively the same except for the 5K and lower distances. (For example, the anaerobic percentage is smaller - 16% for the 5K) I'm assuming most runners are running in the 5K and longer races, so these ratios are important in planning your weekly workouts.

Let's use an example of a runner that is training for a 10K race and putting in 30 miles a week in their training. Applying Jarver's formula, it would tell us that 3 miles of the 30 miles (10%) should be done in the anaerobic state. So to apply this to our heart rate discussion, this would mean that the heart rate should be in the 85% or higher range for 3 miles each week. Using my 70/20/10 rule, it would also mean that 6 miles should be in the 70-85% range, and 21 miles at 70% or less.

So to put this in a weekly schedule, Tuesday could be a speed workout of 12 - ¼ mile at 85%-max heart rate (with a 15 minute warm-up and 10 minute cool-down and ¼ mile walk breaks). Thursday a Tempo Workout of 6 miles (with a similar warm-up and cool-down). The weekend long run of 10-12 miles and all other days in the week at 70% or less of heart rate.

I hope the past week's discussion on heart rate training was useful in planning your running program. I'm sure you will have questions as you apply the discussion to your training. Feel free to contact me at with any questions as you incorporate it into your training.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Using MHR and RHR to calculate out everything necessary for your running program

So you have your MHR and RHR rates, now it's time to use these numbers to determine all of your heart zones.

Let's use an example to demonstrate the zones. First take you MHR and subtract your RHR. For our example, we will use 185 for the MHR and 55 for the RHR. Using the result, multiply it by .60, .70, .80, .85, and .90 and add your RHR to all of these percentages. Let's look at the example:

185 – 55 = 130

.50 – (130 x .5) + 55 = 120

.60 = (130 x .6) + 55 = 133

.70 = (130 x .7) + 55 = 146

.80 = (130 x .8) + 55 = 159

.85 = (130 x .85) + 55 = 166

.90 = (130 x .9) + 55 = 172

Your probably wondering why we use 85% for one of our calculations while all other calculations are done on increments of ten. 85% is used as a common threshold for the body moving from an aerobic state to an anaerobic state. This means that you are using your muscles without oxygen, which will limit the amount of time you can continue running before the muscles will give out. Outside of speed workouts, you normally don't want to exceed the 85% even in your running or risk failure of your muscles to continue to perform. 50% is widely accepted as the minimum training threshold for gaining any type of endurance for running.

So how should we use these zones? Well, from my past post, remember that you can use these zones to determine what zone you should be training in for each running day:

50-60% (120-133) is usually considered warm-up or if you are going very easy, as in recovery, from a heard workout the day before.

60-75% (133- 152) is considered Aerobic Development – Long Slow Distance, or easy days.

75-85% (152-166) is when you are trying to build aerobic endurance.

85-95% (166- 179) is all anaerobic endurance, so this for distance that is ¼ to 1 mile in distance.

95-100% (179 and above) all speed, going more than a quarter mile at this level is very, very difficult.

Now I want to stress that these are just averages. If you have your maximum and threshold rates determined by a certified health club trainer, the reading will be a lot more accurate. For example, I have a 185 MHR and 55 RHR. When I have been tested, my zones end up like this:

Warm-up = 127 – 142

Aerobic Development = 142 – 152

Aerobic Endurance = 152 – 162

Anaerobic Endurance = 162 -172

Speed/Power – 172 plus.

As you can see, the feedback from the testing done at a health club monitoring my heart rate through various speeds, inclines and stresses is a lot more accurate than using the percentage formulas. Again, not a wide margin of difference, but still more accurate to the point of letting me know the exact number of beats for the training, especially in terms of moving from aerobic to anaerobic.

Tomorrow, we will put this together to put together a weekly training program for your running improvement.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Winning a Running Lottery…

My wife Bonnie and I found out this week that we were selected in the lottery for the Gary Bjorklund's Half Marathon in Duluth this June. I believe this is most perfect Half Marathon in the country. I may be biased being a Minnesotan, but it truly is. Starts at 6:30 am, it is mostly on a downhill course, that gets you to the finish by 9 am, with enough time to shower before the Marathon winners show up at 9:40 and after (the Marathon starts an hour later 13.1 miles down the same course route).

I like the lottery format that has been adjusted in the past few years that allows for a 'group' to register instead of solo entries only. In that format, you and your friends/family register as a group instead of as individuals. If one of your entries is selected, the whole group gets in. If none of you are selected, none of you get in. When traveling 2 plus hours to an event with an overnight stay, it's a lot better to know you are all going to get in instead of a select few. Makes it more rewarding as a group event.

Bonnie and I have also entered the New York City Marathon Lottery, but there was no 'group' option. That will be disappointing for one of us if either of us is selected, but not both and/or neither. I believe that all running lotteries should incorporate the group option as a way of making it more of a running community event.

Overall, these lotteries have been good to me. I haven't always been selected but the important ones I can't remember missing out on.

My claim to fame, and without a doubt the hardest to be selected on, has been winning the Boston Marathon Lottery in 1996. As a promo to the 100th running of Boston, they allowed all interested runners to apply for a one time lottery that would select 5000 runners. The rules were that you had to finish in 6 hours or less, understand that the entry could not be deferred or transferred, and if you qualified by meeting the time goal (between the selection date in July, 1995 and March, 1996) you had to surrender the entry for a qualified number.

Some runners might look at running Boston as a Lottery winner vs. as a qualifier as a letdown. Considering that the odds of me actually qualifying for it, (would have to run a qualifying marathon in 3:35 or less these days), the only chance I had of running this in my lifetime was getting picked in that lottery. And running it on its 100th birthday was something my grand kids and great grand kids can say about their grandfather.

That's not to say I've ever given up qualifying for the Boston Marathon. As anyone that tracks the qualifying times, my odds of qualifying for it will vastly improve starting September 25th of this year. That's when my qualifying time will change to 3 hours and 45 minutes. Still a stretch, but not impossible. And like the lottery itself, as long as there is a chance, there is hope…..

Maximum Rate and Resting Rate Heart Rates

Before I begin, I do want to point that if you are just getting into running and haven't had a physical in a few years, this might be the time to do it. Before beginning any exercise program, you should just make sure that you do not have any condition that would preclude you from increasing the effort of this training. Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, let's discuss heart rate maxes and resting rates.


The best way to determine Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is by having it read professionally. Most health clubs have some type of program that can do this for you. I have a membership at Life Time Fitness and they use the New Leaf program that will read your heart rate while performing stress tests at different speeds and inclines on the treadmill. You can also have this done at running expos or hospital outpatient or same day surgery centers. The running expos are probably not the perfect set up and the hospital is probably the highest cost. But any of these methods are more accurate than doing the poor man's method (described below). I highly recommend checking your local health club to have this done to get the most accurate reading. It will give you the anaerobic and aerobic thresholds that are invaluable for your training program.

If you cannot afford or do not wish to pay for the accuracy of these readings, here is the poor man's method. After putting on your heart rate monitor, warm up for 15 minutes and find a hill with a 10% to 15% incline that is at least ¼ to 1/3 a mile long. The object of this exercise is to get you to run up the hill for at least two minutes at you full all out. So after your 15 minute warm-up, run up the hill for at least two minutes as quick as you can without losing your running form. Your should be gasping for air when you finally reach the two minutes. Jog back down for two minutes before your next run. Watch your heart rate reading at least one full minute at the end of your run. Sometimes the heart rate monitor takes time to read what your heart rate's beats are. After four trials, you should have a good heart rate max, your top reading. If you can't find a hill [live in Kansas City for example] you can use the incline on a treadmill as they usually will incline up to 15% on most health club machines.

For resting heart rate, this exercise is a lot easier. After waking, put on your heart rate monitor [on the nightstand next to your bed that you put there the night before]. Stay vertical for at least 5 minutes, checking once each minute. Your lowest reading is what your RHR is.

Tomorrow's blog will give you a step-by-step formula for calculating your heart rate zones for your running program.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Kevorkian formula

If you want to incorporate heart rate training into your running correctly, you need to use the training zones that you get from using the Kevorkian heart rate formula. I cannot stress how inaccurate the 220 minus your age heart rate formula is. If I used that, I would be underperforming in all my training. The formula is more inaccurate as you get older, mainly because there is an inherent bias built in for age.

Here's the Kevorkian formula in a nutshell:

Max Heart Rate (MHR) – Minus - Resting heart rate (RHR) = Net Active Heart Rate (NAHR). Apply the percentages for your zones (60-70, 70-8-, etc.) to the NAHR add the RHR and voila, your training zone.

Let's use an actual example (mine) to give you a sample to use as you calculate yours:

Max Heart Rate - 185

Resting Heart Rate - 55

Net Active Heart Rate – 185 – 55 = 130.

So to get to 60% of the max, it would be calculated at 185- 55 = 130 x .60 = 78 + 55 = 133. So if I want to be in the 60-70% training zone, it would be 133 to 146 beats per minute.

What are the important ranges for training?

50-60% is usually considered warm-up or if you are going very easy, as in recovery, from a heard workout the day before.

60-75% is considered Aerobic Development – Long Slow Distance, or easy days.

75-85% is when you are trying to build aerobic endurance.

85-95% is all anaerobic endurance, so this for distance that is ¼ to 1 mile in distance.

95-100% all speed, going more than a quarter mile at this level is very, very difficult.

My next blog will go over on how to get your MHR and RHR and how to incorporate these training zones.





Friday, March 5, 2010

Heart Rate Training

I have to admit, it may be my German genes, but I have a love for technology when it comes to running. If there is anything that got added to running in terms of technology, it has been the use of a heart rate monitor.

Before you go out and buy one to compliment your running, I have a few things to suggest for you to consider before adding it to your training. First off, the heart rate monitors itself. Before you go out and paid $300 plus for a heart rate monitor, I would caution against making that kind of investment.

20 years ago, you really only had one manufacturer that did HRM right – Polar. But now, there are more choices from more manufacturers than we count. But for running, I have three that I would recommend – Garmin, Polar, or Timex. These are listed in terms of what size wallet you have. But for pure accuracy, I have used all three side-by-side and all of them are within one beat of each other if not the same beat reading. Suunto is good for a watch that puts style with function, but its user interface doesn't work for you.

Decide what you want (besides a heart rate reading) and buy one. If this is your first watch, keep it under $100, unless you are looking for something that will keep track of your distance also.

Besides going out and buying a watch, I'm going to give you one other item to think about before tomorrow's blog where I will give you a way to have an accurate reading. Don't go with the calculation that you see written on the Fitness Center walls – which are 220 minus your age for your top rate and then multiple times 60% to give you an exercise zone. Tomorrow, we will discuss the Kevorkian formula, which will give you the best way to use your heart rate in your training.